Saturday, 30 January 2010

It's not so quiet...!

Well, as rest day shifts go, this one was fairly quiet, incident- and idiot-wise.

Only a couple of muppits on the roads (who really, really, need to revisit their highway Code books - here's a hint - rule 223 ring any bells?), nothing like what I was expecting from a Friday night in South London, to be honest.

The liveliest it got was shortly after I took this photo (taken from the CCTV video screen in the cab)... Guess I tempted fate again, as I think I muttered something like "Isn't it nice and quiet tonight, let's hope it stays that way"... you'd think I'd've learnt by now, but noooooo!

So what happened to ruin the peace and quiet? Easy: A bunch of twenty or so youngsters - in their late teens to early twenties (heh, I can say that with a straight face these days, "youngsters"!) - got on, and, after unsuccessfully trying to bring on a beer can (open), and a glass of wine - both of which are not permissable under the terms and conditions of carriage, the PSV regulations, and lately TfL rules, they accepted that I was sitting firm on the issue, and left the offending articles on the kerb, and settled down into a boisterous banter between themselves at the back of the bus - then targeted me for some form of praise that I'd not heard the like of before - singing "Hail to the bus driver, bus driver, bus driver" over and over again. It actually had me laughing my backside off, as not one of them could hold it in key!

It's nice to have a bunch of happy drunks, being cheerful and funny, without the "tears before bedtime" rubbish you so often see these days - heck, they even apologised for being out of tune as they got off the bus a few stops later!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

So much for a few quiet days off...

There I am, relaxing in front of the telly, waiting for a repeat of an episode of a series I've never seen end-to-end before, and oh, what a surprise, the bloody phone's ringing. So much for that episode. Again.

Seems work has a lack of drivers tomorrow, and could I drive one of the jobs, please? So, after questions as to which routes I know (the two main route problems for tomorrow being on routes I don't know, lol), we get to a job on a route I do know. Oh joy, and there I was, thinking I might've gotten out of it after all. Oh well, the extra readies'll come in handy when I'm on leave in just over a weeks time, at any rate. At least it's a late shift, meaning I get a good mornings lie-in, after all

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Brrrrrrrrr, etc!

Another cold day in paradise - I mean on the buses!


Got to work in plenty of time, to find Mr. Redbreast waiting to nod, wink, and fly off, as if saying "Stuff this for a game of soldiers - I'm off back to bed!"

Can't say I blame you, mate. Wish I could burger off back to me pit too, but the ruddy bills aren't gonna pay themselves, dammit.


OK, meandering around the various half asleep drivers and pedestrians on the route - I mean carefully navigating along the route, I came across a sign outside a well known chain of sandwich retailers, advertising their breakfast menu deal (sandwich, drink, cost... you know the format, of course)... It kind of goes almost without saying that it was VERY on-topic for most of the half dead zombies out there this morning...!

Of course, one bloody good way to fix the morning is, naturally, to bugger off back to bed.

I wish!


Another candidate for Organ donation now... no photo, I regret to say, I was too busy trying not to kill the dense ***** by standing on the anchors...

I'd just served a bus stop on the route, closed the doors, checked the mirrors, indicated to pull out, checked the mirrors again, waited for a safe gap in the traffic before pulling away, released the brake, and moved off, when out of the blue, thankfully as I was doing the nearside segment of an all-round vision check (corners, front, nearside mirror, front, offside mirror, front, etc...), this dopey candidate for a mortitians scalpel, her mobile phone plastered to her ear, walked right out into the road two yards from the front of my bus, to get to her car - and opened the sodding thing as I was

  1. Probably swearing violently (I don't recall exactly, I know I yelled something, I just can't remember what!) and
  2. Laying rubber in anchoring up not a yard from her - thank the stars I was only doing a walking pace, having only just moved off from the bus stop.

She then had the temerity to blame ME for her insanity! Ye bleeding sobbing Gods! Just as well I had a stack of passengers calling her every name under the sun - saved me the trouble!

Can anyone add "Positive Darwinism"?


The penultimate bit to the shift is here...

Observe the photo carefully... can you see the clues?

I'll add one more that's not in the photo... the sign that says "BUSES ONLY" at the entrance to the BUS STAND.

Hells Bells, the git only parked on the road paint that said, oddly enough, "BUS STOP" as well - I mean, how many more clues did this one want? A copper performing Valet Re-Parking, perhaps?


"Arfur! Get yer skates on, fer pities' sake!"

I meant to mention this the other day...

Heard over the iBus radio on a general broadcast...

"...Drivers be aware that at (road) in Barking, a car has fallen off the back of a lorry. Please use caution..." my mind tuned out at that point, imagining that somewhere in the East End, Messrs. Daley & Co. were jumping up and down in consternation at this good deal going begging, and the Old Bill already being on the way to sort it out!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Aye aye, here we go again...


Well, despite the baling wire, chewing gum, and the liberal application of a lump hammer, the traffic lights I mentioned yesterday as fixed, weren't. They stuck again this morning.

Wonder if a mini-roundabout is on the cards?


Well, seems the engineer they sent to fix it this time might have known what he was doing, as the lights seemed to be behaving themselves, with the queue of traffic completely gone.

