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The day started well enough: a walk to town
In the soft light of soft autumnal sunshine,
Ridge and furrow with kine in the fields;
Drunken Swindon fans trying to walk straight,
Whilst Lord John bantering with the Old Bill;
Stroud’s farmers’ market full of season harvest,
Sundry chats about the match with passers-by.
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But then! Chaos at Merrywalks bus stop!
Too many wound up young men, youths and boys,
All chanting, singing, provoking and taunting,
For a double decker number 63,
Let alone the paltry single decker
That belatedly hove into view,
Bound for Nailsworth and Forest Green.
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All normal rules of patient queuing
Went right out the window in a manic surge
(As Bob and I were addressed by an elderly woman:
‘Is there a football match on?
Do you remember Jimmy Johnstone?
Celtic and the European Cup?
I went to school with him.’),
We became mere spectators, mouths agape,
Politely listening to this memory,
As the queue behind us rapidly filled the bus.
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As we climbed the hill, a number 40
Cotswold Green bus, Stroud to Wotton under Edge,
Was coughing on its circuitous way;
We waved it down. It stopped. We paid five pounds:
‘Cash only on this service, my friend.’
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The bus inched its way forward between two lorries,
One with scaffolding poles protruding
Into the very tight passageway.
The right-side back window got smashed to bits;
The bus got stuck. The driver got on his phone.
We waited and waited and waited.
Then plucked up courage and asked for our money back,
After the shortest bus journey of my life,
Perhaps twenty metres in total –
But full of considerable incident.
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We ran up the hill and to my house
In Coronation Road; a quick word with Trish,
(‘You haven’t got your helmets on.’)
And then biked hell for leather along the A46,
(My red and white scarf tied to the panniers
Attracting the attention of car drivers:
‘Forest Green! Swindon wankers!’ etc,),
To ascend Star Hill, past the once Jolly Forester,
Once home of Forest Green Rovers,
To reach the haven of the car park and the bike racks.
We carefully locked our bicycles.
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We then climbed the hill past the traffic jams
And seeming gridlock of coaches and cars,
To take our place in a serpentine queue,
The clock ticking madly,
Players already on the pitch,
Frustration rising with the turnstile deadlock:
‘Sorry’, said one solicitous steward,
‘We’ve only got two turnstiles on today.’
Another, less solicitous:
‘You shouldn’t all arrive at the same time.’
I pondered on the nature of free will,
And temporal-spatial coincidence –
But thought it best not to mention that
As my bag was searched,
Instead I plaintively replied:
‘Honestly, if it wasn’t for mutiny on the buses,
No taxis and then a bus crash,
We wouldn’t have done, mate.’