Category Archives: On the night bus

End of the ride….I think

I think, in fact I’m almost sure that the portmanteau collection ” On the night bus” is complete.
Or at least I’m fairly confident that I have written the first draft of the final sequence, but, if you know of any night bus experiences that would be good grist to the mill, please share them with me.

Plan now is to let them sit and cook for a while and then start editing, re-writing and all that good stuff….. And then a toe in the water of e-publishing, possibly, maybe.


And this is the last nightbus – On the nightbus 20.

And this is the last night bus, watch her toil up this street, gathering up the lost, the tired, the tight skinned, those whose night has gone so astray.
Hear her, ashmatic wheezing, gears churning, leaving a trail of black smoke in the city as it greys from night into day, that move from fag end, everything’s messy, everything’s fucked up into that up and at ’em, go getting, money making day in a city that never sleeps.
But less jazz hands and swing and more gritty eyes, clock watching, willing another hour of darkness, another hour of eyes closed, blessed fall into nothingness, denied again.

And this is the last night bus, crawled onto when certainty has kicked hope to the kerb, the voice that sneaks into your head and tells you that tonight will not be the night, that there is nothing left for you here, just the knowledge of a return to an empty bed in an empty house, where even the adult channels seem to mock your desperate longing for something more.

And this is the last night bus and in exactly 17 minutes she will return to the depot and like a school girl in those precious moments between 3.30 and 3.35 transforms herself, scrabbling in the carrier bag she hid from her mothers’ prying eyes and heads out into the street, all too conscious of the eyes that follow her neat, trim butt away from the school into todays’ adventure.
The night bus too will transformed, cleaned, preened, ready to move the purposeful, the day time folk from A to B to C to D and back again.

And this is the last night bus and these are the last night bus passengers;

Mr Ahmed, legs too long for his trousers, legs too long to fit neatly into the allocated space, body twisted, eyes half closed as he thinks about his sleeping sons who will avoid the call to prayer, ignore the shouts of his second wife, emerge from overcrowded bedrooms with shouts of “Laters” and vanish onto the estate, up to no good on their alleged journey to alleged college places.
He considers the double fronted terraced house, transformed into the mosque, his mosque, the floor carpeted with off-cuts from when Mr Solanki upgraded Bombay Bites.
But, his back aches, his hands, becoming arthritic, feel stiff and the sofa and the lure of half sleep, with a background soundtrack of hoovering, pots clanking, the sushed smaller children “Hush daddy’s asleep” is too strong and so, he stays on the bus, heads home.

Tilly and Lettie, all giggled out, lolling against eachother, glorious teenage flesh, but goosebumped now, legs mottled with the early morning cold.
Loved up at 2am, there is still enough E coursing through them to make the morning soft, the coming light golden.
They know the routine, fall off the bus, blow a kiss to the driver, shoes off for the last 300 yards, placing feet carefully to avoid the worst of the pavement dirt and then;
Corner shop – 20 fags, 2 bars of dairy milk, lucozade
Fall into flat, still awash with shoes, bags, scarves, little girls playing dress up
Kettle on – sniff the milk, the phrase “pass muster” floats in the air, parental language not lost after all
They lie together on the sofa, tangled together, discuss the night and finally agree
“Wicked, innit”

Dave, white shirt sticky with sweat, another night survived in the windowless room where he watches the comings and goings of the super rich and the used to be super rich and the still clinging on by their finger nails almost rich.
A standard night, open doors, close doors, collect heavy parcels, call maintenance twice, once to change a light bulb in 27 and then to check a strange noise in 39.
Buzz in 3 pizzas, 2 cycle couriers, a woman who knows what she is and knows that he knows too, the knowing hangs between them until he looks away.
Smiles politely at the couple from 67 while they continue a conversation as though he simply doesn’t exist.
Nods at the woman from 3, neither of them will ever refer to the calls he has put through to the local cop shop when the shouting stops and the crashing and banging begins.
Ushers the party boys from 42 towards the lift, even presses the button and pockets the proffered twenty quid, knowing the boy is too drunk to know what he is doing, knowing too that the money will come in useful and pushes back the sudden flame of anger, the urge to shove the note up the nose of the stupid mouth breathing moron.
When he gets home, he will leave the money on the kitchen table, with a note
“Buy something stupid” but he knows she won’t.

