Naughty Bus FAQs
His name is Scooter. He was quite an old dog when Jerry photographed him in 2002, and sadly he is no longer with us, but he was the best family dog ever, a real character with a wonderfully expressive face and very loyal. Except when he decided to go off exploring, which he did often. And he was no friend to postmen either.
There are several reasons why I picked a London bus.
I wanted the story to be about the kind of toy that lots of children might already have in their toybox, or if they didn’t have one, they could get one easily. It was important to me that children could have their own Naughty Bus adventures without having to buy a special, expensive toy.
Growing up a Londoner, I relied on our buses and missed them once we moved away. When I was a child living on the edge of London, we’d travel somewhere by bus almost every day. Our family had no car to begin with, and mum would take my brother and I to parks or to swimming lessons, and sometimes to Lewisham street market on a red London bus. I loved the whole business of standing in the queue, stepping up onto the platform and moving down the bus to find a seat. Or even better was going upstairs! The conductor would ring the bell twice, telling the driver to move off, and visit each seat to collect the fares, then use a heavy metal machine slung around their neck to print a ticket. I liked being given the long paper ticket to hold, in fact my brother and I would fight over it. If it was wet outside, everyone’s coats would steam in the warm bus and then we would draw in the condensation on the windows.
When I was older I went to live right in the middle of the city, and went to work every day on the 88 bus. After my first son Kiernan was born, he came with me and I’d take him in to nursery and later, to school, always on the number 88, before I went in to the office. Then I’d pick him up again after work and we’d join the queue for the bus home. If we were lucky, the seats at the front on the top floor would be empty, and we’d sit side by side, talking about his day at school, or looking down at all the people on the pavements. I used to see the crowds jostling to cross the road or huddle out of the rain under a flapping shop awning and imagine the enormous store of stories each one of those people held in their heads.
Thinking about that made me want to be a writer and sharing that time with my son every day made me very fond of the number 88 bus.
The boy is our son Jack, who was aged about four when the photographs were taken. He was quite mischievous when he was a toddler, drawing on walls, feeding coins into our video player (like a dvd player but with a bigger slot), letting our daughter’s pet rat out of her cage (it was three days before we found her in Frances’s chest of drawers, by which time she had eaten through her school uniform) and naughtiest of all, giving our cat Licky a hair cut. Every time he was told off he’d say, “I didn’t mean to be naughty. I promise I won’t do it again,” and he meant it. But in no time at all, another idea would come to him, and he’d forget to be good.
I wanted to capture that spirit of childhood experimentation in Naughty Bus – most children know they’ll get into trouble if their toys smash through a plateful of food, or knock a cup of juice off the table, but I think the children who enjoy reading Naughty Bus can still remember what it’s like to want to do it anyway.
Some of the toys in the photographs belonged to Jack, and some had been his brothers’ or sisters’ before. The lovely old cars in the photograph of the wood block city were my brother Martin’s in the 1960s.
In the last two pictures in the book, Jack really is fast asleep.
The classic red London bus – the kind we all recognise – is called a Routemaster, and that’s the sort of bus I thought we would use for the photographs. But Jerry thought that a different sort of London bus had a much nicer ‘face’. So the bus we have used is the one that came just before the Routemaster, called the RT-type. The RT-type buses were used in London about 60 years ago.
The photographs for Naughty Bus were taken by my husband, Jerry Oke. He was a professional photographer, whose work was mainly for advertisements – he took beautiful pictures of new cars and motorbikes, food, drink, computers… all sorts of things – to appear on big hoardings on the side of buildings or as advertisements in magazines and newspapers.
He didn’t use a digital camera to make the photographs for Naughty Bus; he used a more traditional kind of camera, called a Deardorff, and sheets of film. But after the film images had been uploaded to computer, our friend Tony Swinney made a few changes to each picture using some software called Photoshop. What he did is called retouching, and these days lots of people retouch their photos digitally, but in 2002 it was still quite a new thing.
To take the ‘action’ photograph of Naughty Bus zooming through the plate of food, Jerry stuck some of the beans onto the ends of drinking straws and hung the sausage by fishing line. Then all those parts of the picture were stripped out using Photoshop and in the end the picture you see is made up of lots of parts of photos combined.
No, I don’t think so. Very sadly, Jerry died in 2006, and it just wouldn’t be the same making another Naughty Bus book with a different photographer. Just like illustrators or writers, photographers have their own very distinctive styles and Jerry’s style would be hard to copy. But I love to hear about children who have taken pictures themselves and written their own ‘further adventures of Naughty Bus’, and I ended the story with the night bus headlights coming on because I wanted readers to imagine what might happen next.
There is an appearance by a Naughty Bus in the book, Major Glad, Major Dizzy, but he is not the main character.