Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A Special Day

And a Personal Blog
This graph shows the ages of the great stars of pre-history as recorded in the Bible. Methuselah is the top dog as he is said to have died aged 969. Traditionally these great ages have been regarded as mistranslations, misunderstandings or just plain lies! What is fascinating, however, is that the numbers decrease in a steady pattern.
This steady reduction follows repeated announcements by God that he will reduce the span of man because of his repeated intransigence in failing to obey the Divine code. The number is ultimately reduced to "three-score years and ten", i.e. 70.

So, from 1300 today, fbb is past his sell-by date!!

Public transport has weaved its confusing way throughout the old bloke's life and, aware of some "senior" repetition, fbb would like to nostalge decade by decade; with the caveat that boundaries between bouts of activity are very roughly drawn!.

 1945 to 1954 
At Junior School (from September '49) the big memory is of a maiden aunt who took the little chap on bus trips round Northampton on Saturday evenings.
An oft-remembered highlight was a trip to the then-new Kings Heath estate where fbb junior was treated to a Sherbert Dip!
Kings Heath was fascinating, too; all modern and green.

  1955 to 1964  
At Northampton Grammar School. 
Interests moved to railways and model railways. Joining the Crusader Bible Class brought the spotty teenager into a deep relationship with God and membership of a small team running a Model Railway Club.

And so to University and off to Sheffield.

This was fbb's first encounter with a big municipality and a first encounter with strange buses with engines at the back.
Here fbb (still not f) met the bod who was to become his bother-in-law. He worked for Sheffield Transport Department and was able to guide his new-found chum to all the best bits of the city's excellent transport network. Thus fbb was able to gain some insight into the process of running buses. He was able to make unofficial suggestions and several of these were adopted.

 1965 to 1974 
Then came work and the PTE. Work was teaching; and leisure was still exploring the further reaches of South Yorkshire. There was the little matter of marriage!
There was also a developing friendship with a certain Giles Fearnley who was honing his burgeoning interest and knowledge of public transport. The boy dun good! Along came family in the persons of three sons, none of whom seemed willing to embrace their father's interest with anything other than derision or pity. Pity! But Saturday trips into Sheffield Centre and snacks at the bus station were still an acceptable "treat" at least for a while.

 1975 to 1984 
Things were happening bus-wise; bendybuses, trolleybus experiments and above all a low fares policy by the Peoples' Republic of South Yorkshire and a significant stemming of the decline of urban bus passengers.
Work at Hinde House School was a really rewarding time and the RE teacher who knew all the Sheffield bus routes by heart was, for a while, remembered on Friends Re-United! Fame indeed. 
The politics of education was less happy however and fbb moved on to manage a Christian holiday centre on the Isle of Wight.

 1985 to 1994 
Organising travel, booking coaches, arranging Island-wide "quiz" activities using Day Rover Tickets brought fbb (still not very f) into contact with Southern Vectis, soon to become one of the first management buy-outs from the National Bus Company. Their chief engineer, Alan Peeling (later promoted in retirement to fbb's senior Isle of Wight blog correspondent) and Managing Director Stuart Linn began to open up some of the challenges of senior management.

But the chaos of privatisation  was short-lived on the Island and the pressures of work at the Centre meant that the loony excesses of the early days of competition were only "enjoyed" remotely ...
... with one or two trips back to Sheffield.

fbb bought a coach and began to provide in-house transport for the Centre and a summer open top bus service was developed with the agreement of Southern Vectis.
Westbrook Travel was an experience but not a success financially. The reins of the Centre were, sensibly, handed over to a younger man but then came an unexpected approach from Stuart Linn. Would fbb be interested in editing a bus timetable for the whole of the UK?

 1995 to 2004 
Westbrook Travel was eventually sold on and died an ignominious death under its new owners. But, lo and behold, the Great Britain Bus Timetable ...
... and, later, the xephos journey planner system brought fbb gainful and stimulating employment ...
... and an entry into the competence and incompetence of bus publicity.

Both of these avenues were to be noble failures. The book was killed off by the big bus groups who withdrew their minimalist funding (boo!) and xephos failed to win over the politicians who went for something far more complicated and much, much more expensive than xephos would have been. (typical!) We are now lumbered with the costly monster that is Traveline!

 2005 to 2014 
So it was back to the classroom as a supply teacher and one of the most enjoyable times for the now somewhat "f" bb. Blogging started in March 2010 ...
... so a fifth birthday is not far away.

