I’m a meandering kind of adventurer; less Bear Grylles and more Winnie the Pooh.
During a recent work trip in the UK, a day off appeared and it was time to go adventuring. The waiter at breakfast overheard me tell a colleague I might visit Ilkley. She approached me across the pastries and fruit to suggest Haworth would be better; she said it was her village and it was nicer than Ilkley.
She wrote down the directions. It all seemed clear enough: ‘Catch the train to Keighley. Walk up the high street and at the L bus stop, catch the bus to Haworth. Smiley face.’
I’m a sucker for a well-drawn smiley face, so I changed plans and ventured forth to Haworth (Bronte sisters country).
I boldly caught the train. Once at Keighley I confidently strode up the platform. The High Street, I was certain, would be proud and obvious. The L Bus Stop would have a bright, clear sign.
It wasn’t, and it didn’t.
The station was on a busy road with several offshoots. I glanced in all directions and decided – with no evidence – that turning right seemed like A Good Idea. Surely that way lay L Bus Stop.
It did not. I found a bus stop which said ‘M’, so I assumed I was close but I was venturing further into a part of Keighley which was clearly not central.
I purposefully turned and headed back toward the railway station.
I was a bold, fearless adventurer. I was not lost, I was merely exploring options.
Thirty minutes later I’d passed the train station, turned up a busy-ish road, discovered no L Bus Stop, turned back, and eventually found another bus stop marked ‘M’. There were many ‘M’s, but not an L to be found.
I don’t normally do Asking For Directions, but I was nearly 2 hours into a journey which should have taken me 45 minutes. I got on the next bus and – assuming the pronunciation was phonetic (not my first mistake for the day) – asked the driver how to get to Haworth. He looked at me blankly. I repeated slower and firmly, “Hay-worth”. Silence. “Hayworth?” with a question in my voice. No response. I dug out of my pocket the wrinkled paper with smiley-faced-directions and handed it to him. His face showed recognition and slight frustration, “Oh…Howith.”
He gave me a list of directions in rapid succession, nodded me out of his bus, and drove off.
I stood bemused and befuddled (very Pooh-esque), staring at the departing bus. A kind and mildly amused gentleman, who was getting off the bus during my conversation with the driver, repeated the instructions and pointed out landmarks which would help me know I was getting close.
Victory was mine.
I reached the elusive L Bus Stop and, 20 minutes later, Haworth.
The country lanes inspired thoughts of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice (I know I was in Yorkshire and P&P was set in the south, but details like that have no place in imaginings).
The moors were moody, the cemetery evocative and the whole vibe took me back to being an angst-filled teenager dreaming of Heathcliffe.
Also, I had flashes of Kate Bush’s dancing in her Wuthering Heights song.
It was a perfect day of being a 21st century adventurer(ish), dreaming of an 18th century hero, pretending to be a 19th century heroine, with a 20th century song in my head.
Incidentally, I never did find the high street.