And I didn’t ask for a second opinion as I have done with all call centre advice since July when a phone-psychic wished me luck with my third pregnancy.
Moiling off the train and down the hill to the Aberystwyth bus station, I found that the bus Nerys had highlighted only ran at two-fourteen on market day: every alternate Wednesday. In three days, ten hours and fifty-six minutes time.
Stranded in Aberystwyth. Frazzled from touring as Madame Galina Prima Ballerina. Chronically sore where ligaments in the foot I favoured for pirouettes were trying to tunnel their way out via my Achilles. Two-hundred-and-forty-seven pounds to the bad having bought a three month’s supply of nasty-tasting boil-in-the-bag foliage from the Chinese Herbalist, who had diagnosed kidney blockage as a physical manifestation of the emotional trauma I nightly put myself through performing Giselle’s ‘Mad Scene’ the Method Acting Way. I did a Linda in The Pursuit of Love - sat on my luggage to cry.
‘Woah!’ I shouted, leaping up and away from my wheelie case. I must have burst a bag of the herbs. The case was now giving off a reek of liquorice, fox shit and melon.
I rang Traveline, only for Nerys’s weekend counterpart to tell me that the nearest I could get to Mechlyn Spa from Aberystwyth now was Brecon. A shortfall of fifteen miles. ‘Sadly, there is actually a bus from Brecon to Mechlyn, but it will leave eight minutes before you get to Brecon from Aberystwyth.’
A woman was watching me. Lean with a recent blue rinse, she wore pink trainers and a puce woolen coat, whose fake fur collar had synthetic mange. ‘Awful blotchy you’ve got, love, while I’ve been standing by here watching you nearly wear out that timetable by looking at it. Lost are you?’
I explained about Nerys’s mistake with the timetable. ‘And if I don’t get to the theatre, I can’t do the gig.’
‘And you don’t get your money?’ she asked.
‘Worse than that. I have to compensate the theatre for any loss of revenue from ticket sales and for expenses incurred by the marketing department.’
‘Dew, dew that’s a buggery, now. But where is it you’re meant to get to, love?’
Chortling she shook her head and fluffed her coat pockets. ‘Well why didn’t you say?’
She shouted across three stands. ‘Mair!! You’re going home now to Mechlyn, is it?’
‘Aye.’ Mair was teeny-tiny and gaunt, in a jaunty sou’wester and stridently sensible mac.
‘How you getting there?’
‘Bus, Sarah, hence being in proximity to bus stops.’
‘But there isn’t a bus to Mechlyn from here; this man can tell you.’ Sarah winked at me.
‘No, but there is from Brecon.’
‘But isn’t that due to leave eight minutes before the one from here gets in?’ I asked Mair.
‘In theory. But what we do is get Kev to drive too fast, and I’ve phoned my friend Pam, has the small-holding, and she’s going to somehow delay the Mechlyn bus till we get there.’
Four of us, including Mair, were catching the Brecon bus. As I took my seat I wondered if Pam delaying the Brecon-Builth bus was a one-off or a fixture.
‘Foot down now, Kevin,’ said Mair, as Kevin punched a hole in her return ticket. Sarah waved us off.
All across the Beacons Mair admonished Kevin, ‘Get a move on, now - we'd be quicker getting on the horses over there. We all know the view off by heart. And him that don’t is more concerned with losing money.’
Mair even chivied Kevin into driving past a teenage boy waiting at a stop on the outskirts of Brecon. ‘Don’t bother for him, now, Kev. Remember he combed his hair onto the floor for five stops last Saturday?’ The boy, realisation dawning, began so aggressively to signal his intention to board to bus that he tipped himself over. ‘That’ll teach him, now.’
We shuddered downhill into Brecon. ‘Only two minutes after our bus is supposed to go instead of eight – well done, Kev. And look, there’s Pam now delaying the Mechlyn bus, being slutty on the step.’ Pam was decolletéd to the max in a Stop off in Brecon and Feel the Welcome in my Hillside apron. ‘Sometimes Pam resorts to the old escaping ferrets routine - only two of them being her own.’
Pam got off the step to make way for us, winked at Mair, and to choral variations on a theme of Oh, now, look, see, by there, all’s well that ends well, I boarded the Mechlyn bus with Mair, off to my gig.
And I asked her, 'Was that a regular occurrence - delaying the bus?'
She thought for a second. 'Only regular in so far as if and when I need to go up to Aber to get Zoflora. They don't sell Zoflora in Mechlyn or Brecon, and I can't use Jeyes Fluid for my enclosed drains, the smell goes right through walls. The second homers next door complained last time. And they're from Swindon.'