On The Buses – Frank Regan hurtles through time and space

vintage Leeds busComment logo 2Dear reader (or Eric, as I like to think of you) I am here to discuss Change – that is like change but with a capital letter C at the start of the word meaning it’s a BIG CONCEPT.

Change. How fast is it? I’ll tell you how fast it is. It’s really fast.

The other Thursday morning I got out of bed safe in the knowledge that there was only one type of giraffe. I find these things reassuring. As I ate my toast and drank my coffee, “There’s only one type of giraffe,” I said aloud to the dog, and I felt not just comforted by this undeniable fact but I felt a measure of relief too. All around me I see the visible signs of progress but the singularity of the giraffe is one constant in my life I have been able to cling to.

Later that day, on the BBC News no less, it was announced that the gentle giant of the African savannah is in fact four sub-species. Scientists had discovered this by examining DNA – something a bloke I used to work with claimed not to possess, but that’s another story for another time. In the space of just a few hours all my long-held beliefs about Earth’s tallest mammal were ripped to shreds. I don’t need to tell you that my tea was a struggle to digest that night. But as always, I had a plan. And like so many of my plans it involved time-travel and insulting Harold Wilson.

As we’ve already established, my main mode of transport is the bus. But I also have a time machine. Admittedly it is not a fully-functioning time-machine, inasmuch as it does not allow me to travel in time. At first glance it looks to the untrained eye like a chair. A nicely upholstered chair, perhaps past its best years of use, but still a perfectly functioning chair. My main, and so far insurmountable, task has been to propel it through space and time either backwards into the foul-smelling past or forward to the exciting future where we will all wear silver clothing.

With the benefit of hindsight, I should have realised that moving my upholstered vehicle through time-travel portals might be a bit of stretch seeing how it took me and my mate Tim an hour-and-a-half just to get it through the living room door, but armed with a) a burning desire to succeed and b) a grade C in physics “O” Level, I have set about my mission with all the determination of the original pioneers at NASA. That is, if the original pioneers of NASA only ever thought about what they were trying to achieve about once every four years.

My method, thus far, has been to sit on the chair and put the small clock from the mantelpiece at the side of me and attempt to get the clock to spin round at immense speed as I bend the known Laws of Physics and traverse time. Before you start criticising me, I have had some success, but I seem to be stuck at getting it to go faster than 60 seconds per minute. Like I say, it’s a work in progress.

And my first target? Well…in 1963 Harold Wilson made a speech now known as the “white heat of the technological revolution” speech. I wasn’t born so don’t know the details but I think it was all about how Britain was going to be super-futuristic and how we’d soon know everything. If we kept voting Labour. Anyway, if I ever get this bloody chair working I shall go back and shout “How many types of giraffe are there, Harold?” and when he says “One,” I’ll answer “You’re an idiot, Wilson. There are four. THAT is the future! Four giraffes!”

I think about change a lot, mainly because there’s a lot of it about and also because I’m bone-idle and thinking is as physically active as I usually get. So along with all the other things I think about (kangaroos, why there’s a different person reading the news on Look North every breakfast-time, the weight of air etc), I consider “change”.

Look at mobile phones or Grime music or facebook – the three most important things happening in the world right now. None of them existed six months ago. By Christmas they’ll all be viewed as antiques – objects to be placed in museums and marvelled at by children who are levitating in front of them while having knowledge telepathically injected directly into their brain devices.

Which brings me to how I see my own role in this bright, shiny future. In Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations there is a character called John Wemmick who lives with his father who is referred to as The Aged Parent. When the novel’s hero, Pip, is introduced to him, Wemmick says “You don’t object to an Aged Parent, I hope?”

As time passes, and I cease to be able to cope with the change in species of giraffe (let alone news that there are two sub-species of lions!) and my teenage children grow and cope easily with the inexhaustible pace of change, I have begun to see that I am gradually turning into Aged Parent. I fully expect my kids, from now on, to introduce their friends to me in the way that Wemmick introduces him to Pip – “Nod away at him, Mr. Pip; that’s what he likes. Nod away at him, if you please…”

I imagine that in the next few years I will demand to live in a mock castle with a drawbridge, just like Aged Parent, as I gradually become, as Dickens describes him “A very old man in a flannel coat; clean, cheerful, comfortable and well cared for, but intensely deaf.” But fear not, Eric, my reader, for the time being at least I remain the vigorously masculine and spectacularly virile force that I have always been. Just one who struggles with shock news about giraffes and the like.