Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Spice of Life

There are moments when the various particles of one’s life collide in the most unlikely yet thoroughly rewarding ways. Last weekend, 270 KTA and I had two…

Last year I hosted a charity auction for the BBC Radio Devon Air Ambulance Appeal, and one of the less coveted lots was to spend a day with myself and co-host Jo eating scones and jam.

Given that two charming listeners had donated so generously for such a small privilege, I thought it would be a welcome bonus to include a ride on our friend in the proceedings (not part of the financial deal, please note, Mr VOSA).

How lucky that our guests were enthusiasts, and turned up in a topless Triumph TR6 ready for adventure.

We travelled to Slapton Sands for lunch (incidentally, 270 KTA would have been there for many a day-trip in the 60s, but probably hadn’t been since), and onward to Blackpool Sands for a cream tea (incidentally, this was a favourite location for Western National and Royal Blue publicity shots). Yes, incidentally…

The weather was kind, and our friend was kinder still. I can honestly say 270 KTA is sounding better than ever, and performed a treat on what is quite a hilly and narrow route. Just as well, because the adventure wasn’t over…

I’d been asked to host the Stagecoach Long Service Awards that evening, a prestigious event with lots of important guests from the bus industry. No pressure.

“You’ll be bringing the bus, won’t you?” asked Michelle Hargreaves, Managing Director of Stagecoach Devon, one of life’s sweetest charmers, and a great supporter of my endeavours.

So with tuxedo carefully folded in the boot (I’ve learned never to wear anything decent near a bus, even if you don’t intend to get filthy), we immediately set off for Sandy Park Stadium on the outskirts of Exeter, home to the Exeter Chiefs Rugby Club - and for that evening, home to our friend.

Almost everybody was thrilled to see 270 KTA, and to have their long-service photograph taken alongside. But I immediately realised my party faux-pas when a gentleman, twice my height, approached me after the award ceremony…

“Next year, DON’T bring a green bus.”

I smiled; he didn’t. He raised his eyebrows and continued a steely glare.

Of course, these were former Devon General men, and the old rivalry with Western National lives on 40-odd years after their company was swallowed up, and 20 years after either company properly existed.

Then I remembered my secret weapon.

“But mine was a Devon General bus for a while… It worked out of Newton Abbot… It was red...”

I showed him a photo on my phone (always good to have one, just in case), and he immediately softened. It had probably saved my life.

“You should paint it like that. In that red.”

I quickly ended the conversation. I didn’t want to spoil a nice day…

Stagecoach kindly arranged accommodation for our friend at Exeter depot, another old haunt which she hadn’t visited for a while. Meanwhile her owner was whisked back to Sandy Park to enjoy the rest of the party.

I think we all slept well that night – well done, 270 KTA.

In the next post, I’ll bring you some 270 KTA scandal. A recently discovered photo suggests there’s a dark secret in her past, and one which hasn’t yet been recorded anywhere. Suffice to say, her loyalty to Western National was tried by a force much greater than even Devon General…

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