I’ve always liked travelling independently.
When I was in my early teens I went off happily youth-hostelling with a map and a rucksack and thought it was a great adventure.
Later I started taking holidays in Europe – usually based round work, or an activity or a course.
Then in my early 20s I went on my world trip – one of the best things I’ve ever done.
And now here I am travelling up and down the Costa del Sol every weekend.
The trouble is, it’s not really travelling at all. It’s a weekend commute. It happens to be in a pretty nice location, with a permanent view of the Med from the bus, but it is still a commute.
And after a few weeks, the three-hour journey between Málaga and Gib starts to drag a bit. Even if you do manage to get the back seat to yourself.
It’s even worse if the bus is full of jabbering tourists (of whatever nationality), screaming kids, or as happened yesterday, a vomiting woman sitting next to me on the back seat (with her two kids who at least weren’t screaming).
“Tiene una bolsa?” she said so I fished out a Morrisons bag. And gave it to her saying I hoped there weren’t any holes in it. It didn’t matter as she missed anyway. Don’t drink water and sit at the back of the bus, is my advice.
So last Sunday was nice and quiet. I had the back seat and the bus was fairly empty. I sat right in the middle, with my feet on the armrests and started to read the paper, settling in for a reasonable journey.
And then at Torremolinos, a few people got on. One of them marched assertively down the bus, looked me right in the eyes and said (in beautiful southern English)
“Can I get past you to sit in there?”
I suppose I could have said there are plenty of other seats mate, but it seemed a bit rude. So I moved my legs for him to get in and promptly put them back. His mate decided to sit in front of us. Quite right too. Two people on the back seat was already one too many in my opinion.
“You’re going to Gib,” he said. It was more of a statement than a question but I answered politely anyway. “Yes.”
“What do you do there?” he asked nosily. “Nothing,” I answered truthfully (in at least I don’t have any paid employment there – I assumed that was what he meant).
The cogs whirred round a bit. Who is this woman that lives in (expensive) Gib and doesn’t work? There was a pause, so I leaped in.
“What do you do?” Tit for tat. “Forces.”
“Oh,” I replied chattily. Then he said “I’m a musician.”
Is he having a joke at my expense? Either he’s in the forces or he’s a musician. My lateral thinking is obviously faltering though.
“I play the trumpet for the RAF.” I thought he was having me on, but no. So we eventually called a truce to the hostilities and relaxed a bit. Turned out his professional training was as a musician, and 16 years ago he was accepted into one of the RAF bands – the Central Band.
It sounded like a cool job. You get to play at lots of concerts round the world, and you get to visit British bases too. He’d been to Ascension Island, the Falklands, and Cyprus among others. As for concerts they were in America last year, and they were off to Japan next year.
They even got a daily foreign allowance on top of salary of around twenty plus pounds a day. In America they also got a $400 salary from their sponsor, but they were doing 19 concerts in 21 days from one side of the country to the other so I guess they earned that.
It didn’t sound totally glamorous though. There were the bus journeys from London to Scotland, or the three-day bus journey to Budapest. Don’t think that was one for my vomiting companion from yesterday who couldn’t manage two hours from Estepona to Benalmádena.
They also got to go to conflict zones. Not to play, I might add. He’d volunteered to go to Kosovo but by the time he’d finished training, the post had gone so he ended up in Basra. Rather him than me.
The band was in Gib for a concert tonight and they were due to play two concerts in Spain, but apparently there were some bureaucratic problems so he had a week’s holiday, and the Spanish concerts weren’t happening. He had time on his hands.
When we got off the bus he bought me and the other guy a drink, and then I headed off for home and tea, thoughtfully prepared by Domesticated Partner, and repeated two and a half hours of bus conversation over tea.
We’d fixed to meet up on Tuesday evening, but he sent a text saying he couldn’t make it, was Wed OK? Fine by us.
On Wed, I thought about checking with him, (save Exhausted Partner getting changed after work!) but figured he would have let me know if he wasn’t coming. I stubbed my toe. I avoided the dog and kicked the chair. (It’s a small flat). The front half of my foot rapidly turned shades of blue, purple and black. Not a good omen.
We limped down to the assigned meeting place. After half an hour I sent him a text. Like, this is a guy whose watch is set ten minutes ahead of time so he is never late?
Chilled-out Partner had another drink and we wandered back home. Somewhat later on I received a text. Good marks for inventiveness. They had been frantically trying to get their instruments across the border (came by truck) and on top of that he decided to indulge in a bout of food poisoning. One of those would have been a sufficient excuse, although preferably sent before we were meant to meet. Did we want to meet the next day?
Why don’t people just say they have found better things to do and can’t be bothered to meet up? The bus journey went really fast, he was good company and I enjoyed talking to him. It would have been good to meet again, but I’m a grown-up these days and I’m not going to lose sleep when people change their mind.
Alternatively you could say third time lucky. I didn’t. And I didn’t reply either. I hope your concert goes well tonight Paul. And thanks for brightening my regular commuting journey. Safe journey back to the UK. But don’t agree to meet people in quite such a hurry again.