Sunday, 8 December 2013

The BIG puddle

develops when it rains hard.  It fills up the dip in the path from the verge almost to the road on occasions.

BIG puddle

That is awkward enough to navigate, offering the choice of wet feet (through the middle) muddy feet to the grass or stepping onto the road and getting knocked down on the other side.

But it has its' real fun in the winter, first the puddle forms, then it turns to a sheet of ice then it hides under a covering of snow and waits.

It waits for the unwary, unknowing pedestrian to step confidently onto its surface, slip and fall.

This dip with its puddle has been there for several years now.  The one attempt to alleviate the problem was to cut a little channel from the edge of the path into the grass.  As the dip is deeper in the middle than it is at either edge this was not successful.

Locals know it is there but still occasionally get forgetful and take a slide.  I fear that a proper fix will not occur given current economics, until someone breaks something falling at this spot, other than their shopping. 

Personally I choose when it is just water to wait for a gap in the traffic (kindly supplied by traffic lights a bit further on) and step into the road.  However when it is snow on ice, the threat of mud is diminished and I use the grass side.

Big Puddle in winter

Friday, 6 December 2013

An uncomfortable conversation

getting on the second bus for the journey home the other night I was the fifth passenger.  The other four on before me and each sitting in a window seat but facing into each other as a group.

They were already talking as I got on, it very quickly became obvious they were all from the same firm, a firm that just the night before had announced major job losses nation wide, many of which in this area.

They had had the official disheartening news at work that day but as yet did not know what it meant for them as individuals.

It was both sad and uncomfortable hearing them mull over the possibilities and try and comfort each other with positive potential outcomes.  Yet under it all was an air of distress and a wave of betrayal.

I felt in turns relieved not to be in a similar position and a tad sheepish about how often I grumble about my job.  Still this was a time I wished the privacy bubble did exist there was something so personal and raw about this conversation and the emotions on the bus I felt my presence was intrusive.    

Thursday, 5 December 2013

A very blustery day

and regrettably the bus station was less of a refuge than it was a funnel.

The poor automatic doors have given up.  Some of them in mid movement some at close.  So they are no longer doors but poor imitations of walls or open gaps.

In today's gale force wind the gaps managed to catch every gust no matter its direction and guide it into the bus station.  Rather than a protection the bus station became a wind tunnel.

Still no re-appearance of the seats, wind proofing lost, I worry about the roof!

Monday, 2 December 2013


I recall a news item that said bus drivers received no acknowledgement from their passengers.  

Can't have been in this area, I expect that there are days the drivers here might like a bit of ignoring. Just about ever passenger getting on or alighting gives a greeting, morning, afternoon, how you doing...thank, ta, all right mate, cheers and many another variation.

I wonder if they get tired of responding or if it is a good part of an often difficult job.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Almost home

why is it that I don't feel the slight downhill nature of my journey to the bus stop but I do feel the steep incline on the way home.

Yes, logically I know it is the same gradient both ways however, my legs do not believe in logic.  Rather they are quite convinced that there is a hydraulic system under the path which makes it steeper on the way home.  That my legs have their own little paranoia should perhaps worry me more than it does.

It is however true that I do the reverse journey slower, which is odd as I am much more interested in getting to my destination in this direction.

Back up the steps, through the gate and ahh HOME ! 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Stops, starts and Psalms

The way to the bus stop goes over four roads, there and back again.  Two have traffic lights which while indicating when it should be safe for those of us on foot are primarily for the flow of the motorised wheeled vehicle.  However one road has my favourite set of lights ever!  Does that sound like an odd thing to have a favourite of? These light are on a main thoroughfare in the place I live.  I have been crossing it for more years than I might like to own to.  For the greater portion of that time no permanent crossing aid existed.  Indeed, there were lollipop people (did that date me? aren't they crossing patrols or something equally politically correct but much less delightful termed  now?) a few of which were painfully unsuccessful at stopping cars and I do mean that literally.  However, outside school hours, nothing.  On evenings the road can be particularly busy and in the dark hard to judge when it is safe. Leaving me standing for what seemed like extended periods of time waiting to cross.  Of course the pervading memory is that those times were always in the rain and cold.
Traffic lights I love you.

Then wonders of wonders they put in the pedestrian traffic lights. What a delight, it reduced the time there and back. Not long after that I was asked in a Sunday school class to write a psalm of thanksgiving and praise for something everyday to help us understand the gratitude we should have for all things and the symbolism that can be found in the seemingly ordinary.  So what else could I write my psalm about, so here it is..

 Weather morn, day or night
  especially rain or snowing
 I give thanks for the light
that offers me safety
 and speeds me on.
Jewel colours, bright green
amber and red,
Halting the traffic
letting me move instead.
Years in the darkness
I've been alone
Making my choices
to go or to stay.
Praise for the light that
now guides my way.

I wanted to share my joy with the planners and builders but I never did  get round to it.  So at this time to any who might chance across this blog who give us two footed travellers devices to helps make our way in this motorised world...Thank you.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Sweet and sour

Sometimes passing what remains of my infant and junior schools, the playgrounds sans buildings makes me melancholy.  That is a good word it tastes the way it means.  Mostly I just remind myself in a paranoid fashion that someone is demolishing my history.

School yard but no school.

They knocked down the maternity hospital where I was born, the a-fore mentioned infants and juniors. Both the buildings of my senior school and sixth form are gone, parts of my college, with the rest waiting to be destroyed and turned into a super market. Admittedly the latter establishments have shiny modern replacements but still it is a relief the house is still there when I get back.

But sometimes what I recall is playing in the school yard as a child and my grandparents, my mothers parents, coming for a visit unannounced, walking from the bus stop past my school to my home.  Pausing at the playground, calling my name until someone told me they were there, I was fiercely single minded as a child an often did not hear them myself.  Then would come the boiled sweets, (hard candy for Americans) from my grandfathers pocket, sailing over the fence to my eager hands.

The memory is bitter sweet, my grandmother died when I was eleven, my grandfather a few years later. Our time here on earth overlapped for such a sort span.  I think of the Littmus Lozenge from Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie, the sweet with the sour, joy with sadness.

This is a memory which contains both, and on those occasions my minds journey back influences my movement in the now and my pace slows almost without me realising it.

Friday, 4 October 2013

a promising sign?

This morning the bus station was an empty space, just the marks on the floor where once there had been waste bins and seats.

This afternoon there was a full compliment of waste bins, on at the site if each missing set of seats. So might there be replacement seats appearing in the near future.  I can hope!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Personal cloud

For quite some time just as I was getting off the bus at my last stop of the day it would rain.  I live in an area designated as temperate so constant sunshine is not expected.  Regular rain unsurprising, but this was different.

It was not raining as we pulled into the town, not drizzling as we pulled into the bus station but as soon as I got of, yip rain.  However, that was not the sum of it, the rain would stop moments after I got into the house.  I imagined that I looked like a cartoon character with my own personal cloud raining over my head.

Logically speaking I know that this experience is probably akin to dropping toast and recalling it always landing butter side down.  It has been scientifically proven this is not the case just that it is human nature to recall the worst outcomes rather than the best.  I suspect that is also true of my cloud.

Either that or the weather is out to get me!  

Friday, 20 September 2013

Are we nearly there yet?

So smooth transition, long wait or being decanted aside I am on the last bus and heading home.  This is the most relaxing journey of the day.  Well mostly it is, if there has been a lot of rain, and recently there has, a dip in the road floods.  To date it just whooshes up and over as the bus hits it but it does generate a momentary concern.

