Wednesday, 30 May 2007
They haven't got round to hiring me as staff photographer yet but I am expecting an e mail any day now.
In the mean while, back to work tomorrow on the new summer timetables, to see what horrors await.
Monday, 28 May 2007
Today, Monday is a Bank Holiday and when we have a Bank Holiday on the Monday, which usually happens we do the same duty on the Monday we did on the Sunday and both days were, for me anyway, early starts and long duties. It is also school holidays so it has been two hard days. Not much interesting happening except for the French Traders coming over from France and setting their stalls up on the road the goes to Paignton. The Council invited them, said something about cultural exchange. What it did do was cause a lot of drivers to slow down as they drove past and say, "Oh look. French Traders." So for 7 hours getting in and out of Torquay was slow going. Some thing else to blame on the Common Market; or maybe on the council for inviting them in the first place. They have been before and we always have the same problem.
An other little problem we have had this weekend has been the failure of the traffic lights at Goodrington. Actually it hasn't been a problem for us as the lights are at a "T" junction and we are going straight on. When the lights fail at a junction the priority works as if there weren't any lights there which means we just keep going and the poor cars coming out of the side road have to give way to us. Anyway one time when I got there and some poor sod had been working on the lights for 3 hours. As I approached he pressed a switch and the lights came on, showing red. Then they changed normally, red and amber and then green. The traffic light man punched the air with joy, short lived as all the lights went out 2 seconds later. Last I saw of him as I drove away he was hitting the control box with a large sledgehammer. Must have been the right tactic as the lights worked OK all day today
Saturday, 26 May 2007
Making contact on the other hand means you spend 5 minutes at the road side swapping details, an hour filling in the insurance forms and 3 days waiting for your car to come back from the repair shop where some 17 year old apprentice mechanic who has been banned from driving for 10 years has been using it for a runabout on a pub crawl in Exeter and showing his mates how to do handbrake turns on gravel farm tracks. (Hint; Look under the back seat for any used condoms before your wife finds them). Oh yes, next year's insurance premium might not quiet be double; if you're lucky.
But some drivers like the adrenaline rush and think it's worth the risk
Friday, 25 May 2007
Thursday, 24 May 2007
Tuesday, 22 May 2007
Monday, 21 May 2007
Five years ago when I took my last bus licence medical I reached the required standard without using glasses. Then about 2 1/2 years ago I drove an 85 to Exeter. When I got to Exeter there were some road works effecting the route out, a diversion was in place. So I asked the controller what the route was, not knowing Exeter very well. He explained the route and said, "and when you get to the roundabout just follow the sign for Torquay."
When I got to the roundabout I had a little difficulty in the rain and street lamp dimness reading the signs for Torquay. So I made an appointment with a local optician who said glasses for distance work would be a good idea. And they were, and still are. I find driving without the glasses a bit of a strain, with the glasses, no problem.
Well today I went for another 5 year medical, which I passed, I can carry on driving up and down between Newton Abbot and Brixham for another 19 months. One of the things that the doctor checked was my eye sight and he told me that I actually reached the required standard without my glasses. This means that I didn't need to have paid my optician loads of money 2 1/2 years ago after all. But it is much easier with the glasses to see things like people at bus stops, traffic lights, bends in the road and signs directing me to Brixham and Newton Abbot.
Sunday, 20 May 2007
Talking of doctors I have my 5 year medical tomorrow. All bus drivers when they start driving a bus and every 5 years after they get to 45, and every year after 65 have to take this medical. It's mostly eye sight and state of heart and am I diabetic or hooked on drugs or alcohol. The company kindly pay the fee but I have to go on my day off and the only time the doctor can see me is 15:30 so it is a day hanging around waiting to see if I can continue driving a bus. After my last hopeless attempt at prediction I will give it a miss this time.
If you are interested in having a look at the form the doctor has to fill in Click Here.
Saturday, 19 May 2007
Also going back to speaking too soon I mentioned a RTC I had witnessed while waiting to take over a bus by the depot. Today I received a nice little letter from Devon and Cornwall Constabulary asking me to fill in a Witness Statement. All 6 pages. It took me ages, probably an hour to fill in. Some policeman has now got to transfer all the detail to some other form and send it in quadruple to the Home Office and god knows where else or he will get a nasty letter from head office for not filling in Form reference number Q/3478SFE/Uk/fillthisin/orgetthesack. I am not surprised that people can be a little reluctant to volunteer their names and address if the see an RTC. I tend to though, some years ago I was involve in a slight incident and a person on the bus wouldn’t give name and address,” Don’t want to get involved.” Do they thing the Mafia are going to come round and knee cap him and burn his house down or some thing. Any way I ended up in court and because I didn’t have a witness it cost me £275 in fines and costs when I was completely innocent of any offence. The other person’s witness lied through his back, and front teeth when he wasn’t even there. Long time ago now and all forgotten.
