Saturday, 31 July 2010

Do Cats Go On Holiday?

This is ginger the cat. Handsome isn't he? Well on Monday evening he went out for a walk. Tuesday morning, no sign of him. Same Tuesday lunch, Tuesday afternoon, Tuesday tea time Tuesday evening and the same Tuesday night. Not really worried he has done this sort of thing before. But Wednesday came and went but with the same result as Tuesday. A look on the waste ground at the back of the garden produced nothing nor did asking those neighbours I saw. Thursday was the same, no Ginger anywhere. Could he have gone for good without a word. Not a chance because when I got up on Friday morning he was sat by his food bowl waiting for his breakfast. No a word as to where he had been. Where had he been? I mean he wasn't starving or anything, didn't look bedraggled and sorry for himself even though we had been worried sick by his disappearance. We are glad he is back, even Hector the other cat gave him a lick on the nose to say hello.

Monday, 26 July 2010

More Fun on the Coaches

Sunday was a normal day, that is I took a group of guests home to the West Midlands and stayed the night in a hotel next to Walsall football ground. Next morning was slightly trickier in that instead of picking up locally I was up at 4:45 and away from the hotel at 5:15 heading for Wigston 40 miles away in Leicester. Here two people were waiting for me. I was lucky to get there as the satnav provided by the company suddenly decided to send me back to where I had come from and I got lost in South Leicester. As I sat in the coach wondering if I should switch the engine off and walk away the satnav began to work again. Following the direction on a satnav can bring it's own problems. Today's problem was a railway bridge with a 2 Tonne limit. I am not exactly sure what the coach does weight but I have a strong feeling it is more than 2 tonnes. From Wigston to Leicester to pick 3 people up and then Hinckley for two more. Then fallowed a mad dash along the A5, the M42 and the M6 back to Wednesbury for 9 o'clock. So far so good. At Wednesbury an other driver was going to drive the coach down to Torquay. We should have left at 9:15 but finally manager to get going at 9:45 arriving at the next pick up point 10 minutes late. We left 35 minutes late, God knows how getting 10 people and their cases onto a coach can take so long but some people obviously practice their skills to the highest degree.

Long experience of motorway driving have taught me that when you see those overhead lights flashing nastily telling you there are long delays ahead you done not leave the motorway, the side roads you are heading for just can not take the volume of traffic and if you are going to sit in as traffic jam you may as well do it on the motorway. My driver saw the flashing sign and was off the M5 and into hell before I could say NO!, 45 minutes, 5 miles and shattered nerves later we rejoined a free flowing motorway. Eventually at 3 pm we go down to Torquay where we quickly unloaded the coach then loaded it again with those going home and I headed north arriving back at the hotel in Walsall at 8pm, 14 and three quarter hours after I had left it that morning. Not better than bus driving.

Cabbie, was a taxi driver once and have been there, you could try going up to the depot in Regent Close and asking for an application form. I am not sure if the training school in Exeter is excepting new recruits at the moment. Worth a try.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Some of the Crazy Things Coach Drivers Get To Do That Bus Drivers Don’t.

Normally I work on a Monday, usually up to Gordano services and back but last Monday a driver was down from the Midland depot for a few days to give me a rest. I had been working hard recently. He was bringing a coach load of people down from the Walsall area for a few days holiday here in beautiful Torquay. But the coach made it as far as Frankley services and refused to start. The fitter came out and got it going but then turned the engine off just to make sure it would start again. It didn’t. So he crawled back into the engine compartment and crossed a few wires while the passengers crossed their fingers. It started but needed some leisure time in the Garage in Tipton. So it was decided to ring me and get me to drive the spare coach that was parked at the hotel up to Gordano and get the passengers down to Torquay while the sick coach went back to the W.Midlands for repairs and recuperation. I got the phone call at 12:09 and was requested to get to Gordano as fast as legally possible. I was just on my way out to the pub, an hour and two pints later and we would have been in big trouble. At 2:30 I pulled into Gordano and loaded 40 passengers and their cases and headed to Torquay. Job well done. Not quite.
The coach that came down to Torquay went back on Tuesday with the intention of bringing some passengers back on Thursday. However the coach was enjoying sitting in the garage so much it refused to start. Fortunately there weren’t too many passengers heading for Torquay and it was possible to bring them in one of our luxury minibuses. There was a problem, there always is. First there were 26 guests wanting to go to the Theatre on Thursday night (two trips for the minibus). The second problem was bigger. Forty guests were expecting to go home on a coach on Friday morning and there wasn’t a coach in Torquay, it was in the garage in Tipton, W. Midlands. I would have to go up and get it using the minibus, but remember what the minibus was doing Thursday evening. That’s right, going to the theatre and back, twice. So at 11:30 Thursday night I set off and got back at 7:20 the next morning. A shower, shave, tooth brush and breakfast and we set of for Gordano, me asleep on the back seat and someone else driving. A coach came down to meet us laden with 45 passenger and I drove them to Torquay and I got back at 2:00 and went home for a sleep.
Bus drivers don’t have that much fun, I’ll bet.

