When I was around the age of eight (early 1960s) I was give a large cake tin of marbles as a gift from a kind cousin who had grown out of playing marbles. They were beautiful and all shapes and sizes. I was young and innocent and a fellow schoolchild cheated me out of every single marble by making up rules in the playground. Over a lunch break I lost the lot to the laughing bully. In this poem I have decided that they were cursed in another’s hands. Phil Lowe.
“I wouldn’t normally pick up this type of book, but just fancied something amusing to read. I personally hate public transport, so thought I’d give it a go. I was not disappointed. Beautifully observed, anyone who travels on public transport will recognise these characters! From stroppy teenagers, to fractious children, drunks and people who squash you to death in your seat – all human life is here. If you are from Nottingham, even better, as most of the book is based there. Phil’s observations and ability to make sense out of the absurd is very clever, and he has a real talent for description. I’m actually there, on the bus with him, wiping at the steamed up window and listening to such bizarre comments as: “White dog poo? Haven’t seen any in years. I wonder if it is to do with Brexit?”
If you fancy a lovely, light-heated book to pick up and read – maybe on your own bus journey – this is for you.”
Natalia Wieczorek. London
Anyone who has the ‘pleasure’ of public transport, needs to pick this book up! Witty, and cleverly observed, Phil Lowe takes us on a journey, literally a journey! Trains, trams, buses…. the foibles and idiosyncrasies of the human-being laid bare, as Phil takes up his back seat on the bus and takes stocks of the British public. Read it on the bus, read it on the loo, but read it you must.
Jo McLeish. Leicester
Please consider supporting my new humour writing by purchasing a copy of The Total Joy of Travelling On Public Transport. You won’t regret it!
Some of you may recall that I said that I was going to use my redundancy money to allow me to take six months off to complete a writing project called The Total Joy of Travelling On Public Transport. It’s a book of humour. Well, I finished the project a few days ago and the manuscript (all 60 A4 pages) has now been emailed to my publisher. I am hoping that it will be on sale on Amazon (Kindle download and paperback) late November or early December. I am relying on it selling for my future income. Any support from you guys would be much appreciated.
Here are the first couple of pages to whet your appetite.
Ah, the total joy of travelling on public transport. Do you love travelling with the delightfully varied public and their dubious electronic gadgets and often odious habits? Do you mind when the person behind you has a full blown argument on their mobile phone with the speaker positioned at extra loud, just so you are sure to get both argumentative sides of the mutual yelling? Is it OK for someone to apply their nail polish on a hot bus, thereby nearly choking the other passengers to death with the toxic fumes? Would special mobile confessionals built into modes of public transport ease the congestion of verbal diarrhoea from total strangers? Do you balk at getting up close and personal with the great unwashed? Are you the kind of person that finds the joys of travelling on public transport highly amusing or, would you rather just throw yourself under a bus?
Many thousands of people in Great Britain travel to work and back on public transport. We commuters use the buses, trains and trams, on average, around five days of the week. We endure the pleasure of other passengers talking loudly on their mobiles. Season after season, we delight in strangers coughing their germ clustered spittle all over us, almost to the point where we wonder if it is actually raining inside the vehicle. Some other passengers sit crunching sweets like a starving deaf horse and some salivate wildly as they delve into endless bags of stinky squid and blue cheese flavoured crisps. And, quite often – well, let’s just say it – it gets much worse! I know. I have been there. I mislaid the tee shirt and bought an annual travel pass.
I used to work for a major supermarket as a butcher and fishmonger. During my eight and a half years of working there I made twenty combined bus and tram journeys a week to work. That’s four a day, five days a week, totalling approximately a thousand minutes or sixteen and a half hours sitting on public transport in order to get to work. That’s proper commitment for you. Most days the commuting necessitated early morning travel and late afternoon returning home in the rush hour traffic. On a Thursday and Friday it was midday travel to work and then I’d be travelling home at night with a bus load of excitable half naked and semi pissed young folk heading into Nottingham to go clubbing. Or whatever young folk do these days. Half naked and pissed Bible study perhaps.
