Matthew 5:5.

At 7am my mobile phone was ringing.It was the mother of one of the kids on my bus.
” I’m sorry dear….ee can’t come today – I’m took bad an’ I’m up the ‘ospitall. I ‘ad to send him round to my mate coz I can’t leave ‘im indoors like ee is.”
She is an ageing mother now, in poor health. They cling to each other in a tiny fragile life boat. Yesterday a survey revealed that fewer and fewer UK citizens really cared about those poorer than themselves and blamed them for being lazy. That’s OK then.

Emma thinx: Hiring now. Meek needed for major earthworks.

The Overall Effect

“Ee’s just doin ‘is teef but the lift’s broke,” came the voice of intercom mom from floor 23 of the concrete sky. We all waited on the bus as the lad made his way down the steps. At last he arrived dressed in the same clothes that he always wears. It’s fashion sport wear and it’s always clean. I think it’s all he possesses. Mom must strip him off as soon as he gets in and poke it in the washing machine. Poverty is relative of course. Seemingly there are now 7 billion of us and the world can no longer feed us. When I see these poor kids and how they cling to the lifeboat of fashion even at the expense of food, I realise that the soul/status/ego/self image of each person is both our joy and our agony. It is a perversity to see the anorexic vision of  catwalk model beauty amidst the plenty and the Fast food/Big Biz/glamour glitz worshipped by the poor.

Yesterday afternoon I watched snatches of the first ever Indian Formula One Grand prix. How lucky they are that the Gods of Guzzle have handed them  the golden gladiators of radiators. Oh yes – the land of Shiva is now the land of GP diva. I’m a bit wary of making liberal arty farty capital out of the whole car racing circus. Probably it makes no difference but to me India has always seemed a land of advanced spirituality – beyond the brand and logo of plastered bill board overalls. And yet the taste of madness is sweet you know. Those childhood orgies of fallen conkers, hoarded simply because they were there, run on into adulthood and are delicious. The scream of wasteful engines and the kingfisher flash of  wealth are seductive. Seventeen thousand revs of orgasmic horsepower speak louder than a quiet voice of thought groping out for some gentle insight. Rip the rubber and ram it home to the chequered flag. Think simple and get the goods. That’s the true grand prize. Who am I to say different? At one stage of the race a car stopped at the edge of the circuit. Suddenly a mob hurtled towards the high grilled fence and pressed their faces against the metal in an agony to touch that far far world of the man with sponsored boots and million dollar gloves. These two worlds will never collide – provided that the fences hold.

 A very disturbing film is out on DVD about the life of  the racing driver Ayrton Senna. I’m not sure if it was meant to worry me but I kept posing a Wagnerian question “Where is there for defeated gods?” Many folk saw him as a GOD. That would be very difficult for a guy who simply drove cars in the name of a cigarette brand would it not?

Oh no – trouble in the temple. The Dean of St Paul’s cathedral has resigned over the strife around the anti-money changer demo on the steps. I love St Paul’s cathedral and have so often lit candles to the lovely building echoing choirboy fake-up-kid-yourself-spirituality God. Seemingly the elders of the temple can’t agree over whether or not to support the protests. I can see that this is a tough one. You get some kind of hippy guy show up with a few rough looking supporters and they go on about wealth and greed. Yup, even old Pontious Pilate was perplexed. He kinda fixed things up in the end though.

Emma thinx: Bossmosis – How the higher sucks out the lower.

Yes I can.

Now, today is a slight departure from my normal approach. Generally I just blog away to my readers on any subject that comes to hand. Most of the time I’m not sure if I’m a bus driver, a Romantic novelist or just a slightly dotty old Doris with a fantasy literary life. The fact is that for the moment I drive a bus and I have written Romantic short stories and a Romantic novel that is selling quite well. My home is in France but for a short while I am living and working in the UK. Today I am back in France and as I strolled through the beautiful streets of my little town this morning I was thinking about my project which is to do a blog for Julia Brandt’s “Warm Fuzzies Blog Fest”. The subject to be approached is that of “Do you tell people you are a writer and what are their responses?” Just as this thought was hurtling around the empty space of my mind I came across a snail climbing a very long hill. I took a photo and it is posted above. The Great spirit of Happenstance and Inspiration touched my shoulder and I saw at once the situation of the writer: that slow climb to who knows where, dragging that shell of isolation across the pitiless tarmac of everyday life. 

