“’Arf a day trip she’s paid for…”

“’Arf a day trip she’s paid for…”

Round about 1956 my uncle, aunt and cousin booked a half-day pleasure tour with Trent from Nottingham to Dovedale. I guess it would cost about 4/6 in those days. I haven’t a clue what the vehicle was, but it had a central entrance, and uncle and cousin managed to snaffle the front nearside seat alongside the driver.

They set off in bright sunshine about 2.15, but as they travelled west along the old A52 to Derby clouds were gathering. Between Derby and Ashbourne it became very overcast indeed. It started to spit with rain as they passed through the village of Thorpe Cloud, and by the time they reached the car and coach park near the famous stepping stones, the rain was falling in a steady torrent.

Well, there’s not much to do at Dovedale in that sort of weather, and no-one appeared in a hurry to alight. So after a bit of discussion and a call to Nottingham from a public phone box, the driver (who was a bit of a glum individual) said that they were going on to Matlock instead. Everyone brightened up a little, though the weather didn’t follow suit.

Now main roads didn’t feature much in the run to Matlock. What is more the driver didn't have a map – didn’t need one; knew the route to Dovedale like the back of his hand. He knew the route to Matlock as well – but not, it seemed, starting from Dovedale. My 12 year old cousin, on the other hand, had a one-inch Ordnance Survey on his knee, and was following progress with interest.

Amongst the party of 35 or so on board was a middle-aged foreign lady who seemed to be of a nervous disposition. As the coach plunged along narrow muddy twisting lanes, she gave vent to a series of gasps and sighs, and seemed doubtful about their prospects of survival. Several times she said to no-one in particular, but loudly enough for others to hear, “It would be better to go home!”

At length they came to a cross roads (no signpost) and after pausing a moment for inspiration, the driver chose the road to the right. They hadn’t gone far before my cousin looked up from his map and remarked confidentially, “Hey, dad – this is going to be interesting. There’s a hill steeper than 1 in 5 along here, and a ford at the bottom of it!” As the gradient steepened, uncle ventured to pass on this priceless piece of intelligence to the driver, who replied, “Not a lot we can do about it now is there?”

At this the French lady became even more agitated, and cried out “It is too dangerous. We cannot go on. Let us turn round and go home!” Think of it – trying to turn a coach on a road less than 10 feet wide, that looked as though it was about to disappear over a cliff edge.

At this the driver half turned to my uncle and muttered out of the corner of his mouth. “’Arf a day trip she’s paid for” he said darkly “and ’arf a day trip she’s going to get!”

Matlock was no drier than Dovedale, and the tour was a complete wash-out. But thereafter, whenever coach tours were mentioned in our family, my aunt would solemnly intone “’Arf a day trip she’s paid for, and ’arf a day trip she’s going to get!” All who had heard the tale before would then roll about in fits of uncontrollable laughter, and those who hadn’t thought we’d all gone doo-lally.

Stephen Ford



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