Saturday, 31 March 2012

A day in Paignton, mostly

This is the new, just opened today, children's play park in Paignton. work started last August and it is cirtainly a hit. Thousands turned up, slight shame the weather wasn't as bright as it has been.
If your child gets fed up with the play park then right next door there are 5 donkeys just waiting to give some child a ride.
This shop in Torbay Rd is the only one I have seen so far to mention that HRH The Queen has been Queen for 60 yrs. Come on the rest of you shop keepers, make a bit of a show for Liz.
And the new Steam Train Station is now open. From here you can buy a ticket for an open top bus ride to Totnes, a trip down the River Dart to Dartmouth and a steam train ride back to Paignton.
 But if you end up in Torquay please try not to leave a mess on our flower gardens.

Today's temperatures
Max 13C
Min 8C
Dull, cloudy.

Day Out in Lyme Regis

Max 19C
Min 7C
It was such a nice, sunny, warm day yesterday that I decided to have a day out and went, courtesy of my wonderful concessionary bus pass, to Lyme Regis. I never been there before and I had heard it was a small but very nice sea side resort with a big cob. Actually it's spelt with capital letters and two bs; The Cobb. It's a breakwater to protect the harbour and basically has been there for hundreds of years though the present structure dates from the mid 19th century. It's a pleasant walk out to the end, in good weather but Meryl Streep managed to get to the end of the Cobb in the film The French Lieutenant's Woman in bad weather so it can be done. It's nowhere as long as the breakwater in Brixham and I feel, a little local pride coming in here, that the views of Brixham are much better than Lyme Regis. You can fish at Brixham as well so if you are coming here and you like fishing then bring your tackle. Bring a camera in any case.
The trip from Torquay took about two and a half hours, first the X46 at 09:30 to Exeter, arrived at 10:32, then FirstBus Dorset X53 Jurassic CoastLynx which if you have the stamina will take you all the way to Poole. (About 5hours). It runs every 2 hours so make sure you don't miss the returning bus.
Also I went past a few petrol stations, everyone must have filled up already because though they were busy none had queues out into the road as was reported elsewhere yesterday. And DON'T even think about stockpiling petrol in plastic jerry cans. They are for emergency and short term use only.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Hot Weather, Cold Pasties.

Sunny, dry, Min 9C Max 20C

Max temperature in my back garden today was 20.5C which isn't bad for the end of March. It's nice but should we be worried that the weather is getting weirder. In other words is the rise in global temperature causing the climate to do strange, extreme things or is this just a nice start to the year. Has it rained recently where you live for instance? Should all those people who, according to the newspapers today, where buying jerry cans to stock pile petrol be filling them with water instead for the coming drought?
Actually, on my travels through The Bay today I went past 4 petrol stations. None of them had the vast queues of motorists desperate to buy petrol before the strike ( I should say possible strike) by the tanker drivers causes the pumps to run dry. This could be because of one of three possible reasons. One, people here in Torquay don't panic. Two, we'd sooner spend our money on Cornish pasties that have gone up by 20% for some strange reason or three, we're all too skint, coming from the unemployment capital of the UK, to buy petrol at 1.45 a litre. (£6.58 a gallon) Note; if your car does 40 miles per gallon it will now cost 1 pound to drive 6.07 miles.
Talking of pasties, I'm thinking of setting up a stall in Fleet Street out side one of the pasty shops. People can go and buy a cold take-away pasty, no VAT, and for a small fee I'll put it in a microwave oven and heat it up. I wonder how long it would take Mr Obscene, sorry Osborne to plug that lope hole. A lot quicker, I expect, than it will take him to plug even one tax avoidance scheme that keeps the filthy rich, well, filthy rich.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Road Works in Fleet St

On Saturday afternoon I was walking up Fleet St here in Torquay when I noticed some road works. There were right where the number 12 north bound stop is and were causing something of a problem. The stop is on a bit of a bend and traffic coming up Fleet St can not see if there is anything coming down. Stagecoach had the situation covered though. A controller in a high vis jacket was there directing the buses so not too much of a problem.

This afternoon, Monday, I was again in Fleet St and so were the road works, and the buses, and the controller directing traffic, and passengers a little confused as to where to wait for their bus. There was also someone from the council who had no idea there were road works going on in Fleet St. What weren't there, absolutely no where to be seen, were any workmen filling in the hole they had dug. Anyone know why exactly? Have they been abducted by extra terrestrial for sexual probing? Had they all gone to the beach, is was a nice sunny day? Had they forgotten about the hole in Fleet St, after all one hole in the road looks just like any other hole in the road? Or were they working else where on a more important job? I don't suppose we will ever find out.