Yes, these days I do sometimes tell people I am a writer. However, I’m careful who I tell. I do not tell fellow bus drivers. Most would reply “Well, I’m glad to hear it cos you’re pretty poor at driving a bus.” It’s true I did break a mirror doing a reverse park and since I’m a woman it will NEVER be forgotten. I do tell a few posh middle class people in England. The responses are usually polite but flippant…”Wow – that’s so cool. I’m gonna do a really sooooper book myself soon. I hope you don’t do that stuff all about billionaires and sex in Paris. That is just so sad yah! It’s kinda like for people who need cheap escape and stuff and buy those awful supermarket books with hero torso on the cover yah.” When you are a something like a bus driver, people like to keep you in a safe slot. My partner Gilles is kinda posh French and has a well paid corporate job. A bus driver who is a published poet and prize winning writer just jangles a bit so I usually don’t say anything. Gilles enjoys the sport and usually blabs something. A few years ago I won the town Literary Festival prize. It was all very public but you know – no one ever said a thing to me. I was a bus driver – NOT a poet. If anyone ever read the poem, no one ever said.

Even more years back I was living in a fairly run down part of South London. My ex husband had been a truck driver and I did whatever temp work could fit in with bringing up kids. I entered a Christmas short story competition in a newspaper. My entry was  “Sub Prime” and was based on real events from my life.  If you are reading this blog you can get it free here (for every kind of e-reader device). There is also a link for the audiobook version.

A couple of weeks later, the judge – a nationally acclaimed poet and writer called me to say that she was so sorry that the paper could not publish it, but that it had won the prize. She went on to explain that the content was too gritty and could upset advertisers. All the same as a consolation they published a feature about me with a photo. I had entered the competition as Millie Webb. I hoped that no one would know it was me. A few days later a neighbour tersely remarked “Bit posh ain’t ya – writin’ stories.” I told them it was all a bit of a joke. It was sad that no one was able to read the story because they would have seen that it was on the side of working class people. As it was they just thought I was getting above myself. I never ever ever  EVER told anyone I was a poet.

So that deals with the two social class poles in the UK. My lovely neighbours in France know I’m a writer because they tend to wander in and find me writing. France is a different society that views “artists” as normal. They do have slight social class/wealth issues but in any event I’m foreign and free. 

The other group is of course FAMILY. My own children are completely and utterly embarrassed by the whole thing. I would talk about it but I think they would run out of the room with hands over their ears screaming. I am a parent. They know I write about sex and lust and they just could not reconcile themselves to me knowing anything other than not mixing up the coloured and the whites in the washing machine. I think I would have been the same with respect to my own parents.

These days the writer is visible public property. In some ways I think that the taciturn snail is most likely to produce the best work. Most snails play the whole thing down and tell folk they’re a slug with a carbuncle issue.

Emma thinx: Know where you got lost. Finding yourself starts there.

Walk On The Wild Side

“Ee’s just gonna do ‘is teef,” came intercom voice from floor 23, “ee’s bein’ a right little sh*t to me ee is. Ee’s in an ‘orrible mood.”
Oh no – anger management issues in the sky village tower block. I wait in the bus. The lad appears, turns and lobs a half consumed can of breakfast Red Bull at the wall and stamps towards me. A lady runs out from the doors dressed in a dressing gown. She has no shoes.
“Pick that up!”she yells, turning to me. “Ee wasn’t brought up like that. I had to follow him down in case he ran off or summink.”
I glanced at the boy. He looked surly and troubled. I wish he had run off. The woman looks tired and strained. Her face and voice are smoked out. The contest of life is winning on points and she’s hanging on the ropes ducking as many blows as she can. You kinda feel that the referee should stop the fight. My life is wonderful. I am a lucky privileged person. My heart goes out to this poor woman. I bet she’s on her own. I give her a warm look, hoping I don’t look like a posho being a feel-good kind liberal. She shrugs and goes back to her cell in the sky village. I wonder if she has the cash for some fags to dull the agony of daytime TV.

