JOE ORTON LIKED TO LISTEN IN ON conversations that the participants thought private, if not private enough to whisper or conduct in secret. Orton would then delight his friends by relating his experiences at listening in. I used to think Orton might have embellished his stories, as peculiar as they could be. No longer. Even in the wilds of Northumberland, on our humble buses, I regularly hear the daftest things. Just today, two older ladies:
"My granddaughter is going to Karachi." "Oh! Where they have white coats and black belts and go chop-chop?" "No! That's Karate! She's going to Karachi in Pakistan.!" "So, no black belts then?"
Before I even got on the bus, while in the classic English queue on the forecourt on a bitterly cold and windy afternoon, a very old lady with incredibly bushy white eyebrows, through which she had drawn a line in what appeared to be artists' charcoal, smiled from under what may have been a tea-cosy and faced me and said:
"This cold is so terrible. I can't seem to get warm today. And the wind ... When I was growing up we had an outside toilet and no bath-tub."
I tried not to look at her eyebrows, decided she looked like the housekeeper from "Father Ted" (Mrs Doyle) aged about 93, and figured the old dear craved psychoanalysis. Unfortunately, I must have looked too interested and the lady continued with her family history. Once on the bus, I managed to lose her ... Only to be rewarded for the patience I'd shown with the Karachi story.