Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Bus Driving is Only Stressful if You Let it be Stressful

There is a comment on a recent post about someone who has taken up riding round on buses using his over 60s pass. Been there, done that, no tee shirt though. The furthest distance I have been so far is Illfracombe for a day trip. I spent twice as long on the bus as I did in Illfracombe but it was still an interesting day out. Well Ian, I'll try answer your comments about how awful the job is. The driver you talked to drives a Megabus so his work paten is nothing like that of a local bus driver. I can drive up to the W.Midlands and back to Torquay in just under 9 hours driving time and don't feel as tried compared to doing the same number of hours on a number 12. Motorway driving only becomes a problem if the motorway gets seriously congested and then only to the passengers. They want to get somewhere, the driver isn't all that bothered. Also I know from both driving a bus and coach and travelling as a passenger which is the easier. The driver has something to do even if it is dealing with passengers and the traffic where as all the passenger has to do is ask him/her self, "Are we there yet." Mechanical problems, again nothing I can do about that apart from apologise to the passengers, keep them informed and await rescue. I'm not particularly bothered if I don't get to where I am going, that's the job of the passengers. This might sound a bit callous on my part but if you don't take this attitude then the job will very quickly become too stressful and you will leave. Similarly with unsociable hours. No one comes into the job not knowing that buses run from 6 am to past midnight and someone has to drive them. Actually that statement isn't true, I have come across drivers who didn't understand that from time to time it's their turn to take the first bus out in the morning and sometimes bring the last bus in at night. I remember standing in the control room at Torquay listening to a new driver complain. He had just noticed he was working the following Saturday and was having a go at the controller. No one told him he had to work weekends. At the hotel staff in the restaurant and kitchen worked split shifts. This meant coming in at 7am, working till 10am then going home and coming back at 5pm until 8pm. That is a 13 hour day but for 6 hours pay, now that is as unsociable as you can get.

I hope you carry on riding around on the buses, there is much to be seen out there. Take photos of where you go so you have a record. Also I find when I am on a long trip a good pair of earphones and an mp3 player helps to get you through the boring or the stressful bits.

PS. I have stacked shelves at Tesco, there are worse jobs, a lot worse, but bus driving isn’t one of them.

Something Happening Down at the Sherwood

I went for a little walk today, I try and get out every day if I can. According to my doctor I will live much longer if I exercise. Usually this exercise consists of walking to the nearest pub which doesn't really count as life saving exercise. Up till a couple of weeks ago I walked to and from work which did count but now I have to get up and go out even though I have no where in particular to walk to. Now the weather here in Torquay hasn't been exactly summer like, unless you live somewhere like the Falkland Island or South Georgia so I haven't been out as much as I should. Today the sun was shinning so I set off for who knows where and ended up 16 minutes later at the hotel. When I was working there it used to take 13 minutes so a couple of weeks inactivity has taken it's toll.

As you can see from the photos someone has been busy boarding up the building. Until now I had been living in hope that someone would ring me and say," I've taken over the company. Can you drive a coach next week?". Well it isn't going to happen any time soon.

A comment from a reader about the Christmas post points out that the Grand Hotel has been trying to get the record for the first place advertising Christmas bookings by having a banner up since the beginning of August. Any advance on that date?

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Merry Christmas to all my readers

And we haven't had summer yet. 
You saw it first here folks, the first shop/pub/resturant/stately home flogging Christmas. It is after all only 17 weeks to Christmas. Not really enough time to get a Christmas party organised.
The offending pub is in Fleet Street Torquay and is called Camelot where it is always Christmas. (According to legend).
If it isn't the first then please let me know.

Friday, 27 August 2010

I'd like to know; one way or the other.

It's been a week now since I sent out an enquiry about a job I heard about coach driving and no response. It was by email which is how the coach firm wanted it but I am disappointed they haven't emailed me back, even if just to say sod off. I could understand it if it was by Royal Mail and hundreds of people a week sent them letters asking if the had a vacancy, the time to type all those letters and put them in an envelope, the cost of all those stamps and then take them down to the post box. But with email all you have to do if hit the reply button, type sorry, "no jobs going at the moment" and hit send. This lack of replies to job applications is probably the worst part of applying for a job. You're one of the unemployed, a scrounger of the State, you don't count, you aren't worthy of respect.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Back Home

After a few days up in Manchester I am back in Torquay, today, my first full day home and what does it do? I spends all day drizzling. I didn't go out the front door once. Instead I spent the day look at jobseeker sites and touching up, sorry, meant to say updating my CV just in case there was a job that caught my fancy. There is something there but until I get a response either way I'm saying nothing.

