Monday, 29 June 2009

Um... stating the bleeding obvious?

This had me guffawing loudly. Probably made the passengers wonder if I'd completely lost the plot, but what the hell :)

If you're the driver of it, yep, I was the guy with the flashing camera at the lights, in the bus ;) Thanks for giving me a much needed belly-laugh :)

PS - it's me birthday today :) Happy Birthday to me :) I'm on (for the first time in what, six years on the buses, is it?) two days off over my Birthday, so whoopee :) No work tonight!! OK, so I had to work last night, into my Birthday, so there's one of the reasons for the much-needed belly laugh above :)

PPS - this is an anniversary posting in more ways than one - I just noticed that this is the Hundredth Blant on here :)

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Megablant: Pink, Pedicabs, and Parking....

First off, one for my better half :) Who, oddly enough, has an apparent fixation for the colour Hot Pink ;)

This one's for you :)

Enjoy :)

Next up... pedicabs... one of the current plagues on Central Londons' Streets...

These are pedicabs. Note there are no licence plates, registration numbers, or even mirrors. They're also blocking the road.

This is typical behaviour for these immigrant machines from the Orient, and frankly such behaviour is a right pain. Additionally, the Riders apparently have no need of any for of drivers' licence, and from what I've heard, do not even have to undergo a Criminal Record Background (CRB) check.

For those of us who (1) have worked hard to earn their Driving Licences, (2) are REQUIRED to follow the rules of the road, (3) have to undergo CRB checks to get our licences, and (4) get prosecuted if we park like those pedicabs, it's a complete and total insult.

Hells bells, estimates by Westminster Council even put the numbers of these things that have been illegally modified (illegally modified meaning that a battery-powered motor is installed to add speed, making it a POWERED road-going machine, or electo-car, in other words) at close to 80 percent of the total number on the streets. Add to this that the multi-seat bikes they use have no requirement for any form of regular MoT inspection in order to remain on the road, or even to show fitness for purpose, and you begin to see the scale of the problem. Something MUST be done to keep the public safe from these maniacs, who weave in and out of traffic - regularly - WITH passengers on board, with no form of protection for their paying customers - not even cycle helmets.

And TfL are apparently doing NOTHING?! Yes, there was a consultation exercise on this - in 2006 - THREE YEARS AGO.

There are regular rumours of these maniacs being eventually licenced, but after well over three years of these potential death traps being on Central London's roads, there's no concrete sign that the Authorities are actually doing something about it, and that's a bloody disgrace.

There's more on this that I could add, but I'm gonna keep this Blant printable.

Next up... Parking. Specifically, illegal parking.

This is Haymarket, in Central London, looking south. Forget that it's a bus lane, for a moment. Look as the road markings, and the TRAFFIC LIGHTS.

The Mincabs are always parking here, and it's bloody dangerous, to say the very least, as they force us to move into the right hand lanes smack dab after a blind right-angle corner from Piccadilly.

It is illegal to park on top of traffic light junctions, and the Highway Code makes this abundantly clear - Rule 250 applies...


Cars, goods vehicles not exceeding 1525 kg unladen weight, invalid carriages, motorcycles and pedal cycles may be parked without lights on a road (or lay-by) with a speed limit of 30 mph (48 km/h) or less if they are

* at least 10 metres (32 feet) away from any junction, close to the kerb and facing in the direction of the traffic flow
* in a recognised parking place or lay-by

Other vehicles and trailers, and all vehicles with projecting loads, MUST NOT be left on a road at night without lights.

[Laws RVLR reg 24 & CUR reg 82(7)]

The operative note here is TEN METRES. That's roughly thirty (30) or so feet. Look at that photo and tell me truthfully - does that look EVEN CLOSE to thirty feet?

Of course not.

Westminster and the Police have the right to uplift and impound offending vehicles, after all, and it's a nifty source of revenue for them. So, with all the above in mind, is it not about time that this was enforced?

Final note (In Pink, for my better half ;)). All photos were taken while halted in stationary traffic, with the Service Brake ("handbrake") applied.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Probably the best one yet...?

