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Why you should be glad you don’t live in Britain

(or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Bus Stops…)

OK, so you can’t buy baked beans the way you like them and Marmite’s a no-no. OK, so export Guinness is a treacly mess. OK, so you get The Times three days late. I know living abroad isn’t all hay and sunshine, but it could be worse – oh so much worse. Living abroad has one major advantage – you are all about as far away from British Bus Stops as I would wish to be.

What have British Bus Stops™ done to offend me? How could a simple shelter cause me so much pain? What exactly has precipitated the fall from grace of a national icon, created by 1950s public information announcements? Let me answer these eternal, nagging questions with a simple numerical diatribe:

1) Movie Posters. In themselves fairly innocuous items, when combined with British Bus Stops they undergo a Banner-esque transformation into a nightmare-inducing phenomenon. I have no problem with cheesy stills. I have no problem with big-name Hollywood blockbusters (I’m not what John Travolta calls a “wannabe grungy film-maker”). I have no problem with the dull stuff at the bottom. My problem lies in the titles. Not of the films themselves, but of the stars. I appreciate, please understand, that stars’ contracts and their negotiations play a large part in my gripe, but that doesn’t detract from my ire. If I was making a film starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Andy Garcia, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts (ring any bells?) for example, and wanted them all on my advertising posters – I WOULD PUT THE NAMES ABOVE THE RELEVANT FACES!!! Not too complicated, is it? It irritates me when names are deliberately spaced so as to be over pictures of the stars (who understandably want their name first (or top) but their face in the centre) but the two do not correspond. I spent the first 14 years of my life thinking Steve McQueen was black.

2) Safety Glass. It’s always fun to smash glass, though not so much when you cause yourself serious injury. As a deterrent to 13-year-old skater kids (don’t worry, they’ll reach Baku soon) smashing the glass and causing unsightly messes to both streets and council funds, safety glass replaced real glass. Authentic glass can prove lethal. Safety glass cannot cause you any lasting damage and a 4ft square pane will shatter into approximately 14,500,000 pieces. I ask you – which sounds like the more fun? Of course britishexpat.com does not condone vigilante justice (though it’s clearly the only true form), but all those who say “go back to real glass and let the ******s scream” (say it with me, one time…) have my vote.

3) Rain. Why go to all the trouble of slanting the shelters and putting a form of drainage channel on the top, and then let the whole thing clog up, so that the rainwater (once polluted by all the rotten sandwiches) washes over the side and down the back of my jacket? I think they should incorporate British Bus Stops into British Sewage Systems (don’t get me started…), though the news that the groundwater underneath Trafalgar Square is coming up by 6 metres per year (don’t get me started on groundwater) kind of puts the kibosh on that one – and my bid for the Prime Ministership collapses for another term. The British Rain (System?) is a separate issue in itself, of course, but combined with British Bus Stops it veritably boils my blood.

4) Buses. What do they look like again?

I could go on, but the theme continues ad infinitum. When buses arrive they resemble 1970s New York, but even that would be bearable if British Bus Stops weren’t so displeasing. Give me a 1950s US school bus on the streets of Havana with 6,000 occupants any day.

[Ed’s note: If, after all that, you’re feeling profoundly depressed about the state of British Public Transport, and you’d like to see something restoring your faith in the BBS, have a look at this website about Scotland’s most northerly bus shelter – it has to be seen to be believed!]

PG Author: Atoz

(aka Dave Stock:) the first person in the world to write to britishexpat.com, and probably the last to send in his biog. After a few useful one-off contributions, Atoz started his irregular A to Z of cultural icons. At the time of writing this, he's up to "O" - but there's still no sign of the biog. (Update - he still hadn't sent it in by the time he'd reached "Z"!)

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