I'm not sure quite why the X5 is so depressing. Okay, so it's a bus, which is a sorry start; it goes via Bedford and Milton Keynes, which is a miserable middle; and it takes about four hours, which is an excruciating eon [enough alliteration - ed.] to endure [no, really - ed.] before journey's end. But a four-hour journey by train seems quite reasonable, and a four-hour bus journey would probably be fine on a bus like the Oxford Tube (comfortable, double-decker, air-conditioned ... though now I come to think of it, air-conditioning probably undoes all the environmental benefit of not driving). Instead, though, we get a single-decker coach, cramped enough that I feel as though I'm lacking in leg-room; it's rattly, stuffy, and generally uncomfortable. It's also always full of idiots, but that's the problem with public transport in general (the hint's in the word 'public').
Then there's the journey itself, a meandering tour of some of the most uninspiring spots in Britain. Marvel at Milton Keynes coachway, the roadside caff at the end of the world; be amazed by Bedford. You've got half an hour to explore Bedford; the public toilets, particularly, are worth a detour, a classic of 20th century 'smells of wee' design, unspoilt by soap, and staffed by a surly woman who stares accusingly at everybody who comes in as if they were intending to do something to worsen the condition of the place (though I'm at a loss as to how they'd go about it). It's saying something when the high point of the journey is Milton Keynes railway station, which actually is quite cool in a kind of steely way, but not the sort of thing you'd undertake a 2-hour bus journey to see. It's saying even more when you start to realise that the A14 is a more exciting route.
This weekend, the journey was further enhanced by two crazy bus-drivers. One insisted that the bus was full at every stop, trying to dissuade people from getting on, only relenting once the passengers had shouted "there's a seat here!" and "there's at least three seats back here!" a couple of dozen times. (One of the people he tried to turn down protested that she was 5 months pregnant. "You can't be, you're about 50" replied the bus driver. I assume that it was only out of concern for her unborn child that she didn't deck the bastard.) He also drove like an idiot, beeping at anybody and anything (on the road or off), and taking every amber light as an acceleration challenge (usually failing, and screeching to a halt at the inevitable red). I've never been so relieved to see Bedford, where they change drivers. Then the new driver got on. "Sorry we're running late," he began. (Good start, I thought.) "There's some sort of festival in Bedford" (we laugh slightly, probably imagining what a festival in Bedford would be like... BEDSTOCK, that kind of thing...) "one of the various, ah, 'cultural' groups in the city is having some sort of parade. Put it this way, if we did it, it'd be a BNP march." (Jawdrop; uneasy silence.) He drove slightly better, mind you. Probably would have made the trains run on time, too.
The journey back would have been almost comfortable if a) the toilet hadn't been BOLTED SHUT (with a big sign saying 'not in use', which looked like a fairly permanent fixture), and b) I hadn't had the hangover from hell. Fighting down waves of nausea on a bus is a bit of a non-starter at the best of times, and when the journey includes approximately four million roundabouts, it's doomed. I can't normally sleep on buses, but after only about 5 hours' sleep I probably could have done, except that every time I fell asleep my body seemed to feel this as a 'fall' which made me feel seasick all over again and thus wake myself up. For four hours. Okay, I can't actually blame the bus for my hangover, but the constant pitch and yaw certainly didn't help. I'm not sure how many units of X5 are recommended for women, but I think I'd better stay off the buses for a while.
HOWEVER, all the travelling and related doom was entirely worthwhile because we got to see lots of lovely people in Cambridge. We had tea and cake with 1ngi and sion_a, and then on to ceb and iwj-winolj's housewarming. (If I was writing this on LiveJournal I'd probably summarise the party by saying that we went "oooh" at shiny house, and "yay!" at shiny people, and "mmm" at tasty boozes... oh, wait, I am writing this on LiveJournal, so that'll do nicely. As for going "mmm" at tasty people too, I couldn't possibly comment. ;-)
It is a shame we had to leave so ridiculously early the next morning that we couldn't even stay for breakfast with rmc28 and fanf who had very kindly given us their spare bed for the night, but I wouldn't have been much company in the morning, to be honest. :-/ Should be back in Cambridge again soon so hopefully next time I'll be able to catch up with some of the folks I was forced to neglect this time. I do miss the place (a bit) and the people (a lot). Sigh.
Rambling now. Time for bed. Ow, me head.