Monday, 11 December 2017

Christmas is Coming!

And It's Been Snowing ...
Today's blog was due to be the start of a review of how various bus operators and local authorities are publicising their Christmas bus services. But it was immediately obvious from various web sites that all was not well weather-wise. In the balmy environs of Seaton (or, indeed, the barmy environs of Seaton) not a frosty flake has fallen - although the rain was very cold yesterday afternoon.
The first hint of excessive hexagonal crystal precipitation came via an email from Alan with an attached photo taken at 0915 yesterday morning.
Alan comments, "What an absolutely splendid idea for the County Council to cut its snow clearing budget"; the consequences of which were apparent in Stagecoach's news later in the afternoon.

We are attempting to run a limited Northampton town service as well as Bedford, X4 & 19. However the following alterations are in place:

1 (Rectory Farm - town centre)
Buses will be unable to sereve Rectory Farm

 2 (Camp Hill - town centre - Kettering Rd - Rectory Farm)
Buses are unable to serve Ringway

7 (Grange Park - Hardingstone - town centre - Broadmead Ave - Moulton Park)
Buses are unable to serve Grange Park Estate. 
Buses will be unabel to sereve Broadmead Ave

8 (Kings Heath - St James Square - town centre - East Hunsbury)
Buses not serving Kings Heath. All journeys will turn at Gladstone Rd

12 (Kings Heath - St James Square - town centre - Towecster Rd - East Hunsbury)
Buses not serving Kings Heath. All journeys will turn at Gladstone Rd
Buses are unable to serve Granary Road

15/15A (St Giles - Upton - town centre - Acre Lane)
Buses unable to serve Upton or St Cripins

16 (Kingsthorpe - town centre - Weston Favell - Ecton Brook)
Buses unable to serve Tonmead Rd/Penistone Rd.

88/X7/D3/X46 will not run

X4 (Peterborough - Corby- Kettering - Wellingborough - Northampton - Milton Keynes)
Buses will not serve Earls Barton, Red Hill Grange, Oundle, Elton or Lynchwood

In summary what this tells us is that anything off the mainest of main roads will not be served - presumably because there has been no attempt to clear the white fluffy stuff.

One positive thought, however ...
Northampton was significantly better off than Birmingham! The juxtaposition of the travel offer and the news item is perhaps "unfortunate"?

At 0930 yesterday London Underground was having problems.
The delays and suspended problems were quoted as caused by "power supply problems due to snow". By 1700 it wasn't much better.
Same reason/excuse as earlier.
It does seem odd that a bit of snow should be so disruptive to travel. Surely it never used to be like this? Perhaps yet another example of trimming back the snowfall budget?

There didn't seem to be anything about disruption to the bus services. The daily Telegraph tagged this picture ...
... "a bus struggles in North London" - with no further details. The Evening Standard on-line had a picture of what looked suspiciously like the same bus from a different angle.
The sub-editor's take on the weather story was different, however.
Meanwhile, National Rail also had problems with snow and their electricity supply.
This all calls for s song:-

Oh, the weather outside is frightful
Bus travel is not delightful.
And since we've no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Underground service is stoppin'
And I was thinking of shoppin'
We've decided that we won't go.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Electric supply is dying
Travel, it ain't worth trying
Can't get to work what a blow
Let it snow, let it snow, and snow

The council has given up gritting
Drivers with venom are spitting
The traffic refuses to flow -
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Repeat as required.

This blog will return to Christmas travel publicity tomorrow.

Little donkey, little donkey on the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load
Been a long time, little donkey, through the winters night
Don't give up now, little donkey,
Bethlehem's in sight
But why, donkey-less and wearing khaki garments, did Mary and Joe toddle the 100 miles to Bethlehem. Oh yes; to take part in a Roman census. Joseph was a descendant of Old Testament King and Goliath-slayer, David.
Remember the verse from the carol about those flock-watching shepherds?

To you, in David’s town, this day
Is born of David’s line
A Saviour, who is Christ the Lord,
And this shall be the sign:

Throughout the Old Testament of the Bible, Bethlehem keeps popping up, most notably as the birthplace of said King David. Combine this will umpteen prophecies that David's descendants will "rule for ever" and a powerful picture is emerging.

