Light transportNov 28th, 2011 | By Ian Poulton | Category: Personal Columns
Though nearly seven o’clock in the evening, the Luas tram carriages travelling from Charlemont to Ranelagh were packed. A man set down his coat, briefcase and laptop in a space between seats and took out a pristine copy of the Irish Times, presumably his first chance to digest the news of the day. A man beside him looked tired, the shadows under his eyes dark, his expressionless face giving no clue to his thoughts. The brightness of the lights in the carriage did no favours to those whose day had started early.
In memory the lights on a Western National bus making a south Somerset journey from the town of Yeovil to the village of West Coker were a gently pale rather than brilliant white. My grandfather boarded the bus in the town centre for the journey to his home. The colours were strong: the green and cream of the bus; the lettering along the side; the dark uniform of the driver; everything shining and polished. There was in the light a warmth, a welcome, a gentle and ordered world.
My grandfather was a gentle and quiet man, his passion was the stamp collection which he assembled with meticulous care and attention. Never driving, the bus was his daily transport to his work at Boot’s Chemist where he worked in the pharmacy. What things did he ponder as he made that journey each day? What other people shared that journey?
The weakness in the recall of that journey in the darkness is that it is a journey I never made. The nearest I came to being on that bus was being walked to the bus stop at the top of Nash Lane to meet him as he stepped off. What was there in the memory of that bus pulling up at the stop that imprinted such a strong impression in the mind of a child that perhaps forty-five years later the lights of a Dublin tram could be thought a stark contrast?
Was there something in those old buses with their polished paintwork, shining chrome and stern destination boards that provided a sense of security? As steam railways spoke of an ordered and predictable world, did the Western National bus making its steady progress out the West Coker Road, signify that beyond the world brought to us by the television news, there was still an England that was a safe and unchanging?
In 2050, might there be a middle aged person riding public transport who recalls riding the Luas in 2011 and finds an indefinable reassurance in that memory?