All of the kids except one come out of college at 3.45pm. The final passenger finishes his class at 4.15pm and emerges at about 4.30pm.(Funding only runs to one bus for the whole city). He does not rush. He is a charmless youth whom I think of as the Sultan of Sullen. If such thoughts ever became known to the Authorities I think I’d be looking at a spell in jail. Whilst we all wait for him the kids do what they do best: ARGUE and FIGHT. I suppose I should care, but I really don’t. A student runs from the bus in tears and returns with an harassed tutor who attempts to intervene in a matter of infantile infinity rooted in the affairs of a pop singer called Justin Beaver who one supports or does not support. After five minutes of counselling the teacher rolls his eyes at me and suggests that I seat various kids apart. I suggest firmly that I am a bus driver and that louts who cannot behave should walk to college. Eventually the Sultan of Sullen turns up and exclaims “F**k**g shut up you c***ts” (Actually I couldn’t have put it better myself).The tutor exits stage left pursued by a stare.
I direct the bus out into the traffic. Miles away there has been a crash and rather like stock markets, serial panic has set in. I inch my way across the city, dropping off my students. Suddenly a plaintiff call from a girl behind – “Emma – I need a toilet.” Now, this kid has been on the bus for nearly 2 hours. To my left are some bushes on a kind of road island. I pull over. I don’t ask but I hope it’s just a pee. I get her off the bus and stand there as a kinda guard. After far too long she comes back looking grubby with a branch of holly in her hair and dead leaves sticking out of her clothing. I didn’t ask – I did not want to know the answer. No one died. So far I’m not in jail. All in all a good day. Romance writing and middle class life in France (or anywhere) seem like a universe away. Well, actually they are.
Nobel prizes today for the dark matter physicists. These are the guys who have shown that the rate of expansion of the universe is increasing. Apparently this leads to a theory of dark energy. Look – my dark roots used to grow at an increasing rate until grey energy started to take over and slow everything down into decline. Believe me guys – everything will shrink back. Classical Physics remains unchallenged.
Emma thinx: Would a dark matter neutrino out-accelerate its own non existence?
The weather is warm and succulent like the juice of a pear on the lips in those last minutes before climax spills into decay. When I was a girl my mother used to describe all old men (and most other men) pejoratively as “fruity”. Essentially this meant unattractive men who still had desires. Now I write about attractive men who have desires. They are often quite unpleasant so I’m gonna think of them as “stoney”. Well, today I feel fruity – I guess this is how all those ugly old guys felt. It is sad when a season ends, even if it is Winter. To me there is always that sense of time rushing on with a merciless finality that no pleading or longing will stop. It is also sad when a more transcendent season ends. The closure of the American Space Programme in a sense is the end of a human season. Recently I heard Neil Armstrong talking about the good old days on the moon. At the same time the Chinese are at full lift off to get cheap clothing and chow mein to the Martians. I’ve heard there are mono sodium glutamate deposits on Venus. I bet some clever guy has already bought them. But, come on yanks, the old space show gave us technology, pride, belief, heroism and focus. You can’t just let the grey guys in suits serve out your bowl of gruel while you stand in line to pay penance for having created the modern world. Growth costs money. If we’re all gonna be capitalists then we should know that when you’re weak you cannot starve yourself back to health. Get that sovereign debt, poke it firmly into some bloated creditors and fire it at the moon. Let them set up a market and crash it there.It’ll be a softer landing for all of us.
I was fascinated to hear that 2,000 people had applied for 16 refuse collectors jobs in the city. I know these are not high status posts but look at the alternatives. Call centre robot, burger flipper, exploited door to door chugger (Charity contribution mugger). I wonder what would happen if someone advertised a real job – like making something!
Today I’ve seen 2 snow ploughs being driven around. In each case the driver appeared to be under the supervision of an official in green vest, safety goggles, construction site helmet and a clipboard. This is the invariable modern uniform of a guy from the Council. A little research shows that they are having a programme of dry run training so that they are ready for the real thing. I guess they won’t be rolling at 40 mph in a line of traffic and there might be some snow. I guess you have to get used to that council guy in the cab. But do they know something?
Emma thinx: Genetic engineering – the final front ear.
