Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Revelations In Auld Reekie

When you think of Edinburgh most people think of the Festival, the Fringe, fantastic architecture, the Castle, Holyrood, Princes Street, Jenners and many others. The downside has always been expensive parking providing you are lucky enough to find a space, over zealous parking wardens, appalling roadworks and many traffic jams.

Well I have to say this had improved hugely on my recent visit. Everything flowed beautifully and though the traffic wardens were still plying their trade at 11 at night, they seemed to be scowling less. Perhaps the bonuses have been that good that they can afford a smile.

The proposed tram which has been a major bone of contention amongst Edinburgers looked to be progressing at a faster rate than usual. There was even a demonstration tram parked in Princes Street for people to board and look around. It looked smart and clean. Whether it will be worth the money and go to the right places, well who knows?

Lothian Buses, however really have got their act together. They went through a period of general dumming down where the smart maroon and white livery was replaced with some fluorescent colour and a logo which looked as if someone had thrown up all over the bus on a Friday night following a beer and pizza supper. But now they are very much on the up. The new double deckers have jazzy tartan seats which could well have been designed by Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen and there are enough cameras (I counted eight on the top deck alone)to make even the most nervous feel safe.

I picked my nose and regretted it as I saw myself in this unpleasant pose on the large tv screen down the front of the bus. Knowing bus companies, the images will be downloaded to a mainframe computer in their offices and lord knows where they may go from there on. I sat incredibly still thereafter for fear of my bogies ending up on You Tube.

Thankfully some things never change in Edinburgh. You are always accosted by someone demanding money. This time it was a person demanding money who had a sense of humour:

"Will you give me 80p?"

"What for? What will you spend it on?"

"Beer. I believe honesty is the best policy."

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Near Cat-astrophy

Being the master of experiencing bizarre coincidences,I had yet another.

It was on the morning after a lady in her fifties had been caught stroking a cat, picking it up and dumping it in a wheelie bin. So perhaps it was not surprising that the first time I have been a passenger on the local service bus that something unusual happened.

"Shit," shouted the driver as he slammed on the brakes. "I've just hit a cat."

The cat had leapt across the road onto a ledge. It seemed shaken but not worried. The driver must have just nudged it.

Another eight lives to go.

Red Hot In A Cold Summer

I once walked down the street with a friend who is a psychiatrist at a major city hospital. Every corner we turned, he would suddenly bow his head, stare longer at the pavement than is usual and say in a hushed voice: "Know him - he's one of my customers". There were so many "know hims" and "know hers" that it appeared as if a large percentage of the city were under psychiatric supervision.

The impressive quality was that he managed to dodge any form of conversation.

It's different up North. You just cannot avoid people. They block the thoroughfare and won't let you past. A GP friend once told me that it was so bad that their family shopped out of the area. It avoided the dreaded and familiar phrase: "Doctor, could I just have a quick word in your ear and.............?"

No such escape for a bus driver. I was cornered by a strident local who had recently been on a club outing.

"I want a word with you. The old bus was awful"

"What bus?" I asked, feeling as if the joyous memories of France and Switzerland were being forced firmly into the background.

"The heating pipes under the seats were red hot. They wouldn't turn off. All the old folk nearly passed out. We had to move them all to the back."

I resisted the temptation of being controversial by saying how lucky they must have been to have some heat in a ridiculously cold August.

Instead I went safe and changed the topic to talking about the weather.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Les Vacances De Monsieur Bus Driver - 12. The Danglies Are Out At Wetherby

The clouds descended 10 miles from Calais and the 28 degrees quickly became 18.

"Is it like this in England?" I asked the ferry representative as we drove through the check in.

"Ooh I don't know. Maybe it is, but I hope not because I've left all me washing out on the line."

Boarding the boat, being greeted by the smell of stewed British coffee, deep fat frying and the smell of fruit chewing gum meant we were nearly home. The atmosphere had changed and it was as if we were back at the zoo. Surely it would get better the further North we went.