Genius Asante, first born son, Lion of Judah in the city of the babylon, warrior of the gates, keeper of the secrets, head thrumming as all the sounds in all the cities travel down the wires straight to his brain.
Genius Asante, fingernails rimmed with city grime, jeans designed for someone else, someone quite different, sailcloths of denim flapping around his legs, shirt, body warmer, jacket, another jacket and underneath them all, tin foil against his chest, keeping him safe, keeping them out.
Genius Asante, who once won a prize for composition in his neatly swept Botswana school room, finger the zip on his battered flight bag, wonders if it is safe to check the treasures, but shakes his head, hunches over the bag, keeps them out.
Genius Asante, who knows it’s probably time to call the Community mental health team, travelling on the last night bus into another day.

And then, there’s Eric, the last driver on the last night bus, shifts in his seat, scratches his arse and sighs, looks in the mirror, checks out the last passengers, 3 more stops, kick off the loony at the depot and end shift.
It’s been a good night, no fights, no vomiters, bevvy of cute under-dressed girls, still two of them on the bus, if he angles the mirror just so, he can see down the top of the blondes’ breasts. They have been dusted with some kind of glitter and idly,killing time on this last shift on the last night bus, he wonders where she buys it, wonders what would happen if he brought some home for Iris.
He checks his watch, exactly on time, nods, a job well done, bringing the bus home, safe and sound.
Moves his mouth, can almost taste the fag, the mug of tea, the sneaky bacon cob, needn’t tell Iris, plenty of ketchup and mustard.
He smiles, the thought gives him as much pleasure as the sneaky glimpse of the teenagers’ breasts,
must be getting old he thinks.

7 more minutes and then shift end, the last nightbus of the night, journey over.



The Long and Winding Road – on the nightbus – 19

The problem really is, that Dell is a romantic, a hopeless romantic

And make no mistake, this will be a tale of romance, of unrequited love, fair maidens, quests and dragons slayed.

Dell has the heart and soul of a fearless knight, he is, within the limitations of the 21st century, chivalry personified and he dreams of love, true, enduring love, love that will lift him up, up where he belongs.

This story starts on a wet Monday night, the sort of night when you bend your body into your clothes, hunch down to keep out the cold and the dark and the rain and Dell is driving the Crouch End Circular and it’s midnight and the rain is keeping people off the streets, so it’s quiet, Dell, loosing a battle with short sight and worn out wiper blades is peering into the dark, looking out for ninja stylee cyclists, freewheeling pedestrians, motorists whose indicators have been fitted as optional extras.

Same old, same old.

And then, he sees her, the love of his life, the woman he is going to marry and he nearly ploughs the bus in to the back of badly illuminated skip, but manages to slam the brakes on, just in time and ignoring the cursing and the muttering from the passengers, he sits and he stares, while she stands on the pavement, waiting, for something, someone.

Dell has never understood the word breath taking before, but now, looking at this woman, he is struggling to breathe, is almost panting.

She is beyond beautiful.

Tall, of course
Slim, of course
Long blond hair, well of course.

But this is far more than beauty, this is about connection, this is about fate and then she looks up, looks directly at him and he feels an actual jolt of energy.

And then, the car, black, some souped up shit comes screeching round the corner, brakes slam hard and voice shouts
“Get in the F*****car, we’re going to be f*****late” and she does, just like that.

The boom box beat of the overdubbed base kicks in so loudly that Dell can feel it in his fillings and so he is holding his jaw as the car and the thump, thump base and the love of his life, drive up the road, kangaroo over a speed bump and vanish.

