Thursday, 31 December 2009

Christmas Week

I've been working hard the last couple of weeks. The hotel was full to the brim and we have needed two coaches full time to cope. So on Sunday 20 Dec I went up empty to Walsall and stayed overnight. Because I got there fairly early I had plenty of time in the hotel so I got a bus into Walsall town. Snow covered, cold and damp and Sunday evening. I don't think I saw Walsall at it's best. Next day I was up at 6:30 to pick up in Leicester. The car park at the hotel was very slippy and a memo came up on the dash, "Danger. Black Ice." No problem once I got on the motorway. Clear all the way back down to Torquay. Tuesday a morning tour to Teignmouth and Dawlish then to Trago Mills in the afternoon. Very cold. Wednesday should have been a trip to Dartmouth, only been there once and didn't know my way around. A trip up the river was an optional extra. In the afternoon we were going to go over to Brixham which I am familiar with. The lack of knowledge of the Dartmouth tour wasn't a problem, all I had to do was follow the other coach. But the other coach didn't run. The driver couldn't get his car out of the road he lives in due to ice. It had been minus 3C overnight and now it was raining on top of icy roads. Not everyone in the hotel wanted to go out for the day, I didn't blame them, cold and wet weather suggested that it wouldn't be pleasant. However enough of then decided to go so I set off wishing I was back home, safe in bed. The road to Totnes was blocked due to an accident so a quick change of plan. Into Brixham first.

Brixham was damp, it stopped raining just as I got there and started rain an hour and a half later just as I was leaving. It was quiet as well, the visable population went from 3 to 33 when my passengers got of the coach. After Brixham I headed for the higher ferry across the River Dart, While on the ferry it started sleeting. Then the coach grounded coming off the ferry and for a minute or two I couldn’t move. I had a mad idea we would be stuck there for ever. But the ferryman told me to turn the wheel and it just gave me a bit of height and we cleared the ferry. Still sleeting when I pulled up next to the River Link booth and was approached by a guy trying to sell the boat trip up the river. The sleet was so bad that Kingswear on the other side of the river had vanished. No one fancied a river trip. In fact it was so bad no one even fancied getting off the coach. So we went back to the hotel and had an early day. Probably a good idea. Listening to Radio Devon was boring in the end, nothing but roads closed due to accidents. The A38 was closed for two hours in both directions then opened the closed again. The A380 Exeter to Torquay road was closed for 3 hours in both directions and several minor roads were closed, nationally it was the same. Not a good day to be driving.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Please Don't Steal Buses, You Could Kill Someone.

And on a completely different topic this short cut takes you to a video shot from a Police helicopter over Wakefield in West Yorkshire. Shane Oldroyd had been drinking and had no money to get home so he stole a bus. A quarter of a million pounds was the cost of his bus ride and he was jailed for at least 3 and a half years today. His driving was described by the judge as 'wicked, dangerous and reckless'. He drove with as much care as the average litter lout drops cigarette butts on the pavement.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Good News From Copenhagen

I'm not going to call it Global Warming anymore. In case it is summer where you live I would mention that it is cold here, -1C last night and 0C today; plus a wind chill factor of -6C. Now I know there are places where that would be regarded as a balmy spring day but not here on the south coast of England. Not until the Gulf Stream stops anyway. Even though it was bitterly cold we made it down to the Irish pub on the Harbour at lunch time. There another hardy drinker poured cold water on the idea of Global Warming and wondered at the point of all the world leaders meeting in Copenhagen. At first I thought he was joking, using the most important meeting in the history of the world, to add weight to his comment about how cold it was. But he wasn't, he really did think that the planet wasn't getting hotter, how could it be given that this was the coldest day in living memory. Some peoples living memory is shorter than others.

But I wasn't despondent, he was in a pub in Torquay, not in the conference in Copenhagen. The people in the conference, world leaders must be well informed, responsible people with the best interests of their people and their peoples’ children uppermost in their hearts and minds. A steely determination to do the right thing. To go down in history as the group the saved the world. They have known this get together was important. They would have spoken to scientists and advisors learned in their fields who would have been able to explain in detail the effects of the rise of more than 2C on weather patterns around the world and how these changes would effect the world's ability to provide enough food and water to keep the population nourished and what steps are needed to keep the rise in temperature below 2C. They wouldn’t, like me have listened to “the man in the pub”. Optimism will shine through even when there are no logical or even illogical reasons to suggest it is the right frame of mind to switch the evening news on to find out what steps our courageous world leaders had decided on to save the planet or to be a little more accurate, all the living creatures on the planet. (Those bigger than single cell organisms at least).

So this group of people, with all the facts at their finger tips, all the graphs showing this and that, all the projections of what would happen if they did nothing, all got round a very big table and decide that nothing needed to be done. I can not think the side meeting between India, China, S. Africa and that other country will have any effect other than to really, really upset at least 50% of the other countries on the planet. Big Brother putting his foot down again. So Global Warming isn’t happening. Terrible things aren’t going to happen to the weather. People will not starve or die of thirst in their hundreds of millions or even billions later on in this or any other century. A large proportion of plant and animal species aren’t heading for extinction.

Well thank God for that.

BA & Unite

In a recent post I suggested that it was most unlikely that the ballot held by the union Unite to strike was anything but completely legal and above board. Sometimes even I get things wrong.

Now I am not suggesting that the union deliberately used tactics to alter the outcome of the voting but it would have been better if they had taken a lot more care to ensure they would not find themselves in the position they are in now. Like telling their members in advance that they would be on strike for 12 days over Christmas and not spring it on them after they had voted to strike. The public reaction to this as well as cabin crews writing on the net and the failure of Flyglobespan should make the cabin crew think more carefully before putting their cross in the square marked " Do you want to be hated by a million people?" in the next ballot, if the union are stupid enough to have one that is.
Mind you the whole thing could be solved quite simply, sell BA to Virgin and have done with it.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Bus on it's Side

Not often you see a double decker on it's side. The driver of the red truck was arrested after this incident in London. The bus, a C3, was hit as it drove along a main road. Three people were injured in the accident including the driver of the bus. None of the injuries are life threatening thank goodness. A video, (available here) taken a hour or so later showed the front of the bus and someone had changed the destination blind to read "Sorry, not in service." A nice touch. The driver has since been released from hospital but the two passengers injured are still detained in a serious but stable condition.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Public Transport Over Christmas (Not just in Torquay)

As you can see there are, as usual, no buses on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day and reduced services on other days. The curtailment of services on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve at 20:00 also continues. Plan your journeys with care.

If you were planing to fly somewhere this Christmas by British Airways, the peoples favorite airlines then I regret you wont be able to unless something dramatic turns up. The vote by 9 to 1 to strike leads one to a choice of 3 conclusions. One, the vote was rigged. Two, given BA's desperate financial situation, the cabin crews are all, well 90% of them, off their heads. Three BA really are treating their cabin crews very badly indeed. Choice one is the least likely in this day and age. It is hard to rig votes now a days given the scrutiny
that such a ballot would be under. Two I also find unlikely, there are just too many of them for all of them to have switched their brains off all at the same time. So maybe they have a justifiable grievance against management in which case lets hope, possibly forlornly, that this strike doesn't actually happen other wise in the short term there will be a million very upset people about this Christmas. In the long term; will BA stay the peoples favorite airline and more worryingly, will BA stay an airline.
At least there is one slight consolation if the strike does go ahead. It will put back the impact of global warming a few days with all these planes sat on the ground over Christmas.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

What Are You Doing To Save The Planet?

I was watching the news the other day and the Copenhagen conference came up. Seems to me we need drastic measures to be taken soon if the world isn't going to be come a pretty grim place in a generation or two. Now if it the weather patterns change to the point being suggested and people begin to starve or their homes get washed away some time after 2050 then it really doesn’t concern me as I probably wont be around then. But future generations are going to say some nasty things about me, like why didn’t I do something to stop emitting all the greenhouses gases entering the atmosphere and making life more or less intolerable for those who manage to be born any time after 2050. I mean it isn’t as if I didn’t know it was going to happen, back in 1347 no one knew the Black Death was about to enter Europe and kill half the people living there and even if the did there was not much they could have done about other than pray. But I can do something about the present problem. And I do, I switch the TV off at night, no stand by for me. I only fill the kettle up with just enough water, saves on the fuel bill as well as saves the planet. I take a bag with me to the shops, no free plastic bag for me. I don’t drive a car 2 miles to the shops and back when I could walk, I haven’t got a car that‘s why.

