Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Now a Coach Driver.

Should change the name of the blog to coachdriving now but I'm not going to, it's been busdriving for too long to change. As I mentioned a few days ago I applied for a part time job diving a coach for one of the hotels here in Torquay. It's three days a week, two of those days are basically dropping of and picking up guests in the Midlands, that's Sunday and Monday and on Thursday evening taking those guests who wish to see a show to and from Babbacombe Theatre. Couldn't be simpler. Anyway I started on Sunday with a quick tour in the morning round Dawlish and Teignmouth then a trip up to Bristol where I meet an other coach driver. He had guests going to the hotel and my passengers were on the way home. To save all the passengers swapping coaches we, the drivers, just swapped coaches and I drove back to Torquay and the other driver headed north. The tour in the morning was dry with rain approaching up the Channel but it did stay dry. Then as we set of in the afternoon it started raining and didn't stop. All the way up and down the M5 nothing but rain.
There were a lot of new things to learn. The first being how to work a tachograph. Buses don't have tachos, the driver has a running board which sets out his/her running times and bus operators have to make sure these times don't contravene drivers hours. One thing I learnt was how to set up the tacho with my smart card. This records any driving I do automatically and checks to see I don't go over the time limits that are set by EU regulations. One thing it doesn't do is automatically register when I am on a rest period. I have to remember to do that myself. Very important I take 45 minutes break after a maximum of four and a half hours driving and if I forget to press the right button the tacho will think I haven’t taken my break and nasty things will happen. Cruise control, I know lots of cars have cruise control now a days but I have never used it before. Once on the motorway I switched it on and it felt a bit weird trundling along at 95kph without pressing the right hand peddle. Soon got used to it though. The retarders were different as well, on the bus the retarders kicked in automatically when the brake peddle was pushed down, on the coach there is a lever to operate them so you can slow down without pressing the brake peddle, just pull the lever. Neat. Getting on the coach was different as well. Coaches tend to carry passengers who have lots of luggage and this gets stored under the seating area. This does mean the passengers on a coach are fairly high up a the travel along which has the benefit of giving then a good view but it does mean there are 5 or 6 steps to climb up unlike modern buses where you can walk straight on. Does tend to make loading and unloading a coach a lengthy process. It also meant the coach driver, me, tends to sit much higher up than a bus driver. And lastly, an other new thing was driving past people standing at bus stops, never done that before.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Don't Crap On Our Beaches

Dog owner furious for being fined after he let his dog loose on a beach. (Head line in local paper).
Down here most beaches have a ban on dogs during the summer months and all such beaches have notices informing their owners of this ban. But one dog owner, a local coast guard seemed to think because his dog only wanted to play with the children he could ignore this ban. Yeah right.
Ian Pedrick, the landlord of the Hope and Anchor near Kingsbridge and one of the Hope Cove coastguards, received a £200 fine and ordered to pay £50.70 in costs from magistrates after his dog was seen on the beach several times. Maybe he though because he is a coast guard he was above the law.
I once stopped a bus at Penn Inn roundabout and a dog, not on a lead, boarded the bus. The owner then got on and I told him he needed to put the dog on a lead before they could travel. He looked amazed and claimed the dog was under his complete control. Someone should have told the dog that as it was running up and down the bus jumping up at passengers and in it's own mind having fun. But this dog was a pit bull terrier type and several of my passengers were not at all happy. The owners then stated that he couldn't put the dog on a lead as he didn't have a lead. No lead, no travel said I. The rest of the conversation was too unpleasant to report here, it is a family show after all.
I recount that little incident here to show how some dog owners seem to have so little regard to how other people view there little monsters. One of my earliest memories as very small child was being scared by a dog and ending up at the Manchester Royal Infirmary being held down by a nurse while two stitches were put in my head. Probably more frightening than being attacked by the dog. Back then it was common practice for dog owners to let their dogs out in the morning to roam the streets bored out of their minds hanging about on street corners in gangs scaring little old ladies and small children. Times have changed but some of this idea still lingers.
The big problem of dogs roaming free is toilet time. Dogs, unlike people who want to go to the toilet, will if they are out side just squat down and do it. If the owner isn't actually look at that moment then a pile of something unpleasant ends up on the beach where children are playing, hopefully without having to worry if they stand in something nasty. With some owners, even if they are looking when the dog craps, the same messy pile will remain on the beach. Please keep keep your dog off the beach and our beaches clean.

