It’s been a while since we took a stroll down memory lane with top reader and blog contributor David Evans. Last week he sent me this great piece, and the tat-bazaar that is YouTube has thrown up some fabulous applicable videos. So, without further ado…
We all know this line, and sometimes hear it being recited by someone, somewhere. But that song by Flanders and Swan, ‘A Transport of Delight’ with its gently satirical lyrics from the 1950s brings a nostalgic tear to many a local who remembers the ‘Buzzes’ of the time, and the thrill that travelling in one of these would bring to the children of the times.
Catching a bus meant adventure to parts and places not yet discovered by the kids of the village. The metal stairs which led up from the open deck at the rear of the vehicle, once the bus was on the move, were a challenge to any hapless child .Hold on very tight to the handrail, if you could, that is.
Not an easy task when you were wearing woollen gloves and steel toecapped shoes.
You then entered a smoke-filled narrow greenhouse , the floor was metal, the seats in rows were sometimes wooden, sometimes imitation leather covered. All had chrome hand-rails to hold on to, in your woollen gloves, remember. But at least when you went upstairs you were spared the agony of sitting by the plump ladies who nestled, bags and baskets in hands, handbags protruding ominously in the direction of any foolhardy yet innocent child who tried to sit on what was left of the double seat. You were lucky to manage one cheek, so best to go upstairs.
From this glass-lined shaky cabin in the sky, and especially from the front seat, you travelled far above the surface of the earth in your Buck Rogers spacecraft, or Zeppelin, or at the bridge of a Battleship, or if you crouched down, you attacked the Normandy beaches from the bow of the first landing craft of the flotilla.
You crashed over the huge tidal wave that you always met as you went over the canal bridge and cowered low, furtively glancing up to the skies, just in case an enemy tank, or ship, or plane, was hiding out of sight. This was a dangerous mission that you were undertaking, remember. Unknown territory, danger round every end. The Horse and Jockey was passed, though you never saw the Jockey, the Spring Cottage stayed there whatever the season, then you gritted your teeth and stiffened every sinew. The George and Dragon! Never saw either. The bus always passed this battlefield too late. Then on, on to the decapitating Navvies railway bridge. On past the Boiling Lake with its giant squid in the Arboretum. Then the hustle and bustle of the town centre at Walsall at last . From the safe height of the upper deck you saw the mirriad of stalls winding their crooked way up the hill to the Church, the gleaming ‘stores’, and the bus station with its straight, neat lines of buses . Never too many, never too few.
[I know the above is trolley busses, but come on – what great shots of Walsall! – Bob]
The town centre with its wonders, its sights, its sounds, its smells, its people, cars, lorries, shops and arcades, its ‘Otherworld’ feeling, its home-made sweets shops, its shoe shops with X ray machines to see your own feet (so that’s why you had to put clean socks on!), the market stalls where crock stall holders conjured and balanced plates and saucers, and cups, all at the same time, and towel stalls where you could buy towels you never needed to wash as the dirt ran down the stripes, razors that never went blunt, soap you could see through, toothpaste tasting like chewing gum, and that shop that sold guns and ammunition, but you weren’t allowed to go in, and ‘real’ coffee shops you could smell a mile away, cake shops with magnetic shop windows, chemists’ shops that sold goods that didn’t concern young children, butchers shops with pig’s heads in the windows, or whole pigs split clean down the middle, and trays of scratchings, tubs of brawn, faggits in lace curtains, livers and kidneys, and necklaces of sausages hanging from hooks, and shops that sold Dinky toys, Meccano, model steam engines..by the arcade..but always kept till last! Tusk! Then the artists shops, wool shops, decorating shops, paint shops, glass shops, mirrors, lampshades, curtains, umbrellas , walking-sticks, everything for everybody.
Gentlemen’s trilbys, ladies ‘Fowl on a Nest’ hats, fox stoles, ladies’ never-you-mind handbags, gentlemens’ head-smacking bracers, boys snake-belts, gents’ aftershave lotion that stung, ladies’ vanishing cream that didn’t work, non-iron shirts you had to, ladies’see-through blouses (ooh!), collar-studs, hat-pins, penknives or just a bag of hot roast spuds to juggle all the way home.
Back to the Wood, arms full of shopping bags of things you would grow into, at a price you couldn’t miss. Back to the playing fields, the boat, the swings and the giant’s stride. Back to fried eggs from the chickens in the garden, home-made chips , and a well-earned cup of tea from the brown teapot. Then to plan for the next adventure!