Quite an interesting trip to the UK a couple of weeks back, which began at silly o’clock in the morning for an 07:30 flght from Málaga. To start with, it was nice to have free WiFi on the plane, at Gatwick, on the GWR train and on the local bus when I arrived in Reading. The bus even had charging ports on each seat.
And GWR had started doing a refreshment trolley service on the Gatwick to Reading run, was never like that before.
It was a foggy morning in the south of England which resulted in a delay taking off from Málaga and quite a bit of flying round in circles over Gatwick airport, but nothing too severe. Once on the train I decided to take the odd snap through the misty window. After a couple of shots, either trying to incorporate the mistiness or somehow find a clear spot, I stopped. There always seemed to be something ‘flapping’ at the bottom of the frame as the train slowed down, as if some tape or string was attached to the outside of the train and was blowing up across the bottom of the window.
Sitting there for a few minutes just admiring the foggy view, I suddenly noticed that mine was the only misty window, everyone else’s was nice and clear, and I wondered why. As the train slowed or gathered speed, I realised that the ‘flapping string/tape’ I had seen on the camera screen was nothing of the sort, but was in fact a waterline! The windows are double-glazed and mine had somehow filled with water, hence the waterline and mistiness.
Over the years the bus service from Reading to Woodley has changed several times, with different routes, numbers and, I believe, operators. For the past couple of years I had been taking a taxi – convenient, cheap enough – partly due to the fact that I invariably arrived during inclement weather and partly due to not being able to find out where the buses went from since they constantly seemed to change.
However, this time the weather was reasonable and as I exited the station I saw a Woodley bus at a nearby stop. So why not, I thought. It was an Orange Bus and according to the info board there was a number 12, 13 and 14. Many moons ago it was a 43, 44 and 44a, the latter taking a slightly more circuitous route to add about five minutes to the journey time. Later it was something like a 19, 20 and 21.
There was a number 13 at the stop and I asked the driver if it actually went to where I wanted to go. ‘Yes’, he replied, ‘but it is a bit longer route’. Not n a hurry I decided to give it ago. Off we went.
At one of the main roundabouts leaving Reading, the bus turned right rather that gong straight on, the more direct route (journey time usually about 10 to 15 minutes). Ah, I thought, the old 44a route of my youth, so I sat back for a bit of nostalgia. After a short while, familiar sights vanished and I hadn’t a clue where we were anymore.
It didn’t last long, though, and I regained my bearings as we came to a main junction. Left, about two hundred metres up the road, was where I ideally wanted to be and I thought, ‘Ooh, back to the original route with a drop-off at the end of my street, that’s an unexpected bonus’.
The bus turned right.
OK, so at the end of this road it’s going to go left, left and left again and do a little loop, no problem.
The bus turned right.
The next 45 minutes involved a very scenic route past two nature reserves and the old airfield.
Woodley Airfield was, at various times, visited by the likes of Charles Lindbergh and Amy Johnson, and it was here that World War II flying ace Group Captain Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader CBE, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar, FRAeS, DL lost his legs in a flying accident in 1931.
By this time I was totally bemused, so just sat back and enjoyed the trip. After all, I thought, the driver did say he was going the long way round and he was not kidding. The whole journey took about an hour, about forty-five minutes longer than I had anticipated. It was interesting, but I made a mental note to try the number 12 or 14 next time! Or a taxi.