Thinking about cars I remember something suggested in the 70s when we all believed petrol was about to run out. Each car would have a number, between 1 and 5, displayed prominently front and back. Monday would be Day 1 Tuesday Day 2 through to Friday Day 5 Saturday would be Day 1 Sunday Day 2 Monday Day 3 and so on for ever. If you had 3 on your car you couldn’t drive it on any Day 3. If you did it would go in the crusher. Your driving licence would be stamped with the same Day number as your car and if you bought an other car it would have the same Day number. This would reduce the greenhouse gases produced by the car by 20%. That sounds pretty good to me. But there is a snag. There always is. Can you see Gordon Brown or Berack Obarma or that nice Mr Rudd or any other world leader going on their National TV and explaining this to the car driving public? And wining the next election.

Now there was an other TV program later on that evening dealing with the same subject which mention that car emissions only amounted to 15% of all greenhouse gases. So the drastic measure I have outlined here, that of giving up the use of your car for 2 days a week would only reduce the total carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere by 5%. It would do nothing to actually reduce the CO2 that is already there. Now I know there is new technology on it’s way that will produce cars that don’t have internal combustion engines. How long will it take until every internal combustion engine in the world is switch off for ever? Ten years?

But that isn’t the point, if a draconian measure like the one I suggested with the disruption to the western world’s life style would have such a negligible effect then what sort of effect would any conceivable effective measure have on us? And would we be prepared to put up with it to save a world that many of us wont be around to see?

There has been talk of emails that have been passed between scientists that global warming sceptics are saying prove that it's all big a lie. I hope it is but some how I doubt it.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Gas Leak In Union St

This was the Union St, the main shopping street in Torquay this morning. A small gas leak in one of the shops and the road was closed. Amongst the fire engines and gas board truck sits the Land Train. A case of being in the right place at the right time.
Here crowds of people wait for the all clear so they can get about their shopping.

And a number 12 caught up in the traffic mayhem that always accompanies such incidents. The whole thing started at 10:30 and the road was opened just after 12.

Knock On Effects

I am not too worried about finding myself persona non gratia for taking photos from a bus I’m not driving. As opposed to taking photos from a bus I am driving. In this instance I am on the side of Stagecoach here. This delay caused by the woodcarver is clear and does interfere with bus timetables. I know this from personal experience from my time as a 12 driver and from my experience on Saturday. On my way up to Newton the traffic was clear and we made good time all the way to Newton. The only time we dropped below about 35 mph was when we stopped at bus stops. As the bus went past the lay-by the wood carver was just setting up. On the way back traffic from Pen Inn was slowed right down until we passed the carvings. I then watched the traffic going the other way, an hour before it was travelling briskly all the way to Newton, now it was a very slow crawl all the way from Scott’s Bridge. What had happened since I went up to Newton to cause this change? The carvings had arrived, that’s what.

As to only a small delay, I do know from experience that 10 minutes is not an unusual length of time to be added going up to Newton and the same added coming back. If this is only a single journey between Newton and Torquay it wouldn’t be too bad but on an average shift a bus driver will make this trip 3 or maybe 4 times. Each time he will get later and later so instead of getting into the terminus at Newton and Brixham and having the 5 minute scheduled rest break he has to unload, load and pull straight off. Then when it comes to his meal break which may be scheduled for 45 minutes he is late and has to rush his meal and have his break reduced to the bare minimum of 30 minutes, not to good for the digestion. On top of that, because he is late some passengers will be moaning at him, not good for anything. Then he may be tempted to rush and end up driving like a another driver mentioned recently. But he resists and then he ends up finishing late and getting home late and his wife will have a go at him and the children will wonder who this strange man is, not good for the marriage. Little knock on effects spreading out like ripples in a pond. Who knows where they end up?

Monday, 7 December 2009

Trouble on the Newton Road. Again

This video was shot out of a window on the top deck of a number 12 coming from Newton down to Torquay. It shows the bus travelling fairly slowly along the road. It isn't travelling slowly because there is a lot of traffic on the road but because some drivers are slowing down to look at something by the side of the road. This is a repeat problem at this time of year when a woodcarver sets up his carvings by the side of the road. It can add 20 minutes to the travelling time between Newton and Torquay which at the end of the day can add up to a lot of people waiting a long time for a bus. The police say there is nothing they can do about it as it would be difficult to prove his carvings were the reason for the traffic being held up. Actually all they need to do is put a parking ticket on his Land Rover because there is a parking restriction of two hours with no return within 24 hrs. So if he comes back the next day he gets an other parking ticket. Two times £60 would knock any profit in the head. The video shows the bus going slowly but speeding up the moment it goes past the carvings. Point proved I think.

The Wood Carver is Back Slowing the Traffic Down on the Newton Road

The police, the last time I spoke to them about the problems and delays caused by the Woodcarver displaying his some what crude carving, I think he uses a chainsaw, said there was no evidence that he was disrupting the flow of traffic. He will be there next week and the week after that.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

66 To Day.

Last Sunday I went up to Walsall as usual. One little incident on the way up happened just before Bristol as it was getting dark. A car in the left lane travelling at 50 mph was showing no rear lights. It really was dark enough for then to be on and several drivers had flashed their lights as they pulled out to pass the car. I joined in the fun but as I went past the car I noticed something that passing car drivers would not be able to see. The dash board lights were on even though the rear lights and front lights weren't. So the driver of this dark car would be wondering why everyone was flashing lights at him. I hope he got home safely.

Later on as I pulled away from Michealwoods Service area it started to rain. I still had 75 miles to go and it rained all 75 miles. Driving along a crowded, rain drenched motorway is not my idea of fun.

The next day on the way home I was 10 miles down the M5 when one of those little incident happened that I still don't understand. I was following an other coach at 60 mph ( a safe distance behind) in the centre lane. In the left lane were several HGVs travelling at 55 mph. I could see there was a white transit van in front of the other coach also in the centre lane but doing 55 mph. It continued doing 55 mph in the centre lane along side a tanker which was in the left lane. me and the other coach followed the white van for 10 miles, stuck in the centre lane. Eventually the tanker slowed down slightly to allow the van to move in. What did the white van do? Yes go it in one. It also slowed down. Another 5 miles passed before the van finally pulled in to the left lane. Me and the other coach stayed in the centre lane to pass the white van. Remember it had been doing 55 mph. But as the other coach drew level with the white van it increased it's speed to 60 mph leaving us still stuck in the centre lane. We stayed like this for another 5 miles before white van left the motorway, hopefully never to return.

Couple of days later I watched on the news a 25 metre long HGV attempt to take to the road from a depot in Lincoln. It was stopped by the police who said it is too long, legally, to drive on British roads. The developer of this vehicle is going to take the Department of Transport to court in an attempt to change the law. It seems that if a HGV is carrying light items like corn flakes the vehicle volume is full well before it’s maximum weight is reached. I await the outcome with baited breath but not too baited.

It’s still raining more often than not and one of my gutters is dribbling water down the wall and it’s coming into the house decidedly uninvited. All I need is a dry day and I can fix the problem but every time I look at a weather forecast there is a big blue cloud centred over Torquay,

I took a trip up to Newton Abbot today, at least on a bus you are out of the rain. Waited for the number 12 then two turned up together. Should I get on the first or second bus. Two together means one must be running late. Usually in this circumstance I get the one that’s running 5 minutes early and spend 5 minutes waiting time while the other bus hurtles off to Newton Abbot. It’s bit like the old days when there were spertrate queues in banks, I would always end up behind the guy paying in £6000 in pennies. I still have the same luck. My driver set of like Jason Button only slightly quicker. Every set of red traffic lights were approached at top speed with brakes applied only at the last minute and with much shuddering. Bus stops the same, it was as if the driver hoped the passengers would exit through the front window. Except at one stop where he didn’t even bother to stop even though someone had rung the bell. Actually he forgot someone had rung the bell he was too busy getting upset by an incident of his own making. We went round a corner and there was a stationary car blocking the road. The door was open and an elderly gent was struggling to get out. Our hero drove a bout a centimetre from the back of the car and blew the horn. Several times. Now I knew exactly what was now going to happen; and it did. The struggling elderly gent ceased struggling and took his time getting out of the car. He then discussed the world situation with the driver of the car, in depth. Eat your heart out Jeremy Paxman. By the time all this was over and the car set off the bus drivers memory had failed and he went straight passed the next bus stop even though someone had rung the bell. We did stop at the next stop and two people both much older than me got off and had an uphill walk back to where they had hoped to have got off.

