How it all started

In 1930 in Vienna, Alfred and Gertrude Kessler had their first child. Now cut to 2005...

Many years ago, mum said that she had always wanted to have a go at driving a bus. This festered in my brain for all this while but I didn't get around to doing anything about it until this year. I recalled that mum had once talked about teaching a local bus and coach company owner's children and later on even recalled the company's name: Astons Coaches

So earlier this summer I phoned the company and eventually got to speak to the owner, Mr Halford. He asked me to call back nearer the time. Thanks to the many mayhems in my life, I got to call them on Tuesday 13th. Mr Halford offered me an 2:30 pm "slot" and so all was sorted apart from getting mum there without spoiling the surprise - or so I thought!

On Wednesday 14th, mum mentioned that she had a meeting with a finance advisor on Friday afternoon. I didn't feel I could at such short notice rearrange a favour being done for me by a complete stranger but fortunately I know the finance advisor's name and that he was connected with mum's lawyer. I phoned the lawyer and asked them to put me in contact with the advisor. The lawyer gave me the advisor's partner's number - but I could only leave a voicemail asking him to ask his partner (my mum's actual advisor) to urgently call back my cellphone. The advisor called me on the morning of Thursday 15th and agreed to call mum straight away to say that he would have to piston his meeting with mum. The rest of the family and I just suggested to mum that we should go out for afternoon tea, now that her afternoon was clear. So now, definitely all sorted!


On the day

My brother (Ian) and his partner (Jenni) arrived about 1:30, ostensibly to join mum, dad and I for afternoon tea in the country. Meanwhile mum was miffed that Ian and I had arranged this at a time when Susan (our sister) would be at work. (I had thought that she had Friday afternoons off work.) Around 1:45 mum decided to phone her sister, so dad, Ian, Jenni and I sat in the kitchen panicking that we might have to spoil the surprise. Mum's finished her call around 2:06, by which time, I was shooing Ian and Jenni out of the door to get to Astons and stall them. Mum asked me where they were going and I replied "to grab seats" but that we ought to go now to catch up with them.

Mum thought that this was out of order because she thought we were going to meet up with Susan after her work finished at 4 and then have tea. So dad said that we would just go for a drive first. Mum was then concerned that Ian and Jenni would be waiting at the café for ages while we swanned around the countryside four 2 hours. So I called Ian's cellphone and "told" him that we would meet him at the place and go for a drive thereafter. Confused yet? Read on - it gets worse!

I'm not quite sure how mum began to think that we were going to a certain café in Malvern - maybe it was the route to Astons appears to head to Malvern. So she was a bit concerned when we turned off the Malvern Road. Dad tried to ease her by saying he didn't know what was going on either but was sure that Ian and I did. I doubt that helped! Ian then called me to say he was getting near but couldn't see the sign for Astons. I had never been there but thought I had remembered enough of the details Mr Halford had told me. However, when we ended up in a village which I knew was past Astons, I frantically called Ian and Jenni's cellphones to ask if they had arrived and if so, could they say we were on the way. No answer - their networks were dead. I called Astons to ask where we'd gone wrong. Fortunately, I could get through to them and just as we arrived, Ian called me to say he and Jenni were right behind us.

So, we arrived only 15 minutes late - this is a record for our family! Mum asked, quite reasonably, what was going on and now I could tell her. My heart was in my mouth - what if she was no longer interested or would be too scared to even try? Fortunately she was really pleased.

Mr Halford had arranged for her to drive, under instruction, a double-decker bus and a continental-travel coach around their carpark and training area. He had also arranged for a photographer from the local newspaper to record the occasion. Because we had arrived late and the double-decker was due out on a real job soon, that was the first she got to try.


All aboard!

Bruce, Mum and Mr Halford


  The Evening News photographer makes Mum a star
  In the cab with Mr Halford
  Off we go!
  Revving up
  Mum and the driver
  Bouncing up and down on the continental coach's adjustable seat
  Where's the ejector seat?
  Somehow dad took an abstract photo
  Dad tried to get a close-up shot. The instructor had to do an emergency stop. Mum left a brown vapour trail.
  Back on the road.
  It's all over and mum's still on a high
  Mum meets Ms Halford - her former pupil

After all this, mum was well chuffed but exhausted. It was nearing 3:30 so we loaded up and headed for the Malvern branch of Morrison's where Susan works. We chilled out in the store café while waiting for Susan's shift to finish. Two people called my cellphone - one was an L&L colleague but the other was a call about later that evening. We also met Russell Moseley and Di Roberts, two folk who had been invited to a surprise party this evening.

