Monday, 23 January 2017

Cuts Cut The Mustard** (1)

East Anglia's Expected Action
Some months back, a correspondent sent fbb details of the Company Accounts for GoAhead's group of companies in East Anglia. The numbers were not good - very bad in fact. The four operations were losing money in eye-watering amounts.

fbb did not write about these rather dry but unsustainable business matters but waited for developments. As Christmas 2016 approached, rumours were rife that heads would roll and services were for the chop.

There are now signs that things are happening, negative for the passenger but (hopefully) positive for "the bottom line"..

But first; some background. Norwich is the county town.
It has a strange mixture of the ancient (above) and modernity as below at the University of East Anglia.
Take the A47 eastwards and you will eventually fall off into the North Sea at Great Yarmouth. The road lacks excitement!
The occasional sharp bend relieves the monotony.
But you are soon back to the straight and fairly narrow.
As an indication of the flatness of the area, this road in Great Yarmouth is called ...
... Fullers Hill! Locals often wander along to watch the engines of ill-maintained cars boiling with the strain of the climb!

Great Yarmouth has two piers. Britannia has all the subtlety we come to expect from an English seaside resort.
In its day it was one of four venues in the town offering Summer Shows of high quality (?) ...
... but now it barely reaches the sea!
Wellington Pier certainly never gets its piles wet.
Between Norwich and Great Yarmouth, First bus used to run its X1, part of a very long through service from Peterborough to Lowestoft.
Four hours and twenty minutes of omnibological delight. Or maybe not.

Here, fbb must interject with a confession. His visits to East Anglia have been rare. Three trips to Bungay to deliver the pages for the Great Britain Bus Timetable allowed no time for exploration. A couple of family holidays in Sheringham which your chubby blogger can hardly remember. One memory, however, is clear ...
... walking over this footbridge whilst some rebuilding work was going on to repair the slipway. Father had volunteered for the Post WW2 "Z" reserve and was honing his artillery skills whilst mother and kiddies were in a B & B. He was "retrained" or "refreshed" at Weybourne just along the coast.
Little fbb played on the beach whist mother sat in a sea-front shelter, both watching shellbursts as dad (and others) took pot-shots at a canvas bag towed by a plane.
The target  was much further behind the plane in practice but dad claimed that they didn't get near to live ammo. Probably a good thing for the pilot's longevity.

There was also a week in a rented bungalow at Mundesley.
So fbb will refrain from writing about anything too historical because he "knows nothing", Manuel style.

The X1 began in 2004 and was part of a network of "express" services branded "Excel".
It developed into something rather special with swish double deckers in First's blue and gold interurban livery.
Two more recent happenings are relevant to this short series of blogs.

Newcomer Anglian Bus started their own Norwich to Great Yarmouth service A47 ...
... and First split their through service X1 at Norwich. Someone can, perhaps, tell fbb whether the service split was in response to the competition from Anglian.

But from these hesitant beginnings, fbb will bring the tale bang up to date in tomorrow's blog.
** P.S. Colmans Mustard is based in Norwich.

 Next anglian bog : Tuesday 24th January 

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Assorted Stuff (2)

A Day for Joy ...
... and Ian and Ann and Peter. It wasn't a funeral in the conventional sense; that had happened earlier, for family and close friends, at the Isle of Wight Crematorium.
The fbbs had travelled to be present as a Service of Thanksgiving for Pam, Peter's wife and mother to the three children. Pam had died on January 1st, a few days short of her 70th Birthday. She had been ill for many years and earlier was not expected to reach her 50th year, so 69 was a real bonus.

This took place in St James' Church, Ryde ...
... attended for many many years by the bereaved family and, for some time, by the fbbs as well - hence the connection. The closing hymn says it all.

In Christ accepted and brought near
and clothed in righteousness divine
I see the path to life made clear
and all your merits Lord are mine
Death, hell and sin are now subdued
All grace is now to sinners giv’n
And so I plead the atoning blood
And claim the title deeds of heaven

Some may struggle with the dated language - it is a Charles Wesley hymn - but it evokes a life well lived serving God first and others next and a life made eternal and complete in heaven. That, simply and gloriously, was Pam.

A Joyful Journey
fbb is often accused of having a rant at today's public transport (dead right, he does) but as this blog's rubric suggests, there are times when the old man must simply rejoice in a job well done.

Seaton to Ryde involves a total of six train journeys, two ferry sails and a return trip to Axminster by car.

Everything ran perfectly all day. Here is the outward schedule (omitting the car).
Most of the outbound journey was spent preparing a Bible Study for tomorrow, but two pictures were of interest. The very dirty windows of the Great Western railway class 158/9 from Salisbury to Portsmouth ...
... and some mysterious poles planted in the Solent outside Portsmouth Harbour.
fbb also liked this amusing advert for Carisbrooke Castle, adorning the Wightlink ferry.

The return journey was equally straightforward ...
... but this time there was more time to take a few snaps.

The lights were on all along Ryde Pier to cope with the overcast weather.
The Spinnaker Tower, recent adorned by an advert for Emirates Airline ...
... (the blue painted bits at the bottom) looked magfificent in the chilly sunshine.

A gorgeous sunset; but where?
Answer at the end of the blog.