This section of the route has some pleasant views across the fields and passes through a pretty village before turning into my home town.  Yes it is the same going but it tends to be a bit dark to enjoy the view (and my eyes are often shut which does not help) and views are always prettier with a day of work behind me.

One last bus related choice.  Get off a stop early and go to the library before heading home or stay on. Due to recent budget restraints this has become a choice which takes a bit more memory power and thought than it used to.  Why? Because it used to be the library was open the same hours each day ( with a half day Wednesday and a 4 p.m finish on a Saturday).  To save money whilst keeping the library open, the times have all been changed, each day different hours and to be honest I keep forgetting what times for what day.

I miss tripping lightly to the lenders of books, I must pop a timetable for the library in my bag.  It can nestle amongst all of the bus timetable I have accumulated.  Only this timetable will offer me a richer more varied travel experience, and of course this is travel I can take with me on my bus journeys.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Singular encounters

Sometimes the connections made in the to and fro of my day are singular encounters in both meanings of the word.  One meeting, one conversation which for some reason lingers in the mind.

I am not sure if there is something about my face that says "you can talk to me, it is safe" or just that I happen to be in the right place at the right time, but people talk to me about stuff.  Then again perhaps they are in a place that they are talking to everyone, who knows.

One such conversation was with a school girl, she was waiting for the bus on her own having just spent time in detention for an infraction which she informed me was not instigated by her.  She talked about her alienation from others at school and her feelings of low self worth.  She told me all about her martial arts class and her ambitions to be a police officer and stay out of trouble and be someone respected.  She was very open about her family being in general on the other side of the law and her firm intention to become the exception.  I provided a level of approbation for her future plans.  That was a couple of years ago now, I saw her only once more after that, but we did not speak, just a look of awareness passed between us as she waited now with companions for her bus.  I hope that she made her plans work and is well on her way to her goal.

Others have spoken of loss and grief, of joy and new families, wedding plans or holidays gone awry health issues and new beginnings.   

Some conversations are a delight and others are uncomfortable and a few are seriously though provoking.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Going, going


Space is all there is in the bus station now, all the seats are gone.  All that remains of the seats are the concrete patches on the floor where they used to be. 

I would like to think that the vanishing seats will shortly be replaced with a full compliment of comfy new seating.  However, I am finding it difficult to hold onto any optimism for that outcome in the near future.  

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Ocasional homeward deviations

Some deviations to my journeys homeward are planned.  A diversion from the normal route as I am off to visit a friend, catch a different bus entirely and have to keep a closer eye on the route.

But the instances I am thinking of were unplanned and the danger of being the only one, or last one on the bus.  Now the red bus turns at its termination point and either re-runs the full loop of its journey or occasionally changes number and becomes directionally speaking a different bus altogether.

Twice (yes I should have been more aware the second time) I have been less than joyfully sitting on the upper deck of the bus, reading my book and half hearing the next stop anouncments. When the next stop as should be is not the next one announced!

This is because the driver has not realised there is anyone left on the bus and in a leap of hopeful efficiency has typed in the code changing his number and destination so instead of the last stop and me getting off it is announcing the first stop after the turn.

Ring the bell,shock the driver to bits and end up having to get off at the stop I normally get on this bus on a morning.  The bus having already started its turn round a mini round about.  So now it is the mad dash down to the traffic lights (I do like a nice set of pedestrian traffic lights when I am a pedestrian that is, and will come back to that later) and back up to get the next bus.

The red bus is not the only one, one of the yellow buses is generally very sparse of passengers when I get on and quite often I am it.  Now there is a large round about just before my days start and stop bus station.  One of those sways and turns that identifies my location if I am reading.  So when the turn kept on turning to head on back the way I had just come I shouted "where are you going?" to the driver.  I scared him as he had completely forgotten he had picked up a passenger at all.  We must have looked quite amusing as the bus went right round the roundabout once and then half round again to make the turn to the bus stop. 

Fortunately for us both, driver and I we were in a good mood and saw the funny side. 

Sunday, 18 August 2013

More subtractions

Just thought I would mention that the 24 spaces have increased by two and there are only four seats remaining at my starting point.

going, going I expect that soon they will be gone.

I would say watch this space. but there being nothing but space is what I am watching for in this instance.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

A fugue state

proper definition is a temporary period of amnesia with movement or travel.

In terms of the bus journey I think of it a temporarily forgetting what I am supposed to be doing and once involved travel beyond my movements courtesy of a bus.

I shall explain, while experiencing the relativity of time waiting for the next bus your mind can wander away from the task at hand.  Watching for the next bus, into planning what to do when at last home or rehashing some instance at work, off my mind meanders.  A teensy portion is left on task, watch for a bus, black or yellow.  This divergence of concentration works fine unless the bus company has a bus off the road in the normal route colour and has had to substitute one of their many other hued  vehicles. When that happens teensy bit of brain on watch can take just a moment too long to disengage from black bus / yellow bus identification to different colour but still MY BUS! by the number, and there it goes off into the distance. Oops, sometimes route themed buses are less helpful.

And the travel beyond?  Well I decided to walk from the middle stop up the bank to the next stop as I was early and it would be better than just standing.  So of I went one foot following the other, you know how walking goes, thinking my thoughts, looking at the houses as I passed.  That's a nice bungalow I though, funny, I had not noticed how nice this garden is before..wait that is because I have not walked past it before.  Sudden realisation I had forgotten why I was walking, to get to the next stop, and just kept walking, I had passed the stop and was now  a third of the way to the next one!

A quick about turn and I just made it back in time to catch the bus home.  Taking your mind off things can sometimes leave you forgetting what is important.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Being decanted

The red bus, second on the outbound journey, first homeward bound is scheduled to run every ten minutes.  That is to say miss one red bus and the next one will be along in ten minutes, not that the full route takes ten minutes to travel. 

Now as previously noted ten minutes is not a fixed concept when waiting for the bus but it is not too long when the buses can have delays. So bus one is delayed by a few minutes here and there, now it is picking up the passengers that meant to catch it and those a little early at their stops for the next bus.  So it is delayed a little more at each stop to let the passengers on.  The next bus is catching up as it has less passengers to stop for.  You can get the two buses which are supposed to be ten minutes apart one just behind the other.

In order to get back the separation and get the timetable back on track the drivers both stop at the same place (they prefer a stop with room for two buses without blocking the traffic) and decant the late bus into the on-time bus. The late bus then turns and starts back over on schedule and the on-time bus finishes the route to the correct terminal and turn point.

No one likes this process, shifting from one bus to another is an annoyance and if you are on the second bus, this hitch step is likely to delay that one just a bit.  Just a bit can be just enough to miss your connection if your journey does not end on the red bus.  As a regular I have been through this process so many times I can just about predict when it will happen and am less than sanguine about it.

However, the other day as we pulled into the interchange and my bus stopped, the driver getting out of his cab and starting to say "can you please get on the bus behind", I was moving with some resignation before his finished his instruction.  Resignation turned to surprised delight when I realised that for once the decanter into which we were being poured was not another red bus. Rather it was the black, my next bus which I had expected to miss, this time the much disliked process had worked to my advantage.

Off one bus and onto the next with no waiting at all, the best of results. I shall view being decanted will a little tiny tinge of hope in the future for similar benefits. 

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Theory of relativity

Einstein's theory of relativity relates time to mass and to gravity, you can find a good but simple explanation of how that works from Juggernaut on Yahoo.

But very very basically it means that people in different locations (distances from the gravity source) will experience time differently.

Thus I hypothesise that people waiting for a bus experience time differently to GMT.  However, in Einstein's theory two people in the same place should be experiencing time moving at the same rate.