It didn't.

Wetherby services just happened to be the perfect halfway point for Sunderland supporters returning from West Bromwich Albion. The place was heaving with busloads of red and white shirts. The air stank of beer and burgers. The rubbish bins were overflowing. There was plenty of analysis of their team's 1-0 defeat, but they were generally well behaved.

This could not be said of the minibus full of men on a stag night who pulled into the car park as we were leaving. They rushed down the steeps. A couple of the walked crookedly over to the saplings and peed. The others just peed on the tarmac wherever they stood, regardless of who could see them.

My children screamed with laughter. " Loooook! I can see his danglies," said the youngest.

Welcome home, I thought. Welcome back to buses. Welcome back to the great British public.


Les Vacances De Monsieur Bus Driver - 11. Some Good Advice In Arras On The Homeward Leg

Like leaving France, leaving Switzerland was a wrench.

Being a sentimental old fool, the thought of replacing all the food, weather and ambience for a trip around the M25 began to make me depressed. But it wasn't that bad. We had a stay of execution, visiting someone in Alsace and stopping for one more night in a hotel in Arras.

Near Basel there is a shopping mall called Shoppyland. Perhaps England should adopt this name. Shopping is the No.1 pastime so what better name could there be? The Swiss had adopted an old English phrase on their road sign asking people to merge when joining the autoroutes, with the words: FAIR PLAY.

As a result of far too nice a time in Alsace, we didn't arrive at the hotel in Arras until after midnight. There was an English tour bus parked outside. The driver was standing on the steps, smoking a cigarette. I couldn't resist asking him how the world of buses fared.

We talked for twenty minutes. Inevitably the conversation came round to rude and obnoxious English children on school trips on the continent.

"We're too soft, us English drivers," he said. "I once had a German relief driver for one day during a trip in Germany. There were some nasty children on the trip and the teachers did nothing. So I warned the German driver.

'I will show you how to resolve this problem', he told me. So we gets going and we get to the outside of the town where he stopped in a lay-by outside a Lidl. He walked to the back of the bus and pointed at the worst behaved child and said to him:

'You will leave zis bus now.'

When the teacher complained he simply turned to her and said:

'And you will leave zis bus too.' He ushered them down the stairs, out through the middle door, shut it and drove off leaving the teacher and pupil standing by the sideof the road. It cost them 18 Euros for a taxi back to the hotel.

He was right. For the rest of the trip, we had no problems."

"I now have become tougher," he continued. I do a lot of school work and when I take them home after school in the Midlands, I know that I have the upper hand. They want to get home quickly so that they can buy sweets and cigarettes. So if they misbehave, I just drive round the same roundabout six times and they soon get the message.

I never have any problems."

Sounds like great advice. I'm going to try it. But wait a minute there aren't any roundabouts in the North Pennines.

Les Vacances De Monsieur Bus Driver - 10. A Swim Makes You Horse

I find it amusing when the credit card reader at Swiss petrol stations instantly recognises which country you are from and issues instructions in what it perceives as the correct language. The person who wrote the software must have been German, I thought as the words; MOMENT PLEASE flashed across the screen.

This was day two of driving in Switzerland. How refreshing it was not to see so many drivers sticking their middle finger up or being annoyed when they saw that an English numberplate. It was relaxed.

Around the corner were two cars embedded into themselves and a lamposts, so I had to revise my opinions.

It was a beautiful day. Though Mont Blanc was still white, the snow had gone from the lower peaks. Lac Geneve glistened and gave off an inviting and warm turquoise colour. Lausanne looked at its best. The seafront parking was deserted as the tree surgeons were attending to some branches close to the Musee d'Olympique, where we were heading.

In my poorest French I asked one of the treemen if we could park.

"You have a disc?", he asked.


"Well, don't worry. You have an English numberplate. What can they do about it? They will do nothing. But we will watch."

