Sunday 6 September 2015

#120 502

My old home town of Sevenoaks is, if you ignore ninety percent of the British climate and thirty percent of the British middle-class attitude, a more or less ideal place to raise a young family. Its safety, easy commute to the city and great primary schools are rivalled only by the often overlooked confidence that any child will inevitably develop from growing up in a country where you can look at a map of the world with the reassuring satisfaction that you're always pretty much in the middle of it... and up a bit. Sevenoaks also has some tremendous secondary schools. However, there's another town in Kent that has even more. Tunbridge Wells.

After six years of rolling out of bed at eight thirty and walking across the road to my Sennockian primary school, I wasn't exactly thrilled to discover that I'd be getting up at six thirty for the duration of my childhood and sitting on a dusty 1970s bus for an hour, just to get to the start of a morning, which was sometimes no more exciting or useful than Geography and double German. I was not on my lonesome though. Droves of kids were and still are ferried daily along the twelve miles of road between the two Kentish towns and so it happened that on a fresh, sunny September morning twenty years ago, I met Jim and Kev.

Our first few years' worth of interactions were largely confined to the journey itself. Then, at around age fifteen or so, we started heading out to the cinema or the bowling alley, along with other friends and a group from the nearby girls school. Later on, some occasional house parties and trips to the pub. During univeristy holidays, we'd return home and hang out again. When we got jobs and started working, we founded a six-a-side football team called FC Hammer, which played every Monday night for about six years, eventually winning the local league and the cup. Then Jim and Kev moved to Tunbridge Wells, I moved to South London and for the last five years, we've only really met up a few times a year for birthdays or special occasions.

To mark the passing of twenty years since we first climbed onto the bus as eleven year olds, Jim suggested that we walk the route that the bus took, from Sevenoaks to Tunbridge Wells. At first... and second and third... I thought he was joking but the nearer it got to September, the more it seemed like he was probably serious. "Why not just take a bus?" I thought. Anyway, so we met up this morning at 10am, having all travelled for about an hour already, to start our walk. "Off we go then" said Jim and started walking off, in the wrong direction. "The bus stop..." I said, nodding up the road. "Nope, we're starting at my house" he said eagerly. It turned out that the route he'd planned included each of our houses and each of our schools. He would be less eager later on, after we'd walked thirteen miles and had to continue on to my school. Neither of them had ever actually been as far as my school before and they didn't know exactly where it was.

Along the way, we took a couple of breaks for breakfast and drinks, as well as a lot of boring photos. Jim had surprised us both by bringing us muffins because he used to eat a lot of muffins. He also brought us some personalised t-shirts, which he'd made, showing the bus route on the front with dots where our houses and schools were. By the time we'd completed the half-marathon length walk, we'd decided that if we made it to the thirty year mark, we'd probably celebrate it in an easier way. Overall though, we agreed that the walk had been a good idea. We had a coffee, parted ways and I wandered off to the station. The train back to Sevenoaks was cancelled. Smiling, I walked around to the car park and hopped aboard the replacement bus.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dan, train Dave here. Why didnt you get the train?

Running on empty said...

I see no reason why you can't walk that far on the 30 th anniversary. I know of older people who walk that far. What great friends, you're blessed.