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Laurence Inman’s Blog



This week Laurence offers us a narrative poem, with footnotes and asides, about a dream in which he got on a bus and by sheer coincidence it contained all my old mates from school. Someone once asked me, was it a real dream? The 11 bus route in Birmingham is the Outer Circle and is 25 miles long.

It was one of those airy Wednesdays
As I clomped over King’s Norton Green
And leapt on the back of a passing number 11 bus
Which was odd because the 11 doesn’t go anywhere near King’s Norton Green, and you can’t jump on the back of a bus now, you’d just bounce off
The passengers inside were looking round
(As they would on one of the old buses)
Trying not to smile
But their eyes were saying
"Go on! Go on! Look who's on top!"
I rose up the stairs
And I saw the seats were crammed
With huddled, shaking backs
Holding in their joy, till one of them whispered,
And they all stood and turned
And I felt myself relax
And I looked at every face
Which was full of smiles and tears
I was in another place
I had got back thirty years


"Lozzer! Lozzer! Now we're all here!"
They clattered and they roared
It was all of 4Q Bottom from school
It was nineteen sixty-four.
My confusion and excitement
Were acute and extreme
Was I awake or did I dream ?
Were these glad faces real
Or did they only seem
To spring and dance around me ?
Faces and names glowed in my mind

There was Gasher, Slasher, Masher and Gnasher
Bosher, Nosher, Slosher, Cosher and Splish-Splash-Splosher
Why was he called that ? It was something to do with a line high up on the wall in
the bogs.
Mincer, Muncher, Cruncher and Tosser
Bouncer and Flouncer and Forty-fluid-ouncer

So called it's too disgusting

Ratface, Batface, Scratchit and Mooner ,
Weasel-gob, goat-shit, toad-turd and flea,
Grinder and Flopper and Four-hundred Pruner
So called because one lunchtime he ate 400 prunes, then in
the afternoon ran the school cross-country. Sadly he died,
but the prunes came third.
Then I saw my old mate Ronnie-or-Reggie the Blazer.
No one knew whether he was called Ronnie or Reggie
He wouldn’t say
And he was called The Blazer, for two reasons
One: his blazer as a bit lighter than everyone else’s
You know what kids are like. The other reason was
He set fire to people. They couldn’t get away
He tied them to the desk….what a boffin
Who always told his Mom.
And Arthur-Just-Can’t-Stand-It
Who just couldn’t stand it
And little Timothy, sitting by himself
Because his pants absolutely stank!
And then, imperturbable, like a spider
At the centre of its web,
Flanked by his leering acolytes,
The hardest kid in the school: Cecil Blenkinsop
I faced him.
"Alright Ces ?"
"Alright Lozzer ?"
We’re the gang, the boys, the crew, we’re UZZZ
4Q Bottom on the top of the BUZZZ!
We trundled off, we re-joined the route
The driver on the bus went toot toot toot
The conductor on the bus went “Put that bloody fag out!”
We said, “We don’t have to. We’re allowed. Nobody worries.”
He said, “Oh yeah. Well, anyway, Splish-Bosh-Crusher or Forty-Fluid-Bouncer or whatever you call yourself, clean up that mess under the seat.”
And he did. And we didn’t shout obscenities
Because we were good lads and we understood
The problems of adults, especially in the area of personal cleanliness.
Off we sped, anti-clockwise.
I looked round at the faces.
They all looked at each other.
"What are you doing these days ?" I said.
"This," they all replied.
"What are YOU doing?"
"This," I happily rejoined.
We yodelled, we sang,
We went Yeah Yeah Yeah
We span, we shone,
Like new coins
(In the old money, of course)
Kings Heath, Hall Green, Yardley, Bromford,
Erdington, Handsworth, Harborne, Selly Oak,
And as we rotated back towards King’s Norton
I began to be aware
Of things and changes
I had not noticed before.
I looked at my old oppo
Aubrey fart-and-follow-through

Spelt with small f’s, to be posh

And saw that all the time
He was really Paul MacCartney
(But not so smug, you know, with a bit more edge, like Lennon.)
And then Four-Ton Steve
He of the dripping digits
He was really….Jimmy Greaves
He played for the Villa, not the Spurs
He played in the World Cup Final instead of Geoff Hurst
And he scored six and we won six-nil
And there was no controversial third goal
And no recourse to the Russian linesman
And…and…my very very best mate
Cyril (honest gaffer I’m eighteen)
All these years he’d really been
Steve McQueen
And he wasn’t marched back to the cooler
With his baseball and glove
No, he flew that motor-bike clear
Over the barbed-wire
Out of dank Stalag air
Into sweet, clear, blue Swiss air.

At journey's end, back on the Green
The bus lurched off, we all waved
And the passengers and conductor waved back
The driver tooted his horn.
Sir Paul, Sir Jimmy and Steve
Disappeared down the lanes and over the fields
Back to their worlds of Rock, Football and Movie Stardom respectively
Leaving the rest of us smiling and nodding.
And as we smiled a change took place
We all felt a bit furry in the face
We looked down and, with a little laugh,
Saw that each of us wore a check yellow scarf
We touched our heads – there was something like hair.
Yes…we’d all along been Rupert Bear.
We scampered and danced till the sun went down
And rounded bear-shadows muffled the light
We swapped addresses. Keep in touch.
Yeah and you. Let me know. I will.
Some of us went home and some went into town
Bye bye lads. Night night, Night night.
Bunch by bunch, off they went,
Thinking of the still, safe past
And knowing for certain that the next time
Such a coincidence comes round again
We’ll carry on circling the 11 route
Forever and ever and ever.



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