However, this was more than made up for by the queue of traffic at the western end of the route, due to road narrowing at the roadworks there. At least I was able to make the time up on the way back - allowing me to have my full meal break, not an abbreviated one, like yesterday!


What day would be complete, without a two-wheeled potential organ donor? Yep, the idiot cyclists are out there again - this one, going downhill at 20mph, swerved into the middle of the road to prevent me from overtaking at 30mph. Dressed all in black, on a matt black pushbike, he was ready for the grim reaper, that's for certain. His gestures, however, were not. Matey, you're well lucky the bus had no forward-facing CCTV, that's all I'll say!


Well, that's another shift over and done with. One more shift, and I've got a nice long weekend...

Some idle thoughts on tackling those two-wheeled potential organ donors...

The above brings up a couple of valid thoughts, though. Since cyclists have no:

  • annual MoT examination
  • Road Tax
  • Insurance
  • Licence to cycle
  • And no registration plates either,
  • And do NOT have to pass a cycling test... come they are permitted to use the roads? Why, therefore, with so many unlicenced cycles on the roads, are we not seeing them seized by the Old Bill in that telly series "Road Wars", and stuffed into a crusher for having no insurance? Why are we not seeing whole regiments-worth of cyclists up before the Beak, getting fined to destitution for having no road tax, licence, insurance, MoT, and so on?

Come on, if the government wants to be serious about the Green Vote, then when they get rid of cars, they'll have to make up the loss in oil and tax revenues, so hey, target the cyclist - make those two wheel potential organ donors scream in pain from the wallet too

For once, Mr. Clarkson, I'm with you - ban the bike!

Monday, 25 January 2010

AAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaa *deep breath* aaaaaagh!


I've had another of *those* days.

You might think that doing the second bus out of the depot, at 04:20, would be a doddle. Well, you'd be dead wrong today. First off, the bus was chronically slow. It had absolutely no get up and go when I had more than a few passengers on board. Second, everyone, on seeing two drops of rain, decided that poor little Johnny should be driven to school in a Chelsea Tractor. At the same precise moment.


Mega-slow traffic, averaging one mile per hour.

Then we get a traffic light stuck on red. A clue to this was the massive line of traffic waiting there, but only the professionals seemed to cotton on to this - everyone else sat there like wet lumps. Clogging the road. Making us all late.

So... there I am, second round, waiting to get into the eastern end bus stand (at the top of the hill), and I've just served the penultimate stop, close to the brown of the hill; I've closed the doors, checked my mirrors, signalled, and lo and behold, someone decides that he's going to overtake me. Nothing new there. No-one seems to pay the blindest bit of attention to the highway Code, so why should this lame-assed git?

What he does then is more than a little gob smackingly bone headed. He closes to two inches, and waits there for me to pull out and spread his car all over the road. See the photo. It's pointing down at the gap between the side of my bus cab and his nearside. Yup: That's roughly two inches, alright. So I took that photo, and sat there, armed crossed, waiting for him to move away, sans-impact. He must have seen me take the photo, as with a two-fingered salute, he sped off, missing my corner post by less than half an inch.

What a muppit.

It got a little better, though...

There was one bright spot. On the way back, the local Old Bill Safer Neighbourhoods Team of PCSOs for where the lights were stuck decided to sort out the mess, and directed traffic while the traffic lights engineer, who on current record couldn't keep those lights working right if you gave him a winning lottery ticket, was taking a lump hammer to the traffic lights control circuitry box, presumably in the vain hope of fixing the fault that causes these lights to go base over apex all the darn time.

Good bleeping luck on that one, mate.

I was still late into my lunch break, and no late meal relief for me, nope, 20 minutes off me lunch break, make do with just over half an hour (mutter grumble curse etc), so it's scoff scoff chomp burp, and out again.

This is gonna really annoy a whole raft of people, but I'm rapidly being convinced that the ONLY way to make the roads safer and less congested, is to bar everyone from the roads who does NOT possess a valid PCV/LGV licence. By this, I mean that no-one who has not taken the very stringent and elongated course and tests that we, the professional drivers on the roads, have to take, should be allowed anywhere near an ignition key.

OK, the road lobby would have a fit, Jeremy Clarkson would probably scream like a raped panther, the Oil Lobby'd have a conniption, the exchequer would almost have a heart attack, and the car makers'd excrete masonry, but hey, it'd cut congestion, pollution, and the green party'd want my babies

Well... we can all dream, can't we - about Clarkson screaming, I mean

Sunday, 24 January 2010

I never knew this lad...

But it appears that more than a few did, and he’s tragically gone too soon from this life.

He was taken far too early from this life by a car thief whose ego didn’t match his driving skills, who sped from Police when they followed him – and who then lost control of the car that he'd stolen, and crashed into another car that the victim was a passenger in. The result was fatal for Mr. Moore.

Here’s a news article on the tragedy.

There’s a follow up article as well…

In a situation like this, you will normally see a floral tributes to someone who has been killed on our roads consisting maybe half a dozen bouquets of flowers, maybe a note or two, and that’s it.

A week on, and his memorial has grown to truly epic size. Just look at the photo. And it goes all the way round the tree, not just on one side of it.

This wasn’t, by all appearances, just a loved and now sorely missed family member, this was a man who many, many others must have thought the world of – evidence this memorial to the man.

