Suzy, Drinker Of Coffee
Monday, April 30, 2007
Friday, April 06, 2007
Very random stuff
Weather... I knew it was good, but this in the Courier surprised me.
"Monifieth weather watcher Neil Ferguson recorded a maximum temperature of 21.2C, well up on last year’s April peak of 16.6C. The first time the mercury passed 21.2C last year was on June 2, with 22.7C, he said"
Train Tickets... as it looks like I'm going to be a semi-regular user of First Capital Connect services now, it may or may not give me the right of a whine... but seriously, this one (found via The Ticket Collector) came to me as a surprise.
"...I thought that I would tell you that FCC have decided to create a new type of Peak Travelcard which you can get railcard discounts on, AND it lets you come back during the evening peak as well!
The ticket is called the One Day Off Peak Travelcard Plus it is still the same price as a normal Peak Travelcard, but you can get normal railcard discounts on it which brings it to slightly above the normal off peak Travelcard. Also being a Travelcard Plus you are allowed to leave london at any time and you can leave during the normal evening peak."
... in other words, it's the old One Day Off Peak Travelcard from before the evening peak restriction introduction, with a bit more whacked on top. Got to love First eh? How long before First ScotRail are trying the same with One-Tickets?
The name I've changed the name of the blog from "Suzy In The City" to "Suzy, Drinker Of Coffee". I was thinking of a new title, and was inspired by auntysarah changing her title from "Sarah's Transition Musings" to "Sarah, The Bringer Of Tea"... She explained this last weekend, that she is known for bringing tea in times of a crisis...
The blog At the moment, you can currently get Suzy in stereo surround sound, in both Blogger and Livejournal format. I've copied back the last week or so of March onto Livejournal, but the older stuff is on Blogger only. The two will continue until at least the end of the month, then I will decide. Formatting on LJ seems so much easier!
Maps & Timetables A new edition of the Perth & Kinross Council Public Transport Map - the first since late 2002 - is now in print. Dated "From 16th April 2007", the map includes all the changes up to that point, and should be availbile from all outlets now. The Angus Council map should not be too far behind.
Bus Service Changes - Angus, Dundee, Fife, Perth & Kinross Some mostly minor things due for 16th April. Stagecoach Fife 23 (St Andrews - Stirling) and Citylink/Megabus Services M90/M91 (Dundee/Inverness - Perth - Edinburgh) will run into the new Kinross Park & Ride site. Stagecoach Fife 36B (Glenrothes - Gateside) is extended to/from Kinross Park & Ride site. Stagecoach Fife 35/36 (Cupar/Glenrothes - Perth) are to be improved, to give two buses an hour from Newburgh to Perth, but reducing the service to Cupar. Additionally, when combined with the 56, there will be a bus every 20 minutes from Bridge of Earn to Perth.
... and finally ... having said what I did last night about The Illusion Principle, I got a message today from Dave - the guitarist from TIP. Turns out he found my site/blog while googling his own band, and was still impressed at the suggestion of TIP playing Kewbworth! I guess I've got to do it now... and maybe even video record it with the brick.. see my Bebo to see it.
Good Friday Morning
There are a few other thoughts too. Tomorrow is Saturday 7th April, which marks four and a half years in my current job HR mention to the new starts that the average tenure is 18-24 months (I’d have said more like 12-18 in practice). There have been ups and downs to the lot. With my current plans, it looks like I will stay there in the run up to surgery, unless I get a very unlikely and hugely life-changing offer. That would mean at least three months off afterwards, so that should clearly see me well into five years service in one job – very scary! Nothing is going to be set in stone this year though!
Of course, this time last year (Geed Geed Friday) did see our team night out, with spectacular results early on Saturday morning… and upon mentioning this, Caroline asked me not to get too drunk on our team night out tomorrow! I’m not a drinker, but not strictly an abstainer either…
… Put it this way. I’ve got lots of good things to think of, lots of recent happy times, lots of good memories. It’s time to commemorate and celebrate the achievements, and this is the perfect excuse… like I need one!
So, today, we are all going to be at work. As per last year, I am still on the “old old old” agency contract, so this is the one time of the year when I actually make a little bit more i.e. double time and a half. Thankfully they’ve not tied to mess our shifts around this time!
If you are wondering when the deeply moving personal stuff comes up, well keep watching. In the meantime, keep watching for the latest transport, work and love gubbins!