I’m getting very concerned about the British High Street. I think most High Streets will soon be renamed as Low Streets. Out of town malls and retail complexes are turning town centres into lines of charity shops, Tanning salons, Nail bars, Tattoo and piercing studios and of course Fish pedicure clinics. Well, I tell you one thing – even if I had a fish with feet, there’s no way that I would take it to a clinic to be pampered. The government appear to share some of my concerns, at least from the public health view point. Seemingly a high percentage of  body piercings become infected. Also there is the problem of parents bringing their babies to be pierced. I mean – is it just me or are there other people who don’t like looking  someone in the eye and being distracted by lip, nostril, chin  and eyebrow studs or rings? You cannot get your genitals or nipples pierced until you are 16 years old. Apparently up to 10 per cent of adults in the UK have this kind of piercing. What is going on here? Who will be the first President or Prime Minister to have facial piercings or tattoos? The punctured generation will soon be the total electorate. Instead of putting a cross on the ballot paper you will have to make a hole through it.

Dire warnings about Hepatitis and Aids risks associated with feet eating fish have appeared in the press. I guess the fish aren’t too happy either. Are feet part of a proper balanced diet?

Emma thinx: Legitimise your anger. Call someone else a bastard.

Putting The Boot In.

Many moons ago while I was working in my kitchen, my daughter came to me sobbing and asked if she could raise a very serious issue. Oh no – this must be the pregnancy/drug addiction/solvent abuse/pedophile situation that we watch as entertainment on the soaps, but do not wish to confront with the suds. I dried my hands and took her to the lounge, selected some calming baroque music and told her that whatever it was, we were there for her, that I knew several state registered professional counsellors and that we would not be cross. I decided not to raise the possibility of groundings, thrashings or bread and water diets. At last she spoke.
“Mother – um – I think it’s about time I had some Adidas trainers. I’m being blanked and excluded because I haven’t got brand names on my clothes.”
It was true. “But you’re not being held up at knife-point by trainer pirates” 
“No,” she conceded -“but I am called a retard and a dork. I’d rather be stabbed.”
The truth was of course that she was being stabbed. Needless to say we pulled together as a family, called in some counsellors and had the child suitably billboarded and labelled. I knew that one day our innocent unbranded world would end. We had had a good run. She was nearly seven after all.

 My dear friend Oscar Sparrow wrote a poem about fashion and how it had mattered to him as a kid – long before he became a stuffaphobe Buddhist and renounced all possessions. Check out “Fashion Footwear” here. 

And so it is that I tip out my load of kids each day at the college as waves of fashion branded youths troop in. A few retards and dorks mingle in, but are clearly an underclass of non-populars. Fashion and status have become tyrants, and it is not only the young who suffer it. In my guise of a sportive cyclist more and more carbon fibre bandanna clad executive types swap “better than you” tales of Specialised and Trek. I have a Boardman from Halfords and jolly good value it is too!

This whole subject came to mind as Prime Minister Cameron launches a mission to restore childhood and to stop kids advertising to kids on TV. Pester power is truly an awful phenomenon. Most parents I know with even 3 year old kids are hounded by demands – some of which the three year olds pick up from advertising on their lap tops. I witnessed such a thing earlier this week and I was astonished. Would you let a three year old play on the internet? Come to think of it they would probably be a bit sophisticated for some forum sites.

