Turfed off the train at a halt with a decent-sized car park, a stream of luggage-laden passengers shuffle purposefully off the platform. The rail replacement buses await. There are no signs.
A station official directs us onwards to the members of staff in yellow hi-vis, located somewhere beyond the waiting throng. They'll tell you what to do, he says, absolving himself of all further responsibility. Out in the car park a ballet of shunting buses and coaches makes way for the latest arrival, its windows steamed up in collective frustration. There are no destinations on the front of anything. There are no signs.
"Stay back where you are!" orders the senior member of staff as an awkward reversing manoeuvre initiates. A list of inaudible instructions is barked from somewhere ahead, concerning something of importance, leaving the majority of the crowd none the wiser. A red London bus draws round into the car park and stops beside a second bus behind a coach. At least one of these vehicles is making the link to London, maybe all three, but only those closest to the small shouty woman know for sure. There are no signs.
The crowd moves forwards, those with both luggage and common sense making a beeline for the coach. I'd rather not, they occasionally make me carsick, so I rejoice at the option of an actual double decker. The wheelchair space is already stuffed, but I reckon there should be sufficient room up the back for my post-Christmas suitcase and I, assuming the bus isn't too full. Within a minute the bus is very full. I shuffle my case between my legs and allow a First Class couple to squeeze in opposite. They moan, politely, about how hard the seats are, and set about planning their Hogmanay trip to Edinburgh.
Small Shouty Woman boards briefly to bark the name of our destination. I'm relieved to be on the right bus, as getting off might now be somewhat awkward. "You all need a seat," she adds, staring pointedly at a group of passengers with the temerity to be standing by the door. "I've got another bus coming, so you lot need to get off and wait for that." Those of us sat down, squeezed in with our bags and rucksacks, watch with some relief as the interlopers slink off into the night and the doors close behind them. The M25 is a long stream of headlamps distant, past plenty of signs.