The trip to the museum was therefore devoid of any nervous clockwatching.

Lunch at Vevey nearly ended in tears. The Hostellerie de Geneve is an excellent place to eat with a simple menu. The day's special was Steak a Cheval. Um, delicious, I thought, that's just what I'll order. I never got as far as even uttering the words to the waiter as there was an outburst at the other end of the table from my children:

"You can't, Daddy," they yelled. "If you order horse we will never speak to you again."

Oh well then. Shame. It was going to be the Steak Tartare.

After lunch I caused a stir in Vevey, outside the Musee de l'Alimentation, which is situated on the lakeside, where there is a huge metal fork sculpture embedded into the lake a few yards from the shore, which doubles as an advert for the museum and a piece of public art.

It was hot. So I stripped to my underpants and swam around this huge fork. The passing beautiful people of Vevey and the Nestle workers came walking past looking disbelieving. The water was clear and warm. It was a fine place to swim. When I turned around to swim back to shore, there were many people standing and watching me. A group of Japanese tourists were taking photos. An old man driving a yellow Ferrari stared as he drove past. They were fortunate that I had first thing decided to wear my tartan underpants.

"OOOOhhhhhh Daaadddddyyyyyy!" said one of my children who had just come out of the museum and had spotted me. "Not again."

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Les Vacances De Monsieur Bus Driver - 9. Is Switzerland Part Of Sweden Or Latvia

I am an internationalist.

I love the fact that the world is often never what it seems. So I am in seventh heaven when I find in our wonderful residence that there is a Swedish hostess, a Latvian au pair and British guests.

The food has been delicious in the extreme. We have had Swedish mushrooms, Latvian soup and omlette and Swiss meats and salads. How good is that?

We have talked, talked, talked. About Sweden, about Latvia, about Switzerland, about the World. As Lewis Carrol put it in 'the Walrus and the Carpenter':

"To talk of many things: of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings.
And why the sea is boiling hot. And whether pigs have wings."

This is life.

Les Vacances De Monsieur Bus Driver - 8. La Magique De La Suisse

It doesn't ever matter about the weather in Switzerland. Yes the lack of sun and cool rainy weather is a bore, but on the other hand, the views are even more dramatic through the clouds and the mist. Occasionally shafts of yellow sunlight break through, promising better things to come.

Villars-sur-Ollon is still nice, even though there have been major changes since my last visit seven years ago. It has perhaps gone a little down market. The ultra chic seemed to have gone elsewhere and there has been a mass building programme. With the recession there are large numbers of newly built chalets sitting empty. There seem to be many new inhabitants trying to sell, yet holding out for top dollar and refusing anything less.

I met an Englishman who was, without success trying to sell at 30% over market value. He seemed to be hoping that some passing Russian will snap it up. But I fear he will have a long wait as the Russians are feeling the effects of the downturn as much as everyone else.

the girls have been riding in a beautiful riding school. they were treated like adults and spent the day riding, carriage driving, mucking out and grooming. there was not one health and safety notice and there was not one restriction. They were allowed to climb haystacks, walk everywhere and do more or less anything. parents were encouraged to leave as soon as possible so as not to interfere with proceedings.

Not only did you feel they were being well cared for, but they came away exhilarated. The youngest one unfortunately ripped her jeans and would not raise herself in the saddle when trotting.

"Up! Up! Up!" said the stagiere.

"No! No! No!" came the reply.

It is dull to keep waxing lyrical about the differences between Switzerland and England. McDonalds has more interesting variety, more fun places for the children and less aroma of cheap oil frying. They offer packets of pomme frites sauce Manor supermarkets are a piece of art, like Fortnum and mason used to be. Everything is neet and tidy, there is not so much litter and the verges and hedges are cut, like England used to be.

The standard of driving is respectful, apart from roundabouts where they haven't got a clue, sometimes tailgating on the autoroutes and up and down mountains where you are likely to meet a mad Swiss or Italian in a hurry.

