I have realised that I have become old.
Waiting at a bus stop on the Drimnagh Road, I watch the oncoming Dublin buses to see if the front seats of the upper deck are vacant. The buses arrive in twos and threes and if the front seats of the first bus are occupied there is always a temptation to get on the second.
Until recent times, my inclination would always have been to head for the back seat.
Had I been asked to explain, I would have said that the emergency exit was nearly always at the back, so there would be more legroom. In fact, my preference for sitting in the corner at the back stretched back to times when I was only five feet tall when my feet barely touched the floor and when there was definitely no need for legroom.
On a Saturday the school bus would take us to Torquay or Paignton, the former if you were fifteen or over, the latter if you wanted to go out for the afternoon and it was the only place on offer. My friends Dave and Tony, who were harder and cooler than I would ever be, were part of the back seat lineup and somehow a scrawny kid of uncool nature and delicate health got drawn into the company.
I liked the corner seat. I hadn’t anything to add to the conversation of the older boys, so I could be in their company without feeling that there was any need to speak. The bus would take us down the road from our Dartmoor school, through Bovey Tracey and Newton Abbot before reaching Torquay.
Sitting in the corner at the back, I would watch the passing countryside. I loved Dartmoor, with its constantly changing skies and colours. This time of year, the would see hillsides would be ablaze in autumn colours of red and gold and yellow and orange. Then there were the Devon towns, you see much more from a bus than you ever do in a car. There were moments of reverie when the journey seemed to have been complete almost as soon as it had begun.
I knew where I liked to sit, but had anyone asked me about why I sat there or my thoughts, I would have had no words to explain. Perhaps there was a sense of security in that seat, being enclosed by boys a foot taller than I was. Perhaps it was a chance for detachment, such chances were few enough in a boarding school filled with noise. Perhaps it was something else, something not rational.
Whatever the reason for the preference, the favouring of that one spot on a bus or coach lasted until the past month..