A few months ago I promised that I would eventually get round to composing a short article on the joys of travelling to shows by coach however I was very pointedly told by our ‘Coach Organiser’ that it can sometimes be difficult enough to fill the coaches without me highlighting some of the things that have happened to me en route! Actually, I enjoy the coach journeys and cannot honestly understand why it doesn’t currently seem to be a particularly favoured mode of getting to shows!
So just in case you all get bored and don’t finish reading this piece about some of our adventures over the years I will highlight what I consider to be many of the reasons why you should consider coach travel. Obviously the first point is that you do not have the responsibility of driving yourself.
I stay in the north east of Scotland near Fraserburgh, which is north of Aberdeen. Those of us who live in Scotland do realise that many of you appear to think that Scotland finishes at roughly the Forth Road Bridge but there are many, many miles & hours of travelling after that! Our ‘Coach Organiser’ uses the same company every time and we normally have the same two drivers, Davy & Leon, who are really wonderful. To emphasise how helpful they are - do many of your spouses/partners help you load all your paraphernalia including dogs in/out of the car, make you cups of soup/coffee/tea etc. en route? If you do happen to have a spouse/partner who does all this for you, could I please borrow them at some point because mine certainly doesn’t!
Anyway, I digress! I am normally picked up in a smallish village where we are able to safely leave our cars parked. As far as I am concerned this also has the added benefit of being overlooked by a house owned by two members of the CID who happen to own a Gordon that I bred. This also means that whilst I wait for the coach to arrive, I can visit and enjoy a pleasant glass of wine before setting off. One of my co-travellers recently got into a real panic when she arrived & seeing my car but no sign of me thought she had missed the coach. I gather that no matter how much her husband assured her that as he could see a dog in my car I must be around somewhere would calm her.
Many years ago it was more the norm to travel on coaches and generally you travelled with one dog. You had one seat and the dog had the window seat then you had the aisle seat! I don’t know if all coach companies do it, but ours will take out seats so that you have the whole of a double seat to yourself and in the space in front you can put up a cage for your dog to go in. This has many benefits: you have somewhere to put your legs up onto; you can also get off the coach to go into service stations without worrying about the dog; can eat sweets without the dog trying to pinch them, etc. etc. As I regularly travel with two largish dogs, I have two seats taken out so that they can have individual travelling cages. The Coach Company stores my cages so they are on the coach ready & waiting for my dogs whenever I get on. This means that Davy & Leon only have to load/unload my dogs, sleeping bag/pillow, change of clothes, dog bag, food, books – about the only thing I do leave at home is the kitchen sink! Leon asked recently if I also take a cocktail cabinet with me – now there is an idea!
If you have ever suffered the frustration of getting lost on the way to a show, you should spare a thought for the poor coach drivers who do, occasionally also suffer the embarrassment of this! At least when it happens to you, you haven’t got 25 people giving you differing versions as to which way to go next! On the way back from Birmingham a few weeks ago, our coach driver was mortified when he missed the slip road to Abington services where two exhibitors were supposed to be dropped off – most of us had been sound asleep until then and the poor chap then had to endure almost two hours of constant ribbing!
National Gundog at Malvern is a popular show so there is frequently a coach organised to get us there. A couple of years ago, we left the showground and got approx. 2 miles along the road when the coach broke down on a blind hill. Did we have to wait for the AA/RAC as you would probably have to if in your car? No, our trusty drivers eventually got us going again. In the meantime, we had hot drinks available and a merry old time between us. More recently, we were heading down to Crufts and had only got just South of Aberdeen when all the lights, power etc. failed. Many frantic phone calls to husbands to ensure they hadn’t had any alcohol in case we had to arrange for them to get our cars to us – I think we only managed to find one who hadn’t already imbibed (do they start to celebrate as soon as we step over the doorstep, I wonder?). Never mind, our trusty Davy & Leon once again saved the day, after only a small amount of cursing & swearing and banging of fuses, switches etc., we were once more on our way. Panic over, hubbies are all phoned back, yes they can carry on and have some wine etc. now!
