What is it with ï¿½20 notes? They seem more common than ï¿½1 coins amongst the under 16′s. Today I’d build up a few pound coins and almost immediately some young person, enjoying half- term, would ask for a “half to xxxxx” I’d respond with “that’s 90 pence, please” and then be offered the young person’s standard payment of a ï¿½20 note. Both amusement and amazement at this wore pretty thin early in the day and I issued I don’t know how many change vouchers! Those who didn’t receive a change voucher (so long as I’d collected enough loose silver and copper) left the bus straining under the extra weight of vast amounts of small coinage :-)
“You asked me once, what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world”. George Orwell, 1984. Here’s the first of what may become occasional musings about the possible ‘things’ in Room 101.
Bloody mobility scooters!
They were probably a very good idea when first designed in order to give mobility to those worst affected by age or disease. Now a significant number of them seem to be driven by people too obese to walk. And, what’s a contributing factor to obesity? Laziness in failing to take exercise such as walking! The next large group are those who don’t really appear to have much need of them but find them a great alternative to a car for going to (and inside) the shops. This group usually drives the models which can legally do up to 8 mph, making them twice as fast as the pedestrians they’re dodging in and out of, and have a range in excess of 30 miles. 30 miles! I could commute from Southampton to the Stagecoach Depot at Winchester and back with one of those. They don’t require the driver to take any proficiency test before being let loose on the roads, pavements and supermarket aisles, worst of all, there is no requirement to insure against 3rd party risks. This scooter weighs 283lbs and can carry 400lbs so with a maximum load the total weight is 0.3 tons. 0.3 tons doing 8 mph can cause a lot of damage!
I often see one mobility scooter user in Winchester who has a trailer attached. Not a small trailer like this but a large which trailer which only a couple of days ago was being used to transport a fridge! In the past this articulated lorry of mobility scooters continually drove around the pedestrianised area of Winchester with a large ‘A’ frame on the trailer carrying adverts for a local hostelry. I consider that an abusive and inconsiderate use of a mobility scooter.[b][/b]
On Sunday 18 May 2008 the Winchester Stagecoach depot ran their last service for Megabus, from Monday morning the South Coast Megabus services were taken over by Portsmouth depot. Consequently, I’m now driving local services around Winchester so the format of the blog has to change from one of focusing on Megabus to being more general. I’ll leave the unoffical Megabus FAQ here for a little while but sometime will have to remove it because things may change and I’ll have no knowledge of it.
A couple of days ago I said I’d write about what may have been my worst ever Megabus passenger. If by some chance in a million he stumbles upon this and recognises himself he’ll know he wont be welcome on Megabus without an attitude change!
I began boarding my passengers in Victoria Coach Station and this guy was in the first few, he showed a booking reference for Bournemouth, I said “Fine. Thanks” and he started up the steps of the bus while I was checking the next passenger’s booking reference. He then turned around and butted into the conversation I was having with the next passenger “Do you stop at Bournemouth Station?” “No” was my answer and I then went back to my talking to the next passenger. Again he interrupted “Where do you stop?” “The Triangle and Bournemouth Uni” was my response. I tried to check the next passenger’s booking reference but this guy was not going to either move up the steps and sit down, or get off the bus and wait until I’d finished with others (I was stood outside the bus by the door) to discuss what he should have checked when booking. He just stayed blocking the way for everyone else and demanding attention! “What’s The Triangle?”, note there is never a please in this guy’s questions. I tried to be polite but didn’t quite know how to say it “I don’t want to sound facetious but it’s three roads which form a Triangle with grass in the middle. That’s the official Bournemouth Council name for the place and I believe it’s been called that since Victorian times”. “How far is it from the Railway Station?” “I’m not sure because I don’t live anywhere near and the bus route isn’t a straight line – I’d guess at 25 minutes walk”. “Where’s Bournemouth Uni?” “Talbot” “What’s Talbot?” “The name of the district in which the Uni’s located”. “How far is that from the station?” “Further than The Triangle is”. And so it went on and on and on. “Where’s Poole?” “Is Talbot or The Triangle nearest to Poole?”. “What buses go there?” “What times do the buses go?” “How much will the fare be?” In the end I was blunt and told him I couldn’t help anymore and it really would have been best if he’d thought of checking all these things before buying the ticket.
As soon as I finally managed to pull out of Victoria he was on his mobile, not one call but call after call, talking to people about where his bus would stop and asking them where he should get off. From what I gathered each person gave him a different answer which created the need to call another person and get another different answer!