The eternal Son of God would be born in a small, utterly insignificant village south of Jerusalem. Now you might expect a radical and divine leader to pop up in Jerusalem, maybe in the temple ...
... where richness and holiness, plus a whole army of priests and hangers-on could offer a truly religious welcome.

But no; it was to be in a tin-pot village of no status other than a thread of history. The prophet Micah gets it just right in his writings, penned about 850 years before the first Christ Mas.

The Lord says, “Bethlehem Ephrathah**, you are one of the smallest towns in Judah, but out of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times. When he comes, he will rule his people with the strength that comes from the Lord and with the majesty of the Lord God himself. His people will live in safety because people all over the earth will acknowledge his greatness, and he will bring peace."

Bit there is another spooky kink between Bethlehem and Jesus. Beth mans "house" in Hebrew and "Lehem" is a form of the word for "bread".  And how does Jesus describe himself, born in the "House of Bread"?

"The bread that God gives is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” his followers asked him, “give us this bread always.”

“I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them.

The "Bread of Life" was born in the "House of Bread".

** Ephrathah - an old name for the Bethlehem area, used here to distinguish David's/Jesus' Bethlehem from "the other one".
 Next Seaasonal Service blog : Tuesday 12th December 

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Omitted Oddments

Northampton Corporation Transport Rarity
Whilst researching Fulford Drive (sic!) and Links View, fbb came across this delight. It was a poster (from the late 1950s?)  advertising Northampton.
The road is Derngate and the bus is totally wrong. No Routemasters ever adorned NCT's fleetlist. From just after WW2 until the arrival of some Leyland Nationals, it was always Daimlers.

The block of flats is surprisingly accurate ...
.. and the building still stands. Sadly the other distinctive Art Deco structure that once stood a little nearer the town centre ...
... is no more, being replaced by the far less attractive Theatre Complex.
Surely, it would have been better to retain the old bus station frontage with, perhaps, the exit for buses becoming the grand entrance to the complex.

Where Are You 266?
Another bit of nostalgia leads in an interesting direction. These to Daimlers are, of course, leaving Northampton's ill maintained, much maligned and eventually doomed Greyfriars bus station. A uick search on-line for their registration numbers brings up some history for JVV 266G.
It has been re-registered COY 815 but also appeared in the livery of the Garden of Eden Garage, also on Malta.
But one on-line source records this vehicle differently.
The same source correctly records other Malta open toppers as hailing from Swinton (Thamesdown) as with OHR 189R ...
... re-registered and in Sightseeing livery.

Memory Fades Oh So Easily!
fbb wrote that NCT service 13 to Links View ran every half hour when it started. Drivel! Northampton supplier of wisdom Alan forwards a timetable from 1973.
Every 29 minutes, upped to every 10 at peaks; and note that Monday to Friday lunchtime was also a "peak" because many Northamptonians went home in their lunch break. Likewise Saturday morning was always busier that Monday to Friday off-peak - everybody would go into town to shop especially at the superb market.

Just three years later, however, decline has begun.
By 1976 it runs every 20 minutes (every 30 in the evenings) six days a week with no peaks and Sundays service has faded to every hour.

A reminder of today's commercial and doomed service 11 ...
... together with its tendered oddments (also doomed) on rout 60.

A Tease From Alan
Of these two vehicles ...
... on which one is your OAP bus pass valid?
The answer (easy peasy?) is the top one. Passes are valid on the ferry from Tilbury to Gravesend - which illustrates the nonsense of the so-called "National" system. Valid on this ferry, valid on Sheffield trams, but not accepted on Blackpool trams or even those in Croydon.


The "Astromega" was bought by Southend Corporation in the early 80s in response to massive growth on the X1 which ran, for a time between Sarfend and Reading. Long distance coach ravel was deregulated before buses and the X1 was a surprising consequence.