Just like that.

And then he becomes aware that the mutterings behind him are getting louder, more insistent and so, he inches past the skip and heads onward on his nightly circular route.

But he cannot stop thinking about her and later in sweaty, confused and tangled dreams he is rescuing her again and again and again and when he wakes up, her face is the first thing he thinks of.

All day he finds himself thinking about her and for the first time ever, he is actually keen to get to work, arrives early, spruced up, ready to go, ready for a quest.
He is sure that he will see her, cannot allow the logic of geography to get in his way, cannot even consider that she is far away locked up in some tower block and so, when at midnight,

Well it had to be midnight, this is a fairy story after all,

he sees her, standing in exactly the same place, he’s not surprised, he can recognise the hand of fate when he sees it.
She is even more beautiful than he remembers, hair up this time, but beginning to escape, little tendrils falling around her face, but this time she’s not alone.

Did I mention that this story has an ogre, an urban ogre, all sweat and swagger and expensive ogre jeans, pulled down to show off his hairy orgre ass and an ogre baseball cap to cover up his greasy ogre hair.

The ogre, the driver of the souped up ogre car is standing beside her and he’s jabbing the air with his grubby ogre fingers and every time he jabs, she shrinks back into herself.

Dell lets the engine idle, pats the steering wheel, watches the ogre, watches the princess, ignores the shouts and cat calls from passengers and knows that he must act.

But, he doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t have a plan and so, sighing, almost sobbing, he puts the bus back into gear and heads off into the night.

And so it goes on, night after night, the gentle knight sees the princess, understands the cruelty of the ogre, watches her diminish under his barrage of orgre attacks.

Sometimes, she seems to see Dell, looks straight at him, he feels the appeal in her eyes, knows that time is running out, that soon the ogre will take her away, lock her up, chain her with cruel words and poverty and the limist of four grubby walls.

The fairy story is coming to a climax, the happy ending seems far away and all hope is lost.
Come the hour, come the hero.

And then one day, while Dell tries to sleep, while the noise of neighbours seeps through paper thin walls and the duvet knots around him like brambles,

Because it’s not just princesses who get locked in towers,

Dell dreams and in his dream comes the solution and when he wakes, he knows exactly what to do.

He knows this action will change his life forever, that he will be a knight both bold and true and that he will, tonight, finally rescue the princess from the evil ogre.

He gets to work early and while he makes chat with the other drivers, his heart is pounding with love and the rightness of his action.

Into the cab,strokes the wheel, feels the power and drives away. He needs to get his timing right and because this is a fairy story, he does.
At 11.30, the end of one Crouch End loop, pasengers dis-gorged, ready to start again and then with a shaking hand, he presses the button, changes the destination display to read
“Sorry, I’m not in service” and drives towards his princess and her salvation.

And of course, remember, it’s a story, there she is

with the ogre, on the ogre pavement, next to the stinking ogre takeway, beside the over-heated ogre car and the ogre is angry.
His ogre voice is raining ogre spite onto her beautiful head and Dell sits up, breathes deeply and hits the horn

The princess looks up, the ogre looks up, red, piggy ogre eyes trying to make sense of the scene.
Dell pulls up beside her, hits the door over-ride button and shouts
“Get in, Ive come to rescue you”

And because this is a fairy story, she doesn’t look blank or ask stupid questions or tell him to F off and mind his own business, she leaps forward and with one bound, she is on the bus and Dell tries to close the doors, but the Ogre is there, scabby ogre hand scrabbling with the handle and Dell is driving as fast as he can, banging the door close control and the ogre is hanging on, by an ogre nail and the bus is going faster and faster and finally, the ogre’s stumpy, hairy ogre legs cannot go on another minute and he fall into the gutter and his gutteral screams of ogre anger can be heard as the bus moves away.