MSC Napoli, Gone At Last.

It's arrival sparked interest around the world. Not only was the event it's self so unusual but the scenes of mayhem and looting over the following few days, which local police appeared helpless to stop, and did little to improve the image of the South West. Getting the Napoli on to the beach at Branscombe Beach took less than a day. Getting rid of the wreak took two and a half years and cost about £100 million. Living in Torbay I did look at the map which showed the route the stricken ship was towed along and note how easy it would have been to bring the ship in to the Bay. It might even have occurred to who ever was in charge on that night that Torbay would have been a good place to beach the Napoli. Remember at the time it was expected the ship was about to sink but if beached it could be repaired and later re floated. Torbay would have been a more sheltered spot then Branscombe. Well if the idea did cross the mind of who ever was in charge that night to come into the Bay thank you for thinking of Branscombe. Sorry Branscombe.
Being towed to it's long resting place at Branscombe.
Ten minutes after coming ashore.

The most famous looted item in history, a BMW motorbike. With looter.

After all the containers had been removed.

The back of the ship being cut up in dry dock in Belfast. They should have cut it up into small pieces and sold them for souvenirs.
For all the interest it caused when it got here it's final departure gained a two minute film on BBC Spotlight and a mention in the Sidmouth Herald.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Brixham and Coach Driving

I had a day out in Brixham today. I always enjoy Brixham but it is a 40 minute trip on the bus. When you are driving the time goes much quicker than for the passengers. I think so anyway. 40 minutes is a long time just staring out the window even with the iPod for entertainment. Then when you get there all you want to do is get of the bus. Particularly today, it was sunny and warm for a change but the heating was on full blast on the bus and it it became a bit uncomfortable. It isn't the drivers fault, in a car if it gets too hot you turn a dial and the temperature goes down. On the bus the driver gets on the radio and asks for an approved person to come out to the bus and lift the engine flap and turn a tap on the engine. Then the heater continues to pump out hot air for an other 15 or 20 minutes before the bus begins to cool down. The driver can not open the engine flap because when the buses were fairly new a driver decided to turn the heat off. He managed to open the flat and turn the tap but couldn't close the flap again because no one had told him how. So he used brute force and the engine flap fell off and a notice went up saying drivers were not to open engine flaps ever again.

So when we got to Brixham this afternoon all we, the passengers, wanted to do was get off the bus and breath in a few lung fulls of clean fresh Devon air. Could we? No. The bus couldn't get to the stop because a coach had stopped on the bus stop to let some passengers disembark so they can have a wander round the town and spend loads of money in the pubs, chip shops and gift emporiums.
Eventually we got of and staggered down to the Harbour. This is the Harbour. How come the tide always seems to be out when I decide to go to Brixham?
Oh yes, one other thing, a week or so ago I saw an advert for a part time coach driver and I applied for the job. Yesterday I went down to the hotel for a test drive, just to see if I can actually drive a coach. Well I can and I am just waiting for a phone call to tell me if I have got the job. If I do get it I promise never to park the coach on the bus stop at Brixham Bank Lane. Torquay Strand, well that's a different kettle of fish completely.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Mobile Phones

If you come to Torquay and want to sit on a deck chair you could be sitting on a work of art.

