I apologise in advance if you have no interest at all in cars, buses, or indeed any other road ve-hicles!
I am a bit of a closet petrolhead, and for that I WILL NOT apologise! 😉
Read on… all who dare!
Recently, I read a wonderful poem about British buses. For some reason it made me feel a little teary and nostalgic. That was silly of me, right?
But I couldn’t shake it off, and I started thinking later that evening; about how much of my time growing up in England, has been spent travelling miles and miles using the good old British Bus! And about how many happy memories I still have of riding on them. Red buses, green, blue and later, gold. There seems to be a whole spectrum of the rainbow involved in bus couture these days!
My first memory of a bus journey seems to be when I was a tiny tot, travelling with my mother and my little brother in the 70’s. With a bag full of sandwiches and a flask of tea. Going on a day trip or a picnic; to somewhere promising to be exotic. Probably just a few miles in reality! Often we took our beloved wooden kites, to fly them up on Box Hill; only when it was a perfect and blustery day though. I can still feel the childish excitement of bouncing around on the itchy seats at the back of the bus. The whiff of my mother’s perfume, ‘Sweet Violet’, and her almost-never-seen jaunty expression, will stay with me forever.
Later on, I was a chattering teen, flushed with heady excitement at being allowed to ‘go to town‘ with my school chums on a Saturday afternoon. We took the old green/grey no.23 down the hill to the local town; just half a mile away. With strawberry flavoured chapstick and an afro comb, lovingly stowed in my fringed ethnic-style bag. Boys, and the perfume counter at Army and Navy, firmly on the agenda!
Later on, when I had at last finished with school, and started travelling to job interviews and college; it was the bus that took me there. I can remember each and every nervous journey. Once I even took a bus to a strange, deserted wasteland called ‘Basingstoke‘. That was rather a long and bumpy trip!
I have countless memories of riding on the bus to meet with college friends; for a coffee, to the cinema, sometimes even going on an actual date! A first date. One time I met up with a young student from Japan. He took me for a posh burger and chips, and taught me how to say ‘hello’ in Japanese. Weirdly, I have never forgotten it!
‘Konnichiwa, o genki desu ka?’ (Hello, how are you?)
I sincerely apologise to any native Japanese speakers out there!
Again, all these little adventures started, (and usually finished!) on the dear old British bus.
The rickety, juddering, lurching, feeling-sick-from-the-diesel-fumes bus.
Much, much, later, after I had my first daughter, I would take her out on the bus just for a ride. It was a novelty for her. She absolutely loved it! Although I can remember her nervously asking me, “Mummy, should we be getting off yet?” At almost every stop. She was once a sweet, timid child. But how she loved pressing that big red ‘STOP’ button! ‘Ding!’ We would visit the large toy shop in town, or if it was sunny, go for an impromptu picnic in the park. Riding wearily, but happily, on the bus home at the end of the day!
Once I even took a friend’s children along with us. Three children; a giggling little blonde girl, (who remains best friends with my daughter to this day!) and her two brothers. All the way to a bird sanctuary. I think we had to take three different buses to get there, and three back, all on rattling old buses through tiny country lanes, and bustling towns. It was exhausting. But also quite exciting, almost like a real adventure! When I look back, we actually were the ‘Famous Five’ personified, but sadly, without the cute little dog!
Nowadays, I only use buses when I return to the UK. They are so frequent and 15-minutely-convenient in the town where my mother lives! The size of their chassis has changed though. They are so much smaller than they used to be! I believe they are called Whippets. A poor relation to the greyhound bus, I suppose. Plus, they are now painted golden!
To me however, they still remain a symbol of excitement, possibilities, expectation… and always of adventure!
Buses sometimes make me think of miserable, rainy-day journeys home from work, and steamy-up windows. Juddering along while I am chatted to by little old ladies. Telling me all about her son in Australia, and how he never visits, or some such terrible scandal! Or sultry summer weekends, on our jolly way to the swimming pool for the whole day. Laden down with those big, plastic laundry bags full of towels, rubber rings, and sun cream. Excited children asking me, “Are we there yet Mummy? Are we there yet?”
So many things to remember. Shopping, and laughing with friends, busy wine bars and pubs, day trips to famous gardens with my mother. Coming home with bunches of heavy carriers, full to bursting with delicious food, or even a naughty retail therapy splurge! So many warm and wonderful memories to treasure… and it all began on the humble old British Bus!!
You’re part of my memories.
You’re part of my history.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget you.
Now for the good stuff: here are some random pictures of the kind of buses that I have travelled on during my time in England. Except for the last two – I’m not THAT old!! They are just there, being all vintage and gorgeous!
And here is a pic of an old-style bus conductor, with his trusty ticket machine. They used to be either young, dashing, and very cocky, or old, fag-in-hand, and pretty grumpy, as I recall!
And just for fun… a look at old bus tickets! We used to get the ones in the second photo.
This is how they look these days. Not as pretty at ALL! Boo!
These interiors are similar to the buses that I used to ride on; as a young child with my mother. Note the stairway at the rear of the bus. I used to plead with her to let me go ‘Up Top’ as it was known! She very rarely allowed it.
And this is how wonderful and magical that stairway appeared to a four year old!
Lastly, a bus transformed into an American-style diner! Now that’s a bus I’d LOVE to ride!!
Happy travels to you, however you get there!!