The rain falls steadily on the roof of the shelter. Four large drips fall in the doorway, I had to make my way through them as I came in. The rain has built to a sudden frenzy and is relentless. There are small rivers running along the road and down the hill. I back up against the wall of the shelter as the traffic rushes past, bring up tidal waves from the run off they pass through.
A lady in sandals and a denim jacket giggles as she runs into the shelter, shaking her see-through umbrella and attempting to flatten down her straight, red hair. She tells me that she is off to the doctors’, she could walk, but the rain has already soaked her through in the last five minutes. She talks about the weather and talks about my luggage. She hopes the weather clears up for my camping and I thank her.
The glowing lights of the 500 head towards us. I step out of the shelter, but not too close to the edge of the pavement, in case the waves come back. The driver opens the door, insisting he wasn’t trying to get me.
I pay, lift the suitcase and tent into the luggage rack and make my way down the bus. The lady with the red hair passed me, but we are the only ones on the bus so I have the pick of all seats but the one in the front which she is now occupying. I don’t do well with the front seat, for some reason I slide around, so I head further back.
At the next stop a lady with impeccable blonde hair (a small beehive with a tortoiseshell comb and a floral headscarf) gets on. She has bright red nails and a gloriously wrinkled face. Her eye shadow is blue, a little too bright for her age and complexion perhaps, but she pulls it off. The eyeliner is slightly too thick and has been applied with a shaky hand. Her lips match the nails and she smiles, giving a long fingered wave as she passes by me to sit at the back of the bus. she starts to sin showtunes, not Lloyd Webber or Schonberg, but Gershwin and Berlin. The sorts of songs made popular by Fred Astaire, Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald a couple of generations ago. I see the driver glance back and smile at himself. She must be a regular. I’d like to be her when I’m older.
The next stop. The windows are starting to steam up and there’s a drip of brown water trickling down the side panel from the corner of the window next to me. I shuffle from side to side, stretching out my neck and back a little. I know it will feel terrible by the end of the weekend. I glance at the luggage. It has shifted slightly but crucially it has not fallen. There are bottles inside. They don’t want to break.
The glamourous woman at the back has stopped singing. A family is now sitting near her. They must have got on when I was watching the drip of water running down the wall. They talk with her about sea sides, sandcastles and home made paper flags on bbq skewers. It takes me a few seconds to remember how to spell skewers. I wonder how they got onto the sea side as a conversation topic. This is one of the furthest points from beaches. Maybe they are going on a day trip.
I switch my ipod onto the jazz and blues playlist I’ve made. Soon my ears will be filled with the voices of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Jo Stafford and Ella. I close my eyes.