Occasionally I read whilst travelling, but mostly I just people watched. It was fascinating. As a writer and observer of life I was making notes and sometimes recording my observations onto a Dictaphone and trying not to be obvious about it. My inner comedian regularly found himself seeking out comedy gold in the habits and relationships of my fellow travellers. When the chance came I would write my wry observations down in a notebook or on scraps of paper at work. Little did I realise how useful they would be as aide memoires in eventually writing this book.
It was just a writer’s habit to document things and to amuse myself at the time. Like many people, I love to people watch but less (first joke alert) through high powered binoculars these days. Often events were funny or disturbing or even both and I assumed I would definitely remember them without recording them in some way. Even an hour later I would be trying to tell a quirky travelling incident to a mate at work and I would struggle to recall what had made me smile or nearly throw up on the journey. Try doing those both at once. Or better still, don’t. Eventually, once this book seemed like it was going to be a reality, I made it a rule to make sure I documented.
Most of the stories in this book are focussed on my travels around Nottinghamshire. Some of the stories occurred at the time when the Broadmarsh shopping centre bus station existed. It has since been demolished and now the massive building site is slowly being re-developed into a new travel centre with a new bus station. No doubt, the poorly looking black foot pigeons that made their crude razor wire edged homes, in and around, the old bus station will return to re-home themselves in the future pigeon friendly, steel and glass palace of bus travel. In the meantime they will be putting their crippled avian feet up in sunny Spain and knocking back the Spanish beers whilst topping up their suntans. Who can blame them? Sometimes, I wish I was a pigeon.
Critically, a few years ago, a new tram line was built and I made full use of it to convey me from Nottingham to work in the small town of Beeston. I was delighted by this as it often meant less bus travel where it felt it was like travelling in a mobile doctor’s surgery where all the travellers violently coughed and sneezed throughout the journey. Or as I half jokingly called it – the voyage of the eternally damned. Life can be as random as getting on the wrong bus twice in one day and believe me I have done that.
Reflecting that, the nature of this book wryly meditates on my travelling life in the following non-chronological and I suppose, rather random stories, of the total joys of a daily bus and tram commute to work. So, lovely readers, please dip into my amusing retrospective tales and enjoy my surreal humour. Like most forays into the public arena of life one encounters a degree of bad language and references to sex. Shock horror! This book has its share of these but my main reason for writing this is to share my experiences and daft flights of fancy. Enjoy the ride and hold on tight! Ding ding!
This red chair is part of the furniture at the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham and seeing it the other day brought back memories of the 1970s when I was a big cinema goer and often got myself all romantic and shyly asked a few girls out on dates. Like many young men I found myself stood outside the ABC cinema or the Odeon cinema in Derby all alone on a winter evening, constantly looking at my Timex watch to see how late my date was. Of course I had my more than my unfair share of being stood up i.e. dateless and mortally embarrassed. So in this poem I got to thinking of a fantasy of myself standing or sitting waiting for decades and years for the one date I hoped would lead to a snog on the back row or even a young romance.Our Amazon UK link to drama and poetry books. Great offers.