Consider: A memorial like this doesn’t just happen. It must be properly assembled and tended – every day this week (bar my day off on Wednesday), I’ve seen candles, still lit, at the foot of the tree. Even at night, these candles still burn. I’ve not actually read any of the tributes to Mr. Moore, I don’t live anywhere near this spot, but if the floral tributes are anything to go by, this was a remarkable man – he must have been one hell of a guy to have garnered the friendship and respect so many people who miss him enough to lay tribute to the place where he fell.

The Police are now, once again, in between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they have a duty to catch and prosecute car thieves. on the other, they are required to ensure that a whole raft of boxes are ticked in their mental checklist before starting, continuing, and terminating a car chase. The object is to avoid tragedies like this. Their investigation into what went wrong is obviously ongoing.

But the root cause of this tragedy is simple enough for someone with common sense to understand.

It’s a car thief, who is now, through his utter disregard for right and wrong, responsible for the loss of a mans life.

There’s a lesson here, but I’ll be thrice-damned if I know a workable solution.

In the mean time, my thoughts and prayers go to the family of Mr. Moore.

Friday, 22 January 2010

I don't beiiiiiiiiieve it!

This is one of those moments where your eyes see one thing, and your brain cannot actually agree that this is, in fact what's happening.

OK, so, there I am in thick (pun not intended... well, maybe a little) traffic, leading up to the traffic lights you see ahead, when I notice this complete dimwit trying to pass me. He must have thought I was serving a bus stop or something. Anyhow, as you can see, he was wrong. Now, most folks, confronted with traffic coming past in the other direction, would hold fast, and wait until either (one) the traffic cleared for them to safely overtake, or (two) would wait for their own queue of traffic to move.

Not this great hairy half wit from a demolition derby. Ohhhh no. Not a bit.

So involved with his own self-importance and delusions of adequacy was he that he came past, forcing other traffic to take avoiding action - including the bus, who wisely anchored up, and waiting for this muppit to barge his way back onto the correct side of the road.

But wait, there's more!

The other bus driver was obviously waiting for Open Mike Night... because his next actions completely creased me up - he leant out of the window, and, in full view of all the other drivers, clapped applause to the driver of the offending car, gave him a massive toothy grin, two cheery thumbs up, and smiled, as if to say "well done, mate, you've been caught on at least three CCTV systems, you've been a complete prat, and see you on Road Wars sometime!"

The sheer sarcastic nature of the response to this car drivers bout of sheer selfish bad attitude it was a joy to behold - I couldn't have even come close - nice one, chum :) You had me laughing right to the end of the shift - and probably left all my passengers thinking I was a candidate for the rubber room!

Ouch... that HAD to hurt!

Well, just to prove that fools apparently do suffer, it appears that this person did something remarkably silly. I haven't a clue what the traffic light pole did to deserve the impact, but it must've been a massive surprise to the car... I mean, there it is, thinking, "Ah, let's have a nice drive in the town" when all of a sudden, the driver decides that he/she doesn't like the look of the traffic light, and decides to take it down, or get dented in the process. Well, they've learnt a thing or two about installing those things over the years - they're tougher than they look - as you can see.

Dented, leaning over, but still working.

They don't make 'em like they used to, do they ;)

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Wake up and smell the ******* coffee!

Some mornings, I sincerely wonder if the survival instinct is actually hard-wired into some folks...

I got up, for a change, feeling reasonably refreshed. Probably something to do with the day off yesterday... Anyhow... Got into work, got my bus, did all the checks, took it to the stand at the western end of the route and, not two minutes after entering service, everything almost went pear-shaped.

Here's a handy hint: Stop before you enter a roundabout - in the UK that's the rule - see the highway code. It'll tell you the same thing.

Not this great brainless bleep - she came on full tilt, damn the torpedoes - and damn the bus that bloody damn near had her as a bonnet ornament! The only reson she's still alive, and not wearing 12.7 tonnes of bus, are my reactions on the brake pedal and a - for a change of late - dry road surface. That and not having any passengers, who add to braking distances (15 passengers is another tonne of mass), and you might realise that she's probably very lucky to be alive.

And they said Blakey ("On The Buses") was hated...!

Anyhow, having done my first round, it was breakfast time in the café at the western stand. Where I spied this character (Photo, left).

Note the electronic device to his right.

This chap is known as a "QSI", or Quality Service Inspector. These are the people hired by TfL to monitor the performance of our routes, by noting the time, route number, destination blind setting, bus running number, and so on, each time a bus passes the location they're watching.

Think of them as professional tittle-tattle merchants.

A while back, all they'd have was a pencil, paper, and a watch, to note all of us down. However, many of them, so I've been told over the years, didn't do that accurate - or allegedly truthful - a job, hence the device this guy has. It records everything for him at the touch of a couple of buttons, and all he has to do at the end of the day is plug it into a data terminal or computer, and upload the data from it to TfL. Couple this with the new iBus system that notes our positions by GPS, and there's the doublecheck system at work. We tend not, now, to worry overly about these folks - a year or two back, their reports'd have the potential to lose a company a route, even if the company had been doing everything right. Now, such decisions have to be confirmed by checking against iBus GPS records, before any route can be reallocated away from any given company.

So, while we still don't really like these folks, at least their figures are being kept honest!

