Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Carlisle Is United: No Whinging Poms

The Urban Dictionary ( a 'whinging pom' as: " A person of British origin who will consistently complain about any situation they may face. They are emotionally unable to deal with any sort of adverse condition without commenting negatively upon it. The typical 'whinging pom' can be often located in such global locations such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada. Though also found in multiple other locations in high concentrations (such as the USA), they tend to countries that at least pay lip service to their beloved monarchy."

Regretfully this morning you did not have to travel to the Antipodes to find a whingeing pom.

It was the sort of morning you didn't want to get out of bed. The weather forecast had cocked up again and the 40 mph winds seemed at times to exceed 60. The windows felt as if they were about to implode. It was 6am and the first morning that it was dark at that time, signalling that the commencement of the SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)season was imminent.

The depot was eerily noisy when I started the engine of the bus I was due to take to Carlisle. Every rivet of the 1908 German building groaned. Every hole in the brickwork produced a high pitched whistle. Every tile on the roof seemed to concertina. Fortunately there was no danger of the windows imploding, as there were very few panes of glass left. Previous winds had done their work.

The college students looked miserable. The few lucky enough to shelter under a bus shelter were morose at best. The others exposed to the elements on the open moorland looked like drowned rats. The bus I had been instructed to take was ancient and in its early life had been charged with delivering crew to their aircraft, clocking up the odd miles on flat runways. She, too felt downhearted about the Cumbrian weather and demonstrated her angst by steaming up all the windows. The visibility on a clear day was not good, as the wing mirrorshad obviously been designed to spot taxiing Boeings, Airbuses, Tupolevs and Ilyushins. Today it was impossible to see anything and you might as well have shut your eyes and prayed.

It just got worse. The council had brought forward the departure time of the second school bus which was coming along the road behind me. The soaked students couldn't identify which bus was which and flagged me down. The wrong students boarded the wrong bus, before realising that the right bus was soon to appear. I was doubly late.

My bus was buffeted by the winds and everytime she went through a puddle, the fan belt squealed in protest. She detested the wet. In the recent past she had gone through a deep flood and the water had been sucked up into the air intake, blowing up the engine and stopping in the middle of the newly formed lake. The driver had endured a soggy walk home, only to face the music from a very cross bus company proprietor, who was condidering the forthcoming bill for a new engine.

So it was no great shock to turn a corner and find the road was flooded. A mini-flood. I had to inch the bus through the water, not wanting to have to face the wrath of the owner as a result of being the second driver responsible for the destruction of an engine. A deep exhalation of breath followed and a relief that the worst was over.

No it wasn't. Around the next corner was the 'ROAD CLOSED' sign, a narrow road for a diversion and the mother from Venus on her way back from the school run in a silver sports car. She tried to race the bus, turned the corner off the main road and then blocked us both in. She tried to reverse, mouthing 'F's and 'B's as she went into the ditch. I mouthed 'thank you' and waved as I passed only to see more 'F's, 'B's, 'C's and 'W's. Lip reading can be a handy tool when you drive buses.

The traffic in Carlisle was at a standstill. It always is when it rains. It is the capital of Cumbria, the wettest county in England and being situated on the River Eden, it floods regularly; though since the last catastrophe in 2005, the council and Environment Agency have built up an array of defences. Usually, having dropped the college kids, the day is at your leisure. The return trip is not until 4.55pm so barring trips to Volvo or ATS to pick up parts or tyres, there are 71/2 hours to play with.

Some drivers go shopping. Others go to the cinema. many find it boring and hard to know what to do. One takes his fishing rod and goes fishing on the River Eden. One goes train spotting, as the railway line borders the coach park. One sleeps and complains when there is some other job to do, and says that he is a victim. A victim of sleep deprivation. I go to the library and write.

Today, however there is another job to do for another bus company. The boss meets me at the coach park to explain what is neede. There is a strong smell of chocolate from the nearby McVitie's factory, which is still known locally as Carr's, founded by Henry Carr in 1831 and home of Carr's Water Biscuits. The wind was obviously blowing in our direction. Having explained where the schools I have to cover sre, registering my blank looks each time, the owner suggests that he will send one of his drivers down to show me the way.

"Don't worry about this driver. He's a bit of a Sergeant-Major, but that's just his way."

In fact he was fantastic. He had been with the company for 35 years and had a good sense of humour under the normal 'don't waste words' Carlisle persona. "I'm an 'as 'n when driver. I drive as and when I am required." He knew Carlisle like the back of his hand and showed me how to avoid all the pitfalls, of which there were many on this route.

"We've had a bit of trouble on the route," he said. So when we stopped outside the school gates, he handed each sixth former a leaflet headed:


It went on:

"There have been a number of instances of bad behaviour,rude language and general lack of respect.

This leaflet is to inform you that this will not be tolerated.

Failure to behave will result in you not being allowed to use this service."

This was then reinforced by a teacher who came onto the bus and said some stern words. What a great school. This should be used as a template and sent to all schools countrywide, particularly the ones who dive for cover, never say anything and hope the problem will just go away.

As a result, it was a peaceful trip. The students were like quiet, polite and even smiling. Perhaps it helped that the Cumbrian grey and black clouds vanished to be replaced by blue skies and brilliant sunshine.

But it all goes to prove that there is no point in becoming a whinging pom, when the day starts off in a bad way. As I say to my friend who has the more problems and burdens to carry than anyone else I know...........


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