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.