I felt quite apprehensive as the youth crossed the road straight towards me. I’d seen him ambling along with that funny, slouching gait that boys of that age adopt when they are out in public. He was wearing the regulation baggy, crotch at knees trousers, cap and sweat jacket with hood. I was the only person around and he was headed straight for me. ‘scuse me, duck, is this the way to the Probation Office?’ he asked. Oh, directions, okay, I’m used to giving those; it’s a source of amusement with my nearest and dearest that wherever we are people always ask me for directions. I can be with several people but it’s always me they ask so , I can do this. ‘Yes,’ I reply, ‘just down there on the right next to the medical centre.’ I get a ‘ta, duck’ and he slouches off. Only then do I wonder if he is on probation and if so, why?
I’ve paid my fare and I advance down the aisle of the bus to get a seat. Simon is on the bus, we exchange greetings, as we do when we pass on the path in the local recreation ground. Today he is without Whisky his little doggy pal but chatting quite happily to two elderly ladies and listening to their woes about hospital appointments, vandalism on their estate and the general uselessness of the local council. He joins in with some nightmare tale of his own about waiting in a hospital queue for ages and ages, which sounds absolutely horrendous. Poor Simon.
I wait in the queue at W. H. Smith to pay for my newspaper. I have a Guardian today, hurray! I usually can’t get a Guardian from our local shop. There are three people in front of me, the assistant asks each one if they would like a half price chocolate bar, each one declines. My turn; she doesn’t ask me if I want chocolate at half price she asks me if I would like to pre-order the new Harry Potter book. I decline, as I would have done if she’d have asked if I wanted the chocolate, but I hover in the doorway, just long enough to hear her ask the person behind me if they want half price chocolate. As I wander through the shopping centre towards Debenhams, where I know I will have to test the Code Pour Femme by Georgio Armani just once more to see if will suit me you understand, I’m still pondering upon the Harry Potter/chocolate thing. Do I look like a Harry Potter enthusiast? Or do I look like a person who doesn’t like chocolate? Then I muse on the fact that probably a lot of people eat chocolate whilst reading Harry Potter. These thoughts stay with me until I get to the coffee bar and sit with my cappuccino listening to the 'in-house' radio. 'have a little patience' sing Take That, well I have lots today, but then I haven't been to the food hall at 'your M&S ' yet and the crowds in there have been known to raise my blood pressure slightly.
As the bus pulls away from the stop, where I’d just been amused by a traffic warden gazing into the window of the nearby craft shop at a rather nice length of pink feather boa, I see said traffic warden flag down a taxi driver who is using the bus lane. The bus driver stops the bus, opens the window and shouts to the traffic warden ‘Go on, book him, and while you’re at it, stop the cops who use the buzz* lane, as well.’ He drives off in a huff muttering to himself through at least two more sets of traffic lights. I see a newspaper headline as someone reads further down the bus. '12 inches of snow expected this weekend.' Oh, no, but the sun is shining and the shops are full of wonderful spring flower arrangements for Mothering Sunday. Paul has to drive to Solihull on Monday for a training course. I suddenly want to be safe at home.
* the folk in Stoke say buzz not bus; they also say upbank instead of uphill.