Column: January 6, 2010

WE’RE rubbish, aren’t we? How do we manage to run out of salt in winter? It’s not as if the cold weather should come as a surprise. We haven’t just been singing “In The Mild Midwinter/Balmy winds were warm/Earth was nice and toasty/Time to mow the lawn” at carol concerts.

Whoever’s responsible is just like one of those dimwits who remark on the nights drawing in some time in October, as if it were a truly unexpected event, on a par with Cliff Richard knocking on one’s front door asking to borrow a cup of heroin because Ann Widdecombe’s run out – again.

We should have stocked up long ago and maintained those stocks. It wouldn’t have gone to waste. Nobody has ever complained that there’s too much grit on the roads during a cold snap.

Apart from anything else, salt is one thing it should be pretty much impossible for Liverpool to run out of, along with uncles who used to go to school with John Lennon. We’re right next door to Cheshire, which is almost entirely salt, apart from a sparse crust of WAGs and Mercedes. And we live on an island, surrounded by seawater.

Still, every snow cloud has a silver lining, and if it hadn’t have been for the basic inability to predict chilly weather in winter, I wouldn’t have had the journey of a lifetime – the three-hour bus journey from south Liverpool to the city centre. 

If you’re despairing about human nature and the me-first generation and are convinced we’re all going to hell in a tuk-tuk, then board a bus in the middle of a snowstorm. And you’ll at least have the satisfaction of being right.

There was only one seat available by the time I’d figured out that the principle of “first at the bus stop, first on the bus” is suspended during unpleasant weather. If I hadn’t been listening to the travel news and school closures on the radio, I might have been a little speedier. Still, I trudged up the sodden bus, through soaked copies of the Metro and McDonald’s cartons, to the single seat. It was next to the back row, across which was strung a group of young men.

These poor lost souls were in the grip of an identity crisis. They couldn’t decide whether to be ignorant or aggressive, and so these two natures clashed in a seemingly never-ending battle for supremacy. And, on several occasions, they joined forces in a sweary malevolent maelstrom.

I slunk into my seat. Seat is probably the wrong word. Sliver would be more exact.

The gentleman taking up the rest of the seat was clearly suffering from elephantiasis, if the position of his knees was anything to go by. They were spread at 10 to 2.

I couldn’t meet his eye, I’m sure he’s very self-conscious about the size of his, well, underpants, and so I settled down on my sliver, one buttock dangling in the aisle, the other precariously perched on the leather, my legs ramrod straight and my hand clinging onto the yellow post for dear life.

Then I was aware of being stared at. By a woman sitting in one of those pointless reverse seats. She was wearing a fur collar which was exactly the same shade of brown as her hair. The effect was that of Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies. I had to look away, but there was nowhere to look.

And then the music started…

Hip-hop and R ‘n’ B is an acquired taste, especially when played through the tinny speaker of a phone belonging to an aggressive, ignorant idiot on the back seat of a bus. My despair was complete.

But, as I pointed out, every snow cloud… One of the yobs mentioned their school. And it was clear they were all on their way there. And I smiled.

And as they got off the bus, 10 minutes later, I wondered if I should have told them that theirs was one of the schools closed because of the bad weather.


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