Coaches nowadays come fitted with all mod cons including toilets which makes things much more comfortable. Indeed, sometimes the coach toilet can be somewhat more spacious than those used on the show ground! On our most recent trip, which was just a short haul to Blackpool, Davy deserted us for the possibly more sane coach load travelling to the Royal Highland Show so we had Leon and a ‘new boy’. I never did discover his name but I am not sure whether he will offer to drive us again! Normally, after some brief discussion we generally all fall asleep on the way home but we all seemed to be fairly wide awake this time. The ‘New boy’ obviously unaware of Davy & Leon’s ‘rules’ started to play music which is piped the length of the coach. We didn’t know that you could play us music, Leon! Oh no, he groaned, now they will argue all the way up the road as to what they want played! He knows us too well because sure enough, some of us wanted the 60’s mix, someone else wanted the country medley and so on. He was horrified when one of the tapes he played was evidently normally utilised for the football crowd and had some rather rude songs on it as we rather maliciously pointed out that there was a young child on board. We did finally tell him that she was sound asleep but not until after we felt he had grovelled sufficient apology! Perhaps we should have asked the ‘new boy’ if the TV which we are always told isn’t working is also just a ploy!
Davy once had the idea that we must all be fed up eating the awful service station food. So he decided to take us into a little village to find a chip shop. Imagine the look of horror on the two girls faces when a coach pulled up outside and we all started to pile off, some to take dogs for a walk then queue up to order loads of fish suppers and sausages for the dogs! It was on this particular excursion through the said little village that he tried to get round a tight corner only to discover a brand new Mercedes attempting to come round the corner in the opposite direction. Much squealing of brakes on the part of the Mercedes and as Davy had quite rightly told us ‘he will back up and let me round, don’t worry’!
I had also promised that I would never tell about the judge at National Gundog who travelled down with us. About three hours into our journey, she was heard to exclaim ‘Oh my God! I’ve forgotten my clothes!’ No, she wasn’t referring to her travelling clothes but her posh suit to judge in! This caused much debate as to who else had a change of clothes, would they fit her etc. After many panic-struck phone calls she managed to arrange that a friend would take a suit to the show for her.
Another source of great amusement was when we ordered meals at a certain franchise within a service station complex. We were each given flashing vibrators to let us know when our meals would be ready. If I simply say that the young lads serving behind the counters were left profusely blushing it may give you some indication as to the type of comment being made!
Myself & a ‘partner in crime’ do owe another coach traveller a profuse apology though. We had all travelled to Stafford recently and someone on the coach had been awarded BOB so we naturally all had to stay until after she had competed in the Group. Angie & I decided that as our judging was all finished we would deposit our dogs & belongings back on the coach, get changed and then head back into the showground to watch the Group. When we arrived at the coach & explained to Davy that we would all have to stay for quite awhile yet, he said that they would go and get themselves something to eat & would we be sure to lock the coach up when we left? We managed to get the coach door locked and had only gone about 10 yards when we met someone else heading back to the coach. She was loaded up with all her paraphernalia & also complete with dog. ‘Oh, you can’t get back on the coach’, we duly informed her, ‘we have just locked it!’ We did feel very sorry for her as she trundled back to her bench at the other end of the showground. She will probably kill both of us when she reads this & discovers that unknown to us at the time she only had to press a certain button and would have been able to gain access to the coach!
I understand that there is a coach often run from the North of England that has a champagne breakfast with caviar & all sorts provided – it sounds very luxurious and maybe it is something that our Coach Organiser could include for us in the future?
As you can see from these escapades, much of this would not have seemed so funny if travelling on your own and that is probably one of the best reasons to consider travelling to shows on a coach – the company and the fact that even in the face of adversity not being on your own can make everything seem better!