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Tuesday, 12 April 2022

Luxury Travel

Leeds Wellington Street Coach Station, 1986

For a short period, I travelled weekly by bus between Manchester and Hull. It took hours but cost next to nothing. I spent the time in quiet contemplation, either looking out of the window or watching people inside or outside the bus. It was not an unpleasant experience.

The route I remember well. From the rubble-strewn patch of derelict ground that seemed to serve as a bus station in Oldham, it climbed Saddleworth Moor to the tops of the wild Yorkshire Pennines, passing impossible bridges, windy reservoirs and the lonely farm between the carriageways of the M62, before descending to Bradford Interchange. Next came the congested National Express coach station in Wellington Street, Leeds, where we stopped long enough to nip out to the shops or the bank. Criss-crossing the M62, the route then took us to Wakefield bus station, Castleford and Pontefract, past the majestic white cloud factories of the Vale of York, a quick detour across Boothferry Bridge between Goole and Howden which brought the bizarre sensation of being able to see my parents’ house without calling in, onwards to the brutalist East Yorkshire garage at Elloughton, and finally Hull Paragon bus station.

The East Yorkshire Bus Garage at Elloughton, 2008. © David Wright (cc-by-sa/2.0)

I came to know the route better than some of the drivers. One asked whether anyone knew how to get to Elloughton (he pronounced it “Ell-how-ton” instead of “Eller-ton”), and I was able to tell him it was only a dropping-off stop, and after asking whether any of the other passengers wanted to go there, which no one did (why would they?), I told the driver he could continue straight along the A63 to Hull. We were a quarter of an hour early. I bet he got lost on the way back.

No doubt coaches these days are more comfortable, like this one which appears in this week’s Radio Times in an advert for “fantastic excursions” to “remarkable destinations” such as the Dutch windmills, North Cape, Seville or Lake Achensee. Why would anyone bother with quiet contemplation of the endlessly fascinating world around us when they could spend the time watching videos on the screen in the back of the seat in front of them? 

37 comments:

  1. It's rather nice to ride on a bus and leave the stress and concentration of driving up to someone else. I once travelled on "The Magic Bus" from Victoria Coach Station in London to Athens. Slightly longer than Manchester to Hull.

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    1. But surely not as satisfying. Manchester to Hull was great. Hull to Manchester dreadful.

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    2. What had you done wrong to be sentenced to time in Manchester? Must have been something truly awful.

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    3. I spent a year at UMIST. Manchester really was awful. Some years later I applied for a job there, but driving through the place reminded me just what it was like and I withdrew the application.

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  2. I deliberately put my phone down when travelling on public transport, especially if I am not so familiar with an area. I found myself too often doing something 'urgent' on my phone, when it wasn't at all urgent.

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    1. Like you, I enjoy all nearly things involving railways and buses. Journeys are time-out, which we all need.

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  3. When I was young and poor and had no car, I used to take the Greyhound Bus for intercity travel ("riding the dog," we called it.) I once rode the Greyhound from Winnipeg to Ottawa, a driving distance of 2141 kilometres (1330 miles). It took FOREVER. Most of the trip consisted of crossing the Canadian Shield of Northern Ontario. If you've seen one rock and wind-ravaged tree, you've seen 'em all, believe me. And that's ALL there was to see.

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  4. My work and, even more so, long-distance relationship means frequent train trips on very familiar routes. Much of the time, I look out of the window; I have a few favourite houses and landmarks along the way. But in winter, often those trips are in darkness, and then I spend the time reading.
    Your description of the bus route sounds like something you can turn to in your mind when you can't sleep. It is what I do on those rare occasions.

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    1. It was an interesting route, probably because the stops weren't too frequent but enough to break up the journey. I don't believe the route still exists in the same form.

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  5. I'd rather watch the passing countryside unless it was pouring with rain, then a video would be welcome if I wasn't carrying a book.

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    1. Books OK. The trouble with videos is that the flickering disturbs passengers on nearly seats.

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  6. I remember a long-ish bus journey on a hot day where I endured a couple of hours hemmed in, seated directly behind a gentleman who had a very powerful armpit aroma. I nearly passed out.

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    1. I doubt a video would have helped much.
      It wasn't me! I have a keen sense of smell and am sensitive to things like that too.

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  7. I remember when we used to go for days out from Brighton to London and I loved to just gaze out of the window. That's what is missing from people's life now, gazing. Like Sundays being a quite day with no shops open. My Dad wouldn't even mow the grass on Sunday in case he disturbed other peoples peace. I long for the old Sunday's to come back but no chance, lol
    Briony
    x

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    1. There is a lot to be said in favour of that point of view. Our attention is now a commodity to be monetised. I like the Jenny Eclair quote (which I've mentioned before): Children these days should spend their Easter holidays sitting on a wall - preferably in the north of England.

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  8. Good bus rides are enjoyable. Bad ones not so.

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    1. Manchester to Hull was definitely a good one unless it was dark.