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Wow, what a week…
A ride home tonight was courtesy of Adam, who picked up two of his flatmate’s friends on the way along the Perth Road. I’ve never seen him getting so well double-teamed by the two in the back… we all love him really, honest!
Yesterday, we heard from Jay, tomorrow he heads south to Florida to see the rest of his family on holiday for a bit – enjoy your well-deserved break, and try not to relax too much! Don’t do anything I wouldn’t… (regular blog readers will be aware this leaves for plenty of scope…) So, for today, the words of Kelly Clarkson herself… (the *other* American Idol from Rochester! lol)… and it sums things up so well!
Grew up in a small town
And when the rain would fall down
I'd just stare out my window
Dreaming of what could be
And if I'd end up happy
I would pray (I would pray)
Trying hard to reach out
But when I tried to speak out
Felt like no one could hear me
Wanted to belong here
But something felt so wrong here
So I prayed I could break away
I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly
I'll do what it takes til' I touch the sky
And I'll make a wish
Take a chance
Make a change
Out of the darkness and into the sun
But I won't forget all the ones that I love
I'll take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
Wanna feel the warm breeze
Sleep under a palm tree
Feel the rush of the ocean
Get onboard a fast train
Travel on a jet plane, far away (I will)
Buildings with a hundred floors
Swinging around revolving doors
Maybe I don't know where they'll take me but
Gotta keep moving on, moving on
Fly away, breakaway
I'll spread my wings
And I'll learn how to fly
Though it's not easy to tell you goodbye
I gotta take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
Out of the darkness and into the sun
But I won't forget the place I come from
I gotta take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway, breakaway, breakaway
Wishing you all a peaceful Easter (or religious festival of choice), and I will be here when you get back… probably still typing!
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
The bits I missed earlier
Now you may be wondering – again – about the age gap. As I’ve said before, I’ve no idea when or how the HD will take over my body (if ever at all), so I may not be myself at that age. I’d rather enjoy myself now. All three people who have loved and cared for me in my recent past may be from the same vintage, but their backgrounds could not be more diverse. There are other coincidences and situations between them too, but that is all an irrelevancy. I’m on a “learning curve” in some respects, but I am also climbing out a rut in some ways. That may sound bad, but it’s almost as if all the recent developments over the year have awaken something deep inside me. Something that has ever had the chance to get out, largely because I didn’t see myself in the right body (initially). In the last three months, I have changed quite a bit – just read back on the blog. Some of the meds that made me upset are on the way out. I’ve got what I’ve hoped most of my life for, coming later this year. I’ve had wonderful people to help and support me. I am happy with life. Caroline is also very happy at the moment, new(ish) car, just back from holiday etc. – you know the sort.
Speaking of love, Jay's “letter from America” has arrived (well it was an email) – “Suzy, it is so wonderful you are so happy...and in Love!!!. I wish the two of the all the happness in the world. I have always told you you are a great lady, and now you have someone in your life that feels as I have all along”.
I do want to talk here in the coming weeks more about my own personal feelings and how I see the future, my (our) future. Just because I’ve not got time to type it all up right now doesn’t mean I’ve not been deep in thought.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Hopefully I will get caught up with everything soon enough! Thank you to everyone for all your kind words, emails, texts and thoughts!
Monday, April 02, 2007
I got home, and tried to get the pictures off the camera card (apparently you need to eject the device on a Mac before removing the card in a card reader. On a pc, you only need to remove it to change the reader, not the card). Lots of technical issues here! No chance – but then I remembered that the photo kiosk got them off the night before. Took the card to Boots, and burned the lot onto a PictureCD for £2.99. Then, headed for my usual web café, only to find it is closed (being a Dundee public holiday). I was able to get access via MBE in the end, and upload all the pictures from the weekend. You can see them all here.
So, to work I went for 1500. I logged in, but then was called away to a meeting. There is going to be a reshuffle of management by new bosses, but (once again) the agents come out almost unscathed. After I had my visit to the meeting, I became “crowd control”, gathering people for the meetings and showing them through to the correct meeting room. I’ve not done crowd control since my underground days! Lol surreal or what?
