Sunday, June 27, 2010

The people on the bus go up and down

‘Trouble is, car parks cost a fortune’, he said. ‘Especially that North Street one. Hell, last time I was there, I went, “Mister, I don’t want to buy the building, just pay for a couple hours parking”. And do you know what he said?’

‘We don’t have to go in a car, we can get the bus’, I replied.

‘Well I won’t tell you what he said, you being a lady. And don’t get me started on the train.’

‘I wasn’t. I was talking about getting the…’

‘Because Brighton station is nowhere near where we are going. No. Where. Near. And if you think I’m walking more than twenty yards in these shoes, fuggedaboutit.’

‘Whereas the bus stops almost right outside…’

‘So how the hell will we get to the theatre, hmm?’

‘I don’t know. Hey! What about the bus?’

‘Never heard such a crazy idea.’

Planning a theatre trip to the Big City with my dear friend, Pierced Boy, is fraught with complications. He won’t see anything too experimental, or too staid, nor, in defiance of the stereotypes, anything with music (‘unless Bette’s appearing.’). Then it has to be a matinee, as his evenings are fully booked. At last, he agreed to Oscar Wilde’s Salome at the Theatre Royal, largely because of the publicity material: ‘Contains strong scenes that may offend’.

I hadn’t thought our mode of transport would also be contentious. I love the good old 28/29 bus. I used to catch it every day, amusing myself en route by watching the old man conducting an imaginary orchestra at the front, and by eavesdropping on baffling conversations (‘Barcelona is another one.’ ‘Oh, absolutely; appalling vertigo.’) And by running a private sweepstake regarding the length of the journey. The bus timetable makes stick-a-pin-in guesses as to arrival at Churchill Square, not factoring in (a) the random time the bus departed from Lewes (b) the award-winning roadworks outside B&Q and (c) how long the driver takes to pop in for a pee at the depot.

Pierced Boy was unconvinced. ‘Don’t you remember Margaret Thatcher? “A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.”’

‘Surely that would encourage you to take a bus? Anyway, you don’t look a day over 25.’

Flattery works. We were soon on the top deck of a 28. P-Boy was enthralled. ‘It’s so cheap! And you can look out the window and see who’s got a bald spot.’

We had a terrific time at the show, being enjoyably offended by the strong scenes, but got separated in the crush on the way out. P-Boy sent me a text to say he had, bravely, got on a bus by himself. I caught one shortly afterwards.

Two hours later, my phone rang.

‘Fell asleep. Did you know, the 28 goes all the way to Tunbridge Wells? Think I’ll take in a little light shopping while I’m here. Then get a cab home.’

Beth Miller, 16th June 2010. Published in Photo by Alex Leith

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