Six weeks ago I went to the local Vision Express for my bi annual eye test. I got my first pair of glasses about 4 years ago now and they still seem to be working OK so I was hopeful I wouldn't need new, expensive glasses. When I went in I was sat down in front of a machine with my chin on a rest and told not to fall asleep. To make sure I didn't the resident torturer shot some blasts of air at my eyes. She then gave me a clicker and told me to click every time I saw a light come on. Still couldn’t have a quick nap. Then on to the chart and lots of magnifying glasses to see if I could actually see the chart, which I did manage in the end.
When all this was over the optician said, “ There hasn’t been any change in your eyesight so we wont be stinging you for a new pair of glasses, but.” Dramatic pause here. “The pressure inside your left eye ball is a little high. It should be below 22 and it is actually 23.” He went on to explain that this increase in pressure is an indication that I might have glaucoma and he was going to refer me to an eye specialist at The English Riviera Hospital (formally known as Torbay Hospital). Yesterday I went along. I’m not saying it was crowded but I overheard one woman say to here friend, “I’m getting good at these crossword puzzles since I been here, lots of practice.” Anyway I got to see my specialist and after peering through a fancy machine at my eyes he proclaimed his inability to find even the slightest sign of glaucoma. He did stress that the optician had been right to refer me as early detection was the best thing and that I should continue with my regular check ups every couple of years. Which I will.
And now for something completely different. Earlier this year I went to Australia to see how that nice Mr Rudd was getting on. Before I left I got on to Virgin Mobile in Oz and got free a sim card with $20 airtime. Cost $20. This meant I could use my own mobile phone to make phone calls in Australia without giving Orange back in the UK hand fulls of cash. Sorry Orange but I am sure you have more money than me. When I got back to the UK I had less than a dollar left so I had timed it nicely. Now my partner is going to America soon and he asked me if I could get an American sim card for his phone. Well the phone was the first problem. Mobile phones in Europe and Australia use different wave bands than in America so he would need a tri band phone, one that picked up 1900 mega bits, we use 900 and 1800 mega bits here. But tri band phones are available here, you can pick one up for £20 but it will be locked to a net work so you wont be able to put an American sim card in when you get there. Not unless you unlock the phone first. There are hundreds of companies out there in internet land offering to sell you a code to unlock your phone for ‘From 99p’. So unlock the phone and buy a sim card. Not that simple. In this country as in Australia sim cards can be got for free, you then buy as much or as little air time as you want. Lots of companies in the USofA will sell you a sim card but then there is the airtime to buy as well. As my friend is only going on holiday and only wanted the phone ‘just in case’ and to phone home now and then it will be cheaper to stick with his Orange sim card and send ‘wish you were here’ text messages every day. Unless anyone out there knows better....
PS It’s raining again, Showers, some heavy and prolonged was what the forecast said.
PPS The new phone has just this minute arrived so I will spend the next few hours happily (or otherwise) working out how to set it up.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Note for the English Riviera Council (Formally Torbay)

On the Harbour in Torquay there are two sets of benches that run the length of the Strand for people to sit on and enjoy the view and a have little rest. Two or three hundred people can be accommodated here. A few days ago I was down there and in need of a rest so I looked for somewhere to sit not expecting to find a space as it was a bright, sunny, hot day. However there was a 5 metre stretch where no one was sitting so I gratefully sat down and soon discovered why there was no one else resting and viewing in this spot. The back rest, as you can see has become detached from it's support and slipped down 10 cm making it very uncomfortable to sit for more than a minute. I wouldn't mind but these benches were all done up and painted only last summer.
There was a council meeting last night in which the idea of renaming Torbay 'The English Riviera' was discussed. The mind set behind this proposed change is that residents and visitors alike are unsure where, or for that matter what, Torbay is. I used to get asked when driving a bus what Torbay was. I explained that Torbay was actually two things. One, it is the body of water between Berry Head in the south and Hopes Nose in the north and is visible from space (just like the Great Wall of China). It is also the name of the local authority and in that respect was made up of the towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham. Half way through my explanation most visitors eyes would have glazed over and their brains would have turned to mush.
The Riviera is of course in the South of France where the climate is mild all the year round (as it is in Torbay, sorry The English Riviera) and was the meeting place of the Jet Set between the wars. It's a posh place, or it was last time I was there in 1963. I wonder if any of it's benches fall apart only a year after they were fixed. Anyway there are 39 comments by readers of the local paper that ran the story about the name change, most think the idea is as daft as renaming London 'Thames Side' or San Francisco 'The San Andreas Fault'. The basic idea of the name change is to improve the market image of the area and most people who made a comment think the best idea would be to improve Torbay's image up from dump with closed shops, boarded up sea front, hundred year old hotels to somewhere visitors would actually like to return to.
What ever it is called.

