Sunday, 30 December 2007

Last Duty of 2007

It's Sunday 30 Dec 2007 and I have just done my last duty for 2007. Mostly fairly quiet, the big excitement of the day was watching two little old ladies trying to cross the road at a most inappropriate place. It was on the sea front by the junction with Belgrave Road. I was heading into Torquay and as I came up to the lights at Belgrave Road there was a coach in the left lane waiting at a red light. As I rolled to a stop in th outside lane for straight on, the two sweet dear elderly ladies walked out from in front of the coach and saw me coming. At first they made as if to move back but when they saw I was stopping they continued across the road. I stuck my head out the window and suggested they didn't cross the road at this point as there were problems ahead that could get them involved in an RTC. (Road Traffic Collision) However they continued to the island in the centre of the road. Safe for the moment. But. From here there is an other much smaller island but to get to it they must watch for traffic coming out of Belgrave Road. It is a wide sweeping corner and traffic goes pretty damn fast by the time it reaches where our two heroes were standing. Also there is the traffic coming from Sheddon Hill. There is only a slight bend to get through before coming past the island, at speed, where, by now there were two slightly worried pedestrians wondering why they didn't listen to the friendly bus driver. Finally they saw a gap in the rushing traffic and made it to the small island. An island so small it was obviously not designed for people to stand on. Not in any great number that is. In fact not in any number greater than zero. OK I know zero isn't a number but the N in PIN stands for number yet we all say Pin number. I digress. Back to the ladies. Now all they had to do to emulate the chicken and cross the road was to wait for a gap in the traffic coming out of Torquay. Now this traffic is not controlled by any lights and tends to be both heavy and fast. Eventually a gap arrived and the brave pair sent off for the promised land. It was only then they noticed the railings. The railings that run along the pavement for a 100 yards designed to prevent people crossing the road at this point. Something I tried to tell them so long ago when they set out with hope in their hearts that if the chicken can get to the other side so can they. Well the chicken might get to the other side and have many near misses, but 15 seconds later it will have forgotten the whole experience. Not our prim, proper, well brought up ladies, realizing there was a barrier in their way and they were wearing dark clothes and cars were heading for them very fast and it was a 20 yard dash to safely. They will have had a moment to remember over their afternoon tea for a few days yet.

One other thing that ended today was the eight day week. We have for years started our working week on a Sunday. Now to come in line with some EU regulation we start on a Monday. So we have just had an eight day week, reminds me of a song. We also have slightly altered rotas from Monday 7 Jan, but only for a few weeks because they will be changed again once work starts on Rock Walk at the end of the month. More as soon as I have details but several ideas, including sending everyone on holiday for 3 weeks at the council's expense, have been put forward. What ever; it's not IF there will be disruptions, it's THERE WILL BE DISRUPTIONS.

Good luck to us all.

Have a good 2008.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Rock Walk Photos

I have put a few photos of what Rock Walk looks like now, before the work starts. Click here. I will add a few more once the work starts and after it has been completed.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Christmas Gone

Well Christmas has come and gone once again. Perhaps it was the fact that I spent much of November in Australia some how shortened the run up to Christmas. Even though there were signs directing the shoppers towards Christmas shopping as I wandered aimlessly round the CBD of Sydney it didn't feel like Christmas when the temperature was in the high twenties.

Anyway I thought it was a quiet Christmas for which I am grateful. My most memorable passengers over the holiday were the couple that got on at Lydl's up at Lowes Bridge. They got on with about 4 plastic bags full of food for the traditional turkey stuffing we in England are famous for at this time of year. They wanted Torr Station which must be about a mile down the road into Torquay. The fare is £1.35 each so I wanted £2.70. The reaction I got suggested they thought this a little over the top. They would sooner walk. Well much as I hate to lose a passenger I avoided being drawn into verbal fisticuffs. Years ago I might have come up with some witty remark but I have mellowed in my middle age and smiled sweetly and as they got of I annulled the tickets I had just issued. I then served the 4 or 5 other people who were waiting to board the bus. Then, surprise, surprise. While the other passengers had been boarding the couple had worked out how far they were going to have to walk and how long their arms would be with 4 plastic bags of food stretching every muscle all the way down to Torre Station. Now years ago I would have made a witty, sarcastic, cutting remark as I sold them, for a second time their tickets down to Torre. But I don't do that sort of thing anymore and I am out of practice and couldn't think of anything in time. When they got off one of the couple pointed out that the fare into town from the stop was only 65 pence so why was it so much to go to Lydl's. Well, ever helpful I pointed out that I didn't set the fares, I only collect them. But very politely.

