The poems title is very appropriate to the central concerns of the poem – them being time and place. The title speaks of the time they will get the bus 11:00. There could also be another reference here to time – the eleventh hour as at the end of the poem the world has become very apocalyptic with everyone dying. The poem also focuses on a journey, with the destination quite clearly being marked out as Baldovan.
The sense of adventure is introduced in lines 1 with the phrase “base Camp” to describe the bus stance. It suggests that this is where they are starting out from and where they will return to after a voyage, like they are scaling Everest or going on an expedition. This idea is further created with the “steel flag” in line two. This suggests they have somehow conquered this land and are claiming it as their own before they go out exploring
The list in lines 5-8 describes the different types of coins the boy has. This creates a sense that the boy feels incredibly wealthy. It is also quite humorous as actually what the boy is carrying around is small change, but he feels he possesses a lot of money.
At the start of the poem there was a tone of excitement and adventure. This has changed to a sense of uneasiness. The word ‘however’ is placed right at the start of the line to emphasise the contradiction about to come. The boys are going on an adventure on the bus, but now they feel apprehensive about getting on it. He describes his worry as ‘obscure’ suggesting that there is no real reason to worry about getting on the bus as it is such an ordinary activity yet they have never done it before and are slightly freaked out about having to do it alone. The speaker also lists the questions he asks, showing he is unsure of what to do.
There is a metaphor in line 19 that conveys the speaker’s fears of travelling to a new place. He describes their destination as “another country”. They are not really travelling to a foreign place but he sees it as being somewhere spiritually different from his home and so associates it with the ‘other’. He then goes on to describe how the streets “suddenly forget their names”. This is a transferred epithet as in actuality the boys have forgotten the name of the streets in this foreign place. There is a sense of aggression in line 22 as the shopkeeper shows hostility in his “shaking” fist when they ask for sweeties he cannot identify. A more sympathetic shopkeeper would have offered the boys help. He then “calls his wife through” suggesting they will now mock the boys or chase them.
The parallel structure and repetition of ‘and’ in lines 21-30 creates a sense of growing panic. There is no break at all in these lines and the sense of terror is created through the lack of breath as much as the growing list of things that could go wrong. The ‘and’ connects a very graphic list of things that are not quite right in this new future world where the boys have found themselves. There is the old apocalyptic looking bus, the physical changes to their own bodies, the “black waves” which will suck them under and the lack of their families.
The sense of being in a nightmare is already established in line 24 when the speaker says ‘ever make it home again’. The word choice here gives a sense that there is a possibility of not returning to where they came from and that they might remain lost forever. The catastrophic image is then introduced with the word choice “charred wreck” to describe the bus. ‘charred’ suggests it has been physically burnt out and there is a possibility that someone has done this to the bus, physically inflicting harm upon it. The word ‘wreck’, short and simple, shows just how badly damaged the machine is. There is a sense that the boys no longer recognise themselves when it read ‘our voices sound funny’ they don’t understand to begin with why they sound so strange. It is of course because they have grown up into men and their voices have broken. The final nightmarish image is introduced in the last line – ‘our sisters and mothers are fifty years dead’. Their family has died and there is no one familiar near them. This last line is particularly significant as the family members singled out are female which could also suggest that the nurturing figures in their life are no longer present, making them feel incredibly vulnerable.
At the start of the poem the speaker seems very self-assured and in control of himself. There is only the slightest hint of worry at travelling without an adult. There is a tone of confidence in the phrase ‘first time ever on our own’. The emphasis on ever and own hint at the pride he feels doing this. There is then a simple statement ‘I plan to buy comics, sweeties and magic tricks’ which show he has a clear line of thought about what he intends to do when he gets to Baldovan. The creeping doubt kicks in nearer the turning point when he begins to list worries and questions – ‘where we should we sit, when to pull the bell’. Here we can see him worrying about what it is he should do when he gets on the bus, he isn’t sure about how to take responsibility for himself. After the turning point there is a genuine feeling of alarm. The speaker describes the streets as ‘wrong’ showing that he feels alienated from them. He reinforces this feeling with the phrase ‘no one will have heard of the sweets we ask for’. The blanket term that everyone in this new world will not have heard of the things they ask for shows that they are in an alien territory. The shop keepers speech to his wife ‘come her and see this’ again suggests that the boys are something to be mocked and that they are different and strangers in a world where nothing is familiar as the locals don’t take kindly to them.