Like Busses

I have a strange approach to memory.  I mean, I don’t know because I don’t really know how anyone else’s memory works, even when they say ‘oh my memory is terrible’.  It’s all approximation, baby.  But I’m going to go ahead and presume that mine is neither orthodox or particularly good.


I can’t remember dates, years, locations, events or even humans very well, but if I try to remember a very particular thing, like, when did I first hear the phrase, ‘Like busses, there’ll be two along at the same time’, what I see in my head is a wind swept playground in front of a low red brick primary school.  I don’t know if there’s any correlation between this phrase and the place, but it’s what I see in my head.


I am envious, in awe and suspicious of people who can recall moments with ease.  How the fuck does anyone write an autobriography?  ‘I first met Joaquin at a drinks party given by Sooki.  We were at a bar in Mayfair, The Chiselled Chimp’.  He was wearing a blue cashmere rollneck and initiated conversation by enquiring after my Chagalls.  We drank ‘Noisy Williams’ till dawn ..’  (Yes, this is my idea of glamour. No apologies.)


How do people remember to remember this detail? Or do people who write autobiographies have the self belief to think ‘I should probably note all this down because I’m the kind of important person who will have to write an autobiography one day’? Which is how and why they end up writing an autobiography.


So this is why I can pin down (or think I can pin down, in some way) the phrase, ‘Like Busses’ but not where I spent Christmas two years ago.  Oh and if you’re not familiar with the phrase, “Like Busses’, it basically refers to the idea that nothing will come along for ages and then two will come along at the same time and can refer to anything; job interviews, lottery wins, unsolicited travelling salespeople.  It’s kind of rueful and carries that sort of pissy British way of downplaying the hand of fate with it.  I recall hearing it a few times in it’s full form ‘Like Busses, you want it for ages and then two come along at once’) until finally I must have given off the air of being someone who understood the phrase at which point it was shortened to ‘Like Busses, isn’t it?’  With whom I shared this landmark moment remains a mystery of course, but when I think of this particular ‘Like Busses’ I see the shop front of a butchers in my hometown.  Memory, huh.


And I also wonder if the phrase ‘like busses’ is in itself, a bit ‘like busses’, because, after a long drought, I heard it twice yesterday in entirely separate contexts; I said it at exactly the same time as another woman in the post office queue and then we’d laughed at the very ‘like bussiness’ of it.  The second time was later, and with thanks, in my own head, when I opened my email to see that two piece of flash fiction had been accepted after a long and stomach churning silence.   Like Busses, I tell you.

Field Study

Here’s something that I read at a charity event in support of A New Leaf, who do incredible work towards greening the centre of Manchester,   I tried to write in the style of an eminent Victorian Lady Botanist (if I had more time or brains I would give you a specific name) and in this guise, imagine what she would discover on a journey across the city.

Field Study – An Exploration of Shudehill to Cornbrook, April 9th, 2018-04-09

Weather:  Cloudy, inclement showers.  I ascend the tram at Shudehill, a place which seems to be  a bustling interchange.  My first green sighting: a Broadfoot Plantain (Plantago Major) insinuating its way out between two paving slabs beside a small peach doily of vomit which itself lies in front of the ticket machine, as if waiting its turn to purchase passage to Crumpsall or East Didsbury.  I am shocked – was the vomiter unaware as to the supreme medicinal qualities of Plantago Major? If they were, they may have avoided such a distressing and public ejaculation.  I journey past the pile: A large, stately bush of Rubus Fruticosus Aggregate, enmeshed in a merry dance with Leontodon Autumnalis and Glechoma Hederacea  resides spreadeagled behind a wire fence.  I am pleased to see that it is being protected in this way.

I traverse the road and continue towards the eponymous Market Street, a semi formalised trading post, consisting of established stalls selling goods such as communication devices, shoes and something referred to as ‘sportswear’. But I digress, perhaps because there are so few green sightings here until – Oh wonder!  And I would invite all botanical enthusiasts to lift their inquiring gaze up away from potential terranean treasures and seek new bounty from the heavens above!  On the roof of a somewhat brutish building I see a whole shrub, Ligustrum  Vulgare.  It is mostly  leafless and squat, I must confess, yet it is beautiful and unexpected and it reminds me of my own dear mother at my wedding, wearing the most artful concoction of feathers and netting  atop her stern, square, naturally inscrutable face.

So there is nature in the city and it moves me.

Further along, I come to the city’s rich green centre piece – Picadilly Gardens.  Perhaps it is the season and weather (remaining cloudy and inclement)  but there is little of the conventional sense of garden to its presentation. There are trees – bare or brown leaved, there are trees -scattered about, like sobre guests at a drunken party, their feet in concrete.  As to their genus I am confounded.  They defy identification! Is it the lack of foliage that leaves me nonplussed? I request clarification from five different passers by and the responses are enlightening as to the nature of the denizens of Picadilly Gardens but irrelevant to my enquiry.  I will write to the council when I return to my lodging.  I can be sure of a prompt reply.