Seen outside a Baptist (I think) church on one of our night bus routes last night. Apologies for lopping off the bottom of the poster, the bush (not a burning one, lol) got in the way!)

It says, in full:
"There is probably no bus....
So why not come in and enjoy God?"

Nice comeback on the original the Atheist version, I think - ten out of ten to them for the riposte ;-)

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Silent Callers...

OK, rant time.

For the past five days (Sunday excepted), I've been woken from my slumber by some anonymous muppit (and that's the polite version) on an unavailable number (means it's a foreign caller according to BT), who persists on letting the phone ring until the answerphone picks up the call, and then hanging up.

I was woken THREE SODDING TIMES today by this (insert your insult of choice here).

Enough is more than enough. Because of this (insert your insult of choice here), doing my shift tonight's gonna be challenging as hell, to say the least.

Frankly, this is completely unacceptable, outrageous, and irresponsible. It's also bloody rude to boot (It's called silent calling - link here). And yes, I registered with the Telephone Preference Service over six months ago to block marketing calls.

Now, while there is no specific law against it per se, the Communications Act 2003 states:

127 Improper use of public electronic communications network

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he—

(a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or

(b) causes any such message or matter to be so sent.

(2) A person is guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, he—

(a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that he knows to be false,

(b) causes such a message to be sent; or

(c) persistently makes use of a public electronic communications network.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both.

(4) Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply to anything done in the course of providing a programme service (within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act 1990 (c. 42)).

This has a loophole. It's called Foreign Call Centres, who are generally not subject to English Law.


If the call centre makes the call on behalf of a UK entity, be that a retailer, person, or whatever, then an offence has been committed by that entity under s. 127(2)(b) CA 2003.

So, whoever the hell you are, be warned.

I'll have you.

And if you're really, really REALLY lucky, silent caller, I won't stuff your curly corded phone somewhere that even your proctologist won't be able to reach

Neat logo :) Made me smile :)

OK, as company logos go, this one's rather natty :) I like it. It's simple, to the point, and rather imaginative.

It also got me grinning, imagining how Tower Bridge might look if it actually WAS made from Tetra Paks...

Monday, 15 June 2009

*cough - splutter choke* How much?!?!?!

OK... next to one of the bus stands we use on one of the night bus routes we run from my depot, there is a branch of a fairly well-known chain of sandwich - well, long roll, anyhow - retailers.

It regularly supplies our many day shift drivers with their lunch, and coffee for those of us night drivers lucky enough to get there before it closes.

It also does cut price 'meal deals' for students, as evidenced by the photo to the left.

At a cost of Three Hundred And Forty Nine Quid for a bleedin' sandwich?!?!?! (OK, now I'm bug of eye and splutter of cough or something)...


Sorry, my mistake.

That one's obviously for the lottery winners amongst us.

In all seriousness, I actually realise that someone, somehow, forgot to put the decimal point there not once, but twice ;)

If not, as the Carlsberg misquote goes, "Probably the most expensive sub roll out there"

Saturday, 13 June 2009

"It never rains but it pours"...

Fate has a funny sense of humour at times.

I was a third the way through my shift last night, having done one round, chomped my lunch, and done another round, when I got to the bus stand at the south London end of one of the two night bus routes we do. As usual, I did a quick walk inside the bus, in case there was someone who'd fallen asleep, and yup, two sleepers. one, a friendly young lady who woke up promptly on my yell of "wakey wakey, end of the route!", went downstairs immediately.

The other didn't respond at all.

He was alive, I knew that, his chest was rising and falling as he breathed. The snoring was a bit of a give-away too, truth be told, but would the pilly sillock wake up, or even show signs of being awake? Nope. OK, time for a code red and the boys in blue, then.

This at around quarter to four in the morning, of course.

In between getting from sleeping ugliness upstairs, to the radio, I found the young lady to be still on the bus. "I missed my stop" she said, stating the rather obvious, and gave a point roughly half-way along the route that she wanted. "I've got a pass-" she showed me a printed travelcard, still valid - "and really wanna go home. When are you going to go back?"

