I left Portugal and headed off on my own, waving goodbye to BF at the airport. I will bring you up to date on my next set of adventures in a future post but for now please humour me as I jump forward in time to more recent events. After four weeks in mainland Europe I flew home for ten days. I needed to consolidate my travel plans, repack my rucksack and attend to some business in the UK.
I have been to London plenty of times, but never by myself. So when BF spotted an advert for a seminar which I might be interested in, I booked my coach seats, reserved my place at the event and excitedly made plans to visit the V&A Museum. I envisaged having a leisurely afternoon wandering around London on what promised to be a hot sunny day before attending the seminar somewhere off the Strand at seven pm.
Tube maps and street maps were scrutinised. I knew where and when I had to be and how to get there. And then the hurdles began to pop up.
Waiting at the bus station with just ten minutes until departure, I suddenly had cold prickles crawl down my back as I realised that I had left my phone charging back in the kitchen. BF gallantly drove off in a cloud of dust in an effort to beat the bus, and I thanked my lucky stars when the bus was delayed and he made it back in time.
But the bus remained delayed. Due in at seven forty five in the morning it eventually rolled in to the bus station nearly an hour and a half late. I would have had time to go for breakfast, let alone wait for BF to fetch my phone. No explanation or apology was given by either of the grumpy drivers but a passenger informed me that they were already on their second bus of the day. They had had to transfer half an hour previously as the original bus had developed leaky coolant. I don’t know what the coolant was supposed to be cooling but it had stopped the bus.
Anyhow, arriving at the next town on our journey we were informed that we would have a further coach and driver change but would soon be on our way. Were we hell! The new driver had some problem with his paperwork and he spent the next twenty minutes on his mobile. Things were looking up when with huge apologies to us all he finally drove us out of the bus station. And he drove about three miles. On the outskirts of the city, just before getting on to the motorway he pulled in to a lay by, got out of the bus and walked down the road a short distance to make another phone call.
This driver who was called Andrew was excellent and kept us fully informed of our predicament. It transpired that bus number three had been charted from a local company to get us to our destination but somebody somewhere had failed to renew its tax disc two days earlier. Andrew quite rightly refused to drive the bus and risk a £2000 personal fine but he had been promised by the bus company that somebody would be waiting for him in the lay by with an up-to-date tax disc. They had let him down and he was very embarrassed. Most of us got off the bus and sat on the verge, chatting to each other. One young couple had a plane to catch and some passengers wandered off to a local pub to use the loos. The company didn’t have the nerve to send anybody in management to apologise to us, but an engineer was dispatched to deliver the tax disc so that we could continue our journey.
Outside London, we got caught up in bumper to bumper traffic on the motorway, got diverted due to an accident and then the car ahead of us decided to attempt to execute an illegal right hand turn across four lanes of streaming traffic. A young man jumped up in the aisle gesticulating wildly and voicing what we all felt by now, yelled ‘Come on, come on, what else are you going to throw at us’, the driver leaned on his horn for a full six minutes and passengers down the right hand side of the bus all banged on the windows to try to get the car driver’s attention and screamed their frustrations at him.
We eventually rolled into London over three hours late. I had no time to get to the museum but luckily I had not missed the seminar. It was about running a travel blog as a business and luckily was very much worth the hassle to get there. I boarded the bus for the five hour return journey at eleven thirty pm. Coincidentally it was again driven by Andrew who was still chirpy and smiley following a snooze and who assured me that due to the fiasco all passengers would be able to get a full refund on the fated journey.
I have emailed my request off for a refund – because obviously the company will not bother to contact and refund passengers themselves. I am still waiting but I will let you know as soon as I do get a response. I appreciate that some things are out of a bus company’s control such as a mechanical breakdown or heavy traffic, but to send a bus out without a tax disc is incompetent at the very least, definitely inconvenient and if the poor couple didn’t get her flight, downright appalling.
P.S. Since writing this I have received an email to advise me that a refund for the cost of my return ticket will be credited back to my credit card