Four days in Mallorca went as smooth as clockwork; beautiful boutique hotel, great buffet, sunny beach, shades of blue and gold and my companion had a little Fiat to explore the island of relaxed and smiling people.
The nightlife was moderately disappointing. We had a choice of middle-aged, middleweight, middle Britain along the strip by the beach compared to the brash realities of modern youth culture in Magaluf or the inane activities of the Animation team at the hotel. All in all it was peaceful, harmonious, uneventful, exactly what I needed.
You see, I live in Central London with its 21st Century street theatre, compared to which the islands of Europe seem to be ambling along in a 50's time warp.
Our re-entry via Stanstead was a point in question. Descending into the subway to reach the Easybus Terminus was indicative of the direction of the onward journey. From here on, the complexity and confusion of life in the city would be revealed in all its mind-boggling glory.
Amongst the queuing passengers for the Easybus was a young American girl in a large, floppy, black hat whose request to use her pre-bought, timed-out ticket was too confusing for my relaxed brain to comprehend, hindered also by the fact she was, by the end of her story, in floods of tears. But she was out of time and out of luck, unless someone in the queue could provide her with sterling for her euros. Which they did, seeming to get a good deal on the exchange as far as I could see and they all set off happily on the crowded minibus.
I had to wait for the next one which arrived within half-an-hour and dispensed a harassed driver who neither looked at, nor spoke, to any passenger. You just handed over your e-ticket and took a seat.
After hurtling silently through the countryside for half-an-hour, the driver decided to cheer us with a selection of very loud half-minute song snippets as he scrolled through the available stations on the radio, something from Scandinavia, closely followed by “I’m an Alien, I’m a Legal Alien”, quick bit of the Classics and straight into Rihanna.
The couple to my left were roused at his point and the boy began flinging bags of crisps and biscuits out of the plastic bag he was holding. I thought they must have suffered sudden hunger pangs but no, the girl was about to be sick and sat bolt upright holding the blue plastic to her mouth. Before she could complete her task our attention was drawn to the driver’s side window where a Cockney travelling in the opposite direction was advising our driver not to continue on this road as it was blocked at the end. He didn’t mention what by, just told him ‘If ya goes dahn ayer, you’ll afta cam back.”
So we continued down the road, confirming my opinion that our driver was probably foreign, until something we could not see, as our view was blocked by the piled up luggage in the forward rack, disturbed the driver. All we could hear was “Oh my God! Oh my God! It was not death or destruction that had caused this outcry but a lengthy traffic jam possibly caused by the fifty plus minivans of police, which passed us as they returned from Lord knows what further down our route. Unbeknown to us the Conservatives had won the election, which had obviously upset quite a few people who had chosen Saturday afternoon as a good time for a demonstration.
As the vans approached, the driver fastened his seat belt and waited whilst the procession passed. I wondered what the young people coming to Britain from abroad must be thinking…..revolution….police state….football? As we were near the East End I thought it was jihadists or a bomb threat, a thought that seemed to be confirmed when we passed what looked like a tube station with a squad of armed and flak-jacketed police marching past.
We also passed what I took to be two figures covered in blankets seated on the pavement but as we were travelling at speed I couldn’t be sure. Even if they were there my mind couldn’t decide between prisoners or performance artists connected to a demonstration. Then we were in North London around Highbury, followed by Camden and into the leafy splendour of Regent’s Park before, silently, filing out of the minibus at Baker Street.
But the theatre was not over yet. As I got onto the 94 bus to take me home, another silent driver was in charge, silent and unmoving. Some sort of stoic Asian, maybe Korean, or Tibetan, impossible to tell from his impassive face why we were stationary at the bus stop.
Us passengers looked at each other and back to the driver. Was the bus too early to move on? Was the driver displeased with one or other of us in some way? Had someone not presented the correct ticket? We were of a variety of nationalities, customs and cultures but it was left to us to somehow negotiate, in silence, how to get the bus moving again.
I looked at the last couple to have got on with a buggy, the husband was Indian, he looked at me, then at his wife, then at the other passengers. I was about to ask the driver for a clue when the husband indicated to his wife to leave the bus by the middle door and by some magical deduction he had unlocked the code, guessed the secret, the doors closed behind him and the bus resumed its journey. The calm of Mallorca was a distant memory. I was back in the buzz.