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.