I would point out that the reason I mention this well below expected standards ride is because such rides are rare, it’s a long time since I’ve been on a bus driven so badly.

The journey back from Newton Abbot wasn’t without it’s little problem but more on that tomorrow. Also I am not working tomorrow (Sunday) so I might go and watch some rugby. If it isn’t raining.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Sunday morning is a half day tour round Teignmouth and Dawlish, two sea side towns a few miles up the coast from Torquay. What this entails is a drive out through Welswood and Babbacombe with a running commentary on the way. Usually I mention the human arm bone found in Welswood, with human teeth marks in it which some learned professor from Cambridge University had the nerve to suggest that some people in Torquay were actually cannibals. Now I know times are hard but we don't eat holidaymakers, or even our neighbours here in the English Riviera. Not anymore anyway, the arm bones are 9000 years old and was found in Kent's Cavan. Up through Babbacombe and a quick mention of Babbacombe Downs, the Cliff railway, The Model Village and The Bygones Museum. If there is time I will mention the Man They Couldn't Hang as well. Busy life driving a coach.

Then along the coast road to Dawlish with a few facts about the place and the railway line built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, described by some as the most scenic rail line in England, before opening the door and letting them walk around the place for an hour or so, a bit of sightseeing and shopping. So far I have been doing this every Sunday for the last 4 months and until today have been lucky with the weather, it’s been dry. But today I got soaked going to work, soaked checking the coach and it rained all the way up the coast road. But just as I got to Dawlish the sun came out and stayed out for the next 3 hours.

The photo is of the railway station in Dawlish and shows two things. One, what a nice bright sunny day it was and two, why Dawlish Railway Station got so many votes on a Radio Devon phone in program the other day to decide which station was the worst in Devon. If you know a worse station then it must be bad.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

A Big Thank You from My Mate Chris Lewis (Cllr)

CONTROVERSIAL Torbay parking meters are raking in £200,000 more than expected, it has been revealed.
Deputy mayor and cabinet member for transport, Cllr Chris Lewis said the surplus was likely to be spent on other things which have come in over budget, such as funding concessionary bus fares.

As an avid user of a concessionary bus pass and a Torbay Council tax payer I would like to extend a big thank you to all those car owners who have been putting money in the meters. Well done one and all. Especially to all those who heard about the coming of the meters and said they would never park in Torquay again.

Fleet Street and not a boarded up shop in sight.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

My Flu Jab

On Tuesday I received a letter from my doctor inviting me to call in for a Swine Flu jab. Wednesday morning I went along and submitted myself to the terrors of the needle. When I asked if it would hurt the nurse said, “Of course it will hurt. I’m about to stick a needle in your arm.” How honest. Unlike all those injections I got as a child, small pox, TB, Polio, tetanus where the nurse used to say this won’t hurt and it always did. The nurse said I may end up with a sore arm and short-lived mild flu like symptoms. The whole thing took about 30 seconds, I didn’t even get offered the cup of tea and a biscuit followed by a 20 minute lie down.

Later that evening my arm started to hurt and I did feel a bit old for an hour or two. Cleared up now. So I am looking forward to not getting Swine Flu this winter, like most people I expect. Whether they have had the jap or not.

Watch this blog to see if the injection works. I did have Asian Flu in 1958, two and a half weeks in bed feeling rotten is not something I want to try again.

Nothing in the paper explaining what the helicopter was doing the other night.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Late Night Noise, and the Police do nothing about it.

On my way home this evening, walking because I can't use my bus pass after 11pm, and it was only just after 11, I heard the not too gentle sound of a helicopter flying towards the centre of Torquay. Now 45 minutes later it is still there, still making lots of noise while most of Torquayions (those who live in Torquay) are tucked up in bed trying to sleep. Hovering helicopters do make a lot of noise and use megalitres of carbondioxcide producing fuel.

Now last time this happened it was even later and it was there from about 2 am till 3:32 am. Just hovering. I expected to read in the paper the next day there had been a murder or a nest of fundamental terrorists discovered here in peaceful downtown Torquay. What did I find. Two car thieves has successfully evaded capture dispite all the D&C Police could throw at them.

Devon and Cornwall Police were recently in the news explaining how they had to cut 17 million quid from their annual budget. Is this the way to do it?

It's been there an hour now.
I'll let you know what it was all about tomorrow.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

No Work on Sunday

Normally I work on Sunday but this week there was a change of plan. This meant I was able to go and watch the Under 12 rugby team. I have been watching them of and on since they were the Under 9 rugby team but this would be the first time I have seen them this season. Most of the game they spent in Paignton's half of the pitch but 3 daft mistakes and Paignton scored 3 tries. At least it was a nice sunny day after the wind and rain we had over the week end.

The yacht in the top picture snapped it's anchor chain and spent a few hours wandering round the Bay before being driven onto the beach here in Torquay at high tide in the early hours of Sunday morning. The owner spent the best part of the day digging the keel and rudder out of the sand and with a little assistance from a shallow draft boat managed to get refloated at high tide on Sunday afternoon. No damage I don't think except that he was too embarrassed to talk about the incident to our reporter. The boat, called Sooshe comes from Brixham, as does the owner.
Monday I went up to the Midlands to pick up an other bunch of happy holiday makers. The wind on the motorway north of Bristol was hard work but otherwise uneventful.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Saturday's Storm

All day Friday the TV weather forecasters had been warning that 70 mile per hour winds and torrential rains were on the way. Should be here in the early hours of Sunday morning and continuing all day. Well it was a bit breezy but the rain was merely heavy showers with plenty of sun shine. It has had a couple of effects though, Torquay Harbour (seen here) is usually a bit more crowded than this and on Sunday my morning tour to Dawlish and Teignmouth has been canceled, not enough people want to risk being blown away. Leaves me with a Sunday lie in which is nice and half a day short in my pay packet which isn't so nice.

Friday, 13 November 2009

A MAN was faced with a two-and-a-half mile walk home when a bus driver refused to accept his free pass four minutes past the 11pm deadline.

Stuart Brooks, 61, of Raddicombe Close, Brixham, had to walk for two hours following his twice-weekly darts night at The Bell, Brixham.

Stuart usually uses his free bus pass to get home and was waiting for the number 24 to Kingswear when he heard the St Mary's Church clock strike 11pm.

He said: "I showed my pass and started walking up the bus then the next minute, the driver said I have got to pay.

"I said I have always used this pass for the last bus.
"I had to get off the bus. I was too embarrassed to say at the time but I had no money left.

"I had my £12 which I use to buy four pints and I spent that."

The former bus driver and long-distance lorry driver has been claiming incapacity benefit for more than three years for spinal arthritis.

He said the walk had left him in great pain.

"My ankles and back are killing me. I am really having a job to walk."

A Stagecoach spokesman said that the bus passes are governed by times set down by Torbay Council.

She said: "Outside of these times our drivers must charge customers the appropriate fare which does place our drivers in a difficult position.

"Our drivers are empowered to use their discretion in the event of a vulnerable person being unable to pay their fare.

"It appears that this may not have happened on this occasion, although we have not had the opportunity to interview the driver.

"However, we would like to apologise to the gentleman concerned for the distress and inconvenience caused and if he would like contact us we can investigate the matter further to ensure that the appropriate action is taken."