This particular bus/coach found its way into the hand of  ...
... Fords of Althorne.
It was bought by Ensign and restored to its original livery. Correspondent Alan enjoyed a ride thereupon as part of the recent Ensign running day, and, as it was not a "bus" service, he had to pay!
Wherever you look, IT appears. There is Mary, dressed in blue, riding on a donkey, led by Joseph as they toiled their way from Nazareth to Jerusalem. It is about 70 miles as the fly crows, but their journey would have been between 90 and 100 miles.

We even play/sing a Christmas song about it.

Little donkey, little donkey on the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load
Been a long time, little donkey, through the winters night
Don't give up now, little donkey,
Bethlehem's in sight

Little donkey, little donkey, had a heavy day
Little donkey, carry Mary safely on her way
Little donkey, little donkey, journey's end is near ...


There was no donkey. It is the invention of a much later story teller or illustrator.

Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, the birthplace of King David. Joseph went there because he was a descendant of David. He went to register with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him. She was pregnant.

That is all that Luke tells us - Matthew does not mention the journey at all, as we shall see. It is inconceivable that a humble trader from Nazareth, together with his pregnant and unmarried wife-to-be, could have ever afforded to hire a donkey.

They walked. 100 miles. Probably at night because the days would be too hot. (no snow, remember?)

It gets worse! If there had been a donkey, Joseph would most likely have ridden it and Mary would have walked - that was the custom of the day.

Oh yes. Mary would not have worn a blue frock - such luxury was reserved for the wives of wealthy lawyers, politicians and businessmen.
The rouble with embroidering the simple but stunning Biblical nativity story is that the central power  and purpose of the event gets lost in the clutter.

The Birth of the Son of God becomes more and more unrealistic.

Which is a great pity.
 Next Seaasonal Service blog : Monday 11th December 

Saturday, 9 December 2017

It's Not Our Problem, Mate!

The forthcoming withdrawal of Country lion service 11 to Links View Estate in Northampton has provoked the usual outrage. The local press published all the usual stuff.
One resident, Jeanette Chapman, 72, of Links View will not have access to this service after December 22 and says she will have to consider moving house because she can not afford to pay for taxis to travel into the town centre. Jeanette looks forward to getting out of the house twice a week and uses the bus route on a Monday to go shopping and on Fridays she enjoys meeting her friends for a coffee.

But, of course, therein lies the problem. "Getting out of the house twice a week" does not bring in enough cash to pay the bus company's bills.

She added: "I'm absolutely gutted, as far as they are concerned, we don't exist in this area. We might as well be on a desert island."

She is absolutely right. Links View is, effectively, a desert island for bus travel. It is on a road to nowhere.

fbb well remembers exploring this area before development. There were splendid bike rides along bridle paths across "open country" including one particular stretch that ran steeply downhill between high hedges.
Part of the open land was (and still is) a Golf Course which, long, long ago provided Northampton Corporation with a problem.
Eastern Avenue South should have run in a straight line top right to bottom left. But the corner of the prestigious Kingsthorpe Golf Club's land was in the way. Roughly 70 years after the estate was developed the wiggle is still there because either the Golfers won't sell ...
... or the Corporation refuses to buy!
Links View was always doomed to be a minor intrusion into the open land.
Councillor Cathrine Russell (Lab, Kingsley) is hosting the public meeting on Thursday (December 7) at the Pioneer Public House in Hazeldene Road at 2.30pm. She said: "This outrageous situation is completely unacceptable. This is why I am calling a public meeting and asking residents to come along to find out what we can do to ensure we get the public transport we need in this area." 

What you can do, Councillor, is persuade some more councillors to find the cash to run a tendered service of largely empty buses six days a week. Unfortunately our Cath is a Labour councillor on Conservative dominated Northampton Borough Council and the transport authority is the County Council, also Conservative.

So fat chance!

"The only way Links View residents will have access to public transport is to walk through Bradlaugh Fields to either St Davids or Kettering Road in the dark and through winter conditions. Alternatively they could walk the one and a half miles to Kenmuir Road, over a rather steep hill."