Some things are just so hard to judge aren’t they? The trial of Yulia Tymoshenko (ex-president of Ukraine) all looks a bit like a political shenanigans to me. (Good job Gordon Brown was’nt put on trial for losing £7billion on our UK gold!). I mean – she’s a simple billionaire girl who mis-read her gas meter. Seven years in jail seems harsh. I just hope they have decent hairdressing salons.  I can tell her that Gilles is very much on her side and that if ever she comes back to politics he would definitely offer to stuff her envelopes. Why are there so many multi-billionaires? Which bus company are they driving for?

Emma thinx: Reveal your inner darkness. Let your roots grow out.

Lean and Mean.

It’s all toppling you know. Everything we believed in and trusted lies trampled in the dirt of experience. Bloody good thing too if you ask me! Today the British nation learned that Big Ben is leaning. It’s only a small lean – but in 4,000 years it could topple. Apparently the lean of 1.5 inches is perceptible to the naked eye from Parliament Square. Well, I can tell you that my ex husband would not have been able to spot it. He used to think that a spirit level was the whisky department of the supermarket. We had shelves that looked like the doors of a gull wing Mercedes. But they did have a certain charm. Many a dinner guest asked if there had been an earthquake. The completely vertical tower of Pisa just does not have any cachet does it? My suspicion is that all of this stuff is a part of a tourist promo – “see it before it’s too late” stunt.

Then there is far more serious leaning from vertical in the actual Houses of Parliament. Now, I want you all to note that this is the first and probably the last time that I speak well of a Tory. (That is a Conservative politician). Poor old Dr Fox (Minister for Defence) is being hounded by the righteous because his mate has been bragging about “My friend the minister” and hanging about in the corridors of power. Look – the whole Power and influence thing is based on friendships, insider deals and assortative matings. The minister appears to have a loud mouthed friend who loved bigging himself up and fancies himself as a bit of a fixer. Now the righteous are all huffing and puffing. The main hound-master admitted that his own Party had taken money from this same guy to assist with “Policy Development”.  OK readers – I’m gonna give you £10,000 pounds to fund a nice policy making trip. No strings attached – but let’s all be friends eh. Hypocrisy and tub thumping methinks.

Scientists at the local university are suddenly in the spotlight for asking if bees are affected by diesel fumes. The theory is that small particulates of combusted fuel disturb the function of their brains and they cannot find their way home. Almost certainly this is true. Many bus drivers who have lived their whole lives in diesel fumes cannot find their way anywhere. I still know where my home is in France and I long to be there.

And finally on the subject of leaning towers I was once in Venice and asked a guide why the Campanile had fallen down in 1902.
“I don’ta know – ma – no worry – we make  again esattemente the same – no deefference.” Might be one to watch. If leaning structures  are your thing check out Fred Dibnah.

Emma thinx: Power accepts no friendship. No friendship accepts Power.

Handling Loose Balls

Me and my big mouth! Over a couple of drinks with a colleague of Gilles last night I mentioned my difficulty with the offside rule. Now- all of his life this guy had been waiting for an unsuspecting little butterfly to fall into the back of his goal net. He was on me like a spider sensing the death struggle of a gnat. Within seconds I was wound into a cocoon and injected with a paralysing sporty drug. Salt and pepper pots, a beer glass, several coasters and a wine cooler shunted up and down the table. I agreed with everything that was said but was suddenly confronted with a test to see if I had been listening. I had not been! I had got behind the pepper before the gin bottle was played.

So it was that instead of my Sunday morning romantic novelist’s lie in with warm baguette, I found myself with a bunch of parent types at the edge of a windswept recreation ground. Gilles had agreed to bring me to watch his chum’s boy play football and to finally split the infinitive and the atom of the offside rule. The ref looked like he had the right clothes but the guys who ran up and down the edges looked like passers-by who had been handed flags. It was these conscripts who were to judge the offside rule. Seemingly anyone you meet in the street who can hold a flag will know it.

