The Readers on the ‘Bus are Quite Relaxed…

East of the M60’s World Book Day posting

Unfortunately for me, I am too young to dress up as a literary character. Not least the fact I left school nearly 20 years ago. For someone whose reading habits include bus timetables, left-of-centre newspapers and websites, there was no way I was going to dress up as the GMT M-Blem. Or a Leyland Atlantean. Thomas the Tank Engine or The Fat Controller (I know the P.C. brigade prefer to call him Sir Topham Hatt) probably, owing to the fact Reverend Wilbert Awdry’s books were my concession to fictitious works.

As you may well know, World Book Day celebrates the joy of reading. But a book is for life, not just a weekday on the first week in March. Libraries are too, though with this lot in power, increasingly on borrowed time. Especially in parts of Britain where they are needed most (i.e. mainly working-class Labour-voting strongholds at the sharpest end of the ConDems’ cutbacks).

There is more to reading than the joys of learning a new skill, or as part of study. It is a form of escapism. If you wish to use your dinner breaks productively, it offers some respite from the keyboard or telephone. Stuck at the BT Roundabout yet again? Turn to a good book, if aboard an Ashton-bound bus.

What’s more, you arrive at your journey relaxed. But I do have one word of warning: don’t blame me if you miss your stop because of an exciting chapter.

According to a survey from Mindlab International, reading is the most relaxing pastime possible. If you pass The Bowling Green on a 346, some people may suggest otherwise. In the time it takes to pop in and out of the aforementioned pub’s two doors for a quick fag, one could enjoy a quiet read.

According to the survey, six minutes reading is enough to relax you. The same time it takes to go outside, light a cigarette, savour it (I personally don’t being an avid non-smoker by the way), talk trash about football or celebrity stuff, and return to the pub. With a bit of D.H. instead of B&H, you’ll get that time back in the long run.

In bus terms, six minutes is equal to:

  • The journey from Ashton bus station to the Albion School traffic lights;
  • Stalybridge Labour Club to the Albion Hotel in Dukinfield on the 343;
  • Piccadilly Gardens (outside Tesco Express) to Whitworth Street/Chorlton Street junction on a 219 or 221.

The six minutes spent reading doesn’t have to be a children’s book or part of a longer book with several chapters. It could be your favourite magazine or a comic novel.

Since 1996, the Time to Read campaign has raised awareness over the joys of the written word, throughout the North West of England. It is supported by 21 local authorities and managed by a steering group known as Librarians in the North West. Their recent Six Minutes campaign is one of them.

If the journey to work’s monotonous, nothing beats a good book. For me, it is easy to remember one part of a book because of the journey I was on whilst reading. I always associate the last two pages of Donna Williams’ Somebody Somewhere with the last few yards of a 220 bus journey I took in February 2003.

Compared with a smartphone, it is more socially acceptable to be seen with a book or newspaper. A book doesn’t emit any tinny music, nor does it need batteries. Who needs free WiFi? A bookmark or obsolete bus timetable is good for marking your page.

I’m off to the library. Having had two works published and as the Poet Laureate for Stalybridge Celtic A.F.C., I see no need to dress up as a character. I could just walk around Ashton or Manchester city centre as myself.

S.V., 05 March 2015.

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