“Why don’t you get on the bus and go into town?” she suggested.
“Brilliant idea!” I thought.
Two hours later I had printed off the timetable and was standing in a line of ‘seniors’ awaiting the arrival of the North Wootton 3.
I hadn’t been on a bus for years, partly because I hadn’t needed to, and partly because they were so small and, as I was so big (6’6″) it had become awkward and embarrassing.
So why, at the age of 63, was I waiting at a bus stop? Quite simply I was going stir-fry crazy from being bored and confined. I had recently had major heart surgery and had spent three weeks in hospital and four weeks at home. I wasn’t fit enough to work, I was temporarily banned from driving until my body healed, and I could only manage to walk for up to 30 minutes at a time. The superficial attraction of day-time TV soon waned. With my wife at work, I was alone all day with no means of escape.
The modern buses were bigger. And there were people in town – much more interesting to watch than day-time TV – and there were coffee shops, and tuna melts, and teacakes, and biscuits. And of course, there were different places to walk too – paths by the river, between historic buildings, across crowded squares. There were benches to sit on as well.
So, I paid my fare, sat at the back, and waited. By the time I had reached the Bus Station, two things had struck me very powerfully. First, although I can’t claim to be an expert in guessing age, it certainly felt as if I was the youngest person on the bus by at least five or ten years (apart from the bus driver). Secondly, I was the only person to actually hand over money when paying the fare. Everyone else just flashed a pass at a beeping machine as they smiled in silence at the driver. I decided to look into this.
I enjoyed my walk around town. I punctuated the journey with the occasional pause on a bench to regain strength, and an early lunch in a coffee shop. It was better than sitting or being prone at home, asleep or watching programmes about property or antiques. But when I got back, I Googled “bus pass”.
To my surprise and delight I found that not only did I qualify for a concessionary travel pass, but I had qualified for one for months without knowing it (though for some reason I didn’t understand, my wife, despite being an identical age, would have to wait months before being eligible for hers). So I filled the form in, took and edited the digital portrait snap, emailed off the results, and waited for the arrival.
Ok. There have been a couple of hiccups – occasions when a recovering post-op patient spent an unpleasant 30 minutes waiting forlornly for the non-arrival of the bus (note to self, always download the latest timetable from the bus company’s site) – but apart from that, it has been brilliant in boosting my flagging well-being.
- It has brought variety to my walking, helping keeping the motivation up. There are always plenty of things to see and a variety of routes.
- It has helped motivate me to get out of the house.
- It costs nothing.
If you are weary at home, get on a bus and get out, and if you are in your sixties, you probably won’t have to pay for it.
What have you found most helpful in maintaining and improving your well-being?