Can I claim Injury at Work, Guv?

There I was, doing my last round this afternoon, when I spied an unfamiliar person in the driving seat of one of my routes' buses - the double take I performed would've made any hollywood actor proud. Problem is that I damn near dislcated my neck doing it. Why? The person driving that bus was one of our garage inspectors!


They actually CAN work!

Lord, am I gonna catch it in the neck tomorrow if they read this today! What the hell, it's all in jest, after all

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

A little more tweaking...

A much and well deserved day off from guiding 18 tons of fully laden bus around on south London's streets, today.

I celebrated this by sleeping late.

Or at least, I tried to.

Despite being on the TPS (Telephone Preference Service) and SCG (Silent Call Guard) listings so as to stop marketing calls on the phone, some dimwit with a withheld number phoned me three bloody times in the space of ten minutes at nine am. Amused I was most definitely not.

So, awake, with bog all to do except relax, I decided to make sure that new visitors to the Blant know I'm a bus driver, by adding a simulation of what my Drivers Badge might look like, if they were still issued by the Traffic Commissioners. 'N' was of course (for those in the know), the London number prefix. In case you're as asleep as I was at nine am, it's up on the right of the masthead, at the top of the page!

You can decode where a driver (or a conductor, for that matter) first started work before 1981 when the badges stopped being issued, by looking at the prefix letters. here's the listing:

AA - Northern Traffic area (offices in Newcastle)
BB - Yorkshire Traffic Area (offices in Leeds)
CC - North Western Traffic Area (offices in Manchester)
DD - Midland Traffic Area (offices in Birmingham)
EE - East Midland Traffic Area (offices in Nottingham)
FF - Eastern Traffic Area (offices in Cambridge)
GG - Welsh Traffic Area (offices in Cardiff)
HH - Western Traffic Area (offices in Bristol)
KK - South Eastern Traffic Area (offices in Eastbourne)
LL - Scottish Traffic Area (sub offices in Aberdeen)
MM - Scottish Traffic Area (offices in Edinburgh)
N - Metropolitan Traffic Area (offices in London with the Public Carriage Office)

Why did the badges stop being issued? Simple. The authority to licence bus and coach drivers was passed from the Traffic Commissioners to the Driver Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA). It was pretty much a money-saving exercise, and designed to ensure that the newly agencyfied DVLC (or "Driver Vehicle Licencing Centre", which it was called BM, or Before Maggie, had a ready flow of, well, readies.)

Anyhow... The rest of the number, if you know me *very well*, can be used to narrow down who I actually am... there is a certain satisfaction to being able to post relatively anonymously, after all!

I should point out that my actual badge does not bear these numbers or letters, as it was issued by the Company, not the DVLA

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

It's Muppitday - official!

Hmph. It's a "traffic" kind of day...

Well, it started out bad - my bloody alarm clock failed to go off, and woke up half an hour later than I meant to, then, after managing to get to the depot on time (I must have hit the only moving gap in the traffic!), on starting the days' work, was sent on diversion thanks to a "very serious road traffic incident" - bus speak for a nasty crash - that closed the main road to the eastern end of the route. Naturally, the diversion was chock full of traffic.

No real loss though, as for some reason, passngers were scarce that trip, and I was only five minutes late getting onto the standat the other end.

The trip back was almost as bad, and I've re-named "Tuesday" as "Muppitday" to comemorate it, as every low-brow, half-wit, moronic, single-braincell, myopic, dim-witted, half-baked twit that ever walked the planet, had decided to get behind the wheel of their (delete as applicable) Merc / white van / minicab / four by four / BMW / pushbike.


It was "carve-a-bus-up" hour!

And I hadn't even got a third through my shift yet.

Hoooooooooo boy, is it shaping up to be a peach of a day, or what?!

We'll see how the rest of the day pans out, but if it's anything like the first bit, the day off I've got tomorrow won't come soon enough!

Window stickers...

Spotted on the back of a transit van, stuck in traffic... yup... real subtle... made me laugh, though - and yeah, I put the red splodge on the photo! Gotta have a certain base level around here after all

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Very Hot Fuzz...

No photo with this one, I’m afraid: I wasn’t in a position to stop and take photos

Driving back to my lunch break this afternoon, I was passed by a series of blue-light using, two-tone yelling, Police vehicles. For all intents and purposes, it looked like something major had happened, and I was fully expecting to get a road closure, or diversion at best.

No such luck. I found them all less than a minute later as I rounded a bend in the road, outside a kebab shop… it was a veritable shift-load of Police vehicles… one van (Ford Transit, I think), two pandas (Vauxhall Astras), one area car (Vauxhall Vectra), one unmarked crime car (a BMW of all things), and something like a dozen policemen, all busy dragging a bunch of the surliest looking fashion-challenged youths (all wearing hoodies, naturally) from the joint... I couldn't see any bodies on the floor, so it must have been an argument or something similar, rather than a more serious incident, but ye gods, that was a shed load of coppers for a mere customer complaint!

You can imagine the script…

Inspector: “What’s occurring?”
Sergeant: “Six seriously out of order youths, and a blindingly hot donner, boss.”
Kebab shop owner: “You wan’chilli wi’dat?”

