Monthly Archives: December 2009

Buses in the news

There have been quite a few buses in the news over the past couple of days. The first was about “A man who took a bus on a 30-mile joyride through West Yorkshire leaving a £250,000 trail of destruction has been jailed.” Here’s some footage from a helicopter following the chase. N.B. There is no sound on this film.

Then the story of the bus toppling over.

And then, today, a Wilts & Dorset bus nearly topples.


Full story here.



This is this year’s Christmas card from the UK Border Agency. The irony is that if the Holy Family had fled to England and sought asylum under Herod’s persecution today, then this is the agency that would have locked them up in an Immigration Removal Centre until they could be fast tracked back home!

Leather seats and farting cows!

I’ve just come across Bus Users UK and the Autumn edition of their quarterly newsletter which includes the following letter.

Drawbacks of leather seats

I have been a member of Bus Users UK for a number of years ….. I just wanted to note some problems with the current trend toward considering leather bus seats as an attractive ‘luxury’ touch on buses. Leather seats are not suitable for vegetarians, including vegans such as myself …”

A desire to eat the covering of a bus seat is a new one to me. Is this some type of fetish behaviour?

The letter continued “Leather from cows has a significant greenhouse gas impact. As with beef and cow’s milk, the farming of cows causes a large emission of the powerful greenhouse gas, methane.”

So farting’s a problem as well :-(

Cathy Buckle’s December letter

Dear Family and Friends,

Not a lot of school leavers in Zimbabwe will want to remember the last two years of their education. For most its been a time of such hardship, disappointment and despair that it will be nothing short of miraculous if they pass their O Level’s which are now almost finished.

One youngster whose education I have been helping with since she was five years old, has just written her O Level’s and looking back on her schooling is a horrible nightmare and something no child should have to go through.

In 2000 when she was 7 years old and learning to read and write, *Tsitsi found herself on the roadside with her parents when we were all evicted from our homes on a commercial farm by a bunch of Zanu PF thugs.

In 2003, when she was 10 and practising her spelling and learning about grammar, Tsisti changed schools and went back to live in a rural village. Her Aunt and Uncle had both just died of Aids and there were two young cousins who had to be taken care of. Every cent was needed and every pair of hands too.

Back in a rural school in 2005, a 12 year old learning about geography and science, Tsisti suddenly found she had to share her desk and then sit on the floor as scores of new children arrived. Their homes in towns had been destroyed by government bulldozers in what was called Operation Murambatsvina and the school and village were suddenly full of strangers who had lost everything. Tsitsi learnt that when someone came to the doorstep and held out an empty bowl it meant they were hungry and the family would have to share. That same year Tsitsi missed many days of learning when teachers were forced to go to Zanu PF rallies, or when the school was closed for elections and the teachers went away to do polling duty. There were plenty of strange young men around, threatening, frightening and watching and Tsitsi learned to stay close to her Mum. At the end of that year Tsitsi wrote her Grade 7 examinations marking the end of junior school. It would be two years before she got the results and she hadn’t done very well.

For the whole of 2008, a 15 year old teenager, Tsitsi only spent 32 days at school. The rest of the time the school was not operating. There were no teachers, the classrooms were locked and a lone caretaker was sometimes there but he always told the children they could not even come and read the textbooks and should go away – try next week. This was the year when Tsitsi should have been studying the first year of the O level syllabus.

When Tsitsi went to pay exam fees to write 7 subjects at O level in November 2009, she was told she also had to pay for paper to write the tests on and she sacrificed one subject because she didn’t have enough money. She dropped another subject in order to pay the 10 US cents per student per day being demanded by teachers in order to teach this last term. This 10 cents a day is on top of school fees, school association levies and a raft of other charges that arise almost every week for one miscellany or another.

Tsitsi has just finished writing her 5 O level exams and left school. At the end of her school life she has only ever done her homework by candlelight; she has never learnt how to even switch on a computer; she missed the entire first year of her O level syllabus and has only been allowed to take a text book home after school three or four times in her entire school life.Tsitsi has done almost her entire schooling wearing second hand uniforms, no shoes or second hand ones that were not the right size and carrying her books in a plastic bag. In her O level year Tsitsi dug weeds from a field for two weeks in exchange for a second hand school dress.

Thirty years ago Mr Mugabe and Zanu PF promised education for all by the year 2000 but Tsitsi is the reality of what they gave us. No one really knows how Education Minister David Coltart managed to get Zimbabwe’s schools open again this year or how he persuaded teachers to work for a pittance, but he did. All credit to him and to thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of students for enduring, suffering and sacrificing.

Test Valley School again and again!

I don’t know how many times I’ve written about the Test Valley School bus run but here’s another! Incidentally, typing ‘test valley school bus’ into puts this blog’s pages into positions 3 and 4.

Last week, on Wednesday, as I arrived at the school and opened the doors they charged onto the bus like an army unit trying to seize control of a building. “STOP” was loudly shouted by someone outside of the bus. It was the Deputy Head of the school who made them all get off, line up and enter the bus singly showing their bus passes. Still one kid tried to hide behind another and not show a pass, this kid lost his pass over a month ago and his parents are arguing about the cost they have to pay to replace it. He’s been told, in the presence of teaching staff, that his parents have had sufficient time to replace the pass and that he must pay if he wishes to travel. Very grudgingly he paid. All the time the Deputy Head was there the behaviour was OK. But once I closed the doors and pulled off all hell let loose. I’ve described the bus before as being like a cage full of baboons into which someone has thrown a firework! I still can’t think of any other description which comes to describing how it is. The bell is constantly rung, the windows are being opened and banged shut because the make a loud noise when you do that and worst of all many are standing or running around. Three times I pulled the bus over and told them to sit down and each time as soon as we moved off they were up again. We’ve been told to remove the pass from any child who misbehaves and to hand it into our Operations Manager who will then take the matter up with the school. When I stopped for the fourth time and told them to sit they refused and argued, I asked for their passes and was again refused. They were totally out of control. I used my mobile to call our Operations Manager to inform him of the situation and were were hardly able to converse due to the noise they were making. Then one of the kids tried to open the door so with one hand I was pressing the door close button and holding the ‘phone in the other. Then they forced the door open and about 10 or 12 rushed out into the road – this a winding country main road with no verge. The only funny thing in this was the look on their faces as they wandered about in the road, the look said “we got out, what do we do now”? The Ops Manager could hear all this happening and I asked what I should do. He told me that since they’d forced their way off the bus then to leave them there and continue the journey. That’s what I did.

The next day I had the same duty so it meant I’d be doing the Test Valley School run again. This time the company gave me a bus with CCTV on it so everything could be recorded. When I got to the school things were very different, school staff were there as well as a someone from Hampshire County Council. It seems that the more decent kids were as fed up with situation as the bus drivers are and had named the miscreants to the school and HCC. They had a list of names and I was asked to identify any they missed. As the kids boarded their passes were checked against the list and if their name was on it their pass was taken off them and they given a letter for their parents saying that they were no longer allowed on the bus! I’m not sure exactly how many passes were withdrawn but I guess around 8.

I spoke to the driver who did the run on Friday and he said that without the troublemakers it had been a lovely quiet run.