The Saturday after my birthday I found myself catching an early o'clock bus to York so that Mark and I could catch a (still quite early o'clock for a Saturday) train to Leeds so that we could get on an open-top bus to travel back in the direction of where we live and pass within a 5 minute drive of our house some 3 hours after we left it. The bus sat in a traffic jam for about 15 minutes when we were not quite close enough to a roadside establishment where a much needed comfort break could be enjoyed.
An hour later and the bus trundled along narrow country roads and we had to keep our wits about us to a) avoid getting showered by breeze-caught Leeds Pale and b) protect our noggins from being knocked off by a passing tree. As we lumbered across the North York Moors a particularly steep hill proved too much for our brave jalopy and the thick black smoke coming from the back of the bus and we were forced to bail out and trudge across the moors like deluded cultural vagrants.
I should also mention that most of the time you could not hear yourself think due to the glee-ful wooping and seemingly endless singing and throughout the journey we were forced to carry out arts and crafts chores and other acts of drudgery - all the time with a cheerful smile plastered across our faces for fear that we would get thrown overboard if we didn't look like we were having fun.
The unflinching gaze of the camera-wielding sentinels meant that we could never be certain that we weren't be observed and any dissenting actions caught on film for later scrutiny. The mantra 'Make Art, Have Fun' was drummed into us until we lost any sense of our individual identities.
When we finally reached our destination we had to don a uniform which comprised of a knotted hanky on our head (with letters on them that made up a secret message that we were forbidden from trying to decode) and carry all of our wordly belongings down a long steep hill, across a vast beach and up one final flight of steps to our temporary camp.
By now the Dunkirk spirit had kicked in and we all laughed and smiled as we were able to relax for the first time. However it soon became clear that we had been brought to a place with no means of communicating to the outside world and that we would be expected to take part in demeaning physical activities such as 'musical deckchairs' while our smiling captors looked on and jeered.
Only once our benevolent hosts were confident that Stockholm Syndrome had overtaken the entire group were we rewarded with a jubilant musical rally, complete with mandatory flag-waving, and some delicious, delicious food at the end of a long queue.
Our final ordeal was the long trudge back to our bus which we were literally marched back to with no let up in the singing, smiling and the laughing allowed.
I will never forget the huddling quietness of being forced to travel back on the open-top bus in the dark, cold, windy night wishing that someone would let me share their survival blanket and where the only interaction with our captors was being forced to sing along to shambolic covers of various 90s rock songs.
It is testament to the depth of our brainwashing that I remain convinced several weeks later that this was one of the best days of my life. Our journey was a metaphoric one as much as a literal journey and since then I have been plagued by vivid, epic dreams where I am back on the Hope and Social 'Fun' Bus, swaddled by beaming smiles and embraced by endless laughter.
Hope & Social Fun Bus propoganda:
Culture Vulture blogpost
Eduserv summarizr page for #hsfunbus