More Lies!

Alan Lane, the Chair of Worcester District Scout Council, had called mum on Wednesday to ask her to come to a short but necessary meeting in the function room of a Scout-friendly pub on Friday at 7:45pm. As far as mum was aware, the immediate family were due to gather at a restaurant at 8:30 so she would be able to go to this meeting and then on to the restaurant. Ian and Jenni would ostensibly travel from Jenni's flat to the restaurant and dad said that he would drive mum and I to the pub - where we could have a drink while mum attended the meeting.

I'd sent invitations to mum's friends from Worcester's Scouting community, the Worcester Twinning Association and mum;'s teaching career, asking them to gather at 7:30 at the pub. Ian and Jenni had got there at 7:00 to decorate the room and usher the guests into the meeting room. Alan met mum outside the pub and took her through to the function room. The first person she say was John Benjamin, GSL and Assistant Cub Scout Leader at the 5th Worcester Scouts - so she still thought this was a meeting . Then folk started singing Happy Birthday and the penny dropped.

And so the white lies were over and a good time could be had by all...

Susan, Ian, me and mum with our cousin Chris (mum's sister's youngest child) at the back

  and with our cousin Kathy (my oldest cousin) at the front
Angela, Kathy and Chris
Random Bozo lunches out
  Vivienne Greenow, Angela Harris, Catherine Warren and Sheila Cave from Worcester Twinning association

Tessa Harris (our neighbour), Margaret and John Dodds (long-time family friends) and Susan

Tessa Harris, John Dodds and Tony Harris
Eva Wishart, Muriel and Clifford Lord, Patrick and Vivienne Greenow, Angela Harris, Sheila Cave,  Catherine Warren
(all apart from Eva from Twinning)
  Stuart Robinson, Fay Benjamin, Richard & Lynne Burton, Debbie & Rob Graham (5th Worcester Scouts)
  Kathy, Chris and I
  Roy Winwood, Brian Hooper, Alan lane, Amber Regli (Alan's daughter-in-law), Nigel Brooks and Mike Hughes (all in Worcester Scouting)
Brian Hooper (Fellowship), Amber Regli (Fellowship), Roy Winwood (Fellowship), Mike Hughes (8th Worcester), Nigel Brooks (District Commissioner)
Patricia Wyatt-Davies (Fellowship)
  Charlie and Helmi Box with an unknown party-crasher!
  Nathan, Lucille and Alun Grosvenor and Russell Moseley (5th Worcester Sea Scouts)
Tom Jones, Nathan, Val Cunnington (Fellowship), Lucille and Alun Grosvenor
  Joan Taylor, Carol Silvester, Pat Millard, Mary Hooper and Alan Lane (Worcester Scouting)

background Chris
Dad, Terry Taylor (Fellowship), Pauline Houlding (Sunnyside), Joan Taylor (fellowship), Mary Hooper (Worcester Scout District Secretary), 
Wendy Rowberry (Sunnyside), Carol Sylvester (district committee), Charlie Box (Twinning)

Pauline Houlding, Di Roberts, Sue Moberley, Con and Wendy Rowberry, Joss and Simon Douglas–Pennant (all of Sunnyside).
Behind Simon are Carol Sylvester and Pat Millard (both on District Committee)
Rob Graham, Fay and John Benjamin, Debbie Graham, Stuart Robinson (all 5th Worcester)
unknown, Richard and Lynne Burton, Debbie and Rob Graham, Fay Benjamin (all 5th Worcester)
  Ian, Thomas (son of cousin David & Jane), David, Random Bozo, Katie (daughter of David and Jane), Jane, cousin Kathy, mum, cousin Chris, Angela and Susan
As above but Jenni and dad have joined us
  Thomas and Chilly Willy
  The gang again - minus dad the cameraman
Katie Jones

I really enjoyed meeting my cousins for the first time in 20 years and chatting with Bob Woodman who had lodged with mum and dad while studying at Worcester College. Of course, the best part is that mum was overwhelmed (this is her actual word) by having such an amazing time.