And because this is a fairy story, the princess and the brave knight look at eachother and fall in love, immediately and forever and Dell drives the bus, though the back streets of unfashionable corners of suburban London and they hold hands and smile.

And because this is a fairy story, you’re not allowed to ask what happened next.

Did Dell lose his job?
Did the princess turn out to have a crack cocaine problem?
Did the Ogre promise to change and lure her back to their tower block prison?

Because what happend next was……………….

They lived happily ever after.

What else did you expect?


Screen Kisses – On the Nightbus – 18

The girls are drunk, at that best stage of drunkeness when everything is shiny, anything is possible and when you know that tonight will be inarguably fabulous.

They are at that point of drunkeness when you look at your friends and feel cocooned in warmth and love, when you catch sight of your reflection in a shop window or a pub mirror and realise that you look hot.

They are drunk enough to laugh at non jokes but still sober enough to have conversations, deep, intense talk, with lots of eye contact, hand pats and reassurance of their own rightness on the very planet.

Later, it will get ugly. Alcohol will act like a truth drug, things will be said that are best left unsaid.
At least one of them will be sick, another will have almost sex with a stranger in a not private enough space and somebody will be left behind.

But for now, it’s all golden and they are the golden girls.

They are walking four abreast now, arms linked, all fake tan and artistically tousled hair and perfect pouting lip glossed lips and they are singing

“Girls just wanna have fun

The evening is still warm, for once their tiny, tight hot pants, super high wedges and micro t-shirts are perfect outfits, no goose bumps, mottled skin, chattering teeth to spoil the illusion.

They are at that perfect tipping point, enough alcohol to fill them with a physical hyper awareness, bodies young, legs endless, covering the ground in perfect unison, still sober enough to move with cat walk poise, they are tonight at least, finalists in britains next top model.

And so, the night bus, away from the street of bars, with drinkers spilling out into the unexpected warmth of a city heat wave and onto the clubs and the dancing and the downward trajectory of unwise vodka shots and jagerbombs.

When the bus comes they are the only passengers who get on and the driver turns off the engine, some enforced break and the girls have time to pile on, check out the other passengers, possible talent, potential rivals.

Girl 1 – 2 A levels, but not going to university, not her, is rummaging in her purse for the fare, comes up 10 p short and smiles oh, so sweetly and the driver smiles, cannot help but smile when faced with such self belief and such a tiny t-shirt and waves her on and from no-where or from a tiny little devil inside, she leans forward and carefully, precisely kisses the scratched screen that divides the driver from the real world, plants a ruby red, juicy fruit flavoured kiss where his lips could be.

And then she laughs, with the joy of simply being herself and leans forward again and this time the kisses are slighly smudged, the colour a little blurred, just brushing his cheeks, if only there wasn’t a plastic barrier between them.

He cannot help himself, knows he shouldn’t, knows that this will be captured on CCTV, knows that he will called in, told off, but and the shrug is internal, he turns, stops looking at the road, sat on this stationary bus and presses his face against the screen and this time, her kisses are buttefly light, lips only just touching the duarble, vandal proof plastic and he leans his face into them, can almost feel them on his skin.

There is a pause and she smiles and turns to her friends and this is becoming magical, they all move forward and suddenly there are lips and smiles and smudges of 4 different coloured lip sticks making perfect lip stick kisses and his face is turning this way and the other, trying to catch each one.

He feels as if he bathing in warm sunshine and wants to close his eyes, but is fearful that he may miss a kiss, so instead he lets his body writhe in some thing he cannot describe.

And then, his internal clock pings in and he knows that the ten minutes break is up and inside he is kicking himself, but, but, he turns away and switches on the engine and the girls, laughing, all too aware that they have paid almost no fares for this journey, turn and walk down the bus aisle, hugging eachother with glee and mischief.

The driver drives the bus and the smile last the whole of his shift and every now and then he lets his left hand leave the steering wheel and trace the shapes of the lipstick kisses on the safety screen.

