Sunday, 12 January 2014

2014 The Year Of The Accidental Bus Driver

Taking a walk down a country lane just after New Year should have been a glorious and outward look to the future and thoughts of what the coming year will bring. But the first Passing Place I passed put paid to that. It was covered in the remains of a thrown-up Pizza Margherita from the early hours probably from a passenger who had just opened the car door, without bothering to get out, to leave their mark on the tarmac.

The next passing place had the remains of a take-away, newly ditched as the contents were still steaming. The third was strewn with cold and congealed chips, where the only question was whether they had been covered in curry sauce, cheese or gravy.

New Year, Same Old.

Well, that is the cynical side of me making the most of observing the seedier side of life. The reality is that 2014 is an exciting year. It could be one of the best years of my life. It is the year that the Accidental Bus Driver lifts his head above the parapet (or steering wheel to be more accurate) and turns into print.

Yes, March is not far away. That is lift-off.

Books 2 and 3 are in the planning - but not about buses, bus drivers, accidentals or anything that stops regularly and has a route number. Though having said that a bus will appear in both books - with ironically different stories attached.

So may 2014 be a prosperous New Year for you all and may all good wishes and resolutions come to fulfillment. Avoid looking too closely into the grass verges of lay-bys and passing places as you just don't know what you might find.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Belly Muscles Tighten With Laughter

74 days to go to The Accidental Bus Driver book launch.

I'm starting to get insecure as to whether it is funny enough. Particularly at this time of year when the Christmas tv schedules are announced and I find that there is nothing remotely amusing on the gogglebox. They are all too clever, so-called sophisticated, trendy or self-indulgent.

I judge comedy by how much my stomach muscles hurt and how wet my eyes when the credits roll. For the last few years I have found my lower regions turning to flab and having to reach for an onion as a last resort to induce tears and a belly laugh. It must be my age and venturing into 'Grumpy Old Men' territory.

The last time I experienced mass belly laughter was on an SAS flight to Kuala Lumpur, when just before breakfast was served, the crew put Mr Bean on the video screens. The plane literally shook as the mainly Danish passengers roared with laughter. It was impossible to eat the powdered scramble eggs.

The Scandinavians retain the tradition of showing Freddie Frinton's Dinner For One over the holiday period Do a survey in the streets of Britain and people will likely reply 'Freddie who?' It is a simple tale with a magical piece of acting, playing the part of a drunk butler (all the more impressive as Frinton was a teetotaller). It is simple, charming and timeless......

......just like the passengers I have driven around on buses over the years, so I don't think I have any need to worry about the humour element to the book. And to have it confirmed, the test group I loosed the book on have all come back reporting that their tummy muscles had firmed.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Crashed Caravans And The Pink Nightie

Which relatively harmless industry in the UK, which puts £6 Billion annually into the local economy, is often the butt of jokes, derisory comments and general sneering. Well it's caravaning, naturally.

I can't put a precise finger on why they make bus drivers feel uncomfortable. Perhaps it is the general unease along the motorway when they start swerving violently making you wonder about either the stability or the concentration of the driver. Now that the days of 50 m.p.h speed restrictions for caravans have gone, many seemed to be towed by 3 litre 4x4's which seem to take great delight in slowing down then putting the foot down as if it was all a game.

Top Gear humiliated the caravan , Skegness Crash Derby track sometimes have a caravan race as the last race and people make fools of themselves and put it on Youtube .

I even saw, during the bad floods in Carlisle several years ago a sizeable group of people standing and cheering at intervals. They were not delighted at the dramatic flood waters or the fast flowing river. They were transfixed at the sight of some caravans which were swept down the river upstream and when they hcame to a temporary halt by a stone bridge. The cheering started when, one by one, the caravans disintegrated as the current forced them under the arch.

There are of course exceptions to the image portrayed in the Carry On films such as Carry On Behind. Romany caravans are works of art. The Caravan Gallery   produces original and funny material. and these Winnebago type vehicles now seen on the roads are like mobile luxury hotels.

But the story I feel epitomises the caravan is one which a policeman once told me when he had been forced to smother his giggles when attending a crash on the motorway: -

A family had started their journey for their annual holiday, taking their caravan to the seaside. The husband and children had got into the car, but the wife was tired, and wearing her pink nightie had got into the bed in the caravan. She woke up when the car stopped at a motorway service station for fuel. She wanted the loo and viewing the Ladies sign out of the window, she decided to run across the forecourt.

When she came out the car, caravan and her family were gone. She was in a terrible state at being abandoned and looking a fool. The kindly garage supervisor told her not to worry and that he would drive her in his car up the motorway until they caught up with her husband.

They did.

But the husband, hearing frantic hooting on the horn, looked across to see his wife, in a pink nightie, in a strange car with a stranger at the wheel. He was so surprised that he drove off the road and crashed his car and caravan, without injuring anyone.

No wonder caravans make people smile.   

Monday, 2 December 2013

An Elephant Hit Me

Windsor Safari Park has been long gone. The fenced enclosures have long gone and have been superceded by Legoland, which is a lot kinder on the car you drive there. My car often used to return from the Safari Park missing a part or two. The baboons would climb onto the bonnet and unscrew the nuts holding the wiper blades, which would then be carried off into the undergrowth.

I don't know why I think fondly of the place. If you didn't get soaked by the killer whale and the dolphins performing acrobatics, you were likely to get pee'd upon by the monkeys. It was expensive, even after having free entry courtesy of some friend of my mother's who lived next door and whose garden bordered the park. The mother would heave several children over the fence and we would have to run past the giraffes to get to safety. I never saw a giraffe as my gaze was firmly fixed on the gate in the far corner, but the thunder of hooves (if giraffes have such things) could be heard.

