Friday, January 06, 2006

Characters on the Buses

There's something theraputic about travelling by bus - at least off peak! When I lived in Nice in the South of France for a year I met and got to know a tiny old woman known only as the comptesse, who had once been English (goodness only know now what she counts as) who had married into French nobility and lived an extraordinary life, then through a series of bizarre chances had been widowed and found herself living in a tiny, dark one room flat in the poorest part of Nice, surrounded by memories of a life all flown away. I have been fascinated by people with stories like that ever since.

So, buses... This morning I'm the only person on the bus with the driver and a little old woman sat in the front seat. She has a huge fur trimmed parka jacket on, a bulging shopping trolley (which looks more like a small tank) and a little fake fur hat pulled so close around her face that all you can see of her is a crosshatching of lines on skin. She's talking to the driver in a typical rough Portsmouth drawl but they get talking about India. She once lived there - he once served there in some military capacity. She talks for twenty minutes in rushed glottal stops about partition, the Ghandi dynasty, the political situation now and and twenty years ago and then, when India is exhausted, they move onto the Israel/Palestine situation and a sophisticated (far more sophisticated than I could manage) discussion of the implications of Premiere Sharon's illness. What a fascinating life she might have had...

Two stops into the journey and some ten year old kid with a snotty nose and cold face the colour of roses gets on and sits in front of me. He spends ten minutes watching a pornographic Simpsons cartoon on his mobile and squirming on his seat a lot. When he finally notices that he's displaying it over his shoulder to me as well he turns redder still, says nothing and turns it off and starts humming to himself.

It's a real pisser in so many ways not having the car on the road, but I love the things it shows me too.

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