Monthly Archives: May 2007

95 Duty

95 duty is the duty with the most Megabus driving and I did it yesterday. The driving starts with Winchester to London, then you do a London – Brighton – London before the return drive to Winchester. In all it’s bit under 500kms.

All was going well until the Brighton to London trip, I was going north on the A3 just past Kingston when all three lanes of the dual carriageway came to a complete standstill. After 10 minutes and about 100 yards I called Perth control for a traffic update “5 miles of static traffic northbound on the A3″ was all they could say. At this point I couldn’t think of any alternative other than to sit it out, slowly it inched forward a few yards at a time until we came to where the Police had closed the remainder of the A3 and were directing traffic off the A3 towards Merton; I’ve never been to Merton before and have no knowledge of this area at all. Ask the passengers if anyone knew the area and drew a blank so out came the A-Z. The obvious route seemed to be to Wimbledon and on until reaching the A24. I think everyone else saw it as the obvious route as well! Instead of taking 2 hours the whole journey took 4 hours. Progressively passengers began to give up, when the first tube station was spotted a few asked to leave the bus, then some more when the next tube station came into view, more at the next and so on. By the time I reached Victoria I only had four passengers left on board. We had averaged less than 13mph for the entire Brighton to London journey!

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The chickens

I was going to take a couple of pictures of my chickens yesterday, after I’d cleaned them out, but they looked terrible! They were soaked to the skin with their feathers stuck to them. Here they are today looking much happier.

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A wet Bank Holiday

I really am quite lucky, it’s a Bank Holiday weekend and my rota shows it as rest. The downside is that is that as I look out of the window the trees are swaying in the wind and the rain is falling steadily. Either the rain needs to stop or I’m going to get wet – I can’t leave cleaning out the chickens any longer. I used to have four chickens but at the moment I’m down to two, I must get a couple more soon since two is the absolute minimum you should keep. There is nothing more miserable than a chicken on it’s own. They are most happy in flocks but I don’t have a half acre acre field, just a small town garden. We find bought eggs, even organics, tasteless in comparison to our own. The yolks are such a very bright colour you could almost think colouring had been added! In a way it has …… lots of fresh greenery like grass, cabbage etc. is what produces yellow yolks. The other difference between our eggs and bought eggs is how, when you break them into a frying pan, the white doesn’t spread out into a big puddle it sticks to the yolk and will stay piled up on it.

I may sound like an eco-conscious paid up member of the Green Party (the compost bin is in the chicken run!) but I’m about to watch the Monaco Grand Prix. The carbon footprint of any Grand Prix must be the size of Texas!

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Wedding anniversary plans

June 24th will be our first wedding anniversary and I’d been wondering how to celebrate it. Spent most of yesterday, a rest day, booking a week in Majorca leaving on June 24. Neither Essy, nor I, are herd animals. We much prefer making our own decisions about where to stop, for how long, what to do next etc. rather than just follow the herd so any type of ‘packaged’ holiday is a no, no for us. After lots of searching for a good flights deal finally booked Easyjet from Gatwick to Palma. I had commenced booking with Flybe from our local airport, Southampton, but became very pissed off with Flybe when they started adding lots of extra charges to the flight price – £6 per flight sector if you wanted to take a suitcase with you! Unless it’s a day return for business most passengers have a bag to check-in. Hers and mine out and back thus added £24. Want to sit together on the plane? Just tick the box to add more money. Paying by card? That’ll be a few more pounds. Need oxygen when the aircraft passes 10,000′? Tick this box to pay :-) Bugger off Flybe, even if I’ve paid as much after adding Gatwick parking, fuel to get there etc, I’ve made a protest about your marketing methods. I found an excellent site to help in the search for low cost flights www.skyscanner.net

Next I fixed up a hire car. Got a VW Polo with air con for £78 for the week, all taxes, insurance with no excess and bail bonds inclusive. Quite happy with that. I was last in Majorca 4 years ago before I met Essy and travelled alone. I took the Rough Guide to Majorca with me and had made notes in the book about the places I’d stayed in and where I’d visited. Looking at the book again is a real eye opener. I’m waitng for confirmation that our booking at one hotel for the first 3 nights has been accepted, I’d commented in my notes that this hotel was much nicer than the description in the Rough Guide and it would be worth staying in. Being a small family hotel it doesn’t have an online booking system – you e-mail a request and wait for a reply.

We probably wont book ahead for the other 4 days, better to decide where we want to go when we’re there. It’s freedom we like, arrive somewhere and it’s nice then stay on, if it’s not to our taste then get the hell out of it!

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Bus spotters

Until I started driving a bus I had no idea that bus ‘trainspotters’ existed, if you know what I mean! My first introduction to a spotter came in Portsmouth: where this bus spotter’s film was made.

As I slowed entering the first roundabout after the motorway a photographer took a picture of the bus, an odd thing to do I thought. My route was to Southsea and about half way there, as I rounded a corner, the photographer was there again …. click. I began to wonder what was going on. When my passengers got off they made the comment that I seemed to be popular today. On the return trip I’d just passed the roundabout shown in the first part of the film when I spotted the photographer taking my picture again! This time I could pull up safely so I asked him what his interest in me was. “That’s 16156″ (or whatever, I’m not a spotter!) “came down from Macclesfield …….” I got the full history of the bus and I think he could have told me the engine number if I’d asked.

Since then I seem to have attracted more. One guy got on the bus and said “I don’t want to go on this bus so don’t drive off. But I thought you’d be interested to see this ticket, I got it last week”. He’d got it on a Stagecoach bus in Scotland and it was printed by some new ticket machine. Absolutely fascinating, I thought :-(

A few of the drivers in the local depot are also spotters. One went on a Norwegian Fjords cruise to see the Land of the Midnight Sun ….. he came back with a photo of a Volvo something or other bus!

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Route teaching

It’s been a fairly routine (boring) couple of days. Both today and yesterday were local Megabus duties, on Wednesday it was the Portsmouth/Southampton feeder and today I went ‘out of service’ to Bournemouth to do Bournemouth 06:00 departure, Ringwood at 06:30 and then to Winchester for 07:00. At Winchester another driver takes over to do London and then Brighton – got that duty tomorrow. After doing these local Megabus trips I was to work ‘as detailed’ which means that they’ve not got anything for me to do except to hang around until something goes wrong, or extra help is needed. They must have been struggling yesterday because they asked me to go out with a new driver and teach him a local Winchester bus route, I’ve not done a local service for over a year now! Remembering the route is no problem but fare stages last used over a year ago I thought may be a problem. It was a surprise to me how quickly it all came back. The only problem was constantly having to explain to the passengers what was going on, a passenger would get on and say “xxxxx road, please”, I’d say to the driver “75″ or whatever the fare stage was for their destination and then the fun began. They’d either say “It’s usually 65p” or “My pass is for free travel” etc. and then I had to keep saying “no, that’s not the fare we’ll know what that is in a moment”.

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