Saturday, 13 November 2010

Could This Be The End Of The Vallium Run?

The news which came over the airwaves as I was driving to the depot was understandable. Outside the car the snow had vanished. It had been replaced with gale force winds. As the winds bashed the car, I nodded my head as I heard that the latest Greater Manchester Police 'spy' balloon, known as the Eagle Eye Blimp, costing £80,000, was to be scrapped and all the parts sold off, because it could not be used sufficiently because of the city's weather conditions.

A day on the Vallium Run was just what the doctor ordered. Driving along Hadrian's Wall in 85 m.p.h gusts would surely be the cure for any ailments. My optimism was dashed as I went round the first corner and there, standing on the roadside was a youth doing a good impersonation of the Grim Reaper minus his scythe. He was wearing a hoodie beneath an oriental copy of a Driza-Bone. It was a struggle for him to open his mouth against the wind, but he eventually did and grunted out a "Mornin'"

The 'Land That God Forgot' was even windier. The queue in the bus shelter looked even more miserable than usual.

"I wasn't going to take the bus," said the pensioner, "but me chauffeur let me down." Pensioners rarely take the first bus down as it is before the 9.30 permitted start time when the council allow free travel on the passes. They had to pay. He did. The second pensioner tried to sneak onto the bus and professed innocent ignorance when I asked for his money. It was an easy situation to get out of as I put the onus on the fact that the other pensioner had paid and if I was to allow him to go on free, then he would have to fight it out with the other man, who was twice his size. He paid.

"Yes me chauffeur," the first pensioner went on. "I rang 'im and' said 'would yer gi'me a lift inna toon'. He looked oot da window and said 'nah, I'm not going oot in that."

This phrase was repeated most of the day. One woman had to be dragged off the bus by her carer who was waiting at the town centre bus stop. "I'm not getting off this nice warm bus," she said as she was pulled down the steps.

The talk on the bus was of the recent council meeting about the future of the Vallium Run. It was held in a village hall in a windswept village and not advertised as an open meeting. But little goes unnoticed in the hillside communities and a few locals barged their way into the meeting and were allowed to sit at the back and listen.

"It looks like curtains," said one of the better informed passengers. "They want to pull the service. The rest of the day was spent listening to concerned people in fear of losing their public transport. Some thought they would have to move house. It was a sad day. This is the first indicator of how bad the proposed cuts could be next year. It would be unthinkable to end the Vallium Rum completely. Surely there is a good old British compromise which will allow a cut down service whilst saving money. The thought of rural communities being cut off from the world would cause social turmoil.

As if the omens did not need reinforcing, it was disheartening to find that the temporary traffic lights at the roadworks had blown over and were stuck on red. After a few minutes I set off. The van around the corner at the opposing set of lights had been stuck too, had waited,then decided to go - exactlt at the same time as me. We met in the middle. It should have been a Mexican stand-off, but he was a generous driver and squeezed into a narrow turning.

Around the next corner there was a dangerous branch hanging low over the road. I stopped and hacked it down. A car drew up and a worried motorist leant out the window: "Are you alright, flower?" she asked. "Thought you might have broken down and needed help."

And so the day continued, in the usual bizarre way that can only happen on the Vallium Run. I met a Hungarian gardener who put me on to Waitrose as they had the finest Hungarian Paprika Sausage, an American woman tourist who was the mistress of understatement when she said: "Say it's a little breezy in these parts" and I finished the day to the massed sounds of of car alarms down the town high street, which had been set off by golfball sized hailstones in a recent downpour.

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