“This junction is really dangerous in the winter”, the man sitting in the next seat says to us.
“How do you know?”, asks the First Mate.
“I am a bus driver, and do this route often”, he explains. “One time I was coming down here, and the road was all iced up. I braked and nothing happened – the bus just carried on across the junction and up the road on the other side.”
“It’s lucky this is just a country lane and there is not much traffic”, I say.
Our off-duty bus driver agrees.
We are in a bus on a round trip from Dover to Deal, Sandwich, Canterbury, and back to Dover. We had decided to explore a bit of Kent while we wait for the boat to be fixed and so had bought a cheap Rover ticket that entitles us to visit all three places. It reminds me a bit like a lunch you might buy at Tescos.
We had just done Deal – walked along the beach, seen the Time Ball tower, and explored the shopping area. I had been interested to see the place, as part of the Stonor Eagles written by William Horwood on the sea eagles of Scotland that I had read on our boat trip around Skye had been set there. In the book, it seems to be a lonely bleak place, and I can see how it could be that in the winter, but at the moment there is life there as the town awakes on a Sunday morning.
We had then caught the next bus to Sandwich where ‘Le Weekend’, the annual French market day, was on. The off-duty bus-driver is also going, along with his wife sitting on the other side of him. They go every year. He begins to tell us of things they had seen in previous years.
The bus tries to turn a tight corner in small village, but a car with a trailer blocks the way, and the driver is unwilling to reverse.
“He will have to go back, you know”, says our off-duty bus driver. “It’s against the regulations for buses to reverse.”
Looking at the face of the car driver opposite, I am not so sure, but the off-duty bus driver is right. The car driver backs up his trailer quite a way along the single lane round until he finds a passing place. The bus squeezes past with literally inches to spare. We all breathe out again. Further on, the branches of a low hanging tree scrape along the roof of the bus.
“The roofs have to be repainted every year, you know”, says our off-duty bus driver.
I am beginning to see that there is a lot more going on in the bus driving world than I had imagined.
We arrive in Sandwich. A lot of French flags are flying, and accordion music is coming from one of the market stalls. Many people are speaking French, from which we deduce they actually are from France, not Sandwich. It’s not far from here after all. We explore some of the market stalls and admire the many different types of sausages, meats, cheeses and preserves on display. Further on a stand has been erected in the square on which a single musician plays an accordian. It is certainly all very French. William the Conqueror would have been proud.
After lunch, we catch the bus to Canterbury. We try and visit the Cathedral, but it is closed to viewing due to renovations, and we have to content ourselves with seeing it from the outside through all the scaffolding. We wander back through the city and visit the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge with its eclectic but interesting collection of artwork, objects and memorabilia from around the Canterbury area. A gentle stroll around the city walls brings us back to the bus station, where we board a bus back to Dover. There are no off-duty bus drivers on this one, unfortunately, so we make our own commentary.
What a great way to get to know England!