178, 231, 55, 51
Radstock to Bath. Driver: Killer eyebrows. This is the only late growth facial hair a man can be really proud of. Beards are two a penny, they grow from youth. Nose and ear hair, well... But a man with a fine, second-tier brow of hair is a man to be admired. I've always aspired to and envied the abundant growth of my Grandfather's eyebrows (pictured above). The one down one up, gentle wave-like appearance reflects both his artistic flair and his placid temper. The over-eye hair on this driver, although no less impressive in its profusion or protrusion than my Grandpa's, had matted so densely it resembled two rhino horns. His skin, too, hung pachydermal off his face. This guy may have appeared like a beast but he was well friendly, a herbivore like the rest of them. No visible tattoos or piercings.
The wildness of the Cornian and Devonnish landscapes was gone. Somerset had exorcised the rock and gorse from the ground, leaving it a lush, green pelt. The hills and valleys were mellower, like the rucks of an unmade bedcover. We passed a hillside field of rape that buttercupped the chin of a neighbouring copse. I'd been told that the journey to the Cotswolds would be a handsome one. Yes, well, it was all fine until I changed onto the...
Bath to Chippenham. I emptied the tin in Bath's LloydsTSB. After five and a bit days, the passengers' generosity had stretched to just under a hundred pounds. That's a lot of spare change. Before hopping on the 231, I strolled around taking in the attractive city centre. Like with every city, I suppose, the sport is keeping your eyes above the level of the Specsavers and Subway shop fronts.
The start of the 231's ride was quite enjoyable. Good names around there. We drove through or near Calne, Devizes, Frogwell, Ditteridge and Derriads. A healthy, cosmopolitan approach to naming, I thought. But my favourite was Box. Simply Box. It's quite famous for a little place. Apart from its engineering history, Peter Gabriel lives there with his Real World Studios. And Midge Ure. Which is all well and good but, most impressively, it's where the creator of Thomas the Tank Engine came from.
Leading up to its destination, the bus route was dull territory. Chippenham. Depressing. The name is an anagram of peach nimph and hip chap men, though the residents fall under neither of these categories. The town's most attractive features were an old railway bridge and an impressive burial ground. A town should know there's something wrong when the only things it's got going for it are ways of leaving. And one of these the most final departure methods of all.
The first of many Stagecoach Bus services.
Swindon to Cirencester. Driver: Rookie. All his colleagues reassuring him they'll all be there on the end of the line if he needs help. A little jerky on the retreat from the parking bay, but otherwise a clean ride. Swindon: on the grubby side of unremarkable.