I apologised for what I was about to tell her, and pointed out the problem of the sleeping lad upstairs, and what I had to do (call the Old Bill), and she muttered "that bloody-" something I didn't catch, probably just as well, lol, and settled down in a resigned kind of way. You can please some of the folks some of the time, etcetera... I got on the radio to Centrecomm, and let the know what was occurring. They said they're send the boys in blue immediately for me.

Cut to half an hour late, still no sign of the Met., and my following bus has arrived. Amber, who was now mildly awake and chatting to stay awake, asked if she could get the other bus when it left, if we were still waiting for the Police. No problem there, I made sure the other driver was aware, and she got on that bus when it left, and away she went, to get home, have a half hour of sleep, and get up again for her flight back to Australia. Hope you had a good one, Amber, and say "Hi" to Melbourne for me :)

Anyway, the buzz-saw upstairs was still on board, and I called Centrecomm again, asking for an update. They told me that I'd beaten them to the call, was the guy still on board, as the Met wanted to know, in case they didn't have to turn up. Nothing they like less than a sleeper on a bus. Wastes their time when they could be dealing with more serious stuff. Personally, I couldn't agree more, but if I shove the fool to wake him up, it's assault. If they shove him to wake him up, it's justified. Go figure. Yep, I told them, still on board.

Another half hour later the Met finally arrived, looking mightily heaved off. Bless. Two yells a shove and a bellow later they got him standing up. Definitely reluctant to move from his nice comfy (Comfy? a bus seat by the stairs with no neck support? Strewth!) place, he was given more encouragement by the Met: Two more yells and a bellow of "Don't try to have a fight with us, you'll lose" and they got him off and walking away from the bus. Sorted! I started the bus up, preparing to get way from the buzz-saw.

Or rather, I tried.

Kerchunk. The starter failed to engage, and all the lights on the dashboard went out.

Oh, bugger. Flat battery. Oops.

The radio was knackered now there was no power, so I used my phone and called the iBus desk (company Radio Controller), and gave him the news.

He was less than pleased, of course. I'd already lost a half round to the buzz-saw, and now it looked like the entire round was gonna be lost. He was NOT a happy teddy bear, in any shape or form. Neither was the engineer tasked with coming all the way out to the stand to give the bus a booster start. Tough. Not like I could push start the damn thing, was it? And yeah, I lost pretty much the entire round. Oh well. Sods law had hit with all the fury of a drunken squirrel, and that was that.

When I finally called Centrecomm to give then the clearance call, what did the bloke up there say?

Yup. You guessed it:

"Never rains bus it pours, does it?"

Bloody tell me about it!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Hmm... tube strike. Glad I'm off!

Once again, the Tube is pretty much flat on its' back, thanks to a strike over pay etc.

Having seen the news, listened to the traffic jam reports as well, is that I'm damned glad I'm on two rostered nights off right now. I go back to driving my bus on Thursday night shift, unfortunately smack dab into the end of the strike, but at least I won't have to contend with much in the way of extended traffic jams in central London.

I pity my bus driver colleagues from all the bus operating companies in this traffic, I really do. They're likely as not getting the thick end of tempers from irate (and late) passengers who only want to get home.

I also feel for the passengers, in a way, too, but only because they're stuck squarely between and rock and a hard place, smack dab in the middle of the situation.

Now, I'm a Pro-Union man at the end of the day, even if I'm a member of a different one (the T&GWU), and if my Union calls me out on strike, that's where I go: "United We Stand, Divided We Fall", being the operative working phrase. Unions are there, first and foremost, to protect a workers' Rights. They also provide other material benefits, by group negotiations on pay and conditions, discounts with such places as insurance companies, finance houses, and so on. It's a widespread network of support that a Union provides its' members, and rightly so. But the weapons at our disposal against employers who want to hold us down with unfair situations, be those pay, conditions, or whatever, are a graduated series of measures, from press campaigns, to working to rule, to the ultimate weapon of strike action, where we withhold our services to an employer in protest at their actions or inactions in regard to the problem at hand.