This poem could equally have been called Stage Fright as it alludes to an actor finding themselves in the toilet practically glued to the seat with tricky bowels. Their show is about to begin but they daren’t leave the safety of the dressing room toilet. Phil Lowe
This is an ongoing and current writing project of mine that I am hoping to get published by early October this year. It is mostly a humorous look at my experiences travelling on busses and trams in and around Nottingham. Like anyone these days I have encountered a whole mix of amusing, annoying and downright odd people and circumstances whilst travelling. Like any good writer I have, over six plus years, documented these experiences and now I feel it is time to unleash them! The excerpt below is probably one of the longer sections and a bit risqué, but I hope you will all have a read and I hope to read your comment/s whether my quirky humour comes across on the page. Phil Lowe
‘Now we come to the subject of overhearing about other people’s expensive holidays whilst on public transport. When you happen to be in a poor financial position and can’t afford to live too well and paying bills is a daily problem, then any considerations of anything as crazy frivolous as paying for and taking a holiday flies out of the proverbial window. I don’t begrudge anyone a short break and even longer holiday, perhaps abroad. These things are part of our pleasures of being alive and I don’t have a jealous bone in my body about such matters. It is only when a person broadcasts their ongoing lifestyle as being on an endless succession of exotic and super expensive holidays month after month, year after year that my smile starts to crinkle at the edges and my eyes become more glazed over than a plate of sticky Chinese spare ribs. People often use the phrase ‘Don’t these people have jobs to go to like most other people? How can they possibly afford it? How indeed.’
“Hey listen up everyone! The wife and I are holidaying in the Seychelles for the third time this year!” they brag. These folk love to show off through pictures and grinning emoticon riddled statements on Facebook and also, in very fine detail, and loudly, on public transport. Boorish isn’t, by any means, moreish.
One evening, on the Nottingham to Loughborough bus I overheard a man and a woman, at the rear of me, in conversation. It amused me despite the fact that I was very skint at the time. He was telling her all about his life spanning the last ten years travelling the world with his wife. I have recreated the conversation below with a smattering of actual fact and a lot of fun fiction. Believe it or not he actually started to sound more and more like a travel brochure as well as being terribly privileged and rich. His voice sounded cultured without sounding snobby and her interjections were along the lines of “Oh that’s sounds marvellous! You two are soo lucky! I wish we could afford that! You were there for six months? Gosh how wonderful!”
Woman: Hello! I haven’t seen you for years. Where have you been?
Now pause in your reading and go and make a giant mug of tea and stock your plate up with plenty of biscuits and cake. You will need them. You are in for a long haul as they say in the world of trans-Atlantic flights. Fasten your seat belt and enjoy the ride! It may get dippy.
Man: Yes. My. It must be ten years. Time flies. You look pale. You look like you need a holiday like us. We’ve practically been all around the world, twice over. Never stopped. We’ve been to Japan, America, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, Greece, Liechtenstein, The Philippines, Greenland, South America, Nova Scotia and up and down the fjords so often we are practically Vikings! You know what? Sometimes I even forget where we were last on holiday, but I do know it wasn’t Skegness. Can you believe that? It all blends into one enormous trip. We enjoy it but I guess it is not for everybody.
Woman: So where have you just been?
Man: We’ve just been on a Grand Tour of Europe actually. It was a twenty-one days trip originally but we extended it to three months. There is no point going if you are just going for twenty-one days, don’t you think? We went by Eurostar, car and plane and took in Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Bratwurst, Baden Baden, Campania, and we caught every one of the 160 varieties of fish as we explored (by coracle) the Danube delta in Romania. That was interesting. Leaky but interesting. The wife paddled. She’s got stronger wrists than me. Near to Dubrovnik we fought off wild bears with our bare hands, a teaspoon and a sharpened credit card, just for fun. Then we went all naturist for a week in the snow capped Carpathian mountains and practised our extreme nude skiing skills. In Florence we had our pockets picked by rogue street urchin hamsters. Then we went to a place called Mount Zebedee where we met up with Brian and Dougal, a gay farming couple we know. They let us fuss over their cows Ermintrude and Daisy until it was time to go to bed. Sienna was hot, Tuscany was baking, Venice was wet and full of common tourists falling into canals and a strange small person in a red duffle coat who kept disappearing around corners and scuttling over bridges. Barcelona was dirty, rowdy and full of Gaudi, We got ill in Seville and roamed around the rugged Roman ruins in Rome. In Paris we got plastered.
