Bus ticket, tick busted

4th floor, a few doors up from the Chinese Restaurant, Poitiers, France

“I was on a drip in hospital for three hours because...”...and the line went dead.

It’s my youngest daughter’s 22nd birthday today, well yesterday, somewhere between here and Australia. I had tried to ring her a few times last night and this morning (from my computer, using Skype) to give her happy birthday wishes and I’d been answered three times by a nice enough but rather humourless woman who told me to leave my number if I wished, or to hang up RIGHT NOW!!

Late this morning I got through. I sang, she laughed, then we got cut off the first time just as we began to build up a head of steam. I’d been tidying my computer desktop as we chatted and had neatly closed the Skype window. I rang her back. She was telling me about going bushwalking and ending up in hospital on a drip because...and my computer decided to go to sleep. I hit the keys and we got cut off again.

It was a tick. She had a paralysis tick (which was removed after being sprayed by insect repellant so is probably now nervous) to which she’d had an allergic reaction so went to hospital to avoid fullblown hives- it has happened before, she tells me.

When I was 22 I was very much an adult. When your child is 22, she’s very much a kid.

You can get a nifty bus ticket in Poitiers, called a ticket jour. For 4 euros you can hop on and off of buses all day. Once you buy your ticket, you tear off the smaller portion which is the active bit, and the first time you get onto a bus, you obliterate it. Train tickets require composting, bus tickets obliterating. You obliterate it in a little yellow machine behind the driver. It’s not totally obliterated mind you, in fact the date and time are stamped on it and that’s the only damage I could see, but apparently that’s enough.

I went to a stop where lots of buses berth. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years waiting for buses, but this time it didn’t matter which one I caught and so I planned to hop on the very first one that came along. It seemed unfair somehow that even though for possibly the first time in my life I could take ANY bus at all, I had just missed a bunch and still ended up waiting.

I took a number 4. Such a great way to get a feel for a place and the people in it. The city began to remind me of Ottawa with its office blocks and apartment buildings, university campus woven in amongst the rest. Then I wondered if it reminded me of Ottawa because I only knew the city I grew up in by bus, and the beast I was on was shuddering and humming up and down the scale and was driving on the right exactly like the number 75 St. Laurent at home.


Apartment blocks and parks took me back to Russia.

Then I wondered...if a new place keeps reminding you of other places, do you remember the new place?

Modern suburban houses here have angled red corrugated tiled rooves and shutters with decorative hinges.

A few days ago I watched bollards disappear into the road for a bus to go past, and today I was on that bus!

One would naturally expect the #2 would travel half as far as the #4, but au contraire. The # 12 eased its way around a bendy, very narrow road where it only JUST scraped past windows by centimetres. One would need to be mindful of the bus timetable before opening or closing the shutters. Or maybe the driver has a shutter timetable. The bus then wormed through a lovely suburb called Saint Benoit, and there was time for a snooze at the end of the line before turning around and picking up passengers on our way back to City Hall.

10 minute parking spots have a post beside them on which a bold LCD display yells out to everybody just how much of your ten minutes is left, and counting. Flashing hazard lights do not repel parking officers.

The $2 shop here is chic if the window display is anything to go by.......(actually, it would be the $3.65 shop at today’s rates)

Two gelled and black T-shirted taughtly-muscled young men with small rhomboids of facial hair on their chins who work in a restaurant kissed noisily on both cheeks in greeting. Why is that reassuring?


An 11 year old boy worries his way back to school after lunch, nothing in his hands but a comb with which he’s fixing his forelock.

Three businessmen walking briskly...three heights, three shapes; the tallest, the middle one talking. The other two, heads turned to focus not on his face, but on whatever it is he’s talking about as it moves along in front of them.

A father leaning forward, red tie swinging and trouserlegs flapping in the wind, both arms extended behind him, each one ending in a small child in exactly half as much rush as he is to get them back to school.


Brightly coloured patterned material on brown-skinned women, white-beanied baby watchful eyes from a sling wound around her mother, grandmother’s shiny green scarf twisted up into a magnificent arching headpiece like a beak; a stroller wedged against seats, one twin awake, the other asleep, another pram with tiny red shoes escaping from under layers of wraps. City clothing is black, white and red. The further you get from the CBD, the more colourful people get.

Having tried up until now to avoid looking like a tourist by not obviously photographing buildings, today I decide to try to photograph people and do so by pretending to photograph buildings.

Doorknobs are easier.