When Jennings was first heard on radio in 1948, public transport played an important part in everyday life. This is reflected in the radio plays and especially in the earlier books i.e. Buckeridge used buses and trains to great effect, to enhance the humour and drama of his plots. Readers and listeners would have regularly travelled by these modes of transport, so could readily identify with the boys’ exploits.
Some well-known highlights are as follows :-
Jennings & Darbishire’s first adventure on a bus (J. GOES TO SCHOOL) occurred when they decided to run away. The bus was described as a single-decker Southdown, with a rear entrance, and was conductor-operated, and very typical of the period. We read the classic lines, from the conductor, “”Oh station!” he said. “Well why didn’t yer say so? Two sore throats to the station – tanner each. I thenkyow”.
There was some confusion, on the school-bound bus from Dunhambury, (J. AND DARBISHIRE) when “Old Wilkie” gesticulated “Hands up, everybody! Put your hands up; I want to see who’s here.” The Linbury boys obeyed, and a middle-aged lady shot both hands towards the ceiling, under the impression that an armed hold-up was in progress. There is also another amusing comment from LPW “They must be on the bus somewhere. Perhaps they’ve gone upstairs.” “Upstairs! Mr. Carter’s voice rose in shocked surprise. “This, Wilkins is a single-decker bus”.
The infamous “rattling relic” (J. DIARY) was conveyed on the bus into Dunhambury with hilarious consequences. “With each lurch of the bus the relic rolled backwards and forwards across the entrance to the lower deck, imprisoning the passengers within and the conductor without.”
In (OUR FRIEND J.) we find the episode where our heroes completed their cross-country run by bus “Dash it all Jen, we can’t go for a cross country run on a double-decker!”
In (J. AND DARBISHIRE) we read of the return journey from a football match
against Bracebridge. On the platform at Dunhambury station Mr. Wilkins voice
“could be clearly heard above the explosive wheezings of a goods engine.
Get into line, Rumbelow, you silly little boy. This is no time to go loco-spotting”.
Shortly afterwards, Jennings and Darbishire were carried on to Pottlewhistle Halt, situated in a remote rural location. Mr. Carter deduced that this may have happened, and suggested it to Mr. Wilkins, who exclaimed “I’ll Pottlewhistle Halt them if they have”. Following this he enquired of the telephone operator “Can you put me through to a station called Whistlepott Hortle, please? ….. What’s that? There’s no such place? Well try Haltpottle Whistle, then”.
The first sixty pages of (JUST LIKE J.) revolved around a train journey from London to Dunhambury at the beginning of term, and the hilarious consequences. This was summed-up by Mr. Wilkins - “I ask you Carter If we have all this tomfoolery about loco-spotting under carriage seats and thumbing lifts on antiquated engines, before we’ve even got back to school, then what in the name of thunder is the rest of the term going to be like!”
Moving on to private modes of transport, we read of various amusing exploits. We will look at the following examples :-
We read that Mr. Wilkins had an old car, described by Jennings in (TAKE J. FOR INSTANCE) “Look at Sir’s ancient old cronk! It reminds me of something that’s escaped from the Science Museum. I bet it couldn’t do a mile in four minutes, not even downhill with the wind behind it”. This car is subsequently described, by Darbishire, in (JUST LIKE J.) thus “You can always tell his rattling old soap-box. It sounds like roller skates on a tin roof”.
As with bus and train journeys, car travel, involving the boys was always eventful. For example the well-known incident in which Mr. Wilkins drove to the Police Station to report that his sister’s cat was missing. (JUST LIKE J.). He kindly gave Jennings and Darbishire a lift to the Linbury Police House, completely unaware that he was conveying the missing cat in a fishing basket on Jennings lap. During the journey we read “Pyewacket let out a recognisable Miaow. At once a barrage of coughing broke forth. “What on earth is the matter with you boys”. “It’s just our cough sir,” Jennings explained.
Although not a car journey as such, the incident of Jack Carr’s car jack, is perhaps, one of the funniest situations of all, with the classic quotes, Mr Wilkins exclaimed “This ------is------your------car-----jack!” The elderly motorist nodded in agreement. “Of course it’s my car, I’ve had it for years” he said. “But how did you know my name was Jack?” (THANKS TO J.)
Surely, one of the funniest incidents is when Jennings and Darbishire hired antiquated machines from Chas. Lumley, amidst much confusion. (J. DIARY) Chas. said “ You won’t need to higher the saddle on this machine”. “Not hire the saddle!” Jennings stared at him in puzzled wonder. Surely the saddle was included. Was he expected to sit on the cross-bar all afternoon?” Later during the ill-fated journey, we hear Jennings famous “tongue twister” – “my black brake brock’s broken …… No that’s wrong ….. My brack blake bock’s bloken.”
Later in the series, many of the boys had their own cycles. Jennings acquired a new machine, courtesy of Aunt Angela, (TAKE J. FOR INSTANCE) and the incident of the combination lock, “the Spanish Armada” and the legendary P.C. Honeyball, was very amusing.
Other types of transport made occasional appearances, i.e. the school mini-bus (J. AT LARGE), roller skates (J. AS USUAL), rowing boats (TAKE J. FOR INSTANCE), and, of course, Jennings dramatic journey on the London Underground (J. AGAIN).
In conclusion, all the above examples are indicative of Buckeridge’s genius, in his use of different means of transport, all added to the reader’s enjoyment.