Something that came up in the local Torquay paper yet again was a call to ban buses from Fleet Street. I used to be dead against that idea back in the good old days when I drove a bus several times a day up and down Fleet St. Now I no longer drive a bus in Fleet St, either up or down I still thing the idea is crazy. It would be nice if there were no buses, just pedestrians but there simply isn't anywhere else to go so please stop suggesting the idea unless you have several million to donate towards the building of an underpass between the Post Office Roundabout and the Harbour.

Mind you, if a bus did this then it will strengthen the case for getting shut of the buses.

PS. Did a bus do this anyone know?

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Bonded Coach Holidays

If you are concerned that you or someone you know has paid for a holiday with McColl's at either The Sherwood in Torquay or at Dunoon then here is what I hope will be helpful information.

On the still active McColl's Hotels web page there is a section which gives 10 reasons to book with McColl's. One of the reasons given is the holiday is protected by the Bonded Coach Holiday scheme. I can also remember reading in, I think, either the Dunoon Observer or the Argyll News that McColl's were covered by the BCH.

To contact BCH either click on the above link or by phone on 0207 240 31 31.

The Lord Mayor of Manchester

So there I was with plenty of time on my hands and a bus pass in my pocket. A trip down into Manchester on the 135 Firstbus beckoned. So my sister in law and I rode on a bus, it was only her 2nd trip on a bus in years, I am not sure if she will be making this methord of travel her number one travel mode. After the bus ride we walked down Deansgate and decided to go into the John Rylands Library for a quick look round. We had arrived a couple of minutes before opening time but as we waited the Lord Mayor walked out of the library. Never one to miss taking a photo I pointed my camera at his lordship. One of his assistants noticed and drew the mayors attention to my camera. He instantly went into 'I am a politician and someone is pointing a camera at me' mode and stood to attention. So instead of getting an informal photo of the mayor leaving the building I got this. Good isn't it.

My sister in law meanwhile was hiding behind one of the book shelves hoping not to be noticed and muttering 'I'm not with him' over and over again.

Monday, 16 August 2010

An old item from the Argyll News

This is a item from the Argyll News and relates to a TV program shown in July last year.

This week's was one of the most interesting of the new series of business programmes featuring Gerry Robinson. The super-successful business man looks at businesses in trouble, coming to a decision on whether or not he will invest his own money in helping to tum their decline around.

This time one of the two businesses featured was in Argyll – the long established McColls' Hotel in Dunoon. This is one of a chain, some of which have had to be sold, leaving two hotels – the other one in Torquay.

it quickly became clear to Gerry Robinson that the central problem faced by the business was that it might have appeared to have a management structure but in practice it had no management worth speaking of.  A family business, the key figures were a father and son whose relationship was dysfunctional to say the least. Mark, the son, had a title but neither responsibility nor authority.

His father,  whose authority was absolute, never went into the hotel but stayed in a control den in his house next door. There he spent his time poring over CCTV screens showing the interior of the hotel and a computer with coach-tracking software. This let him see exactly where the McColls' coaches were, ferrying the mostly elderly clientele to the hotel.

Father really wanted son to do the sales work to increase the business, hit by the recession. Son – with a title that suggested very different responsibilities, was angry and hurt at being continually sidelined and refused to do sales.

There were no management accounts. Staff were unsure who they were really responsible to but enjoyed their jobs and had a strong loyalty to the business.

On the positive side, the hotel gets around 70% repeat business and the warmest of appreciation of the its staff.

Like the audience for the show, Gerry Robinson's feelings on whether the business was rescuable or not swung endlessly from optimism to pessimism.

He was upfront with the two men and set them the challenge of sorting out their relationship and their roles in the business before he would even think again about what role he might play.

Their first attempt offered no hope, with an edgy war breaking out between them in no time at all.

