Number 12 bendy bus, London, UK

On the number 12 bendy bus heading up to town a gang of ticket inspectors backed by police get on at Trafalgar Square. One of them scans my Oyster card, which seems okay – I assume he can tell whether or not I swiped it on this bus, which on this occasion I did. (The other day, coming home when the bus was packed and I had to stand among people eating fast food and shouting into mobiles, I decided not to fight my way past them just to swipe 80p off my card.) Someone on the back seat doesn’t have a ticket. He says he’s homeless. You’d better get off the bus then, says the inspector. He says he’s homeless, he tells the policeman waiting outside. They have about three people out there. One is struggling. They put hand cuffs on him.

It’s time to start cycling again. I’ve got my old bike back, and have just bought a D-lock for £29, which is probably almost what the bike’s worth.

Sitting in Golden Square at lunch time there are more police. They stop and question a couple of women walking across the square carrying tabloid newspapers. One of them starts shouting, repeating the word allegations, wanting to know who’s made allegations against her.

After spending some time in cafes on the internet I head for the Oxford Circus bus stop. It’s getting on for nine, usually quite a busy time, but if I get on there, which is where the number 12 starts, I’ll be able to get a seat. I take out my paper and try to finish the sudoku I started earlier but my eyes won’t focus.

A woman gets on, talking, and sits in the empty seat next to me. Her handbag digs into my ribs. I shift over, up against the window. She’s not talking to anyone in particular, just to whoever will listen.

A woman behind us is shouting into a mobile: I’m on the bus now, but I just want to sit down and have something to eat. Why don’t you just sit down then? snaps the woman next to me, and then starts going on about Hitler, how if Hitler was here you wouldn’t be able to just sit down. As she’s getting off the bus the woman on the mobile snaps back: Why d’you keep going on about Hitler? Are you racist or something? You shouldn’t be racist. I’m serious. The woman next to me denies being racist and says that her old mum scrubbed floors during the war. Down on her hands and knees she was, and now she’s talking to me because the woman with the mobile has got off and the guy who was sitting opposite has moved to another seat.

I wasn’t causing trouble, was I? Well, I think you were, I say. I don’t know if she was actaully racist or not, but later she did say she thought there were too many foreigners in the country so maybe she was. Too many bigots, I should’ve said, but only thought of it after I’d got off the bus. I wasn’t sure whether to ignore her, move to another seat, or argue with her.

She didn’t talk about Hitler any more. She put on a posh accent and started asking me if I had my own residence. My old mum always told me to make sure I had my own residence. Do you have your own residence or do you live with friends? Do you drink? I don’t look 54 do I? Does this bus go to Peckham? That’s where I’m going, Peckham. I’m sorry, I’ll let you get on with your crossword.

2 Comments

  1. Mbashta · 28 August 2006

    Was the name of this woman H’mbota, by any chance? She sounds a lot like a woman from my village.

  2. paul · 28 August 2006

    I don’t know what her name was. I didn’t ask her.