Anyway, made it to the end of the day, and out. Called Caroline on the way home (too much noise in the background of the Dart I was on – now I know why they were called sheds)…
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Probably the most pleasurable Sunday I’ve had for a while…
… We woke up when it became light, and cuddled up for a bit. After over an hour, we decided we had to get up. The clock showed 0830 – several hours earlier than either of us expected. Maybe time did really stop after all. As I am sure you can all appreciate, we were both incredibly happy. We ended up going back to bed for a bit, and up again. We had a genuinely fun afternoon. I booked my return from London to Dundee using no wires at all (her PowerBook is part of her wireless network). She was doing some work on her new Mac Mini. We took some pics of the both of us together, and this was our mutual favourite of the two. She said to me “See, I told you I’d get you smiling for a photo”.
So, the time came – and we decided to make a move at 2130, for the 2144 train south. Enough trains pass by - check out the overhead line equipment and tracks that you can see from the window! As the train (in full First Capital Connect livery, complete with some of the picture branding) pulled into Platform 2 of Royston station, we said our thank-yous and goodbyes, until the next time, and I instincitvly headed for the train. Then I realised, we weren’t pulling off immediately. The clock showed we still had two minutes to go until departure time, but most trains (in the south at least) get doors closed by the guard with thirty seconds to go. So, just enough time for me to walk to the door, arms onto the platform, one last kiss, and pulled apart bang on 21.43.30. Talk about making the best possible use of my time…
… and that was it. For now.
The train journey was a little interesting. Because of engineering work, the train ran through, but via the Hertford North, Cuffley and Enfield Chase line, rather than the via Knebworth, Welwyn, and Potters Bar, that we did on the way up. You know I always like to vary my journeys, and see the world go by (even fast and dark), but this was another interesting twist to the weekend. Never been to Cuffley before either… been to Hertford North and Enfield (Chase) before. I had been winding Adam (from The Illusion Principle) up about playing one of his bands songs as we passed through Knebworth, just so we could say that TIP played Knebworth. Once he got it explained what Knebworth referred to (a music festival of old), he was happy! As you can see, didn’t get the chance, but I will be back again.
So, a few texts exchanged. Thanks sent to S&S for their hospitality yesterday, which came back with a “congratulations for you both” when I explained what had occurred after we’d left theirs. I was still in awe – it had been a wonderful weekend. I alighted the train at Finsbury Park (same trip as last time), after adding some more credit to my Oyster card. What a forty-eight hours since I passed here in the opposite direction (it’s ok, I will shut up about it by the end of the month, honest… lol)
The Victoria line train once again took me south, but instinct somehow meant I headed for the Piccadilly line platform initially… never mind, they are parallel. As we sped down the tracks, we made it to Victoria, where most things were closed at 2300ish on a Sunday night. The station was still open for access, and one or two shops still open. I spent some time and a few coins of loose change and got a few of the pictures that I took this weekend, printed off by the photo kiosk. A photo tells a thousand words, they say. I headed for Greenline Coach Station, and could see that Neoplan 50127 was ready to take us all north. I headed upstairs, sat down, and pulled out the pictures for a quick look, and some texts were sent out too.
Now, you would have thought “that must surely be the end of the weekend now?” Nope!
One last bonus was the ride out of London. Most of the time, drivers leaving London would run via Hyde Park Corner, Park Lane, Marble Arch, Baker Street/Gloucester Place, Finchley Road, come off at Childs Hill, Brent Cross Flyover, North Circular, to Staples Corner, then the M1. However, we got to just after Hyde Park Corner, and traffic was gridlocked – yes, at ten to midnight on a Sunday night. So, we turned around using one of the turning lanes, and headed back to Hyde Park Corner. We left town via Knightsbridge, which was interesting to see all the changes. The building work on the Knightsbridge station (Harrods side) has all finished now. It was also interesting to see the changes in some of the shops – Harrods now also has a small food type shop on the other side of the road – and we then headed along via South Kensington, and towards Earls Court Tesco. At this point, we were on the M4, heading for the west (towards Heathrow), and we followed that to the M25, and joined the M1 shortly after. It was an extra bonus to be above ground and seeing some of these places, for the first time in ages.
Wow, what a weekend!