But when Robinson returned he found a clean management structure in place with the woman who had effectively been managing the hotel now formally promoted to General Manager, the father stepping aside and Mark, the son, becoming Sales Director for the time being.

The biggest change that had come about because of Robinson's intervention was personal. Father and son had recovered their personal relationship and were mourning time lost in their pointless estrangement.

All was so obviously in control and going to be well that it came as a shock when Robinson's decision was not to invest. It wasnlt the money. In his terms the business didn't need a ot to see out the current hard times – around £150k.

Robinson's analysis was that this amount of cash was not what would make the difference and might only distract father and son and the new General Manager from making progress as a clearly structured and collaborative management team. He offered to talk to their bank, with the reassurance that he saw the business as clearly survivable and with room to grow.

After initial disappointment – fuelled by their awareness of the distance they had travelled, it was to the enduring  credit of the family that they quickly understood how right Robinson's judgment had been. This was a complex and insightful programme, reminding us where we least expected to find it, that money is not necessarily the answer.


Comment on the above article

1.      I am interested to see David McEwan Hill's comment, if this is the same Dave McEwan Hill who is a senior member of the SNP, I would have thought he might have reacted more positively to the success and survival of business in Argyll. I am happy to express my interest, I'm Mark Wilkinson, the son mentioned in the article above, I can honestly say that taking part in the programme gave us a unique opportunity to get the advice of one of the most successful business men in the country. Sir Gerry was as nice as he seems on the programme, but you don't achieve his level of success without being able to see to the heart of the matter, as well as banging a few heads together when neccessary.He certainly fits the description of an iron fist in a velvet glove.

He quite correctly,identified,as he told me is usually the case, that the problems almost always lie with the management, he was right, we listened, we took his advice, we made the changes we needed to. Not only has it transformed the way our business works, but also our family relationships. He quite rightly said that we didn't need his money, we have since, with the assistance of Sir Gerry's undoubted influence, refinanced with our bankers and are now in a strong position to see out the rest of the recession. We believe that with the changes we've made, and as Sir Gerry himself said, we will go from strength to strength and continue to provide a major source of employment in Argyll. Indeed between 2003 – 2008 we have brought more than 40,000 passengers to Argyll, representing 193,684 bednights into Dunoon alone and an estimated contribution to the local economy of £500,000 – £750,000 per annum.

I might also add that Sir Gerry told me he is still in touch with all the companies he's ever filmed with and said if we ever need his help, give him a call. Now that's a gift for any business, and one that money probably couldn't buy.

I would suggest it's not just McColls who have benefited from Sir Gerry's visit, but the whole of Argyll.


I should have looked worried.

Experienced bus/coach driver, hard & conscientious worker, team player, reliable, polite, careful, willing, honest, considerate, long time blogger, keen photographer and good looking, requires employment in the Torquay area.

As you can see the company, McColl's of Argyll, has closed with immediate effect putting me and 65 other people out of work, 20 in Torquay, 8 in the Midlands and the rest in Scotland.

If you know of any gainful, suitable employment going please let me know. Thanks

Today's the day; Maybe.

It's 8:41 Monday morning. The big meeting is being held in Scotland at 12 Noon so I should hear sometime this afternoon what is happening. Meanwhile I am still on holiday here in sunny Manchester and after the running about of the last two days the plan is to go into the city centre to look at what has changed in the last 30 years since I used to live here.

I don't look too worried do I?

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Story Continues.

After speaking with the lady from the administrators last week I was fairly confident that I would continue to drive a coach for ages yet. Then this Monday I got back to the hotel with 40 new guests, some of whom were staying till Friday and the remainder staying till Sunday, the manager told me that they would all be going home on Friday and then the hotel would temporary close for a week while everything was ‘sorted out’. What exactly 'sorted out' meant is anyone’s guess. No trips out were to be arranged, not even the trip to Babbacombe Theatre on Thursday evening, a long held tradition of the hotel this trip to the theatre.

There was an atmosphere of gloom about the place, many of the housecleaning staff thinking of looking for other jobs without waiting for the result of the ‘sorting out’ meeting on Monday coming (16th). Not that I blame them. I was thinking of doing the same. Then came the news that Dawlish Coaches had folded putting about 35 people on the dole, many of them coach drivers, all of whom would be out there looking for work.

