6.45 am. Wait for a bus to the station so I can catch a train to Birmingham. Sleet slaps at my face. Bus comes on time. Get on bus. Am convinced that I don't need to ring the bell as we approach the station, because, surely, lots of other people will be getting off here. Bus doesn't slow down. No one else moves. Feel too silly to ring the bell now. Walk to front of bus and stand just to the right of the driver. (He can't miss me. No one would mistake me, it has to be said, for a stick insect.) He begins to drive out of the station. 'Are you going to stop here?' I say. 'Only if you ring the bell,' he says, cruelly, and then he opens the doors, barely stopping the bus so I have to leap off like James Bond does off trains, only a million zillion trillion times slower and not wearing a sharp suit or cufflinks that stab people.
6.59 am. Stand in station with the freezing wind whipping round my ankles like a curse. Think: Hm, the weatherman said it was snowing in Birmingham. Should I check the university's website on my smartphone? Check their website on my smartphone. It is snowing in Birmingham. The university is closed and my meeting has been cancelled.
7.00 am. Wait for a bus back home. Frostbite starts in my toes. Bus arrives. Get on bus, thankful for warmth. Warmth does not last long. Am on wrong bus, going wrong way. Ask driver to stop, and get off, trying not to meet his eyes. He might swap stories with his colleague at the depot.
7.10 am Get on another bus, going a different way. This turns out to be the way home.
7.30 am. Trudge home from bus stop. Don't need a mirror to know that my nose is as red as a postbox. Pass several of my neighbours going off to work who give me strange looks as if to say, 'Why are you only arriving home just after dawn? Do Embroidery Club and Exercises for the Stiff go on that late?'
8.30 am. All cosy and warm, having had cups of tea and an hour at home. Wrap up again in woolly jumper, scarf, fleece, gloves and a determination to get to work without further mishap. Dog poo on the pavement and icy paths make it a near thing, but I manage it.
9.00 am. Burst into the office, going 'Surprise!' and tell my story of struggling to the station through Siberian wastes. No one is impressed. Moderate year 10 coursework. Drink coffee. Stifle yawns.
|Fran knew she had got the wrong bus when the locals began to look like this.|