Sunday 31 March 2013

A Stagecoach Reproach

A Fankle in Fife
Hamish Munro of Kirkaldy
Thinks bus information is shaldy.
The times to Tower Bar
Are well below par
When can he enjoy a wee taldy?

There are plenty of buses between Kirkcaldy (pronounced Kerr-coddy) and Methil near Leven in Fife ...
... but Fife Council's bus map is diagrammatic rather than geographical. There's a map on some of the Stagecoach leaflets, but they, too, give only sparse detail.

Also, there is an Fife Council enlargement of the Leven and Methil area which is a little more helpful.

It actually shows the Tower Bar ...

... where Hamish likes to meet his pals for a lunchtime toddy (or three). What is even better is that bus 8A also runs past Hamish's 'wee butt and ben' on The Fairway, Kirkcaldy.
So Hamish can travel to and from his "wee toddy" lunchtime enjoyment without fear of a bag-blowing incident; a simple door-to-door journey. All he has to do is to read his Stagecoach leaflet for services 8 and 8A. This timetable shows one 8A bus an hour.
So Hamish cleverly extracts the times of the 8A and writes them on the back of an envelope. So now it's all very clear; except that it isn't. Here are some of Hamish's notes retyped by fbb for this blog. Monday to Friday from home to bar  Kirkcaldy to Leven  is OK; he can understand that.
But coming back  Leven to Kirkcaldy , also Monday to Friday, is less clear.
There's no start to the hourly pattern for the 8A; when is the first xx03 departure from Tower Bar? But the 1403 or, more likely, the 1503 will be OK. What about  Kirkcaldy to Leven  on Saturday?
For an early evening tipple, is Hamish's bus at 1709? or 1707? and how many hours' worth of buses are there between 1557 and 1757? What about coming back  Leven to Kirkcaldy  on Saturday?
From Tower Bar 0903 and every hour until 1713. So there's a bus at 1703, then? The another one at 1713?

The problem, dear readers, is that bus companies use the "and then these minutes past each hour" technique to save printing space; BUT they are wont to trim too enthusiastically and leave an element of ambiguity, especially where the timetable has the complication of more than one route.

One way to avoid misunderstandings is to show every journey; but if space-saving is also cost saving, then there are certain principles which should always be applied. A complete set of the times that will be repeated should be shown before the repeat. This would resolve the Monday to Friday times from Leven above.

Likewise a complete set of matching times after the repeat is best; second best would be to ensure that at least the first time after the repeat matches the pattern. Here are the three faulty extracts shown correctly.

 Leven to Kirkcaldy  Monday to Friday

 Kirkcaldy to Leven  Saturday

 Leven to Kirkcaldy  Saturday

The results of one survey being kicked around during the time of the Great Britain Bus Timetable suggested that at least 60% of the populace could not read a bus timetable. When fbb was contributing his two penn'orth to the halls of academe, the maths syllabi always used bus timetables as a practical example of the usefulness of simple arithmetic. But probably no longer.

The recent CILT survey suggests that print is still the preferred option of Joe Public even if bus managers can hide their inactivity behind the dubious glories of the interwebnet. See Busing's piece from Good Friday (read here).

Maybe more people would understand timetables if they were, erm, understandable?

Worth a try, eh?

 Next Bus Blog : Monday 1st April 
P.S. fbb usually finishes his daily blog the previous evening and sets the fiendishly clever gubbins to publish it at 0200 the next day. For what the industry often calls "operational reasons", tomorrows effort will appear, bits and bytes permitting, at 0600. Unfortunately the post was released in error (briefly) on Friday afternoon due to digital (fingers) and digital (computer) imcompetence. fbb apologises unreservedly to First Bus and Transdev for breaking the news embargo.
Very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, carrying the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, so they went in; but they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. They stood there puzzled about this.
There is no particular need to challenge the veracity of the various narratives referring to the empty tomb. The reaction of those who went to complete the interrupted burial rituals was a mixture of fear, frustration and confusion. None of the initial reactions countenanced a resurrection.

The challenge is how best to interpret what they found.

In the end there a only two possibilities. Either Jesus did rise from the dead, however unpalatable that might be to the cynical secularist; OR he didn't rise from the dead. Both options provoke a series of further questions.

But if he didn't, there really is only one further query that matters. Why did no-one produce a body? That would be the drop-dead easy way to scotch the resurrection rumour-mongers at a stroke. Why not a "cunning plan" to produce a badly battered replacement body? Accounts reveal that the temple spin-meisters bribed the guards to keep quiet and began mendacious rumours that the disciples had stolen the corpse. But they did not arrest a single follower of Jesus. Why not?

