Finally, the morning of departure. We got to Oxford early, to make our last preparations.
After eight intensive months of planning, we were nearly ready; after eight months of plotting the itinerary, recruiting the team, decking out the bus… and becoming rather more intimate with the technicalities of diesel engines than we’d have liked, the Membus was finally ready to hit the road on its mission to travel around Europe, and create the world’s first video dictionaries.
The team was boosted by a couple of last minute recruits. Most importantly, our driver Dave, a cheerful Mancunian, who immediately received a whistle-stop tutorial on the (numerous) unique features of this 1978 double-decker from local bus enthusiast Paul. We were also boosted by the surprise late arrival of Dan, a drone-pilot, playwright and Memrise-obsessive, who couldn’t resist joining the expedition. We were meanwhile perhaps less excited when our CEO Ed also decided to join the trip at the last moment…
After a flurry of last minute prep (finishing the electrics, fitting the mattresses, putting some final touches to the paintwork) we set off from Oxford only 2 hours behind schedule and headed as fast as any vintage double-decker can (35mph, 38mph down hill) to Portsmouth, to catch our overnight ferry to St. Malo.
However, we couldn’t go straight to the port as we had one final errand to run. We took a rapid detour to a business park in the suburbs of Southampton, where a small crowd of excited telecom engineers ran out to us to instal our WiFi box: a critical missing piece from the bus, which will keep us connected to the rest of the world as we head round Europe.
We headed on for Portsmouth in the evening sunlight, and made the ferry with an hour to spare.
Once aboard, it was only fitting that we toasted the first step in our grand expedition, and so we gathered on the top deck to share a glass of wine.
Here we all were: Marie, our fearless leader. Diana and Jake, our film-makers; Dave, our driver; Dan, our drone pilot and diarist; Ed, our gatecrashing CEO, and me, Miranda: I’m in charge of logistics.
As we bade goodbye to England, with the silhouette of the shrinking townscape set off by a grey-pink sunset, we fell into a thoughtful silence, as we each contemplated the excitements and challenges of four months on the road in a double-decker bus, and our thrilling mission to capture nine European languages in video, in all their beauty and variety.
So long for now, England!
Check out this video for our progress so far!
And most importantly, join us on the way!