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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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