The cobwebs were blown away with a walk up the mountain. i felt like puffing billy and was thankful to have stopped smoking cigars for the past three days. It definitely helped me to the summit. The day just "got better with a visit to one of the most magical places on earth (personal view). L'Abbaye de Saint-Maurice is situated against the cliff face, directly under a mountain. Who would have believed that one of the oldest churches in the world is in Switzerland? Everyone has been involved with Saint-Maurice. The Romans, the Egyptians, the Celts, the Burgundians, the Italians and even Swiss railways who built a tunnel almost under the monastery.

The very best are the treasures. The relics, the boxes, the jewelled jugs are worthy of a place in any of the world's finest museums. When the guide takes you in a small group of ten, you get the feeling you are about to see something truly special.

For once in my life I was silent for more than 30 minutes.

The stained glass windows are truly incredible too. Created by the artist Edmond Bille in 1950, he wanted to create a "tapisserie lumineuse". Astounding.

I felt humble.

Les Vacances De Monsieur Bus Driver - 7. Au Revoir La France

I felt I needed the contraption one Englishman had invented to give money over to the lady in the kiosk at the peage, without having to get out and walk around the car or lean across and risk damaging a muscle in the back. My wife had done that the day we arrived in France and had berated me for not driving closer to the automatic machine.

Hence this genius had simply tied a sardine tin onto the end of a golf club and majestically poked it through the window to the amusement of the peage operators. i felt I needed this now as it was raining exceedingly hard.

The peage operator saw the English numberplate coming and scowled. He must have heard the same weather forecast which blamed les Iles Britanniques for sending this unusually cold August front to their beloved neighbour.

The Loire was bad. Bourgogne far worse and by the time we reached the Swiss border near Geneve, it was diabolical. The slow queue through the border control was due mainly to see if you had a vignette on your windscreen which allows you to drive on Swiss autoroutes. Luckily I had bought one off Swiss railways office in London and they waved me through a side road, which avoided the checkpoint. Others who did not have a vignette were made to drive around to the back of the queue, park up, then have to go into an office to buy one, filling out long involved paperwork in the process.

As we left the plains around Lac Geneve and climbed into the mountains, it got worse. The rain turned colder and it was accompanied by fog. When we reached my friend's chalet in the town 1000 metres up it was 11 degrees. The discomfort was cushioned immediately with delicious local Swiss wine and raclette for dinner.

The brother of my hostess had fared even worse that evening. His school reunion dinner had ended with a specially organised trip up the cable car to the top of the mountain top. Being August they had all worn t-shirts and light jerseys which they soon regretted for halfway up, they encountered a blizzard.

A blizzard in August? This is madness. Perhaps global warning is happening. Or perhaps it is due to the Icelandic volcano. Or perhaps it is just the usual swings and roundabouts of the world weather. either way, the next morning, looking out of the chalet window through the clouds, most of the mountain tops were white and the snow came quite a long way down.

Les Vacances De Monsieur Bus Driver - 6. Where Did you Stick My Profiterole?

I left France in disgrace.

I felt that I was going to be asked to stand in the corner after I had shoved a profiterole down the cleavage of my friend, who was sitting next to me. She had started the food fight by smearing my nose with cream, before placing a profiterole in my top pocket.

I reacted. Judging by the look of horror on a French wife sitting opposite and the hurried rush of the hostess with a damp cloth in hand to attend to the elegant carpet - I overreacted. The French men seemed to collapse in laughter and I imaging they got a telling off from their spouses later that night.

Yet it could have been worse. There was no chocolate sauce.

The next day some Belgians came for lunch. They were tres sympatique and had lived in the area for a number of years, running gites and obviously fending off the cascade of French Belgian jokes, which are little different from the English Irish ones.

