On a recent journey to Aberdeen, I once more discover that getting from A to B in the Highlands of Scotland is not necessarily straightforward. Since my late husband would not allow me to drive outwith my home county, I have not built up a great deal of confidence behind the wheel and, given the cost of petrol versus my free bus pass, the most sensible decision seems to be, bus to Inverness. Once there though, we have to think again. The bus between Inverness and Aberdeen meanders around every village and takes more than four hours. The train. on the other hand, takes two hours and gives one the opportunity of a cup of tea, or a cheeky glass of wine.
My companion and I decide that the train is the best option. We walk the short distance from the bus station to the railway station, dragging weighty luggage, just to be told that the trains are on strike today. Hmm.
We decide to take the 2.30 bus to Aberdeen which gives us time to grab a bite to eat before boarding. So, dragging our cases, we walk up to the Eastgate Shopping centre and stop at Starbuck's cafe for a much-needed cup of coffee.
The queue is moving slowly. Nearly there. Money clutched in my hand. At last. The waitress tilts her chin at me. I open my mouth to order. There is an almighty flash behind the counter, all the lights go out, a pillar of smoke rises in the air. 'Everyone out,' she screams.
A siren screeches and through a tannoy, a female voice shouts instructions of which I can't make out a word. We stream from the building.
Not just Starbucks, but the whole shopping mall is evacuated. No one knows what's happening, so there is a general rushing to be on the outside.
We burst into the outside into a sun-filled city street with buskers and shoppers and curious bystanders. There is no real reason for panic, just an electrical fault and the sirens of emergency services competing with those sirens still emitting their warning from inside the centre.
How lucky we are to not yet be touched by the hand of the horror facing the rest of Europe.
So back to the bus station and a coffee in Asher's cafe.
Now it is time to board the bus. For some reason, the machine won't read my companion's bus pass. After a few more moments of panic, the machine finally decides to do its duty, and we are off.
A couple of hours into the journey the bus stops. I am engrossed in my book, so don't really notice anything other than that we seem to be waiting a very long time before taking off again.
My attention is alerted by the driver making an announcement. 'I'm sorry about this delay, but we're waiting for the police. There's been an incident. they shouldn't be long.'
No one seems to know what the 'incident' is. After half an hour, some of us go outside to stretch our legs. Eventually, the police do arrive, but we're not really privy to what's going on. they do come and ask me if I saw anything, but I had my nose buried in a book.
It seemed a man had snatched a ladies purse as he walked by her seat. When he realised he had been spotted, he threw the purse over a wall. However, the police found the purse, and he was finally arrested.
Off we go once more, an hour late.
What more can happen you might ask? When I went to read my book that night, I discovered that I had left my glasses on the bus.