Getting out of London was hell because the elevated section of the M4 between junctions 1 and 2 was closed – the traffic backed up to Knightsbridge. I just had to endure it until the Hogarth roundabout where I could then take the A316. I kept the passengers updated on what the problem was and told then I’d give them an estimated arrival time once we’d cleared the traffic. In the end I told them we’d be 45 minutes late which turned out to be accurate. But as we pulled up in Winchester the guy started again. “Why doesn’t the timetable allow for these things?”. “I beg your pardon. What ‘things’ do you mean?” “Road closures” What an areshole!!! I told him that if he could let megabus know 6 months in advance of delays due to to traffic accidents, giving the date, time and place I was sure they’d be grateful!! “It’s always like that coming out of London” he said as if he used the route everyday …. yet doesn’t know where the bus stops or understand when it’s explained.
I handed the bus over to another driver at Winchester. The next morning the driver who’d taken over from me said “I had a complete and utter tosser on the bus last night. He kept asking where Ringwood was?” “Is it anywhere near Bournemouth Station?” “Do buses go to Poole from Ringwood?” :-)
“From now on the pound is worth 14pc less on the foreign exchanges. That does not mean, of course, that the pound in your pocket or in your purse or in your bank has been devalued” So said Harold Wilson in November 1967.
That’s not quite how Zimbabweans see things! And not the way we Brits saw it over 40 years ago. Devaluation means things cost more whether it’s in ï¿½’s or Zim$.
Here is the ever smiling, happy, Zimbabwean who last appeared here only 13 days ago when each of his 10 million Zim$ notes was worth less than 3 pence.
At lunchtime today I chatted with one of our Zimbabwean drivers at the Depot and commented on the exchange rate currently being 520 million Zim$ to the pound. “No” said Norman “The rate is now 550 million Zim$ to the pound”! I got home and told my wife of this new rate and she then told me that during the afternoon the rate had gone to 600 million Zim$ to the pound! Each note he’s holding is now only worth 1.66 pence.
I’m conscious that I haven’t posted for a week but I’ve just been so busy! Today is a day off and when I got home after a 13.5 hour shift yesterday I was determined that as a family we’d have some fun today. So I booked a day return (with car) to the Isle of Wight. There are several things I will write about later – why I was so late yesterday and the worst passenger I’ve ever had, to name but two. But now it’s off to see the corkheads, or more correctly the caulkheads.
If you didn’t know this name for inhabitants of the Isle of Wight this has been taken from Wikipedia:-
Historically, inhabitants of the Isle of Wight have been known as Vectensians or Vectians (pronounced Vec-tee-ans). These terms derive from the Latin name for the Island, Vectis. Vectian is a word used more formally to describe certain geological features which are typical of the Island. As with many other small island communities the term Islander has long been used, and is commonly heard today. The term Overner is used for people originating from mainland Great Britain. This is an abbreviated form of Overlander; which is an archaic English term for an outsider still found in a few other places such as parts of Australia.
People born on the island are colloquially known as Caulkheads (sometimes written as it is spoken, Corkheads), (a word comparable with the name Cockney for those born in the East End of London). Some argue that the term should only apply those who can also claim they are of established Isle of Wight stock either by proven historical roots or, for example, being third generation inhabitants from both parents’ lineage.
One theory about the term ‘caulkhead’ is that it comes from the once prevalent local industry of caulking boats; a process of sealing the seams of wooden boats with oakum. It is said that the shipyard at Bucklers Hard in the New Forest employed labourers from the Isle of Wight , mainly as caulkers, in the building of early warships. Islanders may have been called “Caulkheads” during this time either because they were indeed so employed, or merely as a derisory term for perceived unintelligent labourers from another place. Another more fanciful story is that a group of armoured Island horsemen were chased into the sea by the marauding French, and took refuge on a sandbank when the tide came in, thus appearing to float in the sea despite their heavy armour, hence the name Cork- i.e. Caulk-, -heads When this supposed event happened is not clear, since the Island was frequently attacked in the Middle Ages, however in the last instance in 1546 Sandown Castle was under construction some way offshore and a battle was fought on site, resulting in the french being driven off and this could fit this particular tale. In local folklore it is said that a test can be conducted on a baby by throwing it into the sea from the end of Ryde Pier whereupon a true caulkhead baby will float unharmed. Thankfully there is no record of the test ever being carried out.