The above is an item in the Herald Express about a concessionary bus pass holder being refused free travel after 11 pm. There are 6 comments on the this story, 3 of which are uncomplimentary to Stagecoach and Torbay Council. Of the others one suggest that the gentleman concerned, Mr S. Brooks of Brixham, should have caught an earlier bus and also should have had some change left over for emergences and an other, noting that Mr Brooks had terrible arthritis suggested he shouldn't be playing darts. A third person commented that this kind of thing happens all the time the Herald Express will print any old garbage. The last comment, by me, points out the 11 pm deadline isn’t set by either Stagecoach or Torbay Council but by central government. And I quote:-
(a) at any time on a Saturday or Sunday or on any day which is a bank holiday in England and Wales under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971; or
(b) in the period from 9.30 am to 11.00 pm on any other day,

Now I can understand the not before 9:30 am restriction, children have to get to school and workers, what left of them, have to get to work but why have the government stopped us oldies using our passes after 11 pm. Do they think we all turn into Vampires that late at night?

And what happens if the bus is due at 11.00 pm but is a few minutes late? That isn’t the fault of the pass holder, the bus should have been there before or at 11:00 but wasn’t. The problem is the wording in the Act states the pass may be uses in the period between 9.30 am and 11.00pm. So if the bus is late, tough luck.

This is an other example of how badly some parts of this legislation were thought out from the definition of ‘disabled’ down to how the money each council are to receive to run this scheme.
Write to your MP and complain.

PS Writing to your MP is easy, all you need to write on the envolope is his/her name followed by MP and on the next line write Houses of Parliment.


Gorden Brown MP
Houses of Parliment

Or click here to use email

You do know her/his name don't you.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Union Street, Torquay

Union Street in Torquay is the main shopping centre. In the last 18 months however it has lost a few, quiet a few, of those shops. There is a light at the end of the tunnel though. Woolworths used to be the biggest shop until it closed in January. Now a Fashion story has taken over the building and the truck you can see is busy pumping out the flooded bilges and scaffolding covers the front so this isn't going to be a fly by night job like some. Even HMV have moved into the old Dixon story which had been empty for a couple of years and briefly came to life as a short lived clothes shop. Across the road from the old Woolworth store is an empty shop and someone has attempted to prove international political activism isn't dead here in humble Torquay.

Meanwhile down the down in Fleet Street a new pub is about to open and an old pub is about to change hands. The new pub have moved into the Winter Gardens. It a a Weatherspoon's pub and will be named after Torquay's most famous resident. No not Basil Fawlty, the one and only Agatha Christie and will open later this month. It is across the road from a pub called Bed. Bed came to fame when the owner got a parking ticket, he was parked for 45 minutes on a double yellow line. Next day a sign appeared informing the world, or at least that part of the world that passed his pub that traffic wardens were barred from his pub. The pub is now closed. Bit more on pubs, Yates's which is down a side street off Fleet Street and might just be a foot or two above sea level has changed hands and the new owners asked the readers of the Herald Express to suggest a new name. They even offered a hundred quids worth of beer for the best suggestion. Now Fleet Street does flood from time to time so if you are in Torquay nip in the 'Prone to Flooding' sometime. If any of my prize beer is left I will buy you a pint.

Soon to be the Agatha Christie.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Dudley Bus Station & Castle

This is Dudley, birth place of Duncan Edwards, Footballer. Normally by the time I get here I am running late and don't have time to stand around taking photos but on Monday I didn't have a pick up in Wolverhampton so I got here with time to spare. This shot was the only one to include the Castle so this is the one you get.

The week before I didn't get to Dudley or Wolverhampton, instead I ended up in Leeds. It's a long time since I have been to Leeds and I hope it is a long time before I go back. Sorry Leeds nothing against the place, I am sure it is a fine city with lots of wonderful people but it is an extra 2 hours 30 mins drive each way which makes it a long two days. Even Stagecoach didn't work me that hard.

Friday, 6 November 2009

The Road to Hell........................

Yet an other story from the local paper. The council have managed to get an extra £590 000 out of the Government to pay for “free” bus travel for us over sixties. Central government can be generous when it wants to be. Shame it wasn’t generous on this occasion. Over half a million quid not generous I hear you ask. No, it’s mean, it’s also going to course a reduction in childrens services that are provided by the council and will in time bugger up our local bus services and lead to job losses in an area that has the an extremly high unemployment level as it is. The sum mentioned above is to go towards the cost of next years “free” bus travel. So this year we are still £2 million down.

I am sure Gordon Brown didn’t intend this mess when he came up with the idea of “free” bus travel but it does need sorting out before serious damage is done.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Stagecoach Do Have CCTV on Their Buses and Bus Stations

A footnote to a recent post regarding a story in the Herald Express. The story was about a young pregnant woman who claimed she had been humiliated and devastated when she was first berated by the driver of the bus she was travelling on and then forced to pay £5.00 to clean up after she had been sick on the bus. She had also claimed that she had been so upset that she had left the bus before getting to her destination.

CCTV cameras spotted her actually getting of the bus in Paignton Bus Station, two stops after the alleged incident. She was seen laughing and talking to other people, hardly the action of someone who had just been through the immensely disturbing ordeal she had discribed on the front page of the local paper.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Gone at Last; no sorry.

Look at this picture and look at the header picture. What's missing? Got it in one. Sorry but it is only a temporary gap in the scenery, it will be back in February. One passer by expressed the hope that it had blown away in the recent high winds with Nick Bye desperately hanging on to the tethering rope trying to keep his baby in the Bay. No chance, it was loaded on a trailer to be taken away and spend the winter in a shed somewhere. The balloon not the mayor.

Now if you live in the area and read the local paper (there is a link on this page somewhere) you will have read about the bus driver who charged a pregnant lady £5 after she was sick on his bus. Stagecoach have no policy of charging anyone for being sick on their buses and a driver is most unlikely to try and implement such a policy on his own. If he did I expect he would be joining the growing crowd round the door to the Jobseekers office. For a fiver? I doubt that. I think there has been a little bit of a misunderstanding here that will all be sorted out with the passing of time.
If I hear anymore, that I can publish, I will keep you posted.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Still Alive, just a bit lethargic.

Been an odd ten days, mostly with minor and a couple of major things going wrong. Here are the minor problems. First the cats, who have eaten the same cat food without a word of complaint for months both decided to stage a hunger strike. The local pet store doesn't sell the other kind of dry food I know they will eat so after watching them slowly waste away, starring at me with mournful, accusing eyes for two days I gave up and took a bus ride to Paignton for a 2 kg bag of Science Plan for old cats. Couple of spoonfuls down and they got through it like a couple of demented vacuum cleaners on speed. A result. Then a few hours later, time for next meal they both just walked away and started looking through the phone book for the phone number of the RSPCA. Now they are eating Whiskers with about 4 kg of dry food going mouldy in the cupboard.

Then my partner's phone got bust so a new phone was needed. As he is going to the US of A next year that meant a triband phone. At least the new phone, a Nokia is better than the old Samsung. But there was the setting up the ring tones and transferring the new number back to the old number and all the contacts to be entered. Then the central heating stopped working so the engineer had to come round and make those noises all heating and car repair people make exactly 15 seconds after looking at the offending machine. The hissing sound that is produced by sucking in air through the teeth. I actually know someone who was thrown out of the central heating engineering school because he couldn't make that sound.

Then I was out taking photos and I showed someone how to switch the camera to store the photos in something called RAW. I then went on and took about 40 photos still in RAW. Now taking photos in RAW and processing them on the computer is time consuming, especially when I haven't the vaguest idea how to do the processing. None of the photos was all that special so I ended up deleting them just to save my sanity.