Mind you, it's sort of what you expect really.

Torquay Has Many Tourist Attractions; including this one

Just turn up and play. Have fun before the council find  out people are enjoying themselves  and put a stop it.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Bus improvement grant awarded to Torbay Council

A grant of £514,700 has been awarded to Torbay Council to improve bus services in the area.
Funding will be used to integrate services, improve bus stations and install real-time information (RTI) on bus arrivals.
It will also aim to reduce delays to the bus services, particularly the number 12, by management of traffic lights to give priority to buses. These measures would be implemented in Brixham, Preston and by the Grand Hotel in Torquay as well as Shiphay Lane. Personally I feel the only way to prevent hold-ups in Preston is by building a new Preston by-pass but that would involve knocking down most of Preston so that idea is out.
Control centres would be set up so bunching of busses can be better managed and RTI (Real Time Information) via displays at bus stops and via smart phones would be used in an attempt to persuade more people to use buses. The thinking here is if car drivers know the bus service is reliable they will use buses more ( hint £1.45 per litre) and if the up and coming younger generation are able to use their smart photos to get timetable information they won't need to learn how to use the paper timetables which Stagecoach provide on most bus stops. Torbaybusroutes do some thing similar already.
It would appear that none of this grant is to be used to subsidise any bus services or to keep the reimbursement paid to bus companies under the Concessionary Bus Pass scheme at a resonable level. So we could end up with fewer bus routes but better managed buses on those routes/route? (12) still operating.
More information is available here
at the BBC and here at Torbay Council's web site.
The council's web site link explains carefully what is to be done with the money.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Lying Bastard

Chancellor George Osborne told the BBC no pensioner would be worse off in cash terms, and said state pension increases would leave them better off.
Well I am a pensioner and I will be £80 worse off next year and that will increase every year for the rest of my life unless Labour get in and reverse this decision. Add the £50 drop in winter fuel payments, down from 250 quid to 200 and I expect to be down by £3000 by the time I drop dead. Some one earning £200 000 will, in that time be £100 000 better of with their drop in income tax and I and all other pensioners will be paying for that windfall for the rich.
If you are a pensioner or about to be a pensioner and have a conservative or libdem MP then write to them and tell them you will be voting Labour at the next general election. We out number the rich so at voting time we are, briefly more powerful than they are. Tell the robbing bastards we aren't going to stand by and be mugged without fighting back.

Wanted; for mugging old age pensioners.

Be warned, though this man is not armed he is ugly, dangerous and has rich friends in high places.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Tweenaway Cross, Work Continues

I haven't been out to Tweenaway Cross for quiet a while and was pleased to see that work is still going on There. The left turn lane outbound from Paignton onto the ring road is being extended. This will remove a bottleneck here. At the moment traffic waiting to turn left is holding up traffic trying to go straight on and causing tailbacks as far as the Zoo and beyond.

Unfortunately, as you can see this work means the bow of Noah's Ark will have to be shortened making it less sea worthy. Hopefully it won't sink out of sight sometime in the future.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Olympic Flame and Toquay

