Sunday, 20 June 2010

There's Rarely Any Anxiety On The Valium Run

"Have a bad day," the large, cocky and charmless school boy said to me as he got off the bus at his school

"What are doing, man?" The old woman shouted at her daughter who snapped back: "What do you think? I'm just miles away, laughing at myself."

There was a roe deer fawn standing in the middle of the road around one corner. Around another there was a man wearing only a pair of shorts looking like a typical English lobster after a day in the sun. When he turned round there was an enormous tattoo down his back. It was a Gothic style cross, stretching from shoulder to shoulder and from the nape of the neck to goodness knows where.

A Romanian Big Issue seller stood outside the betting shop in the tiny Northumbrian market town where I took my lunch break. There was also a Romanian looking accordionist stationed on a stool outside the Co-op playing the Harry Lime theme from the Third Man radically out of tune. They were strangely out of place as this town is very poor and it is difficult to imagine many coins being thrown in the box.

Still it brought a breath of fresh air to the town. The acoustics were good and the notes, even if they were not the right ones bounced beautifully off the public toilet block opposite the musician. If you shut your eyes for a brief moment you could imagine being on some Mediterranean street. Until the piercing Northumbrian wind, the smell of bovril fried fish and chips and the sound of "'ere we go, 'ere we go" coming from the folk sitting outside the pub round the corner stated otherwise. The sun and the lager were warming them up nicely in preparation for the upcoming England-Algeria World Cup match.

One of the regular passengers did her usual trick of giving me her fare of £3 in a plastic cash bag of 1p, 2p and 5p bits. A Czech bus driver on Hadrian's wall gave me some cans of Czech beer because I told him I thought the Czech Republik had very delicious knedliky (dumplings) and I was close to being manhandled by a group of Amazonian women with backpacks who demanded a free ride for their planned walk.

So it was far from a bad day. Unusual because it is on the route most of the bus drivers detest and call it the Valium Run. It is an eleven hour shift and there are complaints of it being boring with a lack of passengers.

For some reason, whenever I land 'the Valium', something out of the norm happens. Maybe Bill Bryson should have sat behind me on the bus when he wrote:

"He had the sort of face which makes you realise God does have a sense of humour."

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