They had just bade farewell to some demanding English tourists who had rudely asked for 'Mild Blue Cheese'. Their kind hosts searched the region high and low for fromage meeeld bleu without success. But for goodness sake. What were they thinking of? This is the land of proper cheese, not some factory made mulch which tastes like window putty.

I despair about my English side sometimes. For the rest of the day I promoted my Scottish blood. But this was just a romantic whim because the Scots would probably have asked for meeld bleu too, but fried.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Les Vacances De Monsieur Bus Driver - 5. The Fatty Stakes At The Zoo

It was a majority decision from our two families who visited the zoo, that the animals looked much more attractive than the people who were looking at them. When you pushed past the fatties and the traffic jam of pushchairs, the sights were amazing.

You could put your face up against the glass and kiss an orang-utan. The white tigers were a hairs breath away. As were the black panthers, the leopards, giraffes, elephants and all the other animals. There were tropical areas where birds flew free. The spectacle of free flying vultures, eagles and condors followed by an acrobatic display by seals was sublime.

But trust our party. Our sewer type minds began to see that many of the attractions revolved around poo-poo. The gorillas ate it, the chimpanzees threw it and the general public queued for hours around the public lavatories.

ZooParc de Beauval is one of the best places I have ever been to. Here is a note from a bus driver to English schools - this is a place you should visit. It is ten times better than any theme park. The philosophy and hard work of the founders has created something truly amazing.

The best thing was that the English press are always telling us that we are too obese and unfit. Looking around at the French general public, perhaps they should investigate them too, as they are not too far behind the British in the Fatty Stakes.

Vive le hamburger a cheval Americain!

Les Vacances De Monsieur Bus Driver - 4. French Wildlife

My bottom has just become even more sore. No it is not the bicycle rides. Nor being cramped in the front passenger seat of an old Renault 4. Nor the hard wooden kitchen chairs.

It is due to my daughter who was trying to swat a frelon and a guepe with a new high voltage fly swatter. She missed and caught me on the backside, sending a shock through my buttocks which made me jump so high that I hit my head on the beam.

The variety of insects is amazing. Flying ants and beetles. Huge frelon, something akin to a hornet, and a multitude of dragonflies, poisonous caterpillars and ants. There are lizards. They have caught seven vipers in the garden in the last month. The sound of woodpeckers is frequent and there are plenty of deer, wild boar, partridges and pheasants.

So why do you think a visit to the zoo is necessary?

Les Vacances De Monsieur Bus Driver - 3. The English In France, The Resistance And The Lady With The Big Boobies

It keeps on getting better.

The Indre is a reative backwater. It is near the tourist trail of the big Chateaux of the Loire. You hear the odd English voice at the market, but generally it is untouched. It is a gentle place and the people are very spirited.

During the war the Resistance was particularly active. The River Cher was one of the main German lines of defense. An old farmer told us that he remembered a German half-track parking immediately outside the house where we were staying and machine gunning the fields over which the Resistance fighters were retreating. Many houses and villages were burnt.

"I will tell you why I am so small," said the 4 feet something farmer's wife we stopped to talk to. It was 4pm. She was in her nighty and pink dressing gown, feeding her chickens.

"My mother had big boobies. But there was another baby who was so hungry and greedy that there was no milk left for me. That is why I am so small."

She talked for a long time. It was an essential break from the bicycle ride we went on. I had not been on a bike for a year, so my derriere was beginning to feel rather raw. The friend who I was cycling with had made the error of wearing swimming trunks under his shorts. After an hour of suffering chafed buttocks, he decideed enough was enough, got off his bike and stripped naked in an attempt to ditch the swimming trunks.

It was within viewable distance of some farmers who were congregated by their tractors discussing the harvest. They didn't bat an eyelid. This is France, of course.

It is easy to understand why so many English want to live in France, when sitting around the swimming pool, all you have to worry about is what you are next going to have to eat and drink. After the fantasy, it is hard for the English. It takes time for them to be accepted by the French. The rug is pulled from under your feet. The language must be learnt, with special emphasis on all the nuances.

