Thursday, 29 April 2010

A reminder of the rules

In the way of 'rules', this:

1. I will only use local bus services, or coaches on designated local bus routes which accept the disabled person's bus pass.
2. I will not pay for any bus ride (except in emergencies)
3. I will not use taxis, coaches, trains, trams, planes, ferries, public mules, tuk tuks or any other public transport (except in emergencies)
4. I may walk
5. I will not go to Milton Keynes
6. I will not buy food from any supermarket or chain store
7. I will not accept lifts apart from when I will be dropped back in precisely the same spot later in that same day or early the following day
8. I will not accept sweets from strangers

Additional Notes: In regards to rules 2 & 3, this:

'[E]mergencies' consist of medical emergencies and situations where I might be stranded somewhere with no prospect of sleeping safely.

Or if I need a Starbucks Caramel Frappaccino.

Radio La La

My first radio announcement. Thank you BBC Cornwall and Martin Bailie.

Departure Day

This is it. I'm off today, around 11pm. I head down to Penzance on the sleeper train. In my own cabin. I'm hoping that I'll be involved in a scrap with a man holding a revolver at his hip demanding I hand over the microfilm. That sort of thing always happens in train cabins.

I arrive in Penzance 8am tomorrow morning, have an organic granola bar and freshly squeezed moccha, then off to Land's End on the bus and I start from there.

Cheers then,


Monday, 26 April 2010

Trial Run: Diss-mayed, Diss-orientated and Diss-illusioned

Is 'dis Diss?

Right, let's get this Trial Run nonsense nailed down before I get going:

I slept on the bus between Ipswich and Diss. I was that guy you see on night buses, contorted across both seats, who sleeps like dead but wakes at each stop. I left Ipswich in the dusk and arrived in Diss bus station in darkness. The place was deserted apart from a sister and brother of about 9 and 7 sitting in the shelter eating a bag of vinegar with a dash of chipped potatoes; and one bus, lurking furtively, lights off, out of the way. This place was ready to be eaten by the Langoliers.

Having recently woken from fitful sleep, my faculties weren't very cohesive. What route plan I had made the night before had been shot in the paddock. And it was dark and cold. And it was Diss. There seemed to be no information about the bus from here to Norwich. Not even my pal Guy at Traveline could help me out. I started to stress. I started to black out.

My absences last for about half a second each, but they leave me disorientated for a couple of seconds, forgetful of what I was doing or saying. I'll usually have a few of them in each episode. I had around 20 that evening. When I used to drink, I'd have between 50 and 100 on a hangover. It was frustrating because it stopped me from being able to hold a normal conversation or from doing anything. I hardly get them these days, and they're more disguisable than the ones I used to get when I drank. But the thing about them is that, for me, they are brought on and exacerbated by stress. So it becomes a vicious circle, the more I stress the more I have them the more I stress... until I can finally relax.

Back in the Diss bell jar, I was blipping out, trying to hold it together long enough to find out about my bus. The furtive bus behind me came alive with a dim interior light and a cackle. I went over to it and found a 'clutch' of bus drivers sitting around on, I suppose, a break. I asked for their help and they gave me completely false information with unfriendly smirks on their faces. It was only because I got a second opinion from another friendly Polish bus driver round the corner that I didn't waste an hour walking 3 miles to what I had been told was the only stop in Diss with buses to Norwich. That is Diss customer services for you.

My black outs cleared up and my arrival into Norwich brought a contented smile to my bus face. I had every intention of taking the bus from Norwich to Hanworth Post Office, but I was exhausted after 11 hours of travel and my mum persuaded me to stay there and she would pick me up. A fine idea (Don't worry, none of that on the real trip). I sat in Frank's bar and ate a stunning bit of banoffee pie. A good end to an eventful day.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Trial Run: Brain Treacle Chess Stirrup Switch (Cont'd)


As a Norfolk reared, Colmans slurping, son of a Canary, the tedious business of negotiating Ipswich led to a little discomfort. Mind hives. I'll keep this section short.

It was dusk, but their dusk was no more than a dirty grey sky with a rumour of blue. The ground was skiddy underfoot: grease and mud.

