Bus Hour

I finished work a whole hour early today. I didn’t ask to finish early, it was offered to me and I’m not one to turn things like that down. So I left work at four and, in my head at least, was pondering what I could do when I got home at about half past four.

At half past four I was still in town. I was, technically, on a bus although the bus was going nowhere because the bus in front of it was also going nowhere and, apparently, you can’t have buses running out of order because it upsets the status quo of the universe (as opposed to upsetting Francis Rossi, although if he’d been on my bus he’d have been a bit cheesed off as well).

My first mistake came in believing that I’d get home as quickly as I’d hoped. Even the merest hint of a neuron generating that idea is enough to upset the apple cart of public transport so, in a way I brought it on myself. I also didn’t help matters by having to nip into Sainsburys first for a couple of pieces of salmon and spend a while staring at their offers trying to make sense of them and then blog about it while sounding like a salmon geek.

Basically, you can buy two salmon fillets for £4, or three packs for a tenner. That’s grand. It’s just normal bog standard salmon, nothing really too special about it. For random prices in the £2-3 pound range you can dip into the Sainsbury’s basics range and get what amounts to a plastic tray filled with salmon mis-shapes. But still, it looks nice and tasty so you can’t really fault it. But then there’s also the Taste The Difference Salmon which normally weighs in at £4.99 for two pieces. But they’re decent size, quite sexy looking pieces. And they were on offer – a pound off. Making them £3.99 – a whole penny less that the no-frills-but-at-least-it-looks-like-it-came-from-a-fish salmon. The problem is, when you come across offers like this you find yourself looking for the catch, the hidden consequence of plumping for the better stuff at a cheaper price than the other stuff you’ll usually buy. All of which served to delay me getting to the bus.

And then the bus came but the driver got off. And no replacement driver came. So we all stood, and waited. Someone in the queue would randomly poke their head out to one side to see if a driver was coming. We were like a line of commuting meerkats, all of us straining to see a lumbering man in a high-vis jacket round the corner of Sainsbury’s. Or, in this case, not.

So, he didn’t come. Then the next bus came. So, as is the usual case in these situations, the entire queue moves to the newly arrived bus. We all get on, some passengers muttering about how the bus in front hasn’t gone, asking the driver when he’ll be setting off and things of a similar nature. All of the time, these people seem to be oblivious to the fact that the bus we’re now on is practically humping the bus in front, leaving no room for it to move out, so we’d be stuck there until the bus in front goes. But the bus in front can’t go because it has no driver.

But wait, he’s just turned up. So that means that the bus in front will be leaving first. A ripple of dissent travels along the bus. All the passengers are outraged. “Why are we all on this bus when the bus in front is going to set off first?” “You are joking me aren’t you, that bus is going to go first?” Seriously. Someone even said “Are you lying to me?” No-one had said anything to him – I assume he was talking to either his eyes or his brain, both of which were relaying information to him about the bus in front which now had a driver and would be setting off first.

So, then everyone piles off the bus they’d all scrambled to get on and shuffles down the pavement as fast as their tracksuit bottoms would allow to get on the bus we were queueing for in the first place which then set off.  I was still on the second bus because I couldn’t be arsed with all the fannying around. As it happens we set off about a minute or two later – hardly worth the mass exodus to the other bus.

And it still beat being in work.

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Furry Man Bites Boy

A boy was eaten on my bus yesterday. I wasn’t on the bus so I don’t know the actual story behind this. I’ve pieced it together from over-hearing a couple of people talking about it tonight. And eaten may be a bit of an over-exaggeration as well. This is what I heard.

“Someone was bitten on the bus yesterday.”
“What?”
“A boy, he was bitten on the bus yesterday.”
“What? By a man?”

Now, I don’t know about you but my first thought on hearing (or even over-hearing) someone has been bitten is not to start looking round for a particular peckish looking passenger. My first thought is that it’s probably an animal, so then I’ll obviously start trying to work out what kind of animal it could be. Obviously, it could be anything. Lions are known for the biting. Or a bear. Maybe a cat. Or a badger. You’re on safer ground if you start thinking about dogs – they bite things and are not averse to riding on public transport even though they begrudge having to pay for their owners to ride along with them. When you stop and think about it for a few seconds it’s fairly obvious that the boy was nibbled by a dog.

Part of me wonders what had happened to girl number 2, at some point in the past, to make her think that the most logical explanation when someone has been bitten is that it’s a human. Maybe she was a big fan of the Twilight, or had once seen Silence of the Lambs and thought that it bore a striking resemblance to the 328 bus route in Huddersfield. Or maybe one of her relatives was a cannibal. I don’t think I’ll ever know. All I know is that a boy was gnawed at on the bus by a dog and an ambulance had to be called. I don’t know what happened to the dog.