So the Olympic Flame is going to start it's journey through Torbay at a small, low tech but very handy former Jet Petrol Station and used car dealership on the out skirts of Paignton. It is now an independent dealership since Jet pulled out of the South West. Will the proprietors, Wilding Motors, be able to win customers by advertising the fact, "By Appointment to the Olympic Flame".
Then it come down to Paignton via the infamous Tweenaway Cross. It's a good job Torbay Council spent millions improving the junction or there could have been a serious hold up there. That wouldn't have looked good on the tourist brochures.
Then down into Paignton and along Torbay Rd through the town centre, past Oldway Mansions and through the Preston bottleneck. Then through Livermead where if it is high tide and there is a strong east wind the road gets closed because the sea comes over the seawall, twenty foot waves have been seen crashing onto to the road in that area. We can but hope for the best; there are easy to follow diversion signs posted so shouldn't be too much of a problem.
At the Grand Hotel the Flame will turn left up Rathmore Rd to The Riviera Centre, good job the mayor insisted on pumping hundreds of thousands of pounds into the place otherwise the Flame might have ended up resting in the now world famous Grosvenor Hotel.
After lunch it's back onto the sea front via Rathmore Rd past the site of the Hyflyer balloon. The Balloon isn't there at the moment, it got blow down a few months ago so it will miss it's moment of fame as the Flame goes by.
Then it's under Rock Walk, recently made safe by the council so little danger a falling rock might extinguish the Flame ignominiously before passing the Pavilion, desperately in need of millions of pounds worth of repairs, and round to the Harbour and turning left at the Clock Tower. The Clock Tower was recently tarted up so should look good on the TV.
Then up Torwood St, which looks a mess because shops have been closed for two years awaiting demolition and renewal, and then along Babbacombe Rd to Babbacombe. I glad I ain't running that bit, it's all up hill. At Babbacombe the Flame will enter Fore St near the Babbacombe Corinthian Sailing Club where I once met HRH Princess Anne. I should add she hadn't come to see me, she was attending a function at the Sailing Club and I was standing about and she said hello and asked about my health, which was nice of her.
From there it will be taken in convoy to Shaldon. Now when I first heard about the Olympic Flame and it's relay race round the country I believed it was going to be carried by runners all the way but no. Parts of the journey it will be carried in a vehicle. ( An open top bus?). The stretch between Totnes and the Jet Station I mentioned earlier a vehicle will be used and a vehicle will carry the Flame to Shaldon Bridge where a runner, or maybe two, it is a long bridge, will carry it across to Teignmouth. That's all Teignmouth gets of the Flame because it's back to the convoy for the trip up to Exeter Cathedral where it will spend the night. If I lived in Teignmouth I would be a bit pissed off, after all it couldn't have added more than 20 minutes to the journey time to run through the town. And it is a nice town, though it was invaded and partly destroyed by the French some years ago.
All this will happen on Sunday May 20 and I will be there somewhere on the route to get a couple of photos, probably at Corbyn Head. Then while the Flame is having a well earned rest at Torre Abbey I'll walk into town and get a few more shots somewhere. Two for the price of one as it were.
Good luck and well done to all the runners, what ever you do, don't drop the bloody thing, you'll never live it down.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Government want your views. Not that they will take any notice of them.

Well the government have come up with a consultation document on same sex marriages. In it there are details of basically how the legislation will be framed. Civil marriages for same and opposite sex couples but no religious same sex marriages. The part that concerned me a little bit has been cleared up. Last week I read in a paper that everyone in a civil partnership would automatically become married, not something I wanted. But it seemed the paper got it wrong. I think it was the same paper that printed, on the front page, the headline that eating white rice will almost certainly mean you will end up with Type 2 Diabetes. Millions at risk it said. The story line went on to quote from some research done in the USA that people who eat more than one serving of white rice (150 grams) per week would find themselves injecting insulin everyday for ever. Diabetes UK have already stated that this research is not up to scrutiny and suggested that the best way to avoid Type 2 Diabetes is to make sure you are not overweight, eat a balance diet and take a few hours exercise every week.

If eating lots of rice gave you diabetes then vast numbers of people in China, India, the Middle East and plenty of other counties in the world would all be diabetic. The whole western world would have to abandon all manufacturing and do nothing but produce insulin and metformin tablets just to keep all these rice eaters alive. So don't believe everything you read in the papers, or on the internet for that matter.

PS. Want to be consulted? Click here

Friday, 16 March 2012

More From The Herald Express.

An other item of news that I gathered from this week's Herald Express was the news that the Hiflyer, Torquay's somewhat controversial helium balloon, is unlikely to fly again this year. The balloon was tethered in Abbey Gardens on the sea front and was disliked by many here in Torquay as an intrusion. A big fat white elephant which was situated in the windiest part of Torbay and it could not fly if the wind was above 12 knots, it seemed to spend most of it's time on the ground instead of 400 feet up in the air. Anyway a few months ago there was a bit of a storm and one of the ropes holding it down snapped and flew into the side of the balloon and punctured it. The balloon was a write-off. The company who own the balloon hoped to be up and flying by April but are having problems finding a new balloon, they don't just grow on trees you know.

At present the gondola and the ticket office is all that is there to show a balloon ever flew from here. The gondola has been wrapped in what remained of the balloon to protect it from the weather. Looks like it has a longer job to do than was expected.

Someone has suggested that instead of replacing the balloon we should get a big wheel a bit like the London Eye but I have a feeling that would cost much more than a new balloon.

