Anton Rippon: Wet fish, clone pubs and random chatter from bus passengers
IT'S surprising what a complete stranger might say to you when you're standing at a bus stop minding your own business.
I was doing just that in Albert Street, Derby, the other day when a man who I'd never before seen in my life came up, looked me straight in the eye and said: "You can't beat a bit of wet fish."
Actually, you probably can. It all depends on what your needs are at that particular moment. I mean, if you were locked out of your house, then a nice piece of Finnan haddock wouldn't be much use.
Anyway, I decided not to make the point, and instead nodded in agreement, hoping that he would go away. Which, to be fair, he did, once he'd asked me if that was from where the bus left for the Royal Derby Hospital.
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That's another thing. Why do people ask if this where a certain bus goes from, and when you say that, yes it is, promptly turn on their heels and walk off?
The same thing happened in Bakewell. We'd had our usual walk by the Wye, looked in the shops, bought a Bakewell pudding for later, and were standing at the bus stop in Matlock Road when a couple asked if this was the stop for Derby.
And when assured that it was, they too took flight. Maybe they wanted to ensure that they didn't go to Derby.
Maybe the last place the man in Albert Street wanted to go was to hospital. You couldn't blame him.
The trip to Bakewell turned into one disappointment. The pub that we've been patronising for the best part of 20 years had reinvented itself.
Why don't people leave well alone? The place always seemed to be heaving with customers when it was nothing more than an unpretentious Derbyshire country boozer.
It had no need to look like most of the pubs in the country. And while I'm on – the last thing that Bakewell needs is an outlet for a national coffee shop chain.
Anyway, we were on our way back to Derby – we prefer the service that takes you around the houses and through Wirksworth rather than belting straight back on the TransPeak – when a gaunt figure boarded and introduced himself.
He had a thin smile, a limp handshake and came from Nottingham. That day he'd decided, on a whim, to catch a bus to Derby, and then on into the Dales to explore Matlock Bath.
"Ah, Derbyshire's seaside resort," I said. He looked puzzled. So I explained that, with its fish and chip shops, amusement arcades and tourist attractions like the aquarium with its petrifying well, Matlock Bath always seems, to me at any rate, just like a seaside resort.
The geography, – cliffs on one side of the road, river on the other – adds to the image.
It turned out that he'd actually spent the day in Matlock. He must have had his eyes closed when his bus drove through Matlock Bath. He said he'd come back another day.
Anyway, spring is upon us, Derbyshire beckons again. And I fancy a bit of wet fish for my tea. Followed by Bakewell pudding, of course.