I have a great idea for David Cameron for the next time someone accuses him of being a bit of a toff. Out of touch with the common people. Which should be in about half an hour, by my calculations. Here’s my idea – Cameron should book himself onto a National Express trip from London to, say Amsterdam. In roasting August weather. Early in the morning. 5am, say. That’s the kind of endurance test that will drive out any more talk of the Bullingdon Club for a while. It’s for your own good, Dave. Tough love and all that.
In fact you should all do it. Honestly, it’ll be fun. That’s what I thought, at any rate. I was tempted by the ludicrously low price, of course, and the prospect of being able to sit and read a book for an extended period without having to get up and move about at all. I am always very much in favour of that.
And it wasn’t too bad on the way to Belgium. The driver was a bit brusque, even rude, but only in an amusingly Dutch way. The bus was a bit dark and grubby and not quite how it looked on the adverts but, well, it *was* pretty damn cheap. It brought back many cheerful memories of my student days. And I even managed to read quite a bit of my book in between several tedious games of Littlest Pet Shop Top Trumps, a game that is almost impossible to lose, even when you are trying very very hard. As I frequently am.
Obviously there was the toilet to contend with. It wasn’t the worst toilet I have ever visited. Oh so many contenders for that particular accolade, but in the past I have always had the option of avoiding the fetid facilities for as long as possible. Not so on this trip, with two daughters who were a. very bored and b. very taken with the idea of going to the loo on a bus. Every. Twenty. Minutes.
Anyway it was all very jolly and friendly and comradely on the bus. Lots of chatting and sharing grapes and sitting on the pavement and breathing in a lot of second hand smoke and even sharing a flask of tea. (Obviously this was someone else’s tea. I didn’t think to bring a flask. I rather thought we might stop somewhere for a nice cup of coffee and a cake. Or a Panini. Somewhere like Starbucks, or Costa. We really really didn’t. In case you’re wondering.) Ah, I thought, this is the way to travel! A real sense of community! I am instilling in my children the ability to amuse themselves on long and tedious journeys! Well done me.
But then we hit a small snag. No seats for the return journey. Ah. Well that’s OK. Let’s go via Brussels. More extremely rude and unhelpful staff, a waiting room with half the seats ripped out and the invigorating scent of urine but, still, it’s very very cheap and we are well on the way home! More interesting people to chat to! The time is going to whizz by! Much better than the dull old airport!
But wait a minute, what’s this. Hmm. Flashing blue lights? I wonder who the French police are pulling over? Oh. It’s us. Ah.
So we are escorted off the motorway and we end up in a grim industrial estate. Lights still flashing, sirens going. As the customs officer walked up the aisle I was amused to note that we all quickly put our seatbelts on, like we had been shopped and needed blue and twos for terrible seatbelt violations.
When we started travelling BACK in the direction of Brussels, still with the blues and twos, I realised that maybe this wasn’t a faulty headlight we’d been stopped for. We ended up in dusty little French town with a lot of grumpy customs officers with big guns and, God help us, sniffer dogs.
And then we were all out on the pavement with our luggage spilling out onto the side of the road. (By this time we’re being filmed by a bald grinning guy with a huge camera with a boom and everything, so maybe we end up on the local news or, more likely, a fly on the wall docusoap – ’50 Greatest Annoyed English Tourists’ perhaps?)
And then we are all called, one at a time, into a little room for questioning. GothicDaughter is demonstrating the pointlessness of the deterrent effect very effectively – she looks terrified and extremely guilty indeed, and only an innocent eight year old can. She whispers VERY loudly, ‘What if someone put drugs in our cases on the platform when we weren’t looking!? Or sneaked into our hotel room last night when we were asleep? Are we going to go to PRISON??? Oh Daddy will miss us….’ I wonder whether I should put my hand over her mouth to encourage her to take a more relaxed attitude, because this is the kind of talk that might swiftly answer her question about why they’re wearing rubber gloves.
SparklyDaughter, in contrast, is demonstrating her usual wild disregard for authority. She says, with great emphasis, ‘I don’t know why they have *guns*, anyway. Everyone know you’re not ALLOWED to *kill* people. If they shot someone that would be VERY RUDE.’
We somehow manage to escape being arrested and we are finally sent on our way after a mere three hours delay.
Well it’s certainly something to talk about on the first day back at school. ‘What’s that picture, SparklyChild?’ ‘That’s mummy, getting sniffed by a dog looking for drugs!’
Hmm. I think next year, maybe we’ll stick to the Isle of Wight.
The dogs were cute, though.