Not so for the bus theory which is based on the following factors.

  1. In how much of a hurry you are to complete your journey.
The more important to you that you get moving and arrive at your destination at a particular GMT the longer it takes the bus to arrive.

    2. The weather and your preparedness for it.

If it it raining and you do not have any wet weather clothing or an umbrella time slows.  It goes a little faster if you have waterproofs.  If it is very sunny and you are wearing warmer clothes with no opportunity to remove layers time slows.  Snow is invariably slowing.

    3. The requirement for a public convenience.

Time slows greatly in such a need.  No further comment required methinks we have all been there!

   4. Your mood.

This is the biggest and most variable factor.  If you are relaxed and in a good mood then time flows along quite nicely and the wait does not appear as onerous.  However if you are in a bad mood, everything is an annoyance and time crawls.  Now the influences on mood are many which is why it is so variable.  How work went, if you are looking forward to something, factors 1 - 3 as above, meeting bus friends or not, but this factor is twice as important as the other in how quickly or slowly the time passes.

So two people waiting at the same stop for the same bus for the same number of seconds, minuets will have different views of the passage of time based on their state of mind.  To a certain extent we see and experience the world and the movement of time not as it is but as we are feeling.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Privacy bubble

This is an idea that some bus travellers appear to believe in, that there is some magical bubble that surrounds only the people they are talking to, holding the conversation within its walls .  It is a myth, there is no magic sound inhibiting force field which prevents other passengers from hearing your conversations.  Although I often wish there were!

Also a myth the idea that we can choose not to hear someone else's conversation no matter what the volume of the participants.  I have heard brave souls challenging the blue content of another passengers language admonished with that myth, "well if you don't want to hear stop listening to a private conversation", only those with hearing aids they can turn off can truly manage that.  Those using in ear music devices may also be able to tune out literally but to what damage to their ears as they up the volume.

A conversation not held in private, i.e only the people you want involved present, is not a private conversation! This is beyond the exchanges of bus friends and ventures some distance into exhibitionism and for the other passengers forced voyeurism.  Discussions of such a personal nature they astound me.  Sexual exploits including affairs are regularly aired, criminal activities referred to, prison expectations on the way to court, results of meetings with social services the list goes on.  Of course it is not just the topics that can be uncomfortable to be privy to, the language used can be considerably less than edifying. 

Those using mobile phones appear to believe in a variation of the bubble, that as they are speaking into a phone the sound is only going as directed and not that their half of the conversation is easily audible to all on board.  Mind some are so loud I often wonder if they need a phone at all and can probably be heard by the recipient anyway.  

My tolerance of others mythical bubbles tends to relate directly to the other recipients on the bus of this assault to the ears and sensibilities.  It is considerably diminished by the presence of children who hear and remember anything adults would prefer they did not.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Passing the time, a technology update

I have for the past few weeks made use of the Kindle on the bus, there I go easing into the twenty first century of reading. I am not a total convert and still much prefer a real book.  But it is good knowing if I finish a book mid journey there is another one (well more than one) there ready to start. 

However, there is a downside, I advised with real books volumes with very interesting cover art should be avoided due to the reading interrupting conversations they can generate.  Whilst a Kindle cover tells nothing about the volume you are reading (mine is a very bland single colour cover, which I like) it is still a conversation starter.  For those with out a Kindle it is the chance to discuss how it works and its merits with a disinterested party.  For those with a Kindle it offers the opportunity to compare devices, prices and where it has been used.

So beware a Kindle, can actually reduce your reading time, although it might make you some new bus friends.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Purple coated lady three

This lady is one of my human clocks at the middle bus station (also referred to as an interchange, which is a good term as here I may change bus) and only on my way home.

I know if she is there that my next bus, the black one, has not gone yet.  Her presence helps me to decide if getting off here is a better option that staying on till the end of the red bus's run.

Whatever the weather she is wearing the same three quarter length pale purple padded coat, so she is easy to spot from the bus.  An elderly lady, I presume she feels the cold even more than I do.  Each time we meet we have the same conversation.  Whilst I look familiar she can never place me and any pretencions I might have had, about being in the least memorable are well and truly dissipated.  Being a tad more serious this fiercely independent lady obviously has short and medium term memory problems but she is getting out and about and living her life.

So purple lady 3 makes me look at myself and wonder if I am making the most of my life or am I being safe and missing out on things?

Friday, 28 June 2013

Human clocks

Telling the time, once done with reference to the position of the sun or the shadows it cast moved on to clocks in the 1500 and pocket watches 1700 then wrist watches 1900 mainly for women, not becoming popular for men until 1920's, a brief obsession with the digital in 1970's to 80's settling back in the main to pointers and a circle of numbers to the present day.

However, for the bus commuter GMT is not necessarily the definitive method of gauging the time. After all the point of interest is not so much an accurate telling of the time but rather is the bus due or have I missed it.

In answering theses questions the regular traveller reverts to the human clock.  If particular people are at a stop the assumption is made that the bus has not gone and is most likely due.  The sight of others may have a different result.  There is a lady I see regularly at the point I change buses.  She wants the bus I am leaving, therefore if she arrives to see me standing she knows she has missed her bus.  We therefore only have conversations when she has to wait for another bus.  When things are running smoothly for her we simply exchange a good morning greeting as I descend from the bus and she prepares to get on.

On my homeward trip I sometimes use human clocks to help me decide at which stop to try and make the transition from one bus to another.

In addition to visual clues other people waiting for the bus may have a better understanding of how close to the timetable a bus runs at given points in the day or even the year. With an awareness of how school closure times, Christmas shopping, local football matches or concerts impact on adherence to the set timetable.  This can result in a variation from the timetable that is in itself so regular it can be relied upon!  

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The return of Bunny

An afternoon encounter with one of the commuting babies and from that I note that Bunny is back!
Bunny represented by an actor.

Are you burning to know if this means Chick has been ousted, the newcomer fallen out of favour?

Nope, together Bunny and Chick have have relegated the dummy to the bench, a cuddly companion clutched in each hand there is no thought spared to the discarded pacifier.

There is still room for challenge, from the drinking cup or the potato snack but so far Bunny is back in the premier league and the new signing looks like making the starting line up on a regular basis.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Decisions, decisions

On the way to work there is only one choice for the second bus, on the way back they is only one choice for the first bus.  It was once two, the second option being a bus which did a route through estates and took twice as long, however that bus changed its route and ceased to tempt me into the folly of getting on it.

The choice for second bus is also a choice for which stop to get off as they do not all stop at all the stops. First option is to get off as the town where the littering incident occurred.  Only the black bus is is available for my onward journey from here.  There is a three sided shelter next to the retaining wall for a churchyard so there is some respite from the weather however, it is a busy stop and no guarantee that the shelter will not already be fully occupied.

The reason for this being therefore a possible choice is all based on time, if it is close to a time the bus should be there, if the red bus is running late or early then getting off here can be wise.  Sometimes having decided to remain red as that bus pulls to a large round-about I can see back to the stop and catch sight of the black bus coming behind.  My normal reaction is to get off at the next stop to make the change as on occasion black has overtaken red and I miss it.  A similar situation can also occur at the second potential interchange, this interchange is generally again a choice based on the weather (plenty of shelter room here as the shelter is more like a long tunnel) and the timings still of the black bus.

There is a level of frustration when you can see your next bus in front of the bus you are on and your chance of catching it and making the connection is based on passenger requirements at each stop on each bus.  If the bus in front has people wanting off or on at enough stops that my current bus does not we will pass it and it feels like winning.  Passenger requirements the other way around and at the point the red bus reached its terminus I can watch the black or occasionally the yellow bus pull off into the distance.

