The Sultan Of Sullen.

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?

That curtain smile

From the genteel parks and terraces of Leamington to the cab of my bus this morning. “Ee’s doin’ is teef.” Came the voice from the 23rd floor. Regular readers will know that this is the standard response when I call to pick up a particularly time challenged student. “Could ee do is teef before the bus comes?” I reply.
 “Wah? We dunno when you’re gonna be ‘ere?” 
“Get ‘im ta do is teef when ee gets up.” I reply in dialect
“Ee does – ee gets straight aht a bed and does ‘is teef.”
I wonder if I’ll ever meet the voice from floor 23. I suspect she has a hard life up there. At least the dental hygiene should be OK.

I’m never really sure how to feel about animals. I always keep in mind how much I enjoy eating quite a few of them. I know that as a Romantic novelist I should be a cat and dog lover with at least a frilly poodle called fartio. I can never quite get over the knowledge that cats torture little birds. Dogs on the other hand roll in dung and lick their own and other dogs’ bottoms before moving on to your face. Both species can be infected with parasitic worms that cause severe illness and blindness in children who are apt to pick up cat and dog faeces. If this kinda stuff worries you check out Toxocariasis here. I only mention this because a friend’s daughter lost her vision on account of this problem. I suppose that my attitude to animals is unsentimental, practical and culinary.

All the same, I can see the charm of dogs. In the yard where the buses sleep there is a rag-bag of sheds, grease pits, vehicle repairers and various oily humans who appear to have been absorbed in an osmotic process by their overalls. All sorts of welding, car cutting, foreign tongues, hammering, revving engines, paint spraying and diesel smoke merge to form a synthesis of something I call Fumanity. I adore the place. In amongst this mechanical stew lives Alf – the workshop dog. He is a terrier and looks like he is a kinda mobile wiping rag. So many lubricated hands pat him that he has taken on the colour of sump oil. He kinda growls out with lop-sided white teeth through  an axle grease beard. Most of the time he runs about with an old football begging for anyone to kick it for him to chase. Then he dives under or into trucks, bins, piles of scrap, greasing pits or buses to retrieve it. He also attacks any kind of water hose – the water just beads off the grease. If anyone wants me to investigate the full story of Alf please let me know. I believe he has lived there for many years.

Just as an aside I must admit that since I have been back on the buses, grinding out a working life, all that romance fiction seems  wonderful, yet for me un-writeable. I just can’t imagine swooning in the arms of a billionaire hunk. I dream of traffic and hooting road- ragers. If a spillionaire (saturated with uncountable wealth) hunk cut me up in his Ferrari I’d probably smack his smug orthodontically perfect gob.

Emma thinx: Do it doggy fashion. Collar him and take the lead.

Left Right Left Right.

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.

Where next for determinism?

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.

I’m shoving it.

So we cruised up towards the coast.The names of towns had lived their growing signposts of fame, then slipped away behind like rejected talent show hopefuls: Poitiers, Tours, Le Mans. It’s really quite alarming to realise that there actually is a weather line at the River Loire. The temperature steadily reduced by about 8 degrees Centigrade as we neared the coast. About a mile from the port there is a Mcdonalds and I could tell that Gilles was getting a bit excited. You see I have the zeal of the convert and see myself as une Francaise , une maitresse de moules, une femme de fromage. All in all too posh to nosh. Not so my Gallic gourmet -“Zay ave zee Big Tasty.” He told me. The place was crowded. (The French are lovin’it – but don’t tell anyone). We queued behind 4 chavs – baseball hats backwards, bits of bling, a few tattoos. Somewhere in their lives would be a hot hatch with an exaggerated exhaust pipe. I wanted coffee with my Big Tasty meal. “Impossible!” Snapped the serveuse. 
“It is not part of the Big Tasty menu.” Mumbled the rude child in an exasperated tone. She was the kind of person who would be rejected by Somali pirates. I ordered 2 Big tasty meals and a separate coffee. I could tell she despised my tactical manoeuvre. We munched – or rather licked and absorbed our soggy baps. I felt like an amoeba slithering my body around the outside of some unspeakable nutrient mass. Gilles pretended to be enjoying himself but I know that deep down he is a flame grilled whopper guy. 

We pulled away. In the distance were the lights of the port. Now -have you ever seen a horse galloping in the lead towards the last fence of the Grand National. Suddenly the animal looks at the fence and says “Nah!- I’ve had enough.” Yes- the car saw those lights and stopped – more or less dead. She did not want to leave France. She could read my pain. The thought of driving on the left had stopped her heart. Gilles started to make unrepeatable remarks about having given le garagiste 1,600 Euros. All that cholesterol and anger at his age could be dangerous. We needed some exercise. The push was only about a mile. We huffed and puffed up to the check in and just about let it roll up to the cabin. I was worried that they might not let us in pushing the car. No one noticed. We were directed to follow a Monsieur red vest. We shrugged and looked helpless. We had our boarding cards. We could ask for Asylum.

There were many shrugs, smiles and “C’est la vie”sentiments. A large lorry appeared driven by a cheerful docker. We explained the story of the newly repaired car. The guy shrugged. “In Charentes they only think of beaches and the sun…this is no surprise.”
He towed us on board. He shook our hands. As France slipped away behind us we made for the bar. The beer was French, the tricolore trailed out stiffly behind the ship. I was still a little bit at home.

Emma thinx: Disappointed? But deep down you were right weren’t you. 

Privates On Parade.

I suppose Toulouse Lautrec started it all off. There is an idea that France (well, Paris) is the land of ooh la la with Curvy Chicks in Naughty Knicks. From my own sorties into Pigalle I wonder if any of the Ladies are French. Sexy France exists – but it does not exist in anything like the form that Sexy South London exists. Whenever I throw in some remark about “getting enough” or “I do like a big one” in true “Carry On film” tradition, French ladies look at each other uncomfortably, not knowing whether or not to acknowledge the “Double Entendre”. Well it was them who gave us the expression (You Yanks will get this stuff from Benny Hill. See his News Flash here). Of course, they do have sex, probably in very normal quantities but bedroom doors are very firmly closed. However,whilst I grew up in a society of women who would chat over tea, coffee,wine, beer, cider or vodka martini about issues of “personal tastes and behaviour”, I find Gallic ladies to be…..well – ladies. For a while I worked in a bakery making famous brand sliced loaves.(Let’s call it “Father’s Fancy”). The conduct and conversation of the young women was at first astonishing, became profoundly educational and finally deeply human. Maybe this happens in France. I’m clinging on trying to be a writer – but the bread factory beckons. Be sure, I’ll report back if I end up there.

I have a feeling that the French privacy laws probably affect some of the attitudes I have described. In the UK, a headline such as “Lady judge and tennis hunk swap balls in Court” are normal. No such thing happens here. Privacy is enshrined in the French constitution. Only since the European Convention On Human Rights was accepted by the UK government have pop stars, footballers et al  taken to Law to ring-fence their lives. This is a tricky one. Much comment surrounds the DSK affair. (Head of IMF and New York hotel behaviour). Seemingly he’s always been known as a right old lover of the female form but all the press kept quiet. Now all my Romance writing career I’ve actually been looking for a role model distinguished world-controlling billionaire. So that’s what you’d end up with! No thanks – I’ll stick with fantasy if that’s the real show. 

Emma thinx: Fallen woman – watch the rush to pick her up.