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  9. I didn't ride a bus, but we took the train quite a bit. There is a real difference between the Midland trains and the running in the south eastern part of the country in terms of cleanliness. The London trains almost always had a place to charge phones. The Midland trains usually didn't. It was a wonderful way to travel though, and I did like sitting by the window and gazing out at the little towns and fields and rolling hills. Even on the way to London and back, I was gazing at the houses we passed and daydreaming about the people who lived there. Planes though? I appreciate that little screen in the back of the seats. I never had a window seat, and you can only gaze past your seat mate for so long, before you start to get the uneasy feeling that he might think you're trying to catch his eye.

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    1. I noticed two or three years ago how much better the trains in Kent are. They are longer, faster, more frequent, all-electric, even on lines where there are only a few minutes between stops. In Yorkshire at that time we had ancient diesel Pacer trains, sometimes with only one carriage like a bus, and then they wonder why people don't use them. Even so, like you, I can completely lose myself looking at houses and wondering what it would be like to live there, wondering about the people seen inside and outside, and so on.

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  10. I used to live in North Yorkshire and travel by train to uni at Manchester. I mainly remember in winter the white landscape east of the pennines, and the rainy one west. For my first winter in Manchester I never put my coat on, so mild by comparison. After that I guess I lost my moor hardiness and wore a coat in winter. The actual travel has vanished from memory.

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    1. Students in Newcastle are notorious for never wearing coats, even when there is snow on the ground. We must be hardier in the north east. Perhaps we probably best remember journeys in daylight; I don't tend to remember travelling in the dark so well.

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  11. My abiding memory of long-distance coach travel was of an overnight trip returning to the South East from my brother's wedding in Lancaster. Firstly, what should have been a proper coach with fully reclining seats for the overnight journey was just a standard coach with not particularly comfortable upright seats, we had a nearly 1 hour wait just before midnight at Preston coach station - at that time a singularly unprepossessing brutalist concrete monstrosity, not helped by the unrelenting rain. We picked up additional passengers there, including one woman who took the seat next to me and proceeded to talk virtually the whole way down to London Victoria coach station. After that, the journey home on BR Southern Region electric train was bliss!

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    1. If things had turned out different I could easily have ended up at university on Preston, or Preston Polytechnic as it was then. What an awful thought. They now try to disguise it by calling it UCLAN!

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  12. Your past weekly travel does sound enjoyable. It's so nice when someone else is driving and you can take in the sights and daydream. I can relate to the sensation of traveling past your parents’ house and seeing it as it would appear to a traveling stranger. You know it well yet it is strangely out of your reach.

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    1. Seeing my parents' house after travelling about 80 miles, when I might not have actually seen them for two or three months, was very odd, especially as I knew they could well be in the house.

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  13. I often took the Greyhound home from college on a weekend. This was pre interstate days, early 1960'. The ride took me through downtown Cleveland, past Cleveland's steel mills with tall, steaming towers, through the affluent suburbs of Cleveland, the countryside between the two cities, and into downtown Akron. It was an almost two hour ride with never ending vistas. My parents always drove me back to college, and I doubt I would enjoy the ride after dark.

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    1. The journey a like a space/time dividing wall between two different elements of my life. I would find it fascinating to make that trip through Ohio, though I know I never will.

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  14. First two photographs remind me of the England I knew and loved.
    The bus garage at Elloughton reminds me of the garage at Knightswood, Glasgow when I spent a year working before going into journalism.

    Your bus journey between Manchester and Hull reminds me of the first pages of Maurice Gee's novel *Going West* : Gee's description of coming into Auckland is one of the great tributes to any city.

    Climbing Saddleworth Moor to the Pennines is better than New Zealand.
    As for the cloud factories of the Vale of York ...
    O to be in England
    Now that April's there.

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    1. The Elloughton bus garage is still on Streetview but you'd be hard-pressed to identify the location of the Leeds Wellington Street bus station as it has been built over. It was in the middle of what is now the Leeds legal district. For crossing the Pennines search for images of Scammonden bridge. Pleased you appreciated cloud factories. They have mostly been blown up now except for Drax.

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    2. Blimey. I took cloud factories as a metaphor.
      I thought you were observing atmospheric conditions, over the Vale of York, which gave rise to cloudscape like snowy mountains.

      Now I am reading about cloud computation, resenting the way that computer language appropriated words from the natural world.

      *Go into the cloud* : An expression I hope will fade away.
      I liked Fred Hoyle's novel The Black Cloud.

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  15. My first journey up North, was by train and bus. From Bath to York station, watching my teenage son as we waited at the bus stop for a long while being chatted up by a young girl. She was after her 'bus fare'and I didn't half get a dirty look when I moved in ;)
    Then the glorious bus ride (probably two hours) through the Vale of York, turning off for the villages to drop people off. Arriving in Goathland and then driving down that little steep lane by the railway station and always thinking of 'Postman Pat and his black and white cat'
    Bus journeys are fun as long as you don't feel sick.

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    1. It probably still is a fantastic bus ride from York to Goathland. When driving that way we've seen buses from York to Whitby and wondered what it was like to be on them. I've also heard lots in favour of the routes through the Yorkshire dales - Wensleydale and Teesdale. I really should make the effort - I think they would be free with my old gits bus pass.

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  16. On the other hand one could ask Tasker - who would want to watch a video when they could be looking what was going on out of the window.

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