Traffic lights also aid or hinder in this process and the presence of wheeled personal transport on either bus can be a deciding factor. 

The choice I make most often is to stay put till the red bus reaches the end and turning point of its route, get off and quickly walk the short distance to the next stop.  All of the possible buses home service this stop, it has the downside of having no shelter whatsoever on a street which whatever the weather is always windy. In addition there is a gap in the buildings next to it which allows the wind, rain snow and hail (yeah have been there for it all, and some times on the same day) direct access.

You would think that from here decisions are made and all that is left is waiting for whichever bus turns up first.  Not quite, if there is going to be a 15 min or more wait there is one further option.  Walk up the bank one more stop to a three sided stone built shelter.  In the cold moving helps to warm me up with the prospect of some shelter if rain is threatening.  I get a bit of exercise and it is less boring than just standing, of course there are dangers to that choice as well.  A late bus thought already missed or one running very early can be missed this way as it passes me half way up the hill.

It is all decisions and good or bad they are mine as are the consequences, delight at a smooth connection or disgust at a miss and extended wait.    

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The talking buses

the red buses in addition to the now normal screen showing sequenced shots from the security cameras, interspersed with adverts has a second screen.

Red surround to match the bus it displays the name of the next stop, with some little reference to why you might want to get off there, shops or an interchange to other of the companies bus routes.

That was novel for a little while but soon was less noticed.  Ah but once they had that working they added a little something extra which regularly causes comment.

The bus now tells you what the next stop will be, and the whys of getting off there.  Not with an artificial voice but a pre- recorded real human voice.  Well I presume it is pre recorded and there are not people stuffed inside some secret compartment with a microphone.

Yip, I did say people as in a blow for equality the message of which stop comes next is alternated between a male and female voice.  Now as I may have alluded in the colour of the buses this company has no issue with its regional identity so the voices have local accents not BBC English.  Nor do they stick to the basics, there is the occasional " the next stop guessed it " followed by the name of the stop.

First time hearers are startled or amused.  Unsure if they like the slightly jokey delivery or not.  Some of the regular travellers, most often the older ladies now I think about it like to complain about "having that stupid voice all the time".

So far I remain amused, if not by the voices directly then by others reaction to it. It also comes in quite handy when you are reading or bus napping, you can train your mind to filter out other noise to some extent (but never totally, I'll come back to that) and just listen out for the stop you want as an extra safeguard .

It is eagle eyed for spotting something visual, what is it for identifying a sound or voice? A comment to this blog from a friend notes that the voices belong to the hosts of a local radio station.  Not much of a radio listener myself I had not made the connection.  Oddly it has never been mentioned on the bus.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

A rainbow of options

A livery which identifies belonging has been a feature of aristocracy, military and commercial life for hundreds of years.  Most companies have an identifying symbol quite often aligned with a colour or colour scheme.  Bus companies are no exception and most have their fleet (I know that is the right word but it makes me think of ships, shame buses do not have their own collective noun instead of having to share) decorated in the same easily identifiable  scheme. 

The company I use for my journey has deviated from this norm, big time. Instead of one livery they have 48 covering the various routes the buses run.

Red buses named after a famous RAF display team, silver buses with the same directional symbol. Light green buses the same shade as the citrus fruit the route is named, or with a very famous large regional sculpture, darker green both celebrating and adorned by a local monster legend.  Black buses which echo the American greyhound yet pay tribute to a local football club's feline nickname and alleging a speedy journey.

Blue coastal bound buses decorated with a surfer making a play on both the colloquial expression of "of course" and its number whilst giving a gentle nod to Hawaii Five O.  Although I do not know if it was the original programme or the modern version which inspired this piece of foolery, and I care not, it just gives me a chuckle whenever I see one.  Where was I , oh yes gold buses, Pink buses, Purple double deckers and yellow buses which carry a reminder of the areas lost, but I expect never forgotten coal mining past.  There is even a night bus which I have never used, I'd like to imagine it has four poster beds on board Harry Potter style but somehow I doubt it.

Routes named after a type of fast ship, Dick Turpin's profession and the knights who followed Richard the Lion Heart, the wearers of mitres, focused beams of light, white precious gems and others descriptive of the route they run in city or town.  I have not seen them all and had not realised how numerous the variations were till I took a good look at the web site.  Now I wonder shall I become a bus spotter trying to see all double,double dozen? 

And this year each and every one has an added adornment, a celebration of the company's 100th year. Happy anniversary bus company, good going.

Friday, 7 June 2013

A person of books.

A regular sight on the journey home is an elderly gentleman, rather dapper in appearance with a tweed cap and jacket.  He does not have either a pre-determined joining place or departure point.   I have encountered him, already on the bus at my departure point, at that particular bus station or joining from  many of the other stops or at the places I change bus waiting with me for the link.  He exits on an equally random basis but always leaves the bus before I do.  As such the length of our conversations is never set.

During these encounters he noticed I was often reading a book and he asked about the plot and style.  He is less than impressed with my preference for fantasy fiction, light historical romances and the occasional paranormal volume.  Recommending a grittier more locally inspired read he told me about his first book, a tale of two brothers.  One a bad lot and the other a nice chap with a nice wife.  He described it as a grim tale with sorrow and a romantic twist at the end.  He was obviously very emotionally involved with his characters as just telling me the outline brought a tear to his eye.  In his attempt to give me a feel for his work he compared his semi historical style with that of Catherine Cookson, whilst advising me a copy was available at the local library.

Although there is a certain excitement at the though of reading a book by someone you know the genera my bus acquaintance writes in is not for me.  It may be the local equivalent of being unpatriotic but I don't like Catherine Cookson's work. No not even the TV adaptations.  Too much gloom, angst and sad goings on before a somewhat happy ending.  I like jollier stuff.

My encounters with this literary gentlemen have reduced over the last year or so. The last time we met he told me he had gone on to a second book and has been less in the local area having been visiting with people around the country.

Although sadly the library no longer makes his book available for those of you who would be enticed by a book in this style, the gentleman's nom de plume is Mr Richie Miller. His first book is The Bradbury Connection (published by New Millennium ISBN-13:9781858453545) , his second is the Girl from Ninth Street.(I have not found the reference number for that one).  I understand they were privately published but Waterstones did sell some of his books and there are second hand copies of his first book available via the Internet the locations of which reflect his journeying about the country .

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The three states of ego

child, adult and parent.  States of mind that effect our interaction with others and our mood.  We can be any of the stages at any age. or so say psychiatrists and behaviour therapists.

Now if you are wondering why the slide into psyco speak on a blog about travelling by bus.  It is the double decker.  Up the stairs to sit on the top deck, oh with the window seat at the front.  That appears to be the desire of most children as they get on board.  As you note from my last entry that is not the case with me.

I had wondered, the first time I clambered up the stairs out of necessity if this would be a revert to childhood moment.  Like the guilty pleasure of being the first to tramp tracks through new snow before you turn adult and recall the problems snow can cause. I sort of hoped that the prized seat would be available, right at the front, drivers side of course.  My luck appeared to be in, the seat was free, the place as a child I had often wanted to be but was restrained by adults who were not able to climb the stairs with me.

So in I settled, the bus pulled away and no, a return to childhood it was not.  The motion of the bus alters greatly from lower to upper deck.  The front seat has reduced legroom and no hand support for balance. Instead of a sense of fun I ended up with a sense of vertigo.