Woman: Oh how lovely…
Man: I mean Paris is always very nice. Having been twenty-three times before we are almost like native Parisians. You should see the way I carry my baguette. You have to have it at just the right angle under your arm or the French police fine you. This time though, the wife had French diarrhoea. That’s like normal diarrhoea except you can opt for it to be gift wrapped with silvery toilet paper with a fleur de lis pattern. Don’t laugh. It’s true. The local doctor also supplies a big bow to tie around your bottom. It makes you feel so much better as you squat and squirt. Sorry, that’s my wife’s expression. So that day I explored the Louvre whilst she explored the loo. Another day we spent a lovely afternoon sampling cheese at a high brow specialist cheesemongers. Spent a bloody fortune. Of course we only eat orgasmic now so the selection was fairly limited. If the wife doesn’t actually come whilst she is eating the cheese she spits it out disdainfully. The cheesemakers’ Le Pavé was parfait. Have you tasted Le Pavé? Non? Oh you should. The goats have worked so hard to produce it and love it when you stroke their beards. My wife had one mouthful of Le Pavé and she got so aroused it was like the famous scene from When Harry Met Sally. We paid for the repairs to the table after her fists had smashed a piece off the corner in ecstatic fervour. This time we slummed it and just stayed in a five star hotel, set in its own thirty acres yet close enough to casually sit in nearby cosy and chic boutique cafes and enjoy a coffee and a dizzying selection of gold plated – hand wanked patisserie.
Woman: That sounds expensive.
Man: Not really. You do get a little change out of a hundred euros. It’s what we normally pay. Did I tell you about Florence and Tuscany? Stunning landscape. Stunning. Very romantic, if you like that kind of nonsense, and we met the actresses Dame Maggie Smith and Helena Bonham – Casserole. They were just lovely. Of course they recognised us straight away. We had supper with them at St Regis. It has gorgeous chandeliers and custom made frescos. If a place doesn’t make the effort to provide custom made frescos we avoid it like the plague. Really. You should go there sometime. It’s just a simple no fuss Michelin four starred restaurant but we didn’t want to embarrass Dame Maggie and Helena by splitting the bill so we paid for it all including the five bottles of wine they had each, and their triple brandies. Between you and me Dame Maggie gets a bit greedy with the thousand year old olives stuffed with Basque chillies and hand dusted with rare white truffles. She wolfs them down like sweets from a jar. It’s obscene but she’s a dame so what can you do? Helena BC ate her linguine tossed, claws delicately massaged, fussed over within and inch of its life, king lobster with such gluttonous rapidity that most of it ended up in her hair. Not a pretty sight.
Woman: That’s funny. Did you put this on Facebook?
Man: We’ve stopped with Facebook because it would be a full time job for us putting up all those holiday declarations with Google maps showing that we are at Heathrow soon to be departing the UK for another three month vacation. It just encourages burglar types breaking into one’s abode. We’ve been lucky but some dear friends of ours – the Ashgrove Hobnobs’s – you may know them – they had burglars steal all their priceless Monet’s, Piccaso’s and an original Art Deco dining set and a treasured packet of milk chocolate digestives. The burglars even had the temerity to make themselves a pot of Imperial Qing Lapsang Souchong tea using our friend’s invaluable Yung Cheng period 18th Century porcelain. They broke the handle off the sugar bowl and they never even washed the cups properly.
Woman: That’s not nice.
