My Week: The big six-wheeler, scarlet-painted . . .: Early each morning, Magnus Mills drives his London bus to Mr Bean's timetable

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Monday: We don't have a Blakey at our garage, but there is an inspector called Mr Bean. He is very scrupulous about time-keeping and would hate it if the first bus of the day were to leave late. It doesn't: we depart on schedule at 4.39am. Not that Inspector Bean is there to witness the event. He is still asleep at that time, and only a nodding night supervisor sees us go. The bus, a Routemaster, will be on the road for almost 16 hours today.

The engineers have left it sticking out of the doors at the front of the shed. I start it up, check the water, and we're off. Our passengers are waiting. Some fall asleep as soon as they get on. I can see their reflected heads nodding in the glass. This is the first trip of the day from south London to Baker Street station and we are busy all the way. When we get there my conductor, Cyril, checks his waybill. It is now 5.20 and we have already carried 87 passengers.

Tuesday: Eighty-seven passengers again: probably the same ones as yesterday. You only get regulars at this time of day. And they all have their own habits. The man in the dark suit always gets on at the first stop and sits in the fifth seat on the left. Further up the road two ladies always stand very close together. One extends her arm at right-angles; the other points above her head towards one o'clock. Now That's the way to stop a bus.

Wednesday: Cyril announces that the garage clock is wrong. This comes as no surprise as he has in the past made similar pronouncements about Big Ben and even the BBC. He also says my watch is wrong. Only his wristwatch is correct. I give in rather than argue and leave the time-keeping to Cyril. Later in the day we pass Inspector Bean on the road. He checks his watch - and smiles.

Thursday: It is 4.39 and the night engineers have left our bus not at the front of the garage, but somewhere in the third rank. I tell the nodding man on duty and he charges round starting up buses, shunting them around until ours is at the front.

We are now late and the man in the dark suit has walked to the third stop. The roads are empty and I can put my foot down. By the time we get to Baker Street we are back on schedule. A passenger actually says 'Thank you, driver,' as she passes the cab.

Friday: We stop for breakfast at 8.04. Or, at least, I do. Cyril has nothing. I go up to the canteen and have eggs, and, by special request, Caribbean dumplings. At 9.40 we begin our last trip to Baker Street. I have been up since 3.50am and it feels like the middle of the afternoon. But most of our passengers are still on their way to work. We hand the bus over to another crew at 12.12pm. Inspector Bean oversees the simple ritual. We've finished for the day.

Saturday: A quiet start. Cyril sells one ticket on the first trip. Things get hectic later when a London Saturday gets underway. By mid-

afternoon there will be a solid queue of red buses along all of Oxford Street.

Sunday: For some reason London Transport has decided that there is no need for buses with open platforms and conductors to run on a Sunday. This is in spite of the hordes of tourists whose only desire is to catch a glimpse of the Queen from the top of a red London bus. So for me and Cyril it is a busman's holiday.

Readers are invited to submit contributions for this column.

Comments