Bus.

My mum always used to say, 'Northerners get buses, Londoners get the train'.

I sat next to Paul Heaton on the bus. This seemed about right. That's where Paul Heaton would be. On a bus. With his face. He has a bus face. All northern and square.

My mum would have loved seeing Paul Heaton on a bus. He's the only famous person I've ever seen on any public transport. I did once see Fearne Cotton get into a taxi. Londoner. Just her. Driver in front and just her. In a taxi. With her face.

Paul Heaton wasn't reading a paper, or listening to headphones or jotting down notes. He was just sitting on the bus. Looking out of the window. Like he'd done it loads of times before. Like Paul Heaton just gets on a bus and rides it up and down. Manchester to Huddersfield to Sheffield. Wherever the bus goes. So does Paul Heaton.

Fearne Cotton just gets the taxi to where she's going. In London. West London to East London to North London to South London. Always London. Wherever Fearne Cotton goes, so does a taxi.

The bus was empty and I'd sat down right next to him. Just me and Paul with the whole top deck to ourselves. Sat next to each other. Paul Heaton moved seats. He seemed uncomfortable. I was hoping he'd felt comforted. Both of us, enjoying a nice bus ride. A nice northern bus ride. Next to each other. We'd been on the bus, together, for 15 minutes when he got out a notebook and wrote a sentence. I couldn't see what he wrote. He put the notebook away.

I began humming 'Happy Hour'. Quietly. I thought he'd appreciate the knowledge. Just allowing him that little smile. I could only see the back of his head but he seemed content. He'd got on a bus. A nice Northern bus. And a nice Northern man had sung his song. A theme tune for him, almost. Fearne Cotton could never get that in her taxi. No taxi driver was greeting her with the Fearne Cotton Radio 1 Jingle. They'd lose their tip. I had nothing to lose.

I was out to gain a friend. A famous friend. Who'd write songs about me. Me and Paul and our times on the buses of Manchester. It'd be a BBC show. BBC 4 at least. Repeated on BBC 2. Paul and Joe On The Buses. We'd ride around and meet people. Talk about how bus travel had changed. And just be pals. Pals on the buses.

Fearne Cotton's already got her pals. She doesn't need to meet them on the buses. She's closed herself off. Like Londoners do. That's what my mum said. They're grumpy in the South. I suppose they know enough people. So many people. Not like the north. We've got space for buses. Nice buses.

Paul Heaton stood up to get off. I hummed 'Happy Hour' louder. It caught his attention. Paul came up to me. He was smiling. He opened his mouth and in a deep Southern accent said, 'Sorry mate, I just look like him.' My heart sank. 'Nice bus though'. And Not Paul Heaton rang the bell and walked down the stairs.

JOE DALY.

The Restaurant.

Through the window stand tables,
in fours and twos; nearly-leather chairs
on both sides, spot-lights broadcasting their sheen.

The boss tells the back-bent employee to mop,
or wipe; to approach the seldom-there customers,
hellos with a blown grass-reed voice.

To the left, a lone customer sits,
spoon-picking at a sorbet,
trying not to look to the left, at the bar,
the faint chink of cutlery and polishing
floats through the speechless air
and seeps through the pane.

RICHY CAMPBELL.


The Natives Are Restless.

I am just young enough to be an internet native.

Not like those middle-aged women who pick up the mouse, move the mousemat,

put down the mouse and continue until cord or desk run out. You don't see them any more.

Or that old boy - do you remember? Typing a letter to his son

In the address bar, while the waitress tutted?

We had a new dawn of netscape navigator and virtual Irish pubs

And waiting, and waiting, and eggtimer pixels.


Well, not quite native, but

Learned at university, when we still had faith

Before bubbles burst and pennies drop and

The world is people who are scared and want things and bluff.

Before this, when the people telling you how know how, and don't exist where you do.


Internet native used to be a buzzword. Young and thrusting.

Now it is aging, and in a bit it will

Become another thing old people say as those whose world it is smile,

Like sidecar or foxtrot or twenty-three skidoo.

ANDREW ENGLISH.