National Express coaches here in the north west of England don’t carry the perceived sense of romance connected with the Greyhound bus that you see in films and read of in American classic novels. America’s middle to long distance coach network is a thing of misty eyed legend, the strains of Everybody’s Talkin’ aching in the background and duly breaking our hearts. In the UK, our journeys are fragmented and jerky, no long endless open road for us but instead blank grey motorways with occasional gluts of sad trees high above embankments, foliage never having the chance to grow green and full, the endless traffic choking and smothering it with dirty air. Motorways: kicking sand in a nature’s face, day in and day out.
Travelling on a coach reminds me of school trips and what grim experiences they were, with stressed out teachers and children off their heads on sugar, weeping over squashed sandwiches and warm cans of pop. Thankfully this weekend’s coach trip to Leeds wasn’t like that for us, we went there for a Frankie & The Heartstrings gig and look-see of the city.
Leeds reminds me of Manchester in many ways, I’ve been there for writing festivals twice before but not seen much of the actual city itself. It might be the area we spent time in colouring my view but it seems to have loads going on within a healthy independent sector, a very creative and friendly city.
On our return National Express journey, a very large and loud family got on our coach with two of their number, a man and a little boy choosing to sit behind us. The boy was whiny as bored kids tend to be when they have nothing to do, and kept poking his hand through the gap between the seats and stroking the arm of my faux fur coat while the man carried on a long rambling phone conversation, his attention anywhere but with his son.
After we got off the coach, I told my husband about the stroking.
‘Are you sure it was the boy?’ he said. ‘And are you positive it was his hand…?’
As I said, romance is rare via National Express.