When I go up to the West Midlands I drop off at Oldbury, Dudley, Wolverhampton, Wednesbury and Walsall and on Monday on my way back I pick up at the above in reverse order. Well this Sunday morning I had been talking to an other coach driver and he was telling me he had just come back from a trip to the Lake District. His first pick up had been in Plymouth, then Plympton, Ivybridge, South Brent, Totnes, Paignton, Torquay, Kingskerswell, Newton Abbott and Exeter. Must have taken forever. I had a good snigger at his misfortune, silly me. Now as I am going up to the W Midlands I don't know exactly where I will be picking up until I meet up with a company minibus at Frankley Services on the M5. The driver of the minibus takes some of my passengers and gives me the next day's passenger list. As well as the 5 mentioned above there were two extra, Stafford and Cannock, neither of which I had been to before. So I spent some little time Sunday evening on the coach programming the satnav to these places. The satnav doesn't have batteries but has to be plugged in. Walsall was already in the memory (big mistake). I got to Stafford on time but this meant leaving the hotel before breakfast is served, sad. Then click on Cannock and there on time as well. Click on Walsall. The mad box told me to take the 3rd exit at a roundabout. As I went round the bend I notice a sign A34 Walsall. But on my left was a petrol tanker so no sudden change of plan in that direction. Behind was a 38 tonne HGV and on my right were a line of cars about 3 cms apart all doing 50 mph and heading for the same exit as me so I couldn’t go round the roundabout and take the A34 for Walsall like common sense suggested. No, this little black box was sending me to the Walsall Bye Pass, also known as the M6 and this section of the M6 is the most crowded road in the whole of Western Europe. As it took 5 miles to get there with no way to turn round except go round the roundabout at the motorway I made my next mistake and went onto the M6. 5.6 miles to my turn of. Forty minutes it took. And people round here moan when it takes 15 minutes to get through Kingskerswell.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Cat Dies Due To Lack of Cash

Lack of cash sinks council's Tor Bay fast ferry plan
From the Herald Express
Saturday, October 17, 2009, 07:00

PLANS for a fast ferry service across Tor Bay have been put on the back burner by the cash-strapped council which now says it is not a priority.

Proposals were unveiled in 2007 for the half-hourly sea shuttle service between Torquay and Brixham.

Bus operator Stagecoach trialled the passenger service last summer, and said more than 30,000 used the catamaran in a month.

But the scheme could cost £5million, including improvements to the jetty at both ends and the cost of the boat itself.

Torbay deputy mayor Cllr Chris Lewis said the scheme was not on the council's priority list and informal approach was recently made to the Regional Development Agency for cash backing but the answer was no.

So everyone will have to either catch the Western Lady (30mins, ten times a day) or the number 12 (40mins, 98 times a day)

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Blog Action Day is on Thursday

Blog Action Day is when bloggers around the world write something on their blog to make us all go out and do something to help Save The Planet.

This is my contribution.

Personally I think the people living on this planet a couple of generations from now are screwed. Now adays there are just too many of us wanting more and more and still have almost no regard for what is going to happen by the time the more serious effects of climate change take place. Why should we, we'll all be dead. Scientist are predicting a 90 cm rise in sea levels by the end of the century. 90 cm is 3 feet in imperial measure. When I stand any where along the sea front in Torquay at high tide it doesn't look like an other 3 feet will actually come over the sea wall so why will it bother me and why should I be bothered if it does in 90 years. They can always build the wall a bit higher.

The same scientists are predicting wilder weather with hotter summers and stormier winters. I can manager that.

I read in the papers that China and India both have booming economies and the populations there, almost one third of the world’ people are finally about to join the First World. The First World has so much food that a noticeable percent gets thrown away in the garbage every week, The First World wants, and in many places has two or three cars parked outside the front door. And, if one of those cars is old enough the government will pay you to throw it away and buy a new one. I’m guilty myself (one a smaller scale). I bought a cheap mobile phone but didn’t like it. So I went out and bought an other mobile phone. It’s too easy to do.

The First World uses enormous amounts of power to run the various electrical goods we can no longer manage with out. This computer for instance. The fridge, the two freezers, the washing machine, the toaster, the microwave, the oven, the electric kettle, the central heating system, the Hi Fi system, the portable CD player I don’t use because I have an iPod and an iPod Shuffle, the TV, the DVD player the V+ Box the phone and it’s answering machine, the mobile phones and their chargers, the printer, the computer sound system, the vacuum cleaner the electric grass cutter, the electric shower, the shaving light and finally the eclectic toothbrush. Sorry nearly forgot, the camera uses batteries. Oh yeah, the electric door bell. And two bedside radios, one has only FM and had to be replaced with digital. 60 years ago when I was a young child the only electrical goods we had in our house in Manchester were a wireless and ten light bulbs. The Third World is going to want that lot and all the new goodies coming on line everyday.

The First World is run by elected politicians who wish to stay in power, that is get re elected so they aren’t going to try and pass measures to curb the above excesses in their own populations because they wont get re elected. And they have no power or even the cheek to say to Third World countries around the world “No sorry. We’ve had all the fun and will continue to do so but you have to stay in the Dark Ages for the sake of the human race.”( And a whole lot of animals and plants as well.)

So it isn’t lack of knowledge about climate change that will screw us and a whole lot of animals and plants but a lack of interest. One example, a bit of an interest of mine at the moment. The government here in the UK decide to provide free bus travel to the over 60s. They promised that it would be funded out of government money and neither the councils running the scheme at local level nor the bus companies would end up any better or worse off. My local council is already down by millions and the local bus company also complain they aren’t getting enough, they appealed to government to get more money than the council gave then. Central government refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem in the way money is allocated to local councils so we are still short.

Short enough to have to start making cuts in council services and make people redundant so they can pay the bus companies the money due to them for carrying all us lucky over 60s for free. Soon the council will have made all the cuts they can and if they make any more staff redundant the councillors themselves will have to go out and collect the rubbish bins . So they will have to tell the bus company there is only half the money they asked for. So what will the bus company do? It will cut bus services, it has no other choice. Less buses equals more cars on the roads. More cars on the roads, more greenhouse gases to reflect all that heat back to earth.

Is that what central government want or have they even bothered to work it out. I go for a lack of bother myself. In how many other areas and in how many other governments and big commercial institutions is the same lack of bother evident? Is it hardly surprising that so many ordinary people in the street while expressing concern about climate change feel there isn’t much that can be, or will be, done to save the planet.

This is why we are screwed.

PS The planet will still be here in a couple of thousand years when climate change has done its worst and the weather starts to settle down again. It will be seriously short of many of the animals and plants that used to grace it but don't worry Charles Darwin will wave his magic wand and in time (millions of years) all will be restored.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Someone Hasn't Heard About the Car Scrappage Scheme

Seen at Churston Court, a 12th Century Manor House.

You would think he'd have been down to the local Ford dealer by now and got a new car, one with a roof.

My Petition Seems To Be Working

From the Exeter Express and Echo
Friday, October 09, 2009, 07:09

Exeter set for £3m rebate in bus pass battle

EXETER is in line for a multi-million pound cash windfall which should prevent the city council having to make big cuts in services.
The Government is rethinking the way its concessionary bus fare scheme is funded. And it is expected to conclude that Exeter should get a rebate of up to £3m.
This is the amount the city council has been forced to spend on the scheme over the last two years.
The decision follows a recent meeting between city council chief executive Philip Bostock, council leader Adrian Fullam and Transport Minister Sadiq Khan. Union leaders in the city have also met the minister.
End of item.

I only started my petition this week and it appears to have had the effect I hoped for. But lets wait and see if all councils that have had to fund the bus pass scheme out of council tax get similar amounts of cash from central government.

PS I have just counted how many bus trips I have made in the 222 days since 1st March this year. Have a guess.

PPS Keep signing the petition. Please.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Welcome Back

An item in the Herald Express headed "New Bus Service" caught my eye. It appears that the bus service that goes to Buckland in Newton Abbot suffers from a slight draw back. Buckland is built on the side of a hill, quiet a steep hill, and the 77 bus goes round the estate anticlockwise so if you live on the far side of the estate you have a longer ride home than the ride into town. Now County Councillor Gordon Hook has persuaded Stagecoach to introduce an other service (78) that goes round clockwise. This will also help people that live at the bottom of the estate to get to the top.

Now there are two little problems here, one, it isn't a new service. When I started driving for Stagecoach I spent 9 months on Newton Abbot locals and there were two services to Buckland. The 77 which went round anticlockwise and still does and the 78 which went round clockwise. Then in Oct 2004 one service was considered sufficient and discussions were held between Stagecoach, The RMT Union and Devon County Council to decide which bus to withdraw. Now as the buses travel round there are parked cars on one side of the road all along the route. The 78 had them on the right which made it easier, oncoming cars had to move out of your way, the 77 on the left, much harder as the bus had to keep pulling into small gaps to let oncoming traffic pass.