Still Coach Driving

Thanks for the supportive comments, I have got used to the idea of continued coach driving. Sometimes it can be a bit of a drag, like sitting in a coach park somewhere waiting until it is time to pick the guests up after they have wandered round some town, village, beauty spot or Trago Mills. Or loading 50 cases on and of the coach. I was trying to move a case the other day, and I really mean trying, and a little old lady came up and said, "That's my case young man. Be careful with it." She was only down for a 4 day midweek break, what in god's name did she have in it I wondered. She must have read my thoughts and said she had everything of value she possessed so if she got broken into while down here in beautiful Torquay she would still have all her important possessions. Nice idea but hard on my poor old back.

As the M5 goes over the Bristol Avon you can see a car park on the seaward side of the road. Not just any car park as you can see but hundreds, possibly thousands of new cars waiting for someone to buy them. I had seen like this a lot recently and always thought that white seemed to be the predominate colour. But I managed to take this photo the other day, I hadn't been able to previously as the traffic is usually too heavy but this day someone else was driving. When I looked at the photo I realised that the cars had white covers, presumably to protect from sunlight and seagull droppings. I wonder how long those cars actually sit there before someone drives one away from a showroom under the mistaken impression he is driving a brand new car?

Note; for pylon enthusiasts I used the photo with a couple of pylons in it

Gone but replaced by something else.

The Blue Wall along Rock Walk has finally come down a couple of years after it went up. I think Torbay Council should have closed the road while it was being demolished and had a big party with a free bar-b-que and a band playing but never mind, it's gone. The blue boards heve been replaced by a see through fence so we can see what's happening. And what's happening is the walkways and viewing platform are almost finished, slight delay during the week due to high winds, the crane, like Mr Bye's balloon doesn't work too well in high winds. Not sure exactly when we will be able to climb up and have a look across the Bay at Brixham and Paignton, nor when the top pathway which was closed for 4 weeks five weeks ago will be open either but it will happen soon.

No blue boards but still fenced off.

Only about 40 more blocks to lift into place.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Slight Disappointment

A couple of weeks ago I was down on the Strand. There I noticed a controller driving a bus. This could mean that a couple of drivers had both rung in sick at short notice or a driver had gone sick on duty. The 3rd alternative, and the one that interested me the most was the possibility that Stagecoach were short of drivers. It does happen from time to time. So I had word with a passing controller who did tell me that there were a few gaps here and there. So the next day I went down to the depot and filled in an application from. What had I got to lose?

I spoke to the depot manager and arranged for an interview the next day, a Thursday. The interview went well, mostly. There was a short 5 second pause at one point. At the end of the interview I was told a letter would arrive telling me yes or no in a week or 10 days.

On the way home on the bus I was at first mildly optimistic but by the time I was all the way home this feeling had changed slightly as I considered all the pros and cons of the situation. Had I been a betting man I would have considered gambling a fiver against me being successful.

A week went by and no letter, no news is good news people say. Not sure why. Friday and Saturday and Monday all passed without the postman bring the awaited missive. Then on Tuesday it arrived.

I should have had that bet, at least I would have been 5 quid up on the deal.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Left to Rot

This little boat sits in Torquay's inner harbour, ringed with seaweed, neglected and lonely. Each time I walk past it seems a little lower in the water. It would appear to be sinking slowly, day by day. One day soon I will walk past and it will have slipped gently beneath the surface, gone and forgotten.