How far away my home in France seemed today. I saw a car wipe the mirror off a parked vehicle and just keep going. On the petrol forecourt at ASDA a road rager tried to punch in the side window of a terrified old guy accused of queue jumping. I think he was just a bit confused. He made off in terror. The raging bull was about 40, nicely dressed, driving a newly registered big BMW. I sent an early death with boils and suffering ray at him. He scowled back. I’m gonna do a voodoo doll of him later just in case I missed with the hate ray. What I’m trying to say is that it all seems so angry here. It’s as if we are overcrowded rats. Of course you can’t compare a rural environment with a crowded urban horror of traffic, concrete and suspicion. Many years ago I wrote a poem when I was living in a run down environment. Check out “Angry Man In The Flats” here.
Suddenly the news is filled with whips. (No black leather or high heels guys). The body in charge of UK horse racing has declared that whipping (of horses) should be allowed but should be reduced. I was once at a horse race where a horse ridden by a well known jockey snapped a leg. The millionaire mega star aimed a tirade of abuse at the animal and stamped off to his helicopter. The horse was destroyed.
Then came the news that a Saudi lady, Rima Al-Mukhtar is to be whipped for the offence of driving a car – a practice banned apparently not by God, but by guys with beards acting on his behalf. Now as a lady bus driver I really do feel that we need to get a grip of this kinda stuff. Why do we stand for it? Why do we allow this barbarianism to go unchallenged? Do I hear the answers OIL and DEFENCE CONTRACTS? In France there is much controversy about females wearing burquas. Several have been fined small amounts. President Sarko believes that it is about the liberty of women, although apparently some women want to look like daleks in bin liners. What I want to know is how you blow your nose when you’ve got a streaming cold, or if you sneeze? Does it just run down inside the fabric. Is there a special kind of cloth called Sneezelamé? What worries me is that there are religious guys who would like to impose this kinda show on all of us. I don’t think so comrades!
The car is back! Looks like it was what Gilles told them. At least he’ll be happy and righteous.
Emma thinx: Female lashes? Looks like the Ayes have it.
Another day survived with the bus. The number of pick ups and the available time do not add up. Well, they do add up to being late! One of the problems is sleepy headed boys who appear to live unsupervised lives in less than encouraging situations. Ho hum – it’s a learning curve and certainly a re-acquaintance with the less advantaged element of society.
Of course the kids all want to listen to pop music radio at high power. They appear to be quite happy with endless commercials for new cars and people who buy old scrap cars. In just one advertising slot the whole of our economic system is exposed. For me the pop music has been a bit of a revelation. I know I’m getting old but to me it all sounds the same semi electronic auto tuned nonsense. Their favourite is called “Moves like Jagger”. Does that refer to good old Brown sugar Mick? Surely not I thought. I asked the kids on the bus who Jagger was – nobody knew. I mean old Mick must be drawing his state pension by now- but a bit of You Tube research reveals him to be the inspiration. The guy singing sounds like a robot toy. I’m just gonna have to wise up and get some new stuff on my i pod. I do like Mr Saxobeat – check it out here! I think it’s a bit sexy. As soon as I kick them all off the bus I dive back to Radio 4 and head for the depot with nice posh people telling me that we’re all doomed. It’s such a relief from all that cheerful stuff.
Talking of doom – check this out. The BBC interviewed a money changer in the temple last night. AND HE JUST SPILLED THE BEANS. In fact he spilled so many beans that I don’t think all the bean counters are gonna be able to measure the effects of his candour. Watching him I really did not warm to him and I would like to know his agenda. He wants a crash because he needs one to make his big trades and scoop the gold from the Rhine maidens. If they give him an International TV stage to talk up a crash they are playing into his hands surely. He strikes me as one of those guys with eight brains, but not necessarily all connected.(Could he be a scam?) Make up your own minds.
Emma thinx: The wise are too intelligent to bother being clever.
In the office I mumbled a few “hellos” to other drivers. The guy behind the desk handed me some keys and a worksheet. “You’ve got the 21 seater on locals – it’s door to door”. I heard a comrade driver give a little ironic laugh. “Hope the little sods are ready!” I walked out to the vehicle which is a kind of stretched mini bus. I had given myself plenty of time to put all the data into Sat Naff. The first pick up was right across the other side of the city. I filled in the tachometer sheet and did the vehicle defect report. Right girl – you’ve gotta get on top of this. Forget all frilly romance novelist nonsense and do a good job. I had plenty of time. My first pick up was at 0715 and the traffic was still light. Sat Naff chattered away. I tuned the radio to BBC radio 4. Stock markets were crashing…wars were thrashing….sex offenders were flashing…..As Euro summit talks controlled the world, I controlled my bus through unfamiliar streets towards a large peripheral housing estate with a troubled reputation. With minutes to spare I pulled up at the base of a dilapidated tower block. Graffiti tagged concrete walls backdropped some fly tipped bin bags and old car tyres. I spoke to Sat Naff about the times we had had together. “Why did you bring me here?” he said. “You brought me here!” I replied. “I am a machine – you have free will”. It’s a good job he doesn’t write novels.
