Bad Men

There is a man at the front of the top deck. People who want to sit at the front of the bus are usually quite sweet: who else would want that experience? I sit across from him. The other bloke sits further back, and they start chatting.

He snapped his thumb a few weeks ago. He’s got to wear this splint another two weeks.
-How’d you do that then?
-Fell off me bike. I didn’t know I’d done it.
-It must’ve been painful, I said. But no: he lost the feeling in that side of his hand years ago, in a car accident.
-Did it all bruise up? I asked. He went to the doctor and they sent him to the hospital immediately.

Cannabis farms should hire one of these buses, he says.
-Only when it’s sunny.

His mate’s sister moved to Spain. Million pound villa, four floors, he’s been there. Her bloke does the airport runs.
-Where you working now? Whitworth’s?
-No, I’m back on removals. Easiest job I ever had was leaning out the back of a lorry putting cones down on the M1. Danger money.

Is that phone 4G?
-No, it’s an old one.
He’s thinking of getting a tablet. The police took his phone, computer, tablet, but couldn’t prove anything, so he just got done for criminal damage. £700 fine, he’s paid it off now.
-They should give you your stuff back after five years.
-They came to the door once with these smelly old trainers, I told them they weren’t mine, I didn’t recognise them. I put them in the bin.

He had a six month driving ban.
-Someone dobbed you in, didn’t he?
-Yeah, I don’t know, Why would anyone do that? I don’t mind what people do. Still, he didn’t need his car and it saved him money.

The estate could just kick off when it’s hot. (Actually I’ve found it peaceful for the last five years, and hope he’s just trying to shock me.)

-I think I’ll have a cold beer later.
He tells his mate he was on Pubwatch, so banned. Then he went in the Old England- up by—.
-Rough?
-Skinhead pub. I was banned from that for three months, then I went last week, got in an argument, got banned again.

At the station there is the Security Announcement: keep your belongings with you at all times, report anything suspicious to the police.
-You wouldn’t want to bomb Swanston, would you?
-That’s just what I was thinking, she said, and we were away. She was working in Debenhams when the IRA were bombing everywhere. She had to check her department every night before leaving, but they said if they want to bomb they’ll put it in something you won’t even notice, won’t think it suspicious. They had six bomb scares in five years. It was hard getting people out of the restaurant. “I’ve just ordered my dinner.” Yes, madam, but there’s a bomb scare. You can stay if you like but I’m getting out. Then places which sold furs had those animal fanatics threatening them.

I asked her how she would vote. Vote Leave, she’s decided, she’s not listening to the arguments. England was better before we went in, we were better with the Commonwealth. She’s in housing association sheltered housing, there are fourteen studio flats empty because people don’t want them. She’s frightened they will fill up with refugees, Poles, Lithuanians, Syrians- it’s terrible over there, all those different religions. Her nephew went into Iraq, and he said, now we’ve got the tiger by the tail and we’ll never be able to let go.

How did you vote in 1975?
I don’t remember the vote, then, it made no impression on me.

Miro, untitled etching

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