Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Bus pass

"Riding on city buses for a hobby is sad*"
– Belle and Sebastian, The State I Am In

*But in Cornwall it's fun!

When it dawned upon me how much I'd save on a bus pass as compared to daily tickets (day return from Pool to Redruth = £9 vs. weekly (7 day) bus pass for the whole of Cornwall = £28), it was a no-brainer, and even at weekends I would sometimes take the bus for fun, despite, or because of, the journey always taking longer than cycling, and sometimes taking longer than walking. Nevertheless, the joy of being able to take eight buses in a day (which I did one Saturday) and it not costing about £46 but just being part of my weekly bus pass, was immense.

The bus pass completed the full-set of Cornwall passes it had taken me almost a year to accumulate: annual locals' passes for the Tate Gallery St Ives (£5 – the best of the lot), Wheal Martin, Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Not forgetting the Merlin Cinema Magic Discount Card and the Devon and Cornwall Railcard – only £12 for a year which gets you a third off all train journeys in the two counties plus tickets all £1 for children aged 5-15.

I actually loved the bus journey to work in Truro – words I have never written about any commute to work in London. In winter I'd wake in darkness and leave the flat as the sun was rising over the massive Carn Brea with its iconic Celtic cross of the Basset Monument on its highest point. They often both silhouetted against a bright pink and orange sky as the sun slowly woke up behind them. I'd hear and see black birds flying across the sky. Often they'd be a mist as the bus wove its way through the small villages and countryside towards the capital city. As we drove past the village of Chacewater we'd start to see the chimneys of engine houses, rising above the trees in the misty countryside.

(Indulge me, if you will, into imagining yourself in the swimming pool at Carn Brea Leisure Centre (recently renovated). Imagine, too, that it's sunrise and you can see through the walls of the leisure centre. You look up, and behold, you see the sun rising behind the almighty hill and the monument. Now, imagine just a bit more, well a lot more – but is it not a similar experience to being in the sea at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro and looking up at Mount Corcovado and seeing the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, only 11 metres higher than the Basset Monument?)

The main downside of buses is waiting for them. It's 6pm, supposedly rush hour, in the central bus station in Truro, the capital city of Cornwall. There are no buses. It’s been raining, so I shouldn’t be too harsh on the people, but they look poor, ugly and stupid, some with quite obvious mental and/or physical health problems. The youth hanging around wear tracksuits and baseball caps. Some have dogs. One is teasing a dog. A bottle breaks. There’s a tension in the air and, as if on cue, I feel slightly relieved to see two policemen come around the corner. But instead of beating up the youth who good taste forgot, they stop to chat and laugh with them. I’ve been at this bus station a lot, all tines of day and night, and have reached the conclusion that the youth spend most of their evenings here. Almost as rare as the policemen is the sudden flight of a ginger cat across the road from the bus station – though apparently he's a local cat called Rusty.

Another evening and by 7pm there are only a few lost souls hanging around. The city is empty, it’s drizzling and dark. The same hypnotic teenagers are still hanging around the bus station, wearing the same tracksuits. The city is theirs. They are welcome to it.

On the bus home at 9:30pm on a Friday night. Except it feels like it's 3am on a London night bus. It's raining, of course. Condensation blankets the windows. There's only a few people onboard. A young couple, looking knackered, the guy slumped on the table (yes, there is a table on the top deck of Cornish buses), his fist bloody red and raw. Another, older couple a few seats behind me are having an argument. The man, drunk, is loud and aggressive towards her. Well, she has had an affair with the ugliest, stupidest man in Cornwall, apparently. She eventually goes downstairs. He does about ten minutes later. Then I do – to meet H, who is downstairs on the same bus as me, by chance. I go down to see her. The same couple who were upstairs and I thought had left the bus separately are at the back, having the same loud argument. An unconscious man in a wheelchair hugs a can of lager.

Previously on Barnflakes
Flickagram #11
On the buses 
Pizza Night

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