My most memorable driver was the young lady in Union Street. She was waiting to reverse into a parking place and I was going slowly having just pulled of a bus stop so I slowed to let her go back. As she did she moved out of my way so I started to drive past. There was a big space but she made a bit of a hash of it and didn't turn the wheel enough and suddenly shot forward without regard for the fact that an eleven ton bus was moving slowly past her. I stopped at once, right next to her and about 2 inches away and watched with a small amount of horror as she struggle to get the car into reverse. When she did she still didn't seem to know I was next to her and started to move back turning the wheel frantically. Now the drivers amongst you will know that when you go back with full lock on the front of the car will swing out violently. And I am only 2 inches away from her. The screaming on the bus was mercifully drowned out by me putting my finger on the little button on the end of the indicator arm. This produces a very loud noise which makes all nearby car drivers press hard on their brake pedal and the young lady stopped while I drove off with visions of an accident report form receding in the distance.

Only New Year to go.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Art Work

As you drive down Union Street and turn into Market Street there used to be a depressing grey building. Now there is this.

The largest painting is of the view of the Marina from Rock Walk. At least it will be when Rock Walk is restored to it's former glory. At the moment there are too many bushes and trees to have such a good view of anything. All that will change next year after the Council get to grips with the restoration work.

The Scaffolding used in painting these rather pleasing pictures of how nice Torquay can look was provided by ISCA Scaffolding of Paignton. Phone number 01803 666203.

Seasons Greatings

When I think of Christmas I think of two days without buses. But then I am a simple soul.

Best wishes to all my readers, not only on this festive occasion but for the coming year as well.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Road Works GONE!

Did I mention the road works have finished, on schedule, more or less, at Livermead. Don't worry if you miss them, they are like old friends and will turn up once again without any warning. Probably two days before Easter.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Steering Wheel

Our buses have adjustable steering wheels. Very modern. Actually we have had adjustable steering wheels for lots of years. In the past you turned a knob and moved the wheel and tightened the knob. Nothing could go wrong. Unless the driver before you had a grip like a Black Hole then it was a bugger to move the knob. The buses we have now use a compressed air device which works fine, you press down on a button and a blast of air releases the catch. Except that now and then the catch doesn't release and the wheel just will not move. And when this happens you can bet the mortgage the driver you are taking over from has had the wheel as different from your position as you can get. Which is a pain in the butt, the back, the shoulders, the arms and the neck.

Rock Walk. Part 1

This is what Rock Walk looks like at the moment. Unlike the plastic bag in the previous post it should look some what different this time next month. The second biggest crane in the country is going to be used to remove most of the trees and bushes which have become unstable on the cliff face and are in danger of falling down on to the main road. Should improve the view as well. Last time I walked along Rock Walk the saying, "Can't see the woods for the trees." sprang to mind.

The work will take 3 weeks, hopefully, but considering what happens to road work estimates locally (Long Road) it could take longer which will make a pig's ear of the current estimate of £0.6 million to the tune of £50 000 per day. Going to make a pig's ear of the 12 and 12A bus routes as well. I don't understand why they didn't just cut the trees down and let them fall into the road. Repairing any damage must cost less than the hire of the crane. Would have been quicker too.

I haven't heard what out diversion will be, something horrible no doubt, involving coming down Fleet Street to the Harbour as usual and then going back up Fleet Street, up Abbey Rd, Lucius Street and Belgrave Road. Usually at this point I say something like, "Should be fun." But it wont. Actually what it will be, if the above is correct, is a useful exercise. There are some people out there who want the buses banned from Fleet Street. The only other way round is via Belgrave Road. Well for three weeks they, and everyone else will get the chance to see if Belgrave Road is a viable alternative to Fleet Street. I do hope the council manage to get parking banned in Belgrave Road for these 3 weeks.

An other idea I have heard mentioned is shuttle buses running between Castle Circus and the Harbour. Please, NO!

More when I heard more.