Oh, and blame one of our Roadside Controllers, Brian, for that last line - and me, for promising to blame - I mean credit - him for it

Well... That was nice... NOT.

There I am yesterday, driving the first trip of the day, stopped at a bus stop, traffic passing the other way, on a fairly narrow road, when this completely gormless zero-wit in a gold-coloured "T" registration Nissan Micra sized car tries to pass between my bus, and an oncoming bus, where in reality, only a pedal cyclist could be expected to fit through the gap in the centreline of the road.

Naturally, the prat scrapes his car along the front right of my bus, scraping his front left corner, and flattening his nearside mirror.

So, I get out to examine the damage to my bus, and see that it's just the paintwork that needs attention on the bus, where his bumper has rubbed against the offside front corner of my bus. Practically trivial damage, but a "damage-only" reportable collision none the less under company policy. Oh joy. More bloody paperwork.

The car fared less well, with the mirror severely dented and cracked where he'd dragged his car down the side of the bus. As I watched, amazed, he stopped his car - in the middle of the road - got out, reset the mirror, and went to drive off again. So I yell "Hang on! I need you details!". He responded with a couple of rather rude hand signals, and a "F*** OFF ****!" before speeding off.

Never mind that this git nearly became crunchy salsa between two buses, and that it was his own fault. Never mind that he's had a "damage only" accident. He'd now committed a more serious offence - he's left the scene of an accident without giving his details, which is required by law (Road Traffic Act 1972 - look it up).

So, I call Centrecomm, and once connected, tell them what's happened. They tell me that the Police won't attend if the other party has already left, details left or not. So, I then call the radio desk controller, and repeat all of the above to him. All he tells me is to file a report.

Which I did on getting back to the depot last night. I also reported the incident to the Police at the station local to the depot, as, since the other driver vanished without leaving details, it was now a crime that had to be reported, minor/trivial damage to the bus not withstanding.

So, here's the question: just when did we become so bleedin' complacent? Little crimes beget bigger crimes and so on infinitum, to misquote the old saying, and before long, you have a crime wave of epic proportions.

Hang on. Too late. We're already there, aren't we.

So much for manners. So much for common decency.

And so much, come to that, for the Rule Of Law, as evidenced by this muppit...

I saw this clown on the way home last night. I saw him roaring up on the outside from my rear view mirror, so expected some form of shenanigans. I didn't expect to catch THIS on camera though - his number plate's visible in the blown-up version. Click on it to see. If you are the driver, or owner, maybe you'd like to tell us just what the bloody hell you were thinking when you jumped a RED traffic light, you impatient candidate for a coroner's slab?

Thursday, 14 January 2010

"It rained again today"

06:27... At the Eastern end of the route, waiting for my time slot to get out on the road...

There's a painting, held at the headquarters of the Royal Military Police, entitled "It rained again today", depicting a crime scene being processed (an in-car shooting, by the look of it) in Northern Ireland in the late 1980s to early 1990s. The point was to portray a letter home from a soldier, conveying the message that nothing of any unusual note had happened there.

So why am I mentioning it?

Well, the temperature has actually risen enough to allow some rain instead of snow or sleet and, overnight and into the morning, it actually rained. There was a touch of fog, too. This has managed to get rid of all the slush and ice off the roads here, which is nice, I have to say.


It rained again today.

Wonder if the gritters'll come out to play today?

06:56... at a point on the route...

I should've known it'd be too good to be true. The back doors on my bus refused to close once i got it out onto the route, effectively immobilising the bus.

So, I radioed control with the bad news. They got the depot engineers to phone me, who told me how to close the rear doors, but it meant working a double decker bus on only the front doors.

Normally, this'd really stuff things up - think log jam at the doors as passengers try to barge past each other in both directions. Luckily, another bus on the route had passed me by then, taking the lions share of passengers (we call that "getting slaughtered") and I'd been turned short, so I could pick up time on the way back and swap over for a substitute bus mid-route.

Of course, that assumed that the traffic was gonna cooperate.

It didn't.

Massive queues everywhere were the order of the day, and I'm stuffed if I know why - it was, most likely, everyone and their cat getting in on the kiddie run, but hells bells, it sure didn't help - nor did this gormless reject from a brain donor program (picture left, after I let her back into the correct side of the road) in the silver Honda Civic, who came screaming round me in a queue of traffic, to find that I wasn't indicating to stop at a bus stop, but was instead waiting my turn to join a mini roundabout, and that there was indeed a queue of traffic in front of me - and that she was now stuck on the wrong side of the road because of her stupid and near suicidal impatience.

Oh and if she wants to argue the point, by all means she should contact me, and I'll ask our CCTV officer to send the tape to the Old Bill!

Anyway, getting to the mid-route swap over point (...where the engineers like to exchange what we drivers on occasion call "slightly bent buses" for other "not-so-bent buses"...), I changed buses (Brrrrrr, damn thing was COLD! The heater had yet to warm it up!), I managed to only lose five minutes or so before getting moving again...

But, just to add insult to injury, over the radio, we then learn that some fool had wedged his car transporter under a bridge on the route, and that we were now on diversion because of it - a diversion that would add close to half-an-hour to the trip.

Well, as luck would have it, the Police re-opened the road just as I got to it, so I stayed on route - guess they had a very big boot handy to kick it out from under the bridge!

