I didn’t really sleep – a doze for a few minutes at a time and I was up before the 5 o’clock alarm and in Norwich before 6. Everyone arrived by 6.15 and we were ready to leave early.
The first hitch came when the driver had a call from the second driver, to say that the car had vanished from the depot and he couldn’t go to meet us en route. There are strict limits on the total length of time a coach driver can go without a break, and overall in a day and a week, and this was to stay within the rules. At first, they assumed that the car had been stolen, but after a while they realised that someone else was due to use it later, so it was quite likely he’d picked it up already, not knowing it was wanted.
So we went and picked up Driver 2 from the depot.
He was a young man called Andrew. I say young – I don’t know how old he is. He seems youthful and has an unlined face. He is very slender. However, his hair is already noticeably greying. Mid-thirties at least, I suppose. He was very pleasant and we chatted, on and off. A couple of hours later, we stopped for a break and agreed to return in 45 minutes. I offered to stay on the coach so that he could leave without locking it.
It occurred to me that it would be a good idea to have H1ghgr0ve’s phone number, just in case, so I rang the person who had it. Such foresight is rare in one so scatty. Andrew and I worked out the timing and reckoned on having at least 15 minutes to spare, which was good. Then he tried to start the engine and he went white. The battery was dead. Not a spark. He looked completely shocked.
You know, sometimes it’s only when things go wrong that you find out how helpful people are. He rang his boss, who was able to tell him that there was a suitable garage at the service station. He ran, literally, to it. Afterwards, he said that he burst into the office, apologised for being out of breath and had to stand and pant until he could speak. “We’ve got the batteries in stock, we’ll fit them right away.” A mechanic was taken off another job and they fetched the two huge batteries, carried them to the coach and, less than half an hour later than we planned, we were on our way.
I spoke soothingly to our members and was cheerfully reassuring to Andrew, who was grateful. One member had been flapping a bit, but I told her it would be fine. This is my role in a crisis, telling everyone it will be fine. Because, usually, it is and panicking is no help. I rang, explained to the answerphone, and later got a cheerful phone call back saying there would be no problem. In fact, we were less than five minutes late. We all had our passports checked by the friendly policeman and then got out of the coach into an anti-Foot and Mouth foot-dip.
Emily, who greeted us, got my name a bit wrong. My friend Nick has now christened me Sparky. I’m not sure if this is better or worse than Boss, his previous name for me.
I’ll tell you the rest tomorrow, but now I’m going to bed.