THE COACH KILLER
We met a lovely English family on our earlier tour to Holy Island and the Beamish Museum: an elderly woman, her two daughters and daughter-in-law. These ladies adopted me and I spent many happy occasions exploring Hull with them and taking Wednesday tea at the mum's house. On Miss Ivy's 86th birthday, they invited me to join them on a one day coach tour to Thornton-le-Dale and Pickering Castle. Although it was her day, I think the choice of tours may have been planned for my benefit. They had asked my favorite place in England and I'd answered truthfully the Cotswolds because I loved the thatched roof cottages that reminded me of fairy tale picture books. Yorkshire had a few thatched cottages, too. And they knew I was enthralled with castles.
It was mid-August but we wore medium-weight coats and carried our brollies. I always wore jogging shoes and they usually wore shoes with heels but today one of them also wore her white trainers (joggers).
I had noticed that our tour coaches and the city buses traveled at a higher rate of speed that their US counterparts, but the driver of this day-tour company put them all to shame. To call him a speed demon as he whizzed around the complete right angled curves on the narrow two lane motorway was not an exaggeration. As I sat gripping the seat, I looked around and everyone else was chatting as if this was normal so I suppose it was.
In Thornton, we visited alms houses where the poor had lived in past days, a cathedral built in 1300, and saw those charming thatched-roofed cottages. As we walked briskly toward a tea room for lunch, with me panting to keep up, the mum confided that she had been able to walk so much better before she broke her hip last winter in a fall on ice.
After lunch, we boarded another bus for Pickering and toured the castle there. The mum sprinted up and down the dry castle mote like a mountain goat, with me again trying vainly to keep up with her. These Brits are a hearty lot, let me tell you.
We returned to the bus park in Thornton and soon boarded our bus to Hull. This driver outdid the morning demon. I felt as if I were in a plane cruising for takeoff and would be airborne any minute. I have heard of driving a horse to death but this fellow drove the bus to death, literally. It died several miles from Hull and he called on his cell phone for a replacement. It was quite a while coming and when it arrived, the new driver stayed with the dead bus and our coach killer boarded this new bus and tried to kill it, too. The only reason he didn't succeed was not enough miles left to Hull. Needless to say, this is one birthday celebration I will never forget and I'm only thankful Miss Ivy was spared to celebrate another.
I sometimes traveled with the other wives from my husband's company. One day I was meeting two of them for a rail trip to Scarborough. I took the bus from our flat to the city centre. Since I usually got off the bus at Alder's Department Store, I had never bothered to learn the name of the bus terminal street. So when I boarded the bus, I told the familiar driver that I was going all the way today. He grinned and turned to the bus filled with mostly older ladies making their daily trip to market and repeated to them, "Ladies, the American lady is going all the way today."
Amid their laughter, I nodded and said, "But please don't tell my husband."
We three wives had a lovely day in Scarborough, visiting shops, having lunch, and scavenging the charity shops for unusual finds. It was in the last of these, while the other two chatted in the sunshine on the sidewalk, that I spied a couple of coffee table books on a high shelf and attempted to pull them down. They came down alright, one landing on the bridge of my nose (and I carry the hump to prove it today). Not to be deterred I bought the books and staggered out, nose already swelling and hurting like Hull. By the time we had tea and boarded the train, I had two black eyes as well. And when I arrived back at the terminal to catch the last bus back to Victoria Dock, I faced the same driver of the morning. Seeing his shocked expression, I answered his question before he could ask. "A book fell on my nose," I said. He nodded with a skeptical expression and I'm sure to this day he is certain that the American lady truly did go all that way that memorable day.
If you're still here, I'd like to say that I've enjoyed the week with you. I hope you've had as much fun reading these stories as I had telling you about them. I appreciate all who took the time to leave your comments. And I wish all of you could be the winner of my books, Let Nothing You Dismay and Circle Of Love. But if you're not a winner, I'd appreciate it if you'd purchase a copy of one or both from www.thewildrosepress.com.
And if you want to learn more about my books or me, I invite you to stop by my web site at www.lindaswift.net.