But I Have A Bus Pass [slight return]

[I accidentally overwrote the original entry for this day, which is a shame because it was very long. This one will inevitably be not quite as good, or at least not quite as long, which I admit might not be the same thing.]

Just as I’m wondering what to do with my Saturday morning, at home with my lovely new Lurgi, I get a call from Mr Buzzo, who is In Town, as we say, to check out a gallery so that he might display some of his Big Pictures. He suggests we meet for coffee, which sounds agreeable, and implies that he will be in the Piccadilly area despite stating explicitly that he’s heading for St Martin’s Lane. Or perhaps I infer the Piccadilly thing. Anyway that’s where I set off for.

I originally intend to get a bus pass for the day, but don’t seem to pass any shops that sell them, and it’s such a nice day that I walk over Westminster Bridge and past Horseguard’s Parade. Usually when you’re ill, going out at all is a terrible, terrible idea, but occasionally it bucks you up hugely and this is one of those one-in-a-million chances.

Around the Houses of Parliament, I have to dodge a vast number of photographers – it must be one of the most photographed bits of quasi-neo-gothic gingerbread kitsch in the world. It strikes me that if the belief of people in traditional cultures (that being photographed steals part of one’s soul) is correct, that might explain a lot about the calibre of leadership we’ve had since the introduction of the box brownie.

On the way up to the Mall, I eavesdrop on a conversation between a couple of tourists, one of whom (the Pete in this particular Pete and Dud relationship) is explaining Horseguard’s Parade: “They have parades with horses in traditional costumes of the Queen” which is as good an explanation as any I’ve heard. Then the conversation seems to drift to the little cottage in the shrubbery. I must have missed something, because they’re talking about vermin now – “No, they don’t have those, but they do have spiders, and I’m pretty sure they have rats”.

Dan calls and puts me right re his current location and I veer off across Trafalgar Square, where the anti-war protesters are already congregating.

We chat over long stemmed glasses of coffee (I don’t know whether that’s a french thing, or whether the only receptacles they had were long stemmed glasses), and then Dan goes back to his car and I wonder whether I’m going to wander around before the NotBBC Meetup or go home. I quickly plump for going home, and go to get a bus pass from one of the machines in front of the Shakespeare’s Head on Kingsway. It takes my money alright. It has no problem with the money-taking aspect of the transaction, but the ticket-giving bit seems a trifle over complicated for it. I thump it a few times, but it was obviously designed to withstand people much more brutal than me. I do feel like kicking it anyway, just for the catharsis of it but don’t. I am ill, after all. So I buy a pass from a shop and wait for a bus.

Getting home, I have some lunch and the ‘flu creeps up on me again. I check out the messages on the NotBBC forums, and wonder whether I’m going to go to the meetup – after all, here I am, at home and I really ought to rest and … ah, what the hell: I Have A Bus Pass.

So I wait at the stop for a bus that is going all the way there, but they all seem to be stopping at Waterloo. No, no “seem to be”, they all are stopping at Waterloo. Now I’m all in favour of peace in principle, but it’s messing with my already-fairly-untidy social life. maybe aven “social” life.

But I Have A Bus Pass, so I catch a bus to Waterloo and walk from there. As I’m crossing Waterloo Bridge, a backpacker walking in the opposite direction lets fall a shiny object from his pocket. It makes an audible “k’ching” noise on the pavement. It is a coin. He stops, looks at it and walks on. I stop, look at it and pick it up. It is a five Kroner piece, with a hole in the middle. When I was small the notion of coinage with holes in the middle was hopelessly romantic. These Scandinavians with their distain for currency. Or possibly these student backpackers with their distain for other people’s currency, I’m not sure. I put it in my back pocket, and walk up to the Shakespeare’s Head, where the NotBBC meetup is already underway.

This is the first time I have ever worn a name badge with a pseudonym on: I am SE1. The first time I posted to a NotBC forum (the SOTCAA forum as it was then), I posted as “Disgusted of SE1”, the next time as “$something_else of SE1” and so on. I very quickly realised I wouldn’t be able to keep it up and settled on SE1.

In attendance are Jeanette (who I read a message on the board just before leaving the house, which said that she too was just about to leave the house, so this is the first sign of the strange confluence of life and text that is unfolding here: until this moment, the whole thing could have been a very involved fiction written for my benefit); The Bean (not Bean is a Carrot, who is an Australian woman. The Bean sets to training me not to say “Ah”, which I suspect he does quite a lot. Very successfully, I must say – within the hour, the formation of my lips into even a semi-ah shape invokes a sense of guilt. It’s disturbing to realise that I’m so suggestable); flamingkitties and smirkz (sitting at a pair of stools slightly apart from the alcove that has been designated the NotBBC alcove with signs and everything. A sort of observational platform); Rob S of the Red Name (the Great Architect of the Forum); various forum dignitaries – Gralefrit, Jon, Lady B, ribbit, Ailie, Tim-e, Squidy, Moss, Al M – sort of like mingling with the stars. I feel honoured. Radiator Head Child suddenly appears in a swirl, bearing luminous pink biscuits, and proceeds to beat everybody up.

Reaching into my back pocket I find the Scandinavian coin, and get a “bit” about how if I had another identically sized coin with no hole in it, and a toy gun, I could confuse dim people. Leave them muttering things like “what a shot!” and “but he did the gun noise with his mouth!”.

At 9:30, my body reminds me that I am ill, my already tenuous link with coherence snaps altogether and I decide to go home before I fall over. Outside I wait for a bus, catch the first one that comes along, but only goes a couple of hundred yards down the road, then wait for another one, because damn it, even if it would have quicker to walk I HAVE A BUS PASS. Reaching home, I finish some Nick corrections and email them over to him.