The wheels on the bus go round and round...
When one has been taking the same omnibus for years, as Lady Bracknell has, there is a strong likelihood that there will be a degree of continuity amongst one’s fellow passengers. Many are so unremarkable as to make little impact, but there are some who, over the years, have either piqued Lady Bracknell’s curiosity or irritated her fine sensibilities.
Having encountered two of these persons today, Lady Bracknell has been inspired to list some of the more memorable. Readers may be somewhat shocked at the assumptions her ladyship has made about these innocent fellow travellers. However, Lady Bracknell has long been of the opinion that, while peculiarities of appearance or manner are quickly and wholly forgotten once an acquaintance has been forged, it is very considerably harder to set such considerations aside when one is merely an observer. Lady Bracknell is more than willing to believe that all the persons whom she is about to describe have many sterling qualities, and are much loved by their families and friends. After all, as Lady Bracknell’s esteemed mother is wont to observe, “The world would be a very boring place if we were all the same”.
That being said, Lady Bracknell will now introduce the dramatis personae:
The rumpled elderly gentleman
This gentleman would be wholly unremarkable were it not for his anachronistic fondness for mothballs. Lady Bracknell has encountered mothballs only once before, and that was when she was on holiday with her esteemed parents in a cottage in Wales more than thirty years ago. Even then, their use was so old-fashioned as to be deemed eccentric. Lady Bracknell cannot imagine where the rumpled elderly gentleman purchases his mothballs in this day and age, but she can confirm that he evidently uses a great many of them: to sit behind him on the bus is to ensure that one’s sinuses will be as clean as whistles. (The editor has just discovered, much to Lady Bracknell’s surprise, that mothballs may be purchased on eBay.)
The woman who looks like a man
In days gone by, when Lady Bracknell was somewhat less enfeebled, and travelled rather earlier in the mornings, she saw this woman every day. The woman was always smartly turned out in expensive clothes and a variety of jewellery. And yet, there was something about her facial features which made her resemble a man in drag. Lady Bracknell will confess that she cast many a surreptitious glance at the woman’s hands and feet in an attempt to gather further clues as to her gender. But all her ladyship’s suspicions on this subject were overturned on the day the woman appeared, accompanied by her husband and son. The son bore so striking a resemblance to his mother, that Lady Bracknell could entertain no further uncertainties on the matter. And yet, she often spent her journey attempting to decide exactly what combination of features it was which rendered the woman’s facial appearance so unremittingly masculine. (Lady Bracknell had entirely forgotten about the woman who looks like a man until she encountered her on the omnibus this very afternoon.)
The white-haired gentleman with the harp
Lady Bracknell is much intrigued by this gentleman, although she has only encountered him twice to date. She is tremendously impressed by his skill at manoeuvring the harp case on to, and off, the omnibus without concussing himself, the driver, or another passenger. Had she not seen it with her own eyes, Lady Bracknell would not have believed it possible that a case containing a full-sized harp could be stowed away on a rush hour omnibus in such a manner as not to cause very considerable annoyance all round. What is more intriguing still is the question of where he is going, and where he has been. Is he on his way home from a harp lesson? Or on his way to give a recital? And, if so, to whom? If Lady Bracknell ever has the good fortune to be seated next to the gentleman, she will endeavour to strike up a conversation with him on the subject of his harp.
The strident woman with the stick and her colourless male companion
These two are always seen as a pair, although they are clearly in no way related, and do not arrive at the omnibus stop together. The man is in late middle age, and demonstrates a phenomenon which is peculiar to the male of the species, in that his slight frame has succumbed to middle aged spread only so far as to give him the appearance of secreting a balloon under his jumper. He never initiates conversation appearing, instead, to content himself with monosyllabic responses to his companion’s loudly-vocalised, utterly humourless, and quite exceptionally tiresome reiterations of the tedious minutiae of her domestic circumstances. (Lady Bracknell, who has been subjected to a fifteen minute diatribe on what happened when the flooring was laid in the dining room, finds herself quite unequal to the task of thinking kindly of this excessively vulgar woman.)