Not quite, dear Councillor. There is a footpath, about 100 yards long, from the outer reaches of Links View (aerial view below bottom left) through to Stagecoach service 10/X10 at Parklands.
There is no need to walk to Kettering Road or, in the other direction to St Davids Estate. Neither would many be walking "in the dark" to catch a bus from the present timetable!

There is a Kenmuir Road in Finedon and one in Cardiff; but no such thoroughfare in Northampton. If the good (but apparently ill-informed) councillor means Kenmuir Avenue, then its bus service is the service 11, the one, she may recollect, that is to be withdrawn.

"I have invited the county council, several bus companies and other interested parties to attend this meeting and hopefully we will be able to find a way forward. I will do everything I possibly can to have a bus service reinstated in my ward of Kingsley."

What can she do? As Paul Daniels was wont to say, "Not a lot!!"

Paul Shaw, transport manager for Country Lion Northampton said: "Currently we are making a considerable loss on the service daily. We have to rely on fare revenue to pay for the service. The current daily income does not even cover the fuel cost."

Surely it would focus people's minds if you gave us the actual figures, Paul (Shaw, not Daniels). And what do you mean by "daily income"? Does it include money from the council for OAP pass use? Without the figures our readers may suspect a bit of statistical manipulation.

One suggestion bandied around is that Stagecoach should divert some or all of its route 10/X10 via Links View as well as via Parklands.
Stagecoach boss Steve Burd ...
... came back quickly with his answer ...
... and of a lost opportunity.
If we take another look at the map we can see that Spinney Hill Road and Fulford Road were planned as a through route.
For a whole raft of short-sighted reasons it never happened - and there will be even more reasons why it never will; one of them being the private drive to a house built on the line of the road!
But a bus only "wiggle" would be possible. As that would be a "capital" project it could come out of the highways repair and improvement budget.

It won't, of course, because providing a bus for a few occasional users in Links View will not win enough votes to make it worth while.

Alan (Northampton news-hound) reports, as expected, that the Public Meeting was a Pointless Meeting. 

I really feel their cause is lost. There is no one with any idea of how to proceed. 

They have filled in the usual petition, but then so has every other anti cuts group in the county and they all started six weeks ago.

It is a comparatively small area with not enough bus passengers, and a cobbled up service with insufficient publicity.

They cannot understand why Sir Brian does not wish to send service 10 up to Links View. (He's got the loadings data from  when he did it with the 88)

And, more importantly, no one is prepared to find the money.

Is the really the right way to run our PUBLIC transport?
Talking of Angels (without wings!) ...
... Gospel writer Matthew reports a spiritual wowser for Joseph

This was how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. His mother Mary was engaged** to Joseph, but before they were married, she found out that she was going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit. Joseph was a man who always did what was right, but he did not want to disgrace Mary publicly; so he made plans to break the engagement** privately.

Matthew suggests that the experience was "inside his head", but still very real.

While he was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus - because he will save his people from their sins.” 

Jesus was a common-as-mud name, the equivalent of our Joshua. In Hebrew the name means "God saves".

But Joseph had no sexual relations with her before she gave birth to her son. And he named him Jesus.

Oddly, we never sing hymns or carols about Joe's experience; but Mary's explosion of faith and praise in response to her Angelic revelation has been part of Christian worship almost for ever.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord! 
Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice; 
tender to me the promise of his word; 
in God my Savior shall my heart rejoice.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his Name! 
Make known his might, the deeds his arm has done; 
his mercy sure, from age to age to same; 
his holy Name--the Lord, the Mighty One.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his might! 
Powers and dominions lay their glory by. 
Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight, 
the hungry fed, the humble lifted high.

Tell out, my soul, the glories of his word! 
Firm is his promise, and his mercy sure. 
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord 
to children's children and for evermore!

In many traditions it is called the Magnificat.

Mary was praising God in the only way she knew - by reciting a memorable passage from her "bible", our Old Testament book of Samuel.

** Engaged/Engagement is not a good translation. "Betrothed", in the Jewish culture of the day, was more like a "trial marriage". Being pregnant before the due ceremony would normally mean that the woman would be literally thrown out.
 Next Omitted Oddments blog : Sunday 10th December