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A Ride on a Bus.

Now then, been a while since I got on the bus and journeyed into the city.

So, I had a ride on a bus. Stood at the bus stop hoping that it would turn up within reasonable range of its due time, it didn't. Much muttering amongst those inconvenienced. Just a couple of old ladies and one or to youngsters. The youngsters are wearing the uniforms of one of our foreign based super market chains. Their conversation revolves around the abuse they receive whilst earning their NMW. One of them, girl aged around 18 recounts being abused for allowing a nurse who was showing her NHS card to jump the longish queue. She also recounted how long it was since she was off for two consecutive days. Her mate offered the fact that he's not had a weekend off for nearly 5 months. These are not the happiest days of their lives.

The bus driver never spoke, just pushed the coins into their slots with a small plastic shovel type thing. He lives in private rented accommodation with his wife and a 6 year old, he is really worried about his accruing rental debt. There has been no relief offered to them. His wife doesn't work, she had a stroke two years ago. The cost of getting the young un minded is astronomical to them, these are not happy days for them. The bus company is talking of having to drastically roll back services, the Govt has said there will be no more money to support poorly used routes. Plastered along both sides of the bus are posters for Virgin Media, a bloke with gleaming teeth smiles radiantly out, he should, he owns space ships and an island. He has just been given millions by the Government. The passengers aren't thinking about any of that, they are just busy with the events of the day ahead. Humdrum and grey existences for them.


Ten miles form the city are many isolated areas with just a pub and a garage to rely upon. Many people out there do not own a car. The garage serves as the post office. The bus only comes once an hour, they all do not realise that it may soon become once every two or three hours, maybe four on Sundays. The nearest dentist is in the city and is not taking NHS patients. The virus has effectively barred anyone from actually seeing a GP, its all done by phone now. The older residents are scared to make a fuss. There are those seniors who live alone. They remember the years after war. You could always see a Dr back then. Everyone pulled together and wanted to help each other. Nobody spoke of paying to have illness cured or a tooth pulled. Not many had cars, there used to be lots of buses. Every one knew every one else, helping was a reflex thing.

The bus stops by a Hand Car Wash, it waits for a couple of minutes before setting off again. A girl called Lisa ( go here ) gets on. She works in the Accounts Dept of a chain of coffee shops. Always been good with numbers Lisa. She was raised by Child Services and now livers in a flat which the council provided. She is very grateful to the council. As the bus pulls away she overhears the old ladies discussing the fact that the car wash is staffed by more of "THEM", Lisa sighs and gets on with her Sudoku puzzle. Lisa wished people would stop classing others as "THEM", she is annoyed and this is because she knows this is not what her Dad died for, she thinks all people are the same. When Lisa has paid her rent and all the bills and bought food, she has £37 left over per week. She is glad she does not have to wash cars by hand to make a living. Lisa left school with average results, her education ruined by the awful tragedies she has already endured.


Next stop is alongside a disused pub, not long after it closed the Police broke in and discovered a Cannabis farm. The locals actually found this amusing, firstly they never see the police round there and secondly the local youthdom are capable of anything, they are operating a thriving black market on the huge estate, you can get anything from a nicked camera to knock off clothes on most street corners. Sadly, guns and knives are now causing adverse headlines in the local press. House prices are tumbling. The youngsters growing up in that area don't realise that as soon as they mention their postcode the mental shutters of prospective employers come tumbling down. For them, there is no future, no hope and no chance. The old ladies lament about the absence of The Birch these days. Others lament the absence of support for the youngsters.


The half filled bus passes the job centre, a queue is forming. Not the sort of clientele you would imagine. There are middle aged people waiting, some with good educations and years of experience of complicated systems and money management. Using PCs is second nature to them. Most of these people used to have conversations about the cannabis farm estate, not very complimentary ones. The commonly held view was that "THEY" should get off their arses and get a job. As they set off on their own personal journeys through the systems used by the Benefits Agency they become bitter and detest "THEM" even more. "If it wasn't for THEM the country wouldn't be in such a mess" is the common theme. There is a lot of panic about the payments for the car, the holiday, and the mortgage arrears. Most of the kids on the cannabis farm estate don't know what a holiday is. Only cars they will ever drive are nicked.

So, the bus arrives in the unstaffed bus station, the information screens are down as usual. People are milling around hoping to spot a driver so they can ask for assistance, the drivers are aware of this so they walk the longer way around to their tea room. Much of the chat is about the threat of reduced hours, these are not happy days for anyone. It has been worked out that another cut in working hours will make working at all not worth the effort. They would be better off staying at home and not working. The management threat is losing its gravitas. Spirits are very low.


As the passengers trudge away from the bus, several face masks are being blown by the wind. Lisa does not envy the street cleaner who will have to pick them up. She wonders about the protocols of disposing of them. One of her girlfriends works at the hospital, she says that masks should be classed as Hazardous Waste. Lisa does not think that the street cleaners will be advised about any of this. Nor does she think that the street cleaner would understand any of it. Such is life in the UK today.


Lisa trudges off toward her workplace. She is thankful that she does not have to worry about mortgage payments, her friends all have do that, many of them wish they had a council flat like Lisa. She trudges through the revolving door and gets in the lift up to her floor. She is unaware that their is a message in her Inbox that will very definitely change her life for the next few years. Tall and blonde Wendy who has worked at the company for a few years and is just across from Lisa, is there with a huge warm smile and a wink for Lisa, Lisa is not too sure what that is all about. We will return to Lisa again.

The two old ladies are actually only out to browse the shop windows, the youngsters have headed to the supermarket, the driver is smoking a ciggy outside behind the tea room. He will do that journey another 10 times today. Most of those who get on his bus will be the same as the ones he has just dropped off. People with nothing to look forward to mainly. Those who will be mislead every time there is a general election. They live out their humdrum and grey lives with no hope of anything substantial changing for them. The grinning bloke on the side of that bus knows nothing of having no dentist or reasonable access to a GP. He knows nothing of dreading going home or worrying about answering the door. He does know that during his lifetime he will never actually have to want for anything. Thing is though, he knows NOTHING of real life.


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Society not Economy.

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© 2020 Bill Stewardson