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May 2002 - Transport of DelightRight at the very beginning of this month's exciting edition of Nick Harvey's Comment, I should perhaps issue a warning to you that it might be a dashed fine idea if you were to read through it extremely quickly. That is because this month's subject matter will cause immense misery and upset to most of the inhabitants of one of our more southerly counties; and due to the edition's total political incorrectness, it may need to be withdrawn at incredibly short notice; or it might even get removed from above by the power of the management. I have to say, however, that to my knowledge, nothing has, as yet, attracted the attention of the censor's blue pencil here in Carbuncle Corner, so I could be going for a first here. The problem with Nick Harvey's Comment on this particular occasion is that it starts from the firm and honest conviction that everyone who lives in Devon, especially around the north of that particular county, must be both absolutely crackers and totally colour-blind. So, just in case the worst happens and I get thrown out on my ear, keyboard in hand, it'll be best to read through this month's edition a bit sharpish. You can always come back and read it again at your leisure, later in the month if it manages to survive that long. So, what's all this fuss likely to be all about then? Well, dear reader, let me tell you that for many years I've had the dubious honour of staying in Bideford, in north Devon, over the Easter period. As my stays have become more regular and more numerous, I've been beginning to worry about the sad state of the brain power and eyesight of the good people from that neck of the woods. After my numerous visits and a great deal of thought, I'm now certain that there is a major problem down there. Even if the problem isn't a real one just at present, it very soon will be, as the next generation of local youngsters grow up not believing whether they've been taught to read correctly; and not being totally sure whether they're colour-blind or not. In another five years or so, north Devon will be totally inhabited by people who aren't certain if they can read or if they can see properly. The cause of all this extensive confusion is the local bus company. Around Bideford, Barnstaple and many other parts of the beautiful north Devon area, the buses are mainly provided by a company who trade under the wonderful name of "The Red Bus Company". Very sensibly, as part of the company's product awareness campaign, they drive around with their trading name proudly emblazoned upon the side of all their vehicles. In most cases, however, the name printed on the side of the vehicles is shortened to just "Red Bus", or, on the mini-buses it's "Little Red Bus". "All quite logical so far" I hear you thinking, and indeed for the big red double deckers, it really is entirely logical. The confusion comes, however, when you see some of the other buses in the fleet, and especially when you come across one of the company's mini-buses.
You see, some of the double deckers in the Red Bus fleet are painted a beautiful shade of blue! Some more of the double, and single deckers are painted shades of green! ALL of the mini-buses just happen to be painted in a bright yellow colour!
I suspect that it's around about this point in the story that some of you regular devotees might just be beginning to get my drift!
Just imagine the scene, madam. The mini-bus is pulling up to the stop so you can get on. You stand there totally transfixed, unable to move a muscle to board the bus, as your brain goes into convulsions trying to decide if any logic can apply in a universe which delivers a bright yellow bus immediately in front of you, bearing the legend upon it's side "Little Red Bus".
As you stand there, motionless, with your brain unable to pass the necessary signals in a downward direction to move your legs because of the confusion in the eye department, this mirage slowly drives away again into the distance.
You stand there, spending the next few minutes still transfixed, and unable to believe what you thought you might have seen. Just as you finally write it off as being totally impossible and bring yourself back under some form of control, the double decker comes along.
This time it's in a wonderful, bright blue livery, and you rush round to the side to read what's written on it. There it is in huge letters, just staring at you, "Red Bus".
You never actually get to travel on any of these multi-coloured creations. You're always so totally brain-dead at the confusion of images before you, that you end up walking to your destination, whilst wondering if you're awake, or still in the deep dark depths of the previous night's dream.
And, bear in mind, dear readers, that these descriptions which I put before you, are the words of a (fairly) middle aged, and normally quite sane, human being. Well, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
I mean, when I was tiny and Mummy taught me which colour to call red and which one to call yellow, I took it all in, and have never had any trouble with traffic lights or anything else subsequently in my life.
I know that the letters R E D spell red and it's the colour pillar boxes are painted; yellow is a slightly longer word and goes with the ripe bananas. I've definitely got no problem with any of that.
But what about these poor little children of north Devon? How can they possibly grow up with any sense of correct colour at all?
They must just get past the point of recognising colours and know that mini-buses are yellow, when they start to learn to read their first, very simple, three letter words.
How on earth do you explain to a three, four or five year old that the three letter word which appears on the side of this yellow bus spells the word red? And how on earth do you explain that this word "red" appears on buses which happen to be red, blue, green, and also yellow?
At least if they just used a teeny-weeny bit more paint in their sign writing department, and went to the trouble of putting the whole name of the company on the side, it would be just a little bit easier to explain to the youngsters.
If the fading memories from my Construction of English lessons at school are correct, then if you use the phrase "The Red Bus Company", then the adjective "red" is definitely describing the noun "company" and not the other adjective in this particular usage, "bus".
That's probably far too complex an argument for your average Devonian bus company executive though. Perhaps we're just destined to have the new generation of confused residents of that rather unfortunate county, that I mentioned earlier on.
I think perhaps my best bet would be to try to spend Easter somewhere else in the world in the future. Perhaps London would be quite a good idea? At least the Green-Line coaches around the capital were always actually green in my days around there.
Or I suppose I could always try the south of Devon, around the Torbay area. I don't think the strange Devonian sickness has reached the extreme south of the county yet. Watch out though, the buses around Torquay way are a sort of strange purple colour, so goodness knows what confusions would happen if they were bought up by the red lot from up north!
And, we ought to note before departing this subject totally, that like many an omnibus in other parts of the country, the ones around Torquay must currently be owned and run by a branch of the Catholic Church. I can only assume that's the reason that they go round with huge signs on the back of them which read "Please let the bus pull out"!
I shall simply leave you to think about that last paragraph on your own, madam. No, I shall definitely NOT be explaining it!
Right then, providing I haven't got the timetable completely wrong, the next edition of Comment will appear, in glorious colour, at the beginning of June; so I shall expect you all to be waiting patiently in the queue for it at the appointed time.
In the meantime, right, I'm off, where's me ticket?
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