And ...
... the tinkling lights of Tisbury in the nearly-set sun glimmer ended any opportunities for photography. 

One train was not quite on time. Our return SouthWest trains double 159 was held for five minutes longer than usual at Tisbury, waiting for a late London-bound train.

Six Slender Solent Sticks
Yes those six sticks. Here's one close-up ...
... and one lying down on the quayside.
There are fourteen of them in total, two banks of six and a couple of odd ones. Thanks to our senior Isle of Wight Correspondent fbb has been able to source the answer.

Soon we will be getting two huuuuge aircraft carriers - sadly no aircraft to put on them for the time being - but they are, to use a technical term, "big".
Compare it in this montage with the puny little Island car ferry centre right.

Now fbb is not fully familiar with driving an aircraft carrier, having learned much of his navigation skills from the crew of HMS Troutbridge.
If you turn the steering wheel, it takes a long while for the boat to actually turn. The brakes are not that good either. So aiming it through the very narrow gap into Portsmouth Harbour (and out again) is a bit on the tricky side.

A block of six high powered lights will allow the driver to line the vessel up with the newly dredged deep water channel.
The extra single beacons will be an indication of where to go for the "left hand down a bit" instruction to the man at the steering wheel. The whole process remains a right Navy lark, but it would be expensive if the new "HMS Queen Elizabeth" did a Troutbridge and had a coming together with Spitbank Fort.
The Queen would come off worse!

P.S. The sunset photo was taken looking from the train (black line at "Redbridge") looking towards Totton.
It is nowhere near as picturesque in normal lighting conditions.

 Next bus or trolleybus blog : Monday 23rd January 

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Assorted Stuff (1)

A Happy Birthday to You.
fbb has kept a lose eye on the subject if this particular celebration which has its origins in and even of 50 years ago. It began here ...
... at Stony Stratford and continued to here, the flesh pots of Bletchley.
Bus route 388 joined the two although its inception was just a smidgen less than the big 5 - O years ago. It was soon numbered MK1, ran via the A5, carried hardly any passengers, but was the first service provided specifically  the New City of Milton Keynes; which celebrates its 50th Birthday this very weekend.
In 1967, development of the new town of Milton Keynes began following its formal designation as a new town on January 23rd. Its purpose was to help alleviate London's chronic housing problem and to provide a commercial centre for Buckinghamshire. It was called Milton Keynes after the existing village of that name.

The celebrations are many and varied ...
... and fbb has searched diligently but can find no event rejoicing (?) in the City's bus services over the last half-century. So he will do so in this blog!
He leaves his readers to enhance the intellectual rather than physical celebration by filling in the gaps and enhancing the detail. The pictures show, from top left then clockwise:-
(Whoops! It should, of course, be "Arriva"). 

Meditate on This
Commuters sitting cross-legged on a carpeted upper deck, waving joss sticks and chanting "om"? Actually, no.
But fbb thought that any bus ride was a recipe for for inner peace and happiness - man!
The old man has yet to find out which actual vehicle it is. But it offers a level of comfort almost akin to Yorkshire Coastliner's new vehicles ...
... or something from Reading.
But this offer might well be of use to those who have suffered at the hand of Southern, The Departments of Transport and the Rail Unions!
lululemon Athletica Inc., styled as lululemon athletica, is a Canadian athletic apparel retailer. It is a self-described yoga-inspired athletic apparel company and a designer and retailer of technical athletic apparel, which produces a clothing line and runs international clothing stores from its company base in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The company makes a number of different types of athletic wear, including performance shirts, shorts, and pants, as well as lifestyle apparel and yoga accessories.

fbb buys nothing else for his wardrobe of sportswear!
The above is a "Box Space Short Sleeve" and costs  modest £68. It makes model railways seem cheap.

And talking of model railways ...

It Pays to Shop Around - Caveat Emptor
From time to time, fbb welcomes a special guest to enjoy the outdoor mini-layout that graces fbb mansions' rearmost appurtenances, i.e. the back yard. The railway enthusiast with a penchant for Thomas the Tank Engine stories ...
... is 4 year old Archie Fearnley, son of "you know who". 

fbb has been looking out for such a locomotive, but cheaper than the new price tag of £44, a bit much to spend on a "toy" engine. He was initially interested to see this offer in the on-lane catalogue of Hattons of Widnes' "pre-owned" stuff.
But the model had too many faults and simply wasn't worth £34 of meanie fbb's pocket money. Pity. But then a separate Hattons mailing list popped into the blog-office in-box.
£31 for a new loco seemed a bargain. But first, your cynical blogger needed to check that the quoted "list price" was accurate and not simply a "trade puff". So to the Hornby web site.

Not only was a new Thomas only £29.49 but the advert said that, by spending only an extra 51p, postage would be free. (Hattons charge £4). A pair of Troublesome Trucks were added to the order which was duly delivered yesterday, 20th. The order was placed at 157 on the 18th.

Excellent service.

The order came in a a typically small box with just a modicum of packing material.
After diligent inspection by the fbb towers security team ...
... the loco was pronounced safe by the expert and duly displayed in the model railway testing department's workshops, i.e. the dining table.
It looks great!

 Next "Assorted Stuff" blog : Sunday 22nd January