Yesterday I started at 09:33 on the Harbour side and by 09:50 I had had two small incidents that always leave me slightly annoyed. The first was a gentleman who got on and asked for a ticket to the train station and even gave me the right money, £1.35. About 15 other passengers also boarded. So I promptly forgot about the person going to the station until I got to Livermead, about a mile past the station when this anxious voiced asked me if I would tell him when we got to the train station. Why didn’t he do that when he got on? A mile down the road I went speeding past the bus stop at Christchurch when a voice at my shoulder informed me that, “I wanted that stop.” Some one had been standing just behind me in the aisle and had expected me to have noticed him. Sorry mate, too busy looking at the road ahead. I resisted the temptation to inform him that the bus stop belonged to the council and he couldn’t have it. Instead I told him I hadn’t heard the bell and dropped him of at the next stop.
Things like this annoy me because both those persons are going to go away with the impression that bus drivers deliberately drive past their stops with out stopping because we are rude, ignorant, mad, evil, sadistic, uncaring bastards who don’t give a damn. Which as you know couldn’t be further from the truth.
Cup Final Day My prediction: Manchester United 3 Chelsea 1 Wembley Stadium Great!
Thursday, 17 May 2007
"Do know the name of the road it's on?" Both sadly shake their heads. "What number bus did you get?" They walked. "How long did it take?" Not long it seems. "Do you remember passing any big shops or pubs or a Police Station? A forlorn shake of the head as the depth of the problem begins to sink in. Last chance, I use the radio and send out a call to the 80 other bus drivers who are driving round the Bay at this very minute. Maybe one of them will know where the Astra Hotel is. At this moment the lady volunteers the information that the hotel is up a hill. We are in a the Harbour area, you know, harbours tend to be all at sea level. Every where else in Torquay is up a hill. Torre is local speak for hill. Torquay means the 'Harbour by the Hill.'
They board the bus and as they have said it wasn't a long walk into town I charge then to the Police Station. Two reasons for that, one, there are a lot of hotels near the police station and two, if their hotel isn't there they can always go in the station and ask the nice person behind the desk where their hotel is.
Actually they got of at the top of town, they didn't recognise anywhere and dicided to try an other road out of town. And when I got home I had a look in the phone book and on the internet, The Astra Hotel doesn't appear anywhere and so probably doesn't appear in Torquay either.
Wednesday, 16 May 2007
This sign has recently been added to the ambiance of Paignton Bus Station. Good. The bus station has a large area of covered ground which is a nice place to skateboard if you are into skateboarding but it is not a nice place for skateboarders if you are elderly or infirm or have small children and a pile of shopping to look after while you wait for a bus. I have in the past asked a former station manager for such a notice to be put up. He assured me that the matter was in hand, but it has been in hand for over 2 years. They (?) do say better late than never. There are times when I don't agree with they, who ever they are.
I also asked the same station manager two years ago if two other signs could be put up, one, which has gone up, stating that ball games were not allowed in the bus station, that was also in hand for 2 years. The other sign I suggested hasn't made it. The one explaining where the nearest toilets are. Standing out side the staff canteen and watching people walk by looking at the various doors with slightly worried looks on their faces and watching them get to the end of the station and making their way back with slightly more worried looks on their faces and then explaining that they need to walk all the way back to the other end of the station, over the road, then over the level crossing (hopefully there won't be a train coming) and first left, should take only a couple of minutes, is not my idea of a fun pass time.
Monday, 14 May 2007
Then today I was heading for Newton, just Passing Coventry Farm Industrial Estate in slow moving traffic, a cyclist had just past me on the inside when the traffic slowed to a stop. There was a bus and a 38 tonne HGV in front of me and I could not see what was happening but I assumed some one was turning right in to the estate. Then the HGV pulled out on to the right hand side of the road followed by the bus in front of me. Then I noticed that there was a car pulling a trailer with a power boat in. The car driver looked like he had pulled over to the left and the cyclist who had just past me had run into the trailer. Not quite in front of my very own eyes but close enough. The cyclist did not appear to be hurt but his bike did not look too good and he looked decidedly upset.
Some would say this is a case of speaking too soon about not seeing accidents but maybe it is just the law of averages catching up with me. If it is the law of averages; you have caught up with me; no more please.