Disappointed with that experience I still had left the joy , yes being sarcastic, of getting back down the stairs.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Sitting comfortably homeward bound

Getting settled on the bus for the return journey is a different matter to outward bound.  Here I am not getting on at the beginning of the route, the bus is often quite full and there are several people waiting to get on.  This is not a choice between preferred options but making the best of what is available.

Preferences in reverse order:
  •  standing, never comfortable, much shuffling about at every stop for others to get on and off.
  •  sitting sideways on a fold down seat in the area set aside for personal wheeled transport (yip pushchairs, prams, buggies and wheelchairs.  Dislike theses for three reasons, the motion of the bus is less easy to attune to sideways it makes me feel a bit queasy, two theses seats are harder than ordinary bus seats and lastly given this space is first and foremost for the afore mentioned person movers then the chance exists at every ongoing stop that you will have to move. 
  • sitting facing the back of the bus.  Three reasons for this as well, travelling backward is almost as bad motion wise as sideways, the backward seats make it a bit harder to gauge where I am in the journey as you are past a place as you see it and last but not least they are generally a bit further from the floor than others and I have little legs (so perhaps the more vertically blessed like these seats for that very reason)
  • an aisle seat, now there are two degrees of aisle seat, next to a bus friend or next to a stranger (perhaps a bus friend to be) the former is preferable to the latter even with the possibility of expanding my circle of bus acquaintances.  Why, because the aisle seat is less stable a ride, there is more concentration required to stay in my seat and finally there is the need to be aware of the other persons body language so I can tell when they are approaching their stop and will need to move to accommodate their departure. Mind that does generally have the benefit of freeing up the window seat for me for the rest of the journey.
  •  A window seat in one of my preferred seats.
Well that covers the lower deck of the bus, but this first bus on the homeward bound journey is 99% of the time a double decker so what about upstairs?  I am getting to that, and perhaps it should have been at the start of this list.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Purple coated ladies one, two...

The queue for my first homeward bus is where I met the first two of my purple ladies.  Different coats, same colour totally different characters but both delightful bus friends.

Purple lady one is older with that elegant silver blond hair which looks so stylish.  She is calm, and her rueful acceptance of the vagaries of both weather and bus time tables is soothing.  Conversation is general, light and after a day at work restful.  Some evenings a nod and a smile is sufficient for us both on other occasions the conversation moves along with the line of folk and settles nicely in on the bus til she reaches her departure point.

Purple lady two is both younger in years and at heart with jolly red hair and even jollier smile we talk about her club, family and rabbit, not necessarily in that order.  We talk in the queue and almost always onto the bus, I sit by the window and she in the aisle to accommodate he earlier exit.  If I get there for the early bus we meet on a regular basis and exchanged names long since past.. Each of us wonder about the other if we miss the connection. Recently my purple lady briefly turned  pink in a new winter coat but the warmer weather set things back to rights. She recently celebrated a birthday and surprised me that she is a little older than me, I would have said the other way around.

Purple is proving to be a good colour for me, it is my best friends colour of choice, and now the choice of colour for my bus friends too

Saturday, 18 May 2013

A very British pass time

queueing, or as our cousins across the pond phrase it, standing in line.

There are suggestions that this is a dying art, the art of waiting your turn.  In this digital age people are more and more expecting things faster than fast, on demand and there almost before you even knew you wanted it.  The idea of waiting as outmoded as a sundial for telling the time.

But the art is still out there and can be found in many of it subtleties at bus stops and stations.  There are queues which support the American description linear in form and queues with no physical structure just an unspoken acknowledgement of precedence.

At bus stops, with or without shelter there is not usually an easily defined direction for a queue to form, nor quite often is there the space.  So the queue forms in the mind, as you arrive you take note of who was already there waiting, these people form the  before me group, there is no need to know in which order they arrived just the recognition they all get to go first if they are waiting for the same bus.  It is for them to know in which order they have the right to board.  The expectation is that those who come after will place themselves in the same notional queue .  There is a level of comfort in knowing your place, an orderliness in this unspoken agreement.  You can feel a general sense of unease if this order is disrupted by anything other than a polite offer by word or gesture for someone to move ahead ( often made to those with pushchairs, small children, the elderly and still, occasionally, from a gentleman to a lady) a not you turn hush.

At some bus stations ( the 2nd and 3rd previously mentioned) there is both direction and room for a line to form, but even so there is art to the function.  The multi queue is a thing to behold, one stop but three anticipated buses, all of which can pull in to the stand but with only one point of  access or egress (a set of automated doors) from bus to bus station.  A single queue forms which as a bus pulls in moves forward and often with out word splits as those wanting the particular bus set slightly to the right and those still with waiting to do, step to the left.  Thus the queue as a whole moves forward, the choreography of this living line becomes more complex if two buses arrive at the same time, a three way split occurs and two lines of people are trying to funnel themselves out through the double door as two sets of clowns (see previous blog) are trying to get in.  Oh and occasionally, the clowns from one arriving bus are also passengers to be to get on before them.

It is all very polite, civilised and fosters a sense of order and oddly enough belonging.  I am given to understand that this delightful dance is not the norm country wide, one lady looking bemused at the ebb and flow of people commented to her local companion "we don't do this in London, you just bustle  up and get on regardless" her friend gave her a look of pity and said "here we wait our turn."

There are those who will suggest that it is the young, brought up in the atmosphere of instant gratification, who are eroding the art of waiting for your turn.  But that is not my experience, it is not a matter of age but one of attitude.  We are loosing the understanding of others rights and needs and constantly trying to sublimate them to our own.  There is a suggestion that being polite and patience is a form of weakness, a waste of time and a barrier to progress, the busy person's time to valuable to waste.  I disagree, I think that if we shift our focus to only ourselves, without concern for others we are loosing a vital part of what makes us mentally healthy and a society rather than a collection of  selfish individuals.

Any anyway time spent waiting is thinking time, even if you are just contemplating the art of a queue     

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Here come the clowns

now that may sound a bit harsh, please take it as the rather more light hearted thought it actually is.  When the bus pulls up and the passengers start to get off, and get off and keep getting off and there are so many getting off you begin to wonder where they are all coming from.  There appears to be more people getting off the bus than there should be room for on the bus in the first place.  It is like watching that old circus clown visual joke with the little car which keeps disgorging clowns past any reasonable capacity of the cars occupancy.  It would do the TARDIS proud.

And whilst on occasion those of us waiting to board might begrudge the time this mass exodus takes the potential for a seat, and maybe even one in a preferred location is sufficient consolation.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Out of the window

next to my desk, on the eighth floor of the building I work in, is a view of the bus station and if I look out and down I can see the stand for the bus home.  The bus home is now scheduled to run every ten minuets (it used to be hourly and then half hourly) and as they are generally bright red double deckers I can tell which of the buses would be mine.

Now you would think that with a bus every ten minuets it would make little difference which bus I caught.  Well you would be greatly mistaken, it is very important on a couple of fronts.  Firstly the buses it connects to, at one of the three main connection points, do not run every ten minutes, they are once an hour or half hourly so a miss is lost time. That is the other point time, my time and like most bus passengers I want to spend as little of it as possible waiting for a bus and as much of it as able, doing the things I want to do.

An obsession with time, and timing arrival at bus stops is like ivy on a building, just a little at first and then all encompassing.  I expect it will be a recurring theme in this blog.  Working out the last moment you can wait to leave to still catch the bus becomes a sort of game with how little time spent waiting as the score.  I don't have far to go but the down eight floors part can be most frustrating.  There is room for four lifts, at present there are only two operating as they are replacing the old with the new, one new and one old are available for use.  However, the call buttons are not yet linked so people call both in a hurry to have either arrive,this is counterproductive, the result being both lifts stop on almost every floor up and down with time consuming consequences.