Hello Dolly

A couple of days ago my partner and I were having a meal. The local Radio station mentioned that the TOADS am-dram society were doing Hello Dolly at the Princess Theatre, Tickets were available. The cost £13 each so knowing my partner would like to go I said, "Do you want to go, it's only 13 quid." The response was, "Yes but I don't finish work till six so I will meet you there, we'll have a drink and a meal, maybe a bottle of wine." With the cost of the tickets, drink, meal, bottle of wine, program, raffle tickets, interval drink the evening out came to slightly less than a hundred quid. But we don't get out that often. Any contributions towards the cost of the evening will be gratefully accepted.
Anyway while we were enjoying the meal in the Theatre restaurant which overlooks the Torquay Marina we noticed two groups of people. One lot were boarding a boat for an evenings cruise, part of the weekend Gay pride event taking place here in Torquay. Sad to say it was raining, windy and not the best of evenings for cruising round the bay. The other group, about 15 of them were all wearing black tea shirts with Jesus, Saviour printed on them. They were apparently expressing their disapproval of the Gay Pride event. Now I had believed that witch hunts of this kind were a thing of the past but you live and learn. Didn't spoil the evening, the meal and wine were good and the show was very enjoyable. There was one unscripted incident I remember. The sets these days get changed in front of the audience while the cast continue. In one change of set an actress was reclining on a chaise longue and was wheeled off the stage. Unfortunately the person steering hadn't been to chaise longue driving school and hit an other part of the set which resulted in said chaise longue coming to a sudden stop and the poor actress ending up on the floor. Moral of this story, get driving lessons before being let loose with a dangerous chaise longue.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Have You Seen a Small Blue Budgie

Here is a story with not one but two happy endings. Mr Mike Peel, who lives in Brixham (just down the road from Torquay) and keeps buddies, 140 buddies. Anyway a few days ago he went into the shed to clean it out. Half way through he popped out for a cup of tea and 4 of his buddies made a break for freedom. One if them decided to have a day out in Torquay and headed across the Bay, the silly thing should have go a number 12, not as exciting but more reliable. Half a mile out the poor little thing became exhausted to fly and decided to swim the rest of the way. Unfortunately buddies come from one of the driest places on the planet and most of them never learn to swim so things look black for our little blue hero splashing about in two foot high waves. Then Captain Nemo surfaced next to him just in the nick of time. Actually it was a party of divers and being kind hearted they rescued the budgie who ended up being called Captain and having his picture on the front page of the local paper. A day or two later he was reunited with a delighted Mr Peel.
There is more. I mentioned that 4 of Mr Peel’s budgies had escaped. A family living near Mr Smith in Brixham noticed a group of seagulls in their back garden mobbing a small bird. They all rushed out and saved a second of Mike Peel’s budgies from ending up as a snack for a seagull.
Isn’t that nice?

Thursday, 9 July 2009

PS Email Warning

I forgot to mention that after opening a couple of the emails warning me about a new virus my computer ran slowly for a while. I ran an antivirus program but nothing came up.

Virus Threat????

Emails with pictures of Osama Bin-Laden hanged are being sent and the moment that you open these emails your computer will crash and you will not be able to fix it! If you get an email along the lines of 'Osama Bin Laden Captured' or 'Osama Hanged', don't open the attachment. This e-mail is being distributed through countries around the globe, but mainly in the US and Israel Be considerate & send this warning to who ever you know.
You should be alert during the next few days: Do not open any message with an attached file called 'Invitation' regardless of who sent it. It is a virus that opens an Olympic Torch which 'burns' the whole hard disc C of your computer.This virus will be received from someone who has your e-mail address in his/her contact list, that is why you should send this e-mail to all your contacts. It is better to receive this message 25 times than to receive the virus and open it If you receive a mail called 'invitation', though sent by a friend, do not open it and shut down your computer immediately.
This is the worst virus announced by CNN, it has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever. This virus was discovered by McAfee yesterday, and there is no repair yet for this kind of virus. This virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc, where the vital information is kept.

I received this email today from no less than 5 people, some I don't even know. My God, I thought What is going on. So I went on BBC web and checked there, nothing. CNN, nothing. Microsoft, nothing. MacFee, nothing. So what am I doing about the above email? That's right, nothing.

Mind you if the emails mentioned do turn up I will know what to do. Better safe than without a computer.

"Could you please wait till I get sat down?"

