I climbed up to the upper deck of the X18 as we departed Acklington. The official best bus seats were taken up by two youths wearing baseball caps, so I took a seat a few rows behind.
The two lads were loudly discussing the criminal records of unnamed acquaintances.
“He got 18 months for manslaughter. He stabbed someone in the fuckin’ back! That’s not manslaughter! That’s murder!”
Then, a bit later: “Wounding: that’s Section 47, that’s 6 months at least.”
It didn’t help that the bus made a detour to serve the visitor centre of HMP Northumberland, which only served to make them nostalgic for old friends who were spending time there. Thankfully they got off at another village soon after and I then had the top deck to myself.
The X18 is a double-decker, just a little bit too large for the country roads it uses. We swerved round blind bends, the journey occasionally punctuated by overhanging tree branches banging against the windows. Helpfully, we passed through both Widdrington and Pegswood, two places I would be returning to later in the day, and I did my best to memorise where the bus stops where in relation to the stations. I also spotted something at Widdrington that I thought might come in handy later.
My next destination was Morpeth. I thought it would be as good a place as any to spend the day before resuming my journey to the other stations on the line later that day.
I got off at the bus station. First order of business: some proper breakfast to replace the melted KitKats which had been my only sustenance so far.
Morpeth town centre is full of charming cafés. I, of course, went to Costa Coffee. Look, I was starving and a chain store breakfast roll is a known quantity.