One of the happy memories I have of my childhood was the trips we used to take on the buses to see my grandparents. It wasa journey that required three buses out and three Buses back. Every other week I would embark on the adventure.
We would arrive about lunch time. Get our usual hugs and kisses, then Mum and Dad would chat to my grandparents whilst my sister and I would busy ourselves playing in the back garden, or kitchen if the weather was not good. My biggest problem was keeping clean for the feast I knew was going to be served up later. Okay it was only a cold table with fruit and cream to follow, but the spread was a sight for sore eyes and hungry stomachs.
On this particular Sunday, 'Sing Something Simple' was finishing on the radio which meant home time was approaching. I was all wrapped up in my best coat, making towards the front door, receiving my share of hugs and kisses again. Upon stepping out a fog was rolling around although not very thick at this time. Much to my disappointment still no snow. The four of us ambled down the road to the bus stop, turning and waving as we walked until such a time I could not see them anymore. There we waited until the bus taking us to Bury Bus Station arrived. This wasn't the Important bus though, the one with my friend. The one where I would sit at the front looking out and helping to drive from Bury to Manchester, unless I fell asleep of course, which usually happened. The bus where the driver always looked from his cab to see if I was on board. I would wave to him
and he would smile back. Words were not needed to have our conversation.
So the ordinary bus took us to Bury Bus station and I made myself ready for the important job ahead, unaware that disaster was waiting to slap me in the face. As I stepped of the bus with help from Dad' I looked for the bus stop over the road, but the fog was making it impossible to see until I got closer. Hey hang on that can't be our bus stop, where had all these people come from. Some standing some sat in the shelter. This couldn't be right. We were always here first. As I held Mums hand, my ears radared in on the conversation that was taking place.
"Yes the fog is terrible we've been waiting nearly an hour, be glad to get back, that's if the next Manchester bus turns up" was heard from a voice in the queue. What all these people getting on the bus before me, My brain screamed. How can I sit at the front and drive if someone pinches my seat. My mind was buzzing with how to solve the problem.
Our bus turned up, but I was so preoccupied with my thoughts that I didn't look in the cab, but tugged at my mums hand urging her to get a move on so I could get to MY SEAT.
As the passengers found their seats, I ploughed forward down the isle to get to mine, but my heart sank as a man was already settled in my place. What's worse he looked like my headmaster, a chubby man all prim and proper, with brylcreamed hair flattened to his head, No, definitely don't like the look of him.
"Here sit with your sister and we'll sit behind you" my mums' voice broke my thoughts on the man. It was no good. We were four rows back and on the wrong side. I noticed the driver turn and look to were I usually sit, he then turned to face front again.
In my head my mind was shouting"Here I am. Look behind you", but the words would not come out of my mouth. I suddenly felt very cold and miserable, until now I had not realised how bad the weather really was but now I could feel it in my whole body.
The bus set of and I looked out the window, I wiped the window with my hand, still couldn't see a thing. Blimey this fog is thick. The bus slowly rolled along and the conductor came round collecting the fares. My dad handed him the money and the conductor gave me the tickets, he smiled as though to say never mind it doesn't matter about not getting your seat. I tried to return a smile but my bottom lip was quivering making it impossible to smile. My thoughts bounced around going in no particular
direction. I was feeling the cold though.
After what seemed age of nodding my head and muttering a few words in response to my sister and parents as their conversation washed over me, my body suddenly went to full alert. He can't be Can he Yes he is, he is getting up to get of the bus. My dad looked at me "Go on then hurry up" At this point I was suddenly aware my sister was sitting on my mum's lap,
beginning to fall asleep. I made a dash to the front of the bus to claim my rightful seat. As I took my seat, I noticed the conductor pass the window, Why had he got off The driver slid his side window back and leaned out to speak to the conductor.
