My first wedding duty in 2013 turned out to have a very Scottish flavour. A young man called Jamie was getting married to Alice in the Stone Barn, Aldsworth and many relatives had arrived from north o’ the border and needed transporting to the remote wedding venue. That’s where I played my part.
But first I had to get there. Cheltenham is a 60 mile journey from the bus depot and Southern Vectis FS6G YDL318 is not the quickest bus in the garage, as you may remember from previous posts. I started out early, having checked everything and got the duty mechanic to put some extra puff in the front tyres. First stop was the filling station as I needed a full tank for my 30mph trek up to Gloucestershire.
The bus had been out the previous day, one of three heritage buses involved with Katie Price’s wedding. Yes, THAT Katie Price.
I arrived in Cheltenham with time to spare, fortunately. In fact I had time to have a 45 minute break before meeting the wedding party. Due to a waiting limit of 15 minutes at the Bus Station in Cheltenham I had arranged with the groom that I would wait in a layby (which I’ve used before) just outside town to await a call from one of the ushers to say they were ready. I was glad I did some homework beforehand because I discovered that roadworks had closed one of the main roads I had planned to use on my route into the town centre so I had worked out an alternative route.
As I approached the bus station in Royal Well Road the lights changed at the junction. From there I could see the bus bays and a huddle of smartly dressed wedding guests. I pulled into one of the bays and immediately took pity on the gentlemen in the group. Mostly because they were all wearing kilts. And the fact that the air temperature was barely above freezing! They quickly boarded the bus and within a few minutes we were on our way. The Stone Barn is about 20 miles out of Cheltenham, on the A40 towards Oxford. The road is mostly single carriageway and, as I was driving the Slow Bus from Cheltenham, I pulled into a couple of laybys on the way out to allow the considerable stream of traffic to pass by.
There’s quite a climb up towards Northleach and there was still evidence of significant snowfall lying in the fields. There had been deep snowdrifts too, as great heaps of snow still lay beside hedgerows and stone walls.
I regret to say that I crunched the gears on one downchange while climbing to higher ground. Well, it has been 3 months since my last duty! Other than that, the Southern Vectis Lodekka behaved impeccably, as always. Following a crib-sheet of directions I’d prepared earlier, I turned off the A40 and down a lane which ominously had a blue sign which said “Not suitable for Coaches”. I proceeded anyway, certain that buses and coaches had been to the Stone Barn before without any trouble and that, more than likely, the sign referred to restrictions further down the road at Bibury, a famous tourist spot in the Cotswolds.
At the end of a gravel track, in the middle of nowhere apparently, lay the Stone Barn, a small group of converted farm buildings which now operated as an events venue. Awaiting our arrival was a group of kilted ushers, including young Rory, pictured below.
The job done, I checked the bus for lost property and, finding only lunch litter on a couple of seats, took a further break before preparing to set off back to the garage. However, an usher asked if I would wait until the wedding ceremony was over so that the bride and groom could have some more photographs taken on the bus. I agreed as it was only about 2.30 at the time and I wasn’t in a particular hurry to get away. The temperature was barely above freezing so I sat inside the bus out of the biting easterly wind. Eventually the happy couple emerged with a photographer in tow. I re-positioned the bus so that parked cars were not in shot and the photoshoot proceeded. The poor bride must have been frozen to death, so skimpy was her outfit. Perhaps being fortified with champagne helped her to stave off the wintry chill!
Handshakes and congratulations were traded and they followed the aroma of woodsmoke back into the warmth of the barn. I climbed into the cab and began my long journey back to the garage, making use of various laybys as I went.
The call of nature prompted me to stop at Michael Wood services on the M5 north of Bristol. Returning to the bus I was feeling rather chilly so retreived my heavy Tilling overcoat from the conductor’s cubbyhole under the stairs. It was at that point that I discovered an expensive camera lens had been left on one of the rear bench seats. I was surprised that it hadn’t rolled off and smashed itself to pieces on the floor! I checked my phone and found that, while driving, I’d received a text from the photographer who was desperate to know if he’d left his lens on the bus. I replied and promised that the lens would be safe at the depot until he was able to collect it.
Wrapped up against the cold, I completed the long journey back to Weston-super-Mare, parked the bus inside and made sure the lens was placed in the safe. Paperwork completed, I left for home. The bus was due to go out again in 2 days time with my friend Dave, a regular visitor to this blog, who was taking it out on his first wedding duty for Crosville.