His fingers are gentle, tentative and he wonders how long it will be before he will have to clean the plastic, wipe all the kisses away.





There is more to your driver than meets the eye – On the Night bus – 17

There is more to your driver than meets the eye.
Look carefully, look beyond the perma press shirt, the company tie, the faint hint of tobacco from illicit smoke breaks.
Look beyond the graying face, eyes tight with exhaustion.

This one got home at 6am, walked his son to school, toddler on his shoulders, crowing with delight and then watched the boy, his first born, play a shakey version of silent night on an almost tuned piano and felt for one second as though he would burst, burst right open,in front of all the other parents, with pride and love.

This one is waiting for the world to end, waiting with a quiet certainty.
Sometimes he hopes that rapture will happen right here, right now, at 2, 3 in the morning, the bus rowdy, packed to the rafters with sinners.
And in his mind, he sees himself and the bright red bus floating into the sky while unbelievers drop from the windows, fall out of the door and he is left in silence and white light.

This driver is trying not to lose the magic from last night’ dream. She wants to close her eyes, rest her head against the steering wheel.
in her dream she is sitting on the wooden roundabout in the scrappy patch of mud and grass and broken bottles and used condoms in front of the flats and she is looking at the unicorn who is unsurprisingly bathed in moon light. She stretches out her hands to reach him, his eyes consider her and just as she is convinced that he will step forward and that she will be able to bury her face in his coat, she wakes and finds herself crying into her pillow.

This one has been learning Esperanto from a book he found when the library closed down.
He has started writing poetry and translating it slowly and probably badly into his new half grasped language.
He wants to lie in bed and read these poems to his wife, secure that no-body he has ever met, will ever meet will have any idea of what he has written and this knowledge frees him, allows him to pour out a litany of love and desire to the woman who has shared his bed for 27 years.

This driver knows that when he dies that he will, finally, be re-united with every dog he has lost.
The after life holds no fears now and he has left instructions that the leads of Mungo and Badger and Molly, kept safe at the back of the cutlery drawer, should be buried with him.
Death seems quite welcome now.

This one has posted her photograph on an inter-net dating site.
The photograph, heavily edited, bears almost no relation to her every day appearance and she is terrified that someone she actually knows, in this real world, another driver, an ex-husband, will want to meet her.
she wonders if it is too late to pull the profile.

This driver is loosing a custody battle to see his son.
He has bought a superhero costume.
He has talked, late at night, to other angry men.
He knows once he takes action, that there will be no going back.

This one weighs herself 3 times every day.
She would like to stop, but doesn’t know how.

And this driver

And this driver

And this driver

There is more to your driver than meets the eye.
Look carefully, look beyond the perma press shirt, the company tie, the faint hint of tobacco from illicit smoke breaks.
Look beyond the graying face, eyes tight with exhaustion.


Please tender exact fare – On the night bus – 16

It is Lees’ last stand and he knows with a wave of his hand, a shrug of his shoulder, he can make it all go away, make it better, but something inside him has cracked open and he cannot back down.

Stand off.

He turns off the engine, hears the hiss of the airbrakes and stares at the would be passenger.

Mid 20s, jeans hanging off his narrow hips, Primark pants on display for everyone to see, Lee wants to say “Just pull you bloody trousers up”, but instead, he smiles, a forced company policy smile and says again
“that’ll be £2.50 mate”.

There is a pause, the man doesn’t speak, doesn’t move his hand towards his pocket, doesn’t step back off the bus, doesn’t actually do anything.

The other passengers have begun to register that something is happening, eyes are lifted from phones, conversations stop, necks turn to get a better look at the front of the bus.

Lee stretches his hand out
“Pay the fare mate, we’re going nowhere till you pay up”

The man looks directly at Lee and then slowly, deliberately spits on the floor and then walks down the bus and sits on the first empty seats, there is a beat, a pause and then he leans back, lifts his feet in impossibly over -sized ugly trainers and reaches into jeans, pulls out a battered packet of budget cigarettes and lights one.

