Thursday, August 19, 2010

The #526 to Ilfracombe

There’s been a heat-wave here for the last five days and somewhere in the middle of last night, a chilly wind blew through the city and I finally got some proper sleep. I woke up with Karma Police stuck in my head and so after I’d made packed lunches and dropped off the children I pulled out Ok Computer from our Radiohead section and took it out in the car with me while I ran some errands.

One day I’m going to make a list of songs that make me want to curl up in a ball. Songs that are so good I can’t move; songs that are so good I want to pull my hair out or lie in a dark room on the floor. Karma Police would be on that list, especially if it had been warmed up by the five tracks before it. It was the middle of track six and I was driving through the city centre when I saw the #526 to Ilfracombe headed towards me on the other side of the road and I felt a sudden urge to weep. According to Google maps, that bus, like me, is about 4,700 miles away from home where it’s spending its retirement shunting tourists around Victoria, the last city before Canada hits the Pacific. It was only me who noticed that the #526 was not at home as I sat facing it at traffic lights blinking back my tears. It was only me who noticed the peeling red paint and I thought about the things that it must have seen while it weathered the British coastline on its regular route. School kids fighting for the back seat, old ladies with fat legs shouting their news to the bus driver, parents with steaming soggy bags of fish and chips on their way home to the family for dinner. That bus would have seen best-friend-fights and lovers-fights and fist-fights. It would have seen giggling children and sandy children and had ice-cream dripped all over its seats. It would have seen kisses hello and kisses goodbye and first kisses with butterfly-churning stomachs. Because that’s what happens on busses back home and as I sat there thinking all that, Thom Yorke sang “For a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself” and I loved that song just a little bit more.

The traffic lights changed and the song passed and the moment passed and I pulled myself together without curling into a ball or lying on the floor in a dark room. But now I can’t decide whether the #526 is better off trundling through the streets of Victoria, camera toting tourists aboard, or whether it would have been better off crushed into a small square and packed off for recycling, red flaky paint chips blowing in the gusty Devonshire wind.

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