The (interpreted) truth seems to be that even the enemies of Jesus had to accept that the empty tomb was, literally, a super-natural event.

So, if he did rise from the dead ...

The implications are huge, not least for the eternal future of you and me and the world itself.

The dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. Then the sea gave up its dead. Death and the world of the dead also gave up the dead they held. And all were judged according to what they had done. Then death and the world of the dead were thrown into the lake of fire. (This lake of fire is the second death.) Those who did not have their name written in the book of the living were thrown into the lake of fire.

Laughable ludicrous imagery or an attempt at the terrifying truth? The empty tomb means we all have to decide.
Happy Resurrection Day!**
Enjoy the chocolate!
** "Easter" takes its name from a Norse God "Eostre" referred to by the 5th century writer, "the Venomous Bede"(?). Sadly, there is no evidence that such a Goddess ever formed part of the Norse canon of Deities. So Christians in the UK name the most important festival of the year after a non-existent pagan Norse Goddess. Only quirky Brits could manager such a daftness.

Saturday 30 March 2013

Forfar 5, East Fife 4**

Ruby Return Reconnoitre
On 14th April fbb and Mrs will celebrate their Ruby Wedding Anniversary; 40 years of marital bliss. The original plan was to spend a few nights at their honeymoon venue, namely the Old Course Hotel at St Andrews. And, for the record, they weren't wealthy back then (still aren't) but had been advised to do a short stay in super-Posh as the opportunity may never repeat itself! How true.

But at £290 per night in 2013, the fbbs decided that they wouldn't enjoy the expense and are going for a B & B in Edinburgh instead. In 1973, their blissful venue was a British Railways Hotel, built on railway land to the north of St Andrews Station ...
... on the coast route from Kirkcaldy to Leuchars Junction. Most of the line closed in 1965 with St Andrews becoming a branch terminus until that, too, succumbed in 1969.

For a while, after the branch closed, customers for the hotel who chose to arrive at Leuchars Junction by train were met by the hotel limousine and an appropriately liveried flunkey. Now you pay for a taxi, or ...
... a route 99 bus every 10 minutes which links Dundee and Leuchars (no longer "Junction") with the town (every 15 when this pic was taken).
But the fbb's have not forayed into Fife since. The rather tired 1930s style bus station of 40 years ago ...
fbb THINKS this old slide is St Andrews

... is now smart and trendy.
So an investigation of present bus and train services is in order as part of their preparation for a simple day trip from Edinburgh.

** Len Martin was the voice of Grandstand's classified football results until his death in 1995.
 Martin loved his job, but there was one result that he feared:-  Forfar - five, East Fife - four.
fbb thinks that it never happened!

Of course things change in 40 years. Co-incidentally when doing a bit more pre-move de-cluttering, Mrs fbb discovered the guide book bought on that historic and romantic weekend ...
... it cost 15p (the guide book, not the weekend). The hotel has been extended massively since then ...
... when the newly-weds' three nights of luxury cost £54 including a "surprise" bouquet waiting for Mrs fbb in the room. Her reaction to fbb's burst of uncharacteristic lovey-dovey ...

"Oh look, somebody's left a bunch if flowers over there!"

40 years ... Hey Ho!

Doubtless there will be more from the Kingdom of Fife in a couple of weeks; but tomorrow we battle with Stagecoach's and the Kingdom's on-line publicity. It is, as usual, a bit of a challenge.

 Next Bus Blog :  Easter  Sunday 31st March 
Today is NOT (and never has been) Easter Saturday. Easter Saturday is the Saturday of Easter Week (in 2013, April 6th) which BEGINS tomorrow with Easter Sunday. Today is officially called "Holy Saturday" and, Biblically speaking, it was the day when nothing happened.

Or was it?
After Jesus died mid afternoon on Friday, there was a rush on to deal with the body before sunset. Saturday, the Jewish sabbath, began then and no work could be done for fear of offending the pious and powerful priesthood. Normal procedure would be to fling the dead body on Gehenna, the city's rubbish tip. But Joseph (of Arimathea) persuaded the authorities to allow him to take the body, wrap it respectfully in a temporary cloth and place it in his own ready-prepared tomb.