Now the old lifts did need replacing they were idiosyncratic, lift two did not like being told when to close its doors and if you made the mistake of using the door close button it would either open and shut them several times in reproach before setting off or take twice as long to close than it should.  Lift four had some sort of falling out with floor four and the light display and voice announcing the location of that lift went directly from three to five remaining sullenly silent for the fourth floor.  The other two just appeared work shy as they rarely turned up at all.  They jiggled, grated, clanked and stuck, they did not inspire confidence.  However,  they were and are still better than walking the eight floors, I know as we have no choice but to walk every time we have a fire drill.

So the vagaries of the lift have to be form part of the calculation for when to go.  Then on the TV there started two advertising campaigns, one for a breakfast cereal and one for a credit card.  They both featured innovative ways of travel from work.  The cereal themed itself so good that people had to rush home as quickly as possible to eat more and the credit card was promoting the pass not swipe technology.  They featured watersides, roller coaster cars and designated traffic lanes and lastly but to me by no means least a zip line.

I envision a zip line being very useful to me, running from the office window by my desk, down to the bus stand.  Clip on and whee I would be at the bus in seconds.  See the bus pulling round and out the window off I would zip, not a moment wasted with nary a bus missed.  It could only be bettered by a Star Trek transporter, and I have had my fantasies about that too.

Sadly for the happy thought, the windows don't even open on my floor, and I doubt the building managers would agree to the installation, health and safety would no doubt have comment and the risk assessment process a nightmare of crimson tape but it is an amusing thought non the less and one which my mind turns to frequently as the lift stops on floors seven through one before reaching the ground..

Thursday, 2 May 2013

A happy mistake

as I go up the escalator I try to get my brain started up ready for work.  Just at the top in the shelter of the lift area is" Pop Bottle" man.  There most mornings with a litre pop bottle with a dark liquid in it, about half the volume the bottle will hold, I expect it is a famous brand.  He is usually just finishing a cigarette. No idea if it is a pre-bus journey pause or if he has just arrived.  I do know he is not supposed to smoke there but like many others I say nothing.

Now I have a theory about how my brain works, if that is the right word, it has lots of little flash cards with pictures or information on them and it does a compare, refine or discard thing when trying to identify something or find an answer for me.  Normally it whizzes through this process quickly, so quickly that I don't even notice but if I am tired, more than half asleep or making it think about two things at once the process can slow down enough that I do notice it.

For example one morning walking to work, in the days when that was all I did and buses were not involved, I saw something coming towards me.  My brain goes into identification mode.  First thought the something is flying therefore, BIRD, happy with the initial sort I got for a bit more definition, a hint of red, ROBIN, it gets a bit closer and an element of size penetrates, the next mental statement is more indicative of my tired mind, BIG ROBIN, it lands a short distance off turns sideways on and with a triumphant last filter of facts my brain announces, PHEASANT!

Now early on in the journey experience as I crossed the bridge a lady was coming in the other direction, tired brain automatically goes into its sort, filter and refine mode.  Working a little faster than with the Pheasant it matches general appearance against people I know and gets ready to send instructions for an appropriate reaction to the rest of me.

My brain panicked I think at the speed of the approach decided it was a Lady from Church, similar features and hair colour.  It discarded the fact there was no reason for that retired lady to be in this location at this time of the morning and rushed a beaming smile of delighted greeting to my face.  And as the smile was returned, with overtones of surprised pleasure, my brain finished its checking and announced , you don't know her!

The "Not the Lady from Church" became over the next six years the "Smiling Lady", that one mistake developed into many a mornings friendly greeting, smiles, nods, hellos and mornings.  A last cheering encounter before entering the dark portals of work. Ok the portals are well lit but rarely do I find getting there lights up my day.  Yip I should be glad I have a job to go to and in the main , overall I am, but on a day to day basis...

Almost there

this bus station is all shiny white and chrome, tiled floor, seats to sit on and that piped music and electronic timetables.
new bus station.
There is a choice of stairs escalator or lift to get from road level to the bridge which goes one way to a covered shopping centre and the other to a housing estate and past the building I work in.

The escalators (up and down) are this week sporting new safety signs, you know the ones, advising not to take pushchairs on etc.
The new signs are all pink and shades of purple and rather a slap in the eye compared to the old dim blue and white ones they have replaced.

It was not always this greenhouse of glass and tile, it was previously concrete and metal walls painted blue.  It was dark and cold, old and dingy.  It had the option of stairs or a lift which was rather forbidding.  

It was quite an exciting pleasing though when they announced it was to be improved, of course things would get worse before they would get better.  A temporary bus station was set up held together with scaffolding and that worrying black and yellow striped tape. Which stands the buses arrived and departed from appeared to change daily.  The ladies in the ticket shop were decanted into a port-a-cabin and the scaffolding stairs were scary indeed and a tad slippy during the winter weather.

At the time, as such things do, it seemed to take ages to finish.  The last little bit took extra extra long to be completed, to the outside observer it looked done and why couldn't we use it yet already! But it was worth the wait in the end.  Mind although it is a brighter nicer place it still manages to be very cold in the Winter, sliding doors for access to the buses but open at the top of the stairs and escalators, so drafty.  In the summer, as per my earlier description the sun gets very hot through the glass and tomatoes would do well in it.

The ticket ladies have a spacious new shop, there was a little shop for snacks tucked under the stairs but two different attempts at running it have both failed and it has been closed longer than it was ever open.

I use the escalator (when it is working) the lift when it is not, the stairs are at the other end of the station and I would need to work my way through the shopping centre if I took that route.

So up the escalator...

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Stop a moment

2 sided + bottom perch bus stop
just as I am about be a free sardine I feel the need to fast forward chronologically and rewind geographically for a moment and talk about stops and stations and the two bus journey.

Firstly I define a bus station as a location with stands for more than three buses at a time, shelter from the elements for the passengers and other amenities from bottom rests to seats, lights to shops and amenity or annoyance, piped music.

gab a seat before it vanishes
A stop is at its simplest a place where a bus does exactly that, stops.  The basic version is a pole with a sign for the buses which stop there, the next level up the pole has a timetable sealed in perspex detailing all of the buses which serve the stop and their times. Then we have the stops with shelters, the designs vary between older brick built shelters and newer designs with metal frames and perspex panels.

Brick bus stop

Both can have three walls back and side or have an additional section of wall and openings for entrance /exit.  The brick have the disadvantage (unless you are superman), that you can not see through the walls to tell if the bus is coming and have to step out of the shelter regularly to check.  The perspex is often the victim of vandalism either scratched , written on, melted and occasionally broken, spoiling either the view or the protection from the weather.

Starting bus station

I start at a bus station which I described earlier, although I note that the seats are slowly diminishing in numbers, by the gaps on the floor I can count 24 less seats then when we started.
Not a problem early when so few people are there, all silly of the morning people like me, but later when it gets busy seats are at a premium.

On the two bus journey I have a choice of where to alight from the first bus and catch the next depending on which first bus I am on (there is currently a choice of three at various times).  I tend to pick the sheltered stop at which my second bus starts  its journey as all three 1st buses stop there.  This is a four wall perspex shelter, it once had bottom rests but they were melted and broken and have not been replaced.  Occasionally here I can smell English breakfasts cooking and although I have had my breakfast still the smells make my mouth water. 

