I’m on a megabus back to London from Manchester. It costs £7.50 and it takes two hours longer than the train. Had I booked a train last night it would’ve cost me anything from £87.50 to £145. For a single. And much of the train would’ve been empty. It’s crazy.
The megabus can be miserable. I crawled through the night from Liverpool once, trying to sleep while a large bald man from Cheshire gurgled into my mouth. Again it was the price alone that drew me. The bald guy was an unexpected extra. It was a memorably shit trip. My passport fell out of my pocket which was almost a disaster. My first instinct was frame the bald guy as some sort of sleep-impersonating international Cheshire passport-thief. Minnie helped me realise that was absurd. I made some well targeted phone calls and got a call from the cleaning lady. She sent it with an early morning bus from Plymouth the next day and I didn’t lose out on a lucrative job in Amsterdam thanks to her. But it was close. And the cost of an emergency passport probably would’ve been less than the train premium.
This bus is over ten times cheaper! And I haven’t got my passport with me to lose. Even if sometimes it’s uncomfortable and often it’s delayed, I can put up with that possibility for 80 quid difference. Surely we should be encouraged to take the environmental train, not priced out of considering it.
My dad used to strike a deal with me when I went to The Isle of Man: “The plane your mother wants you to take costs X. If you get the coach and the ferry, I’ll give you half of the money I save. You make money. I save money. It only costs your time and comfort.” I chose to be uncomfortable and have more money when I was 15. I’ve habitually deprioritised comfort since. Hence the boiler situation. Old habits die hard. And just as well really considering my average wage.
I have a (cheap) car if I can in London despite the cost of insurance. Running a car is still cheaper than the premium on train travel, and you can sleep in it, and make a few quid here and there doing odd jobs in London for theatre people. Plus: “Oh it’s a lovely weekend, shall we go somewhere?” “We can’t. Train tickets anywhere are six times more expensive than they ought to be, even though the train’s empty. We’ll have to stay in this expensive crowded city and bake.” “If only we had a car…”
The latest in my string of cars was taken for scrap by that Irish crook because I couldn’t tax it and the MOT was coming due. I’m sure I’ll get another by August. I’ve lost track of how many cars I’ve had over the years. Some stick in my mind – the great big old Volvo, the Citroen AX that I learnt in, my Silver Golf, which lasted longer than all the rest, my fabulous exploding Saab, Richard’s old Ford with the noisy exhaust that filled with smoke one day. They got me from A to B, which is the purpose of a means of transport. Now I’m contemplating getting a good quality car for the first time ever, finance gods willing. First of all a good bit of nicely paid acting work please, universe. And then…
I’m off to support a dear friend tonight who has a lovely acting job and is sprinkling some fairy dust my way. She’s opening in the West End and she’s asked me to come to the gala as her plus one. That’s a great offer. Free theatre and free food and free booze. So I’ll get off this megabus, wash, shave and make myself look rich and then walk into a room full of other smartly dressed theatre people who need a free meal and are wearing shoes they don’t normally wear and starched collars. I’m thrilled. It’s the only way I’ll get to see her show, as the Haymarket wants loads of money for house seats. I’m going to enjoy every bit of it. Particularly her company and the free bubbly.