Saturday, 12 May 2007
After having spent the day picking up people who have been waiting in a queue for a bus we then have to wait in a queue to get rid of the bus. What happens when we finally make it to the top of the hill is the bus is cleaned out by out happy band of cleaners,(see photo below) then it is fuelled and then driven through the bus wash before being taken gently to the bus park for a night's well earned rest.
YOUR BUS SERVICE IS JUST FINE
10 May 2007
I am writing in response to P A Noyce's letter (Your View, Thursday, May 3) regarding Stagecoach buses needing to provide a more reliable service.I have just spent five days just outside Goodrington and think you have a wonderful bus service compared with West Midlands travel.The No12 bus ran about every 10 minutes, drivers are very polite and helpful.I suggest to P A Noyce if you are not happy with your bus service you should visit Wolverhampton.
If our bus decides to turn up we are greeted by miserable, unhelpful drivers who seem to find it hard to communicate with you, they then take us on what can only be described as a journey from hell as they speed down the road, jam on their breaks and throw you from one end of the bus to the other.Please make the most of what you have, I would love to get on a bus up here and be greeted with: "Hi, how are you?"Mind you, if I did I'd probably fall off the bus with shock!
Nice when someone writes something nice about us.
Thursday, 10 May 2007
While we are on writing to your MP, I read a little item on a fellow bus driver's blog (bus driver jimmy) that there was a story going round that the free bus rides for under 16s scheme that operates in London was going to be extended. I have no objection to school children being provided with free travel to and from school. Some of the children who get on my bus on their way home from school must be spending over £10 per week just getting to school. This is a big drain on a family economy, I am lucky in that my job provides free bus travel. If it didn't it would cost the tax payer £12.00. (I have a local authority free bus pass). If free bus travel to and from school is provided it will need to be funded in a fairer way the the present OAP/ Disabled bus travel is at the moment.
Some councils are getting more than they need and spending what they have left on trips to Australia for councilors to look at the effects of global warming in the outback instead of giving the money back so it can be sent to other councils like Torbay and others in the South West who are underfunded to the tune of a million quid , approx, a year. My big problem is those children who hang around on street corners with nothing to do all evening. Fine if it is nice and dry and warm. But if it is raining, windy and cold then upstairs at the back of a bus would be a much more inviting place to hang about and pass the odd cig and illegal can of beer about. Some people, especially the elderly fine such groups intimidating, particularly if their language is splattered with Anglo-Saxon words. Bad enough on a street corner but on the bus with you is enough to put lots of people of travelling by bus in the evening.
An other point about free travel for children is this; in winter when I do a school run and the weather is bad I carry 60 school children. Now the weather is dry and sunny I carry 10. The rest walk the mile or so down into town, not for the exercise but to save the bus fare, no doubt to spend on a Big Mac. But they are still getting some exercise, intended or not. Without bus fare to save they will just get the bus and the exercise will go out the window.
Anyway, if definite plans are announced re free travel for the Under 16s I will be the first to let you know.
A completely different topic, I did say that FirstBus were going to run between Torquay and Brixham in competition to our 12 service. I spoke to a FirstBus driver and he put me right. First are only extending their present service between Torquay only as far as Paignton, but it will be every 15 minutes, at present it is every 20 minutes. Present at this conversation was a member of our office staff who butted in to say that wasn't the half of it. When I asked him what he meant he refused to enlighten me. I will just have to wait and see was all he would say. He did add that the new X45 to Plymouth was part of the company's on going effort to improve services for our passengers. Right, OK.
I have just come across a blog called Plymothian Transit.It is centred on Plymouth and has more photos of buses displayed on the blog than I have even taken.
Tuesday, 8 May 2007
When I read the article over lunch it turned out that a Head Teacher from one of our local primary schools was giving the world, or that portion of the world that lived in the bay and read the paper, a warning that bad parents made for bad children. (Click here to read the whole article). He had given up teaching after 20 odd years and is seeking employment as a lorry driver to get away from the cares and stress of teaching. Try bus driving mate, no cares or stress driving a bus.
Later in the day I drove into Brixham. It was early evening at which time the bus times change from day running to evening running and I had 15 minutes waiting time before I left. Waiting for me was mother with infant (asleep) in buggy and 4 year old daughter who was eating chips, french fries if you are in the US of A. Mother wrapped the chips up in the paper and came to board the bus. I explained that she could not bring the chips on the bus and in any case I wasn't going for 15 minutes so there was plenty of time to eat the chips before the bus left.