And it is at this point, that Lee recognizes exactly how angry he is and it’s not just this no-mark yobbo, it’s months and years of the vomiters and the drunks and the mad and the simply rude. It’s all the passengers who don’t even see him, don’t even notice that there’s a man, a real person driving the bloody night bus.

He opens the little door that separates the driver from the punters , enters into the body of the bus, is aware of the passengers looking at him and then, with a voice tight with years of suppressed anger, he shouts down the aisle
“This bus is going no-where, until he” and he jabs the air with his finger ” until he pays the bloody fare”.

All over the bus, passengers are turning to each-other, a Mexican wave of questions and answers.

A woman, her face grey with fatigue, a regular, works at one of the big hotels down west, looks up at Lee
“Come on man, I need to get home, need to get my kids up for school”

And it would be so easy to turn around, climb back onto the drivers’ seat, turn on the engine and finish the shift and Lee is not a brave man, knows that he will get into all kinds of shit for this, this last stand, but he doesn’t, he just continues to stand, staring down the bus, watching the man finish his smoke and then carefully stub the cigarette end onto the fabric of the seat in front of him.

All over the bus, there are mutterings, side ways glances at the smoker. No-body seems to want to take him on. Everybody has the big city don’t get involved look, Lee is a much easier target.

There is a chorus of “Come on driver, just drive the bloody bus”, Lee lets it wash over him, never stops staring at the fare dodger, holding him in his gaze.

There is a pause, a couple of passengers, girls in teeny clothes, make up slipping after a heavy club night, stand up, start down the bus, talking about finding a cab. Their voices, self assured, loud, borderline posh, cut through the background low grade moaning. They push pass Lee
“Saddo” says the taller one and then they are through the open door and into the night.
Their shouts of “Taxi, Taxi” float back, blurred by the rain hammering on the pavement.

The rest of the passengers sit, listening to the storm, conscious of the weather and all to aware of the cost of a cab at this time of night.


Another pause, a man, uniformed, security guard, night porter, something minimum wage, looks at Lee, shrugs tiredly
“I’ll pay his sodding fare then” and he is fumbling in his pocket for the right change.

But Lee, surprising even himself, shakes his head
“Nah mate, he’s gotta pay it himself” and even as he says it, he understands the truth in the sentence.

The other passengers are waiting, waiting for some resolution, waiting for Lee to back down, become invisible again.

He takes a deep breath, turns back to the cab, reaches for his jacket, extracts a cigarette and against all company rules, lights it, inhales, exhales and by chance blows two perfect smoke rings and then he steps off the bus.

The rain, heavy summer rain soaks him almost immediately.

It is completely refreshing.


Here be dragons – On the Night bus – 15

It is the scale of this city that terrifies her, everything is simply too much, too large, too loud.

Lost on a daily, hourly basis, she buys a little book of street maps and carefully, painstakingly, she draws a line between home and the office she travels to every day. Plans her route and remembering Year 8 geography, she chooses a colour – shocking pink, and goes over the faint pencil line, giving a neon excitement to this daily task and then, using her bank card in place of a ruler, draws a little key box, a gash of pink within it and the code – “route to work”.

This is the only journey she dares to take and is reduced to food shopping in Marks and Spencers, the only grocery shop, whose signage she recognises.
The cat is delighted and embraces gourmet cat food, she stares in disbelief at 2 perfect jacket potatoes, already sliced and filled with grated cheese and instead fill up on sell by date bread and victoria sponges.

One Thursday, 2 weeks after her move to the big city and greatly daring, she tries a left and left and left combo, adds another square of walking onto her journey and discovers a cut price supermarket and a little street market.

