Saturday, 13 November 2010

Operetta for Commuters

Friday morning, the journey today consists of three bus rides. In town I join the group waiting for the bus under the early morning steely blue sky. Turning my back to the penetrating cold damp wind I notice the car lights bouncing off the shimmer of the night's rain on the road.
Our bus arrives and we shuffle on; I slump into one of the vacant places halfway down and as we pull away I feel a reaction in my throat to the overwarm, overdry atmosphere in here. We leave town and the bus accelerates to a resonating rattle then slows and rolls its way over a railway crossing. We increase speed again and cut frightenly close to thin spiny trees that form the edge of the forest here.
In the next village the doors hiss open to imbibe a group of school-bound teenagers. A nervous disproportioned youth sits next to me; tall and thin his enormous feet accentuated in narrow white trainers. His pale face is punctuated with a large red nose. With a mumbled "Ahoj" he starts a converstaion with a bespectacled youth in the seat in front. Nearly full our bus labours up a hill to the last village on our route. Here a mass of small forms swarm onto the bus; each one half child, half school bag. Bright eyed, they chatter excitiedly playing dodgems as they thread their way down the aisle of the bus. We bumble the last mile or two into the town of our destination, soprano and tenor librettos of conversation around me accompanied by bass and baritone coughs from somewhere at the rear of the bus.
At the final stop the bus finally splits open and we spill out. First the highly-charged impatient juniors, followed by the senior pupils, their reluctance the result of experience, and then the adults to take the final bows to the unattentive world.


  1. Congratulations, Tramp, on having mastered the art of patience. I think I may have been tempted to walk the distance, no matter how far. I get a bit unnerved by the chattering masses.

    This was a very well-written piece. I love the last line about the adults taking their "final bows to an unattentive world." There is more than one novel in that poignant, six-word expression."


    You are such a gifted writer. I"see" and "hear" and "feel" every nuance. I was right on the bus with you.And I must say, it wasn't the bst of times :-) only delightful because I shared it with you.
    Love to you always
    Pats and smooches to Lady

    p.s. today is my retirement party at a local restaurant. I am quite excited. It is bittersweet given the reasons why I took early retirement - but a celebration of my life's work all the same. Amen.

  3. That is as good a description of a bus ride as I have ever read. I was there on the bus with you.

  4. George
    I wrote the notes for this during the journey itself when I was in that sort of half world between sleep and waking. I didn't want it to sound too horrific, rather when I wrote it up I recalled the different stages of the journey as we collected more passengers. Only towards the end of writing it up did I think of the comparison with the build up and cresceno of a musical piece.
    As always I value your comments. I hope you are keeping well.

    As I said to George I seem to have made it sound worse than it was. I wanted to particularly put over the difference in the ways the younger pupils (6 to 9 years old I guess) and the older pupils (probably 14 to 18) acted and how the adults were very much in the background. It reminded me very much of my own bus trips to school.
    We (my wife, self, son, grandson and neighbour's son)have just returned from a wonderful walk with Lady on a blustery but very mild late autumn afternoon.
    Good luck this evening. I understand your mixed feelings, too many people view retirement as the end of something rather than the beginning of something. We so often talk about retiring FROM rather than retiring TO, making out that it is the end of being useful. I don't see that in you, Gail. You fill so many useful roles. Don't forget to celebrate the present and the future as well as the past, my friend.

  5. I loved this piece, particularly your description of the very young as half child, half school bag.

    I feel so very sorry for the children who cart more than their own weight around with them on the frail little backs. What is it they have in there?

    I no Longer know what a bus journey is like, they have rather done away with them in my corner of the backwoods.

  6. I loved reading this description of a perfectly ordinary journey which you brought to life so beautifully, I could 'see' everything that you decribed as the bus trundled along.

  7. Rowan
    Thanks, as I sat there and made notes I saw something special in the pefectly normal. Other parts of it that made it seem like a performance were the change in lighting as we reached the stops and the doors opening to admit more members of the cast.