This is the place the Tube Driving RMT membership finds itself at. And before you say "but the union'll give them strike pay!" Well, yes, they will. A few quid per day. Not even close to a proper working days pay for driving a tube train. In some ways, driving those things must be miles more stressful than driving a bus - I know for a fact that the medical they have to pass to drive a tube train is somewhat tougher than the medical I had to pass to drive a bus.

But the non-Union general public appear to know little about the workings of the movement. The News organisations never seem to concentrate on this support mechanism: They only look for the sensationalist headlines. A phrase I've heard time and again is that the News Hounds never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Well, maybe that's true, maybe it's not: I'm not a newsman. I do know that I cannot recall ever having seen any of the good and often charitable work that unions undertake on behalf of their members and others. It's a crying shame, that.

Another thing that a shedload of folks who've never been in a union don't appear to realise is, when you are a member of a union, one of the things you agree to do is fully and completely support whatever action the majority of the voting membership decide upon. It's called democracy. If they decide no strike, then no strike. If they decide on a course of industrial action, whether it be a work to rule or a strike, then that's what you ALL do. No ifs, buts, or maybes. Solidarity of action is the key to a Unions' strength, after all.

It's why the Conservatives tried to kill off the unions powers after the Miners Strike.

They damn near succeeded too, and that WOULD, make no mistake, have been a bloody disaster for all working people across the country.

Frankly, in this Tube Strike, like all other forms of industrial action in the past, and most likely the future as well, there're no winners, and plenty of losers, in this one. Classic no-win situation, I think.

Let's hope it all gets resolved in double quick time.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

None so blind - or nasty.

OK, this happened in the middle of my shift last night, right after my lunch break, while I was in central London.

One of the bus stops is hooded, that is, not in service. An in service stop looks similar to the example on the left. Out of service, the example on the right.

One young man was waiting at the bus stop, under the shelter (it was raining), and wanted to get on the bus. No problem you might think. Wrong.

The bus stop was hooded, and out of use. Why? it was smack dab in the middle of where the central reservation was being dug up, and there was only one carriage way available. So, London Buses staff (called Network Traffic Controllers or NTCs) had placed what is called a "Dolly Stop" (a temporary bus stop) not twenty metres before the regular stop, for the convenience of waiting passengers, and hooded the original stop. The NTC responsible for the hooding had also, for the convenience of those who never look up at bus stop flags, plastered massive yellow "Bus stop not in use" stickers on the timetable spaces as well.

So. I'd served the dolly stop, closed the doors, and moved off, and chummy decided to stick his arm out. No way can I stop, it'd block the traffic and the box junction behind he to boot, so I carry on, much to his displeasure. So much so, in fact, that he kicked the door, and the side of the bus. Of course he got caught on camera doing this - both on the bus-borne system, and the Westminster CCTV system that ALWAYS seems to be looking at that bus stop (there have been other problems at that stop, hence the CCTV coverage). Not that this occurred to him, of course, and not that it helped me any at the time, really.

Well, I'm not about to stop for some half-wit unobservant and probably unemployed wotsit who boots buses, so I thought stuff him and his boots, and carried on to the next set of traffic lights.

Blow me down if chummy doesn't spring past on foot and leg it to the next stop.

Here we go, thinks I.

Yup. Next stop, guess who's there, red of face, steam of ear, attitude of face, etc.

He promptly storms on and yells at me all manner of rubbish about me "not serving the stop". I pointed out politely what the yellow hood was all about, and where the dolly stop was sited, and that that I had, in fact, served the dolly stop.

Shouldn't've bothered. Out came the insults on my being a "****ing ***** with no prospects so got on the buses and can't even do that right" and then the normally obligatory death threats from him. "I'm gonna **** you up and **** you dead you ****" etc. Charming. Pity there's no audio on the on-bus CCTV, it'd make for excellent police evidence. ho hum.