I suppose it was the elephants which were the magnet. There is something magical about these beasts which stop me in my tracks whenever I see one.

It was a different experience which allegedly happened to a family on a day trip to the Safari Park. While driving through the enclosures where the signs stated:


the grandmother started to feel faint and wound down her window a little. An elephant stuck its trunk through the gap out of duriosity and probably what food was in the car. The grandmother screamed, paniced and hurriedly wound her window up, trapping the elephant's trunk. The elephant, undoubtedly due to pain and fear started lashing out at the car with his front feet, causing damage to the whole side panels. (if you want to know what it is like to be hit by an elephant - look at - you'll get the idea.)

They were rescued by the wardens and parked up in the main car park. While the family went off to see the other animals, the father was still feeling very shaken and went to the bar for a drink or two.

On the journey home, there was a major accident involving two cars. Having witnessed the crash he pulle over and got out to see what he could do to help. A policeman came up to him and asked:

'Excuse me, sir, but were you involved in this accident?'

'No,' he replied, 'of course not'

'Well what happened to your car?'

'An elephant hit it.'

'Will you come over to my car and breathe into this bag?'

He was over the limit and was charged for 'drink and drive'.

It's a rrough world

Friday, 15 November 2013

Christmas Shopping Seems To Lack Its Usual Magic This Year

As I write this the Christmas Countdown clock stands at 39 days 12 hours 57 minutes 37 seconds 36 35 34 33 32 31 30 29...........

What the hell am I going to give people for Christmas? The thought is just starting to cause havoc inside and a panic attack is not far away. I'm sure I am one of many. And it is illogical to worry about such silly things, particularly with all the atrocious events happening in other parts of the world such as the Philippines where peoples thoughts must be on just getting through the day, let alone thinking of Christmas in 39 days time.

It is an uncomfortable feeling, I find, when you watch the latest, most expensive, fantasy adverts on telly where everything is perfect and wonderful you will feel when you open your wallet and buy into this false world of comfort.

What a hypocrite I am. Sitting here comfortably watching peoples misery on the other side of the world. But I guess you can only do your bit. The British public have been as generous as ever, donating over £30 million. Life will go on. Christmas presents will be bought, opened and enjoyed. But I just wonder if maybe people will be more selective this year and not buy the multitude of junk which is available. Maybe the balance will be adjusted a little where us lucky ones who have so much will give yet more to others who have nothing.

Me? Well I won't be giving useless, self indulgent presents like the painted bus I gave to my godchildren one year It was a bit of fun at the time. I don't know what I will give this year, but I am sure it will be with a deeper thought.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Balzac On The Buses

A friend of mine, when sending good luck messages recently and also wondering whether it would be possible for her to download The Accidental Bus Driver onto her Kindle Paperwhite, wrote:

"If Balzac had driven a bus, he would have gotten in touch with that guy from Google'.

Honoure de Balzac, the great 19th century writer of La Comedie Humaine who wrote about life in France after Napoleon Bonaparte? Of course there's no comparison. Balzac and The Accidental Bus Driver. In today's terms, it's like placing the Booker Prize winner next to a Haynes Car Manual.

But is there really no common ground?

I beg to differ and think there is, however improbable. It comes in the form of Balzac's writing habits. He was supposed to have a light supper around 6pm, sleep until Midnight and then work for 15 hours or more at a stretch.

A bus/coach driver is similar, despite the 'light' aspect to supper as most drivers I know rarely eat light meals and that the hours vary, the stop-start-work-rest ratios of life are similar.

I used to sit at the steering wheel writing and making notes in my rest period. It was the only place on the bus where there was anything closely resembling a desk. But that was where it ended - the quality of the prose was undoubtedly un-Balzac-ian.

Monday, 11 November 2013

How Accidental Is Accidental? For Sometimes Accidental Does Not Seem As Genuinely Accidental As Accidental Should Be

Oh dear. I am beginning to get the jitters.

The thought is dawning on me that the 'Accidental' in The Accidental Bus Driver is not as clever or funny as I had originally thought it was. A search in google put paid to that. I had no idea how many people had jumped onto the Accidental bandwagon. Well I had possibly jumped onto their wagon, to be more accurate.

Everyone has heard of Anne Tyler's The Accidental Tourist or Iris Murdoch's An Accidental Man.  You may indeed have heard of The Accidental Billionaires, Ben Mezrich's book about the founding of Facebook which was adapted for the film The Social Network or the Twitter account called Accidental Partridge which lists Alan Partridge's best sayings. Or the songs, Accidental Racist by Brad Paisley Feat. LL Cool J and Accidental Babies by Damien Rice. Or the films, Accidental Hero with Dustin Hoffman and Geena Davis and The Accidental Husband with Colin Firth and Uma Thurman.

But that's just the beginning.

There's the Accidental Bully, Genius, Spy, Sailor, Taxonomist, Missionary, Prince, Couple, Pallbearer, Cowgirl, Apprentice, Demon Slayer, Assassin, Mother, Bride, Cheerleader, American, Pharisees, Vegetarian, Duchess, Mistress and Pornographer.

But even with so much competition I still feel my title, The Accidental Bus Driver is up there with the best. Well I would wouldn't I? The reason being, as someone kindly pointed out to me the other day, that I feel I am the only one who is physically correct. Oh sure I became a bus driver by accent as all the others above did in their respective fields ... but I bet they didn't reverse their bus into some garage doors ... three times.

(Look at for more snippets and events of the publication of the book in March 2014)