The story of the boy who was eaten may have been in the paper but, to be honest, I only made it two pages into the Huddersfield Examiner today before I wanted to stop reading. Apparently a boy at a college in Huddersfield wants to change his name to Mountain Dew because he loves the drink. He’s always drinking it. He just can’t get enough.

I’m quite partial to biscuits but I don’t go around thinking “You know what, things would be so much easier if my name was Rocky Hobnob.”

Shelf Life

I like reading. I used to plough through books at a rate of knots. In later years, though, I’ve slowed down. I don’t read as much because I’m playing a game or nobbing around on the internet but when I bury my nose in a book, I love it.

I’m currently reading Heresy by S J Parris. It’s a historical mystery, set around the time of Queen Elizabeth. The first thing Carole said what she saw it was “That’s an unusual choice for you, you don’t normally do historical stories.” Which is true, in a way. I like adventure stories – I read the likes of Clive Cussler, Matthew Reilley and Andy McDermott (he’s from Halifax so, under the laws of the borough, I’m contractually obliged to read his work) but every now and again I’ll stray off my established path and try something new.

Saying I don’t read historical stories, though, is quite a sweeping generalisation. I devoured the Sharpe novels in quite quick succession and I’m fairly sure they were historical. Aside from being an Abba song and a tube station, Waterloo was definitely a historical event. And one that I’ve read about. I even managed to get through a few questions in my General Studies A-Level exam because I’d read the Sharpe novels and knew where Napoleon was on a few choice years. That, my friends, is an added benefit to reading – you learn stuff that can help you in exams.

I’m not very far into Heresy yet, somewhere within the first hundred pages or so, but I’m bloody loving it. Most of the reading has been done, it must be said, in the bath and I’m starting to look forward to the next time I get to ride the bus to and from work so that I can read some more (which, as it happens, is tomorrow thanks to Carole booking a crafty day off). What’s interesting, though, is that Carole’s right about it not being the kind of book I’d normally read – even the back cover blurb doesn’t make it sound like the sort of thing I’d read.

And all that goes to prove that you actually can’t judge a book by its cover. Every now and again you have to take a punt on what you think you’ll like. Whether it’s because you happen to follow the author on Twitter (and once made a really bad joke about curry and babies that made her laugh) or because you just fancy something different to read. Go to your local library, if it’s still open amidst all the cutbacks and closures, and marvel at the number of books there are to go at. Step into your local Waterstones and do the same. There’s a myriad of books on offer – crime, romance, adventure, fact, fiction and, even, how to knit your own Royal wedding. There’s literally something for everyone and, if you’re willing to take the chance, probably more than one something for everyone.

But the problem is books just don’t seem to be cool. You’re not cool if you read and even the government seem to be averse to the written word – saying “children should read more” while, at the same time, closing and locking library doors up and down the country. As we move further and further to a digital medium books are no longer cherished as they once were – why pick up a ream of paper bound together when you can download all that paper as data at the touch of a button. And it takes up less space.

But it’s not the same. It doesn’t have the booky smell. You won’t get people visiting your house, noticing your full to bursting shelves and asking, in awe,  if you’ve read everything on them. All you’ll have to show for it is a download history showing the titles you’ve read. It won’t show you split spines and well-thumbed pages, turned down corners and forgotten bookmarks. It’ll just be a series of ones and zeros, converted into words for you to read.

Where’s the fun in that?

Bus Etiquette

So, within the next few days, we’re going to have to find a new car park for when we go to work otherwise we’re back on the bus. So it seemed like the right time to review a bit of bus etiquette.

Always Have Your Money Ready
This is the most important thing. You’ve got to have your money, or pass, ready before the bus comes. It’s just common courtesy. No-one wants to stand behind you, waiting to get on the bus, while you fish about in the bottom of your bag for your purse. You’re waiting at a bus stop, chances are a bus is going to come along at some point. Don’t act as if it’s a massive surprise that one has turned up without any kind of prior warning. This particularly applies to the elderly – despite the fact that you can travel for free, don’t just assume that the bus driver will let you on without seeing a pass. Get it ready. It won’t kill you, although you may have to take off your mittens to hold it properly.

