Friday, 29 April 2011

So... Another Royal Wedding.

Front the start of this blant, let me make one ting abundantly clear: I am a loyal Subject of the Crown and an ardent Monarchist; I swore an oath to that effect as well, when I joined the Territorial Army many years back.

Indeed, all British servicemen and women, regardless of their being regular or reservist, swear such an oath. Many of us take that oath to mean a great deal more than the words that we repeat and swear to uphold, even after our service comes to an end, but that's another thing altogether, for another time and probably another blant.

So. Another Royal wedding. Is it me, or is this interest in things Royal somewhat unsettling?

Yes, they're in the public eye. Yes, I suppose that you could make the argument that as they, in large part, are paid from our taxes as members of the Civil List, then we should know more about them than, say, a rock star, or Big Screen Film Actor, for example. But, consider this: we are not citizens as another European country might view the status. We are Subjects of The Crown. As a result, we do not have certain rights that say a Dane might take to be his or her birthright.

But then again, if you or I were put to the kind of scrutiny that they suffer, every day, with paparazzi dogging your every move, with the tabloids printing all manner of rumour, innuendo, and outright lies about us, wouldn't you want to provide some sudden kinetic impetus to their noses (or more sensitive parts, come to that) to strongly encourage them to depart, stage left, rather rapidly, if not sooner, and to not come back?

Of course you would. Don't kid yourself that you wouldn't. It's human nature to tell a busybody to go and poke off (for want of a more colourful and unprintable turn of phrase on here), after all.

Frankly, the idea of such scrutiny, and public demand for such scrutiny, makes me fairly disgusted at those who want such material. In my view, they're little better than stalkers, and we all know what those lunatics can wind up trying to do.

Anyhow, the Royal Wedding that I remember the most clearly, that of Prince Charles and the then (and now late) Lady Diana Spencer, was thirty years back, near as wotsit.

I wasn't in the least bit interested in it. I was a young man, not even remotely interested in getting hitched, let alone watching some other poor sap getting hitched on live telly, and, remarkably, I, with my family (I was in my late teens then) had somehow managed to arrange to be out of the country when it all came off (so to speak).

We were in Canada, to be exact, on a once in a lifetime family holiday. We spend close to a month in that wonderfully sensible land, with those remarkably sensible people, enjoying their wonderfully generous and sensible hospitality, and by God, a great holiday it was.

Of course, being as there was also a Royal Wedding occurring, there was much speculation and discussion about it all (as has been with the current one today between Prince William and Miss Middleton), but back then, we naively thought, naaaah, not over in Canada too.

So, the first morning, what did we find on every bleedin' telly channel in the hotel in Edmonton the morning after we landed?

Yep. You guessed it. The Charlie & Di roadshow.

On ALL THIRTY bleedin' channels ?! Aaaaaaargh! Gawd, it was almost enough to drive a man to drink ;-) We'd forgotten that major swathes of that great commonwealth country were more British than the folks Back Home, if you follow my drift ;-)

Anyway, we got through it, in the end, by ignoring the darn thing. We just turned the telly off, and had a walkabout in Edmonton instead. Much more productive, that :-)

So. This time around, I have the luxury of being nowhere near a telly set. I'm working instead. Not exactly what I'd had in mind, but close enough.

Everyone else will, I sincerely trust, be glued to their tellies instead, thus keeping the roads clear for me :-)

Well, one can live in hope, can't one? ;-)

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Holy billowing clouds of smoke, Batman!

So... There I am, on the first trip of the day, when all of a sudden, I get honks and yells from passing cars and pedestrians... Looking out the window into the rear view mirror, what did I see? Smoke. Loads of it. All coming from my engine compartment.

Oh !

So, The drill is to pull over, evacuate the passengers, turn the bus off, and investigate the source of the smoke (without getting myself fried to a crisp in the process, of course).

And all the time, a lady with a buggy is demanding to know how she was going to continue her journey.

OK, I was actually polite to the mercenary wotsit, despite her seeing that I was somewhat busy with making sure the bus didn't catch light, talking to the engineers on the phone, and trying to figure out where the damn smoke was coming from, but ye bleeding gods, I was tempted writ large to ask her if she wanted to be regular or extra crispy when it went up!

Anyhow, short version, the engineers are currently (as I write this) on the way with another bus for me, and the buggy lady naffed off on another route (having been transferred by me in the interim), so all well and done.

...Update, a little over an hour and a half later...

Or so I thought...

