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Rock Maze
  • Writer's pictureNeil

Bretonside Bus Station

I like making bread. I need to carefully pick my time at the moment. At different times of my treatment my skin can be toxic, so toxic that it can cause blisters on a baby’s skin.

But on a good day bread breaking has real benefits. At least it does for me. Weighing the ingredients and mixing the dough takes enough concentration to relax into the job. Kneading the bread can be very satisfying, the steady, repetitive, firm actions required to break down the gluten. Then forced relaxation waiting for the proving time. Knocking back and proving again is all therapeutic. Finally the smell of the loaf turning golden brown in the oven. Bread making is a delight. But the best thing about bread baking.........It gets my hands really clean.

You know when little kids make food, perhaps at school and guinea pig dad has to try some. You look at it and the first thought that enters your head is “botulism”, but you pop the grey jam tart into your mouth and say “delicious, wonderful, fantastic" or words to that effect.

The question is, at what point does honesty really become the best policy?

I busily write about all sorts. Anecdotes of my past. Notes regarding my health. The cars I have owned. But I skirt around some aspects of my life because I'm busy saying “ delicious, wonderful, fantastic" instead of being honest.

Let’s face it we all have a past. It’s the past that informs the present and guides us into the future. So at what point should I stop sanitizing some of my narrative? After all it's what makes me me!

If you want to know how I intend to proceed, I simply haven’t a clue. I’m in a quandary. I really don’t know.

In the meantime I’ll tell you a tale. A story where honesty would have been costly. Where truth would not have elicited sympathy. Where a good old fashioned lie provided my youngest brother Matt and I with a story we still regale.

It happened not far short of 40 years ago.

Jon, our eldest brother was living, at the time, in a street called Rollit Crescent in Hounslow. I lived there for a while but for fear of digression I’ll stick to one story at a time. Jon had acquired an old Volvo estate car from our uncle Nick. In the back of this car there was a spare Volvo engine that was suitable for our father’s Volvo. Dad’s car had an ailing engine. Jon wanted the car gone, dad wanted the engine and I, if I made my way to Hounslow and drove the Volvo home, could keep the car. Win, win, win!

I was teaching at the time so Matt (who was coming for company) and I decided to book a coach to London. It was a Thursday, after school I popped into the ticket office that used to be at St Austell bus station and purchased two tickets for the Friday. I explained that I was a teacher so couldn't travel until later in the day. I came away with two tickets for a journey on Friday commencing at Bretonside Bus Station in Plymouth and terminating at Paddington Bus Station. All set for 7 o'clock.

We were dropped off shortly before 7 by dad who promptly beat a retreat. Matt and I waited. We waited and waited. Then we waited some more. Something was amiss. We had a phone number to call. So we needed to find a phone box. We called, no reply, we persisted. Eventually at about 9pm we found someone to talk to. “Sorry mate your tickets were for our 7am coach”. In a carefully measured way I explained that I was a teacher, I specifically asked for an evening ticket which I bought in good faith. Sorry mate. So I decided to embellish the story just a bit. We were travelling to a wedding. I was to be Best Man at 2pm. Could you really not help somehow? He told us to wait by the phone. He would call back. This is a good point to tell you it was bloody freezing. There was snow on the ground. Brrrrrr!

After what seemed like an age, by now it’s about 10pm, the phone rang. “If you can get to our depot at 6am we'll get you both to London”. “Ok Matt, we'd better stick to the wedding story”.

Now Bretonside Bus Station was a pretty unsavoury place in the early 80s. Staying there overnight, in the winter, with snow on the ground wasn't our idea of fun. We phoned our cousin Malcolm. He kindly collected us, took us home for a hot drink and left us to snooze for a few hours in the lounge. (Malcolm, son of Nick, Nick, previous owner of Volvo we're going to collect). At about 5am he took us off to the coach depot.

We arrived to darkness. Nothing was happening. We saw a light. We investigated. We found a coach driver who knew of our predicament, wedding and all. He was taking an empty coach to Twickenham “hop on”.

Matt describes the coach like this “The bus had the guide's little dicky seat by the steps, there were the 5 seats right at the back and a Parker Knoll Norton recliner on a sheet of ply in the middle. When we passed other coaches, they couldn't quite figure out what they were seeing. Neil (Lord Muck) Bate boobed up like gawd almighty, with his attendant valet (me)!”

John, the driver, told us that the shell of the coach was on the way to a specialist company to be fitted out as the crew bus for the rock band Saxon. We rattled about in this coach all the way to Twickenham where we found Jon waiting for us. To our amusement the driver wished us well and was happy to have been able to get us to the wedding on time.

A few hours later we drove the Volvo home.

Jon got rid of the car, dad got the engine and I got a new motor. The coach driver could tell the tale of how he saved the wedding day. Everyone’s a winner.

So is honesty the best policy?

Perhaps I’ll continue sanitizing my narrative, at least for now.

P.S. The Volvo was a dog. I swopped it for a V8 Rover P6 and a little Dutch Daf 66 variomatic.


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