The Banjo Repairs Continue

Work started a few weeks ago on the Banjo and Prom here in Torquay. It's been closed since 2006 but finally the money to repair it has been found. The Banjo is a double deck arrangement at present but the top deck will be removed to make it more open and discourage unsociable behaviour late at night. Not that such thing happen here in Torquay. Hopefully work should be finished by June in time for all our wonderful visitors to stroll along the prom from the Pavilion to the Theatre without having the ugly eyesore of railings fencing of part of our lovely seafront.
In the photos you can see a Gilpin digger removing the paving stones so work can start on repairing the supports below. Gilpin's are a local demolition company who very quickly made the site of the Conway Court hotel safe. The Conway Court court fire a few months ago and as it was situated on the top of the cliff overlooking the main road out of Torquay there was a danger debris might fall onto this road. Their speedy work ensured the road was closed for a minimum amount of time.
The second photo shows the Banjo it's self which as I said is to have the top deck removed.
All we need now is for work to start on an other local eye sore, aka The Palm Court Hotel. Which has been in a state of disrepair for even longer than the Banjo.

Torquay in Bradshaw's Railway Guide 1922

Lots of people, mostly from Torquay accuse the place of living on past glories. Could be true I suppose. Anyway some one kindly sent me the photos posted here of Hotels in Torquay taken from the 1922 Bradshaw Railway Guide. Back then Bradshaw was where you went, not Google, if you needed rail times or information about your destination. I can still remember from my youth rail time tables being referred to as Bradshaw's.


So here are some of Torquay's past glories.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Am I the only non catholic against same sex marrage?

I am being forced into marriage by David Cameron. I don't want to be married, I'm quite happy to be in a civil partnership. I and my partner have been living together for over 43 years and 6 years ago we became civil partners in a legal ceremony at Oldway Mansions in Torbay. I am assuming that once David Cameron has his wicked way with the law of the land I and my partner will no longer civil partners but married. I am more or less against this change.

Now, if someone asks me if I am married I can say no. I don't leave it at that. I have been telling people for over 45 years I'm gay and I see no reason to stop now so I then add, I'm in a civil partnership. This immediately defines who I am, a gay man living with an other gay man in a long term relationship. It also saves the questioner any problems as to where to go next. It forestalls one of 3 questions that usually follow ' Are you married?' which are 'What's your wife's name?' 'What does your wife do?' and 'Do you have any children? The person I am talking to can then move on to other areas of small talk without having that awkward and slightly embarrassing moment of having made an incorrect assumption about me

If David Cameron goes ahead and changes the law I will become 'married' and I will have to answer yes to the question and then correct this unfortunate but understandable assumption that will be made about me. That I am married to a woman who's name might be of passing interest as will, briefly the possession of any offspring. I can see in a few years time it will become politically correct to ask, "Are you married?" and on receiving a yes go on to ask "Same sex or mixed sex." Being political correct can be so important.

An other reason why I don't want to be married is that in a marriage now there is a husband and a wife. This still has connotations that are regarded by some sections of society as very politically not correct. The husband goes out to work and the woman stays at home and looks after the house and children. This still in many (most?) peoples' minds suggests that marriage is not a partnership of equals but where one person is more important than the other. It depends to some extent what gender you are when you come to decide who is the more important, the bread winner or the child bearer. So far my partner and I have managed to avoid that view of marriage, we have never been asked which one is the husband and which one is the wife and God help the first person to do so. We are, as it says on the label, partners, not husband and wife. Being married suggests a serious change in peoples' view of our relationship that I find would be detrimental to gay relationships in the long term.

And finally, I am against the idea of changing civil partnerships into marriages on the grounds of cost. The Act of Parliament that brought in civil partnerships was over 120 pages long. The main wording of the act covered a page and a half of that, the rest of the pages were the product of a small hard working civil servants who had gone through tens of thousands of previous legislation that had anything to do with Marriage, divorce, widow, widower, legal separation and even single and add the word civil partner to that legislation. Now an other group of hard working diligent civil servants will have to go through the process all over again and remove civil partnerships from the pile of previous legislation and replace it with same sex marriage. They could be doing better things with their time I am sure.

I have a feeling there will be equal rights activist out there who will disagree with some, most or even all of the above but this is a democracy and we can all say how we feel; and this is how I feel.


Monday, 5 March 2012

Torquay Opera House (not yet finished)

I too learnt something new about old buildings here in Torquay. As you go up Torwood St from the Harbour there is a very impressive building just past Park Lane night club. It was started just before WW1 and was intended to be an Opera House. Then the war started and work stopped. After the war there wasn't the money about to finish the job and with only the shell complete it was used for other purposes. Time to start work on it again 100 years after it was started, about par for building works here in Torquay.