Click here to read the story as it appeared in the local paper

Plastic Bag from Blog Action Day

Still there after 3 months, no sign of recycling yet.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

One Satisfied Passenger, One Not So Satisfied

I was waiting in Paignton bus station after my meal break yesterday for my bus to turn up. When it did it was a low floor single decker. Unusual but not unknown. This turned out to be a nice idea for at least one of my passengers who boarded with a small child in tow. He had obviously not been looking when the bus turned up as he immediately proclaimed that he wanted to go upstairs. Mother who had been watching said "Well you can't." He disagreed and wandered down the bus and was just a little puzzled not to find any stairs. Mother was quite glad as she was laden down with enough Christmas shopping to feed most of the passengers who were already on the bus and probably would not have made it upstairs. Child wanted to get of and wait for next bus. Mother said “Not a chance”.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Woodcarvings and Christmas Shopping

The weekend, the last but one before Christmas, was dominated by Christmas Shopping and the woodcarver. The woodcarver sets his, in my opinion fairly crude carvings up at the side of the road in a large lay-bye on the Newton Road. This is the busiest road in the area and is desperately in need of a bye-pass. Rumor has it we are going to get one some time this century. Or maybe next. Who knows? Anyway people driving along the road see the carvings and lift of the accelerator to have a look. Personally I think it is so they can say, "Oh look. Someone has done some woodcarving with a chainsaw." The carver used to be here much more often, now he just turns up at Christmas. The police say they can do nothing as it would be hard to prove he is causing an obstruction. Teignbrige Council say he isn't breaking any laws setting up at the side of the road selling his goods. One thing he is doing is slowing down all the traffic each time he appears. Actually there is an other thing he is doing. He is blatantly ignoring parking restrictions that are supposed to be in force in the lay-bye. Some years ago a trader used to park a large van with a smaller van bolted to the roof to advertise vans for sale. He would leave them here for weeks and the Council brought in a parking restriction of two hours parking with no return for 24 hours. That got rid of the vans. The woodcarver arrived at 9 am on Saturday and didn't leave until 3:30pm, that's more than two hours but no parking ticket. He then turned up at 9 am on Sunday, less then 24 hours after he left. That should have been and other ticket. He then stayed till 3:30 pm. More than two hours so yet and other ticket. That's £180 it should have cost to park there over this weekend. He is likely to be there next weekend and I am sure an other £180 worth of parking tickets will go unissued while the traffic winds it's weary way past him. No great problem for a motorist who goes past once and never returns but us poor bus drivers who might go past 3 times in both directions on both Saturday and Sunday and be delayed every time it is a big pain. I did mention this problem to the depot union rep. He didn't seen the least bit concerned but then he doesn't actually have to drive a bus along this road very often.
Christmas shopping went on as usual. Passengers staggered onto the bus laden down with enough shopping to make Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer go slightly pink and proclaimed how much they hated Christmas shopping.
Well, don't do any!
Subscribe to a religion that doesn't believe in Christmas.
Ignore it completely.
Burn the Christmas Card List.
On the night of December 22, the Winter Solstice go out in the back garden and dance naked round a burning candle.
Just have a quite meal, don't invite all of your 127 known relatives round for a meal that will take 4 times as long to cook as to eat and make a fortune for who ever it is that owns Tesco's or what ever your local supermarket is.
Tell everyone you are still paying of last Christmas and are going to save the money for a nice holiday in Torquay next summer.
Or if you just can not do without Christmas then try and do all the shopping in September and not the last weekend before the big day.
Actually I don't care if everyone in Torquay decides to get on the number 12 and go shopping next weekend. I don't even care if the woodcarver sets up at 7 am and brings the Newton Road to a stand still by 9 am. Why? It's my days off on Saturday and Sunday.
Did I mention how cold it's been? No. It's been very cold round here with a wind coming in from the East, direct from Siberia; which obviously hasn't heard of Global Warming yet.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Temporary Traffic Lights

Livermead; halfway between Torquay and Preston has been the scene of more road works that the M1! When I went away they were digging Livermead up, when I got back they were still digging the road up, just in a different place. On Friday as I was heading into Torquay an other driver reported problems with the traffic lights. It seemed that they were letting 25 cars come through from the Preston side and only 8 through from the Torquay side so a big tailback had formed almost into the Harbour area. Long delays expected. When I got there I counted the cars coming from Preston, twenty five made it through. The lights then changed and eight vehicles made it through from the Torquay side, 8 got through but only because two white vans and a taxi went through on red. By now several drivers had been on the radio explaining the situation to the Paignton controller who asked any driver passing the lights if they could get the telephone number of the company providing the traffic lights so he could ring them and ask them to fix the offending lights.

