It’s official, I’m going on the school trip.
”One thing, sir,” said a colleague, “it’s a double decker coach and the staff members all have their own favourite seats.”
”That sounds perfect,” I said, “when I’m travelling by coach, I like to sit by myself. If you sit at the back beside the emergency escape, you have more legroom.”
My preference for sitting in the corner at the back stretches back to times when I was only five feet tall when my feet barely touched the floor and when there was definitely no need for legroom.
On a Saturday the school bus would take us to Torquay or Paignton, the former if you were fifteen or over, the latter if you wanted to go out for the afternoon and it was the only place on offer. My friends Dave and Tony, who were harder and cooler than I would ever be were part of the back seat lineup and somehow a scrawny kid of delicate health got drawn into the company.
I liked the corner seat. I hadn’t anything to add to the conversation of the older boys, so I could be in their company without feeling that there was any need to speak. The bus would take us down the road from our Dartmoor school, through Bovey Tracey and Newton Abbot before reaching Torquay.
Sitting in the corner at the back, I would watch the passing countryside. I loved Dartmoor, with its constantly changing skies and colours. Autumn would see hillsides ablaze in yellow and orange. Then there were the Devon towns, you see much more from a bus than you ever do in a car. There were moments of reverie when the journey seemed to have been completely almost as soon as it had begun.
I knew where I liked to sit, but had anyone asked me about why I sat there or my thoughts, I would have had no words to explain. Perhaps there was a sense of security in that seat, being enclosed by boys a foot taller than I was. Perhaps it was a chance for detachment, such chances were few enough in a boarding school filled with noise. Perhaps it was something else, something not rational.
Whatever the reason for the preference, the favouring of one spot on a bus or coach has not faded over the years.
Of course, if I take that seat on the school trip, the cool boys will have nowhere to go.