by John Ritchie
I can’t remember when I first noticed them, but once I did I couldn’t take my eyes off them. I soon realized they were best seen from the front seats on the top deck of a double decker bus at dusk or in the early evening. So very quickly, Autumn and Winter became my favourite seasons, much to the disgust of a significant proportion of the rest of humanity, or at least that small quantity of it which immediately surrounds me.
Mum doesn’t like the colder months and tries to go into hibernation in a mobile cocoon of coats, scarves and wooly hats. I am, therefore, also swaddled as soon as the first leaf falls. My older brother, on the other hand, is ‘Licensed to Kill’ as my Dad calls it. In other words he gets away with murder, and is allowed to dress as he likes, whatever the weather.
My Dad is my principle conspirator and the main source of my upper deck bus trips. Mum says she doesn’t like heights, or those narrow winding stairs, but I suspect she is more concerned about men looking at her legs when she climbs up and down to the top deck on the bus. Though with all those clothes on I can’t imagine they can see much, or why they would bother in the first place.
But, for me there is magic on the top deck of the bus, a wonderful sense of flying above the world with the swoops and turns of the bus constantly changing your view point as though you are an eagle riding on the thermals of the hot, steamy traffic below.
Then there are the cat’s eyes. When you go over the brow of the hill the cats wake up in turn and look at you to check you are in the right place on the road, or so my Dad says. When it is wet you can hear them hiss in irritation, cats don’t like to be wet. But, when it is dry, you can hear them purr instead. That is until you run over them, then they arch their backs and make the road all bumpy and bad-tempered.
Rather like my Mum was that day when the downstairs part of the bus was full and she had to go upstairs with all the men looking at her legs.
I told her that Dad had told me that cats lived under the road and that their eyes watched all the cars and buses and made sure they behaved themselves and that the cats that sat on our garden wall and caught the baby sparrows were on their holidays. But, Mum just said:
“You are six years old, Sophie. Don’t talk such nonsense.”
After that I just looked at the cat’s eyes and tried to recognize the ginger tom, that used to come into our garden and chase the ball when I threw it for him. I knew he must be here somewhere, as he didn’t come into the garden anymore.
When Uncle Jack had his accident and broke his motorcycle, he said it was because he had skidded on wet leaves, but I suspected it was the cats that had clawed at his tyres, because as my Dad said, ‘He is a mad sod and all over the place.’ Which, I am fairly sure must be a bad thing, because the cats wouldn’t have scratched him, otherwise.
When we moved to a new house where my Dad said they didn’t need double decker buses because there weren’t so many people, I missed them for a little while, but then a lot more cats came on holiday so that was nice, until we got a Rustle called Jack, who chased the cats away. But then, he likes to play in the leaves and he chases snowballs, when I throw them, and tries to bring them back. So now I have a new best friend for those times when Mum is in hibernation.
John Ritchie likes cats and tries not to run over them when they are on their holidays.