No one appeared. A lady in pyjamas wandered past with a plastic bottle of milk. I got out, locked the bus and went to the intercom. It was out of service. I decided against trying to get in and going to the flat. I gave it a further 5 minutes and drove off. So far so good. The next half dozen went smoothly but I noticed that I was already late. My phone started to ring. I pulled over. “You’ve forgot one at the tower block”. Said a rather harsh voice. “He didn’t come out.”
“He’s got anger issues and couldn’t find his tablets – can you go back for him?” Well, I was already late – and now I had a real excuse. I went back. A lad jumped in, punching his fist in to the palm of his other hand. I sat him in the front where I could see him. He plugged himself in to Lady Gaga. We finished the round and headed for the college. Sat Naff was a wonderful friend, (well, he did want me to short cut through a pub car park but no one is perfect). Gradually I noticed that the kids were kinda laughing and shouting out a couple of words. GOSHE. DRAT. GOSHE. DRAT. They had cottoned on to Sat Naff who is still set on French! I laughed too. I think we’re all gonna get along just très bien
Emma thinx: Sat Nav – where your sense of direction becomes the direction of your senses.
I will admit to a certain tension in the stomach and sweaty palms as I swung the 52 seater coach through the barbed wire topped rusty gates and out onto the dual carriageway. These are big machines. In recent years I must confess that I have hung out with mainly middle class English folk, none of whom hold large vehicle licenses. I do not know anyone socially who can back up an articulated lorry with a 45 foot trailer (I believe that is a rig and semi-trailer for you guys out there). I’m not a tom-boy – it’s just that I had the chance to get the licenses and improve my chances of work a few years ago. Now, I have some lovely middle class friends who are good people and far kinder and sweeter than I am. However, there is a huge gulf between social classes in the UK. AND THE MAIN DIFFERENCE IS MONEY. These days I swan off to the opera, serve foie gras at dinner parties, gabble in a couple of foreign languages, write (and parody) romance fiction and indulge my love of art at any exhibition I want to see. And it is all because there is enough money to give me the resources and time to do it. Left to myself as a bus driver I would be poor and exhausted. I would be buying the out of date stuff at the discount store and maybe dreaming of a take-out pizza as a treat. If you go to the opera or the ballet – take a look around and tell me there that we do not have social,cultural and income apartheid.
Now, why is this? If I need a lawyer he/she will cost me about £200 per hour. By driving a bus I will get £5.93p an hour. You can argue that the lawyer had to do more training and is more intelligent. I can assure you that an incompetent lawyer will kill fewer people than an incompetent heavy goods vehicle driver. It is far from certain that a lot of the professional classes could handle heavy trucks and buses. The fact is that the controlling classes have skewed all of the systems to maximize their own take and to minimize wages for the working classes.The Trades Unions have lost both their power and, equally importantly, have lost their articulacy and leadership. Maybe this is the natural law of the Universe and that the poor will always be with us. And they will always have souls just like the rich.
So, I survived the check run and I start Monday morning. I know it is gonna be a bit of a challenge because I’m rather a soft old posh trollop these days. I’ve spotted a greasy spoon burger caravan on the industrial estate so perhaps I can take one home for Gilles as a special treat. I’m not sure where I’ll be driving or in what vehicle. I’m gonna take Sat Naff as my friend. (I know it sounds daft but Sat Naff really seems like a friend when I feel a bit lost and alone.)
We’ve got some dear friends for dinner tonight – hence all this moules and foie gras discussion. Now that I’ve got a horny handed job and can bang on about the struggle of the proletariat I’ll have to shut up. There’s nothing as tedious as the bloody righteous- particularly when it’s only essentially a posture.(I mean if I didn’t go to work next week there wouldn’t be debt collectors kicking the door).I wouldn’t die on the barricades or go without proper harissa paste or a decent cut of lamb in my authentic tagine dish.
