I drive a mobility bus, transporting elderly and disabled people. It’s a bit like a glorified taxi service. It’s designed to cater for people who, for one reason or another, can’t use public transport.
When I left school, I got a degree in psychology. But for various reasons, some years later I ended up driving buses in Central London. While working as a bus driver, I studied for a maths degree with the Open University. So I have two degrees. They were useful qualifications for a bus driver. The psychology helped me deal with the passengers, and the maths helped me deal with the fares. When I was five, I wanted to be a bus driver, now that I’m a bus driver I want to be five again!
Driving mobility buses is very rewarding. Many of my passengers use the service on a regular basis, so I build up relationships with them. What I have to do for my passengers is very trivial for me, but to them it makes a real difference. I can see that what I do is worthwhile. I felt the same to some extent when I was driving buses. Also there’s a certain freedom to driving. The scenery is constantly changing and there’s no one looking over your shoulder. When I am driving, my mind is free to think about other things.
This may sound bizarre, but one day, when driving a Routemaster bus on a round trip from Hammersmith to Aldwych, I worked out how to trisect a line using a ruler and compass. I was really excited about this, because I thought it meant I could trisect an angle using a ruler and compass, but it turns out that it doesn’t! On another occasion I was driving my minibus in Southall, and I started thinking about a five-person juggling pattern that I had created. At the time, I hadn’t actually had the opportunity to try it out. As I was driving along, I realised that there was a problem with the pattern, but very quickly I worked out the solution. This involved some complicated visuospatial manipulations in my head, which I was doing as I was driving.
One of my biggest passions is juggling. I particularly enjoy club passing. It’s a very social activity, it’s great fun and there’s always something new to learn. Also, there are ways of using mathematical ideas to describe and create patterns. This mathematical side of juggling really fascinates me! What’s more, juggling is a pretty good form of exercise. I regularly go to evening meetings of jugglers in London and several times a year I travel around the country, or even abroad, to attend festivals of juggling. I have made so many lovely friends through following this passion.
Another interest is music. I often hear people say, with regret: ‘I used to play an instrument, but I gave it up when I was a teenager.’ I stopped having lessons when I was a teenager, but I didn’t stop playing. I really enjoy playing Baroque keyboard music. I wouldn’t say that I’m a good musician, I’m more of a ‘hacker’ – I lack a bit of finesse. Technically I’m not too bad, and my sight reading of Baroque keyboard music is pretty good. My music is mainly for my own pleasure, I’ve never really performed.
I come from a large Irish, Catholic family. I have three sisters and two brothers. Four of them live in and around London. My sister, Shirley is married and has four boys of school age. Another sister, Nicola lives with her partner on the south coast. She has two grown up daughters. I live in West London with my Mum.
When I was living in Norwich, I was studying. That year, my Dad died suddenly and unexpectedly from a massive heart attack. For six months, my Mum was living by herself. She hated it! I didn’t complete my studies in Norwich. So I was a bit depressed and didn’t have a job. I moved back home to live with my Mum. Naturally, she started looking after me. She was so happy not to be living alone any more. After about six months, I realised I needed to get back to some kind of normality. So I got a job at my local bus garage. I hated working there. It was the worst company I had worked for. I hated it so much that I applied for another job during my induction week. But it took me about six months to escape. Eventually I found the job I have now.
So I was back on my feet. At home, Mum still looked after me in the same way she had done for the time when I was lost. These behaviours had become routine. I probably didn’t do as much as I could have. Living with a parent like this did affect the way I live. This obviously had an effect on my relationship with my Mum. I often wonder whether I would have a better relationship with her if I moved out. But I can also see the possibility that if I were to move out I might not see her so often and have a worse relationship!