Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A Bus Too Far.....

We've just had a four day weekend. Very nice you might think if you subscribe to the normal five day working week with Saturday and Sunday off. In our household it's not quite that simple. Sarah spends four days a week in the day centre, transport picks her up at 8.45am and delivers her home at about 4.00pm, Tuesday to Friday. Well that's what should happen but that damned butterfly keeps flapping it's wings somewhere in the Amazon resulting in all sorts of nonsense occurring here in the Cynon Valley.

As you would expect, I arrange all appointments, missions, meetings, whatever, for the days when Sarah should be in the Day Centre. The second Friday of every month is the day chosen for the little writers group I am part of to meet up for a couple of hours in the Muni Coffee Shop in Pontypridd...  as an aside, if you should happen to be a carer that lives in Rhondda Cynon Taf and you're at a loose end on the second Friday of the month, the Muni does a decent cup of coffee and you don't have to be able to write to join us, having an interest and being a carer is sufficient... So the butterfly flapped it's wing in celebration of chaos theory and sods law, and Sarah is home on the second Friday of the month because of staff training and we've got a four day weekend on the back of a three day week.

Now Sarah, being autistic, assumes that she and I will go out for the day, somewhere exotic like Swansea or Cardiff. I explained to her that we had already visited Cardiff on Monday and I've got to be in Ponty for 10.00am which means catching a bus at 8.30am, If she wanted to come with me she would have to get up as if she were going to the Day Centre and not having a day off, and anyway she would only get bored because I would be talking to other people, so perhaps she and her Dad wouldn't mind following me so that we could meet up in the Muni around midday when my meeting would be breaking up, have a cup of tea, maybe go and have some fish and chips (always a deal clincher with Sarah) then the three of us come home on the bus together. By some miracle this suggestion was accepted and put into action. I met up with fellow writers and we were just winding up when Bill and Sarah arrived.

After a round of hello, how are you, nice to meet you and so on which Sarah loves, (a whole bunch of new faces with names and birthdays to remember and recite when I least expect it!) we set off for the fish and chip restaurant at the other end of Pontypridd, feed our faces and then head back to the bus station. It's round about 2.00pm and a bus is due in. And here it is, and it has Aberdare written in flashing orange lights on the front. Not the usual bus, which should have alerted me to potential problems, but it did say Aberdare, and when I showed the driver my return ticket which had 'Aberdare to Pontypridd return' writ large upon it and said 'Aberdare?' in a questioning manner, he nodded!  Bill travelled as companion to Sarah on her disability bus pass so no words were exchanged there. So off we go, should be back in Aberdare well before 3.00pm.

Quite a crowd on the bus, all happily settling down for the ride to respective homes, bouncing along the A470 towards the exit before the dreaded Abercynon roundabout. Passengers accustomed to the journey are preparing for the long left turn we are about to go into only to be surprised by the shortness of our turn to the left as we find ourselves going to the right and along a road that is not going to take us to Aberdare. A few of us noticeably sat up and paid attention at that point, and probably all thought something along the lines of 'at least I'm not alone!' Being British, none of us said anything. Working on the basis that this isn't the sort of bus that goes a very long way, Bill and I decided to treat it as a game and played at guessing our destination from the road signs, landmarks and clues like railway bridges etc that we spotted along the way. We were a little disappointed when we saw the road to Merthyr and didn't go down it. We then spent a good half an hour touring housing estates we'd never heard of, a few people actually got off, I'm guessing they knew where they were. We went through more places we'd never heard of and finally landed up in what passes for a bus stand in Bargoed. By this time the only people left on the bus were the confused from Aberdare. The silence needed to be broken so I thought I'd go down and speak to the driver. He told me that I must have got on before he changed the display on the front of the bus, I asked him where he had come from before arriving at Pontypridd, he said Aberdare, I wondered why the display hadn't said Pontypridd and was answered with a shrug. So then I enquired as to where he was driving to next because myself and most likely the half dozen others who got on the bus before the display was changed were curious. Pontypridd. Good, and where to after that? Aberdare. Right, I left it at that with the driver, he didn't seem at all bothered and anyway his phone was ringing, so as I returned to my seat I suggested to our fellow travelers that we all just stayed put on the bus until it got us to where we were supposed to be, being British there was an assortment of responses along the lines of  'deww' 'typical' 'durrr' 'tsk' all accompanied by raised eyebrows and rolling eyes and shaking heads.

So we revisited our mystery tour route, but the other way round of course, arrived in Ponty, picked up more passengers and then on to Aberdare arriving nearly an hour and a half later than we should have. I couldn't help wondering how many people were standing in Aberdare bus station scratching their heads and wondering why they weren't in Bargoed! First lucky break of this convoluted return journey then happens, as we are making our way to the stand for the connecting bus to Cwmbach, home and a cup of tea, it obligingly pulled in and within a quarter of an hour the kettle is on and Bill is summoning up Google Earth to try and make some sense out of all the twists and turns we had just experienced.  So that was day one of our long weekend,  on day two we didn't go anywhere near a bus. Day three... buses are few and far between on a Sunday. Yesterday Sarah, who by the way, thoroughly enjoyed the extended jaunt on Friday, decided we needed to go to Merthyr for which I am eternally grateful, since up to Sunday night she had been talking about going to Swansea which involves a bus change in the middle of nowhere onto yet another dodgy service running buses that have definitely seen better days.

Our Merthyr trip was uneventful, there and back again with no problems, but I've got to admit I could have done without it, for me it had no real purpose, but Sarah loves it, sitting on a bus with her earphones on, calculator in hand and a bottle of water and I could always do the same, except read a book rather than grapple with a calculator! But that trip on Friday, well the word Bargoed has begun to take on a whole new meaning over the weekend. I have a feeling it is going to become a point of reference when planning trips and events. I can almost hear myself saying as I study timetables or stand in a queue,  'Under all circumstances, we've got to avoid a Bargoed.' Without doubt, it was a bus too far. Ropey old vehicle, badly maintained and extremely bendy roads and by bendy I mean be up and down as well as side to side. Bill and I were so knackered that by 9.00pm we were both spark out in front of the TV.

Well that lot is better out than in, but there is one thing I should add, Bargoed actually looks like a pretty good place by Valleys standards and one day when I've nothing better to do I will probably go there on purpose, although if possible, not via Pontypridd bus station and preferably by train...

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