A home she carefully colors in this new discovery, a line of cheerful leaf green and in the key “food shopping”

The pink and green lines follow each other on the street map, separate out and then come together for the final 15 minutes home.

Whenever she feels overwhelmed by issues of scale, she runs her forefinger along the routes, her routes and feel comforted.

She thinks about the maps she has drawn, her village, a straight line, the road that ends at the sea, a green box for the pub, yellow for the Spar shop, grey little lines for the 20 houses that make up the 2 roads that are not the in/out road.

The crofts, a blank triangle to represent the hills and then neatly ruled squares, no addresses, just a name, crofter, school friend.

Her school, 43 pupils, 3 classrooms, a playground that runs down to the beach. She drew each of the children, represented them as a circle and took care to place them realistically, accurately within the plan of the school itself.

A week later, she makes another discovery, right, and right and right take her to a swimming pool,a pet shop and a tiny park, this line is colored blue – “swimming and cat treats”

She considers swimming in the pool, it is large, noisy and always full.
The sea at home is cold, but as children they became used to it and as she grew older she learnt to love the physical shock, body wincing as the water hits the stomach and that breath taking moment of total immersion.

She is not sure if the pool will recreate this.

She begins to relax a little, her map book starts to look busy, three routes, all day to day needs dealt with, there is no need to learn more, not yet.

She begins to talk to her new colleagues and tries not to show her puzzlement when they talk about “going into town”, surely a place with supermarkets, Cafe Nero, swimming pools and a pet shop is town.

She agrees to go downtown and their journey takes her far beyond the pink, green, blue threads that keep her safe, bind her to this neighborhood, without their familiar patterns, well trodden routes she feels lost, spins in unknowable geography.

But, it is downtown where she meets the night buses and where she confounds her colleagues with her ability to drink them all under the table. A skill honed in a place where it is dark at 3 pm in winter and the cinema visits once a month in the back of a coach.

Out of the corner of her eye, she watches how these girls navigate the streets, fill the pavements with noise and presence, she, gathers a little of what they have and moves out a little, not hugging the buildings anymore.

But, the night bus station is somehow magical, all these buses, with place names she has never heard, doesn’t recognize and all heading out, into the night, into the darkness.

When she finally gets home that night, she draws another line into her map book, a black line and labels it in careful printing, her best handwriting “The way home”

She lies awake for a long time, her finger tracing the route the bus had taken.

It is almost as comforting as the noise of sea on shingle on the shore behind the 20 grey houses on the two roads that are not the in/out road.



Rubiesandduels gets out and about….

So here is rubiesandduels reading What would Elvis do? From the night bus series @ Piiing in Leicester.


Things you see at bus stops – On the night- bus – 14 – part 2

A fox, eyes glittering, reflecting back in the headlights of the few cars that pass at 3am. He sits upright, primly at the front of a non-existent queue, for all the world as if he is waiting to catch the next bus to somewhere more interesting than this street of shuttered shops and dark terraced houses.

A dog lead and collar, red leather, small studs on the collar.
The lead is looped neatly around the timetable post, secure, safe, no possibility of the dog slipping free, running blindly into the traffic,tied with care, with love.
The absence of dog feels somehow more real in the half light of almost dawn.

A pair of f**k me shoes, red, patent leather, impossible heels. I can see the owner, feet on fire, insteps throbbing, a plaster dug out from the deepest recesses of a tiny bag, failing to cover the blistered heel, falling into the bus stop and in a moment of loathing, slipping the shoes off.
Feet, fake tanned, toe nails painted to match her dress, liberated, wriggling in delight on the cold dirty pavement and the shoes, rejected, left behind, on sentry duty at the night bus stop.