Now I do know that when road works are scheduled people like Fire, Police, Ambulance and in coastal areas like ours, the Coast Guard are informed. The bus company are also informed so they can make any alterations to services. I would be a good idea if included in this information was the phone number of the company providing the traffic lights so we can ring if there are problems. It usually is the bus company who do ring in these circumstances as we are the ones who go through most often. Better still there should be a number at the Town Hall we can ring to let them know the lights aren't working properly. They could them ring the light company and say, "Your lights aren't working properly. That's an £100 fine. If they aren't working properly in an hour that will be an other £100 fine. Cheques made payable to Torbay Council please."

I mean the mechanism for the lights can't be rocket science can it? It just has to switch one light to red, wait 5 seconds and change the light at the other end to green. Then change that one back to red, wait 5 seconds and change the first light back to green. Then just repeat the whole process for the next ten years the roadworks are there.

Anyway control rang and were told someone would be down asap to fix the problem. When whoever arrived in the afternoon he was a fair minded person because after he went away the lights were now letting 25 vehicles through from the Torquay side and 8 from the Preston side. Exactly the opposite of what had been happening in the morning.

All this meant some late running. I was due in Brixham at 20:30, this being only a couple of Fridays before Christmas I expected there to be a big queue; especially as the bus in front of me had somehow been more or less on time and I was 8 minutes late. When I got there, no one there. They must all be saving up for Christmas.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Rock Walk

Torbay Council has carried out its plans to close off Torquay's Rock Walk.Fencing now blocks off access to the popular area after bad weather last weekend highlighted safety concerns.A preliminary inspection of Rock Walk took place in January and then a further more detailed inspection took place in March which found the area was becoming unsafe.

No timetable for the repairs has yet been set, but Torbay Council have already confirmed the main road will need to be closed off as part of the operation when a large crane is brought in.

The above is from the local paper, the Herald Express. Two problems here, in the 9 years I have lived in the Bay I have almost never seen anyone walking in Rock Walk and have never seen evidence of any work being done by the council to maintain Rock Walk. Now £600 000 needs to be spent there. The second problem is the last bit about the crane on the main road. This road isn't just the main road, it is the only road between the Harbour and the rest of Torbay. Get ready for serrious disruption when the work starts.

Here is a bench on Rock Walk for you sit on while you wait!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Churston Grammar School

On Tuesday I wrote a post concerning the children from Churston Grammar School. Let me make it clear, the boys and girls from this school were not misbehaving at all. What they were doing was talking and when 65 people are talking in the space the size of a double decker bus it does tend to be a bit noisy. Sorry about that but if you want silence try a Trappist Monastery. Still that was Tuesday and on Wednesday I did the same duty and drove down to Churston determined to try and maintain silence throughout the journey to Brixham. Well the journey was covered in, well not exact silence but it was very much quieter than the day before. Had the headmaster seen my blog and read the riot act to the children about upholding the honour of the school? Had me standing at the front of the bus demanding silence or else worked? Had the cat got their tongues? No; it was much simpler than that. The bus in front had been running a bit late and had picked all most all of the children and when I got there only 3 of the little darlings boarded the bus. Nice.

Some Thing Make This Job Swing.

Yesterday I picked up about 65 pupils from a local school. When I stopped at a bus stop in New Road Brixham an elderly passenger complained loudly about the behaviour of the children. An other passenger who got of at the next stop said the children had only been noisy, which is what you would expect after several hours in school. When I got to Brixham I checked the bus for an signs of improper behaviour. I could not find any half chewed remains of sandwiches that some loving mum, or dad, had made for their little darling's lunch that the little darling had decided not to eat but save to throw around the bus at all his pals on the way home. Nor could I find any partly eaten chocolate bars slowly mealting into the seats by way of reliving the boredom on a dreary ten minute bus journey. No drinks containers lay on the floor of my beautiful bus gently gurgling their contents out for unwary travellers to slip on. None of the seats had been thrown out the emergency exit at passing motorists for the fun of watching them swerve and cause a multiple pile up on the road to Brixham. Nothing to suggest mayhem had taken place on the bus at all. Just a bit of noise.
Well I am on the same duty today and after I have loaded the children I will explain to them that I had a complaint yesterday about the noise and today the bus trip would be conducted in ABSOLUTE SILENCE. At the first sign of noise I would stop the bus and wait until silence once again was established. How far would I get do you think and how many times would I have to stop before getting the two miles down into Brixham? It would be about 1 O’clock in the morning when they had all fallen asleep. So if you are heading into Brixham this afternoon and the bus in front of you keeps stopping and then pulling away again only to stop ten metres down the road, don't worry, it wont be me. I'm not that mad.

