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Saturday, 21 November 2015

Hold Very Tight Please - A Bridge Too Far?


This is another excerpt from 'Giving A Bull Strawberries', the brand new 2015 compilation of 'nostalgedy' stories:

There's a reason why I tend to avoid coach trips these days, and it's not because I'm deeply anti-social (although I am).  Every time I consider one, I'm reminded of past experiences and I drop the idea quite quickly.  Jean-Paul Sartre is alleged to have said that "hell is other people", so he might have experienced the odd coach trip himself.

In evidence, I submit a coach holiday we had some years ago touring the West Coast of America.  We were accompanied on this endeavour by a large group of 'ladies of a certain age' from Birmingham and Coventry.  As we ploughed our way through the baking heat of the Mojave Desert, we were surprised to find a trail of orange paper by the windows of our seat and all along the coach.  The reason for this, it transpired, was that the ladies had nicked acres of toilet paper from our overnight stop, so that they could stuff up the air-conditioning vents by the windows because they thought they created a draught!

I have many abiding memories of pub outings, but one in particular has me waking up screaming.  This relates to a trip to a theme park at Preston called Camelot.  In order to get there, we had to let the Transport Club's double-decker loose on the M6, which was probably above and beyond the call of duty and certainly must have been the source of a great deal of frustration for the rest of the traffic. 

We stopped for a rest break at one of those service stations where the actual restaurant and shops were on one side of the motorway, joined to the parking on the other side by an overhead bridge.  We were told to be back at the bus by a certain time and to remember that we needed to cross the bridge to get back to the right parking area.  A little while later, replete with over-priced sausage rolls and extortionate coffee, we were all back on the bus and eager to be off.  However, three of our number were missing. 

Keele Services, M6
https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-WgW46yF96to/VlDX5IetJrI/AAAAAAAABa8/hg84bc-G8qs/s320/M6_Keele_Services_-_geograph.org.uk_-_857142.jpg


Just then, we spotted them.  As I recall, they were a family consisting of elderly father and mother (with mother in a wheelchair) and an adult son.  All nice people but they would never be Mastermind contenders.
They were standing on the hard shoulder of the motorway, on the opposite carriageway, so they were six lanes away from the bus.  It was apparent that they were preparing to try and cross the motorway, even though they were within yards of the road bridge.  Quite how they had managed to get all three of them down the grass verge to the hard shoulder in the first place was something of a mystery, as none of them were physically able, but there they were. 

A good number of us gathered on our side of the road and shouted and waved, in a doomed attempt to get them to turn around and go across the bridge.  With the noise of the traffic on the road, they were oblivious.  Paralysed with the potential horror of it all, we watched transfixed as they made their laborious way across the first three lanes.  Remarkably, they made it to the central reservation without injury, and without causing the pile-up we expected. 

They then, of course, had the Labours of Hercules to get the wheelchair over the central barrier, let alone get the other two over there as well.  Again, we waited with bated breath as they prepared for a final lunge across the last three carriageways.  I think many of us had our hands over our eyes as we felt certain that this could only end in tragedy, but it was one of those scenes that you somehow felt compelled to watch.  I don't know how they did it, but they did and, to the best of my knowledge, without causing havoc and carnage, although what the drivers on the motorway thought about it doesn't bear considering.

The author and a 30' stainless steel shovel