May is the month of bank holidays, Afer taking advantage recently of one to visit friends on the outskirts of London, we had a strangely reassuring encounter. It was a lovely spring day: clear sunlight, trees clad in fresh green leaves dappled in sunlight and shimmering in just a hint of a breeze. We were waiting to catch a bus back to the centre. No rush, Plenty of time. The neatly framed timetables assured us that, though less frequent, there were buses on Sundays and bank holidays.
Somewhere nearby there was a park. We surveyed the different types of dog lovers and their chosen canine companion varying from the elegant to the pompous, ridiculous or, frankly, repulsive. No, it is not a universal truth that dogs resemble their owners. Or vice versa. But true enough to render the comment interesting.
We stood waiting. From what looked on the outside like a disused railway station came a man carrying a tray with curious rectangles of multicoloured flowers. About five inches or seven centimetres wide and twice as long, they lay expectantly beside one another for what event? Maybe even a funeral? Not a hint from the faces of the flower bearers, all equally inscrutable. It conveyed the mysterious awareness of something unfathomable happening just beyond the reach of one’s eyes or imagination.
Still no sign of the timetabled omnibus. We began speculating: would it be a case of the legendary Clapham omnibus that never arrives when expected, but after a frustrating wait appears immediately followed by two others?
A bit further up the road from us, a cream and beige bus appeared. The mirage paused at the top of the hill, and then slowly approached us. It had neither destination nor ‘out of service’ on it. We hailed it frantically. It stopped. We piled in, all five of us. Not one other passenger. Not a word from the driver, faceless in my recollection. We asked desperately to be taken to Kentish Town tube station. No answer. Maybe a slight nod while he waited for the traffic lights to change.
Spotless, cream and beige inside and out, almost silently it glided through leafy suburbs into more built-up areas. Not one landmark to help us identify the route. It looked strangely familiar. Everything seemed smothered by bank-holiday sunshine when everyone is supposed to be on holiday, so who runs the transport communications? A car or two occasionally drove past. How can people enjoy time off work when it is so difficult to get anywhere – except by a chance encounter with an unmarked omnibus, without owner or destination, which deposited us later at Kentish Town station?