So when it was announced that the 78 was being withdrawn I asked the Union rep to explain this apparent illogical decision. He stated that the reason was, and everyone was agreed on this, the 78 had to come down a steep hill and there was a danger the driver might loose control if there was ice on the road. Well the 78 will be coming down this steep hill once again so look out if you live at the bottom of the hill. That of course is the second problem. If it was considered too dangerous in 2004 how come it isn't too dangerous now? Maybe Global Warming has something to do with it, no more ice in Buckland.

Global Warming has benefited Buckland. It can't be all bad.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

An Email From 10 Downing Street.

I received this email from 10 Downing St today. If you live in the UK and want to support this petition please click on the link below. Don't worry, it wont hurt and only takes a minute.

Your petition has been approved by the Number 10 web team, and is now available on the Number 10 website at the following address:

Your petition reads:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to ensure that local authorities are not forced to partly fund the concessionary bus pass scheme in England.

More information

When Gordon Brown was Chancellor he set up the concessionary bus pass scheme to provide free bus travel to the over sixties and the disabled. At the time he stated that it would be completely funded at central government level and even though local authorities would run the scheme locally, they would not end up using council tax money to support the scheme. However there are Local Authorities up and down the country who are forced to use council tax money to keep the scheme going because central government are not giving all local authorities sufficient funds to run the scheme. The problem appears to be in the criteria used to distribute the funds. These rules need to be looked at and amended.

Some local authorities are having to get rid of council workers to pay for this scheme and some bus companies who are unable to get blood out of a stone are talking about reduction in bus services and redundancies for drivers while the Parks Departments of some councils are wondering how they are going to spend all the money that has suddenly become available because their council is getting more cash than it needs to pay for the "free" bus travel. Something needs to be done before "free" bus passes cause redundancies among council workers and bus drivers and bus services start to disappear. Once they are gone it will be very hard to get them back.

Sign the petition. Please.

Buses; Fleet St or Belgrave Rd?

The notion that Fleet St should be free of buses has been around ever since Fleet St was pedestrianised which was over 20 years ago. There is an other way round other than using Fleet St; two in fact. The first is that the buses that come down Union St and Pimlico continue round the Post Office Roundabout and up Abbey Road and turn left into Torr Church Road onto Lucius St and left down Belgrave Rd and left at Torbay Rd and onto the Strand. This route has a couple or three problems. First it would add 6 or 7 minutes onto the journey time and increase the cost. I can almost heard Stagecoach saying, "Goody." Second there are a couple of nasty bends in Torr Church Rd, add 53 buses an hour going this way and it is only a matter of time before two of them go bump, day or night. And three, there are lots of hotels in Belgrave Rd. These hotels do a lot of coach tour type holidays and very few of them, none in fact have coach parks that you can drive into and out the other end. So we have to reverse our coaches into the hotel grounds. Try that with 53 buses an hour running up and down the road and fun will ensue.

The second idea which was put forward recently is even dafter. The buses (12, 12A, 31, 32, 34, 111, 61, 64/65 (sorry if I missed any)) coming down Pimlico would terminate in Abbey Road opposite the cinema, just take a second to imagine the effect of 4 or 5 buses waiting time on Abbey Rd, and those passengers who wished to continue to Babbacombe, Welswood, Paignton, South Devon College and Brixham could walk down the now completely vehicle free Fleet St, except that is for council vehicles, delivery trucks, taxis with disabled access, emergency vehicles, Security vans, cycles and any lost souls who have driven past a clear sign saying no vehicles except local buses. Once at the harbour, a 700 yard walk, they would patiently wait for an other bus to take them on to their destination. Yeah right. It would be the same the other way as well. Passengers would get off on the Strand and walk up, and it is up hill, Fleet St faced by the hoards of passengers heading down Fleet St. Not the best idea of the 21st century.

It does look nice without buses though. Mind you I had to wait 10 mins to get this bus free shot.

Friday, 2 October 2009

What to do when some idiot parks his car in your bus stop.

From The Herald Express Friday 02 Oct 09

A Bus driver was left nursing a broken wrist and a head wound after confronting a man who had parked a car at his stop.
The 63-year-old driver was about to stop his bus outside the British Heart Foundation shop in Union Street, Torquay, when he saw a vehicle already parked there.
According to police, he got out of the bus and asked a man to move the vehicle.
A 'verbal altercation' took place and the man became aggressive.
A police spokesman said: "He allegedly pushed him causing him to fall over, banging his head, causing a visible injury."
An ambulance was called and the driver was treated at the scene.
A Stagecoach spokeswoman confirmed: "On Monday, September 28, one of our drivers asked a member of the public to move his vehicle which was parked at a bus stop.
"As a result he suffered a broken wrist.
"A man was subsequently arrested at the scene.
"We are cooperating with the police in their investigation.
"We would like to offer our full support to the driver during his recovery."
An unemployed 58-year-old Torquay man was arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and later bailed.

Seen in Fleet St.
The 12 can't get past the 32 because the bus stop is too close to a bench for the driver to straighten up and stop at the bus stop without blocking the road.

"Shift that bleeding bus..............Please"

When I had been driving a bus for about a week in London I had a go at a driver who had parked in a bus stop, very similar to the event in the Herald Express. An other bus driver who had seen the incident said, "Well done. That told him, he'll never park on a bus stop again" Slight pause, "But what about the other 23 million car drivers who will?"

After that I gave up having a go at anyone who parked on bus stops (except coach drivers of course). It's a waste of time and effort. I would get as near to the bus stop as I could and if this meant I was blocking the road for a couple of minutes it wasn't my fault or my problem and I didn't get home that evening and spend the night working out all the really nasty, cutting, sarcastic, abusive, witty things I could have said but didn't think of at the time. I also got home without wondering if I had gone over the top and said something that might get me into trouble at work the next day.

An other thing I remember from London was the instruction to only get out of the bus if it was on fire.

Monday, 28 September 2009


So there I was, heading up the M5. It was 6:30 pm and getting dark. 300, 400metres ahead was an HGV. Not content with the rear lights the manufacturers of the truck had fitted some hero, I assume the driver, had fitted a few extra lights. Across the top at the back there were 10 red lights, down each side were 15 extra lights. That's 15 on each side. 40 extra lights in all. It stood out, the fact that I could pick it out on a crowded motorway 3 or 4 hundred metres away shows how bright this thing was. Maybe someone drove in to the back of this guys truck one day and said, "Sorry mate. Just didn't see you."

When I caught up with him I noticed there were even more lights along the side of the truck, paranoia in a big way. Finally I got past him and he flashed his lights to say it was safe to move back into the left lane. Bright? Well yes. The possibility the Gloucester had just been destroyed by a thermonuclear device crossed my mind for a moment.

There may be a HGV driver out there who can answer a question. Nothing to do with lights but overtaking. Please can you tell me which HGV driving school teaches it's pupils to slow down when overtaking. There was one today, first HGV doing 50mph, second HGV doing 58mph, me doing 60mph. second HGV pulls out and I slow down to 58. Then 2nd HGV slows to 50.01 mph as it goes past the 1st HGV. Are the drivers having a conversation or what? There must be a logical reason but what it is is beyond me.

Disclaimer: This HGV is not the one with all the lights, nor does it slow down and have a conversation with the HGV it is overtaking. Not as far as I know anyway.

It's just the first photo of an HGV I came across in my library.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

"What's that 31 doing picking up on the 32 stop?"

There I was sitting on the Strand when a bus with 31 on the back stopped on the 32 stop outside Debenhams. I asked the nearby controller had the stops been changed since I left. In a moment he was heading across the road to sort out the problem. The driver didn't have incorrect blinds up as the front proclaimed the bus was a 32 and therefore in the right place. After a few attempts to correct the problem the bus headed of in the direction of Marychurch. So if you found yourself running after a 31 that turned out to be a 32 it wasn't the driver's fault, just a broken destination blind.