Saturday, March 31, 2007
A Tale Of Two CitiesWe woke up fairly early, promising to be “on the road” for 0830. We were still munching breakfast and chatting then. Caroline had prepared a “German breakfast”, and got all the names right – I think, it was early for me. She is REALLY spoiling me – and I’m not complaining! We hit the road a little early – 0850 – and we were refuelling at Royston Tesco at 0900. There was an Arriva Wright bodied single on a 331 to Hertford, which seems to form an “A10 corridor” group of routes – the 310 does Waltham Cross (not Enfield any more) to Hertford, then the 331, then the 26 of Stagecoach works from Royston to Cambridge. The appointment was not till 1130, so we had plenty time to get through all the traffic snarl-ups… with the Ford Ka…
… except that there weren’t any. Sarah & Sylvia got caught in these big time yesterday, and as I was reading it out, the Ka started swerving to the right… but very quickly rectified, before we hit the crash barrier! Oops… but anyway, this was once we’d got to the M25. By this point we went via A505, M11, M25, M23/A23 etc., A27 (Brighton By-Pass), then downhill at the University through to the Downs Hotel lights, then turning right.
In the car, I was ok. I became a little bit nervous in the car, but not too bad. I knew all the questions that I’d be asked, and I thought I had done enough question asking of my own, to know what was involved (see last Saturday between Montrose and Stracathro!) Sarah was in for her 10 week post op check-up, right before my initial consultation. I could see Sarah sat across the seating area, together with Sylvia, and Zoe. Sarah and Sylvia went off to see Phil Thomas, and Zoe stayed to wait for them, and then proceed to visit another friend of theirs upstairs (which I’ll come to later on). I was ok. If I’d not read the experiences of a previous visitor, then I’d be a lot more nervous here.
As S&S came out, Zoe joined them, and we agreed to talk and chat afterwards. At this point, Carla came out for more coffee for Phil, as to “perk him up a bit”… I didn’t ask. Just before the time came, I offered Caroline to come in with me… and she agreed! which was good. When the time came, Liz & Carla came out for me, and we spoke briefly on a few specifics, before being taken into see Phil himself. (we did briefly meet on the reception desk, although I only twigged later). He was then getting into all the specifics, explaining the specifics from his diagram. Then, the phone rang.
“Tell her to get her a**e in gear”… he said. (It was the 1230 appointment person, who had just arrived at Gatwick with around 40 minutes to go). True, he doesn’t mince his words right enough! I feel sorry for whoever that was… but the receptionist could probably filter it out. I’ve missed a variety of buses & trains over the years, so I could sort of sympathise – but we very quickly went back to my own issues. We talked about a number of things, and I was able to answer most of the questions… until they stumped me! “How heavy are you?”
Aah f**k. (My weight does have a habit of going up and down). “I don’t know… have you got a set of scales there?”
Well, they did – in the cubicle - and at 6 foot and 17 stones, I am currently a little overweight. I had to go back off behind the cubicle, on the bed for the physical, and I’d been warned last Saturday by Sarah that this could “mess with your mind”. It wasn’t so bad, but I could see why some people wouldn’t exactly enjoy it. I’ve had fingers and worse stuck up tighter places, so a brief check of the “area to be worked on”, and he said the words “hmm, that’s interesting”.
Turns out my weight is a bit baldy distributed. Although I am technically a little overweight, there is no build-up of fat on the area to be worked on. There is enough material to work with, and no requirement to get rid of any genital hair before hand. (Yes… that is a result – time, as well as cost and pain!)
So, we all got back to the main room (Phil, Liz/Carla, Caroline and myself), and we discussed what will happen. In brief, there is no need for any hair removal. There is no need to make any changes to my life, but losing 10 kilos would make me feel better, and make the recovery more pleasant. It wasn’t tied into the work or anything, it was just a suggestion – and it would also help my depression etc.). At the moment, I admit I am doing a bit of “comfort” eating, so cutting that out should make this easy. As for a date – well, the “first available” is quite a bit away, given that he is fully booked through the summer. We are therefore looking at late August, early September time. As has been echoed by just about everyone there, the staff there are fantastic. I wasn’t at all concerned or upset, but they wanted to reassure me as only they could. While this is the person who will be performing life-changing work on my body, the significance seems to be hitting in gently, rather than shaking me up.
We got out, and myself & Caroline sat down briefly (so I could send Sarah a text, as requested – Liz and friends encourage the use of mobiles at the hospital). We were happy, and Caroline was hugging me tightly. I wasn’t upset at all – in fact, fairly happy at the result.
