No Bendybuses Please, we’re British
The scene is a London street. A floppy-haired figure stands centre stage, looking confused. He is the mayor.
Mayor: “Who says politicians don’t keep their election promises, eh? I said I’d rid London’s streets of bendybuses, and I will, by Jove! I’ve started! These writhing whales of the road have swung their hefty rear ends round our corners for the final time. Pedestrians that leapt, cyclists that skidded and drivers that dodged from their paths will breathe easier. Let me seek confirmation from this passer-by.”
An elderly Cockney lady shuffles on to the stage.
Mayor: “I say, madam! I’m ridding the streets of bendybuses. What do you say to that?”
Elderly Cockney lady: “Cor blimey! It’s nonsense, that’s what I say. What use are double-deckers to me? I can’t climb the stairs. Keep the bendybuses, that’s what us old people want, more accessible seats, not more stairs.”
A young lady approaches.
Mayor (to himself): “Well, this one’s not going to complain about climbing stairs on a double-decker, not with legs like that, what?”
He stops her.
Mayor: “Bendybuses. Writhing whales. Killers of cyclists. Hefty rear ends.”
Young lady (alarmed, not recognising the important personage addressing her); “Get away, pervert!”
Mayor: “No, no, I’m not a pervert and I’m not staring at your legs – well, I’m trying not to. I’m the mayor, and I’m canvassing views on my moves to rid the streets of bendybuses.”
Young lady: “An environmental disaster. You’re bringing in more buses which will burn more fuel, it’s daft.”
Mayor: “But, er, they’re wonderful low-emission Euro 5 buses.”
Young lady: “But they’ll still use more fuel. And fossil fuels are a finite resource, in case you didn’t know it. I’m starting a pressure group to articulate people’s feelings – Citizens Intending To Attack Rotten Outcomes, or CITARO for short.”
She marches off, indignant. The mayor looks crestfallen, but only for a nanosecond. He espies a young man approaching, wearing a hood.
Mayor: “I say…”
Hoodie (threateningly): “You say what, man?”
Mayor: “Well, er, um, do you travel on, er, bendybuses?”
Hoodie: “Yeah, man, they’re great.”
Mayor (encouraged to find his first supporter):
“You mean you actually approve of them?”
Hoodie: “Yeah. Like I get on the third door. Don’t pay no fare. Travel free, like. And if I ever meet the nutter whose replacing them with ordinary buses I’ll kick his ass.”
Mayor (alarmed): “Well, yes, indeed, kick his ass, jolly good…”
As the hoodie leaves the mayor sighs with relief and mops his brow with a handkerchief. A schoolboy approaches.
Mayor (talking to himself): “But they’re just not British. That’s the problem. They might be okay for Johnny Foreigner, but not here. We need British solutions. Britishness. You know … er … British. Like Rolls Royce!”
Schoolboy: “Have I got news for you! Rolls Royce isn’t British. It’s owned by BMW.”
Mayor (surprised, not having realised the boy was standing beside him): “Oh, very well then, like Bentley.”
Schoolboy: “Bentley isn’t British. It’s owned by Volkswagen.”
Mayor: “British Steel!”
Mayor: “Well, like Harrods.”
Schoolboy: “Owned by an Egyptian gentleman, I believe.”
(The mayor is temporarily, and unusually, speechless.)
Schoolboy: “Maybe your trouble is you suffer from xenophobia.”
Mayor (thinking): “Ah! You mean like those 1970s rock-group chappies? The What? The Why?”
Schoolboy: “The Who – and that was Quadrophenia.”
Mayor (tentatively): “Is xenophobia fear of a small car? French maybe…?”
Schoolboy: “No, Citroen made Xantias and Xsaras, but never a Xeno.”
Mayor: “You’re too clever by half, young man. Be off with you before I do something I regret!”
Schoolboy (running off, with a rude gesture):
“Like designing a new bus for London…?”
A city gent approaches, reading the Financial Times.
Mayor: “Sir! I’m reviewing attitudes towards my wonderful decision to rid London of bendybuses.”
FT reader (after a short pause): “I suspect you didn’t do a proper cost-benefit analysis.”
(The mayor looks a little puzzled, as he tries to grasp the concept.)
FT reader: “You’re making unnecessary capital investment in new buses at a time of economic restraint. That’s bad. You’re creating extra drivers’ jobs, at a time of rising unemployment. That’s good. The extra jobs will add to the wage costs of London bus operators and ultimately to Londoners’ tax bills. That’s bad. You’re making extra work for manufacturers. That’s good. You’re getting rid of perfectly serviceable buses on a political whim. That’s immature.”
Mayor (still looking puzzled): “So, er, um, are you supporting me or not?”
FT reader: “Well, that depends. Is your goal to create more jobs? To waste resources? To consume more fuel? And what about service levels? Will passengers get a better service?”
Mayor (finally having grasped part of the argument): “Passengers? Who cares what they think?”
The curtain descends.
Our arts correspondent understands that Mr Pointer is now preparing a sequel – The Curse of the
Borismaster – which will be an ironic post-modern exploration of the relationship between
nostalgia, political popularity, Pearly Kings and Queens, and bus design.