Central Cinema & Torwood St

Now you might wonder what the Central Cinema which is in Abbey Rd has to do with Torwood St, then again you might not. Anyway I going to tell you. The Central Cinema used to be the Odeon but closed some years ago and was taken over by the Merlin Cinema group. Torwood Street is where a new development is in the planning stage. This development includes a cinema as well as a hotel, apartments and a few shops and a restaurant. The plans were looked at by the council and the people of Torquay and got rejected as too bland and too tall. The whole place is being redesigned and will be considered again. One person asked why the development needed a cinema as we already have a cinema in Torquay, the afore mentioned Central in Abbey Rd. To give you an idea what this cinema is like I took the above photo of the "What's on" board. The notice displaying the films being shown has been like this for the last few days. Doesn't look like anyone cares does it?

So hands up those who think we need a cinema in the Torwood Street development.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

West Midland Buses and a Pub

This is our base in the West Midlands, not the pub, the portocabin at the side.

The buses just happened to be passing so I took a photo of them.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Dust Over NSW

Sydney where one of my sisters lives is covered with sand. A long dry spell and hot weather together with strong winds have blown a part of the outback into town. My other sister lives in Tweed Heads which is over 800km north of Sydney is also getting it's share. I spoke to Cath in Tweed Heads yesterday and she mentioned that it had been unseasonably hot and dry, the grass in her garden had turned yellow. no mention of sand everywhere. Then today she emailed me this picture she had taken out of her window, everything has turn a reddish brown.

Just a fore taste of what global warming will do once it gets a firm grip on the planet.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Fleet Street & the Missing £3Million

On Tuesday evening I went along to the Torbay Council forum, a chance for us rate payers to have a say in anything to do with the running of the Bay. Fleet Street was my main topic and the Balloon my secondary topic. When I heard about the forum I decided to informally ask my passengers what their feelings were in these two areas. They are all visitors to the Bay and would have no preconceived ideas. Basically I asked had they been up in the balloon and had they been along Fleet Street. None that I spoke to had been for a trip 400 feet in the air but those I spoke to were all of the opinion that the balloon was an eye sore and we would be better of puncturing the thing without delay.

When Fleet Street was mention most people liked walking along in the traffic free area but could not understand why buses suddenly appeared without warning. After I had explained that there wasn’t a viable alternative route other than sending 53 buses an hour up and down Belgrave Road, the road their hotel was on, many of then couldn’t understand why the place was so cluttered, benches that could be better placed and the positioning of several flower beds that do little to improve the appearance of the place. My feelings exactly. So I went along to the meeting and put my point of view forward. The Mayor listened and then asked Councillor Lewis to explain why nothing would be done about the clutter. Basically there has been a plan in place, which I knew about, to restructure the roadway in Fleet Street, a definite section of roadway for the buses and a greatly reduced amount of street furniture to give pedestrians more room to pedest. The cost of these improvements would be £3million. As it is a road and government pay for roads the council had felt entitled to ask the government for the money which they did. However the government had also felt entitled to refuse. Which they did.

Councillor Lewis then went on to say that while he agreed with me that Fleet Street was past it’s best and did need improvements he also felt that the government would one day give us the money (no timetable for the arrival of the Securicor Truck containing £3million was mentioned, for security reasons no doubt). He was reluctant to spend rate payers money making minor alterations when any day now the full amount would be provided by that nice Mr Brown. Or his successor. Or even his successors successor.

Now I would point out that Devon County Council and Torbay Council have been asking the government for money to build a bye pass round Kingskerswell ever since the words bye pass entered the English language, even the government agree the bye pass is desperately needed. It still hasn’t turned up so what chance do you think we have of getting the £3million pounds for a bit of cosmetic surgery to a 500 metre stretch of pedestrianised road which all the improvements in the world will do nothing to speed up the flow of traffic through Torquay, it’ll just make life easier and more pleasant for the pedestrians who use it?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

A Day Out

I went for a day out last week, not the usual day out riding round for free on a Stagecoach but a trip to the fairly new sewerage works at Churston. It started at 10 am which meant I had to pay to get to Paignton as it was before 9:30 (note to South West Water could you start your days out a bit later so I can use my bus pass please). We had a short briefing before the tour and after we were invited to ask questions. During the briefing the manager of the plant had boasted that the works could cope with 1.27 tonnes of sewerage a second, which isn't bad. I asked what happened if we had a rainy August and town was full to bursting with visitors, would the plant get more than 1.27 tonnes of not too nice waste material to deal with. Yes he admitted, but we have storage tanks to deal with that. I then, knowing I was onto a good thing asked what happened to the crap if the storage tanks got full. Well it ends up in the sea, our beautiful clean, full of swimming tourists sea. Did it ever happen? asked I. I could see he, the manager was getting a little nervous by now as he had probably guessed my last question which was, How often does it end up untreated, in the sea. He didn't answer that question as half the people there answered it for him. More often than anyone would like to know.

Anyway we went on the tour and I didn't get pushed into a storage tank. Here are a few pictures I took.

Getting kitted up

The Manager getting his hands dirty while we all watch.

The control room, press the wrong button and it all goes back to where it came from.

50 metres down, we couldn't go down as you have to be type trained before working down there. Would have been the highlight of the trip.

Anything bigger than 6mm gets caught up in this machine so if you drop your iPod down the drain this is where you come to get it back.

What's left leaves the plant in this truck and ends up spread out over the local farmers' fields. Good for the crops. Ultimate recycling.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

For Torbay Residents Only

THE third 'Any Questions?' session giving members of the public the opportunity to address the mayor Nick Bye, senior councillors and officers before meetings of Torbay Council's cabinet is to be held this month.

The forum will be held at the Town Hall, Castle Circus, Torquay on Tuesday, September 15 at 4.30pm, with members of the public being invited to stay on for the Cabinet meeting starting at 5pm.
People who wish to take part are asked to contact Teresa Buckley by email, or telephone 01803 207013 to register their intention by 4pm on Monday, September 14.

The above is an extract from an item in the Herald Express recently.

At the second forum only two people turned up. Could be due to apathy or could be due to the well thought out timing of the meeting.

So if you live in Torbay and would like to ask our beloved mayor any questions get along. True the meeting is at 4:30 when most people will have better things to do than ask pointless questions like:- When is the balloon scheduled to go and is there any way we can get rid of it sooner? Or When is the Mayor scheduled to go and is there any way we can we get rid of it sooner? Or When is The Blue Wall scheduled to go and is there any way we can get rid of it sooner? Or When will we ever get a council tax increase that isn’t 3 or 4 times the rate of inflation? Or When will we ever get a Tourist Board that actually increases tourist numbers in the Bay by making the place more attractive? Or when will the fenced off part (been fenced off for years) of Princess Gardens become unfenced? Or when will derlict hotels no longer have to burn down before they can stop being hotels and become appartments? Will Preston ever stop getting grid locked every summer? Or When will the council do something to Fleet Walk to make it easier for buses and pedestrians to use?

Any other ideas? If I have a big enough list I might get down there and bore the pants off our belovered leaders just for something to do.

A Life Story in Cars

An other trip up and down the motorway over, road works on the Avon Mouth Bridge, it's being resurfaced yet again and is down from 5 lanes to 3 but it is a very busy stretch of road and there were delays but not to bad. The other major road works I go through are on the road between coming of the Motorway at Junction 2 and going to the bus station in Dudley. No problem on the Sunday and not too much delay on the Monday morning on the way home. They are at Burn Tree Island and are there for 21 months. I have heard a fly over is being built there but other people say the plans have been changed and more traffic lights are being installed. Time will tell. Kingskerswell, on the approach to Torquay is still the biggest delay on the whole trip. Please Minister for Roads, give us the money for a by pass. NOW.

