Rural Bus Journey

Rural Bus Journey

Rural bus services aren’t like the Tube. You are allowed, in fact invited, to speak and chat and share in the tittle tattle and banter.  It snowed yesterday and someone had moved the bus stop’s wooden bench so it was outside the shelter. The bench was wet. This could have been worthy of a letter to the Parish Council in the eyes of some, but with a bit of co-operation, and without cursing The Youth too much, we moved it back into the shelter, so hopefully it will be dry sometime in the next week or so. A gentleman with wobbly and weary legs, with a walking frame aid, had just arrived at the shelter reassuring me that I’d not missed the bus. Wobbly knows the timetable by heart. The bus was just a little late, perhaps because of the snow. Another passenger arrived with a stick, thick glasses, and a scowl and she began her huffing and puffing and cursing the snow. She doesn’t care much for Christmas, she said. I smiled, placated her by telling her that the bus was just coming, and she managed to crack a smile showing her sparse pearly whites. We get on, Wobbly first, then Pearly, then me, in the order in which we’d arrived at the bus stop. I’ve learned that bus queue etiquette is that Order counts. The driver was cheerful and full of festive spirit. Wobbly and Pearly take their seats and chatter about the downside of snow, and the requirement for 24-7 heating. We wind down the lanes to the next village. A rosie-cheeked chap with tired eyes flashes his pensioner’s bus pass at the driver and joins us on our journey. He sits down a few seats back, and rummages in his bag. He comes over and gives Pearly a Christmas card. She thanks him, and comments on its size. “It’s a small one” she says with a hint of sauce, “but size doesn’t matter, it’s the thought that counts”. The floodgates open, and the double entendres flow as she comments how she has “a big one” for him. I think she means it in every sense. “Have you got many Christmas cards?” Pearly asks The Small One. It seems that he has an ingenious, very environmental, economical way of feeling the festive spirit. He describes, in detail, how he puts up the cards he has kept from last year, and the years before, along with Fathers’ Day cards, Birthday cards and more, to make the house look festive, and to enjoy those cards again and again. He doesn’t mention Valentine’s cards. That’s proper recycling and reuse I think to myself. He gets to enjoy card from his friends who are no longer here, and those who can no longer write or can’t be bothered to write cards. Remembrance cards. The Small One goes on to say that he had received a card from his son, saying that he couldn’t post his present as it’d break. The Small One hadn’t got a card from his daughter, yet, he says hopefully. I hope she’s remembered to send her Dad one, big or small. He needs one, I thought.   The Small One moves to sit nearer Pearly. He tells a slurred tale of last night, being out at the races, and drinking beer for the first time in years. So that’s what the smell was I thought, I’d been wondering if someone had brought some dog poo onto the bus on their shoe. The Small One had been out at the races and got home at 4am. He’d done well to make the just-past-ten o’clock bus. No wonder he looks rosie-cheeked. He describes his evening, with friends and dogs, and beers and whisky. He says he’d left the Christmas lights on around his front-door so that he could find his house in the snowy moonlight at 4am when he finally got back after the two hour minibus ride. ” I I I haven’t drunk for ‘ears but but but I made up for it last last last night!” He proudly finishes his sentence, reminding me of that chap on the Parish Council in the Vicar of Dibley. “I I I hadn’t touched beer for ‘ears and ‘ears, but it went down down down very nicely, and then, and then, and then we started on on on the whisky. Then then then we had one one one or two for the the the road.” I did the maths. He had had five and a half hours sleep, at his age, he should know better. He would have been over-taking, not just keeping up with, The Youth with those partying habits. “Were there any ladies there?” asks Pearly, seeing an opportunity. I ring the bell and I reach my destination, bid my farewells and hop off, all the better for a rural bus journey.   Written on the train in Hertfordshire on  17/12/11

Rural Bus Journey

Vicky Galbraith, December 2011

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