How far away my home seems now. I wonder if there are any late figs and if the neighbours are harvesting them and the apples. As I cycled back through the industrial estate, past the KFC into the swirl of traffic and the fumes of container trucks I had a quick flash back to my other life. A taxi driver gave me the finger for slowing him down in the bus lane. I quickly snapped out of my dream and gave him a gesture concerning his solitary sex life. I’m re-finding my roots.
Still no car. The garage thinks it might be a semi emotional or electrical problem. Gilles keeps telling everyone that it is the torque converter. They say they’ll phone back. They don’t.
Emma thinx: Is wrongeous or lefteous the opposite of righteous?
A gorgeous Autumn day. I am looking out at verdant grass, sparkling with slightly amber dew as the low sun hauls itself above the trees. Oh yes- this is England. Now no church bells mark my hours and once again I will wear a watch. The noose of time tightens. At least I know the words for everything – well almost. I’ve just been phoning around to get some pâté de foie gras. Can you believe that there is none! Whist on the line to the deli I asked a young girl if they stocked moules. She went off to ask the manager and didn’t come back.
Other than imminent economic implosion, the News is filled with uplifting English tales. Eight year old boys apparently put on a cage fight in a social club to entertain the crowd. I suppose I should be shocked – but I’m not. At least there were adults to supervise and I imagine that the parents actually knew where their children were that night. When my brood were adolescents I suggested to various toy companies that they produce inflatable street corners with spittoons so that kids could hang out safely in the warm at home. Since then inflatable friendships and hostilities have been developed by social media and most kids are too badly affected with rickets to go out.
On the subject of pugilism I hear that the boxers of Azerbaijan tried to buy gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics. If you wanna read about this kinda stuff in boxing get my novel “Knockout”. It’s all true. The book is damn near free at 99 cents or 86 pence on Amazon Kindle. There’s SEX too, but I know you wouldn’t read it just for that soppy stuff.
I’m not sure what to make of the discovery by Italian scientists of particles that travel faster than the speed of light. I’ve always known that if you are in a hurry, stockings ladder before you touch them. I’ve also found out that banks put charges on your account before you perform any transactions. The philosophical implications for fiction writers are massive. Characters will move ahead of the plot into a kind of uncharted mist without any causal structure. Come to think of it, I might have already written a couple of novels like this.
This afternoon I’m going to the bus depot to sort out my next career move. I’ve spotted quite a few lady bus drivers. Dear old Geoffrey will be there to ease me into the system. Once again I am to be a horny handed daughter of toil. Maybe I won’t drone on about the shortage of foie gras just yet.
Emma thinx: Causality – the next great step for man.
We awoke at 5am. At least there was Breakfast at Brittany’s to look forward to. I try to avoid anything too healthy. I always go for the salmon, the boiled eggs and the ham. I knew that an ordeal lay ahead. The broken down car was sitting sullenly on the car deck. They had put us with the lorries, expecting to tow us off the ship. Gilles had other ideas. He suspected that once the gearbox fluid had cooled it would produce enough friction to get us moving at tick-over revs. If we could sneak out with the trucks and clear immigration we could break down in comfort. And so it was that we found ourselves without transmission about 500 metres (that’s 546 British yards) on the safe side of the border. A security guy starts shouting and waving. We shrug in a kinda Gallo-Anglo manner. The guard approaches.
“Thirty years Sir – thirty years I’ve been in Security Madame – I’ve seen so much bad parking Sir- Dear me- so much anger….I didn’t mean to shout Madame….but you have to…..so much anger Sir ….I just see so much of it. Just yesterday Madame, I was on routine patrol in the terminal building. Anger Sir- yes, a man assailed me. Frustration – that’s what it is Madame. Frustration leading to anger Sir.” The guy was an absolute gent and something of an English eccentric. We offered confusing hands to shake. Well – we are foreign.
We awaited the tow truck. The AA arrived. The car went to the Mercedes dealer. We unloaded all the gear and at about lunchtime arrived at my new home in a breakdown truck. I saw an old guy peer round the gate and then scurry away before he had to kiss and shake hands. Um – no, they don’t do that do they. He probably went off to tell the neighbours that a load of pikeys (semi nomadic scrap metal dealers and asphalt contractors) were moving in and they drive around in a lorry.
