I live in the town of Basingstoke – seen here at the top.
My sister, with my adorable niece, live in Southampton. Since neither of us drive, we decided last week to meet up in that town in the middle – Winchester. Which I think is actually a city, since it has a cathedral.
Anyway, Winchester is a lovely place. One we’ve both been to many many times before. Jennie took the train, and I took a bus. There’s a bus that runs from Basingstoke to Winchester during the week. It takes 80 minutes, whereas the train takes 10, but it’s a few pounds cheaper and I actually really like long bus drives. I get to people-watch, and watch the world go by. This trip was through the countryside and was very lovely.
When I got off the bus in Winchester I made sure to ask the driver what time the last bus was. They were hourly at 9 minutes past, until 16:09, then there was one at 16:30, 17:30, 18:30 and 19:30. And then I headed off across the road to a lovely park where I was going to be meeting Jennie.
Our original plan had been to find a Wetherspoons or something similar – somewhere to get lunch. But then Jennie discovered that there was a River Cottage Canteen. River Cottage is a cooking show series that she is a particular fan of and she’d always wanted to go to one of these River Cottage Canteens. She checked the state of my ankle with me, since when it plays up I have trouble walking too far. I double checked on Googlemaps and the park between the bus station and the canteen looked like a short enough distance to walk. Besides, being a park, I was sure there were benches I could take a break on if I needed to.
Turns out that it’s very hard to judge park sizes on Googlemaps. This park, Abbey Gardens, was tiny. Lovely and tiny. It was a bright and sunny and warm day, which normally I dislike, but I was fairly content this day. I was happy to sit on a bench and wait until Jennie turned up. And then we walked the 30 seconds to the canteen.
The food was quite expensive, but very yummy.
I wasn’t too sure about the pickled carrots, but that Ham Hock and Hampshire Heritage Cider Crumble was delicious. And also alliterative. It was a starter, but a decent sized portion. I also had a beautiful Chocolate Mousse Cake with Peanut Salted Caramel and Whipped Cream for dessert.
But I have to say that the highlight of lunch, was watching this little munchkin:
I could just sit and watch her all day. She’s so adorable! After we’d eaten, she had a little top up from her mummy and then fell asleep, and I sat for a good twenty minutes cradling her while she slept. I have never seen anything so perfect, nor felt quite so content. I said to Jennie that I don’t understand how she doesn’t just spend all day every day marveling at the wonder of her beautiful little daughter.
After we had lunch, we took a walk to find a dessert that Jennie liked and ended up in a little cafe where she had tea and cake, and I fed Aislynn a yogurt. Or tried to. She kept trying to grab the spoon. It was messy, but fun.
The best part of the day though, was when we took her to the park. Jennie tried taking her down the slide, but Aislynn wasn’t really fussed. By far her favourite activity was the swing.
She was beaming the whole time, and giggling. I just adore listening to her giggle. And she’s going to be such a social butterfly too. Whenever there was another baby on the second swing we had trouble getting her attention because she was much more interested in the other child.
I know I’ve used the word a lot in this post, but it was such a lovely day. So lovely, in fact, that what happened next barely dented my mood.
Jennie got the 17:05 train home, and I sat at the bus station, waiting for my bus home at 17:30. I glanced at the big electronic board and saw that the 17:30 bus was for Whitchurch. Huh? I double checked the timetable.
When I’d disembarked and asked the driver what time the last bus was, he failed to mention that after the 16:30, the buses only went as far as Whitchurch. Whitchurch is a village a little bit outside Basingstoke. I had no money in order to get a bus from Whitchurch.
I called my Mum, and she said she’d pick me up. But I had to find out where from and what time, because she had no mobile – due to chaotic reasons. So when I boarded the 17:30 bus, I explained my situation to the driver and said that I didn’t know Whitchurch at all. Could he tell me what time the last stop was, and where it was. I passed this information on to my Mum, and settled down.
Eventually the bus drive through a little village, that I assumed must be Whitchurch. Lots of people got off there. But the driver didn’t say anything, and we didn’t stop anywhere that was like what he’d described the last stop as. So I assumed maybe it was another village – I didn’t remember the order from the way out.
Until we passed through a village called “Andover Downs”. I definitely did not remember going through there. I got out my phone and checked Googlemaps and discovered that we were near Andover (top left of the map), which is completely in the wrong direction. Sure enough, a minute or two later the bus pulled in to the bus depot, just outside Andover.
I asked him why he hadn’t told me the last stop. He said I should’ve known. Despite the fact that I’d already explained to him that I didn’t. Aside from that, why didn’t he check the bus before heading back to the depot. I wasn’t exactly hidden?! I was at the back of the bottom deck, and I’m not easy to miss.
I asked how I was going to get back to Whitchurch and he told me that if I followed the road around a little there was a bus stop. I pointed out that I had no money, and he said he’d go and speak to controller and meet me at the bus stop. I tried texting a friend who I thought would be able to pick me up. I tried texting Jennie. But I had no calling credit, no money and then…. no phone. My battery had died.
Balls. Balls balls balls.
I waited for the bus driver, or the controller, but no one appeared. So I cried. But only for a minute. I went into the depot and found the office. The controller was nowhere to be seen, but the bus driver loaned me his phone to call Jennie. I told Jennie that it was a long story but she had to keep calling Mum’s house phone until she got hold of her. I didn’t know how long Mum’d wait in Whitchurch but eventually she’d go home.
This was an unpleasant situation to be in. The bus driver offered to drive me to Whitchurch in his car, but I didn’t accept for a few reasons: a) I don’t particularly like getting in cars with random men. b) I didn’t know if Mum would still be in Whitchurch. c) A message was now on it’s way to Mum to pick me up in Andover.
So I went back outside to the bus stop, in the middle of an industrial, in a town I did not know, and I sat on the ground and got my crochet out. And I waited. And waited. I knew that when lost, you should always remain where you are. But I didn’t know how long to do that. Until nightfall? Until tomorrow?
My money was going into my bank at 10pm that night, so I decided that I would wait until nightfall, then wander around until I found someone with a phone I could use to call a taxi. Get into Andover, get some money, get a train home. But until then I would wait.
Around two hours later my friend Michael turns up. He had been home from his holiday for approximately ten minutes before my Mum had called him.
I made it home safely, eventually. But I think I’m going to write a letter to the bus company. Not only did the driver not check that all passengers had disembarked before he went back to the depot, but according to Mum, he never even went to the last stop he had told me about. She saw no bus at all whilst waiting for me.
On a bad day, or even a normal day, an event this like would have reduced me to a whimpering mess. But having had such a wonderful time with my sister and my niece, it just became an adventure.