Taking liberties with the wheel.

Being from Doncaster, which had the cheapest bus fares in the country, I formed a deep and lasting relationship with public transport from a very early age. I recall the trolley buses that flashed in the frosty weather and have a faint memory of travelling on the Newcastle trams, the same trams that were responsible for my mother losing her front set of teeth. She rode her bike into the tram lines and cracked her teeth as she fell. False teeth were fitted whilst she was still a teenager. The second time she cracked them was down to me when I gave her olives with stones in with her dinner and forgot to mention it!!

Only one family down our street had a car and they always seemed removed from the community because of it. We wondered why they needed one. It seemed completely unnecessary to us kids. I was once tempted to move into the world of the automobile when I was in my early 20’s. I invested in a lock-up garage from the Council but never quite got as far as buying a car to put in it. A friend of my brother once asked me,”Did you go far in your garage?” I think the few driving lessons I had exposed me as an accident waiting to happen and a still, small voice inside me addressed the issue of driving with honesty. I quickly dispensed with the garage and any pretensions I had to take to the road.

I was a great hitch-hiker in the 80’s and once hitch-hiked with a heavy Singer sewing machine from Doncaster to Howden. Looking back now, I’m amazed anyone stopped for me but stop they did and I eventually got home tired and achy with the said sewing machine in tact. I like to think my success relied on the shock factor.

Amongst the oddest things I have ever been allowed to take on to a bus was a 2.5m length of pipe insulation bought for a specific use in my feltmaking business. When I sat down with the monster I was a bit concerned because it lay balanced on the seat in front and overhung the next two seats. As the bus proceeded, the bendy tube kept bobbing hysterically with the momentum of the bus. I watched nervously as the poor passengers who were sat on these overhung seats fixed their gaze on the oscillations of this lengthy, precariously poised piece of polystyrene, a spongy harmless sword of Damacles.

After hosting a workshop with a Canadian feltmaker who specialised in using super-saturated dyes, I was faced with the decision of either disposing of the dye that was left or transferring it to two large plastic buckets and taking them home on the bus. I chose the latter being aware of how expensive the dye was. Fortunately the driver allowed me on the bus with the buckets and I sat trying to steady the sloshing of the dye whilst trapping the buckets firmly between my legs. It was an anxious journey that thankfully ended successfully with a few stains on my trousers but no rivers of dye running down the bus aisle. All this was achieved before our lives were burdened with health and safety regulations. Maybe they were introduced to combat challenging creative travellers such as myself.

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6 thoughts on “Taking liberties with the wheel.

  1. Great post. Laughed at the Sword of Damacles. And you are right, our lives have been so regulated, so busy at protecting us from ourselves. It is almost claustrophic at times.

  2. What great blog. Buses and subways were an important part of our lives, although we had a boat of a family car. The layout of this blog is wonderful. I love how placed your painting at the very top. On another small note, I hitchhiked from London to Newcastle when Harriet and David lived there.

    • It’s very hard to hitch-hike safely now. When I returned from visiting the family in the 70’s, I flew to Heathrow just before Xmas and there was a bus strike on so I ended up hitch-hiking from London to Doncaster. It was a hairy journey but I made it. Times have changed. Not that you didn’t have to have your wits about you then.

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