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.
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.
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?
Just before we lower the seat down on this issue I must tell you about one evening in Paris two months ago when I was dining at a Pot au Feu restaurant. We were seated near a door which opened into an airless cupboard which housed la toilette. Another diner dashed into the cupboard and appeared to be immediately swept up in something involving a bullet train and a volcanic explosion. He emerged appearing soothed and returned coolly to his table to continue his elegant life of chic Parisian. We were engulfed in a cloud of gas that contravened the Geneva convention and the laws of physics. I struggled for air while Gilles calmly lifted a bone from his stew to his lips. ” La vie – it is about flesh you know….” He said. He was born there.
As I rode through the town today I saw the cat lady. (See my blog “The cat’s out of the bag”) She was standing in the road with a large pair of binoculars held to her eyes. She was studying the church tower. I must point out that the cat lady is also the bird lady. She is also an angel but probably escaped. She saw me and we did the four kisses.
“Oh my little bonhome, my little flea – you are there.” She explained as if I would understand.
“My little man, my love, my ‘plume blanche’, he is there alive.”
A while ago she found a dazed crashed baby dove with a white breast feather, fed and did whatever angels do to fallen doves and set it free. She watches over it. One day an angel may need a dove for a special mission. As gangstas say on the streets of South London -“Respect”.
Emma thinx: Leaders – Leave out a little seed. A dove may land.