10:37... at the western bus stand, having lunch...

I wound up only 6 minutes late at the western end, into my meal relief, having spun the bus at the eastern end in lightening order, with the heavy traffic having agreeably naffed off elsewhere in the mean time!

14:38... back at the depot, knocking off for the day...

Well, at least the second half of my duty went well... even if the bus was an old clunker, it was warm, the passenger loading was relatively light, as was the traffic, and the crew ferry was awaiting me when I got back to the start point - not a bad end to another day that started out so badly!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Layout sorted - with a little help....

OK, I admitted defeat. Then I went onto the google Blogger help forums, and asked for help - this XML/CSS thing confuses the bleep out of me. Gone, sadly, are the days of bog-standard HTML - it's all CSS2 positioning this, XML styling that, and so on. Still, it gives us these customisable blogging sites, so I can't complain that much, can I?

Anyhow, many thanks to "spavel", who pointed me in the right direction, and gave me excellent help in getting this formatted the way I wanted it!

Spotted on the way home from work...

This made me laugh... it was on the back of a minicab, would you believe!

Finally, a minicab driver with a sense of humour...!

Uh-oh... looks like the gritters are staying at home...

... because, as I drove in to work at 04:40 this morning, the snow was falling fairly thickly, and the road was covered in it - with no sign of it having been gritted since yesterday.

So, (with a tad of editing later to make this more coherent) let's go with the flow, and see how a shift works - or doesn't - when the gritters take a day off, and it snows heavily...

Arriving at work, 05:15 or so...

I expect we'll see a token presence of gritters later, but for now, I'm expecting a fair number of silly and avoidable 'amateur hour' collisions to happen today.

We shall see... more later...!


OK, got my bus, did my walk round, got it up the really steep hill to the eastern end of the route, and as I thought, the gritters are all on a day off by the look of it. The road conditions are... challenging, to say the least, and I expect that the roads'll come to a standstill before long, when the kiddie-run hour hits.

Looks like it's gonna be another loooooooong day....


Well, this was an interesting round and a half - NOT.

Traffic was worse than last weeks' mess, with queues all over the place. Most times, it was a less than five mile per hour crawl from one queue of stopped traffic to the next, kind of like a five yard slug race.

Finding myself running very late (half an hour at one point), I'd radioed control to ask if they knew if the gritters would be out to play any time soon, and was told that they hadn't a clue, and if I wanted to know, to call Centrecomm on "code blue" (we have two ways of calling Centrecomm on the radio - Code red (emergencies only, a bit like the 999 system) and Code Blue (non-Emergency), and by the way, could I let them know what Centrecomm said, please?

Well, on calling Code Blue, and outlining the question, I was told that the gritters had "packed it in to go to bed at 1 am", and that they "hadn't a clue when they'd be out to play again" (can someone change the blasted script, please?!). Oh joy. Well, I relayed this to control, much good did it do any of us, and went back to regarding the exhaust pipes of cars in front of me again...

We eventually only saw one gritter - and that was rather ironically stuck in traffic (photo left), and to cap it all, when I should have been at the western end of the route, on my meal break, I was in fact close to ten miles away at the eastern end of the route, trying not to get stuck on the turning point before coming back again (it was well slippery).

Luckily, control took pity, and ran me light (empty) back to the relief point, so I could have a late meal relief - this, they don't really like doing, but sometimes it's the only thing they can do to get things back to a semblance of normality!

We shall see how the rest of the shift pans out later....

11:45 or so...

Well, after an abbreviated late meal relief, I was directed to take my second bus two-thirds the way down the route, and spin round at the bus station there, to come back on time. Well, ok, fair enough, thinks I. Not unreasonable, given the mess on the roads, and actually quite a good "turn", as we call such a curtailment.


No sooner do I get there, than the controller there comes up and tells me to run ten minutes early back again!

Now, I know the schedule had been torn up, shredded, and set on fire again, but this was only gonna make my next set of passengers ready to set fire to the bus, let alone the time table!


How wrong was I?!

The controller had failed to tell me that that my leading bus (the one in front, in other words) had broken down (the exit doors were stuck!), and when I got to it, they were so pleased to see my bus (earlier than expected), that they thanked me profusely and that, as they say, was that - the traffic had calmed down or gone home, the roads had by now been gritted at least once and were passably safe to use, and I got back to the start point in plenty of time and with the get out of trouble instruction "WTI ADV +11 (NLM)" plastered on the back of my log card... translated to somewhat more understandable English that means, by the way, "Working To Instruction, ADVance eleven minutes (ahead of schedule), No Lost Mileage" to wave at the start point controller!

Even my ferry back to the depot was on time!

Not a bad shift, all things considered!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Nukem all!

It would appear that someone else in the company I work for, doesn't like the antics that amateur drivers get up to, either!

I found this on my first bus of the bay this morning - I mean Monday morning! - just after I got in the cab

It's the assault alarm button, of course, but I fully endorse the sentiment

Monday, 11 January 2010

OK, it's Sunday, and the Sunday Drivers are about writ large...

What IS it about the weekend, and particularly Sundays, that seems to generate more complete ****wits on the roads? You know the sort I'm on about...

The 24mph merchant, looking for his flagwalker...

