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Monday, April 22, 2024

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Local Author Matt Jacobson reflects on rail replacement bus journey across Merseyside

As the toffee sticking tarmac replaced the rejected rails, the rail replacement bus service replaced one frustration with another, and I replaced nothing but added a furious frown to my original furious frown.

I was first to board the replacement bus and sat and waited for the other passengers to find a seat, to tell everyone how ridiculous the situation was and to argue with the bus driver. He’s just doing his job I thought. He then blamed the “Lego rail track” that to him had flounced the railway rules. He was angry for us – I could tell, we could all tell. He confirmed those rails have no shame, they just lie there and expect a huge f*cking jut jawed juggernaut of a train to do all of the work and move people from A to B.

I waited for the bus to move. The minutes passed and I listened to music with excitement and in unison, I flicked through the photo album in my mind. I pictured the past and the love of yesteryear and then the foresight of the future hit me hard, with its head banging frustrations that lie ahead.

Every now and again, I would be snapped out of it as a voice, or the rustle of paper shopping bags, would make a crashing noise to keep me at boiling point. The man with the long-life milk that spilt by my feet made my life much longer. The lady with the tattooed neck and boxes of Ready Brek was stretched out across two seats, much to the annoyance of the lady in a dark blue blazer who questioned her husband about the price of his shaving kit, aftershave and razor.

And then, finally, the doors shut.

At that point, I watched as pretty much all passengers took out their mobile phones at the same time. It was a dance scene, it was a dance formation, it was Top of The Pops, it was top of the bus stops, and it was Pan’s People on wheels. From the youthful teens to the indie folk in black ripped jeans, from the singletons to the loving Mums, they all stared at their phones. Concentrating with purpose and desire, pressing buttons with fingers locked, crooked and out of shot.

They texted at 200mph as the minutes turned so slowly and tasted sour. They scrolled and scrolled, and they swiped and smiled, and they sank into their seats with such satisfaction. They chuckled and they laughed loudly, they placed clothes orders, and they ordered tea – with precise and timed delivery. They played games and they named and shamed. They had it all, in black, silver with different cases to match handbags, coats and boots. This was a plastic Wi-Fi party.

I took out my phone as I wanted to join the fun but, as usual, not one text, not one email, not one call, not one missed call. Nothing, just nothing at all.I took out my pad and I jotted down the rest, they were happy, and this was a test.

My Telephone

My telephone,

never rings

never calls

never sings

My telephone

never beeps

always sobs

always weeps

My telephone

never dies

never used

so here it lies

My telephone

is out of tune

from dusk

till dawn

to tomorrow’s noon

My telephone

is unused

one owner

so confused

My telephone number

is bored


a fraud

My teIephone

is shiny and black

I still have the receipt

so I’ll take it back

The bus bolted and snapped the patience of those concentrating on their phones. As the wobble whipped each other up, a little slice of bedlam prevailed and the bus driver was unaware that huffs and tutts were aimed at him and his wheels.  But really, the roads had joined the rail tracks in making travelling difficult.

Then we entered a tunnel for a brief period of time. Darkness fell across the bus but the lights beaming from the phones lit up faces and illuminated screen conversations. As we left the tunnel, daylight returned and the bus turned onto the waterfront. Conversations slowly increased in volume. The lady on her phone who sat on the backseat frantically directed her boyfriend: “Get the tea on love, I’m nearly there and make it properly this time.” Then the teenage boys on the phone told their friend: “He can’t play up front – he’s sh*t at heading ” And then we had the man who phoned his pal on loudspeaker: “Hello Ron, is that you? It’s me” he said, as the conversation progressed. He told his caller with pride: “I know, he’s phoned me 12 times today, I’ve ignored the lot!”

And then more phones popped out of the pockets of the public, an orchestra of conversations splattered around the bus. Words began to collide, and everyone talked over each other. The bonhomous bus basqued in glory as conversations and phone calls escalated to a frenzy. It was a scene from NASA, 100 arms to the ears facing small monitors as the passengers all guided their loved ones at home with a plethora of instructions, insight and updates. All phones were alive and alert – it was a helpline on a bus, it was their lifeline in full swing.

As I left the bus, my head hurt from the volume of voices. But I am happy they have their outlet, it keeps them connected, close and included. It keeps them alive; it keeps them laughing, breathing and fills in sacred seconds and fills in the blanks with words, letters and emojis.

I began to walk home, and I heard my phone ringing as the sweet sound of “Suedehead” blasted through the coat pocket. I took it out and answered and to be honest, I was slightly excited by the drive by call.

“Hello” I said,

“Hi, is that our, Frank ?”

“No, sorry – this is Matt here, Matt…

But, before I finished, the gentleman ruthlessly cut me short and said:

“Oh sorry, wrong number bye.”

And just like that, they were gone, and I was left with a phone by my ear.

I walked home and entered my flat, feeling down. I placed my keys on the side and my Samsung by my records and I sat down. I looked around the flat, scanning for my next move. Well, there could only be one move, I then thought to myself…

…now where is that receipt for the mobile phone?!

With Love and Peace                                                                                                                                  


Matt Jacobson                                                                                                                   

Explore Liverpool

“Dedicated to my Uncle Alan, a true gentleman.  

Say hello, with hugs, to my Mum, 

Nan & Grandad –

Sleep well , and rest in peace.”


READ MORE: On The Streets I Ran with local author Matthew Jacobson

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