My ears straining trying to hear the conversation that was taking place. I was now standing on my tip toes looking out trying to make sense of what was going on. As the driver slid back into his seat, he turned and caught sight of me, as I stood peering out through the window. The driver leaned back out and called the conductor back, pointing to me, the driver then gave the thumbs up signal. What could this mean .My eyes followed the conductor as he made his way back on board. The conductor walked
down the aisle towards me "Bert want's you to keep a lookout for people at bus stops, it's a real pea soup this fog, he can hardly see where he is going". I looked up into the driver's cab, Bert that's his name, now he really is my friend,
I thought to myself. Right no time to be cold got a big job on.
The bus trundled along at a slow pace, my eyes were darting everywhere straining to see through the fog. After a few stops and rings of the bell my concentration was broken by the bright lights shining through the fog. We were pulling into Whitefield station. Blimey only Whitefield,
We had been going for what seemed like ages and had only got this far. The bus pulled up and the conductor got of along with some passengers. He made his way to the front to speak to Bert again. I watched as a third person appeared, it was the inspector, his cap with a badge embossed INSPECTOR' announcing to everyone that he was somebody important. Bert steeped down from the cab and joined the other two, they then all made their way to the rear of the bus and climbed on the platform. "I'm sorry Ladies and Gentleman, it's to dangerous to go on, we will have to wait till the fog lifts" announced the Inspector "
the waiting room is open, you can wait in the warm and I'll let you know when we are ready to leave". He then proceeded
up stairs and could be heard making the same announcement. We what's all this we business. It was Bert and me, driving through
the fog, with the conductor looking after the passengers. I looked over to my Dad, but he made no effort to move. That's the spirit dad. We're not deserting the bus when they need us most. I scanned the rest of the bottom deck but no one else moved.
The Inspector came back down and made the same announcement again. No, these passengers were not deserters. Everyone is staying
for this adventure. My eyes were drawn towards Bert looking splendid in his heavy overcoat, white shirt and company tie, he walked forward and sat next to me. "Cor. can't see a thing out there. How are you, okay"
This was brilliant we were speaking driver to driver, or so I thought, but all I could manage were the words "Okay thanks".
Yet there were so many questions I had wanted to ask him about buses. He rubbed his hands together, rose from the seat and walked back down the aisle. Surely my chance has been blown, I felt like kicking myself. Why didn't I say something I searched my brain trying to unravel the solution. My eyes surveyed around the bus once more. The Inspector returned shortly after carrying a tray with an assortment of mugs and cups on it. He then proceeded to offer everyone a cup of tea, as the tray neared me.
I made myself ready to collect my reward. The tray swerved passed leaving me feeling very dejected. "Everyone got a hot
drink" The Inspector enquired. I wanted to put my hand up and shout " ME! I haven't got one", but for some reason my body remained motionless as did my voice. So many ups and downs in one day can't stand much more of this. Just as I was beginning to feel sorry for myself, Bert came and sat next to me again. He was holding a box and billycan."Here hold this" he said as he passed me a white enamel mug. I held onto it. He then proceeded to pour tea into it, "
Be careful it's hot" Next he handed me a sandwich. This was better than the other tea. This was bus drivers' tea. I spent what seemed like ages eating, drinking and chatting to Bert, this was definitely the best adventure for a long time. We chatted about buses and all sorts of other things. The time passed and I didn't want it to end, but alas it did. The Inspector returned and began collecting the cups and mugs. "Right Bert let's get these people to their homes, the fogs clearing but mind
how you go" Bert rose to his feet and collected everything together from our picnic, in no time at all the bell rang to signal the continuation of our journey. Bert glanced down towards me from his cab, he blew on his hands rubbed them together and gave the thumbs up signal. I returned the signal.
We were on our way. Boy was I feeling happy at that moment in time. I sat trying to pay attention as the bus journey continued, but sleep got the better of me. I was woken when we arrived at Cannon Street Bus Station in Manchester. I ambled of the bus and the conductor handed me the roll of paper he had removed from the ticket machine. Bert greeted me and we said our goodbyes.
This had been a good day.
Years later I was to see a programme called 'On The Buses' and an episode called 'Foggy Night' and the memories of one of
my childhood adventures came flooding back.
On The Buses had obtained a new fan , little did I realise thatnearly 40years on I would be running the ON THE BUSES fan club (Cor Blimey, but hey Ding, ding!)