I’ve been investigating the disabled access on Boris’s new Routemaster. Why? Because at last I have a date for my knee replacement operation. For months I’ve been struggling to get around and have become one of those people who let out an involuntary sigh every time they sit down or stand up. Mind you, my walking stick is brilliant for getting offered a seat on the number 14. I might just continue using it!
The reason for checking out the bus is that my recovery period clashes with one of my more physically active duties, namely co-hosting the biannual White Wine Arts Trail. Normally this bizarre event, which transports a whooping crowd of wine-guzzling punters around a number of secret venues in Bath, calls for me to be up and down like a Jack-in-the-box, alternating upper and lower deck repartee with Grumpy Old Man, Arthur Smith. Arthur plays conductor extraordinaire while yours truly is disguised as acid tongued art critic and wine connoisseur, Ralph le Bonbon.
Monsieur Le Bonbon will be strictly lower deck this time, despite this magnificent vehicle being blessed with two (yes, two) staircases. Nevertheless, much fun will be had. Last time the passengers were joined on board by drunken vicars, loony librarians, bonkers butchers and naughty gnomes. They discovered that Widcombe has its own red light area and showered surprised shoppers in Westgate Street with wads of Nigerian currency.
This year, the venerable Natural Theatre, source of all those entertaining characters, joins forces with fresh faced New Old Friends theatre company to people the en route stops. So expect the results of imaginations running riot, and even some traffic-stopping antics, because for the convenience of passengers the bus carries its own roll-out zebra crossing!
In 2011 an Arts Council observer opined there was possibly too much wine and not enough art. This year, since the event is no longer subsidised but relies on the generosity of its commercial sponsors, Le Bonbon is cheekily proposing even more wine and no art at all!
Mind, art is in the eye of the beholder. With my new joint being severely tested, this could turn into the Battle at Wounded Knee, which would certainly add some drama to the mix.
The White Wine Arts Trail takes place on 31st March as part of the opening weekend of Bath Comedy Festival www.bathcomedy.com