Or maybe the Harbour Master will notice and remove from the water before that happens. There is a phone number you can ring to report cars that have been abandoned, is there, does anyone know, a similar number for abandoned boats?


The top photo was taken June 6 and the bottom photo July 11. If there is a development I will let you know.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

More from the M5

Monday afternoon I took a small number of guests up to Frankley services on the M5. There I was met by a couple of our luxury minibuses ready and waiting to take my passengers on to their various destinations. It was a bit of a hard trip due to the strong cross wind. Driving across the Somerset Levels was the worst but the wind continued to be strong and blustery. As I was heading north, just before junction 11A when I was going past a group of HGVs I noticed a few brake lights come on, then smoke drifting across the carriageway.

A quick glance to the right and I could see where the smoke was coming from. Right underneath a bridge was a burning car. The whole of the front end was engulfed in flames. The traffic heading south was moving out into the 3rd lane to get as far away from it as possible. I was past it and a long way away before a thought occurred to me, 'What would happen if the petrol tank exploded?"

An hour later I was passing the spot on my way home and the bridge was still standing though the car had gone leaving a big black mark on the hard shoulder. Highway maintenance men were there clearing away any debris.

A bit later I stopped at Taunton Dean Services for a rest and took the photo of the steam engine that was parked there on a low loader. I wonder why it didn't make it own way to it's destination, under it's own steam as it were.

Pylons are us

Driving up and down the M5 can, eventually, get quite boring. Gradually one begins to notice little things that are adjacent to the road. Some big things as well. Last week I began to notice that in some places there were a lot of pylons. The kind that carry our electricity round the country. (I did say it was quite boring) I began to wonder if there were people who went round taking photos of them, were there different kinds of pylons, was there a pylon that had been designed by a noted pylon builder that every pylon enthusiast had to see before they died. I mean people take photos of steam trains and even buses. Why not pylons?

That was Friday. Saturday evening I was watching the BBC news quiz program "Have I Got News For You". The last round in this quiz program asks the teams to fill in missing words from the week's headlines. Some of these headlines come from your average newspaper but some are from a guest publication such as, "Well Diggers are Welcome" and “ The Coffin Makers Gazette.”
This week’s guest publication was, as you have probably guessed, “The Pylon Appreciation Society” Click here for a link to their web page.

And here is a photo I took earlier.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

New Route In the Bay

This 1947 Leyland PS1 is running around the Bay for the summer. It's service number is AC1, the AC stands for Torquay's famous crime writer Agatha Christie and the bus takes it's passengers to the home of the crime writer at Greenaway House in South Hams. The bus departs from Belgrave Rd at 10:00 and 14:00 and from Cary Parade Torquay at 10:10 and 14:10 (not Monday or Tuesday). Click here for a link to Greenway Ferry's web site for more details. I must warn you though, I have seen better constructed web sites.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Coming Soon; Rock Walk to Reopen

At last Rock Walk is due to open once again to the public. It was closed in November 2007 as the cliff face was deemed to be unsafe. Trees that had been planted almost a hundred years ago were to blame. Their roots were forcing their way into cracks in the Limestone the cliff face is composed of and expanding those cracks. There was a danger that lumps of rock might crash down onto the busy main road at the base of the cliff. First the trees were removed in a 6 week period at the beginning of 2008. Half the road was closed and a boulder proof barrier was built along the central reservation by ISCA Scaffolding to prevent the possibility of a number 12 bus being hit by debris falling from the cliff. I am glad to say it worked.

Then followed a period of apparent inactivity. The council employed a company to carry out a survey on the cliff face to decide what exactly needed doing to make the cliff safe. In the autumn of 2008 a firm moved in to strengthen the cliff by drilling holes and insetting bolts, hundreds of bolts, into the limestone. Netting was also placed on parts of the cliff and a small area the required concrete support.

Over the last few months work has been proceeding to rebuild the walk ways that zigzag up the cliff so those who wish will be able to climb up and enjoy the views of the Bay and Paignton and Brixham. The footpath at the top of the cliff which is called Rock Walk is also being rebuilt and will open at the same time as the walk ways open. It had been hoped the work would have been completed for the beginning of June but a problem emerged that required extra work. If there are no more problems the area will be open at the end of the month. There will be a formal opening event some time later in the year.