My friend has lived there for fifteen years. In some ways he is more French than the French. When people see him, they smile and talk about everything from the state of the economy to how many snakes they have killed in their gardens this year. I feel that he and his family have been accepted.

They are one of England's success stories in Europe.

Les Vacances De Monsieur Bus Driver - 2. Slumming It

Usually there is something debauched about eating foie gras in someone's office at lunchtime. The boardroom table was laid out with delicious olives, bread, tomatoes and saucisson. The wine was chilling well in the company fridge.

But this was Paris in August. The place was deserted. Everyone had left for the hoidays. The traffic was light and the parking was free. there were possibly more British tourists than Parisiens.

It was the perfect place to stop, being less than three hours drive from Calais. It is nicer to stop in an overpriced city rather than an overpriced service station on the autoroute. Even better when you were being given lunch by a generous friend.

"Oh it eez just a leetle picnic," he says. My mind tries to think of an English picnic like this, but fais when memories of soggy sandwiches, stodgy pork pies and ginger biscuits are brought to mind, with warm gassy beer which explodes when opened as a result of being shaken up on the car journey.

It is 26 degrees. We are in one of the word's greatest cities, eating some of the world's greatest cuisine. How can life get any better?

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Les Vacances De Monsieur Bus Driver - 1. Leaving Blighty

There is something unsettling when you roll up at the ticket kiosk before getting on the Calais ferry when even before you have handed over the internet reference number the official says: "Good morning Mr Accidental Bus Driver. I expect you have Mrs Accidental Bus Driver and the two Miss Accidental Bus Drivers with you in the car."

We had passed a succession of cameras on the way into Dover port and one of them, or all of them must have had numberplate recognition technology which was linked up to the police, customs, border agency, the ferry companies and quite possibly mrs smith at No.32 Acacia Avenue for all I knew. The ferry official had no need for our tickets or reference numbers. He knew we were coming.

The ferry was packed with holidaymakers. Rotund holidaymakers. it was not worth even attempting to join the queue for the full English breakfast as it stretched the length of the ship. The smell of deep fat frying was enough to send you up on deck to freeze in the cool English early morning wind and watch the threatening black clouds descend over the white cliffs of Dover.

The pain was short. Calais appeared in bright sunshine a little over an hour later. The procession of English holidaymakers crept nervously off the boat and onto the autoroute. Most were doing 60 Kph, gradually feeling their way towards driving on the opposite side of the road they were used to.

But they soon disappeared and the nearer to Paris, the fewer English numberplates were visible. The roads were empty. August in France. C'et la vie exceptionnel.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The Accidental Bus Driver's Busman's Holiday

From today I'm off.

Off to the warm climates of France and Switzerland.

This blog will continue - if there is something interesting to report.

Otherwise - I'll be back in the driver's seat in a couple of weeks.

A bientot.

Troubled Tandoori

It is one of a bus driver's pleasure to have a 3 hour break in the Lake District. What better than to take your sandwiches and sit by the Lake. There you see the average British in a different guise. In purple goretex jackets and shorts. The lakeside walk is full of fat ducks Canada geese and swans eager for the half eaten remains which are either dropped or thrown.

Every second person is licking an ice cream cone. Everywhere you looked, someone seemed to be eating something, Watching this, I had to agree with Sheilah Graham's past observation that: 'food is the most primitive form of comfort'.

The return journey from the Lakes forced me into a different situation regarding food. In a Northumbrian town the local Bangladeshi Tandoori restaurant owner had parked his car so badly that the bus could not get through the narrow street. All I could do was get out the bus and go into the restaurant.

The owner did not take kindly to my suggestion that if he parked there regularly, he could have an amazing business as the bus passengers would have plenty of time to order their take-aways.

What's The Time Mr Bus Driver?

The bus was fuller on the second of my three day stint, driving the Tyneside to Lake District service. The third day it was positively heaving, bursting at the seams with frugal coffin dodgers on a free day out.

