The View From Here: On the movie - Life and Style - The Independent

The View From Here: On the movie

Among other things, Cliff Richard is famous for driving a Routemaster bus in Summer Holiday. But anyone who has seen the film will know that he actually didn't: it was another type of bus. And he was not cast as a bus driver, but as a mechanic, which I think is interesting.

Presumably it was thought at the time that if he was cast as a bus driver it would ruin his image completely. In the same way, it would have been entirely inappropriate for Hank Marvin to be cast as a bus-conductor. The job has just never been considered trendy enough. And to tell the truth, I can't really picture my conductor Stanley wielding an electric guitar. (He's more of a maracas man, I would say).

However, The Shadows were not above appearing on the children's television show Crackerjack, introduced at that time by Eamonn Andrews. There still exists a clip of a performance of FBI in which Hank Marvin, Jet Harris, Tony Meehan and Bruce Welch can all be seen wobbling their heads impressively. Hank was only 19 when he played on Apache. He was my guitar hero until 1963, after which time, sadly, I more or less forgot about him.

There was a film in the Sixties, though, when a bus conductor came to the fore and 'got the girl'. It was Alfie, in which Michael Caine lost his girl (or one of them) to a bus conductor played by the actor Graham Stark, who did in fact look just like a bus-conductor. (This was one of the celebrated 'red bus' movies, which came shortly after the 'kitchen sink' dramas.)

But I'm afraid there is no place at all for bus drivers in modern popular culture. I can only think of one song when a bus-driver is even mentioned, and that's Tie A Yellow Ribbon, and I'm sure it didn't refer to any of my colleagues. I mean, can you imagine a London bus driver patiently looking out for a yellow ribbon tied round an old oak tree because one of the passengers couldn't bear to see what he might see. Anyone like that would get short shrift from my mates. No, a song like that needs an American setting. Maybe a Greyhound bus pulling up at a dusty crossroads in the Mid West, but, Greyhound buses are outside my remit. I'm supposed to confine my weekly remarks to urban fare-stage bus services. Which are practically unheard of in the United States, where due to the preponderance of cars, most Americans don't even know how to catch a bus.

There are exceptions, of course. New York, for example. I went there once and spent some time investigating the bus network. Given the level of violence on London buses, I expected it to be even worse in New York. I expected to see a driver ensconced behind a door that had been welded shut for extra protection. But it wasn't like that at all. For a start, most people pay with subway tokens, so there aren't arguments about money like you get in London, and any cash goes in a sealed drop safe so nobody bothers to rob the driver.

One day I went to The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, which meant changing buses in Harlem. While I was waiting at the bus-stop an individual approached me. Instead of mugging or shooting me, he surprised me by asking me if I knew when the next bus was due. I gave him the same helpful reply I normally give when asked this question in London: 'I dunno mate.' He seemed satisfied with this reply and we formed a queue together.

When the bus arrived there was a slight delay while the driver lowered a platform to allow a wheelchair passenger to alight. I was impressed. On another occasion, in Manhattan, I got talking to a bus driver from Brooklyn. I told him I was a bus driver in London and we compared notes. He insisted on dropping me outside a diner I was looking for. We talked about exchanging addresses but didn't. The next day I was standing at Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street when he went past in his bus and honked his horn, which I thought was

pretty cool.

In New York City I found my way round using a Transit Authority Bus Map, so I decided to take one home to frame. I went down into the subway and the token clerk gave me a new map. I put it safe in an envelope in the bottom of my bag. When I got home I took it round to my local 'picture framing' cooperative shop where the assistant managed to tear it in half. I doubt if I'll ever get another one.

(Photograph omitted)

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