The Busiest Bus Route in Europe

By Emily Josephine McPhillips

Location: BBC Manchester, Oxford Road

Illustration by Abi Milnes -

Illustration by Abi Milnes -

You noticed her first when her hair was wet, how it glued over her mouth like a moustache. The next time you saw her was on the same bus journey as the first encounter, you’d stepped on her foot as you made your way off the bus, and you’d heard her yell ‘ouch’ and call you an arsehole under her breath, just loud enough for you to hear, but definitely deliberately audible – and you thought she was cool for that.

You smiled at her; a cheap man’s sorry locked in a pearl grin, and she knew it was the best she’d get. You with your Wainwright-style coat and a lugging bag full of chemistry books maybe, physics books definitely, that swung over your shoulder like a threat to all the people you were yet to storm past. She held her breath for them.

You and the moustached girl were both students from smaller towns, both hauling around on the busiest bus route in Europe, trying to make lectures on time, but failing mostly, failing to care too much to change. On these bus journeys you had to expect to get battered around, your feet trodden on from time to time: these events were character building – they were feats of strength, but you didn’t have to like them.

The soundtrack to the Manchester bus journey is the sound of dystopia communicating its presence from a mobile phone. Misery such as this is neatly packaged on a Manchester bus: it is that pressed-up thigh against your leg that you daren’t discover the owner of, it is the entrapment of Primark bags surrounding you (a brown bag dam), and it is also the perishable Megarider that you hope is there in your back pocket and not lost to your fret. The Manchester bus journey, quite like the January sales, is a script of endurance.

To you, her face was a beacon of safety: oval and pale, almost washed out like a mint, and dripping wetly from the spells of rain she’d been caught in. She was someone you thought that you had a better chance of getting on with than most. This impression taken in mental notes of: her glittered shoes, and the way she didn’t mind making that shrieking noise with her nose to stop it from dripping in the full glory of her second cold this winter. She was an inoffensive and beautiful sweetheart that you wanted to provide with a tissue.

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4 Responses to “The Busiest Bus Route in Europe”

  1. May 27, 2009 at 9:03 am, Tim said:

    This is brilliant. I really love it.

  2. May 27, 2009 at 10:02 am, Rach said:

    Ah, this is gorgeous. One of my favourites so far. ‘Lost to your fret’ indeed. xx

  3. May 28, 2009 at 7:03 pm, emily josephine mcphillips said:


  4. July 12, 2009 at 2:15 pm, tweetamanchestercab » Mancubist: Life is good in Manchester said:

    […] a great little idea. If I didn’t live on Europe’s busiest bus route I’d be tempted to try it […]


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