There were very few young on the bus and the average age must have been over seventy-five and possibly more. They have exacting standards and expect a top quality service for their free pass.

"Ooh it's an awfully big step," said one old lady as she gingerly descended the stairs into the Lakeland air.

"Why did you come into the town this way. The other driver comes in the other," said a furious couple.

"It's allright if I sit in the crew seat isn't it?" said a regular as he pulled the foldable seat next to the driver down.

"No it is not." I replied.

He looked crest fallen. "Well some drivers do and some drivers don't" he added with a piercing look and particular emphasis on the word don't.

At the terminus, one by one the passengers came past me. "What time does the bus, driver?

"Four thirty, madam."

"What time?" said the next in line.


"What time's that?"

"What time?" said another. "Did you say 4.20?"

I've tried everything. Vier uhr und halb. Quattre heure et demi. I've even tried Esperanto. Now I hold up an A4 sheet of paper with 4.30 written in huge letters. But they still ask. It#s all part of the service.

The Fatty Bus Driver. Who Me?

The other day I felt middle aged spread was catching up with me.

Having to walk the not so long distance between the bus and the service station main building, I had to walk between some parked cars. Embarrassingly I struggled. I could not fit between their wing mirrors, which creaked as I whacked them. This was a shocking revelation, as though I could never describe myself as lithe, I had never in my wildest dreams suspected that I might be bordering on the obese,

I tried to think of excuses. The cars were too big. The parking spaces were too small.They were parked at an angle etc etc. But I ran out of ideas and had to put it down to a few too many bacon and egg sandwiches at butty vans during my hours behind the wheel and little more exercise than walking once round the vehicle to check the lights.

Amazingly the day was saved by a gargantuan man who I met in the automatic doors at the entrance. He was nearly the width of the double doors and came out at speed, brushing aside anyone who was in his way. I've never been so happy to be slammed into a glass door before. It's always the smallest things which lead to contentment. Once out through the doors he turned to see where his tiny wife was. The words written on the front of his t-shirt emitted nothing less than complete truth and honesty. They said:


Sounds like a case of f**k off, rude letter to follow, if the Stig ever catches up with him.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Shrewd Pensioners Know How To Save Money

I'm back on service work. 12 hours of it for three consecutive days. Purgatory, you may think. But oh no, it couldn't be more different.

I'm driving a donkeys old service from Tyneside to the Lake District. The route started way before the Second World War and at it's peak, the company ran six buses, following one other on a daily service throughout the summer.

It's down to one bus now and the numbers are up and down, but still good. The service's salvation has been the free bus passes for old aged pensioners which has ensured good support for a day trip to the Lakes. Today looked unpromising as I picked up only four passengers from the coach station at the start of the journey. By the time I had reached the Cumbrian border, the bus was full.

One of the passengers was being consoled by the other more experienced pensioners for having to pay anything at all for the trip, let alone £9-50. This was because the authority where the bus started did not accept passes until 9.30am. The bus unfortunately leaves at 9.20am. But they still go for half fare.

"What you do," said one old hand in a whisper, in the misguided belief that I, the driver, could not hear, "is you get yourself to............ road ends where the bus stops at 9.30, then you pay nothing."

I even managed to pick up an Indian family who were intending to take another bus to the same destination. Dare I say it, I felt it was the price rather than the beauty of the bus and its driver which was the deciding factor.

But who will care. My boss won't.

Blind As A Bus Driver

I'm in the dog house again.

This time it's for not waving to another driver I knew who was less than pleased not to have his cheery greeting reciprocated. It was on the way to France, as I drove off the boat at Calais. I apologised and told him I didn't see him as I was concentrating on not leaving the bottom of my bus on the boat.

It made things worse as he was not a small man and not to sight him was akin to miss seeing the Queen Mary sail up the Thames on a cloudless day.

I think he is getting over it.