Anyhow, I'd had more than enough at this point, so called code red, requested immediate Police help, and described what was going on. And noticed, probably like tofu for brains, the cop van not fifty yards down the road, because he then shot off the bus and up the road at near supersonic speed in the opposite direction. job done, he's gone, so I cancel the Police, thank Centrecomm, and get going.

Thing is, this kind of thing happens every day to London Bus Drivers. It shouldn't happen, but it does - for no other reason than the fool delivering the abuse (etc) not actually using his bloody eyes to see what the cause of the problem is, rather than jumping to the wrong conclusion and going on a very nasty rant.

How many of the buggers that threaten us, abuse us, and generally need a lobotomy with a rusty spoon, actually get nicked for the crap we get given by them? Precious few, sad to say.

I suppose that I should point out that this is the sort of thing that we London Bus drivers each see/experience maybe one or twice a year; we'd rather never see it at all, of course. Never the less, let's hope things change for the better before one of those over-ego-equipped anger-management-deficient idiots actually carries out their insane threats, and murders a bus driver who's doing his job properly.


And I STILL didn't match five numbers and two stars on the bloody Euro Lottery last night, so it's back to work again tonight, dammit (mutter mutter etc).

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Out with AA Insurance, in with Admiral...

Last month, I got my annual renewal quote from the AA. I've been using their insurance broking service for seven years now, and this is the first time they put their feet wrong: Their quote increased the voluntary excess amounts by what can only be described as "silly money" amounts.

Now, in case you're wondering, I've got seven years protected no claims, made a single windscreen claim in the last three years, and a theft claim in the last five years. I didn't bother claiming for my Cars CD/Radio theft. Wasn't worth the bother, and I'd only have received a paltry amount in exchange for increased premiums anyhow.I also make sure I have only fully comprehensive insurance - I don't think any other level is worth the paper it's printed on, to be brutally frank.

So: The main quote through the AA came from Royal & Sun Alliance. It was for slightly north of 600 quid. The lower 'comparison' quote was from something called "Advantage", still north of 500 quid. The Advantage quote was the one with the absurdly increased voluntary excess figures - more than 400 quid for accidental or malicious damage - ye gods, that's close to a weeks wages for me, and would have taken me straight off the road if I'd needed to make a claim - and the AA, supposedly looking to help motorists - were recommending this for automatic renewal?!

Now that was taking the bodily fluids and then some. So I started looking around. Turns out the best deal I could find was on, from Admiral. It wasn't the cheapest, but it was miles better than the AA could come up with, and cost around a hundred quid less than their Royal & Sun quote, and with excess figures that I was reasonably happy with, not the absurdly insulting ones that the AA's "Advantage" quote came up with. Hardly worth of the name, that firm, in my humble opinion, with ridiculous excess figures like that.

Frankly, I'm amazed the AA even sent me the quote from "Advantage" - surely they should have know that I'd throw a wobbly over it? Well, presumably not, as they sent it anyhow. Go figure. Anyhow, the upshot is that they lost a customer, and Admiral found a new one.

So, you AA Insurance customers: Do NOT take the AA's word that they have the best quotes. they don't. Go over to if you don't believe me. I'll be using their services from now on.

It's saved me not only potential heartache and being off the road, but also saved me a ton of money too.

HIGHLY recommended.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

On replacements for TomTom...

One of the nice things about an empire toppling is that the new guys are relatively easy to find, and the older folks on the block suddenly pull their package updates forward to improve their chances of a sale or ten.

Such is the case with TomTom and their disgusting customer focus.

Let's remind ourselves what TomTom v6 had, so we can compare it to other packages from different manufacturers...

  • Reasonably fast and initially reliable route planning on the-then highly detailed, up-to-date maps (Note: No map updates since the last one almost TWO YEARS ago. Maps are hideously out of date now).

  • Automatic, one-second recalculation when you moved off the provided route

  • Accurate and reliable positioning by GPS

  • Guidance by means of clear and timely verbal instructions, arrows and maps

  • Destination selection by means of: Favourites, Point of Interest, Clicking on map, or entering an address

  • Real time travel information over the mobile phone network (incurring network charges, and oh yes, this was a premium service as well, you had to pay for it)

  • Customisable 'skin'

  • Importable and customisable Point of Interest files that you could get from a wide range of places (OV2 format)

  • Widely supported by third party websites, e.g. Pocket GPS World.

