Sunday, 15 May 2011

A Saturday Dose Of Vallium

It is several weeks since I last had the pleasure of driving the Vallium Run. So what's new in the Land That God Forgot.

Quite a lot.

Several more shops had closed in the market town. The retired poacher told me when he and his dog sat on the bus during my rest period.

'I saw you,' he said, 'so I just thought I'd come and see you for the good crack.' I soon turned into a discussion about why one particular shop had closed.

'Health inspectors went in,' said one passenger. 'Found rotting food in the back.'

'Cash went missing,' said another.

'He was serving out the front of the shop and out of the back, if you take my meaning,' replied the first.

'What was he selling?'

'I'll leave that to your imagination.'

'Oooh,' said a shocked lady, as if someone had pinched her on the bottom. 'You mean it was not exactly legal?'

'No,' said another passenger, raising his eyes and trying to be patient.

I escaped to go to the cash point machine to get some money out to buy a local hot pork pie. Another shopkeeper in the shop next door was standing on the pavement, putting out his display items.

'Morning,' he said. 'Getting some cash out?' It was the typical British habit of making polite conversation by stating the bleeding obvious or saying something utterly useless. I mean, what did he think I was doing at the hole in the wall, admiring myself in the computer screen? I kept my sarcastic thoughts to myself and punched in my pin number.

The keys felt heavy and the keypad had a certain stickiness. I felt my fingers being stuck to the keys. I tried to pull my hand away, but couldn't.

'I ought to warn you,' said a voice behind a large box which was being placed outside the shop next door, 'that you should be careful. Some idiot has smeared super glue on that cash machine.'

It was one of those moments when you stop and stand rigidly still, as if a pile of bricks has broken loose and is about to hit you on the head. Idiot? I thought, not as great as the idiot who is standing next to me, who might have warned me before I started punching the keys. fortunately the glue had only partially set and I managed to yank my fingers painfully away. The keypad suffered more as the glue had run down into the innards and the keys were frozen.

The day turned more bizarre. The bus service only has another month or two to run. The council have decided not to renew the contract; they have given it to a charity and told everyone that it will be a community bus.

Community bus?

I'd better warn them that they should expect days like I've had today. The bus driver will have to be:

1. Creche Leader

On one trip, there we four babies. I had to assemble and de-assemble prams and pushchairs. The mother brought a granny with her, who sat on the bus and babysat while she ran into the shops.

2. OAP Helper

The driver will have to be ready to help with bags of shopping, walking sticks, lost property. They will need to be good listeners - listen to countless stories, often ones you have heard many times before.

3. Agony Aunt

I had a passenger who needed counselling. 'I'm that fed up. I've had the fire engines in. The stove set on fire. The house nearly burnt down. There is smoke damage. I've had cowboy builders in. On top of that, I was in bed last night and I felt a drip, drip, drip on my face - it was the water tank giving way.'

What do you say?

'It could be worse,' was the only thing I could think of saying. 'It can only get better.' She looked stunned. I thought for a moment I had blown it and was going to be the recipient of a council complaint. But then she laughed.

4. The Master of Patience.

Many times I have to bite my tongue and smile sweetly. The passing tourists ask asinine questions. 'Is this a bus?' said a Canadian to me today, in a slow way. 'Yes, madam.' was the best reply I could think of, without lowering myself into a sea of swear words.

But I fared better than another driver, who stopped on the route the other day to see if he could help someone. The reply came in the form of two raw eggs, thrown smack into his windscreen.

'The next time I see ... I'm going to rip their ...'

Ah, promises, promises ...

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