Friday, 9 March 2012

Bus pass philosophy.

I popped into town late this morning. I use the term “popped” loosely as it’s at least a twenty minute bus journey, turned into thirtyfive by the roadworks at what used to be the famous Mumps roundabout, famous for a railway bridge built in 1891 at a cost of £20,647 3s 4d. I bet it would cost a lot more now.

The bridge was demolished, amidst flowing tears on the part of many onlookers, around eighteen months ago to make way for the arrival of the Metrolink, the tram service which does such a good job connecting Bury, Eccles and various other places swiftly and efficiently with central Manchester. The area where the roundabout and the bridge used to be are in traffic turmoil as work supposedly goes on. Every time I take the bus that way I overhear conversations about how useless the Metrolink connection is going to be as no-one is really going to want to come to Oldham; everyone will use it to escape. Today’s contribution was that what the town needs is a cinema and bowling alley complex. I wonder! Comments about silk purses and sow’s ears come to mind.

Anyway, I popped into town to visit the bigger supermarket and pick up one or two things I can’t get locally. Amazingly the bus arrived more or less on time. The cynic who accompanied me (my Phil en route to a friend’s house) commented that it was probably the previous bus arriving very late. I did my bit of shopping and made my way to the return bus stop. Buses leave that stop at 24 and 54 minutes past the hour. At 26 minutes past I saw what I suspected was my bus sail past the top of the road. This was confirmed by someone at the stop when I got there. Sod’s Law, you see, insists that buses are only late if you arrive at the stop on time and are never late when you are. This was further proved by the fact that the next bus arrived a good ten minutes late. If the 24 minutes past bus had been equally late, I would have caught it. So it goes!

At the bus stop I fell into conversation with an aged philosopher who assured me that there is no point worrying about buses; the sun was shining (just about), it wasn’t raining and far worse things are happening in the world than buses being late! Our conversation continued on the bus where he bent my ear about the way the English language is changing and how he expects at some time in the future to look down from above and see that people are speaking a wholly different version of English. Well, yes, I would expect that to be the case. After all, it works that way for all languages.

We have friends who have lived in France for a good few years and have been told that their French is excellent except that it’s about forty years out of date. Apparently they are still speaking the French we studied at university instead of moving wih the times. I can’t say I’m surprised as they don’t excatly use a lot of slang when they speak English. Maybe that’s the problem of going to live in a small place in a foreign country: you lose touch with the slang and current expressions of your own language but never learn to speak the argot of the place you’ve moved to. It’s rather like those urban myths of the people who forget their own language but never fully learn that of their adopted country and so end up unable to communicate at all.

So, getting back to my bus journey, the old philosppher and I were both amused by a notice on the window of the bus which read as follows:

This bus has kneeling facilities.

Please ask the driver if this is required.

Judging by the images accompanying the notice, this meant that the bus could lower itself to allow wheelchairs, baby buggies or old folk with wonky legs to get on and off easily. However, both the aged philosopher and I had immediately visualised the bus driver distributing prayer mats or cushions on demand to passengers of whatever faith who felt the need to pray. Or possibly, as the buses on that particular route are usually the oldest and most decrepit available, the bus itself would be able to kneel down and say a quick prayer before tackling difficult slopes and bends or maybe just saying, “Please let me arrive on schedule!”

It turns out that the aged philosopher lives in our village although he still has traces of the Falkirk accent from his place of birth. I thought he looked vaguely familiar and now I shall have to look out for him as I run around the village. I already stop and greet an old chap called Jack who walks his ancient dog. I had better stop before this collection gets out of hand.

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