It takes all sorts to make a world

Summer seems such a long time ago now but, whenever I think back a few months to when the “Exmoor Explorer” service was in full swing, I can’t help recalling some of the regular faces we’ve seen.

Due to the fact that Concessionary Buses Passes are valid on our service, quite a few local people will travel quite regularly. There were some real characters among them and that’s one of the benefits of conducting; I get to meet some fascinating people.

There’s one elderly lady who seemed to be on board almost every time I was rostered. She would only sit in the lower saloon. “It’s too windy up there for me!” she would tell me. Even so, she enjoyed watching the wonderful Somerset scenery roll by and I would often sit and chat with her between stops.

Then there’s a middle-aged spinster who normally travels on a Sunday, again only on the lower deck. I’m sure she loves the scenery too but, after reading through her church notice sheet, she always falls asleep!

Every year an old-ish chap comes along several weeks in a row. He brings his wife and his disabled daughter with him. They stay at Butlins for about a month. After we get his daughter comfortable and stow the wheelchair between some seats, he insists on telling me how great Butlins is and how many years they’ve been coming. He’s a cheerful old chap (his wife doesn’t say much) but he will insist on wearing shorts. I do wish he wouldn’t!

I go out of my way to talk to one passenger who always seems like a bit of a loner. I guess he’s in his twenties and local but often travels. When he first rode with us it was very awkward. My driver and I were sitting at the back of the bus during our break, chatting about this and that. I was gradually aware of this chap hovering by the open platform. Most people who do that want to ask a question but don’t want to interrupt a lunch break in progress. Anyway, I jumped up and asked him if he was riding with us on the next trip. Awkward pause. The conversation went like this:

“Yes, I suppose so,”

“We leave at 2.15 so you’ve got about an hour to wait.”

“Oh.” Another awkward pause.

“Are you going to wander about for a bit or do you want to come on board now?”

“I don’t know.”

(Thinks to self: good grief what have we got here…) “It’s up to you, we’re stopping here so you’re welcome to come on now if you like.”

“Alright then.”

Chap then follows me back into the bus and sits right next to my lunch, looking glum. I had to forget the conversation I was having with my driver and try to make conversation with Mr Glum. I shouldn’t poke fun at him really, I’ve since discovered that he suffers from depression in a big way. He comes on the bus for a bit of a change. “Nothing exciting ever happens,” he would murmur. To himself mostly. I suppose that if you’re stuck at home, on medication, no job to go to and just your four walls for company, then a journey on an open top boneshaker must be quite stimulating. Next year I plan to try and make him smile.

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