Don’t Talk To The Driver
There are signs up, at the front of the bus, telling you not to talk to the driver. Don’t distract him without a good reason are what they’re getting at. But really, don’t talk to the driver at all. Say hello, ask for your fare and say thank you – that’s all you need to do. You don’t need to have a long chat about the weather, the price of bus travel or something equally unimportant. The main thing you really never need to do is get on the bus in a confrontational mood and ask about the bus before the one you’re on now that missed. The driver will have no clue that one has missed because he was probably, I don’t know, driving the bus at the time. They don’t all radio each other and say “Hey guys, I’m gonna skip the next one, don’t let on.”

Always Sit In An Empty Double Seat
This one is a no-brainer. It’s a lot like the men’s urinal thing. It’s all about space and distance. You should always sit in an empty double seat if one is available. You shouldn’t even let the one that’s over the wheel arch put you off – it’s still an empty double seat. You should never, ever, sit in the empty seat of an already taken double if there are empty doubles on offer. This will just earn you scorn from your fellow passengers. There are further sub-rules from this.

a) If you’re first on the bus, and it’s a single decker, you should aim for the middle
b) If it’s a double-decker and you’re the first, you are permitted to sit on the upstairs front seat. This is the king of all seats.
c) If other people are on the bus you should leave at least one double seat space between them and you, if the corresponding seat on the opposite side is available you should sit there.

Never, Ever Engage A Parent In Conversation About How Cute/Adorable Their Child Is
This mainly applies to old people, again. Old people have a habit, partly due to the way bus seating is designed, of making a bee-line for parents of young children. They’ll then proceed to lean in and gurn at the child while it is in the pram or pushchair and make comments about the cuteness while asking pointless questions like “How old is he/she?” The last thing the parent wants to do is make small talk with someone about their child while they’re on the way home. They’ve had a hard day pushing a young child around town in a pushchair, putting up with tantrums and the like, they really don’t want to tell you the life history of their child.

No-one Else Likes Your Music
When mobile phones were in their infancy you’d always get someone at the back of the bus who’d go through all their ringtones over and over again as if, by listening to them in a public setting, one of them would stand out from the crowd and declare itself the ringtone of choice. Invariably you’d plump for the one that goes “du-du-du-duh, du-du-du-duh, du-du-du-duh, duuuuuh” while the remaining passengers would sit there wondering if you’d still be able to hear it ring if it was shoved up your arse. Sideways.

Nowadays though, phones have evolved so that you can save songs on it. And play them at the back of the bus while you shout over them to your friend Sheniqua about who you got off with at the weekend. Whatever song you’re playing is immediately hated by every other passenger on the bus. Even people who liked it now find themselves hating it because they’ve heard it, distorted by the vice-like grip you have on your phone, from the back of the bus. And it really doesn’t get better the second or third time you play it. Nor does it get better if you let it play for a little bit and then skip to a different track. Stop it. Buy some headphones. Just stop it.

Census and Census-ibility

So, that’s that then. The census is done. In 10o years time future generations can look back and see how exciting and thrilling our life was. They can see that we have a very small collections of rooms, and they’ll never know how many cupboards we have because, well, no-one asked but, in case this blog survives that long, it’s easily in excess of ten. And, most importantly, they’ll know that neither Carole or myself is a Jedi.

The hardest questions for me were the ones where you had to describe, briefly and in very few characters what you did in your job. And then, in the next question, describe your job again but a bit differently. I work for a bank so, rather than put what I actually did, I put “national hate figure” and left it at that. If nothing else when it comes to the future family tree someone will be more than a little curious and wonder what I’d done.

The question that really threw me was how I’d rate my health. I’d rate my health as fair. Carole seems to thing it should be rated as good. It’s a tricky one because it’s all based on your own perception – I ache, I’m overweight and I have a scab on my leg. I think fair is a pretty accurate observation of my health at this precise moment. I think good is possibly setting the bar a little too high given the circumstances. And, as the census is a snapshot of life on March the 27th 2011, if I’m being completely honest (which I am, obviously, it’s a legal requirement) my throat feels like I’m gargling glass, my nose is running and I have an annoying tickly, dry cough. So definitely fair. Naturally, then, I ticked good.

And when it came to my perception of National Identity I, again,  had to be honest. I’ve never once flown a flag from either the roof of my car or an upstairs window, and not once I have I felt the need to buy a football shirt, so that pretty much ruled out English.

What confuses me more, however, is that I don’t remember doing anything on the last census. Ten years ago I don’t remember answering a single thing. I don’t remember being asked what my job was or how I got to work every day. I don’t remember telling them how many hours I worked or what I was doing in that very moment. But I guess I must have done because, well, I never went to prison and I never got fined. But I don’t think I did. And if I didn’t fill it in, then who did? 

Hell, I’ll have to stay alive until 2101 to access the census and see what I was doing and see if it was me that was doing it.