As we were sat in the delightful waiting area downstairs (and I do mean that, the place seemed more like a hotel than a hospital), Sarah came downstairs alone (from the first floor of the hospital). She said that Jasmine and her mother were happy for me & Caroline to come and see them… and we headed upstairs to her front-facing room. This didn’t show us the view from the back of the hospital, but faced onto the Warren Road (lots of B&H 2’s and 22’s going past!). Now, if I remember rightly, this was her first day back on solid food post-op. She was happy, content, and enjoying the lot. So, for a Saturday morning, she was fairly talkative – and had to be, with myself, Sarah & Sylvia, Caroline, and Zoe (as well as her mother) to speak to. That wonderful post-op “glow” that is talked of seems to be already in place, and genuinely she was in no pain. Everyone says religiously that “it does not hurt” – but I don’t fear pain. As if I needed any more reassurance, Jasmine’s wellbeing was more than enough to show that yes, this was the right place. It somehow seemed that making it personal, and talking to people, has taken the edge off what could have been a routine appointment with an un-named person, in a huge hospital. Zoe left for Manchester, and soon after we left Jasmine & mom to chat for a bit, while we raided the coffee machine. Sarah, Sylvia, Caroline and I sat together in what is the ophthalmic outpatient waiting area, but not on Saturdays it would appear. One of the nurses passed, and recognised Sarah from her visit. That was reassuring. – by this point, I’d long passed the point of needing to be reassured. It just added to the atmosphere. Maybe I’m lucky, but then again, it means Sarah has also been lucky, Jasmine is lucky too, Zoe is coming here soon, and everyone else who has came and gone – many every week – are also being well cared for. I can live with that. It all seemed so “right”. The view from the back of the hospital, over the Downs, is like this…
S&S had offered the two of us to come to Cambridge for the evening, which we gracefully accepted. It was while we were sat down that she said “Neither of you are afraid of snakes, are you?” I’d remembered reading the story of Axmister’s bite, but Caroline appeared to have forgotten… but we agreed to meet up around six-ish.
We headed back, but headed back to the seats to avoid interrupting Jasmine’s bed bath. Her mother joined us in the seating area briefly, and we talked. It seemed wonderful that she was being so supportive of her daughter (in my eyes), and that she was willing to talk of such things. We rejoined Jasmine, and then left about quarter past two I think. We headed out to the car park, and I’d somehow managed to make a half hour appointment turn into to a three-hour visit – it truly is a wonderful hospital, the staff are good, the patients get exceptionally well cared for. As we left, I noticed a stash of copies of the current slimline edition of the Brighton & Hove bus timetable on a table behind the exit – Tails Prower 2040 had picked up one for me on his previous (completely different) visit to Brighton a few weeks ago, but I still love how they can fit the entire city map and summary timetables onto what is effectively an A3 sheet of paper! As you will have gathered, they seem to be magicians in this part of the world… maybe it’s something in the water!
(For the bus hairies reading this, there seemed to be a lot of Route 25 branded buses passing through Woodingdean on the 2/22, but I presumed these were just spare at he weekend because the 25 is the University service. If I remember rightly, and I am no expert on this part of the world, the 25 buses are the newest in the fleet – being the huge Scania OmniDekka 90-odd seater jobs – which looked just about every bit as functional as stylish. One in construction is on the front of the current [winter] edition of Pocket Bus Times).
So, we split here in the wind, vowing to meet again later in the evening. Sarah showed off by managing to start her Toyota Synergy hybrid drive car in electric mode – and yes, it was wonderfully quiet!
So, what a day so far – and it was far from over. We went back essentially via “outward route in reverse”, but I could tell someone was being especially thoughtful and caring for me! We agreed that because we were heading out for a curry in the evening, we didn’t want to fill up right now, but stopped at Clackett Lane services – another M-way services that I’d never visited before. I’m not collecting them or anything, but this weekend it seemed likely
Note that the Apple windscreen sticker was not applied by the current owner! I pointed this out when she visited to collect it, and she had not noticed it until then! We talked about all what we’d just seen and heard, and I was very happy - awestruck maybe. We then carried on the M25, naturally going through the Dartford Tunnel rather than across the QEII Bridge in this direction. I was in a wonderful state of mind – almost enjoying this a little too much.
It was about fourish by the time we left Clackett Lane, so we decided to head straight for Cambridge via the M11. S&S have a wonderful place not far from Cambridge Station, and directions were supplied by return text message. It was at this point that Caroline made her one slightly incorrect turning manoeuvre during the entire 250+ miles trip, and pulled into a bus stop to attempt a u-turn. We made it – just! Cambridge is a city I’ve never been to before, and it looked wonderful. MAN’s and Tridents of Stagecoach (ex Cambus) appeared to be the mainstay of the Citi branded network around the city, and were well loaded throughout. Some familiar faces could be seen on the Park & Ride services – the first batch of East London Tridents, which are now non-compliant for TfL work, but perfectly adequate for the rest of the world.