The game kicked off and various stampedes of lads hurtled up and down. All of a sudden, a parent type shouted “Ref! That’s gotta be offside – Lino, Lino- you must be blind!”
“Lino – that kitchen floor stuff?” I ask Gilles.
“Lino – it means the linesman,” (That’s the conscript guy with a flag).
The referee blows his whistle for play to continue. A parent of the opposing side calls out “well played lino! – that was never off!”
It then became apparent that the lino guys were from each team and their decisions were allegedly based on a biased interpretation of the rules. By the end of the game it was more or less agreed that all of the officials had obviously lost their sight with solitary handling of their balls. Why does anyone want to be a football official?

Torn shreds of clouds scampered across a pale sky as church bells peeled for morning service. The sound of a ball punted at the far end of the field reached my ears long after the action. This is a world of rules facts and beauties. We are nothing but poor interpreters and conscript linos.

Emma thinx: A granted freedom is merely a longer chain.

Making a Splash

Last weekend at the motorway services I saw an advertisement which said “You shoudn’t have to plan your life around toilet stops”. I must confess I don’t know what product they were offering. I guess it was some kind of she-wee potty or maybe some medication. All the same, I think we’ve all known one another long enough to reveal some of the inner secrets of bus driving. You just cannot stop the bus and get off for a wee. The same problem applies to lorry drivers. My ex husband used to carry a 2 litre plastic milk bottle. If he hit traffic and he was trapped in the cab he would dangle his dingle into the neck and obtain relief. In cold weather with a failed heater, this can be a challenge even for the well developed male. If ever you pull into a lay-by you may see a few containers looking like they contain whisky or orange squash. They do not! Some very inconsiderate truckers just empty the full bottle out of the window whilst travelling at full speed. Do you still want that wind in your hair cabriolet? I hope you realise that in reading this you are being admitted to an inner cognoscenti of romantic novelists, truck and bus drivers. If you are on or driving around a public bus and you feel that the driver is pushing the boundaries of traffic etiquette please try to be aware that the poor soul at the wheel may be in a desperate plight.

The reality is that we are animals no different to say – cats. We have to go but we want to do it somewhere else, and certainly not in our own clothing. The agony of the long distance bus driver is known to many folk in different guises. My worst personal incident was when driving a coach into central London a few years ago. I had had lunch a little late and had had an extra cup of tea. On the A40 I hit terrible traffic. As we crawled towards the Marylebone Road I knew that I could not make it to any kind of refuge. Just as we were about to take the flyover I saw a park to my left. I pulled over, waved at my open-mouthed passengers and dived for the gates. LOCKED!!!! Pressure was unbearable. Then I saw some kind of yard with bins. I dived in and squatted between some huge galvanised stinking cylinders. After a desperate wrestle with trousers – release at last. Even if the Queen of bloody England (she hasn’t got bits) had turned up I could not have stopped. Evidence of my crime flooded out into the street. I felt that sense of shame and relief that surrendering soldiers must feel. Then I bolted back to the bus. The passengers were coming up to London to see a show. I think they thought it was part of the entertainment. A couple of guys gave me a decent tip and a wink.

Emma thinx: The purest happiness is release from anguish.

Brown Eyes To Turn France Red.

I wait at the end of a block of lock up garages. The usual lad is not there. Above us is a concrete village in the sky of about 8 storeys. I watch a woman of close to my own age dragging herself on crutches down some steps towards me. She hauls herself breathlessly up to my window. I notice she has two lip rings. 

“Ee’s not comin’ today – ee’s got an ‘eadache. I would ‘ave phoned but me credit’s gone,” she says.
I thank her and reverse the bus as she struggles back up the concrete steps to the sky village. The radio plays “It’s all about tonight” by a young electro-warblesse called Pixie Lott. The pumped out pop culture kinda overlays the grey inarticulate desperation of so many lives. This is the way we are – a proletariat of tinsel, piercings  and tattoos, climbing the stairs of manipulated individualism towards a nirvana of that lottery win, that Friday night out, that romance like what they does in them trash books.