Man: No it isn’t. The least those oiks could have done is wash up properly after themselves. Anyway, my stop is soon. Let me just name drop a bit more because I know you will be utterly fascinated. Michael Palin. There we go. Name duly dropped. By golly. What am I like? We met dear Michael over the Grand Canyon. Literally over the Grand Canyon. By pure coincidence there he was in the next private helicopter flying alongside our own private helicopter. It was so funny. I said to my wife “Look darling – over there – it’s our best friend and lovable TV personality – Michael Palin!” We waved to him and he waved frantically in our direction, flashing that older schoolboy affable grin of his. It was so nice to see him again on one of his BBC travels no doubt. We are always bumping into him in unusual foreign places. One would almost think he was stalking us! Oh it looks like my stop is coming up soon. I wouldn’t normally slum it on the bus with the common garden natives, but I do have to pick up the Jaguar from the little garage owner chappie. We may not see each other for a while because we are planning to go to Iceland to experience the geysers spurting hot liquid like ridiculously randy teenage boys. That’s my wife’s description incidentally. She can be a little forthright. And so, while we are there we are going to try out some ancient Icelandic ice acupuncture. Apparently, they make you lay down on a cured penguin skin bed, poke you liberally about the person with super thin icicles and leave them in your flesh until they melt completely. They are very strict and if you attempt to get up before the ice has completely melted they make you listen to hours of Bjork. Then you get a full body massage by an Inuit who uses a pungent oil made up of sea lion sperm, fresh caught herring blood and wild dill with a hint of bergamot. On that note it has been so lovely talking at you. We must do it again in ten years time if we are not on holiday. Oh look, would you believe it there’s Angelina Jolie with Bill Gates! Angelina! Bill, old chums! It’s me! Fancy you seeing me here! Let me tell you about my holidays.’
Copyright. Phil Lowe 2019
Click on the East Midlands Theatre image below for more from Phil Lowe.Our Amazon UK link to drama and poetry books. Great offers.
Having played Beowulf many years ago I entered a recent poetry competition with this new poem. Didn’t win but still want to share it. The poem imagines a village hall production with amateur locals taking part. Phil Lowe
Click on the East Midlands Theatre link below for more from Phil Lowe
The Poetic Tourist Experience.
A sheet of newspaper flew across the City Hall square.
Caught up in its debates and comments I took the hands
Of a child in print and swirled in the buffeting currents.
Pigeons gawped amazed and extricated themselves from the
Crusty roof-tops that find few witnesses in the flustered
Cramp alleys below.
Over the habit tapping offices; the rabbit warren crevices,
Deep dank, blue lit and piss stained corridors corrupt in
Search of sunlight and good, we floated.
Slapped by rogue winds, the news sheet, my kite, was ripped from
My grasp and without aerial support I fell a full two inches.
Floor sixteen of the Royal Car Park. Azure ceiling, design by God.
The time is twelve hundred hours and twenty-five minutes.
Photo to secure a moment in a fraction of a second.
The city shifts perspective, reflective in the Royal Hotel.
Two lone cars shift in the breeze and cannot wait until the summer.
Hot tarmac – cool wind in their aerials.
Top floor, level sixteen, fifteen, fourteen, thirteen. Twelve.
Clank. Slither metal box downwards. Graffiti. Rev-Atomic.
No idea what this means. Stop. Man gets in. Just licked shoes.
Brief encounter with his briefcase. Documents soaked in whisky.
Stop. Pause for door. Street level. We go out and out we go.
A public house. A quick drink. Blurred conversations in the background.
Back room gossip. “I heard this… She told me that… What’s he writing?
The dog had to have an anal injection. It hates going to the vet.
And it never eats the biscuits the vet gives him. Wonder why?”
Toss back the KP nuts. A breeze catches the empty packet.
Broken match on the table. Broken marriage in the corner.
Laughter running up the stairs. A glass breaks behind the bar.
I take a photo through lace. Shutter closes. No-one bats an eyelid.
Not for a fraction of a second. Finger collection barman sings, painfully.
A clutch of Norwegian motorcyclists queue at The Tales of Robin Hood.
Blonde and padded thick with leather they swing and creak through
Two hundred and fifty thousand fake leaves and fake medieval forest.
They dodge false arrows flying and thudding wood split past ears.
There is wood smoke in the air and smell of robbery pervades.
None of it true but passes for an entertainment for one historic hour.
Outside the police chase a man who tries to photograph an ice cream.
A chewed cornet is the only evidence. He is arrested anyway for asking
Where the money goes from fountains. Some people are crazy and some
People buy two pounds of strawberries for a pound. Some grow their own.