The couple have rowed and not yet made up. He stands outside, smoking another cigarette to keep his hands, his mouth busy. She holds her phone, but too drunk to text somebody, anybody, stares bleary eyed at the tiny luminous screen.
The blue glow lights up her face and when he looks, from the corner of his eye, he can see signs of ageing that weren’t there last year.
They are both silent, contemplating the journey home and the awkward paying off of the baby sitter.
He knows that she will clatter around the kitchen, clumsily preparing breakfast.
She knows that he will pretend to be asleep when she finally comes to bed.
They both know that they will sleep through the alarm clock.

A thermos flask and a tupperware container, containing one triangle of ham sandwich. She knows this, because, unable to contain her curiosity, she opened the box.
The sandwich is neat, cut with a sharp knife, white sliced bread, ham, butter, a mans’ sandwich.
The thermos flask is elderly with a green checked pattern, she unscrews the lid and sniffs, the aroma of slightly stewed milky tea takes her immediately back to picnics with her grandparents.
Anorak wearing, brisk walking picnics, the dog waiting for her brother to drop his crusts on the floor.
For a moment, she considers scooping up the flask and taking it home, but then, finally, her bus comes, so, instead, she carries away the scent of staling bread and weak tea.

It is raining and I am forced inside the bus shelter and there nested between a KFC jumbo chicken box and a tray of congealing curry sauce and chips is a book, paper back, well used, pages turned down, spine starting to break.
“women are from venus, men are from mars”
I decide that this is a sign, an omen and take the book home, resolving to read it carefully and look for answers wherever I can find them.

One pearl earring, delicate, expensive, the pearl set in gold. It is shining in the street lights.
In the morning, pecked by disappointed pigeons and pushed by busy work time feet, it will have rolled into the gutter and be lost among fast food wrapper and autumn leaves.

The three boys, 12 or 13, surely too young to be out so late are looking at the mobile phone, fallen from a pocket and now under a seat. They are wiling the thick set man not to notice what has happened and are already re-telling the find as a daring street robbery
” i walked right up to him, innit and i says, gimme the phone blood”
The bus comes, the man gets on and as the pulls away, the oldest child has dive under the seat and grabbed the phone. They run down the street although there is no-one to chase them.


Things you see at bus stops – on the night bus – 14-part 1

One black tap shoe, black ribbon fraying, curling back into the secret shoe interior.
It’s partner nowhere to be seen.
I put my hand inside, tap a little 1 and 2 and 3 and think of Charlie Chaplin.

A woman, hair and most of her face hidden, covered by Hijaab.
Her heavy eye make up is running, a trail of glittery green which vanishes into the heavy fabric.
A tear falls from her eye and looking more closely, I understand that her veil is sodden from crying.

Slumped against the back panel of the bus stop, her hand runs absently along the metal mesh of the empty seats, until her fingers find something, hard, plastic, unexpected.
She looks carefully and her hand jerks back in surprise.
A pair of false teeth.
She runs her tongue against her own teeth, furry from too many cigarettes, smoked too late at night,sticky with an ill-considered double baileys.
She wonders if these teeth, the ones almost in her hand would be clean, minty, fresh.
She imagines biting into a sharp green apple with someone else’s teeth.

He knows he is very drunk, has that careful, mannered walk of a drunk trying to fool himself into sobriety. He has the bus stop in his sights now, deep breath, onto the home straight. He sighs with relief and then looks down and finds that he has fallen into a very old joke.
Next to him is a chicken, matching him step for step, same upright but slightly off kilter walk is a chicken.
They arrive at the bus stop together and with the terrible logic only found at the end of very long nights he watches the chicken cross the road.

2 girls sit back to back on the red plastic chairs at the night bus stop. They lean into each other, keeping each other warm. One is half asleep, eyes almost closed. She is humming the last track they heard at the club, still lost in music and the smell of sweat and fading perfume on her partners skin. The other girl is awake, watching the boys, waiting for the bus, watching her.

The pantomime horse is drooping now, weighed down by the heat of fake fur and tired of trying to talk through the mesh of the horse heads.
The front hopes that the north bound bus will come first and that he can convince the back end to come back to his place.