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thoughts: journey i never took

Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

I lived in Crow Corner, officially a hamlet, but in reality not as pretty as that sounds. It was really no more than a glorified rural council estate built around the road edges somewhere between two towns in Yorkshire. The forty or so houses had been specially erected for the workers at the village’s main place of employment – the clay pipe works, Howarth Building Products. Crow Corner also sported a small shop and post office, and a pub called The Sweet Flowers (named after a locally derived folk song). It was next to The Sweet Flowers that I lived in a tiny threesome commune called “Justice”. My co-livers were Carol, a 60ish woman, and her partner Dianne who was about 40. They had met at Greenham Common as protesters and at the time I lived there I was in my late teens.

My room in the house was freezing, with window panes that rattled musically each time one of the factory trucks came past. This was something they did all day every day, a process that began at 6:30am. I wore hat, scarf and gloves to bed, and my only luxury was my duvet.

The place wasn’t squalid but the power and utilities were severely limited. We relied on a terribly inefficient wind power for our little bits of electricity, on the couch grass infested land for most of our food, and on a wood burning stove for the pleasure of our once-weekly bath. It wasn’t the best idea of mine to move there, I have to admit, but there were fun times, when I had the money to get on the bus and escape away to the bright lights of Sheffield or Huddersfield.

One night I’d been singing at a local folk club. I’d saved up for two pints of bitter, a packet of crisps and had enjoyed a really good time. The walk home was 5 miles, along country roads with little traffic, no street lights and no safety whatsoever. But, with the bravery and stupidity of the young, I walked in pitch black and freezing cold, and got back to Justice in one piece.

But the following day I was due to take another journey. It began with another long walk in terrible weather - from Crow Corner to the coach stop at the Barnet Inn – about 7 miles away. I didn’t mind doing it as I was going to Bolton to visit my boyfriend Joe and I’d been missing him like mad. In those days there was no internet to check bus times etc, and we had no phones where I lived either. So we went on trust. My little paper timetable said a coach was due at 3:45, and so I arrived there at the stop at 3:30.

I was not lucky. I spent over three hours waiting in the cold and darkness at the crossroad junction outside the Barnet Inn. The coach didn’t turn up. I was scared, there being forests and fields to all sides of me, with the exception of the dark and closed pub. I had very little money (only enough for coach fare) and wasn’t sure what to do. So, at 7pm I crept, exhausted and freezing, into the Barnet, and explained my situation. They must have believed me as I was struggling to hold back the tears, and they kindly let me use the phone in their office to call Joe. He immediately agreed that he’d come all the way from Bolton to pick me up, and the young lady behind the counter gave me a hot chocolate while I waited and warmed myself. I sat patiently, relieved and half-heartedly reading one of the books from the pub’s decorative bookshelf.

When Joe arrived he said he’d rung the coach company before setting off to me. The coach service I was waiting for had been cancelled the previous week but the bus stop signs were still there.

Joe and I left the Barnet Inn after he had bought me a tasty vegetarian dinner – mung bean curry if I remember rightly, and a syrup sponge – and we drove back to Bolton, arriving back very late, but greatly relieved. I was so glad to get back to reality again. Life wasn’t easy at Crow Corner and what I wanted more than anything was to be back in Lancashire. I loved Yorkshire but my lifestyle in the Justice household was killing me. Long walks in bad weather, malnourishment, cold and lack of creature comforts – it was not something my still-growing body could sustain for long.

So, I hadn’t taken the coach from the Barnet Flouch Inn to Bolton. I had walked, I had waited and waited, I had cried and I had weakly accepted a lift. I felt let down, weakened and pathetic as a result of having to call Joe. It also led to a long lasting anxiety regarding public transport and its reliability, and a delighting in my own company in my own home. Luxury!

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