“Two punnet of strawberries for a pound! Fresh ripe strawberries!
Come on duck! Two for a pound. You’ll not get um cheaper elsewhere.
What a bargain. It’s a bargain! What a bargain! Big bargains Barry me!
Treat yer lady. Treat yerself. Treat the cat with cream. Treat the kiddies!
Sorry sir. No photographs allowed of my strawberries. Not now. Not never.
Not in a month of strawberry picking Sundays”
Lunchtime. Afternoon Tea. Yorkshire Tea. Very English. Very indulgent.
Cucumber sandwiches. White and green crunchy fluff. Fresh scone and
Raspberry Jam with real pips. One pound eighty -five. Table number five.
They play the same jazz tape heard a million thousand times by the staff.
In the distance the Forte Crest Hotel sits discrete amongst passing ghosts.
The sun breaks through outside and a couple shift into a heavy leg dance.
He frees her heel from the grate. He is her knight in shining Armani.
She sports a baggy shirt that hides a figure too large; a figure borne and cultured
From too many English frizzles. Home made pork sausage, smokey bacon,
Grilled to perfection tomatoes. Hot French croissants with just melting butter.
All this is as chocoholic tongue tempting as another Belgian chocolate.
An oily pigeon fights a lukewarm chip cascading murder scene tomato sauce.
A man slips on a Pukka pie. Arms and legs akimbo. He taps a stationary car.
Alarm boops electric and signals falsely – alerting the world to a state of theft.
The chip shop owner swears his deep annoyance. Fifth fucking time that day.
At Nottingham Castle human traffic crosses in front of the camera’s lens.
A battered yellow Cortina smokes to a halt. The travellers are out on the town.
Women checking hems for creases, blousey blouse tops for glimpses.
They disappear into the fag ash Old Castle Inn. They are in there somewhere
Cackling like witches and oblivious that Robin Hood’s statue is listening.
A footprint fossil lined in ochre threatens to pull away from the sediment.
It dreams its dream to hop skip and jump on real paving slabs.
A pregnant woman in big red glasses passes passing wind and blushes.
Tandoori wafts out in a ventral and nasal attack and plays havoc with the gastric.
A boy seems to leap down from nowhere and runs into the traffic.
He howls like a wolf child at their hooting and tooting.
Women slurp tomato soup from a flask, hassled by elderly bible thumpers.
“It’s a sin to drink tomato soup in public! Red soup is the devil’s drink!”
A parish vicar stands laughing at these sad reps of God forgetting that he is
Still wearing his wooden crucifix and starched dog collar.
Skate-boarders take over the Market Square. Baggy trousered boy racers
Surf and hop skip slap onto the crunching crush bone hard pavement.
Rainbows of gritty scrape rise and weep blood on adolescent limbs.
Hard faced the pained youths limp-skid onward and upward to spiral
Over a legion of city shoppers intent on avoiding confrontation.
A flute player plays his tired out dog to sleep.
An electric guitar wails for the homeless.
In a dark dank stinking underpass. People ignore it,
Passing by at twenty-four frames a second.
Out of the corner of its crusty eye the dog
Spots a spinning one pence piece and eats it.
I take the canal path home, the pink waters gently hiding
So many rusting Sainsbury’s trolleys and a child’s once favourite bike,
So long missing but not forgotten. Fish float by white belly up.
I pass under Victorian iron structures yellow cream speckled
With the excrement of fowl behaviour.
Written in 1993 and edited in 2019.
PS: Some of the places written about no longer exist as Nottingham City centre has developed over time. The pigeons referred to are all now in pigeon retirement homes by the canal side.
Click on the East Midlands Theatre image below for more from Phil LoweOur Amazon UK link to drama and poetry books. Great offers.
In this poem I imagined a couple where one of them was greedy and always took some of their partner/spouses food with permission. This habit has been going on years until one day the victim takes their revenge!
A reminder to myself not to limit my creativity when using my imagination. Phil Lowe.