I’ve always loved The Divine Comedy’s classic 1999 hit, “National Express”. Not least because of the lyrics:
Take the National
Express when your life's in a mess
It'll make you smiiiille,
All human life is here
From the feeble old dear to the screaming chiiiiilld,
From the student who knows that to have one of those
Would be suiciiiiiiidde…
And who can forget:
On the National
Express there's a jolly hostess
Selling crisps and teeeeaa,
She'll provide you with drinks and theatrical winks
For a sky-high feeeeeeee,
Mini-skirts were in style when she danced down the aisle
Back in '63-eeeeeee (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah),
But it's hard to get by when your arse is the size
Of a small country-eeeeeee…
It wasn’t just those crackerjack lyrics. The song also
struck a chord with me (in fact, merrily twanged the life out of one) as I was
a big fan – or at least frequent user – of the National Express (NE); England’s
‘national’ (the clue’s in the title) coach (as in, ‘posh bus’) service. The
equivalent to North America’s Greyhound.
Contributing to the latter was the fact I lived like a
student until I was about 28 (well, OK… 38; well, OK… still am), and so often
had a travel budget more in sync with travelling via posh bus.
Going from Gloucester or
Cheltenham to London Victoria in one direction or another was my
most popular trip – a 3-to-3.5-hour journey – and often for the princely sum of
a pound. Yes, one Great British pound! The NE launched a “Fun Fare” initiative
way back when – and providing you didn’t dither or dawdle on your
decision-making, a journey that would otherwise burn a 25+ quid hole in your
wallet (plus a couple of zeros by train) cost next-to-nothing.
So I came to look (and reflect) upon those journeys very
fondly – not least because of the cavalcade of Divine Comedy-esque experiences
it offered up...
To read the rest of this column, check out BC Johnny's upcoming book: Chilled Almonds.