Exhausted and in need of succour, I return to the tram and continue my perambulation through this elusive city. I’m ashamed to admit that I am in the doldrums, and in a fit of absolute despair I almost slam closed my encyclopedia of trees (travel edition) – when I see it.  White blossom in the gardens of the Art Gallery! The glimpse is fleeting, but whose heart does not quicken at the sight of Purnus Serulata! And in full bloom – nary a petal discarded! I experience the same wonder upon every sighting – it’s transience reminds me again of my own dear mother and I remind myself again to find such wonder in all living things for we, and they, are but passing through.

I am still musing on this as we reach the river, and it gives me, as rivers often do, renewed pause for reflection. I re-open my notebook to record my observations;

Salix Sepulcralis – two fine example genuflecting at a bend in the water

A bridge – one side, framed in Ipomoea Alba, the other Hedera Helix.  A fabulous, verdant conjunction.

And then crowding the far side of the bank, a battalion of fluttering Narcissus Poeticus, craning their necks for better view of the joggers and prams and canal watchers who are out in force on this full and vibrant day!

Nature in its diverse forms and richness has revived my spirit and I arrive at my destination fortified, as demonstrated by the wild flourish with which I close my notebook and nod with firm cheer at my fellow commuters.    As I exeunt, I mark a crowd of Budleia pushing and jostling at the sides of the tracks.  Nature’s lonely trainspotter.  Their flowers are brown and crusted and the leaves are shrivelled and the weather remains cloudy and inclement and yet it prevails and we prevail and will no doubt, revive.  Such is the nature of the city.


Reflections on a toilet


Following on from my bid for positivity (see previous post), I am celebrating the smaller,  more overlooked things in life.  You may wish to think of me as an urban Thoreau after you’ve read this because I am reflecting like a really reflective thing, like something that you would get out of a cereal box and fit to your bike spokes …yessss….that reflective.

Today I have been mostly reflecting on ladies toilets.  Loos.  Public bathrooms.  La-va-tory.  I have a particular disdain for the latter; phonetically too close to ‘laboratory’, although in some ways I guess they are both twin chambers of pain and hygiene.

Ho hum.  So here are my cumulative reflections on public restrooms (notice how transcontinental I am with my terminolgy?).  This list is more or less in praise of the loo as an area which recognises no cultural or class divide.  Ideally, I would like to see if women in other countries have similar or different experiences to me.  Don’t worry, there is no scat in the following list.

Observation 1:  A woman will have always been walked in on during the act at least once in their life.  Those doors are not consistently up to scratch.

Observation 2:  A woman will have always tried to hold the door closed with her foot or hand while trying to reach the bowl with her behind to pee.  I think this usually stems from being traumatised by first hand experience of observation 1.

Observation 3:  Wiping someone else’s pee off the bowl.  I’m sorry.  I had to ‘go there’.  Besides, we’ve all had to do it.  With pursed lips.  And a little bit of tissue.

Observation 4:  Deliberating over asking your cubicle neighbour for toilet roll.  The disembodied hand under the gap, proffering bog paper like a white flag.  It’s a bit like the trenches, except you’re the surrender monkey who should have checked the necessaries before you sat down, sucker!

Observation 5:  Speculating on the provenance of the damp patch on the toilet roll.  You may have gathered that I don’t frequent the Ritz very often.

Observation 6:  Being distracted by the little lady on the sanitary disposal bag.  Why her?  Why anyone?

She's sooo purty .....she looks after my tampons

Observation 7:  Having to pretend to wash your hands for longer than necessary because some woman is taking forever on the hand dryer.  Or awkwardly sharing hand dryer with them, eyes glazed, breath held.  It’s too intimate.

Observation 8:  Ruminating on the creative process behind hand towel and hand soap colours.  Did they market research what colour hands respond to?  And did aforementioned research point conclusively to the colour ‘light teal’?

Observation 9:  The quiet charm of encountering a good hand dryer.  And indulging in it.  A Dyson Blade is like a work of art.

Observation 10:  Fear of the exit door handle. In fact, any handle in that room (especially flush).  Do you cover your hand with your sleeve?  Or just avert your eyes?  Seriously I need to know.  This is important work.

And gents, I apologise if this has ruined the mystique of what goes on behind the gilded ‘Ladies’ sign.  I’m sure you imagined it to be like a Disney cartoon back there, with little bluebirds flying around, delivering scented towlettes and flushing the chain for us.  I’m sorry.  But if you would like to share anything that you would class as a globally resonant toilet-based observation, I am very keen to learn.

Your thoughts are welcome.