As I predicted, I dove straight into the books by Kitty Vincent – I’ll write about them properly soon, maybe tomorrow, but I don’t think I can really do so without giving you a taste of her writing. So I thought I’d copy out the piece I love most so far – ‘Patricia Takes a Bus Ride’ from Gin & Ginger.
Patricia’s companion said something to the lady seated next him in the bus, but she regarded him with an icy stare. When they reached Patricia’s flat, and she was pouring out tea, she remonstrated with him.
“I shan’t take you out again,” she said, “if you don’t observe the proper etiquette. It has taken me years to learn it, but I am absolutely infallible now. I believe I could write a book on how to be a perfect lady in a bus.
“If you are travelling on top it is quite in order, I might almost say desirable, to enter into conversation with your neighbour. If it should happen to be raining a little light badinage is allowable as you snuggle beneath the cover, so thoughtfully provided by the company.
“If you are a woman you begin (I beg your pardon, you commence) the conversation by hoping that your umbrella is not objectionable, and the correct retort is, ‘Some weather for the ducks, what!’ Then you discuss the latest murder, or some interesting trifle of the description, being careful to keep the conversation within strictly suitable limits. It is advisable to preface your remarks with, ‘Well, what I always say is —‘ and you finish up by observing that ‘Murder is always a mistake; it comes out in the end.’
“You must never be original, because it may lead you into being daring, and to be daring on a bus is not good form.
“When you or he come to the parting of the ways, I advise you to murmur, ‘So long,’ or ‘Well, ta, awfully.’ I know that the latter remark is frightfully ‘bon ton’ because the most immaculate young man bade farewell to me in these terms, and he was so marvellously dressed that I am sure he was a dancing, partner or something really smart of that description.
“You should never speak to anyone inside a bus, as it violates every canon of deportment. If you should be forced to speak – if, for instance, you want to leap across the body of the person next you – you merely ejaculate ‘Pardon!’ This will have the desired effect.
“When the conductor asks for your fare, do, please, not enter into a long description of where you are going, it sounds excessively vulgar, and shows that you are not conversant with your world. If, for instance, you desire to alight at South Kensington, merely hold up one finger, and mutter, ‘South Ken.’ This places you, at once, as being ‘all right,’ while if you explain that you want to get to a square somewhere near the Underground, you are making yourself conspicuous.
“Many contretemps may occur in buses, and the way in which you meet them places you at once. If you are seated opposite a child who appears to be rapidly growing more and more ashen, you may assume that it is suffering from mal de bus. You must either pretend that, although you took a ticket to Piccadilly Circus, you recollect that you have pressing business at Hyde Park, and leap from the bus, or you must accept the consequences with sang-froid.
“Bus laws lay down that a child who is violently sick is ‘a poor little dear,’ and you are expected to behave accordingly, although in your heart of hearts you know that it is a gluttonous little pig. But if you so much as lift an eyebrow, child-lovers glare at you with muttered expressions of, ‘Well, I suppose she as a child once.’ It is useless and exhausting to explain that, although you were once a child, you were not a sick-in-a-bus one, and you merely become an object of universal execration.
“As one spends so many hours in buses, it is so important to learn how to behave,” Patricia said a little plaintively.