So, as it was a nice day on Sunday, Paul suggested we should make the most of it and go out somewhere. I suggested a trip to Sandwell Valley Country Park because it was relatively close (in West Bromwich) and I had heard people say that you could reach it by bus.
I don't trust the National Express route planner thing because it inevitably gives you something completely illogical as the "fastest" route - my preferred method of route planning is to stick the postcode in Googlemaps, find the nearest bus stop (as Googlemaps helpfully provides you with route numbers when you click on them) and then reverse engineer the journey using the NXbus website for timetables / route maps, etc. Such being the case, it turned out there were two potential buses we could have caught which dropped us at either end of the road where the entrance to the park was, both of which went from West Bromwich bus station.
I also checked the council's webpage about the park but obviously they only give people driving instructions.
So, we headed off to West Bromwich on the bus and checked the various displays to find out where to get our next bus from. The first one we could have caught, the 5, was supposedly not arriving for 20 minutes despite one being due imminently according to the timetable. So off we headed for the 74 stop, some distance away (the bus station is designed in a sort of spiral formation), which was 5 minutes away according to the display. Whilst waiting for that, the 5 then turned up (10 minutes late) but as the 74 was also imminent we opted to get that rather than attempt to run for the 5.
So we managed to get off the 74 at the right stop and headed off down the windy lane leading to the park. We got maybe three-quarters of a mile down the road and then the pavement disappeared. There was only pavement on one side of the road as it was, so we were already walking in the same direction as traffic, otherwise I would have been happy to go along the road - but with a 40mph limit I wasn't particularly comfortable with cars coming up behind us.
I did jokingly suggest hitch-hiking the final few yards and Paul almost did, but yeah, no.
The road ran along the edge of Handsworth Cemetery, so we quickly looked on Googlemaps and it looked as though we could cut through the cemetery and come out further up the road - and decided that even if there was no pavement we would at least then be going against traffic.
The cemetery was a mile back down the road, so off we trudged. Checked the cemetery map to find out whereabouts the road ended up and basically just kind of bore left. Ordinarily I like cemeteries, but this was a very busy one with several services going on and I always feel uncomfortable enjoying the scenery when people are mourning their loved ones.
Okay, and this is where things got really frelling weird.
At one point I happened to look down at some headstones to my left, and a name on one of them immediately got my attention. It was, in fact, the headstone of my former colleague from Legal Services (affectionately psuedonymed, at the time, as "Godsquad"). As a reminder: she was the secretary who got territorial about her job remit and attempted to bully me until I nipped it in the bud with the threat of a grievance - she died unexpectedly in October 2012. I did a double-take and paused and checked the date of death and there was no doubt it was the same person.
Like, what are the odds of that happening? That I happened to look down at precisely that moment, and that we happened to choose a path that went straight past it?
Creepy doesn't even begin to describe it. It's also really odd because it was her untimely and undeserved death that gave me the kick I needed to apply for my current job, and at this current moment I am once again in the same position of job-hunting.
After all that, we finally found the road we were looking for and... it was a dead end. So off we trudged back to the entrance again.
Feeling ever more despondent, Paul decided to call a taxi to take us the ONE MILE up the road to where we needed to be. We called the number on the back of a taxi that was just arriving at the cemetery, to be informed they covered Acocks Green and couldn't pick us up. So then we called our local service but as they hadn't dropped us off, they were reluctant to pick us up.
At that point, we gave up and went home. It had started raining by that point anyway, so even if we had made it to the park it would have been a wet and miserable afternoon.
Four hours later, we got back home.
The thing is: this kind of information should be on the website. There's a working farm at Sandwell Valley so it's the kind of place people take their children (I went there with a class of Reception-age kids when I was doing work experience in Year 11), and most single-parent or low-income families don't have the luxury of a car and are reliant on public transport. Such being the case, you'd think a vital piece of information to share might be that if you attempt to get there from one particular direction, it is actually impossible because there's no pedestrian footpath.
I suspect half the problem is that the information on said websites is compiled by people who drive everywhere; if the people who created travel information had to actually USE the public transport they are attempting to glorify, the information might actually be useful/accurate in the first place.
The whole thing wound us both up more than it should have done and left me feeling persecuted, as ever, for not being able to drive. I know I harp on a lot about public transport being shit, but that's because I get frustrated that we're in the 21st century and Sunday service is still a thing, and you mostly can't get a bus after midnight except for a few specific services.
On the plus side, an hour or so later we Skyped my folks and got to "meet" their two new kittens, Tig and Missi, who they found outside the bar a couple of weeks ago. THEY ARE SO CUTE. *insert heart-eyes cat emoji*
So yeah. That was our weird, unproductive Sunday afternoon.