2013 saw a more-or-less complete retirement and the downsized move to Seaton. But the interest and desire to understand the bus world is not yet dimmed by age and fbb is privileged to maintain some long standing contacts and friendships within the industry. fbb remains very grateful indeed for the dozens of colleagues who, at various times in his spectacularly unimpressive career(s), have offered support and encouragement

One thought which buzzes through the chubby one's mind at regular and frequent intervals is this: "Is the bus industry better now than it was in, say, the sixties?" On balance, fbb would say "yes" with one notable exception. A continuing frustration is meat and drink for this blog but a sadness for your author. Public Transport information has undoubtedly deteriorated since the good old days of, say, Sheffield Transport Department.

How long will fbb carry on blogging? God only knows! God has been gracious and good and is due all the praise for a rich, varied and fulfilling life - so far. He has held fbb's hand during the low times and provided joy and forgiveness in abundance. He has given the old man a wonderful wife and a loving family.

Perhaps He will be gracious enough to grant the fat bus bloke a few extra years to continue to enjoy it all and, hopefully, share his enthusiasms with others.

fbb's favourite short prayer is this, from the last chapter of the book of Hebrews:-

God has raised from death our Lord Jesus, who is the Great Shepherd of the sheep as the result of his shed blood, by which the eternal covenant is sealed. May the God of peace provide us with every good thing we need in order to do his will, and may he, through Jesus Christ, do in us what pleases him. And to Christ be the glory for ever and ever!


And the "fat bus bloke" label? Blame No. 2 Son who set up an Ebay account without telling his old man. Imagine your blogger's surprise when he received an email addressed to "fat bus bloke". Sniggers all round from No 2! Nevertheless, the title did seen rather appropriate as a "nom de plume"!

Back to abnormality tomorrow! 

 Next rail/ferry blog : Thursday 26th February 


  1. Congratulations fbb! Three score and ten is all we can expect as a right, but life expectancy now seems to stagger ever onward (mayhap not to 969 just yet!). Enjoy your post-1300 birthday lunch . . . afternoon tea . . . supper . . . bedtime Horlicks!

  2. I shall enjoy all four, but with low calorie drinking chocolate instead of Horlicks. Thank you.

  3. Keep up the good work, fbb. Sadly, I fear that even if you live to 969, we wouldn't get to see perfection in public transport timetable information.

    One lives in hope (or desperation!).

  4. Happy 70 and may your years continue long. They say one is not thought old until 75.

  5. 70 not out: wishing you many more happy birthdays!

  6. Thanks for the continued entertaining and informative blogs.

    May the heat from the candles on the cake warm you today, and the love of God sustain you forever.

    Happy birthday!

  7. Many happy returns (and not just off-peak day ones). Thank you for your impressive work in keeping us informed and entertained. You are my second blog read of every day.

    My 'first daily read' blogger also has an imminent special birthday - your challenge is to find a location where your two 'birthday bus routes' cross (any town / county will do), meet and have a cup of tea together.

    God Bless you and your family.


  8. Many happy returns and thank you for the entertainment.

    As a child, London Transport put up full timetables on most stops for frequent services subject to traffic delays. They were rarely read. As a teenager in rural Yorkshire the random and infrequent services were largely unmarked by bus stops being hail and ride. The cafe had a timetable frame as they were the "Parcel's Agent" and they might have a roneo-ed timetable to take away. The depot sold timetable books for 20p (In the 70's that was expensive) and that was correct when printed, but needed unknown amounts of update papers. The cafe was not the un-marked bus stop! Gossip knew the place and time, which didn't always match the paperwork. Things are much better now if not perfect.

    God bless you and your readers.

  9. Happy Birthday and keep the posts coming - especially the Northampton ones!

  10. Happy birthday FBB, hope the cake is nice!

    Good to see a pic of my old school, I only drove past there the other day - my cap is on the roof somewhere :)

  11. Congratulations. Here's to many more of your essays and musings transportological.

  12. Many Happy Returns FBB! Long may you and the blog continue!

  13. Happy birthday from south west Germany too!

  14. Hope you had a good day yesterday.

    Good News, maybe, from Genesis 6v3
    Then the Lord said, “My spirit shall not abide[a] in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years.”
    Yes you have the potential for another 50 years!

  15. Self aggrandising.

  16. Another ex-NGS who enjoys your blog. I was at NGS until 1964 also - a daily trip from home on UC 128/129. Journey home was always interesting as the 4.38 operated to St Neots and was usually a Huntingdon-based Lodekka. Regards.