The country bus route 521 I take to work (combined with cycling on my folding Dahon Vitesse) has to make several diversions from the A12 to serve the small villages along the way.
Each morning it winds around Yoxford long enough for me to buy a paper and you could probably alight at Darsham long enough to have a swift half in the Fox Inn while it goes through the village and comes back the way it came.
This morning at Darsham an old lady, a pensioner with a travel card, was waiting at the stop with one of those wheeled shopping baskets that only pensioners use. "Morning Doris" the driver said. "Good morning Hector" said Doris. The driver and passenger were obviously well acquainted. (I didn't actually catch the first names so let's pretend shall we?)
As she slowly dragged the basket up the steps I heard the unmistakable clank of glass bottles. "One to Sax, please" she asked. Saxmudham is about five miles from Darsham where I get off. "Having a party?" Hector jokingly asked her on hearing the sound of glass. "If only, just a trip to the bottle bank" Doris told him. Once she was settled behind me, the bus set off for the church where it can make a U-turn to go back to the main road.
Although admiring her devotion to be green I couldn't help thinking that although the cost to her was nil, it certainly wasn't very green to tranport a few bottles by bus each time. Curious, I turned to Doris and said "Don't you have a bottle bank here?" "Oh no dear" Doris said. "There's no room for one." I thought that unusual and told her I used a very small bottle bank in Wenhaston which also raised money for the village pre-school. Doris replied the parish council had looked into one but there was nowhere to put it. She knew a lot about village affairs and she agreed it wasn't very green to ride the bus to drop off a few bottles but sometimes she didn't have much else to do anyway.
As we passed a long low utilitarian building I said, "what about your village hall, could it not go there?" Doris said "they said they haven't got the room, now that they've sold off the land around it." Then as we approached the Fox Inn I asked, "what about the pub? What do they do with all their bottles?" "I don't know" said Doris "but here's the publican. I'll ask her."
The bus was being hailed by a smartly dressed woman, who must be be in her fifties as she didn't have a bus pass, who was going to Sax and she and the driver exchanged the pleasantries that occur at every stop on this route. When Nell was settled, Doris asked her, "Nell, what do you do with your bottles?" "Why, I put them in our bottle bank of course" Nell replied.
Nell explained to Doris' surprise that one had been in place "for about three months now. Didn't you get the letter?" "No" said Doris, obviously crestfallen at the severeal wasted journeys she must have made since, "I'll have to have a word with Shirley about that."
It appeared to present company that Shirley, the parish clerk, hadn't sent a letter to every household about their new amenity. Nell went on to explain she'd tried to get a 3-unit sorting station but because of overhead wires, their site was only suitable for a 'mixed' collection. "It's under my bedroom window" Nell said, "so I hope people will be considerate about using it."
Then the conversation went onto the pub's recent change in menu; "we've stopped having the full menu on Sundays" said Nell ,"it was too much work. Some days Chef didn't know if he was Arthur or Martha!" Despite all the news about the decline of the pub, the demand for Sunday roasts alone kept their bookings at 75% of capacity.
I went back to my newspaper with some satisfaction that my intervention had solved Doris' problem in the way that only country buses can.
image: bottle bank at Pettistree, Suffolk copyright 2005 Chris Garner