"Hello, I would like to purchase a ticket from Stoke on Trent to Durham, please." The lady at the ticket office replied, "Would that be Durham, North Carolina, or Durham, England?" Okay, I'm making that up, she didn't mention Durham, England. Enough already, the lady sold me a ticket from Stoke to Durham, England.
That was on Monday, July 13. At 8:30 A.M., on Thursday, July 16, I headed out my front door to subject myself to the wonders of public transport. Bus number one, the number 18 from Leek, Staffordshire to Hanley bus depot in Stoke on Trent. Bus number two, the National Express to Manchester. Bus number three, a National Express to Leeds via Bradford. Then bus number four, a National Express from Leeds destined for Durham, via, Harrogate, Ripon and Darlington. Estimated time of arrival in Durham, 4:55 P.M.
Waiting for the final bus at Leeds proved to be the most memorable part of the journey. As we queued patiently to get on the bus, this one idiot decided he would jump the queue. He proceeded to put his packsack into the luggage compartment on the side of the bus. Then he smugly showed the driver his boarding ticket. The driver who must have observed what had transpired, promptly told the guy to remove his packsack from the luggage compartment and get to the back of the queue. Oh yes! Result! Full marks to that National Express driver and his no nonsense approach to that situation.
So I sat there on the final bus and relaxed. For in about 2 and 1/2 hours, I would be seeing my good friends Julie and Philip. I was most excited at the prospect of visiting and being witness to the new adventure that they had begun, way up in the North East of England. Just as the bus was pulling into Durham Bus Station; I got a text from Philip inquiring, 'are we there yet?'. Yes we are Philip.
Now I was aware of the weather, even in July, can be, shall we say, somewhat dreary up in that part of England. However, the optimist in me told me to bring sunglasses, the realist in me told me to bring a wooly hat. Upon leaving the bus and being greeted by them, we headed through the streets of Durham. To say that the weather was a tad unpleasant, is a bit of an understatement. The shop with the drastically reduced solar lamps may have been a bit of a clue. Luckily the rain eventually eased to a torrential downpour.
It was time to head out of Durham to the small village they live in about four miles from Durham. 'Gary? You're used to buses? So guess what? We're taking a Park and Ride bus back to the car.' stated Philip. "You're having a laugh? You're shitting me?" I replied. Bus number five and 'bus lag' was starting to catch up with me.
For the next six days I became a part of Julie's and Philip's lives, along with their, shall we say, rather playful dog, 'Zak'. For the next six days I witnessed the wonders of a world where the locals seemed to be talking in a foreign language. I think they might have been speaking English, indeed I thought it best to nod my head at what I guessed was the right time. For the next six days I saw peacocks strolling around the streets of their village, experienced severe flooding and got to go Durham Cathedral. An awe-inspiring place that transported my mind back in time and made me appreciate the incredible skill and determination of those who created such a magnificent structure.
Back home now. My own personal recovery continues. Every outing a personal triumph in my ongoing journey to regain my self-esteem. Thank you Julie, Philip and not forgetting Zak, for making my time in the beautiful city of Durham, England, thought provoking and inspiring. Now, if only I could get rid of this bus lag. "On the National Express there's a jolly hostess selling crisps and tea. She'll provide you with drinks and theatrical winks for a sky-high fee.." 'Divine Comedy'..you might say that.