Well, that cheered you all up didn’t it. My home seems far away this week as I watch the fallen leaves begin to swirl more and more in the Autumn gusts. In France the socialists slug it out to see who will challenge Sarko for the presidency. The departure of DSK from the picture threw everything into disorder. Last night I watched Martine Aubry speaking on the French News. From the distance of the UK I find myself warming to her. She may or may not have had a few problems in the past (it is a job to tell when there are so many dirty tricks). But, if she has had a few issues then she knows about struggle and humanity. She answers questions patiently and has an air of being a neighbour to whom you could chat. She also has kind eyes. Martine – I would vote for you if I had a vote. As it is I’ll just tell Gilles to vote for you. The poor old boy slogs up and down to London directing his branch of the corporate world. He wants to go home. I’m gonna cook him some moules tonight. A couple of weeks ago he saw a rabbit running across the sports field. He glanced at me with a grin. I know what he was thinking. Oh yes I do!

Everyday is a school day. This morning I learned about a style of architecture called “Brutalism”. Essentially it means that 60’s concrete slab style. When I was young it was thought to be modern and artistic. There’s a big debate over whether or not to demolish Preston Bus Station. There’s some folk who want to keep it as a monument. I can see both sides to this. Speaking as a bus driver it looks as if there is plenty of shunt room. Take a look at the picture and let me know. Comments from fellow bus drivers very welcome.

Emma thinx: Room to manoeuvre – get your guy to tidy the lounge.

Turkish Bath

I am writing this between my 2 shifts. The morning session was calm-ish. The architect of yesterday’s belligerence was brought out to the bus by his grandmother. 
“Why did he come home so upset?” She asks.
“He had a row with a girl about some beaver”. I reply rather disingenuously.
“He’s written her a lovely note to say sorry.”
“Oh – that’s wonderful..”
I hear a shriek behind me as the girl tears up the note. Probably a split infinitive or a misspelling I guess. Grandma and I exchange kinda female motherly “well what can you do?” expressions. 
I pull away and increase radio volume to max. Kelly Clarkson belts out “BECAUSE OF YOU” in an accusatory tone of voice. Yes that’s quite right Kelly – it is always because of those others isn’t it. I sing along. I …. I am an artist I tell myself.

I swing the bus into the college yard to do my homeward run.. A fluorescent clad tutor with clipboard approaches. ” We’ll get them all on and then bring out X (the aggro lad).” 
“His Gran asked me what had happened this morning.” I say.
“Tell her to contact us. We deal with these things professionally. You shouldn’t be speaking to people. He’s on the spectrum.”
“I speak to all kinds of people…I can’t help it.” I reply with an irritating antagonistic simplicity. The tutor knows she’s taken a jab but can’t quite figure it. To patronise or not to patronise? – That is the question. She is an educational professional. She can’t help it. She gives me a hard look. I tweak an eyebrow and stare her out. I never did take to teachers you know.

A couple of days ago I did a mass shoppage in ASDA. I won’t go on about how they have reduced the size of pack weights and kept the same prices. Anyone who thinks that price inflation is 5% either hasn’t got weigh scales or a memory. Anyway, I wanted purity, cleanliness and British tradition. I bought 2 bars of Wrights coal tar soap,( I have never seen this in France). A whole childhood of coarse damp towels, icy bathrooms, stinging eyes and  tender flappy bits flashed through my mind. Coal Tar – a substance so brutal that germs commit suicide rather than do battle. I studied the wrapping. It is now “traditional soap”. In very small print underneath are the words “with coal tar fragrance”.
Surely not! Has this last link to virginity and purity been defiled? I study the label. In even smaller print are the words “Made in Turkey”.  Everything is crumbling. Prime Minister Cameron wants me to pay off my credit card and celebrate a gay marriage in his Tory conference speech today. I just want to soap my bits in  an aroma of Empire and BRITISH industrial carbolic. I saw a sign outside the local pub. “Pint of Stella Artois and a Madras curry for £5.” Thank you God. Some traditions stretching back to the Ancient Britons still survive.

Emma thinx: Diversity – a university for twins.