Ulysses on the Buses

Stateless, scrawny James Joyce and his mistressmusewife, Nora Barnacle, were waiting for a number eleven omnibus in the Perry Barr district of Birmingham. It was twenty-six days, five months and one hundred and twelve years after 16th June 1904, although they didn’t necessarily spend all that time waiting for a bus.

At what precise location in Perry Barr was their bus stop located?

By a clay bark’s bank, where a stone lane meets a field of birch.

Do you mean by the Barclays Bank on the Corner of Aston Lane and Birchfield Road?

Um, yes.

What obsolete vernacular term for acute dental dysfunction can be used to describe the approximate time of the bus’s arrival?

Tooth hurty.

What action did the author make upon the arrival of his omnibus?

He inserted his hand mechanically into the back pocket of his trousers to obtain his senior citizen’s bus pass.

Was it there?

No. It was in the corresponding pocket of the trousers which he had worn on the day but one preceding.

Why was this quadruply irritating?

Because he had forgotten; because he had previously reminded Nora to remind him not to forget; because Nora was now reminding him that she had previously remembered to remind him not to forget; because the previous trousers were now at the dry cleaners.

Was the controversial author of such groundbreaking classics as Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake entitled to free travel on bus, train and Metro services throughout the West Midlands and environs?

Yes, insofar as the author was 126 years of age and could therefore be classified as a pensioner.

Due to the aforementioned bus pass oversight, was Joyce required to tender the full adult off-peak fare?

No. The stately, plump bus driver was in a charitable mood and let him off on a technicality.

What was the technicality?

The fact that Joyce had been dead since 1941.

Briefly outline Joyce’s initial observations with regards to the distribution of passengers in the lower deck of the number 11 bus.

The lower deck contained twelve adult females (two with infants), nine adult males, and eight juveniles (five female and three male) of varying ages, races and creeds; five adults (three female and two male) were reading (or appearing to read) daily newspapers, monthly magazines or this week’s Take a Break; two adults (male and female) and one juvenile (male) were listening to music (or appearing to listen to music) on portable MP3 players; one adult (male) and one juvenile (female) were conducting (or appearing to conduct) mobile telephone conversations with unidentified parties on matters pertaining to, in the first instance, a somewhat contentious business transaction involving an otter,and, in the second, a highly detailed account of a series of regrettable and somewhat lurid romantic entanglements involving a third party known only as Our Sonia.

There were no available seats on the lower deck, then?


What parallel course did Joyce and Nora subsequently follow?

Starting united both at normal walking pace from the driver’s cabin, they turned right and approached the steps leading to the upper deck. Joyce, a well-mannered man, insisted that Nora go first; Nora, a feminist icon, insisted that Joyce go first. He eventually acquiesced, for fear of getting a punch on the nose.

What change in circumstance almost thwarted their ascent?

The vehicle’s sudden and unexpected transition in relative state from at rest (statum) to moving (agitato) caused Joyce to lose his footing on the narrow stairwell, ricochet off the handrail and launch into a form of graceless backflip commonly referred to as arse over tit (ineptio).

What prevented Joyce from sustaining a serious head injury?

The fact he collided, face first, into the ample cleavage of his mistress, Nora Barnacle.

What was Nora’s initial reaction to this?

NORA: Get off me Jim, ye wee skitter! I’m not falling for that one again!

What was crestfallen (and chestfallen) Joyce’s initial reaction to that?

Shock: embarrassment: shame: mild titillation: guilt: a profound sense of irony.

Why irony?

Because he had now done by accident something that he had previously done on purpose; because when he previously did it on purpose he pretended it was an accident.

What was the origin of this hitherto intentional stair-stumbling, cleavage-colliding phenomenon?

A high risk seduction stratagem Joyce called The Epiphany Accelerator.

Where and when did this previously happen?

With Nora, along a set of stone steps in Ringsend, Dublin, on 16th June 1904.

Shall we move on?

I think we should.

Were there available seats on the upper deck?

There were.

Where did Joyce and Nora decide to sit?

On the left hand side of the deck, at an equidistant point between a cackle of truants sitting on the back seat and a skinnylooking galoot and his girlfriend sitting at the front.

Why did Joyce take an irrational dislike to the skinnylooking galoot?

He was making witless remarks, scribbling furiously in a note pad and looked like a blogger.

What course did the number 11 omnibus subsequently follow?

Travelling in a south-easterly direction at an average speed of 26 mph, it left the field of birch and its broken librubble and followed Aston Lane’s Path, past Roddy Tufnol’s factoray and the new 24 our tescosuperstore.


Was Joyce the first great 20th century novelist to have used the number 11 bus despite being dead?


Can you elaborate on your answer?

Can you be more specific with your question?

Alright, then. Was Joyce the first dead 20th Century Modernist author to use Birmingham’s number 11 bus?

No. Ernest Hemmingway spent some time on the Outer Circle route during an otherwise regrettable trip to Birmingham.

Why was the trip regrettable?

He didn’t realize the Bull Ring was a shopping centre.