So a weeks enforced holiday. I decided a trip up to Manchester would be a good idea, I would be two thirds of the way there, a short bus and tram ride would get me into Wolverhampton to catch a National Express coach for Manchester. Wolverhampton was cold and wet, more like November than August and the coach was 45 minutes late due to traffic on the M5 and M6.

Manchester is a warmer and sunnier, just. My brother and his wife and a couple of friends were going out for a meal on Saturday at a pub, The Lord Raglan the other side of Bury, a very nice meal and probably one pint too much. We were on our way home down this country lane and out of the darkness appeared a cow. This doesn't happen in Torquay.

Anyway as soon as any results come out of the meeting tomorrow I will let you know.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Ginger and the Administrator

An other week gone by, been out in the coach on trips to Plymouth, Brixham and Dartmouth with 40 odd people. When I say old I mean about 40 people, not that the people were odd. Well not too odd any way. When I go to Dartmouth I usually take a book to read while my coach party is taking in the sights and wondering how the locals manage when beer is over 3 quid a pint. Yesterday I got to the coach park and there was only one coach parked up. The drivers said hello and then talked like he had been stranded on a desert island for the last 20 years. I never got to read my book. While in Plymouth I wandered up to the Comet store. I recently acquired a Comet gift voucher and decided to have a look round to see if there was anything I fancied, I figured as Plymouth was much larger than Torquay there would be more on offer. Sad mistake. The Plymouth Comet would fit in The Torquay Comet several times over so I ended up coming away empty handed.

Back home that evening I discovered that Ginger had gone on walkabout again. Last time he was away for 4 days before returning. We were getting quite worried. Now our back garden has a wall about 5 feet high all round it but we removed the gate so the cats, both getting on in years could get out into the wild ground at the back. Ginger struggles the get up onto the sofa of an evening so we figured a 5 foot wall would keep him in so I put the back gate back, hopefully turning the garden into a cat Colditz. When he vanished the 2nd time we checked the house, no sign, the shed, no sign, the garden, no sign. Looks like his plucky efforts to climb onto the sofa are all an act. Still he turned up a couple of days later without any explanation as to where he had been. He is beginning to treat the house like a hotel. Still likes his food though.

What else has happened this week? Not a lot except that when I went into the hotel on Tuesday lunch there was a strange lady in the office. When I say strange I don't mean she was wearing black leather clothing and 6 inch stiletto heels and carrying an assortment of whips. I mean I had never seen her before, Apparently she works for a firm of administrators and wasn't here on a social visit. She was here to crack a whip even though she didn't have one on show. To cut a long story very short the company is in administration and we can't even nip out and get a box of matches without her say so. She did stress that for the time being every thing would continue as normal except for the problem buying matches. She did say wages would be paid on time and in full. I get paid into the bank on Thursday so at 1 minute past midnight Thursday morning I opened my online bank account and guess what? Wrong, I had been paid. Lets see what happens each Thursday from now on. I am hoping someone comes along and makes a reasonable offer for the company some time in the next few months or even weeks because I can't see this situation dragging on long into next year.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Just an other average weekend

An other mad weekend, Saturday evening up to Walsall dead then on Sunday 4 pick ups in Stafford, Walsall, Dudley and Oldbury. Then down to Torquay with 17 passengers. Waiting for me in Torquay were 55 more passengers who were on their way home. The other driver was also there so he drove back to Wednesbury, where 4 minibuses were waiting to carry the passengers to their homes. However there should have been 5 minibuses but one driver had cried of at the last moment which meant there were 7 passengers wanting to go to Hinckley and Leicester. Guess who took them. So instead of finishing at 6:30 I finished at 9:15 after a mad dash along the M6 and the M69. Road works on the M6, which have been on going for months meant I go back to the hotel after the kitchen staff had gone home but the nice young lady behind the bar provided me with a phone number of the local Indian Take away. Twenty minutes late a very nice Chicken Ticka turned up which went down nicely, with a little help from a pint of Carling.

Tomorrow, Monday it's the same but without a spare driver and without the side trip to Leicester. Tuesday it's just a run from Walsall to Torquay dead (without passengers), Wednesday it's a day off (forecast is for rain all day Wednesday).