Rewind to Easter Monday. It’s chucking it down with rain. Boy decides he wants to paint and draw all day. I decide I want to cook a big Thai curry. Only I’m missing galangal, lemongrass and green chillies which are fairly essential to the making of the curry paste. Chillies I could get from the local Tescos but they do not do galangal and lemongrass. In fact I’d be willing to stake quite a bit of cash they wouldn’t know what they are. This means one thing; a visit to my local Asian grocer.
I say local. I mean a decent drive or bus ride away. I decide to take Baby with me and go by bus, being as I’m not the biggest fan ever of driving. I learned relatively late in life and while I have a full, clean driving licence I tend not to actually make use of it. In the time I didn’t drive I took public transport everywhere and got used to it. This may be about to change however……
An uneventful journey in. So far so good. We get in to the shop and Baby realises that being strapped in to a harness and covered in a rain cover is preventing her from doing stuff like picking up Bird’s Eye Chillis and eating them neat. The diverting smells and banging Bhangra beats that are enhancing my general shopping experience appear to be grating on her like a large cat descending a blackboard , nails first. She starts squealing. I find my galangal and my lemongrass and my chillies, pay and take my leave. Then I head to the bus stop.
It’s pissing down. It’s wetter than Wendy Craig narrating Mills and Boon. Now Baby is glad of her rain cover. We get to the bus stop but there are none in sight. A woman in front in the queue apologises for being in the way (she wasn’t) in a broad Scottish accent. Then she smiles at Baby and gets her sex right and says how sensible I am for using a rain cover and I warm to her instantly. I should know by now this is normally a mistake. The bus is taking ages. Longer than Jimmy Five Bellies running a marathon. More time than it takes to stew a goat. Ages. As it’s a Bank Holiday I’m guessing we’re on Sunday service and the bus is going to be packed with shoppers.
When it finally turns up the Scottish voiced lady lets me and Baby go in front of her even though I arrived after. The bus is busier than a teenagers fashion sense. I ask the driver if I can get the buggy on to which he indicates a group of people standing in the one spare buggy space. However before I can get to them I will have to negotiate two large gentlemen with several bags of shopping who happen to have black skin. This is important or I wouldn’t have mentioned it.
The buggy space occupiers move back a bit. The gentlemen with shopping start to make way but Scottish voiced woman has now paid and got on and is looking daggers at the pair of them. “WE DON’T HAVE THAT MUCH SHOPPING ON BUSES!” she shrieks. “WE’RE ENGLISH!”. Where do I start? That the only thing indicating to her they may not be English is their skin colour (they could be from Brighton, Birmingham or Bolton as far as she or any of the rest of us actually know)? That this is pretty fucking funny delivered in a Scottish accent? That Baby has noticed there is conflict afoot and has gone back in to full meltdown? Any way up the formerly lovely lady has gone, in my mind, from
I’m now trying to wedge the buggy in to it’s space without breaking any ankles. The shopping gents are looking confused. My former friend is looking murderous. And then I hear another comment from the back somewhere.
Now what do I do? Confront Scots voiced woman for her casual racism? Look for the perpetrator of this latest intolerance? Soothe 500 decibel Baby? Obviously soothe her though it’s difficult as I can’t sit next to her. I’m wedged in under an armpit and all I really want to do is scream “what kind of sweet hell is THIS?” before dishing out a few rabbit punches.
There’s a vaguely serious point here. Brighton and Hove Council is now run by the Green Party and they are trying to promote sustainable transport, including public transport by making parking expensive and adding cycle lanes. Meanwhile central Government is cutting subsidies to transport companies and privatising anything that moves. As a result the bus ticket I bought for my oh-so pleasure filled journey is about to go up by 10% utterly defeating the parking charges increase.
At least if I’d taken the car I’d have been dry. I’d have been listening to my CDs or Radio 4. I wouldn’t have had to listen to baby intolerance and casual racism. It wouldn’t have taken me 2 fucking hours door to door to get three essential spice paste items. Baby might even have slept. I consider us to be reasonably environmentally friendly as a family and yet if the car is just as cheap and more convenient and sat in the same traffic jam as the bus where’s the incentive to be green?