A rather beautiful spring day. Not hot, but warmish and sunny. I boarded a bus bound for a rehearsal in town. It was one of those small, whizzy looking buses, and was already nearly full. I took my seat next to a dapper looking older gentleman with white hair and a tweed jacket. “Here yer go lass, you can put yer violin here.” He shuffled towards the window a little, pointing to the gap between our pairs of knees. I was immediately smitten. Not only did he know it was a violin and make no quip about me ‘having a machine gun in there,’ he also had heart tugging rheumy eyes and had called me ‘lass’.
Not meaning to be condescending regarding the general recognition of musical instruments within their cases, but after many years of the public transport/violin case combo, it was refreshing to bypass the more usual comments. Mind you, my seat sharer had experienced a lot of life, violin recognition was only a minuscule part of it. After all, he was eighty. He stretched out his arm so that I could admire the lovely birthday present on his wrist, showing me that I was cutting it fine to arrive at my rehearsal on time and should have caught the earlier bus.
“Eeh, look at them daffs lass, look.” He gesticulated animatedly out of the window at the daffodil strewn grassy banks as we bussed by. It transpired that he lived in a bungalow in Clifton and that the council had mowed his lawn. The lovely older gentleman had planted daffodils and hyacinths the previous autumn. They had come out to look at the spring and been unceremoniously mown down by an over zealous council mower driver. And there they had lain amidst the chopped up grass, the beautiful signs of spring. It was a sad story and my companion’s eyes filled with tears, as did mine.
The bus was packed to bursting by now, some passengers were standing, holding on to the chrome fittings and swaying gently. I was inclined to agree with my new friend that the council really should put the bigger buses on on Saturdays. The bus came to a halt, one passenger expelled, another taken aboard. The newcomer was eye-catching in a way that made it impossible not to stare, due largely to his clothing choices. His was a dark haired, dark sunglassed man wearing a neon yellow, high-vis version of a sporty hoody with matching backpack. A cobweb tattoo decorated one side of his neck. The spider, however, was nowhere to be seen. I wondered fleetingly if it was a deliberate omission. Perhaps the spider was adorning a different body part. He sat down on the tippy up sideways seat, recently vacated, in front of me and my gentleman. A standing lady wearing a kind of patchwork, blankety cloak asked the new chap to open the window. Cobweb man did voice the inside of my head, pronouncing that he wasn’t surprised that she was too warm, being so well wrapped up! Conversation ignited, the man proceeded to impart the reason for his journey into Nottingham on this particular Saturday. Yes, you’ve guessed it, to meet the former Mr Universe.
Much to my shame I am unable to recall the name of the particular Mr Universe in question. Though in my defence, high-vis man did regale me with so very many details of the upcoming events of his day, that my stunned brain could not retain them all. His excitement was palpable. He shared his Mr Universe joy along with, even more bizarrely, a tale relating to the great train robbery – with the blanket lady, the dapper older gentleman and myself. It was almost impossible to tell exactly who he was speaking to at any one time, due to his blacker than black sunglasses. His distinctive voice carried easily above the general hubbub of fellow passengers. Although, most of the occupants of the small bus had ceased in their own mutterings and were listening agog, pretending not to, to high-vis man recount his tales, and to the responses from his captive audience of three.
Sadly my journey came to an end before that of my new friends, and I had to miss out on any subsequent spellbinding stories. My lovely older gentleman wished me well, and I him. The blanket lady smiled her goodbye and high-vis cobweb man extolled his pleasure at meeting me, very loudly. I stepped onto the pavement, violin in hand, feeling mildly exhausted. With muddled images in my head of grotesquely muscled men robbing an East Midlands train, I set off to find Mozart and a church.