Celtic Illumination, part 354, As I was going up the stairs…
Now and again you would be lucky enough to get someone really interesting on your bus. One day I picked up a fellow who looked somewhat strange with his long hair in platted pigtails, a huge cowboy hat and a frilled leather jacket. Turns out that he was a real Red Indian and we were chatting so hard I missed the turn for Southport and ended up remaining on the motorway heading into Wales. I couldn’t apologise enough to him for delaying his journey but he didn’t mind one little bit. I loved meeting and chatting away with interesting people. Normally most people just wanted to tell you how much better than you they were, unless they were drunk. I picked up two ladies, separate parties, one elderly and one middle aged. The middle aged woman was obviously off her face.
I don’t think that the elderly lady realised that strong drink had been taken; she was being your standard average old lady, very pleasant and very polite. The first two thirds of our journey would have been along motorways with no motorway services. Twenty minutes into our journey the middle aged lady now begins to ask for a toilet stop. Judging from the way she was shifting about on her seat I realised that I might have a time limit on this but was aware that the closest type of service area was a truckers stop just off the motorway near Warrington. I knew that they sold hamburgers and diesel there but I didn’t know if there were any toilets not to mention female toilets. I found the service kiosk and pulled up outside. The middle aged lady ran inside and I presumed that there was a toilet in there; either that or she was relieving herself behind a large display of potato crisps.
She came out in a much more relaxed manner than she had gone in and I assumed that we had achieved our objective. The kiosk had a table or two outside displaying various garden bits and bobs, no doubt trying to make a few extra shillings. Just my luck that the middle aged drunk, rather than return to the vehicle, now decides to go shopping and begins to gather potted plants and garden gnomes in her arms. However I soon discovered that she wasn’t shopping, she was shop lifting, for she skipped away from the tables and into the van slamming the door shut and suggesting that we get going. Again, I never had any customer relation training but even so thought it might be a bit off to turn around to a customer and tell them to get out that they were a thief.
I decided to adopt the monkey approach as in seeing no evil, so set off back on to the motorway. The elderly lady was being her usual pleasant self and remarked on how nice the plants and gnomes were. The drunk was now in generous mode and gave the old lady half of her booty. I meanwhile was sticking to the speed limit, for once, and watching in my rear view mirror for the blue flashing lights. I managed to get to my first drop in Ormskirk where the drunken middle aged lady lived, pleased that I hadn’t been pulled over by the traffic police, with the important word being, ‘yet’. The drunk poured herself out of the van and, as she couldn’t, I carried her case to her front door where after a good fumble about she found her key and let herself in.
We only had to travel on through to Southport but I was still worried that I was going to be pulled over by the police. I could imagine the roadblock with covering helicopters waiting for me on the outskirts of Southport. The old lady began to say how nice the other passenger had been in giving her the plants and the gnomes. I explained the situation that the woman was drunk and had stolen the items, I felt that I had to, in case we were pulled over and I wouldn’t have time to explain. When I dropped the old lady off she asked me to hold on to the items and return them next time I passed the truck stop, I said I would and as I checked the bus I discovered that the drunk had left her gnomes and plants in the bus too. So tell me what would you do? That’s correct. You would never go near the truck stop again.
Passengers were not the only sort of drunk you would come across as Arthur seemed to be permanently on the verge of sobriety. He sat in the back office, organising things, surrounded by boxes that contained home brew kits for white wine. He claimed that selling this stuff was a side line of his but I was never aware of him selling any, however, he always had a half pint of home brewed white wine sitting in front of him. He claimed that he liked to have some samples ready in case an interested party would like to taste some before buying. It was sad to see a life wasted in such a way. I don’t think I ever got together with any of the other drivers on a social basis, not that I had a social life outside the family and I’m not complaining.
It just wasn’t the punters that could make life miserable for you, the other controller, for the day shift, was a fellow called Ray. A simple man with a very simple life and I found it very strange that for someone who ran a timetable based service he didn’t seem to be able to tell the time. The night shift ran from seven in the evening until nine the following morning. I didn’t mind, in fact I loved it as I had so much to do. First of all there was the writing and reading and researching. Then I could spend a couple of hours working on my sailing ship and as the office had a fax machine I used to send fax messages to Paul O Grady and his boyfriend manager Brendan Murphy. These would range from cartoons to copies of letters I would tell them I was sending to the press asking if they would like to comment. With the night shift almost over I would have packed everything into whatever vehicle I was using and be ready for the off.
Ray was supposed to be in for nine o clock but would normally wander in at a quarter past or twenty past. If that’s not bad enough when he came in he wouldn’t apologise, or even acknowledge that he was late. He would pass straight through the office to the kitchen area where he would make himself a coffee so that he could start the day properly. I found his whole attitude seriously annoying. One Friday morning, I remember that it was a Friday morning as Irene and I had planned to go away for the weekend. I had hired a little sporty car for the weekend and picked it up the previous evening. Ray came in late as usual, along with Arthur who owned the company, and I just let the pair of them have both barrels, informing them that the next time this happened I would be leaving the office at nine o clock and they could sod off. He was never late again but it still didn’t end well.
I’m not an angry or aggressive person; in fact I hope most people that know me would say that I was quite laid back. I think I was angry with myself for shouting at the pair of them and was now funnelling my frustration through the accelerator pedal. As I came through the final main roundabout, leaving Southport, I saw the road stretch out before me and it was perfect. It was a beautiful; sunny morning, the road looked as if it had just been resurfaced, and it was traffic free, well; on my side of the road at least, so I floored the car. It was brilliant and I gritted my teeth as the speed dial crept up, yee har. By the time I reached the crematorium I was hitting one hundred and twenty miles per hour in a forty mile per hour zone. I was surrounded by graveyards, and dead people, so couldn’t see who would be affected by excessive speed when I noticed the oncoming traffic flashing their headlights at me. I immediately took my foot off the accelerator and began to stand on the foot brake.
I managed to get the car down to around sixty five by the time the police caught me on their fecking speed camera. The only thing worse than having a copper fine you for speeding is having someone who looks like an eighteen year old copper fine you for speeding. It’s only one of the drawbacks of being a good ol boy. Overall it was a great time at Lugga Bus. The vehicle was fantastic as a family vehicle, the job was ridiculously simple and I got masses of writing completed, also having access to the fax machines and an unlimited supply of office equipment, was welcome, as we were still pre internet and I was hoping to land my first client, as we say in the trade, Stateside. Perhaps the best thing about Lugga Bus was the people, the passengers, they all wanted to get to the airport on time, or get home in double quick time, so they would show me short cuts. It ended up with me knowing every back road in Lancashire, which of course allowed me and the family to explore the more out of the way places and events.
I never thought about it coming to an end or leaving the job. I suppose once I was an established writer I would have left not just Lugga Bus but England, so that was my goal. Sometimes these things are done for us so I arrived one Friday night for my night shift. I pulled up as normal outside the office and didn’t think it strange that the office door was locked. I had my own set of keys and expected that Ray was out on a job somewhere. I can remember standing at the door thinking it strange that someone had attached a heavy duty hasp and staple door lock to the front door of the office along with a huge fecking padlock. Idiot that I am I still opened the normal locks on the door then began to read the letter, enclosed in the plastic wallet, that was attached to the front door. The tax man had taken over Lugga Bus and the company was now in receivership. It really did take a couple of minutes for the facts to sink in but as I walked away from the front door I didn’t really think about why no one had bothered to tell me, because it sounded as if all the telephones inside were ringing, all I could think of was who was going to tell all the poor stranded passengers at the airport.