Ode to the 135
In 2005 North Manchester was pretty much uncharted territory for a girl who’d been brought up in Stockport. I started off by getting the tram up to Bury to matches (starting with a solo journey full of trepidation after I’d left the Villa game at half-time in tears to get to that first home game, who’d have thought?…, etc etc) but I pretty soon got fed up of that trek down to Gigg from the tram stop. I can’t recall my first encounter with the 135 but by the time I’d moved back to Manchester from London it had become my preferred option. It got me almost door to door (well, door to turnstile), it was show-offily bendy, and it was a portal to mysterious places you’d only usually read about in fairy tales – Besses o’ th’ Barn, Sunny Bank, Cheetham Hill (though that fort was a bit of a let-down).
So I’ve been a confirmed 135-er ever since. It’s great for people-watching. There’s always a lot of kerfufflising over buggies and shopping. Regulars sigh as virgin travellers quiz the driver on ticketing matters – it should be compulsory for would-be passengers to acquaint themselves with the nuances of FirstDay tickets before boarding, we all agree.
And now FC United of Manchester’s exile in Bury is drawing to a close, my last journey on the 135 looms. Or beckons. Whichever, it’s definitely a time for indulging myself and looking back with a sentimental glint in my eye. I jump on in Lever-or-is-it-Newton Street in my imagination, and off we go (probably rather slowly to start off with, due to roadworks in town).
As I think back so many memories pop up, it’s a right Proustian mode of transport. How many days have I spent on the 135, if you add it up over the years? I’ve had a rendezvous with a Russian poet outside Urbis to get her on the bus to come and perform at Malcolmses; the way she said ‘bears and vodka’ still makes me smile. The 135 was also responsible for an anti-fascist book launch, after a chance conversation planted the seed.
I’ve carried a range of cargoes too, it’s lucky you don’t have to go through customs – a lot of cakes, a lot of books, 65 shot glasses of vodka jelly (strawberry), a foam rubber nun (small), and once a precious stash of Manchester Eggs, cooked to order and wrapped in foil to keep warm. That was the day there was a bad car accident near the ground obv and I had to abandon the bus and run, well wheeze, up the road carrying a box of rapidly-cooling eggs…
Being someone who lives in town, I like seeing the changing seasons in the gardens we pass en route. The first daffs, cherry blossom, all that sort of stuff. And there are those fantastic rows of trees that look like giant brandy glasses along the road at one point – I can never decîde whether I prefer them clothed in leaves or in naked winter silhouette. Both are aesthetically pleasing.
Over the years I’ve jumped off the bus to explore different places. Slattery’s bakery. An art deco synagogue. I’m ashamed to say I’d never explored glorious Heaton Park till ‘the 135 years’ – and there’s donkeys there and all. Not to mention alpacas. I even recently visited somewhere I’ve said for nine years that I must investigate as I’ve admired it sitting grandly on its little hillock, The Woodthorpe, the former home of Edward Holt, yes of Holts’s fame. I’ve still never been to Armstrong’s chippy, ‘Home of the Jumbo Cod’, though, dammit.
I’ve also had to jump off the bus to throw up, only once though which is not bad in nine years, and if it was your front garden I apologise.
We’re getting nearer Bury now as the memories keep on crowding in. There’s The Coach and Horses, where we toasted Pauline England in song on the sad but memorable day of her funeral. Then the great view of the elegant wind farms on the hills in the distance as the bus straightens itself out for its final run up unbendy Manchester Road.
Finally you have to decide where to get off the bus. Actually there’s no contest, the stop after the Gigg Lane turning is tons quicker, not least because there’s a traffic island to help with crossing the road more easily. Quite why the most of the rest of the world gets off at the stop before, only to watch me even with my dachshund legs – and carrying half a ton of muffins – turning into Gigg Lane well ahead of them, is a controversy on a par with the claim by deluded pals that they can get back to town quicker by tram after a midweek game than I can on my bendy bus…
The 135 then. For all the above and so much more that’s lost in the haze of these impassioned, hilarious, obstinate, tough, joyful last nine years, I salute you xx