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Lockdown acrylic 2

2nd September 2020

Ventnor 1970 (Town On The Edge)
2020  50x50cm

I know and love Ventnor; it’s very pretty and civilised. It’s survived a spell of neglect to claim its place as a truly enchanting British seaside resort. It’s got a beautiful arts centre, as well as the tropical gardens that I’ve illustrated with extreme artistic licence, but they seemed to catch the mood. But years ago when I was a student bus conductor, the last number 16 return to Ventnor on a Saturday was a shift I was told to look out for.

This was the bus that picked up the over-refreshed leather boys and took them back to Shanklin where I was stationed. I wasn’t a particularly gifted Southern Vectis employee; I once forgot my ticket roll and had to write every single one out. This being performed sometimes sitting on somebody’s lap as my driver Chris liked to see how those buses could take a sharp corner… and balance, like accountancy, was never a strong point. I was the worst. This particular night Chris was off, and my replacement driver was somebody called Reg who was the quietest person I ever knew. When there was a break he’d sit in his cab looking dreamily into the distance. When I mentioned the last shift and my feeling of terror, he popped a Nutall’s Minto into his mouth and said, “They’re as good as gold.”

He was right. The trip was one of the quietest and friendliest ever. Every passenger that night, although part of a noisy crowd at the bus stop, suddenly became quite subdued and nervous, even. I felt tempted to start a sing-song or something… I ididn’t obviously, but it wasn’t until the next day that Chris, back on duty, explained. Reg was quiet, he said, but enjoyed the odd bout of extreme violence. He once stopped his bus to sort out a fight that he could see in a Ventnor pub. This he did with brutal and terrifying ease. His ham-sized fists making short work of any trouble. He hopped back onto the bus and made up the time comfortably. He was whistling, they say.
Try telling that to the kids today.#