on the buses

Well this is the first posting in ages. We’ve been over in the UK, busy as ever, catching up with the family and friends and chasing business etc. I’ve just not had the chance to get any blogs done although look at all the stuff I’ve missed rabbiting on about: Obama’s oh boy! election victory, the collapse of the world banking system (though sadly not our bloody bank), the massacre in Mumbai, the whole dreadful baby P situation and those other earth-shattering news stories – Gaunty’s sacking from redneck radio (who’d have thunk it?), John Sargeant’s painfully funny Paso Doble, Ruth Lorenzo’s double-barrelled performances on X Factor and the dilemma over who is the biggest prize prick on I’m a Celeb GMOOH; Timmy ‘howls at the moon’ Mallett or that bleached blond gimp David van Day. The man who declared ‘I know women; I’ve been around them all my life -first with Bucks Fizz then with Dollar’. Well I make that just the 3 women then David during your illustrious career. I came across more than that every morning in the family bathroom.

But to kick start the blog back into life I’ve decided to do a posting about buses. Woo hoo! I know what you’re probably thinking – as well as having a weird fascination with inappropriate car names, foreign lorry companies and unusual place names, I’ve now come clean and admitted that I’m  a closet public transport geek. Well I hope I’m not that sad but two unrelated strands of bus stuff caught my attention whilst I was staying at my daughter’s in Brighton. Firstly the news that Reg Varney, the star of the 70’s sitcom On the Buses, had died. Most of you are probably too young to remember the programme but it was just utter crap. There must be some perverse law of light entertainment which proves that the more puerile, embarrassing and ridiculous the setting and plotlines are, the greater the sitcom’s popularity becomes. Throw in a bit of racism (remember Love Thy Neighbour or Mind Your Language?) and Bob Sherunkle – a ratings success. On the Buses wasn’t racist to be fair but it reeked of ageism, sexism, misogynism, unrealism and countless other isms. The plot was based  around bus driver Reg and his cheeky chappy conductor mate Bob (some guy with the looks of Ken Dodd, Paul Daniels’ personality and Sid James’ cackle) chasing birds and getting in trouble from Inspector Blakey – some cantankerous old git with a Hitler moustache (gettit?) who ran the bus depot like an Obergruppenfuhrer. Now preposterous as this sounds, Reg and Bob – well Bob at least – had no trouble pulling the mini-skirted dolly birds despite the fact that Bob had about as much  charm as Pol Pot whilst Reg who was supposed to be in his 30’s was played by 57 year old Varney. But to be fair again the programme didn’t regard all women as bits of fluff because there were two other types of women in Reg’s world – his old mam and his ugly graceless stay at home doormat of a sister Olive, married to feckless Arfur. Yet this witless, charmless excuse for humour was massively popular – it ran for many years and even spawned offspring series for several of its characters and at least two equally appalling movies. Here’s a thought – the memory of Reg and On the Buses made me think for a second that programmes like at Any Dream Will Do with Lord rubber face and his camp retinue and I’m a Has-been with Biggins, porker Katona and ‘which way’ van Day etc aren’t so bad after all.  Yeh right.

Strand 2: the buses in Brighton are simply brilliant examples of intelligent marketing. They contain no adverts for 3rd party products (and would you buy haemorrhoids cream if you saw it advertised on the side of a bus?) they just promote the benefits of using them to get around Brighton. And they do it with wit and style and careful layout. Each bus has a dramatic image of someone local who uses the bus and a comment from them as to why,  like the one above of Talksport’s very curvy linkwoman Robyn Schonhofer. They also carry clear information on the bus route, frequency and ticket prices, some valid reasons and benefits for preferring bus travel over the car and some very pithy headlines on the rear of the bus like ‘Seafront – and back!’, ‘Cliffhanger’ and ‘See views’ to describe the route or a reason to travel. There’s an online slogan promotion that residents of Brighton can take part in. Each bus is also dedicated to or named after somebody famous from the Brighton area so that people can ‘collect’ the series.

I don’t know who commissioned the campaign nor which agency produced the work but they get 10 out of 10 from me. Inspired marketing.

That wasn’t so geeky was it…?


5 thoughts on “on the buses

  1. I’ve recently gotten into justthrive.com, it gives you an uber-simplified big picture view of your money. It takes a while for it to become helpful, but so far so good.

  2. Welcome back PP

    I had begun to wonder whether the olives had taken their toll on you, in fact your absence caused me to generate a surreal fantasy in which the gentle old ladies of the crushing factory had ensnared you in a ‘Misery’ kind of way – keeping you under lock and key, with C & R thinking you were away on business (and if the truth known not missing you too much as the pool was sorted!)……. I think I just need to get out more, and stop eating so much cheese.

    Like you, the Reg Varney story caught me somewhat by surprise as a) I thought he was already with a Celestial ‘Clippie’ and b) I didn’t think it warranted the air play (was he in anything else of note? Must be an Ealing comedy or two with his moniker on it)

    One thing, I did enjoy about the programme though was the classic English slapstick, and poor vehicle based ‘stunts’ – who can forget a pregnant Olive being ferried to the hospital by Arthur in his motorbike combo, and the sidecar becoming dislodged and careering away down the hill. As a young ‘un at the time this provoked much hilarity, and more than one case of Vimto back down the nose as I attempted to drink and laugh at the same time.

    I was also a big fan of Charlie Drake (The Worker) from a slightly earlier period. maybe there is scope here for a thread about those 1950-1970 TV comedies… Selwyn Froggit, Wheeeltappers & Shunters, The Brown Cow, Harry Worth……. perhaps?

    All the best


    PS On a football theme for the weekend, I heard the Arsenal boys were singing “He’s not offside, he’s just very wide, Robin Van Persie”

  3. hi cc

    great comments as ever – pretty sure i’ve had that italian ladies fantasy too mate. ha!

    so you’re a closet On the Buses (and vimto) fan eh. funnily enough i’ve been thinking about doing a ‘do you remember?’ series of postings about old sitcoms – the good (few and far between), the bad (plentiful) and the ugliest characters (of which OTB has several). might just give it a go when i get back.

    love the van persie chant. i see he’s denied being the object of gallas’ disrespectful young ‘un rant. must be that nice theo walcott then. great result v the blues cc. did you see scolari’s post-match rant – it’s all a conspiracy! joyous stuff – fat phil feels f*cked. fabulous!

    hope all are well chez cc. ciao


  4. ps cc

    i’m pretty sure reg varney had a feature role in the sitcom The Rag Trade as a cockerney caretaker or something. he played second fiddle to the miriam carling /peter jones/barbara windsor main charcaters. barbara windsor was only on her 4th marriage at the time – now that is going back in time.

  5. pps

    i’ve just come across a tribute programme to On the Buses, rather spookily. it was crap but one thing i hadn’t reaised was that the guy who played Bob, Reg’s bus conductor partner, in the series had great difficult finding acting work after the programme ended. the depression which gradually overtook him eventually led to him taking his own life. now that is very sad and i feel a heel for mocking him in the posting above. i can be a little too pointed at times.


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