As with Colchester, the only food available was either reconstituted, battery farmed or from neo-colonialists Tesco. Eventually I found a good little fish & chip shop and got involved.

A fish supper is a treat once in a while. However, standing under bus bay M's awning at Ipswich bus station, scoffing soggy chips out of a polystyrene tray, surrounded by chavs drinking cheap cider and smoking tabs, I found my deep fried dinner had taken on a grimier character. Ipswich turned my battered sausage bad.

The chavs stayed in the bus shelter. I don't think they were waiting for a bus.

BrainTrea cleChessStirr upSwitch

Next stop: Diss

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

EDP - Epileptic Deans Peregrination

My first commercial news article: the Eastern Daily Press 13th of April 2010. After all those years spent as a failing glamour model, I finally made it onto page 3.
Thanks Ed Foss at the EDP, and Toby Rose for putting him on to me.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Trial Run: Brain Treacle Chess Stirrup Switch (Cont'd)


Braintree to Colchester on the 70 was a rattler. Another double decker like the 93A before it. The synchromesh was shot. Either that or the driver couldn't work out what the third pedal was for, "That's the go-faster one and that's the slow-down one, but I'm buggered if I can remember what that one on the left does."

The bus's voice was a throaty growl. You could feel its complaint shaking into you through the seat. It was like tiring just from watching hard labour, sympathetic exhaustion for Sisyphus.

At one point an old couple alighted and, as the bus pulled away, I noticed they had left a prescription on their seat. I grabbed it and asked the driver to pull over again. As I stood in the bus's doorway holding the prescription up and calling out to the couple, the opening of The Untouchables flashed into my head, the little girl being blown up by a Mafioso's suitcase bomb. Is that a sign of our security conscious times, or some deep-seated mistrust in my own mind?

The couple were surprised and very thankful. I felt a pang of community spirit and immediately tried to shoehorn this event's relevance into the overall spirit of my trip. Silly really. It's just a thing that happened. What was nice, though, was that as I turned around, the driver gave me a single pat on my arm and nodded his head. It was like a moment between a son and his taciturn father who knows only this way to express his pride.

Colchester's town centre is a depressing place. Depressing inasmuch as the main high street is nothing but a chain of chains. There is a network of little streets that comes off the high street. In amongst these smaller lanes are some interesting shops, but most of them aspiring to their bullyish big corporate brothers. There is apparently nothing to eat here except kebabs and fried chicken. Anyone'd think you were in Hackney.

I didn't like Colchester so much. The towns seemed to be getting steadily worse since my first stop in Ongar. I couldn't work this out, seeing as I was getting closer to Norfolk. Then it struck me, I was also getting closer to...


Definite Article

It's on my old University Website, London Metropolitan University. Thanks to Jasmine for sorting it out.
Lovely Old Job.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Trial Run: Brain Treacle Chess Stirrup Switch


I find that the East Anglian countryside placates as it flows past the window. It could be something in its flatness: epic fieldscapes, vast skies breached only occasionally by a farmhouse roof or a bare tree like an exposed nerve. The horizon is not too far off its own cardiogram.

After a pleasant half an hour or so, Braintree got in the way of the view. Its approach is not attractive. The buildings are made of bricks so new they're still sharp and red. Others are corrugated steel painted nauseating oranges and yellows. At the end of this industrial Vegas strip is a residential estate. But this is no place to live. Every morning pierced by the thud and hiss of pneumatica. It is, of course, somewhere to live. Someone must live here in order to keep the tyres pumped and the parcels delivered.

I take it back Braintree: your outskirts are drab but, as experience has taught me, once you get past the skirts things start to look up. Despite the chain stores' facades on the high street, the town centre is made up of some really quite handsome Victorian buildings. It takes little effort to imagine the narrower streets, under smoggy skies, full of sooty faced, workhouse children and spluttering gin sots wiping their noses with be-fingerless-gloved hands; while the sun shines on the gentry parading around the streets whose homes have steps and columns.

I liked Braintree. The sun shone and the door on the public loo still had its lock.

Next stop Colchester.