Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Close encounters of the First kind

It may be an oldie, but here's a sweet and affectionate (if slightly ambiguous) sketch of Hanley bus station, soon to be gone. Or not. We all love it none the less.

Still, it reminded me of my homeward commute from Stoke station the other night, courtesy of the Number 21 bus towards Bradeley. Dicing up the Potteries all the way from Trentham to Tunstall and on to the outer nebulae, a gaslight cruise aboard the 21 is the *only* way to experience the Potteries in all its twilight glory.


A well-nourished but wobbly fella hauled himself aboard in Hanley, by Cheque & Pawn. With ample cheer and breath like napalm, he sat himself down and commenced broadsiding merrily at anyone and everyone that wouldn't listen. Something about I'm a Celebrity and how he used to know Robbie.

All this was but background noise as our chariot swept by the wipe-clean lap dancing club and onwards to the labyrinthine headfuck that is the Festival Park Experience.

Suddenly, I was hurled from my reverie as the driver hit the anchors. I sensed an exodus of ruffled, elderly passengers. Evidently, they'd suddenly remembered how much they'd been coveting one of those dainty USB fishtanks from PC World.

Big fella danced around the maypole and thlumped his adequate arse down on the seat in front. Like a beery barn owl in Bukta, he deftly rotated himself and presented a battered wing-tip for inspection. Foolishly I detected little harm in shaking it - for what bother is a friendly drunk anyway?

Two minutes and an aeon later, he released me. By now he had anointed himself Gorgeous George, King of Tunstall ("that's what they call me!" - no shit!) and had begun to wonder loudly whether I fancied a buying him a pint in the Globe by way of small tribute.

Being every inch the considerate monarch, he ensured that I was fully briefed on the fortunes of that old friend of mine [also, conveniently, his ex-girlfriend] Tracey. Uh-huh. Oh, that Tracey... um... wow, who knew...?

From thence we proceeded regally to more pressing matters of state. The State of the Nation, no less. Cobridge, if you're particular. George, you see, had once been a member of the Socialist Workers' Party - "protesting against that lad that wouldn't sell to a nigger," apparently.

The bus took on a demographically representative sample outside Sageer Barbers and tiptoed apologetically past the Mosque with the onboard polemic in full swing.

"Hey, all this... makes you glad to be WHITE BRITISH, doesn't it?"

I rubbed frantically at the condensation and stared determinedly out of the window.

"Makes you PROUD doesn't it? To be white. BRITISH, Eh!?"

"Um. I dunno. I'm half Italian," I squeaked with the it's-a-pound shrug 'n' smile combo of a desperate man; a slightly, if wilfully embellished version of the truth.

Note to customers: For your comfort and peace of mind, all PMT buses are fitted with clearly-marked MISSION ABORT! buttons positioned throughout the vehicle.

Also, don't forget the Chlamydia Advice Line!

And so it was that I alighted prematurely and with no little relief outside Coin Crazy. Drawing deeply from the sweetly scented air of Waterloo Road (yum... Hanging Mangoes), I began to reflect wearily on this, my unexpectedly close encounter of the First kind.


Shane said...

You write well. Refreshing, too, that you're S-o-T-based. Particularly liked '...every inch the considerate monarch'.

In a quiet sort of way, that YouTube film was evokative of something fairly unpleasant. The 66 year old man's emoting (at 6 minutes in), was almost enough to bring a tear to the eye. The film credits were a cringe-worthy - giving thanks to all of the 'characters' who'd chipped in to the production. Overall though, a neat production.

Wishing you well, and looking forward to dropping by again.

Meanwhile... said...

Shane - thanks for the comment and thanks for visiting this electronic backwater!

I think that's roughly what I was getting at when I said it was ambiguous, but you express it much better.

Interesting thoughts. I have to admit I didn't stick around for the credits. What lets it down a little for me is some of the mercenary editing that teeters on the edges on mockery - but I wasn't sure if that was just me.

Still, it's broadly an affectionate account of a funny old place.