I got of the bus for a little stretch and watched mother and child. Child by the way was what you would call a 'hand full', taking not the slightest notice of what mother was saying. She started examining each chip before eating and discarding those she did not like the look of on the floor. Was I glad I hadn't let her on the bus with the chips. Now Brixham is a fishing port, which means seagulls. Seagulls do not carefully examine chips before eating them. If you don't believe me try holding a chip up in front of a seagull and see what happens. Just don't complain to me that it took a week to get the feeling back in your fingers. Better still get a Copy of 'The Birds' from Blockbusters. So lots of seagulls arrived in double quick time. So what did mother do? Explain about the fact that gulls are permanently hungry, have sharp beaks and big wings and can spot a dropped chip faster than an African vulture can notice a wildebeest falling over? Explain the dropping litter of any sort was illegal and untidy? Tell her that some poor starving child would have been grateful for those chips? Not exactly. Not even close. She called the child, this sweet lovable child, a twat.
Some time later in this conversation which consisted of mother shouting and child ignoring and me considering putting "Sorry not in Service" up, mother unwisely asked the child did she behave this badly at school for her teacher. The child said no. More unwisely still the mother asked why not. Child replied, "Because I like my teacher."
I then boarded the bus and started the engine. The three of them boarded the bus, mother presenting me with a day ticket. She could have been going on stop or all the way to Newton Abbot, which is over an hour away. Why didn't I put "Out of Service" up and drive away when I had the chance? The journey consisted of more of the same but included mother telling everyone on the bus what they are ready knew, the child was a bit of a hand full. They got of at Shiphay Lane which is three quaters of the way to Newton
Saturday, 5 May 2007
Totnes town centre, catch the 200 from Torquay or Paignton or the 88 from Paignton, takes 25 minutes. Or 5 minutes by motor bike provided you actually get there. Worth the trip.
Friday, 4 May 2007
OK. Now this morning I was running through a few thoughts for a post coming up next month and I realised how few accidents, sorry RTCs I had actually seen happen. I have arrived at the scattered wreckage and the police car and ambulance and on a couple of occasions the fire engine but have been there at the moment of impact very few times when you consider the number of miles I have driven in the last 46 years. Now this afternoon I was siting on a low wall down on the Newton Road waiting to take over a bus. The traffic was very heavy going into Torquay what with it being Bank Holiday weekend. (It's going to rain by the way.) The road in front of me is two lane but there are traffic lights ahead and if you want to go straight on you have to be in the left lane. The guy driving the car in the outside lane just turned his wheel to move into the left lane without any interest in the fact that there was already a car in the nearside lane. CRASH! Right in front of me. I didn't even have to stand up to take the photo.
The passenger of the car in the nearside got out and spoke to the driver of the other car and indicated that he should move his car to the side of the road for the exchange of details. The car driver in the outside lane then moved forward slowly and pulled into the left lane, which was what he wanted to do in the first place. I put the camera back in my back thinking the action was over. We then all watched dumbfounded as the car continued up the road and vanished slowly (still heavy traffic remember) into the distance. I think you get 6 penalty points on your licence for leaving the scene of an accident.
Anyway there was me thinking I hadn't seen an accident for ages and then I see one. A little note to the powers that organise these sort of coincidences, I have had a Premium Bond for almost fifty years and have never won a prize yet.
Thursday, 3 May 2007
A regular passenger got on this morning and as I was waiting time he had a little moan about some of the things he had seen while travelling on the buses. I thought he was going to have a go at the group of young people we had visiting our pubs last week end but he started on a story about some one getting on a bus and flashing a ticket at the driver and shouting, "It's an explorer." and walking down the bus holding his finger over the ticket.
(Sound familiar, click here if it doesn't).
I realised that he was telling a story that had happened to me a week or so back but hadn't noticed that I was the driver involved. He seemed to be enjoying telling the story so much I didn't have the heart to break the news to him that I already knew the ending.
Note; I know it is charabanc but when you are 8 years old it sounded like charabang.
Wednesday, 2 May 2007
The other little story is a continuation from a story I heard on Friday that FirstBus are going to run a service from Torquay to Brixham. This is also the 12 route and our most important service in the Bay. Not very nice of FirstBus. I do remember an other bus company trying the same thing a few years ago, but it didn't last. Come to think of it, the company went out of business shortly afterwards. Anyway I went into work today as I usually do and there it was, a declaration of intent; a notice asking for drivers who are interested in driving on the new X45 Paignton to Plymouth route to start in July. FirstBus already run a service X80 to Plymouth. For how much longer I ask myself?
Tuesday, 1 May 2007
It must have been a hard day today driving a bus in Manchester.