I came across Daniel Tunnard’s blog Colectivaizeishon a few weeks ago and was instantly taken with his idea of catching every one of the 141 bus lines in Buenos Aires and writing about it. As a fellow Brit and Buenos Aires colectivo fan, I asked him a few questions to find out some more about the project and the idea behind it.
Who are you, where are you from originally and how long have you been in Buenos Aires?
I was born in Sheffield and grew up in Stockport. When you’ve lived in the shadow of Stockport viaduct for thirteen years, anywhere else is an exciting prospect. Not to denigrate the viaduct of course, it’s a fine piece of civil engineering. I’ve been living in Buenos Aires since January 1999. It’s not that much, I know English people who’ve been here since the 80s. I endeavour daily to avoid picking up their resignation and/or bitterness. I moved out here for an Argentine girl who I’d known for two days and corresponded with by letter for two years. Yeah, pretty stupid/romantic, depending on your gender. Reader, I married her. And divorced her. Then I married another Argentine. I did it in a church the second time, believing such spiritual gravitas would prevent a second divorce. The organist played us out with a Beatles song. Like I said, gravitas.
Your current project is called Colectivaizeishon – tell us about it
I’m taking all 141 bus lines in Buenos Aires. People think this is a book about the buses of Buenos Aires. It isn’t. I haven’t worked out what it is about yet, but it’s more interesting than buses. It’s essentially a string of random observations, sarcastic comments and the occasional pleasantry for the easily-offended Argentines. It’s also a documentary, which I have to tell you about because, like a crap charades player, every time I mention the book I forget about the film, and my producer gets offended. She’s Argentine.
What’s the longest bus journey you’ve been on so far? Have you fallen asleep yet?
I once took a 48-hour bus from Cusco to Lima and got plenty of shut-eye. In Buenos Aires, the 110 goes 70 blocks as the crow flies via the longest route imaginable. It’s only 90 minutes but your arse feels like it’s been 3 hours. But there aren’t any seriously long journeys because it’s all in the capital, so I avoid mammoth treks like the 60 from Constitución to Escobar. I take 3 buses a day, and some of those days have been very long. I spent 11 hours on the buses one day at the start of December. You could have watered a minor agricultural smallholding with the sweat from my perineum. Sorry, no more arse gags. I fell asleep on the 36. I’d been up since 5am in a bid to beat the traffic. Had a nice kip during the boring parts of Flores, but didn’t beat the traffic. The only way to beat the traffic would be to start taking the buses at 10pm and go through the night. I intend to do this, as soon as I grow a pair.
If you were in charge of a bus line, what changes would you make?
I’d make the bus run on rails and call it a tram. It would have a little bell that went ding-a-ling. Men would wear suits and hats and bow upon meeting like men. There would also be a miniature railway running round above the seats, to entertain the children. And all passengers would be required to carry cones of gold dust in case of accidents, like in that film about the woman with the eyebrows.
Do you have a favourite line? What’s so good about it?
The 39 from Barracas to Chacarita is an old favourite because i used to take it when I lived in Palermo Viejo and the drivers wait for you even if the lights are green. And there’s a sign on the window wishing you a happy birthday, even if it isn’t your birthday. You don’t get that kind of random salutation on other buses. I also enjoyed the 23 and 26, because they took me to a shanty town without my asking, and I’d always wanted to go to one but didn’t like to ask.
What plans do you have for your next project?
I’m still trying to get the project before this one published, which is a novel about a filmmaker who finds Brian May in his wardrobe with a time travel machine he crafted from a fireplace and motorcycle engine. After 12 literary agents rejected it, I turned to unconventional promotional techniques and I wrote a song about Brian May’s thesis and posted it on youtube. Brian May posted it on his website and wrote to me to congratulate me. I sent him the novel. Haven’t heard back.
I have an idea to take all the trains in Argentina, but it’s not the kind of thing you can do during the day and be back home for tea, and it would be more like conventional travel writing, which isn’t what I want to do. I also have an idea to make a miniature model of Buenos Aires in 1924, when there were still trams, and have a miniature version of myself take all the miniature tramlines in miniature Buenos Aires. I bet I couldn’t find a publisher for that, either.