When I was little, I wanted to be a bus conductress when I grew up. It seemed the perfect job to my very young self, spending every day being driven around on a double decker (I definitely wanted a top deck) with a ticket machine strapped over one shoulder and a money bag over the other, standing on the platform after all the fares had been collected, hanging onto the metal pole at the doorless rear entry/exit, telling passengers to 'move along there' when the bus was full to bursting, helping to change the number and destination blinds at the front and, best of all, ringing the bell at each bus stop to signal to the driver it was safe to set off.
No surprise, then, that a favourite game to play in the living room at home was pretending to be a bus conductress. With a selection of coins borrowed from the till in my parents' shop in a little shoulder bag, a stack of used bus tickets to give out to the passengers (dolls on dining chairs, usually) and the old style light switch to serve as the bell, I was ready to work a shift. Sometimes, I managed to get my 16 years older than me brother to play the part of Inspector and check everyone's tickets, poor lad.
I remember my dad was once tasked with taking me into town for a haircut. When we arrived at the salon (it was called Fullers and in the basement of the town's most historically important building, sadly long demolished), I refused to go in so my dad took me for a wander around the shops whilst he used all his powers of persuasion to get me to agree to go back. Inside Woolworth's store, there it was. A bus conductress set, complete with, oh joy, cap and badge. A bit of skilful negotiating followed and oh yes, I got the set of my dreams and, just a little later, a haircut and a fat sachet of egg shampoo to take home.
Another essential piece of kit for the bus conductress in those days was a pair of fingerless gloves for the winter months (buses had no doors and they certainly didn't have much in the way of heating). I didn't have any and I commented to the mister that the couple of pairs I knit last week would have come in handy (see what I did there?) during all that play acting.
My parents worked long hours (they didn't employ anyone else) in their shop which was open until 10 p.m. 365 days of the year. They used to have two nights off (Wednesdays and Sundays) when Aunty M took over for a few hours and off they went, to meet up with friends in the pub or to a dinner dance (my mum loved dancing) or to a show (the town had a very decent theatre back in the day).
Years later, my mother told the story of the night she and my dad were on their way out to some social event or other. Dressed to the nines, she put on her gloves as my dad started the car. I remember those gloves so clearly even now - the softest, most supple brown leather palms and brown suede uppers decorated with tiny hand painted white spots. As she pulled them onto her hands, it was immediately apparent that someone had hacked off the ends of each and every one of the gloves' fingers.
I love a bit of bus conductress improvisation, me.