At the hotel I stayed at in Walsall I heard the life story of the receptionist, a gentleman from Croatia who had spent 10 years in the US of A before coning to England. I ended up knowing nothing about him, where he lived, what he did, did he have a partner, children, did he like America. None of that. What I did learn was what cars he owned, how big they were, what they cost, which one was the best, which one had the most optional extras, which one was a piece of junk, which one had the best fuel consumption, the best gearbox and of course which on was the fastest. In great detail. Just what I wanted to listen to after a long day driving the coach. I mean I like driving, I always have but my interest in cars has been limited to things like can I get behind the steering wheel and drive it, will it break down (I had some cheap wrecks in my youth) can I afford to put petrol in it, not how much brake horsepower it had or how much torque (?) it possessed or how What Car rated it. Fortunately his shift ended before I was driven to find the lift to the roof and throw my self off, hopefully onto the roof of his car. He was replaced by someone who had been thrown out of a Trappist monastery for complaining about the porridge every Christmas (never heard that joke, you ain’t lived) so life got better.

Oh yes, my monitor packed up a few days ago and I an using an old cathode ray thing that I have had for donkeys years. Been in a cupboard, I kept meaning to donate it to a Computer Musemn it's that old but it still works and one day must have been technology at it's most advance. Trouble is it is so dark and small I can hardly see my photos. There is an new one on it's way.

And it is 090909. Is the world going to end?

Thursday, 3 September 2009

An Evacuation Story

The war started 70 years ago to day and millions of children were evacuated to the countryside, right? Well it depends on exactly what you would call country side. This little story doesn't concern me, I wasn't evacuated not because my parents didn't think I wasn't precious enough to be evacuated but because I didn't turn up until 1943 and by then the bombing was over. The family actually went to Blackpool, my father was a teacher, a reserved occupation, and my brother who is 18 months older than me was born in Blackpool but my parents and elder brothers and sisters had returned to Manchester by the time I was born.

This story was told to me in 1965 by a taxi driver called Jim. He was 11 when the war started and went to school at St Gregory's High School in Ardwick Green in the centre of Manchester but lived in Timperly which is 8 miles south of Manchester. His friend Tony lived next door and went to the same school. As it became apparent that war was about to start any day the children had been given a letter to take home explaining that children would be evacuated to places of safety. Tony's parents decided that it would be a good idea if their son and heir moved away for the duration, Jim's parents decided that Timperly was far enough away from Trafford Park, the industrial centre of Manchester and Salford docks to be safe. So Tony turned up at school with his suitcase not knowing where he would end up and when he would see his friend Jim again, or even if.

Jim stayed at school till lunch time and was sent home with a letter urging his parents to think again. When Jim got off the bus and walked down his leafy suburban street he noticed a couple of buses parked at the other end of the street with crowds of children carrying suitcase standing around. When he got home his mother explained that they had been asked to take in evacuated children who were fleeing the expected bombing of Manchester. Just then there was a knock at the door and standing there was a teacher from his school who was helping find homes for the evacuated children. Standing next to him with his suit case was Tony. He had been evacuated next door.

Tony just went home and neither of them were evacuated and no bombs fell within two miles of their houses. Jim used to delight in telling the tale but Tony always denied it was true.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Incident in a Service Station

A Picture of Walsall Football Ground plus a big advertising hording. The ground is next to the hotel where I stay when I go up to collect my coach load of holiday makers. It is also next to the M6 motorway which is why the advert is there. It is BIG so it can be seen from the motorway, it's big enough to be seen from space never mind the motorway.

This weeks little incident from the M5 is nothing to do with driving though I would make one little request before I report the main item. In this day and age of fuel saving it is an idea to drive a little slower than the speed limit of 70mph, it does save fuel, money and maybe the planet though I fear we are too later for the last one. But could you please drive at 61mph instead of 58mph. You see us coach drivers, and truck drivers, are restricted to 60mph on the motorway and if you are doing 58mph it means we will catch you up and have to move out to overtake you. If you do 61mph we won't.

Anyway, there I was heading south with a coach load of people and we had been going for two hours and a nice service station appeared over the horizon and I felt like a short break, as did my passengers. So I pulled in and parked in the coach park. As I stopped I looked at the time, 1:38. So I explained that we would be here for 20 minutes and would you all be back by 2:00, any later and there would be an empty space where the coach was presently parked. Many a true word spoken in jest.

As I was explaining this draconian rule a coach parked on my right was pulling away. Little did I realize that he, the coach driver had really applied the self same draconian rule. I was very soon to find out. I then got of the coach, I half noticed 3 teenage girls come into the coach park area, they looked, looked again, looked at my coach and an other coach on my left, looked at each other, looked at their watches. I joined in the fun and looked at the time. 1:41. They came up to me and asked where the white coach had gone. "Heading south down the motorway." was the only answer I could give. One of the girls said the driver had told them to be back at twenty to two. As they had been there probably about two minutes by now it meant they were cutting it a bit fine but the driver also was running close to the wind and not allowing a minute or two just in case his watch wasn't exactly right. Nor had he done a head count.

The girls had a phone number of the booking agent they had bought their tickets from which they rang. The got the coach company's phone number and spoke to them. While we were waiting I suggested that if the coach company couldn't contact the driver or sort out the problem another way they find the service station manager. I mean he/she must have had this sort of thing happen before.

By 2:00 most of my passengers were back on board, 38 out of 45 and I was beginning to consider copying my colleague and driving off into the sun set when the coach pulled into the park opened the doors and the girls jumped aboard and continued their journey. The driver must realised they were missing, gone down to the next junction and turned round and come back. The coming back must have been the hard bit. It was Bank Holiday and the north bound side was full of very slow moving traffic heading home, we on the south side had a beautiful clear road.

Lesson from the day:-
Always do a head count.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Passengers flee as bus goes up in smoke

A bit of news from Stagecoach

Passengers had to be evacuated when a bus burst into flames.
The Stagecoach single-decker sent smoke billowing into the air as it climbed Babbacombe Road towards St Marychurch.
About 30 passengers were on the number 32 as it came to a halt at the junction of Lower Warberry Road yesterday morning. Passengers made their own way off through the door at the front of the bus after the driver pulled over.Emergency services arrived within minutes

Later Stagecoach staff at the scene refused to comment on the incident other than to confirm the driver was physically unharmed but in shock.
A Stagecoach spokeswoman later confirmed: "There was an incident on the Babbacombe Road involving one of our vehicles.
"No passengers were injured and everyone was safely evacuated from the vehicle.
"The fire was contained in the engine compartment and we will be investigating this incident in full. Normal service has resumed."
Mechanics from Stagecoach said the fault was 'extremely rare' and probably electrical.
They said the vehicle would have to be taken back to the depot for a full engine check.
The road was closed for about an hour while diesel was cleared away.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Things You See in the Night

Woke up about 3:30 this morning, a call of nature. When I got back to the bedroom I looked out the window. I usually do, to see what the weather is doing, clouds in the sky? No. Stars shining? Yes. Moon out? No. Fox walking down the middle of the road? Yes.

Now that isn't something you see every day, or every night for that matter.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Consultation requires at least two people to be present.

There I was, walking along the sea front on my way to take part in the week long, in depth, searching for answers consultation arranged by Torbay Council and this green bus swept by. It said FirstBus on the front and 80th Anniversary on the side.
I have been on FirstBus South West's web site but they don't seem to know anything about this green thing.
Anyway onto the consultation re the new road lay out in front of Rock Walk. It was to be held in Breezes, the bar/restaurant of the Princess Theatre and I had been looking forward to having my say and sitting down and discussing at high level and in depth a couple or three points with senior officials from the Highways Department. Maybe even Nick Bye, the Mayor would be there showing interest in my views and ideas. Maybe it would lead to a part time post with the council as consultant re bus travel on Torbay's roads

Anyway this was it. Isn't it magnificent?

Gormley's Gone

This is what The Spanish Barn looks like today, locked and uninviting. Probably empty.

All these little chaps have gone, stored somewhere in Yorkshire next to a nuclear fuel dump for all I know. The Herald Express said 38 307 people went to see them. Sorry it was only 38 303 people. I went 5 times, mostly because I hoped to get down there one day when there was no one from the Arts Council hanging around to make sure I didn't take a photo. This reluctance to allow visitors to take photos baffles me. I mean I got this photo from the WWW with no trouble. Problem it isn't the photo I would have taken. I would have a photo I took unique to me and would show the exhibition as I saw it which would have been so much better than this mass produced effort by some one who just pointed the camera and clicked.