Having a ticket for a rugby match between Leinster and Ulster tomorrow and one for the FAI Cup Final between Saint Patrick’s Athletic and Bohemians on Sunday, I foolishly decided to walk to a match this evening. There was a promotion/relegation play off between University College, Dublin and Waterford FC, being played at Saint Patrick’s ground as a neutral venue.
It was football for the sake of it on a bitterly cold night. Staying for the whole match, my feet were numb and I was shivering by the time of the final whistle. Walking back, I reached Blackhorse tram stop and decided it was worth the fare to ride the one stop to Bluebell. The tram arrived and it was a relief to step into the warmth.
Most of the passengers seemed to be travelling home from work, tired and silent, despite it being Friday evening. The brilliant white light in the carriages did not seem conducive to the relaxation many of them would have sought after a long day.
In my 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 a quality in the light that suggested 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. Not driving a car, the bus was his daily transport to his work at Boot’s Chemist in Yeovil 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 fifty-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?