And now some of the competition...

These are ones I've filtered; the list is neither exhaustive, nor definitve. It's not impartial, by the way - remember, I'm looking for a package for myself, not others, so the feature list must meet the specifications that I want in the replacement SatNav package I eventually get hold of...

The New Guys...

Zorrogps - Getting there, but not quite yet...

Zorro is a fairly new contender to TomTom's throne. It's cheaper, newer, and has had favourable reviews in the GPS magazines. It is, however, limited compared to TomTom, in that it doesn't handle its' POI files in quite as an effective manner as TT. In all other respects, though, it's a major contender.

NavMii - New kid in class, more effort required...

NavMii is brand new - I only found out about it through a magazine recently, then saw it noted on another website (Pocket GPS World.). It's VERY basic, doesn't yet support importable POI files, and is mainly aimed, so to speak, at the networking crowd, as it can send it's location to people on your contacts list (not automatically, but at your deliberate request - how it does this is not clear, so I don't know if it does this by SMS (text) or an active internet connection - perhaps someone can clarify this for me?). I can see this package going places (sic), but not for a while, until they've sorted their POI file capabilities, which apparently won't be tat long, judging by recent comments on their support forums - watch this space!

The Old Boys...

Navman... apparently fallen by the wayside...

I WOULD have added Navman - it was the first PDA Satnav package I ever used, until some thieving basket case stole my Bluetooth GPS receiver from my car a few years back. Unfortunately, it appears that they apparently stopped supporting Windows Mobile devices, as I can't find their software for PDAs anywhere now. The last mention I can find is that it got to version Smart ST3, then stopped being released. Seems they only market their own PNDs now - a trend that TomTom looked like they were following until the other day. Oh well.

CoPilot - The Main Contender...

CoPilot is a package that goes from strength to strength, and is probably the main contender for the TomTom crown.

The Pocket GPS World review is here, and says most of what you need to know...

In summary, though, all you need is the Pro/Con listing is rather good...


  • Easy installation

  • Much improved user interface

  • Simple Menu Structure

  • Routing is highly configurable

  • Navteq map data

  • ov2 Format POI Support

  • Simple activation system

  • Large Menu and keyboard buttons

  • Desktop route planning


  • Amount of on-screen information limited

  • No Text To Speech option (coming)

  • More control over custom POI alerts needed

Synergic McGuider - Nipping at the heels...

Synergic McGuider is rapidly gaining popularity, and not just for the ease of migration from TomTom. It is allegedly dead easy for former TomTom users to get to use McGuider - the controls are apparently similar in look, feel, and usage; its' handling of POI files is reputely fair too (although it does treat the new SPECS cameras as single cameras, not sped averagers, which IS a problem), and it will accept customied POI files from third party locations. There's a review of the current version here (takes you to Pocket GPS World).

They drew some rough conclusions in a Pro/Con listing at the end, as follows:


  • Easy to use

  • Friendly UI

  • Very good map coverage

  • Sensible routing

  • Clear & timely instructions


  • Itinerary optimisation is poor

  • Lack of house number for postcode entry

  • No ability to change map colours

  • Only one voice per language

Add to the Cons is the poor handling of SPECS POI files, but that's a relatively minor issue, frankly.

So... what will I be getting?

Damn good question.

In addition to meeting my specifications (it should meet or exceed TT v6 specifications), it'll also have to be cost-effective in relation to its' features. That doesn't necessarily mean cheap, although in these belt-tightening times that's a serious consideration, but at the end of the day, I'm also going to be replacing my ageing iPAQ HW6915, on which the battery has practically died (two years is damn good for a lithium ion battery that gets plugged in to recharge practically every other day!), and I'll be looking for increased capabilities from the replacement phone as well, so the jury's well and truly out at the moment.

I'll keep you posted.