At the top of Coronation Drive sits the green single decker bus. The bus is 38 years old and weighs 18 tons.
At the bottom of Coronation Drive, in number 26, sits Emily Muttock. Emily is 92 years old and weighs 7 stones 12 lbs.
The distance between the green bus and Emily in number 26 is 1,789 yards and the gradient of the descent from the one to the other is 1 in 10 to begin with, steepening to 1 in 6 half way down.
It is dark and raining steadily.
The engine of the green single decker bus is ticking over noisily, ready for the off. Hot diesel fumes find their way into the driver’s cab. But the driver, Muhammad (aged 42 years, weight 10 stones 4 lbs) is used to the smell. He likes it. He thinks it is a friendly smell.
In number 26, Emily is preparing for a quiet night in. She is brewing a pot of tea, and toasting a crumpet. Her TV is tuned to BBC 1 and Strictly Come Dancing is about to start. Life doesn’t get any better than this. This is Emily’s firm opinion.
Back at the top of the hill, Muhammad releases the handbrake and rings his bell. He turns on the noisy windscreen wipers against the streaming rain. The green bus bumps forwards and begins the turn down the hill, heading directly towards number 26 at the bottom. At this first bend, Muhammad presses with his foot on the brake pedal. There is no reaction from the brakes and the bus increases speed
Muhammad appears surprised. He thinks back to his driver training course and rehearses the instructions he was given then for slowing the bus. He is sure that pressing the brake pedal was the correct procedure.
Emily is now seated in her armchair. The gas fire is hissing warmly and her crumpet has disappeared, leaving her with buttery fingers. She daintily wipes her hands with a red serviette, left over from Christmas, and sips her tea.
The green bus has now traveled 326 yards of the descent and its’ speed is increasing with every yard it covers. Muhammad wears an expression of consternation as he repeats the procedure for slowing the bus. Without success. On the off chance, he tries pressing the accelerator, but this only exacerbates the situation.
The bus and Muhammad flash past a bus stop where a would-be passenger (aged 42, approximate weight – including shopping bags – 23 stones) is standing in the rain, arm outstretched. Her expression changes from hopefulness to anger in the blink of an eye as the bus ignores her signal and rushes by.
The bus has now travelled 1,025 yards. Current speed 53 mph.
On Emily’s tv, Bruno Tonioli is about to lambast one of the contestants – a deluded twenty year old soap actor (weight unknown) who has just completely murdered a Latin rhythm based routine. Emily wriggles down in her chair in anticipation of Bruno’s cutting criticism which is about to be delivered.
The green bus has reached the steeper part of the hill and is flying.
Muhammad has a double brainwave: He pulls hard on the handbrake and simultaneously tries to shift down from third gear into first.
The gearbox screams in horrified protest and then jumps into neutral where it stays. The handbrake detaches itself from the bus and sits uselessly in
Muhammad’s hand. He taps the side of his head with the handbrake, as an aid to thinking. He conceives of a plan. Leaving his seat, he moves to the back of the empty bus and braces himself behind the last seat, murmuring prayers from the Quran as he goes.
Speed is now 68 mph.
In number 26, Emily feels the call of nature. Cursing her age-related condition, she struggles out of her comfy chair and hurries to the bathroom hoping that this interruption to her viewing pleasure will not be a long one.
The green bus has now traveled 1,762 yards from the top of the hill and reaches Emily’s front garden. Its’ progress is swift, but silent, save for the squeal of the wipers, the howl of the slipstream and Muhammad’s praying.
The first object the bus encounters is a picket fence which is there one second and then not there any more. Next up is Emily’s dense and clinging Cotoneaster plants. These claw at the vehicle, and succeed in slowing it a little.
An area of wet grass follows, which drag on the buses’ wheels, reducing its’ speed a touch until they reach Emily’s ornamental pond and sundial.
Amidst the explosion of water spray the sundial can be seen flying up into orbit. The next object faced by the runaway 18 ton green bus and Muhammad is the front wall of Emily’s house. With picture window.
At a terminal speed of 33 mph the bus and driver (recently turned passenger) enter Emily’s front room, and travel across it, carrying her picture window and collecting her armchair and coffee table en route, until finally coming to rest by the french windows leading to the back garden.
When the emergency services arrive on scene, they find Muhammad sitting in his bus, gazing blankly at Claudia Winkleman on Emily’s TV screen, with a bemused Emily looking over his shoulder from the doorway.
“Are you okay?” they ask her.
She considers the question for a moment.
“Well, I’m not very happy.” she replies.