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.