The next option, only one bus goes this far, it is a half brick, half perspex bus station with bottom rests and lights, as it is a station it is an option in both directions.  It is a safety net going in case I nap past stop number one (but only on the right bus and the outward journey) and coming home the weather is more of a consideration.
Tunnel bus stop
Black plastic bottom perches

Last chance is a bus top same style as option 1 but with its counter part directly opposite, two buses at each stop fit here OK.  This is the sight of my litter incident, stay on past here and I will be well on my way to a different destination entirely and another hour before a safe turn around. I have not done that yet.

Four walls with two entrance/exit gaps

That brings us back to my destination and stepping out of the tin...

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Out of the tin

originally the bus traveled this route once an hour this resulted in lots of people squeezing on to the same bus. More often than not the bus was a single decker and passengers were packed in cheek to jowl (and other bits), with people standing from one end of the bus to the other.

Now you know that I have a seat, a window seat at that so this doesn't sound like a problem for me, well not till it is time to get off.  Squeezed in like sardines the logistics of removing a sardine or two could be quite complicated.  The person in the outside seat has to get up and move slightly back, protecting their ownership of a seat from those standing behind whilst I get up and sidle out.  They then slip into my window seat and as I squash past the foremost  standing passengers, the jocking for the now vacant seat occurs behind me.

Those who got on the bus knowing they would be standing take note of where the possessors of seats get off.  They try to manoeuvre themselves so they will be in a position for the quick dart, the prize of a seat.  It is manic musical chairs without the music.  It is funny being popular just because people know you are getting off the bus at the same place every day creating the opportunity for others to sit.

The shop girls, some of whom had to stand were particularly good at the tactics of seat seizure, and at the same time regularly bemoaned the bus company's lack of foresight in not using a double decker or having more buses run the route per hour.  They got their wish as from my halfway mark and before most of them joined, there is now a bus every ten minutes and the single decker is the rarity now.

Of course this greater flexibility has pretty much deprived me of their company even as it has made getting out of the tin considerably easier.  Convenience over congenial company and social interaction, I am not sure if I benefited or not from the change.   

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Commuting babies and twinkling sheep

the need of many mothers to work, has added baby commuters to those travelling with me.  They are bundled up in pushchairs and make their journey to nursery or childminders, with their mothers then continuing on to work.

Mostly they do so with happy curiosity or contentedly asleep, bus napping in your own customised seat and with someone else responsible for the logistics of the journey looks most pleasant.  Occasionally however they are less enamoured of their circumstances and vent their feelings with ear splitting shrieks, even I find it hard to nap through those sounds..

The current baby regular is most often accompanied by a slightly bedraggled bemused looking bunny.  Bunny keeps her company and for the most part smiling, oh but the day there was a falling out, well bunny did not so much fall as be repeatedly tossed to the floor.  Tired of the "I throw it down, you pick it up " game, mother confiscated bunny and the wail of "I want bunny" was heartrending for a whole stop, till you recalled bunny's fate if restored was to be tossed again to the floor.  Following Easter, bunny appears to have retired and been replaced by a bright yellow chick, trips to the floor not having bedraggled it as yet.

A slightly older child joined the cavalcade one day and had been learning rhymes, Twinkle twinkle little sheep, yip, sheep, the child had a toy sheep and repeated the one line phrase over and over.  It was firmly stuck in my head by the time I got off the bus. You must know how it goes when you get something replaying in your head like that, although I expect it is usually annoying tunes from adverts or snippets of songs half heard from some other persons on board music fest.  Anyway, I had to finish it off to get rid of it.  Now I do not know if I made this up in whole or in part of if I just dredged it up out of my memory but...

Twinkle twinkle little sheep
I count ewe when I can't sleep
Jumping fences in my mind
when sleep I can not find
Twinkle twinkle little sheep
Do you count me when you can't sleep?

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Where was I

ah yes, on the bus and headed for work, reading ,napping or interacting with other passengers. My next regular joined the bus a few stops from what becomes the halfway point for later journeys.  She is the first of the group of passengers that I collectively think of as the shop girls, although as time went on I realised that was not 100%  accurate as whilst all worked in the city they did not all work at department stores.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Joining the bus later than me she had the longer journey into work and a more difficult return trip due to her hours. Late night shopping may be a boon to those who work till 5 or later but it is not a joy to the people who work in the shops and have their hours set to accommodate it.  I have never worked in retail and conversations with this lady were both interesting and illuminating.

She worked in a large department store which I had been familiar with most of my life.  A visit at Christmas just to see the window displays was a childhood treat. It used to be, as was the case with most such stores, that all the products on sale were bought from them and from their staff who were employed directly by the store.  However, as with many places it has become an umbrella for lots of franchises generally relating to a particular brand of product, so that in the clothing department for instance there are several areas dedicated to particular brands.  My new bus friend worked in one such franchise selling bags and shoes ( boots, etc) with high end prices.  The staff being separately employed by the franchise and working partially on commission, which made the interaction between the staff on the various franchises more complex.  It explains why you can see shop assistants standing with no customers and in the area next to it people waiting to be served, a bit like a posh market with several different stalls under one roof.  Same location but they don't work together and can  not use the tills or do sales on the other area.

Storage and stock issues, cleaning and display arrangements, the store regulations and the franchises own regulations, even who should turn on the lights all things to be navigated carefully in an unending game of work politics.  Bit by bit with almost daily instalments (she had a rota to follow and we did not connect on her late nights) I was introduced to a whole new world.

The other ladies joined one or two stops before my exit from the bus so although their comments added to the whole I never have become as familiar with their jobs.  For these ladies their involvement with each other went beyond the doors of the bus and into workplaces, they extended the relationship to meetings for breakfast, lunch and the occasional night out.  It was both a pleasure to hear about and a slight sadness to be only on the periphery of this group.  Mr Flyaway, working in retail as he did was an honorary member of this group, even if girl applied to him even less than to the rest of the ladies.        


Monday, 15 April 2013

Ready for that nap now..

bus napping, the art of sleeping on the bus and spending just a moment or two more in the arms of Morpheus, without missing your stop.  Bus napper, person who intentionally sleeps on bus journeys, not someone who steals a bus, that has a k in it instead of zzzzz's

If you pop" napping on the bus" or a variation thereof, into a search engine you are going to find quite a lot of entries, from Canadian journalists lauding the confidence of the napper to those advocating various napping positions for the long distance traveller, although to my mind anything over an hour is not napping that's sleeping with a small s anything more than two hours is sleeping with a big S.  Some people have trouble doing that in a bed never mind on the bus.

Considerations and worries for the  novice napper and some gentle advice.

What if I snore or drool, won't that be embarrassing, yes if you do, so do you know your sleeping habits? ask your family if you snore when you fall asleep sitting up? Do you end up sleeping with your mouth open? If the answer is yes then what. Well you could try sleeping with your chin resting on your hand which keeps the mouth closed which can help with both problems but you need to find what works best for you.

What about keeping my belongings safe if I am asleep. Depends on what you have, how busy the bus and how deeply you nap.  I have a bag or occasionally two. I have them on my lap, valuables bag underneath the other and my arms wrapped round both.  I nap lightly and know if someone has sat down on the seat next to me, early morning bus and quite often regulars so far no problem.  The busier the bus and the deeper you sleep the more this might be an issue.  Assess your risk and make the appropriate choice for you and your journey.

What if I lean on someone ? Napping is best accomplished in a window seat so you can lean into the side of the bus and away from anyone sitting next to you.  Try sitting that way to form the habit before you try the sleeping part.