I shouldn't need to ask.
I went down to the library this morning to change some books, a day late. There is a new computerised system down there now, you place your card on a bar code reader and then place the books in a slot that reads the books titles and you get a receipt that has a list of the books and date they are due back. Fine except that that date is no longer stamped in the front of the book so you have to keep the receipt or write the date in yourself. Both of which I omitted to do and ended up owing Torbay Library Services 24 pence, a tiny fraction of my income but still 24 pence. I digress. What I wanted to mention is that while I was there I picked up a copy (free) of the Mature Times, a paper aimed at us oldies. One of the articles suggested that up to 800 elderly people a day fall over whilst on a bus. Several reasons were given including tripping over items left in the isle, the driver going too fast and the most likely, the driver setting of before the elderly person has sat down. Now I am aware that as a person gets older their bones get more fragile so I always tried to make sure anyone who looked fragile had sat down before I set of. I am sad to say I was in a minority. I travel on buses quite a lot these days ( well it’s free isn’t it? (sic)) and I do notice that if I was still driving a bus I would still be in the minority.
I once asked a driver why he had set of from Castle Circus, accelerating in a similar fashion to Apollo 11, while an extremely frail old lady was still struggling down the bus. She would have gone out the back window except there wasn’t a back window on the bus. His reply was, “I have a timetable to keep to.” When pushed a bit further he stated, “If she can’t get on a bus quickly she shouldn’t get on a bus.” I gave up at this point, it would have been like trying to tell the British Government that we are wasting time, money, reputation and lives in Afghanistan without hope of the conflict ever ending.

I would point out in the bus company’s defence that Stagecoach, when I worked there, did put up notices instructing drivers not to indulge in this dangerous tactic. As more elderly people make more use of their free (sic) bus passes this problem can only get worse unless a more vigorous campaign is carried out by bus companies to educate their drivers as to the dangers elderly people face when boarding a bus. Apart from the notice I mentioned above I do not remember, when going through bus driving school or at any other time, anyone mentioning this problem other than in an offhand, slightly condescending fashion. Perhaps a tour round a hospital ward full of elderly people who fell over on a bus might be a bit too much to organise but the odd poster in the office could help make some of our less caring drivers think before setting of.
PS Not all drivers set of while I struggle to get to my seat laden down with shopping and my camera but if you are elderly it only takes one fall to bugger up the rest of your life..

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Cat in the Corner

The cat has been behaving badly, scratching the furniture so I told him to go and sit in the corner.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Not Tony Gormley

I visited the exhibition at The Spanish Barn, 40000 clay things all looking at you the viewer. Main problem, there was an eagle eyed member of the Abbey staff standing there to make sure you didn't either nick a souvenir, ie one of the little things with the staring eyes or worse, much worse in the Arts Council's eyes, take a photo. I think I mentioned eyes a couple or three times there.
So I went to the Living Coast down on Torquay Harbour and shot this instead. They lack the eyes and the rugged looks and the individuality of the collection in the Spanish Barn and are never likely to go on a World Tour. But when all's said and done a photograph is a photograph. I was tempted to paint eyes on these tiny penguins but decided it would be too much trouble.

Also down in the Harbour was this. It is just a little bit bigger than the penguins and considerably bigger than the yachts and ferries we usually get in Torquay Harbour.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Name Any Two Great Train Robbers.

Back in August 1963 the only subject of conversation for a few weeks was the Great Train Robbery. £2.5 million was a lot of money in those days. What made it even better was the fact that most of us could not hope ever to get our hands on that kind of money. A bus driver would have been luck to earn £15 a week, top prize on the Premium Bonds was, I think still only £5000 and on the pools, the predecessor to the lottery, it was £75 000. Most people tended to admire the robbers for the audacity of their crime pointing out that the cash was on it's way to be destroyed anyway. What tended to be forgotten was one of the gang got stupid and hit the train driver who never worked again and it was claimed in later years that he died prematurely as a result of his beating. Each member of the gang ended up with a bag containing £150 000 but most of them ended up behind bars within a year. The 30 year sentence was greeted with both surprise and dismay and when Ronnie escaped from Winston Green prison many people were quietly pleased. His trip to Brazil hit the headlines as did his attempted kidnap by certain members of the crew of a British war ship that was on a visit to Brazil. Eventually Ronnie Came home and the rest is history. Today the Parole Board recommended he should be released. He is old and ill and if not exactly dying does not have long left. Jack Straw, the Justice Minister has decided that Ronnie will not be released as he has never shown any remorse and chose not to serve his jail sentence when he escaped and moved to Brazil all those years ago.
The question is, and you can answer yes, no or don't care, should Ronnie be released?