The Night Bus (With Raspberry Upside-down Sponge Recipe)

The Night Bus (Raspberry Upside-down Sponge)



We had potato salad for lunch the day I finally made up my mind to run away from home. We’d had yet another fight and the fact that all there was for me to eat was slimy potatoes and mayonnaise just tipped me over the edge. I pushed my chair out from the table and walked stiff with anger up to my room.

Everything I’d need was already in my bag so I grabbed it and my hoodie from behind the door. On second thoughts I turned, went to the desk and scribbled a quick note which read simply “This is it.”

She tried to say something to me from the kitchen but anything she said was drowned out by my slamming of the door.

It was November and the rain was bucketing down as I closed the garden gate for the last time. The rain still hadn’t let up at all by the time I reached the bus stop but I felt so liberated and joyful that I just stood there luxuriating in the feeling of having my clothes soaked through and the rain saturating my skin.

After about twenty minutes a bus pulled up and I came to enough to get on it. The driver asked me where I was headed and gave me 50p change from a twenty when I told him I was headed out.  I found two empty seats and collapsed into them, it was only Three PM but it felt much later with the November sun getting ready to go down to behind the clouds.

I must have drifted off for a little because the next thing I remember it was sunset and the clouds had finally lifted. I looked across the unfamiliar landscape as the shadows lengthened and the sun went down. Any tiredness I had felt was gone and I felt almost euphoric. The further we drove the more I felt like a new person. I sat with my chin on my knees and my arms around my legs and watched the towns as we passed through them and looking at the people who got on. The longer we went the stranger the places and the people.

We stopped at the bottom of the kind of drive that leads to a stately home to pick up two strange women, one in blue and white and one in black and green. They paid the bus driver in feathers and broken egg shells. As they passed by me I heard one say to the other “But Joy, how many secrets can you not tell?”

We stopped at a gas station to pick up two old women with loads of shopping bags and a young boy who was hiding three tiny kittens inside his jacket.

I felt more connected to these strange characters as we progressed along our journey; more and more like someone new than the person that I left behind when I left my home.

An old man with ivy growing in his beard, a woman holding a scarf full of stars.

You had to look closer and pay attention to notice the different ones.

A young man with feathers peeking out from under his shirt, a pretty young woman with lots of bags and boxes and a tail poking out under her skirt.

She sat down in the seat next to me. We sat there in silence for a while before she smiled and passed a box to me saying “Are you hungry? Try some of this.”

I opened the tin and took a slice of a gorgeous looking sponge cake with some kind of jam on the top. It tasted divine, soft and sweet. It was the kind of food to fall in love with, it was wooing food. I asked what the jam was and how she got it into the cake, she smiled her little smile again, lent in close to me and whispered the recipe in my ear. I never thought that I’d be seduced on a bus but there I was, being seduced and wooed. When I finally kissed her it was sweet and soft and she tasted faintly of raspberries.

Raspberry Sponge Cake


 The key to lightness in this cake is to whisk for the actual times given.


3 eggs  1/3 cup sugar  1 cup sugar  1 cup flour  1 tsp baking , raspberries, extra sugar.


Raspberry Syrup – Melt the raspberries in a saucepan with a small bit of water, add sugar to taste.


Cake method: Separate eggs.  Beat yolks and sugar for 2 mins.  Blend in water.  Whisk until firm and creamy about 10 mins.  Fold in sifted flour and baking powder.  Beat egg whites until they hold a stiff peak, about 3 mins on top speed.  Fold them in very gently. Pour mix into in two greased, floured sandwich tins and then pour the raspberry mixture on top. Bake in a moderately hot oven, Reg. 5, 190oC for about 20 mins.  (9½” tin = 30 mins).

When you take the cakes out turn them upsidedown so the jam faces the top.


The Irish Problem

There’s a problem in Ireland and it’s been going on for centuries. It’s not the rain, or the alcohol, the leprechauns or even the occasional famines we’ve been known to have.
The Irish problem is emigration, we’ve been coming and going for 10,000 years or so. After the great famine the population halfed, a quarter died and a quarter left, in times of recession (which seem to happen often) many people would leave to find work overseas, and since 2008 it’s been going on again.

My grandmother came to Ireland from The Niger Republic, as did my great grandmother 30 years later. My grandfather was born in Wales to Irish parents, moved around a lot before settling in the south of Ireland. My mother was sent across the sea to go to school in Meath at 5. My father came to Dublin when he was 18 to go to college and met my mother there. When my brother was born they moved around a lot, across two continents and several countries.

I come from a family of emigrants and immigrants, so it probably shouldn’t be too surprising that when I was 17 and found myself with no decent job prospects and no qualifications (Due to home education) in a world where to get into third level education you desperately need qualifications, I left. I was and still am the first of my group of friends to leave, but almost everyone I know knows someone who has left. Two of my friends seem set to go to college in Wales or Scotland in the next year or two, and who knows what’ll happen when everyone starts to finish up college and look for jobs.

There’s this interesting thing where you are simultaneously an emigrant and an immigrant with the particular issues that come up for both of those. The tiny cultural differences that suddenly become so massive, the huge amounts of homesickness. People make horrible comments about immigrants sometimes, occasionally in a semi friendly banter, more often when someone forgets that I wasn’t born here. A couple of weeks ago a billboard went up around the corner from where I live. it was from UKIP (The UK Independence Party, a group primarily made up of close-minded dickheads) saying “Stop Open-Door Immigration, enough is enough”. It’s pretty damn demoralising to walk past that every day. On the other hand, when I was in college there was a running “joke” about the “Damn Irish, coming to our country, taking our jobs and our women” which became hilarious when everyone realised I had in fact done just that.

I get overly excited when I meet someone from Ireland, joyfully chatting about where we’re both from and who (if anyone) we know in common. According to my girlfriend, sometimes I get grumpy, morose and patriotic if I’m away from home too long. I occasionally freak out about living in a country with a monarchy.And when I finally do go home I want to jump around and hug everyone.

I guess what I’m tying to talk about here are the difficulties of emigration on a personal level, it’s different for everyone who leaves, depending on the whys and the hows. It was hard for me, it wasn’t a decision I had a lot of time to think about. From conception to actually moving I had about 2 weeks in total. I was going to a town I didn’t know, in a country I didn’t belong in, a college course I knew next to nothing about and to lodge with a woman I had never met. But I had family nearby (An aunt and my brother living quite close) and more support than a lot of people who have to leave their birthplaces.

People ask me is England home now, and the answer is that it isn’t, Ireland is home, for always and ever. I want to go home one day be it in a year or ten, because it’s where I belong.

And I’m going to end it here, because I’m not sure what else to say right now, though I’ll probably write more on the subject soon.

A post-script. I was originally going to name this post “The Irish Curse” until I realised that that is slang for an Irish man with a smaller than average penis. Whelp, there goes that title!

Another post-script. The UKIP board round the corner has been replaced by an ad for Sainsbury’s Apple Pie, much more palatable!