There was a risk that pro-Jesus agitators might try stage a fake resurrection; so the tomb was sealed and guarded. Traditionally such a guard would be responsible with their lives for their charge. Very early on the Sunday morning his followers would then return to perform the appropriate burial rituals in accordance with the religious laws of the day.

But, sometime between sunset on Friday and dawn on Sunday something happened.
But what? Now that is one massive question ...

Friday 29 March 2013

Taking a Pill for Portishead [6]

Did you watch "Foyle's War" last Sunday 24th March? Set in London in 1946, former policeman Christopher Foyle is recruited by the Secret Service to investigate a Russian spy-ring. One of the characters catches a bus home, this one ...
... a Routmaster, not introduced until the mid fifties, at least ten years after the programme's setting. [prototypes ran from 1954, full production began in 1958] Still it is red, so it must be a "proper" London Bus! There was also a sign similar to this ...
... with the word "children". It was missing its red triangle; error No 1. BUT the correct road sign for "children" in 1946 would have been this one ...
... as published by the Ministry in 1944. The symbol, also used for "school", is the "torch of education". The pictogram of actual children came a good few years later. Watch this Sunday's episode for more howlers!
And, talking of howlers ...

What's in a Name? Judge for Yourself!
Thanks to blog commentator Bob, fbb has been made aware of a nomenclature problem in Portishead. All the new services use a road called Weatherley Drive which, amongst other things, serves the Avon and Somerset Police Headuarters.
Here's the First Bus map for the pre-24th March network.
First Bus's new route map gives the road that same name ...
... as does Google Maps.
But things are more confusing with Ordnance Survey ...
... we've lost an "e". Transport Defunct uses similar data but compounds the problem.
Weatherly Drive on the map, but Weatherley Drive in he stop name.

To "e" or not to "e", that is the question.

Blog reader Bob suggests we look at the road name on Google Streetview and that does indeed confirm that most maps are wrong.
So back to the impressive legal personage at the top of this blog!

Frederic Edward Weatherly, KC (4 October 1848 to 7 September 1929) was an English lawyer, author, lyricist and broadcaster, born in Portishead. He was christened and brought up using the name Frederick Edward Weatherly, and appears to have adopted the spelling 'Frederic' later in life. He is estimated to have written the lyrics to at least 3,000 popular songs, among the best-known of which are the sentimental ballad "Danny Boy" set to the tune "Londonderry Air", the religious "The Holy City", and the wartime song "Roses of Picardy".

So thanks Bob for putting us all right! Except that Bob's email doesn't quite have the authority he intended. He, correctly, omits the offending "e", but ...
... erroneously omits an "a" as well! 

So, to recapitulate. The road is Weatherly Drive (no "e" between the "l" and the "y") and is named after Frederic(k) Weatherly (no "e" between the "l" and the "y") famous son of Portishead.

fbb will leave the last word to Traveline West which manages to outdo the lot ...
... by renaming the road Branscombe Way. fbb has absolutely no idea where they got that from, but, for the record, the little side road by the bus stop red dot is ...
... Branscombe Walk. There is no Branscombe Way in Portishead! Indeed there is no "Branscombe Way" anywhere on Transport Defunct's UK address database.

Well done Traveline; reliable as ever!

The Old Brigade is a slow march written in 1881 with music by an Irishman Odoardo Barri (pseudonym for Edward Slater) and words by Frederic Weatherly. This is a slow march that is always played at the annual Festival of Remembrance and at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday when the Chelsea Pensioners march.

 Next Bus Blog - Saturday 30th March 
It is quite possible that the worship of "Yahweh" (meaning "I am, I always have been, I always will be"; the Hebrew name for "God") dates from 10,000BC. Although the stories and the ceremonies were probably first written down about 3000BC, one core principle has always been deep-seated. Sin, disobeying God's Laws and God's moral standards, MUST be punished.

There was always a price to pay, a practical measure of "sorry-ness", that was worked out through a system of sacrifices. The people expressed their repentance through the tough discipline of giving up their grain, their pigeon or their lamb.

And the rules always said that it must be the first grain, the best pigeon or a spotless lamb; which made their repentance all the more meaningful.

It was a jumped-up charge administered by an illegal kangaroo court followed by political buck-passing that sent Jesus to the Cross.

As "God-on-Earth" he could easily have escaped or removed his own pain BUT ...

For the wages of sin is death; but God's free gift (through the sacrifice of Jesus) is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord. (Pauls Letter to the Romans, chapter 6 verse 23 - paraphrased)

In a way which is hard for even believers to grasp, Jesus' Crucifixion paid the sacrificial price for mankind's sins, past, present and future.

