1/26/13 11:49 am - the great santa invasion
(yr hmbl nrrtng srppint. did take a deliberate break in carlisle, knowing there was a further service in an hour's time, to see whether any s/h record & bookshops remained from n years ago - could only find charity shops);
from keswick (where i was careful to be all present & correct nine minutes before the advertised departure time), where i'd noticed a group or gathering of santa clauses -
"you don'ta fool me - there ainta no sanity clause!"
- all clad in appropriate, white fakefur-trimmed, scarlet robes, floppy conical hats, and (iirc) boots, drinking inside and outside the main doorway of the pub at the top end of town, spilling out across the ("pedetrianised") road, more than slightly - albeit inadvertently - intimidating older (and perhaps frailer) would-be passers-by, arguing in good-humoured manner with one another over more or less nothing, and generally behaving like.. ..like santas generally don't.
the bus goes around to the bottom - or top? - of the market, where approximately thirty inebriated santas not so much boarded, as invaded...
- yes, in the time it'd taken me to walk back to the bus station, and for the bus to make its way thither, the inebriated santas had successfully made their way(s) to the bus stand, and they clattered and clambered their ways, more-or-less independently, up the stairs to the top ("outside") deck, buying their tickets from the driver in more-or-less random blocks (the driver must've either been an experienced rapid head-counter - practiced with sheep? - or taken their individual and collective words for how many which payer-of-bus fares was accepting responsibility for); having (mostly) attained the top of the stairs, they lurched & staggered their ways to the back half of the bus, filling up the seats (more-or-less) thence, up until those just before, or level with, the top of the stairs.
the last santa to board seemed to get stuck with paying for rather more of his red-cloaked-and-hooded colleagues than he'd expected to; but he took it in good, if slightly confused, part.
when his head surfaced at the top of the stairs, various santas cheered; and they continued to debate various inconsequentialities in a bit of a hubbub, occasionally taking time out to metaphorically sit on the one santa amongst their number who seemed permanently (and loudly) angry about something.
a couple of stops later, an east asian (chinese, i think) tourist family boarded the bus, husband, wife and sister (?), with pram & kids; a minute or three later, husband appeared at the top of the stairs wielding (digital?) cine-camera, evidently intending to take pictures of the fell & lake views as they left the lake district...
- and came to a dead halt, flummoxed, bewildered and totally astonished by the sight of thirty santas now facing him.
the thirty inebriated santas, however, were clearly not nonplussed.
they took delighted - and rather noisy - advantage of the situation, making (mostly mild) fun of the confused chinese cine-photographer, and though a couple seemed inclined to make racist remarks, the others squelched them pretty effectively.
but not quietly.
as all the rest of the santas seemed in good humour, and the confused chinese cine-photographer was apparently not overly accustomed to lakeland, or english, ways, he was evidently inclined to regard thirty inebriated santas as the sort of occurance perhaps quite unexceptional locally, but nevertheless notable to him and also to his friends and relations back home, and certainly worthy of recording at some length in sound and vision.
which only encouraged the santas and, as you may imagine, thirty inebriated santas are quite capable of generating a substantial amount of noise, which eventually reached or surpassed nuisance level on the lower deck, causing some concern to older and younger passengers and, perhaps most significantly, also in the (in these latter days of one-[wo]man-operation buses) open-plan driver's cab. having borne the erratically-peaking, but steadily growing din for several stops, two loud thumps delivered to the floor of the upper deck eventually decided the bus driver that enough was enough, and he drew the double-decker to a halt at a convenient junction with a minor road, and came upstairs to give the santas a piece of his mind - and possibly a first and last warning that, if they didn't conduct themselves considerably less raucously, they would find themselves walking the last five miles of their journey. (the fact that they outnumbered him quite convincingly did not seem to strike him as relevant - and nor did it appear to, the santas.)
the thirty inebriated santas thenceforward moderated the volume of their discussions, for the most part, especially after the departure from the bus of the confused chinese cine-photographer, who had managed to get some footage (square electronage?) of various of the fells ahead and to the left of the route, and to whom i'd succeeded in conveying (in a mix of english and mime) advice of particularly dramatic/picturesque views both immediately upcoming and, upon occasion, visible if he looked back, to one side of the way we'd come, (and family); indeed, the greatest noise levels subsequently reached were attained whenever two or three of them decided they were all beginning to again create an unreasonable amount, and commenced highly vocal inebriated santa self-policing operations...
having had to stop once for them, the bus driver evidently took the occasional burst of high spirited calming attempts as being made in good faith and, apart from the argumentation amongst them as to which should be their next pub, the santas were no further great bother until they somewhat shambolically made their exit stage left, heading for a pub fairly convenient to the bus stop - though a small group of the thirty inebriated santas overshot, and had to be called back.
this was probably the single most entertaining bus journey i have experienced - and certainly, the most festive.