And the big one, what if I miss my stop?  That is where learning the route first comes in, marking reference points, getting a feel for the bus so you know when it stops.  Learning the landmarks so cracking one eye open for a second is sufficient to orientate you and give you a sense of time.  Try just closing your eyes and gauging where you are before trying to nap.

As for me, well when I started on the one bus  it was a reasonable napping time and a second bus station as my disembarkation point, that helped.  On dark mornings the neon signs of shops and a petrol station make good landmarks.  A very rough bit of road on the approach to my midway change over point is brilliant as it rattles the bus and me with the right timing for pressing the bell to get off.  If they ever get it repaired then I might have a problem.  From the second bus there is, near journeys end a quick dip down from the main road a long turn right at one roundabout then a left right, the combination is like a magic wake up call.  Works better than my alarm at home.

Do I nap every morning? no, sometimes I read on bus one and nap on bus two, rarely the other way around and if I am extra tired or feeling the cold that's when double napping occurs.

A cautionary warning, try not to nap standing up at the bus stop, if you have got that tired you need to do something  about it more than bus napping to address the problem.  And you will probably miss the bus!

Oh and a cautionary warning about the bus napper, a person with their eyes closed is not necessarily asleep and just because someone can't see does not mean they cant hear.  Although perhaps that is a cautionary reminder for on a bus regardless, I expect to come back to that point later.

The shop keeping Flyaway was a bus napper on both the outward and homeward bound parts of the journey.  He leaned his head against the window and was so relaxed into the movement of the bus his head would slide backwards and forwards with the motion of the bus.  For those not used to seeing him nap there was the temptation to wake him just in case he had missed a stop.  Generally speaking unless you are certain which stop a napper wants to be off at, let sleeping nappers lie!.  With napping flyaway I didn't even bother with that, he always woke up to the second of when he needed to anytime I saw him dozing the time away.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Not reccomended...buss surfing!

A newspaper article suggested that a great way for the bus commuter to get some exercise and tone those muscles whilst travelling was to bus surf.

I agree an odd term which conjures up a plethora of worrying images, is it for instance the bus version of wing walking or involve wearing rubber suits or extra baggy shorts, or do I have to sing Beach Boys songs?  The reality of the idea is to my mind just as daft.  Stand on the bus for the length of your journey and don't hold on to any of the aides, such as the straps or poles that the company provides to help you balance.  Using just the muscles in your legs back an abdomen to keep you upright, leaning and swaying in sync with the bus like a surfer riding a wave.

Are they mad or just insidiously trying to drum up trade for the injury lawyers?  The bus surfer risks not only their own safety but those of other passengers.  Falling over yourself is likely, falling onto someone else more so.  Just getting up early before your stop and working your way hand over hand on the seat backs and upright poles is perilous enough and I have seen a goodly number of people come a cropper in that situation.

What surprised me almost as much as how daft this suggestion was, oh and it included using the overhead straps on the bus like the rings in mens' gymnastics, duh! was that the paper it was in was available free on the bus next to the sign asking passengers to remain seated when the bus is moving..  

Remain Seated

On a lighter note, also not recommended, playing hide and does not work well. Nor , I have observed is I spy a great success, either the object is on the bus and too easy or outside the bus and passed before the "with my little eye " is finished causing frustration all round.

more time passing

Not quite ready for a nap yet?  Well there is still the electronic entertainment option. I have tried an MP3 player but the music was not loud enough to block out the bus noise, well not the type of music I wanted to listen to at least. Kindle books, games on tablets or mobile phones (the use of the latter on buses is likely to have a post all of their own at some point) but as I mentioned before I am not rushing headlong into the technological revolution.  In fact mostly I am a Luddite when it comes to such things.  My friend Roni does what she can to move me onward but it is an uphill battle.  She is a devote of the Kindle as a study tool and all strength to her and it, but I still prefer a "real" book.

As an aside , if you are going to read a book there are a few things to keep in mind. 
  • When choosing the book remember you have to carry it and balance it on the bus, this is indeed one occasion when bigger is not always better.
  • At the same time try and make sure there is enough book to last the journey in both directions. It is frustrating running out of book with travelling left to do.
  • Avoid books with very interesting cover art or you will spend more time telling other people what you are reading that reading!
  • If the book is too engaging you run the risk of getting so caught up in the story you forget to get off the bus. (re reading an old favourite works quite well)  
  • Keep a book mark handy,or something that will fulfil that function.
  • Avoid reading at bus stops (stations are mostly OK unless very busy) as you can miss seeing the bus coming and only notice it as it glides past and then onward without you. Oh, unless you have an understanding bus friend with you, but in that case you are probably talking not reading. 
I have seen those with steady hands and steady stomachs knit or sew (scary, needles, bumpy roads and corners, need I say more?) and of course the application of make up! however, they too are more than I am able to cope with in transit so I have no advice to proffer on the choices there.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Passing the time

Once the bus is moving what then?

Well you can look out of the window at the passing scenery, recommended for the first trips.  Learning the route can be very important if you later choose a different time filler. You learn not just the landmarks, the stops and who joins where but how the bus moves, the way it sways and rolls how it breaks and pulls away.  You learn the texture of the road, where it is smooth or rough, the particular sharp jiggle generated by repaired pot holes. Dips and banks so that you move with not against the motion of your ride.  With time you can almost feel part of the bus rather than just a passenger.

Reading on a moving vehicle can be difficult and nauseating, it is a good way to incur travel sickness however, it is a great way of making use of your time being consumed by travel. I have not previously been able to do this but I tried a few moments at a time and  once used to the motion of the journey a few moments more until it stopped bothering me. Who knew reading on a bus was a skill you could develop. Oh and used bus tickets make good bookmarks, told you I found a use for them.

You can have those conversations with bus friends of acquaintances that I mentioned earlier or you can take a nap.  Bus napping is another skill which takes some development if you are to arrive at your destination and not continue past your intended stop.

Am I seated comfortably?

then we will begin..the choice of where to sit appears to be a simple one, after all they are going to the same place.  But no, is it better to the left or the right, before, behind or over the wheel. If a single decker with two levels, is up better, and let us not forget the back seat in its extended benchiness! I have both seen and hear exponents of all variations.

As for me I prefer to sit on the left side of the bus (as you face the front) so my view forward is not blocked by the drivers section. You will come to understand that reason for the choice is somewhat ironic. It also puts me on the same side of the bus as the paths and bus stops. I like the first set on seats after the designated reserved for the elderly and disabled, neither of which are generally travelling at silly of the night, but rules are rules.

On a few of the older buses in rainy weather this is not a good choice, the window leaks.  Sitting in the seat without checking for this problem is not a mistake you want to make, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood's strictures for pies applies equally in this situation, soggy bottoms are not good things.

The back seat appears to be a choice split between, the men on the way to work in the mornings and teens (it allows more elbow room for texting each other) and excited children,who run onto the bus whilst parents get the ticket claim the back bench seat triumphantly and then are utterly downcast when forced to move to a less exciting position once their parents spot them.

It is amazing how quickly we become territorial about our seat on the bus. I did not notice at first the proprietorial air I was developing when originally the bus went the whole distance and I was one of the first on so no problem, my seat all the way. Later, as it became necessary to change at the halfway point there might be people already at that stop with right of way before me and horror sitting in my place. Now I might have thought it was just me getting a little bus crazy however, I note that all of the regulars have their own seating preferences . Indeed,  one morning,comforting me regarding, if not my sanity my normality a fellow regular muttered under her breathe "she is going to sit in my seat, that's not right" when a new face took her usual place (one seat in front of mine on the bus).  What creatures of habit we become almost without thought.