But it is a much tougher task to accept the Lordship of Jesus over all of our life, every minute, every second; than merely sacrificing a pigeon or a handful of grain.

Easter is a tough challenge but brings the greatest possible benefit! That's why today is Good Friday.

Thursday 28 March 2013

Taking a Pill for Portishead [5]

There seems to be some confusion with road names in Portishead, particularly the road on which stands the Police HQ. A full investigation forms the content of tomorrow's blog. Technology rules yet again. Any errors in today's offering will be explained and/or corrected then.
What's New Portis-Cat?
Bristol to Portishead services are now better than ever with the introduction of new services X2, X3 and 23 from 24 March 2013. The X2 and X3 will both now run half hourly during the daytime. This means there will now be 4 buses per hour between Portishead and Bristol. A new co-ordinated timetable also means there will be a bus every 15 minutes on the common sections of route.

Service 23 will operate on evenings and all day on Sundays. This new route will provide services to parts of Portishead that have previously not had a bus service at these times.

We'll also now be operating these services with modern buses from our fleet, and they'll be getting a makeover to give them a smart new look both inside and out. Inside the buses there will be free WiFi available plus a new refitted luxury interior with leather seats.

On the outside, the sleek express livery used on our X1 service from Bristol-Weston-super-Mare will be adapted and gradually introduced on to the X2/X3 buses.

For more on the X1, visit "Southern England Bus Scene" blog (here)

The X2 maintains the half-hourly frequency via Pill ...
... but no longer runs via Brampton Way ...
...merely stopping at the end of the road.
This leaves Brampton Way bereft of buses and therefore offers the residents a lengthy walk to the main road. Oddly, First Bus has not publicised this "benefit" of the changes!!
The X2 also serves Sheepway giving this little community four buses an hour instead of one!
The new X3 is similar to the former 357 in that it trundles round the Portishead docks estates.
Note also that both routes serve the Redcliff Bay loop in the same direction. This may give a very attractive "walk-up" type service for Portishead town centre and Bristol bound shoppers and commuters BUT; a passenger from Nore Road or West Hill to the Police HQ is faced with a change of bus. The previous 358 and 359 traversed a slightly different loop in opposite directions.

The evening and Sunday service is provided by an hourly route 23. Why 23? Well, it's an (X)2 outwards via Pill to Portishead and a sort-of (X)3 back via Portishead Docks but unlike the daytime X3 it does run via Pill.
So, some good news and some bad. Pity First Bus couldn't get their own map right, though.
The X3 beside High Street should be an X2 and there's something very wrong with Combe Road and the loop. Whoops! Either fbb had misunderstood the route (derived from the ever reliable Traveline bus stops list?) or First's cartographic contractors couldn't understand it.

Nevertheless, whatever First's motives for the improvement, it is, absolutely, a better service for most Portisheaders and deserves to succeed for that reason alone. More improvements coming from First? As they say, apparently, "Bring it on!"

 Next Bus Blog : Friday 29th March 
It was never a ceremony, rite or "service", but for about 1200 years it served as a graphic and meaningful reminder of God's goodness in releasing the nation from the pain of slavery, then guiding His people to a better life.
Following the ancient tradition, Jesus and his gang met for their Passover meal after the sun had set on the Thursday of Holy Week. It was now Friday (Jewish days started at sunset, not midnight), and the appointed day to remember their historic release from captivity a millenium earlier; and their subsequent journey to the Promised Land, the land which became their nation. They remembered the spotless lamb sacrificed and eaten; they remembered its blood smeared on their doorposts and they remembered how "The Angel of Death" had spared their ancestors.

Then Jesus made it different.

While they were eating, Jesus took a piece of bread, gave a prayer of thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. “Take it,” he said, “this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks to God, and handed it to them; and they all drank from it. Jesus said, “This is my blood which is poured out for many, my blood which seals God's covenant. I tell you, I will never again drink this wine until the day I drink the new wine in the Kingdom of God.”
Forget the great artworks of old with a line of colourfully clothed bods, embarrassingly occupying just one side of a long table only! This was a group of close friends having a farewell meal. The symbols of the First Passover became the symbols of Christ's imminent death. The shed blood (echoed by the wine) and the broken body (the shared bread)  would, in a new way, release a new generation from sin's slavery and lead them to a new and eternal Promised Land.

It is one of the most powerful images of Holy Week; and illustrates an equally powerful and life-changing truth.