Today First bus are saying that Amy has made it up, and that theres nothing on the bus CCTV to suggest it has happened. I reserve judgment until I have talked to Amy her self, I'm finding hard to believe she has made this up and feel she may of made a mistake about the day it happened(New parent sleep deprivation).Amy if your reading this, get in touch. If they are making it up, you need to stand up for your self.
Amy Wooton sits across from me looking longingly at her hot chocolate, loaded with melting marshmallows, it is slowly cooling in front of her on the cafe table. She is unable to drink it as she is discreetly nursing her Six week old baby.
Babies at this age have stomachs the size of walnuts, because of the magic that is breast milk, it is almost completely absorbed and they are ready for another feed, at this age a hour or two later.
The almost permanent fixture of infant to breast at this stage is enough to have you running howling for the nearest tin of formula, the broken sleep, discomfort and the just plain inconvenience of it.
Every now and again her mobile phone rings, she eyes it with amazement and waits until it rings off and listens to the voice-mail. In a soft Bristolian accent she tells us it is radio five live looking to interview her, and she's just been mentioned on 'This morning'. She is in all the national papers.
The last time we all met up, (a fortnightly event, where we all know each other through a mothers Internet forum) we were swapping stories of the horror that is the local bus service 'First bus'. A bit of an old chestnut, conversation wise. This week, Amy got a bit of a good one. She has been chucked of the bus for breastfeeding and accused of indecent exposure. She was threatened with the police if she didn't get off and dumped at the side of the road in the rain with her pram.
We in bristol have come to expect racism, discrimination and the exorbitant fares as the a norm of trying to get from A to B without a car. It is the first 'First bus 'experience.
Top of the list with 'First bus' is the racism.
Its how any one with a non-English accent is made to stand and 'pronounce' their destination before being let on. Something that I had to regular endure when I first moved to england and my Irish accent seem to be as misunderstood as a remote Chinese dialect.
It is a regular sight now, the Somalian in the hijab preforming the 'little Briton' weight watchers sketch. Its where even at the back of the bus you can clearly hear 'Return to the Center' being pronounced, over and over again until it reaches the right English inflection before boarding is allowed.
Then there's the aggression..
I once was on a bus going through the town center where the driver slowed the bus at the regular peace protest in-front of the hippodrome, he opened the doors of the bus and roared “Bomb the Bastards!” out of the open door at the open mouths of the peace protesters. He shuts the doors and drove off, making one of the very few non designated stops I've ever seen by one of these drivers make.
And then the madness... I was once one of the passengers on a bus that was abandoned in the middle of the road on a hot summer's day as the driver walked off screaming that they could 'F*** their job'. The local paper recently ran a story about a 'First bus' mounting the pavement and driving down it for a considerable distance to get around a road blockage.
I watched as one driver did his bit for euthanasia of the elderly as he jerkily accelerated when a little old lady, no where near finding some where to sit down, came spinning toward my pram and smacking her head into a pole just before she landed on my daughter. He just couldn't be bothered to hold on till she sat down safely.
She was full of apologizes and bleeding from the head, myself and other passengers helped her up. The driver looked bored. She wobbled back off the bus and weaved her way up the road. The bus took off and I shook my self out of my shocked stupor and jumped off at the next stop seriously concerned for her welfare (driver wouldn't stop unless at a designated stop) I searched but just couldn't see her, I had visions of her dieing behind a hedge somewhere, I was kicking my self that I should have got off with her, but I wanting to kick the driver even more.
Amy's job before she had her baby was a respite care worker. She had mentioned the week before that most of the drivers had been obstructive and abusive when ever she had attempted to get her clients wheelchairs on. One of the other women confirming this state of play in her experience of traveling by 'First bus' with her disabled child.
Political correctness never got on the bus in bristol to go mad. It splashed past its wheelchair in the rain, covering it in dirty water.
Funny how the trams project just disappeared into a dirge of local government wrangling, the most inept transport company got the gig to provide the bus service. It sometimes seems that the bus drivers are driven off the edge of reason because no one has the balls to sort out the chaos that is Bristol intercity traffic.
A militant pro-car lobby sabotaged any attempt at some kind of parking scheme
The car is given precedence over everything else here, city traders claimed it would effect them if restricted, perhaps they hope people will get out and buy something out of boredom because the traffic moves so slowly.
In some areas it can takes a ambulance 15 minutes to drive down a 150 meter road. No other traffic, just insane amounts of parked cars. They don't show that on casualty, Charley driving a ambulance knocking of wing mirrors at a five miles an hour, blue lights and siren going, while squeezing past nearly vertically parked cars.
No one really wants to drive buses in bristol, not for those wages, nor the conditions that see buses squeezing into the spaces the size of one car on in two-way traffic. You can see them up front, in the summer, in sweaty crawling traffic and obscenely over-parked roadsides and pavements, slowly turning mad, slowly becoming hateful of everything. The only entertainment is to pump the brakes and dream of gas chambers.
You don't have to be mad to work for 'First Bus' but it may help the process along.
Even class pervades the bus routes of Bristol. The richest area is serviced with the most accessible pram and wheelchair-friendly buses. Clifton has the showcase bus route, the buses that kneel down to welcome on board the the yummy mummy prams as they slum it for the day because the range rover's in the garage. Little information readouts telling you when the next bus is due in the bus shelters.
Then there's the poo buses, dirty, old and inaccessible. They service the proles. The mid to low income mothers in the rest of the city, who are less likely to have access to a cars can go hang, if your pram/buggy doesn't fold forget it, it's none of your stooping Clifton shiny-space buses for them, with bags of shopping, wriggling infants, trying to get back to the council estates, with a cost of a 10th of an average income support cheque blown on a return ticket, well its tough titty to you.
Woe betide you if you try to get your titties out to feed your screaming newborn infant.
Oh did I mention 'First ' just got done for over-charging and being the most expensive bus service in the UK?
So hear we get to the nub, or nip of the subject, the most surprising part of all this.
We (Bristolians) are not surprised. This quite softly spoken new mother sat in front of me was pushed just too far and decided, in her anger to go to the local paper. We are amazed that the rest of the country are scandalized by the obnoxiousness of the 'First bus' drivers, we have grown so used to.
As for breastfeeding, what can I say, you wouldn't do it if you didn't have to. Any woman who has been given the facts and has any intelligence to make a rational decision will attempt to breastfeed.
Many fail because of medical difficulty, mostly they fail because of lack of support despite all the health benefits to the infant that is usually ignored in the face of vague embarrassment.
The magic antibacterial qualities of breast milk is an uncommon fact, its description of being akin to 'White blood' in its incredible qualities as a perfect balance of fats and proteins for an infant. Exclusively breastfed babies on the whole hardly ever poo, and it doesn't usually smell that bad when they do. Formula babies honk like somethings gone waaaay bad.
It is made in breasts, those things so jealously guarded by society from the individuals they were developed for.
A million miles from the silicon-engorged sexualised status symbols, owned by men and traded on by women, is the innocent infant receiving perfect custom made clean nutrition and loving comfort.
The obsession based on a subconscious need for comfort and a yearning for the unconditional love they represent, would make any empty loveless and twisted individual react with sham scandalisation at someone getting, what they are clearly not.
And then of course there's the studies that have shown that breastfeeding can enhance the intelligence of the infant. That little head start that makes the IQ that little bit higher.
I look at Amy's baby, as Amy sits nursing her, as she is soldiers on exhausted and sore from the constant newborn feeding, and know that the beautiful little baby in her arms is in with a damn good chance of not ending up as a bus driver.