Well, the house has green grass and an oak tree filled with gorgeous black crows. It’s all quite posh really. I keep staring at the red clay bricks – I had forgotten bricks! The house is on a rental contract and Gilles will be taking the train to London. He indulged me by coming to the Test Valley so that I can see Rosina. The area looks like the sort of place where they have the Women’s Institute and the Rotary club. To be honest I feel very out of place. I’m gonna make friends with the crows. At first sight there are 2 colonies in 2 separate trees. I have missed garden birds in Charentes.
Emma thinx: Who imagined that tree you’re looking at?
Well, it had to happen. I’m on the way back to the UK at least until Christmas. Gilles has to work in London for a while. (That’s where I grabbed him in the first place). There is also the very distinct possibility that I will be getting a job. It’s about time! I had enough savings to keep myself propped up during the summer and more or less dedicated myself to writing….and maybe a bit of hedonistic pure idleness. Being able to write in tranquillity without all the jingle jangle has been wonderful. The fruits of these labours should surface over the next couple of months. In the mean time I hope to take the kind of job suited to a Romantic novelist, poet and philosopher. Yes, you’ve guessed it – I’m gonna be a bus driver. Well, not a really real one. My friend Geoffrey Phillips who did the narration on “Sub Prime” works for a school bus operator and there is vacancy for ME. You may wonder why I have a bus driver’s license? Well, I’ll leave that question hanging just to excite you. But all this proves exactly what I said yesterday. All those top jobs and inside information never come out to the masses. So, even a minimum wage, no contract, casual job gets sorted out under the radar because you know someone. I am a pluto-rat and a self seeker. I am ashamed. In the case of a bus driving job this is known as Depotism.
But, I’m putting my shoulders back and breathing that pure air of the proletariat. The British climate is often horrid. I am anticipating cold wet darkness. I will be one of my own people, sharing their struggle, mashing my potatoes into their gravy, voting on X factor, building the barricades, frying my fish fingers, preparing Findus savoury pancakes. The serious issue here is that once again I will be able to comment on the national politics. In France I have always kept quiet because it is not my country and not my place to opine. I have loved my home in Charente Maritime and soon enough I will be back. Maybe the next book will be mega and I can once again think of writing full time. For now I just have a couple of issues on which to concentrate. Remember to drive on the left. Recover my proper accent!
Emma thinx: One door closes. A trap door opens.
I don’t know about you but I felt pretty wretched yesterday. Those awful events are printed on us like unfading tattoos. Gravity seemed pompous and levity seemed flippant and cold. Just to rejoice in life seemed selfish. I hope all Americans realise how deeply Europeans feel their sorrow. Here in France and I know from friends in the UK, yesterday was a very special sombre day. People spoke of little else and they did not speak much.
This morning the good old BBC re-started the world with the news that UK police had raided an illegal “travellers” caravan site and had discovered “slaves”. What this means is that all manner of the ugly, the girls too unattractive for sex, the mentally handicapped, the addicted and the mentally ill etc. had been held captive by greedy gangmasters and used as slave labour without pay. Now, to polite middle class British Society this matter appears to be astonishing. These days I can posture as a polite lady offering French cuisine tips, chatting about fruit jam, the entertainment at restaurants and chortling at my good fortune in life. You see – I’ve got a bit of money (AND DON’T KID YOURSELVES – THAT IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT). It was not always thus. Once upon a time as a result of my own failings and lusts I ended up poor and somewhat dispossessed. I had to bear all manner of trouble. Compared to the suffering of many people’s lives it was nothing. I wrote a story titled “Sub Prime”. From the dozens of short stories I have churned out this is the only one I try to promote. The rest are trash market dictated product to be quite frank. All I can say about this story is that it is true and that these things go on. It’s free on Smashwords because I don’t want any money from it. It would be free on Amazon but they do not seem to allow us Indie Authors to price at zero. If the word “Gangmaster” is only something you’ve heard pronounced in a journalistic voice on the media then spend the entire sum of nothing and get an insight. I was lucky – I was a migrating bird touching down to re-fuel. There are many flightless birds.
Oh No – money takes the world to ground. Awful wailings and gnashings of imperfectly formed teeth in the French banking world. OK – you buy securities that aren’t secure at higher than their value and ghastly gimlet eyed bean counters poke at your balloons. Look – we all know the direction this is heading. Let’s hope that it doesn’t end up with guys in uniform bellowing simplicities into hungry ears. Now, why would anyone think that could happen?
Emma thinx: Justice: One man one second to act. All men for ever to judge.