I then, fifteen minutes later, got a call from the engineers, telling me "Oops, the sub(substitute) bus has broken down". Oh, . So, now I was to figure out what the problem with my bus was. Easy enough, open the side door where the smoke was coming from, and assuming that it doesn't catch light with the inrush of oxygen, have a dekko. OK, I'm game for a laugh, so did as asked. Seems the auxiliary belt that powers the driver's aircon unit had let go, and was catching on a couple of the working pullies, thus causing rubbing, heat, melting, and thus lots and lots of horrid smoke. Oh yeah, almost forgot. The darn thing fell out onto the road surface when I opened the side door to the engine compartment. Easy to diagnose, that one.

So, I phoned them back and told them.

And got told to spin the bus round, and get my backside, out of service, to the route midpoint, where a fresh bus would sub my existing bus. OK, fair dos, thinks I, and goes ahead and does it.

Silly me. I forgot that the left hand rarely talks to the right hand in this business. What do i get when I arrive at the mid point bus station?

Yup. you guessed it.

"Carry on, driver. It'll be subbed at the other end."

Was it heck. The controller at the other end wasn't too chuffed either, when I got there some twenty minutes late for the handover to the next driver, and explained what had happened.

Wonder if the rest of the shift is going to be as... interesting (think the Chinese insult)..?

Vote on May 5th, and make it count.

You'll have seen on the news all the hooplah regarding the upcoming county and referendum elections and vote that's due on May 5th.

If you have ANY interest in having a say in how this country is run, then make sure you're registered to vote TODAY, and get down the council offices and ensure that you're on the voters' register.

Then, on the day, vote YES to AV, irrespective on how you vote for your party or not.


Because it'll make those fat wotsits sit up and take notice that you, the electorate, put them there, and that you have the overwhelming power to remove them from there as well. Maybe then, we'll have the democracy that we're always hoping for.

Why not first past the post, as it is now?

Simple. If your preferred choice doesn't get enough votes, you have a choice of saying, "OK, use this vote for the next hopeful that I chose", if you so wish. You can simply vote on an AV ballot with one simple X marks the spot cross, as now, in which case your vote is counted once only, or you can give a number choice (1 first, 5 last, and so on), so that you get a choice in how you get your next MP or council member.

But, as the card that came through my door (left)  the other day said: Make your MP work HARDER for YOU.

Forget the crud about them needing to purchase expensive voting machines - they don't. It's a vacuous fib. The Aussies have been using AV for a while, and they still use humans to count the votes - and it's worth noting that they have one of the most stable governments in the southern hemisphere, too. Also, voting machines can be stuffed up, or even read the votes incorrectly - look at the mess in the last US General Election, if you're at all confused. So, no machines, expensive or otherwise, are needed.

Also, forget the rot and nonsense about how it'll let in extremists - instead, consider this: You can vote them your last choice - or don't give them a number, and exclude them from your voting choice altogether.

Maybe THEN, we'll get what we all want: responsible and ACCOUNTABLE government.

Surely THAT's worth a YES vote?

Monday, 25 April 2011

Back to work with a wtf?!

So, one long weekend later, having spent the majority of it with the other half, and feeling nicely relaxed, I get back to work. To find that a certain south London football team are playing at home. Oh, joy, thinks I. The roads'll be stuffed up.

Then I see all the Police in what they now call their "Public Order Equipment" - that's riot gear, to you and me. Not a major worry, they tend to do that for most footy matches down here. What grabbed my attention by the eyeballs however, was the sheer numbers of Old Bill. And the Police Horses. In their own riot kit.

Oh 'eck. Who's playing, wonders I.

"It's Palace versus Leeds", my controller happily tells me.

Oh, hell. There's a dodgy reputation, if ever there was one. Cast your mind back a decade or two, and you'll recall that the two worst groups of so-called supporters were those from Millwall and those from Leeds.

You could pretty-much guarantee that the local town/city would be a smouldering heap of wreckage after a visit by either of those groups of football hooligans.

Now, things have, I'l grant, calmed down a fair bit over the past decade...

But seeing the Old Bill geared up for a right old ding-dong is tad on the worrying side, after all.

Especially when you're driving a bus at kicking out time.

Anyone wanna lend me some riot gear in bus company colours?

Sunday, 17 April 2011

I just realised something...

Just a short note this morning...

There I was, munching away on a Subway breakfast sub roll (good vaule, too - 6" egg, bacon, and cheese, topped sparingly with my favorite condiment, HP brown sauce, with a coffee, at a rather affordable £2 meal deal, nice!)...

And I suddenly realised that all the cafes and take-away places that I like to eat at, all serve HP sauce - yet everywhere you go these days, you can always find Tomato "ketchup" (sauce, to the British folks reading this - "ketchup" is yet another Americanism that's trying to creep into the Oxford English Dictionary!).

