AT LUNCHTIME by Roger McGough When the bus stopped suddenly to avoid damaging a mother and child in the road, the younglady in the green hat sitting opposite, was thrown across me, and not being one to miss an opportunity i started to make love. At first, she resisted, saying that it was too early in the morning, and too soon after breakfast, and anyway, she found me repulsive. But when i explained that this being a nuclearage the world was going to end at lunchtime, she took off her green hat, put her busticket into her pocket and joined in the exercise. The buspeople, and there were many of them, were shockedandsurprised, and amusedandannoyed. But when word got around that the world was going to end at lunchtime, they put their pride in their pockets with their bustickets and made love one with the other. And even the busconductor, feeling left out, climbed into the cab, and struck up some sort of relationship with the driver. That night, on the bus coming home, we were all a little embarrassed. Especially me and the younglady in the green hat. And we all started to say in different ways how hasty and foolish we had been. But then, always having been a bitofalad, i stood up and said it was a pity that the world didn't nearly end every lunchtime, and that we could always pretend. And then it happened . . . Quick asa crash we all changed partners, and soon the bus was aquiver with white, mothball bodies doing naughty things. And the next day and everyday In everybus In everystreet In everytown In everycountry People pretended that the world was coming to an end at lunchtime. It still hasn't. Although in a way it has.
Target level: Sec 4 Express
Clip to let students listen to the poem aloud: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
1) What is the poem about? Explain why you think this is so.
This question is targetted at the students recognising the strange episode that is taking place in the poem - that strangers are making love with one another, a very intimate interaction, on the bus, a public place and at a very unlikely time, lunchtime.
2) In your opinion, why do you think the poet has chosen to combine the words "nuclearage", " busticket", "buspeople", "shockedandsurprised", " amusedandannoyed", "busconductor", "younglady", "bitofalad", "everybus", "everystreet", "everytown" and "everycountry"? Try reading these words out loud and compare them with how they are read when they are separated.
This question is targetted at helping the students to realise that a mere absence of the space between 2 words would cause the words to be read faster. With this realisation, it is in hope that students deduce that the episode on the bus is taking place very fast (comparable with the speed with which they read the combined words). Society is progressing at an increasingly speed.
3) Based on your reading, how would you describe the personality of the character in this poem?
Students should be able to tell that the persona is impulsive and reckless, yet anxious not to lose out in what he deems as the pleasures of life should the world end. It is in hope that the students are able to determine that amidst the speed at which society is progressing, people fear losing out on opportunities, thus they impulsively engage in activities which they, from a moral standpoint, should not.
4) Why does the poet say that "in a way [the world] has [come to an end]" though "it still hasn't"?
This question aims to show students' that in light of increasing immorality in society, moral degradation has done much damage to the world such that it's moral standards have seemingly come to an end.
These 4 scaffolded questions aim to help students attain the thematic concern of the poem - that there is increasing moral degradation in society today.