In her latest installment of ‘The life of a Yorkshire widow’, Jan Dunbar’s protagonist finds herself booking a solo trip to Torquay…
You’ll recall I made a New Year resolution to travel more. Well, today I’m giving myself a well-deserved pat on the back, metaphorically speaking, as I’ve just returned from my first trip of the year.
The intention, when I popped into town, was to buy stamps but as I passed the Travel Shop window, there was a poster for a 3-night coach trip to Torquay, accommodation included. Described as The English Riviera, I knew it was also the birthplace of my favourite author, Agatha Christie, so I decided to give it a go. Also in the shop window was a sign that said “Want to travel more? Pop in and see if we’ve owt that suits.” How could I resist?
I was early at the coach station on Thursday morning as I wanted a seat on the driver’s side. I prefer not to sit in the sun on a coach as I invariably end up wilting like a warm lettuce so I always err on the side of caution, in this case the offside. I chose a seat about halfway down and watched as my fellow travellers embarked. As you’d imagine, there were quite a few couples although some of the gentlemen looked less than enthusiastic.
There were only a few seats left when a very jolly lady sailed up the aisle and sat next to me. To say she was colourful would be an understatement. She was quite splendid and from the minute she sat down until we disembarked in Torquay several hours later, she had me – and most of the coach – in stitches. She introduced herself as Kaleisha and told me she was born in Jamaica. Occasionally in life, you meet someone who leaves a lasting impression and she certainly did. I’ve never heard anyone with such an infectious laugh, not to mention her wonderful Jamaican accent; she certainly brightened up a damp Thursday morning.
We had a service station stop in the late morning – a ‘comfort break’ the driver called it as he made a beeline for the facilities – and decided it was time for a snack. I’d brought my favourite ham and pease pudding sandwiches, a flask of tea (Yorkshire tea of course) and a few biscuits but Kaleisha’s snacks were far more interesting as she produced the most delicious smelling Jamaican chicken patties plus something she called Toto which she explained was a type of coconut cake. We each tried a bit of the other’s snacks and she thought it hilarious when I told her my home made Yorkshire biscuits were called Fat Rascals.
Once in Torquay and settled into our seafront hotel, Kaleisha and I set off to the harbour area to sample some of the local attractions. The time of year meant there was little going on but if the attractions were lacking, the company certainly wasn’t. We had a high old time and we each splashed out £10 in the Golden Palms Amusement Arcade so I am now richer by one small fluffy bear.
Although our accommodation and meals could best be described as adequate but uninspiring, we determined to make the best of what was on offer between restaurants, bars and a sprinkling of night life. We found a little theatre on Friday night with a comedian called Freddie Logan who kept us in stitches for the entire show. Towards the end of his show and having heard Kaleisha’s booming laugh from somewhere in the middle of the theatre, he got her up on the stage to tell a joke of her own. With no sign of nerves, she said “In Jamaica, a slice of pie costs $3.50. In the Bahamas, a slice of pie costs $6.50. These are the pie-rates of the Caribbean.” An old one, I know, but not bad for the spur of the moment. Mostly, the audience groaned but they clapped anyway.
Saturday was mostly spent in the hotel, drinking coffee, chatting and playing cards as we watched the torrential rain outside. Not totally unexpected in February and certainly not enough to dampen our spirits. A few of us got together in the evening for a last dinner, which turned into a hilarious corny joke competition and I went to bed thinking I hadn’t enjoyed myself so much since Jack died.
It just goes to show, solo travel can be an adventure and you never know who you might meet on a coach trip to Torquay.