Incidentally I was going to ask everyone to sign an e-petition I have submitted to Torbay Council asking them not to cut the reimbursements paid to bus companies under the bus pass scheme as this wood almost certainty lead to a reduction in bus services in the Bay. I submitted the petition 15 days ago and it still hasn't appeared on the council web site despite the council saying it would only(sic) take 10 working days to appear. Maybe the council have had 5 days holiday without telling anyone; not that we would have noticed.

I'll let you know if it ever appears.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Repairs to the Banjo

Work has finally started on repairs to the Banjo here in Torquay bringing lots of interested spectators. It, and the section of the prom towards the Pavilion have been closed since 2006 though it seems much longer. All of the land here, The Pavilion, Princess Gardens and the Princess Theatre are built on reclaimed land and the concrete structure has been giving way, only slightly, for years. The council has finally decided it has enough money to fix it before it falls down. Work, which includes divers going down to replace concrete blocks should be finished for the summer. More photos as work progresses.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Torbay Mayor's Forum Feb 2012

At the beginning of February 2012 Torbay Council announced that the reimbursement that is paid to bus companies under the Concessionary bus pass scheme was to be cut by 30% from the 1 March. Rightly or wrongly this reimbursement has, over the years become a substantial part of bus companies income. Unfortunately it has, due to under funding from central government, become a burden on many local councils like Torbay.

The proposal to cut this reimbursement has already caused Stagecoach to suggest that cuts to services and increase in fares is inevitable. Smaller operators in the Bay are more likely to be forced out of business if this cut comes in because as well as this loss of income the government is planning to reduce by 20% the fuel tax rebate paid to bus operators. It would appear to an innocent mind like me that the Tory Government don't want buses to clutter up our roads any more at a time when every thing should be being done to get cars, not buses of the road.

At the Torbay Mayor's forum yesterday I asked if the council realise the full implications these probable bus service cuts would have on the Bay and if in the future when more money becomes available their inability to make these cuts go away. I was fobbed of with the answer that the cuts were within government guide lines. Later I had a brief discussion with a council official who explained that discussions with all the bus companies in the Bay were still ongoing and that basically we would have to wait and see what came out of these talks. Hopefully something good.

Letter to Transport Working Party Torbay

This is a copy of an emial I sent recently to the 7 members of the Transport Working Party Torbay. Fo far only one member Ian Doggett (LibDem) has bothered to reply.

I am very concerned about the recent announcement that the reimbursement paid to bus companies under the concessionary bus pass scheme is to be cut by 30%. The largest bus operator in the Bay, Stagecoach have already stated that a reduction in their services will be likely if this cut is implemented. Should Stagecoach decide to cut both the frequency of some services or cut services altogether I feel this will have a negative effect not just on people living, working and studying in the Bay but also on our holiday trade. As a retired bus driver I know that many visitors have expressed both surprise and delight at the range and frequency of our bus services in Torbay.

However I am not as yet desperately concerned about the level of cuts that Stagecoach may bring in should they feel that the level of income is insufficient to sustain some of their routes. They are a large nation company with sufficient financial backing to continue operating in The Bay for sometime in the hope the reimbursement may at some time in the future return to a more sensible level.

My greatest concern at this time is with the smaller bus operators here in Torbay. I speak of Local Link, Country Bus, Rail Link and Devonian Motor Services. These bus operators cover areas in Torbay which Stagecoach do not. A few examples of services provided by these companies are the services from Torquay and Paignton to Cockington, from Torquay direct to Torbay Hospital and the Willows, Brixham to the Willows via Occambe Farm and areas of Paignton not served by Stagecoach. Other service include Torquay to Meatfoot and Daddyhole, Paignton to Broadsands and Galmpton, Paignton to Stoke Gabrial. All of these service allow people to go shopping, visit their doctor or just visit friends. Those living in these areas without cars will be forced to rely on friends or taxis which will cause many elderly and less able people to become virtual prisoners in their own homes.

A convenient local bus service might not exactly be enshrined in any Charter of Human Rights but it is a vital part of the wellbeing of any community. To risk destroying it is not what a forward looking local authority should be doing. And at a time when everything possible should be done to reduce the numbers of cars on the road reducing or eliminating bus services is not the way to go. Once these bus service go because the companies concerned could be forced to close they will be gone for good. No one is going to replace these services when the recession is over and more money becomes available. This action may be saving the council a large amount of money in the short term but in the long term it will leave thousands of households in the Bay area permanently without a bus service. I urge you to do all you can to prevent this forthcoming reduction in our bus service to take place before it is too late.

David C Banks


27 Feb 2012