Now, I've seen tomato sauce users at work with that horrible muck. It's like they use it as an internal industrial lubricant, or something.

Brown sauce conneseures, on the other hand, tend to use their brown sauce sparingly: it has a powerful taste to it, so a little goes a long way. We, unlike tomato sauce addicts, tend to use tea or coffee as our lubricants.

Between mouthfulls of food, of course.

It'd be a tad messy at the same time, wouldn't it?

I've been aching to say this here for a while, now's me chance ;-)...

"Now listen carefully, Basildon, I'll only say this once...!"

There are two main brown sauce manufacturers of note, with one brandname apeice. These are HP, and Daddies. HP has, I believe, been around the longest, has a truly international following, and was allegedly named for the initials of the Houses of Parliament - indeed, the bottles bore the picture of the seat of British Government for a great many years - I can't recall if they still show the picture, I'm not at home, I'm at work right now!).

Daddies, on the other hand, is mostly, I believe, a brand with a more northern following in Britain: It's only recently - in the last few years - that I've seen it on sale down here in the south. Tastewise, with my shot to heck tastebuds, there's little to choose between the two; I prefer HP, but that may be brandname loyalty more than anything else ;-)

Anyhow, I just thought I'd share that epiphany with you - The moral, or course, is that the better quality joints out there offer Brown - preferably HP - sauce to their clientelle ;-)

Here endeth the lesson ;-)

Saturday, 16 April 2011

What the $£%&@#?...!

It's amazing what passengers do, once on a bus. Most are normal folk, they sit (or stand) peacefully, waiting for their stop, and get off. A few might even call a "Thank you" to the driver (which is always appreciated, let me remind you).

A few, though, mostly the younger (teenagers and the twenty-somethings), if they can reach it, will hit the emergency door release in thick traffic, as they want off the bus *now*, and not when it gets to the stop, and the hell with the bus company instructions to their drivers not to open the doors at any place other than a bus stop (it's both due to liability and insurance problems that these pesky rules exist, folks - back in the mists of time, someone probably got sued for being nice enough to let someone off outside their home/bookie/Chinese takeaway, or something)...

Anyhow, the result can on occasion be amusing. Rarely, it's side-splittingly hilarious. More often than not though, it's amazing that no-one gets hurt or worse...

A couple of cases in point...

Case #1...

A few weeks back, in heavy traffic, in the outside lane of two lanes leading to a set of traffic lights, one of my colleagues had a group of youths hit the emergeny door release, whereupon they leapt out, presumably to go somewhere and grab a spot of fast food. Little did they expext to nearly be mounted on the handlebars of a pizza delivery moped - I don't know how near a miss it was, but my colleague was mentioning the words hair and breadth... Moral: It's one thing to look for fast food. It's entirely another to, through stupidity, *become* the fast food...

Case #2...

A couple of years ago, someone opened the doors using the emergency door release on my bus. We were coming to a stop, doing maybe 5mph, to service a bus stop. I was on a rare rest day, on a route other than my normal one. The stop was outside a major London underground station. As the passenger leapt out of the bus - in mid air, he flew straight into a lamp-post. As dumb luck would have it, a safety feature on the buses we drive means that at slower speeds, the brakes automatically lock on, to stop the bus if the emergency door release is used: The bus, did, indeed, stop. Which is just as well for our human bell-striker, as he rebounded back against the side of the bus with a resoundingly wet smack-like sound, and slid to the ground, somewhat pole-axed (pun intended), coming to rest a few scant inches from the rear wheels. He declined medical aid or assistance and vanished off a couple of minutes later, probably nursing one of the biggest and embarrassing headaches of the 21st century... Moral: Look before you leap!

So why am I mentioning this? I'm hoping that one of those muppits who seem to suffer suicidal impatience actually reads this entry, takes it on board (so to speak), and never tried to become a human canon-ball from a bus!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Oh... [bleeeeeeeeep]!

Well, I knew bad luck had a mate. Now I know his name. It's PITA (pain in the ****!).

My PC is definately stuffed. Coloured confetti on the screen from the very moment I turned in on the other day.

So I did the usual things they tell you to do, when you place a call to tech support (no need to do that here, I did Tech Support for a few years a while back).

Then I checked the connections, looked inside the machine, to ensure all the cards and cables were still properly seated, the whole shebang.

And I've come to the conclusion that the blasted graphics card has, for some reason died. Old age, I suppose. It was made back in '01 after all. Well, it's had a fair run, I guess, but a few weeks of warning would have been nice. That way I could have had a spare sitting to hand.

Now, I have to wait to payday (Friday), to go get a new card. No problem, you might think.

Actually, a large one.

