Friday, 13 July 2012

A Mystery Tour Is Still A Complete And Utter Mystery

Excursions by bus have always been popular in the North East of England. They have always been good value and many companies operated day trips to the same places, year after year.

Just look at these prices from the Northern advert in the Northern Echo in the 1960's. If you look at some of Tyneside's oldest coach companies like Priory, Rowell and Thirwells, they are still doing it. The destinations are mostly the same with the additions of places like Alton Towers, Flamingoland and Lightwater Valley theme parks, or shopping trips to the Metro Centre, a market or a Christmas Fayre. The price for say, a trip to Blackpool Illuminations may have gone up eighteenfold from 23/- to £18-50, but the great thing is that little else has changed.

The very best thing is that the Mystery Tour is still there. National Holidays even run a two day Mystery Break saying it is 'a splendid adventure into the unknown .... never too far, yet not too near.

I took a Mystery Tour, once. It was full of old ladies from a Knit & Natter club, based in a North Eastern metropolis. They were some of the meanest and most miserable moaners I have ever taken. I was forewarned by the other drivers who had taken them before, but I was still unprepared for the ferocity of their complaints.

'Just take them anywhere,' the boss had unhelpfully said. 'You choose. It's up to you.'

So after much thought, I chose the hills over the coast or the rivers. It was a poor choice, because as we started to climb up the steep gradients the fog descended and the ladies sitting behind saw nothing for most of the trip, until we were nearly back at their starting point. Catastrophe, I thought, and tried to deflect my mind away from the ripple of grumblings which seemed to permeate throughout the bus.

When we stopped, I expected the worst. The organiser got up and I prepared myself for an earbashing.

'The ladies and I are in full agreement,' she said, 'that this was the best Mystery Tour we have ever been on. We'll be requesting you again.' A burst of applause followed.

My mouth was still open when I returned to the depot, half an hour later.

Life is one big mystery.

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