leaving home – the delights of coach travel – my favorite pub

This is part two of my daily diary for 15th May written in retrospect.

I won’t bore you with the minutae of a coach journey apart from saying that life’s main pleasures are often quite ordinary and unexpected and that some people reading this may be prejudiced towards coaches as a means of long distance transport from A to B. I always travel National Express to London. It’s not that I don’t like trains but the price is 3 to 4 times what I would pay on the coach and for the saving of an hour or so why bother? Train fares in particular and fares in general are the most expensive in Western Europe and are a disgrace.

A system of very clever algorithms have been developed to calculate when people tend to buy tickets and adjusting the price accordingly. This happens particularly with airlines and has been so for years but the application to coaches and trains has been a little bit more recent. you need to beat the system and fly for example on Tuesdays which appear to be unpopular days.   On this occasion when using coaches, we plan ahead at least two weeks and select our particular coaches at unpopular times of the day with the result that we paid return London to Bath £21 for the two of us. That’s just ordinary passengers without a coach card or anything. if you book the day before,  it would be £43.40 for two people.

By train, the cheapest advance return fare that I can find is £57.50 per person which makes £115. if my mathematics is not too rusty that means a saving of £94 over the advance booking by coach which I’m quite happy to spend on riotous living or more probably on decent food. PS people seem to confuse advance with advanced. ‘advance booking’  means booking in advance, ahead of, the occasion.  ‘advanced’ booking means a more sophisticated or different way of making a booking.

On the coach, a spirit of comradeship quickly springs up particularly if the driver is a friendly person. As my readers will know, I take any opportunity to speak with strangers and for the most part it succeeds. During my trip to London I was rebuffed once by a very defensive tourist who was trying to demonstrate to his family that he knew everything about London but most people are delighted to be approached. With or without my wife it seems to make little difference.

Victoria coach Station 6 min walk from the rail terminal of the same name

Victoria coach Station is not the most glorious place in the world but it is safe and central. How they manage to look after people in such a confined space is a mystery to me that they do through sheer British ingenuity and strict time management.  It is but a stone’s throw to Victoria Station (named after Queen Victoria, one of England’s longest reigning monarchs) and from thence to all points. If any potential visitor to England is reading this, there is no need to spend £60 on a taxi from Heathrow unless you actually want to burn money. I know you have heavy suitcases but if you are capable of lifting them and putting them in an elevator or an escalator you can travel by subway or train to Paddington.

We settled in at our temporary accommodation in Dulwich where I stayed in the accommodation that I left for Somerset over four years ago. I went to visit my favourite local pub, The Horns Tavern, with the one and only Alison who has owned the property for the past 16 years.

I don’t normally write at length about pubs because you might say a pub is a pub but this is more than that. Alison (pictured) has the rare talent of welcoming people and making them feel at home. To me the test of a pub is whether you can go in as a single person and not feel on your own. When I visited (with my wife on this occasion it must be said) about 5:30 PM most of the men were sitting quite happily doing crosswords staring into their glass but there was also banter at the bar between people who knew each other

Alison is always trying new ideas including a coffee servery for people using the nearby West Norwood station but that did not last. Currently she is producing a magic elixir which is equivalent in nutritional value to a meal so she claims. It consists of a mixture of Apple, pineapple, celery, carrots, beet, lemon, hemp, Banana, and avocado. She had given three bottles to someone at an adjacent table and so I enquired about it and bought one on the spot. It was pleasant enough.

I have not mentioned the most important aspect is that after almost a couple of years of not seeing Alison she greeted me warmly as if I were a long lost friend as did one other member of staff will recognise me. A warm greeting cannot be faked and it stands out and apart a mile from the mechanical “good evening sir can we help you”  with or without a smile.

I go to London partly to see old friends and this is one of the highlights of my visit for reasons given above.

And so to my sister for supper.

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