I do a LOT on my PC at home.

Add to this, it's an old PC. A fair few of the comoponents - the graphics card, motherboard, and so on, date back a fair number of years, and they don't make a lot of the stuff for those card slots any more - the failed graphics card, for instance, uses a standard called AGP (Advanced Grapics Port) that was a standard for about five years, until PCI-E (don't ask me what that stands for, I haven't a clue) came out.

And then all of a sudden, without me spotting it (OK, I wasn't looking), parts of my PC became obselete practically overnight as manufacturers moved to the new standard.

So now it seems I have to go looking for second hand parts, to keep my current machine running, until I can afford to replace it completely.

Life's a right PITA at times, innit :-(

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Well, today's not starting out well...

OK, from the top...

Overslept by half an hour, PC went screwey as I tried to access my morning email collection, and the bus to the tram was late, and driven like it was part of a snail race. And then I missed the tram by mere seconds.

So... Since bad luck comes in threes, let's hope the rest of the day goes a shedload better, eh?

P.S. Oh yeah - this was sent via email from my smartphone, so that's something :-) Always thought getting a google mail account was a smart move ;-)

P.P.S. I suppose I ought to point out something about the buses... we run, generally speaking, to two standards: HF and LF.

HF routes are High Frequency routes, where you're going to see a bus at least every 12 to fiftenn or so minutes - more than 4 buses an hour, as a rough rule of thumb. HF routes are run to a timetable, yes, but the overriding idea is to maintain a roughly equal time beteen buses, and this is called "headway". LF routes, on the other hand, are Low Frequency, and as a rough guide, means three or less buses an hour. these are run according to the Timetable.

My bus this morning, to the tram stop, was on an LF bus route. so you can understand my frustration at the lateness ;-)

Monday, 11 April 2011

Ah, my mistake!

So, there I am, turning up for work at what I thought was half an hour before my shift was due to start, and whoops! I'm an HOUR and a half early!

Seems that I forgot that during the half term, like the school holidays, we swap to a slightly different schedule, to save on the buses being well early due to the vastly reduced rush hour traffic and passenger loadings!

Anyhow, the upshot was a much better duty to do, so it all worked out for the best :-)

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

More than one way to skin a cat...

Pardon the title, it's merely a figure of speech

Anyhow, over the last few months, I've been getting what can only be marketing calls on the land line at home. They call, withheld number, and hang up on getting the answerphone. No message, nothing. Strictly against the rules, there are not supposed to be silent calls these days, and the companies know this, hence, I suppose, the blocked numbers preventing you from knowing which bunch of dimwitted low forehead owning knuckle dragging moronic sorry excuses for humans actually made the call in the first place.

Well, BT wanted a silly fee for blocking them. I've recently changed to TalkTalk at home, and boy, what a refreshing change it is. I can actually make changes to my account ONLINE, without having to make a phone call, be put through to someone who never seems to understand what I'm on about, then wait to talk to some mindless zombie in a call centre (not far from the Andes, or somewhere equally as remote, most likely), and then find that they messed it all up at the end of it, or find them trying to sell me something I don't want anyhow.

So, BT gone, TalkTalk in their place, and wow, I can get things done in a fraction of the time. Easy peasy, in fact. Log on, go to my account, go to manage the account, and add the anonymous call blocking for an extra three quid a month. Done. OK, I'd rather not have to pay for the extra service, as I feel it should be offered for free as a part of the package, but I suppose they have to make money somehow, lol :)

Anyhow, since getting this done, all of a sudden, no silent marketing calls. period. Seems they're getting the engaged tone now

Can't say fairer than that, now, can you?

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Alternatives to the "golden arches"...

A couple of weeks back, I commented on some of the customers of a certain fast food chain. My opinion of these... people... hasn't changed. I still believe them to be from the shallow end of the gene pool, and that's being icily polite...

However, it occurred to me that another, slightly less comprehensive chain, with similar products, wasn't mentioned. To be fair, I should point out that I've never had any real problems with the staff or management of either chain, just some of the customers of the bigger one.

So, here's the alternative to the bigger chain's breakfast. They call in "Breakfast in Bread". Cheerfully catchy, that

I saw it first at the Burger King kiosk at Paddington station last weekend, when I nipped over to see my other half in the West Country.

Yes, McD was there too - off the concourse, in the sidelines where they now belong, but BK were there too, nearer, and a tad more civilised.

They even offer a choice of ketchup or brown sauce - naturally, being an HP kinda guy, I went for the Brown Sauce. Beat that with a stick, McD!

My doctor will, likely as not, want to beat me over the head with a stupid stick, but every so often, one needs a little... um... comfort food, to start the day off just right!