Tuesday, November 26, 2002


"This is a passenger announcement," said the tinny voice on the public address system. "Due to engineering works between Winchester and Southampton, train services have been disrupted. Please note there is a replacement bus service calling at all major stations to Bournemouth leaving from the station concourse."

No worries. I take my bag and hump it out of the front of the station where the smart double-decker coach is awaiting us. I get on. Immediately I sense there was something wrong. The driver's unfeasibly large sideburns, his bootlace tie and his far too cheerful demeanour were all clues. Then it was the decor of the coach. It looked like a mid-1970s nightclub. The other passengers look shocked, afraid, trapped, with rictus grins on their faces like they've been drugged.

In a blind moment of panic I realised what was wrong. It was the music. The coach resembled a 70's nightclub, because it was a 70s nightclub, and the driver its oh-so-cheeky compere. He loved his music and he was going to inflict it on all of us. At top volume. And worst of all, it was the Black Lace Party Album. The doors silently slid shut behind me. Welcome to Royston Vasey.

Push pineapple shake a tree"

The driver turned to me and asked where I'm going. I reply Bournemouth, a mere seventy miles and an entire lifetime away. This was the Circus of Death, and he was the clown, the tormentor-in-chief. He were at his mercy. Imagine your granny's golden wedding anniversary party. Without the vol-au-vents.

I headed for the top deck, hoping against hope, like many of my fellow passengers that the madness could be escaped out of the sight of our tormentor. But it was not to be. If anything, the music was even louder, and as we pulled from the station forecourt, the Clown turned the volume up even higher so we could be entertained even above the noise of the engine. Already some of my fellow victims looked shellshocked. Several were actually ringing up friends, relations, the army, anybody for help. But it was no good. We were trapped.

"Hooray, hooray, it's a holi-holiday"

By the time we reached Basingstoke, we were already massed together for our own safety. Some of our number had tried to use their Walkmans to drown out the music. It was no good. Even with Led Zep IV turned up to ten, Black Lace still won. They were turned up to eleven.

We hit the M3, and the group huddled on the floor at the back of the coach cracked. It was "Oops Upside Your Head". They had assumed the infamous rowing boat formation and were lost to the world. Tragic. We could only pray for their poor, lost souls and the sadness of their families, knowing that they had succumbed.

"I am the music man
I come from round your way"

In Winchester, our frantic attempts to stop more victims joining the Circus of Death were thwarted by a South West Trains official with a clipboard. Forgive the poor, innocent fool, he knew not what he was doing. By then, we had all exchanged addresses and vowed, should we ever get out of this mess alive, to set up a support group. But it was obvious, my travel companions were losing the will to live. It was every man for himself.

And so Southampton. As The Birdy Song finally sapped the final vestiges of sanity from our minds, I sprung the emergency door just outside the station and ran for my life, telling myself over and over not to look back lest I be turned to stone like some hero in a Greek myth.

"Don't look back. Never look back. They'll be OK. Don't look. Just run."

Somewhere in the south of England is a bus. The driver is the evil clown of your nightmares, picking up innocent passengers, reaping their souls, leaving nothing but empty husks chanting his evil mantra " Y - M - C - A". He will not stop. He cannot be stopped. I survived to warn the world. Be afraid.

"Support your local firefighter"

In 1984, Margaret Thatcher used a strike by Britain's Coal Miners as a pretext to stamp down on the power of the trade unions and destroy the rights and job security of the British worker.

In 1997 and 2001 I voted Labour to put an end to this injustice and bring about a fair society for all.

So, in 2002, Tony Blair used a strike by Britain's firefighters as a pretext to stamp down on the power of the unions and destroy the rights and job security of the British worker. I'm sure some nice Labour Party insider will tell me, but what's the fucking point?

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