Did I mention the grapes by the way?


That was an other bus trip involving students from South Devon College, older than the school children and sadly, in one or two cases less sensible. One of the students had a bunch of grapes which instead of eating in the time houred fashion had decided to use to practice his bowling skills. He had sat in the middle seat at the back of the bus upstairs and pulled each grape of the bunch and rolled then down the bus. I only found out when the bus had got to Newton and a passenger told me. Now treading on grapes is the first stage to making wine. Drink too much wine and you fall down. Now lets cutt out the middleman and tread on a grape on the floor of a moving bus and you also fall down. Grapes are second only to banana skins in terms of slipperiness. So I told control that I had a problem with grapes and I was telling passengers about the problem and asking them not to go upstairs. No response for a while. I had an other go a bit further down the road as the downstairs section of the bus was getting a bit full. This time control said they would arrange for a controller to board the bus with brush and shovel and remove the grapes. Controller did board but no brush and had to pick each grape up one by one. Several handfulls. All good fun on a sunny afternoon.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Blogger's Block

Hi there, I've been back over a week now and only posted once. I seem to have Blogger's Block. Every time I sit in front of the computer to write a post I think to myself, "I'll just look at the news papers first." An hour later I am still looking at news papers, yesterday I made it to the Madagascar Sport.

It isn't as if nothing was happening down here, it is. Yesterday a bus shelter got knocked down. Not me, not even a bus driver. Police found a car with bus shelter type damage to it's front end a few streets away. It had been stolen by some one who either couldn't drive, not unknown, or some one with a grudge against bus shelters.

Anyway, more later today I promise.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Back home

Back home in Torquay, yes I know this isn't Torquay, did I get a warm welcome? Not a chance.

It was cold,
and windy.

But it is December in England so nothing unusual there.

First thing I noticed was it appeared that lots of trees had been torn down. I quickly realized that it wasn't the trees that had gone but the leaves had been blown away. Autumn had arrived while I was away and done what autumn does best. Make everything look cold and bleak for winter which is just round the corner.

Then as I drove up towards Newton I noticed contractors at the side of the road were pulling down trees and bushes with gay abandon. Coming back down Lymington Road more, even older trees had been cut down. I will get down there one day and find out exactly how old they were, I suspect they were even older than me. They had stood there quietly pulling in carbon in a desperate attempt to save the world for us. Now the have a carbon foot print the size of a football pitch. Then on to Long road where our council are building a business park and even more tree stumps testified to the fact that trees once stood here but now no longer do so. Through Churston on the way to Brixham even more trees had gone. not quite the destruction of the Amazom rain forest but someone needs to form a society to protect Torbay's own little forest before it is too late.

Nothing else much had changed. The 12 and 12A still ran as well as all the other wonderful bus services we run round Torbay. Oh yes. For years we have started our working week on the first day of the week, Sunday. Now, following a European directive Monday is the first day of the week and we have to change. From Christmas. There is a slight irony in that somewhere. Should be a fun time.

One more thing, the lucky winner of the photo competition recently held will be disappointed to know that I have had to change the prize from the one offered. I went to check how much the insurance for such a tour would be. I explained to the man behind the counter what was required. He rolled his eyeballs round in the time honoured fashion, one went clockwise and the other went anticlockwise, I can't exactly remember which did what, then through gritted teeth he sucked in enough air to fill the new Wembley Stadium before pointing out that 'one off' events like this created huge risks and meant massive premiums would have to be charged. He then mentioned a figure that would have made Big Gates, sorry that should be Bill Gates shudder. It certainty made me cough discretely and head for the door. I know there will be a certain amount of disappointment, sorry. The new prize is still a tour but this one is a tour round the Cider Press, the best pub in Fleet Street, in my humble opinion anyway. This tour will be limited to me pointing out where the bar is and going and finding a seat at one of the many tables while the lucky winner buys me a pint. Then, a little later, to make sure I had got the directions right I will make my way to the bar and back to the table carrying a couple of pints. Still later I will give clear, I hope, directions to where the gent's toilet is. And still later I will probably check I had got these directions right by paying a visit to said gent's. The toilet that is. Then even later we will make our way to the exit and stand in Fleet Street for ten minutes and watch 8 buses go by.

The lucky winner by the way is Steve from Brisbane who rightly said Coolangatta. So, Steve, next time you are in Torquay please claim you prize.