The meander, who can't decide what side of the dotted white line she wants to drive alongside...

The Sunday Shopper, (pictured left) who decides she's more important than everyone else, overtakes the bus, and then proceeds to park on a bus stop...

Yeah, they're about in the week as well, but there seem to be more of them on Sundays...

By the way, the clue to help you, the normal motorist, to avoiding this problem, is to notice that the box you're parking in is coloured RED, and bordered by a bloody big yellow dashed line. On, and it's also usually double yellow-line marked as well. Those are the clues to help you to avoid any future "why is the bus parked on top of my car?" issues!

The Five Finger Racer, who, in a queue of traffic, cannot abide being behind a bus, so in a fit of pique, guns his Vauxhall Nova's 1.2 litre sewing machine and, on the wrong side of the road, barges past everything to get past the bus - including, to their horror - the drivers of oncoming traffic (actually, this git's about pretty much everyday, normally after darkness falls)... oh, and why five finger racer? That's because of the very rude gestures he's making out of the drivers' side window.

The helpful idiot, whose lack of forethought borders on the jaw droppingly moronic - like this pair of twits, who, rather than push the failed car OFF the junction to a more suitable and safer place, proceeded to hook up a towing cable just over the stop line at a very busy set of traffic lights. Apologies for the blurred photo - I was in a bit of a hurry to snap these gits.

Now, thinking about the above, where the hell are the overworked, under-appreciated, much maligned Traffic Cops when you most want 'em?

Anyone with a decent answer, please let the Commissioner of the Met know, eh?

In the mean time, here's one that made me laugh. Not often you see a company with a decent sense of humour, but this coffee and tea merchant got it just right

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Some good snow driving advice from the beeb...

Nice advice piece here... but it missed one vital thing - on snow and ice, use the TEN second rule as a bare minimum: That is, ten seconds should have elapsed from the point the back of the vehicle in front of you passes a particular spot, before your front bumper passes that spot. This allows for the possibility of skids and slides, and gives you more chances to stop safely without having an accident.

Here's the article: Note that it's got a video clip embedded in it.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Snowballs and SuperSoakers...

What is it about kids lobbing snowballs (sometimes containing more solid stuff than snow or ice) at buses?

I don't see the point: The driver can't stop to make it a proper snowball match (with the chances being that the drivers' aim would be markedly more accurate), so the bus is a defenceless target, and can't fight back.

...Hang on...

That makes these kids bullies, right?

Bloody hell, there's a first - buses are being bullied!

Maybe we ought to see SuperSoaker-equipped old bill on the buses, to deal appropriately with these juvenile delinquents?

Picture it, if you will... Junior goes crying home to mummy, bawling about those nasty coppers soaking him in freezing weather for lobbing snowballs at buses...!

Heh... There's a comedy sketch in there somewhere, methinks!

New layout...

I've taken the opportunity to change the layout of the Blant today as well. I think this should be easier to read, although I still prefer the navigation and widgets to be on the right, not the left. I'll see about doing something about that over the next few days, If I can.

If you like this new layout, please let me know!

Welcome to Snofu '10...

I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that this bout of snow, ice, and bloody cold, is becoming a problem of epic proportions...

The BBC news today (the Freeview BBC News Channel) commented in a human interest article in Wales, that isolated communities - villages, hamlets, etc, were in danger of running out of basic foodstuffs, in addition to those that are currently already without power and communications due to the outages because of the weather.

The Road haulage Association, and for that matter, all freight haulage systems, are straining under the weight of the weather, road conditions suck writ large, and allegedly, supplies of grit (road salt) have been dropping like a stone due to the massive amounts needed to keep arterial - let alone what I'd call axial (or connecting) - routes open and relatively safe.

The Big Freeze back in 1963 apparently had similar problems, but we were, apparently, somewhat tougher as a country. Mind you, we didn't rely on high-tech kit nearly as much, there wasn't a junk-food generation of tellytubbies hoovering up all the food in the house, and we had a LOT of simpler pleasures (there were no home computers, the term "hoodie" hadn't been coined, and the nearest thing to a malcontent was a member of the communist party - it was the Cold War, remember).

Kind of makes you wonder if we're making great strides forward, or shuffling backwards, doesn't it?

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Oh ho... here we go again!

So... Snow on the ground... And I still got into work... Dammit :(

So... On my first round, during the second trip, a driver from another bus company, who'd been following my bus down the road stopped me, and told me that my bus just lost all brake lights.

Oh joy.

So, I radioed control, and gave them the wonderful news. It took ten - 10 - tries for them to understand what I was on about, of course. Then the engineers phoned me on my mobile. Was I sure they weren't working? Yes, says I. Can I confirm this with someone else? Well, as luck would have it, a PCSO was passing just then, so she was able to confirm the problem. So it was then a question of waiting for the engineer to come from the depot, and probably change a fuse (I was writing this as I waited. turns out that they substituted the bus about three-quarters of an hour later, which made things a little simpler!)

So, I then sent a text to my route controller (as it happens, a good mate in the firm) with the bad news. He sent a text back "use hand signals, lol". Charming! So I respond that 'The Bird' probably won't go down too well!

What does the sarcastic wotsit send back?

You guessed it.

"tweet tweet"!

Later, after my meal break...

This was the scene on the roads after my meal break. This is at around 4.30pm, and as you can see, it was snowing rather hard, and the traffic was slower than dead slow, it was on occasion, completely stopped through motorists with no snow or ice training - or experience base to draw upon - making simple errors and spinning their vehicles. Add to this, we'd not seen a gritting truck in over an hour, either, and you'll understand when I say that the roads were as slick as... well, something coming from a runny nose, to put it politely. The road surface was practically lethal, to be blunt.

It appeared to be giving the company a fair amount of concern as well. We were all cut short on the route, so as to avoid getting stuck up a particularly steep hill - or losing control coming down it, more to the point, I suspect.

Personally, I'd have preferred being told to stuff all services, and take the bus back to the depot, but a certain bunch up in London called TfL obviously decided otherwise. Probably to avoid the Mayor being blamed like he was last February, when stuff all could use the roads for over a day.

Might interest you to know that we heard of many slow-speed and thus minor collisions - not all involving buses, thankfully - over the course of the afternoon - most occurring during the snow fall you see in the photo.

Now, I'm a professional driver, and I WAS scared practically muckless a few times that round (in other words, I was on occasion defecating masonry) - I was certainly bloody worried the rest of that round, I can tell you. That was definitely the most tiring - from a nerves - trip I've ever driven in my life. God alone knows how the amateur drivers out there felt, but I dare say it was a damn sight similar to my feelings on the topic.

Boris, if you're reading this, wake the hell up, and think of the safety aspect, willya?

Glad I got the cover on the car...

'Cause as predicted - I mean forecast - it did, indeed, snow again overnight. This was the situation at around 3:45 this morning...

Managing to get the cover on the car means that all I have to do it drag it off, shake it off, stuff it in the boot, and away I go to work (dammit) in a couple of hours.

Unless, in the next few hours, we get five feet of that muck suddenly landing in one fell *THUD* on the deck! (one can only hope it's BEFORE I set out for work!)

Monday, 4 January 2010

Just glanced at the weather forecast...

One word...


That's definitely burst pipes weather. Time to check the lagging, and crank up the central heating a notch or three

Edit (about two hours later): I better add that of course, the weather down here isn't as bad as the weather up north: They're having a right ******* of a time of it, obviously. That said, this is gonna be the coldest we've had it down here in quite a few years: I hope the road gritters and the social services aid to the elderly down here are up to the challenge.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

How to cheer up a bus driver...

Turned out to be another of "those" shifts again, today. Saturday, of course, is normally when everyone and their pet cat decides to go shopping. All at the same time. Just, again as normal, as I'm starting my first round of duty. Reading this, you might be forgiven for thinking that someone's trying to tell me something.

Not so.

Fate merely has a truly and repeatedly twisted sense of humour.

Anyhow, back to today. So, right out of the gate... Well... Halfway to the end of the first trip really... things had been going swimmingly, light traffic, hardly any passengers, sunny, a veritable joy to be a bus driver. Then I got to Croydon. Oh ye bleeding gods. I hit traffic the like of which you normally only see just before Christmas, not just after New Year! as usual, it was the tail back for one of the shopping centre car parks, and as usual, people were blocking yellow box junctions, roads, Uncle Tom Cobbly and all. It was, in fact, one hell of a mess... as usual. By the time I got through there, I was ten minutes late...

Then we hit the roadworks at a particularly annoying choke point on the route. Controlled by three way traffic lights (single alternating way working), the queues really build up there. Today was no exception; you can normally get through fairly easily going one way... Coming back, you tend to get royally stuffed. I managed to only lose a couple of minutes this time, and knew what that meant on the way back. And not only because I'd seen the massive queue going the other way!

When I got to the end of the route, I was going in and out of the stand like a duck mating - scribble arrival & departure times on my log card, spin the destination blinds, reprogram the ETM (Electronic Ticket Machine, in other words), and metaphorically stand on the accelerator to try to get back on schedule.

Yeah, right. Like that was going to happen.

And as you can see from the photo, I did, indeed, get royally stuffed by the roadworks. That's the queue for it. It was a third of a mile long when I got to it. By the time I got to the other side of them, I was twenty minutes down (what we call "Being WELL late" on the buses, of course).

By the time I managed to squeeze through Croydon, I was half an hour late - and amazed that I wasn't even more late.

However, fate must've decided that I'd suffered enough as, when I got back to the start point, the Controller held me back ten minutes, and curtailed* me just short of the choke point roadworks - very nice

And just to affirm that there weren't any hard feelings, after I got there (with 15 minutes to spin the bus around, what luxury!), the radio controller called me up on the radio and told me to run ten minutes early to my meal break! YES! Picture a VERY happy bus driver punching the air - we normally get rapped firmly across the sensitive parts with a ruler (the knuckles - what did you think I meant?!) if we're more than two minutes early!

Folks, THAT'S the way to cheer up a driver - give him more time to stuff his face at lunchtime!

Curtailing a bus:

The practice of running a bus short of the normal end point of a route, in order to attempt to get the bus back on schedule coming back.

In essence, you're chopping the route short for that bus, in the hope that you'll slot it back in the right place in the running order, at the right time, so as to restore the route to normal running. Doesn't always work out that way, but it's one of the more useful tools in the box of a route controller.