So, we got there, and found a tiny parking space – Caroline did well at parking the Ka in it, and we were reunited with S&S. We managed to interrupt Sarah’s livejournal posting session, which included a rant about her gridlocked M25 the day before! We met the snakes (my apologies that I didn’t remember all the names, but it had been a busy day by this point!), as well as talking about some trans related stuff too. After getting my rear kicked by Sarah on Super Mario Kart (I’ve not played it since SNES days, and this was my first shot on a GameCube), we headed for The Golden Curry.
They were unusually busy for a Saturday night, and the waiter apologised for this. They said that they had an unusually large group, which they don’t normally take on Saturdays. We had a small round table up against the window, which was perfect for conversing and watching the City go by (Citi?) The food was excellent, and probably the best that I’ve had from such an establishment. All the food was served up brilliantly, After much talk and entertainment all round, we headed back to S&S’s place for a bit, where a pot of Jasmine tea was served up in honour of the person we’d visited earlier! We called it a night around 2300, when Sarah started to flag. It was a truly wonderful night, and we left with safe wishes for my journey north.
Now, if you thought, “that day couldn’t possibility get any better”… there was still time!
We drove down the A10 to Royston, and headed straight to Caroline’s flat, which we had left about fourteen and a half hours before. We talked in the car, and I pointed out how well she’d looked after me for the weekend. We got back in her flat, and she started making hot chocolate. During this time, I slung my arms around her shoulders, and thanked her for everything… told her how I felt and what a wonderful person she was, and we sort of went from there. We sat down on the sofa, and we were very much in love. Caroline’s now my girlfriend, partner, lover, call it what you will. The next time we checked the clock, it was 0230 on Sunday morning. To avoid any suggestions of “April fools”, we agreed to metaphorically stoop the clock for a few hours at 23.59.59 on 31.03.2007… or do the bus industry/London underground trick and call it 2630 hours…
Remember when I was depressed back in January? A certain woman was first on the scene to say lots of nice things to me… and things went from there. I have turned my life around, and am now a very happy woman.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Dundee to Royston – on a Friday
I got to Dundee Bus Station in time for the 0900 megabus to London. To my own surprise, we started the trip with Volvo/Plaxton Panther 54009 – one of the brand new single deck, 65 seat, 15m long ones – pulls up, blinded M11 London. Is this wise, given that it’s a Friday? Well, this was all irrelevant as we changed to Neoplan Skyliner 50150 (double deck, 91 seat coach) at Perth Broxden Park + Ride.
I called Caroline on the bus, just as the controller came on the coach and yelled almost parallel to the mouthpiece of the phone… and then a young child was crying, quite a bit, so we decided to stick to texts for that point. We got in and out of Glasgow on time, to head south at 1100.
I briefly checked my email several times using the new brick (mobile). I had received an email from Stuart Henry at Travel West Midlands/Travel Dundee re my letter of complaint on Service 14. To their credit, they are willing to have a meeting at work (noting when I will be in and not). Travel Dundee’s MD is currently on annual leave, but back soon. I will deal with that in more depth early next week.
When we got to Preston Bus Station (pre-redevelopment), a few sights taken from the window of the coach included a Solo headed for Blackpool! We were very lucky with roadworks and accidents, because of many miles of stationery traffic on the M6, and then the M60, but both the opposite way! We were due into Manchester at 1540/out 1545, and were a bit late on the way out due to traffic (in the main). Roadworks then started to hit us – the M1 was meant to be a problem. Bear in mind that we were “due” into London at 2015. A few passengers asked about a stop (the toilet was blocked) when we did a driver change at Watford Gap Services, so we stopped there from 1900-1915. I sent Caroline a text at the “35 miles to London” point, but of course, that is when it starts hitting worse with M1 extensions and widening.
I spotted my first London bus – an ALX400 (DLA I think) from Arriva, running off the 142 dead back to Garston (Watford) garage. Now I know that I have (almost) arrived. Soon after, we got to the legendary Staples Corner (junction of the north Circular, Edgware Road, and the M1). It is now home to Staples stationery store, amongst others. Having said that, it was not where the name came from – apparently there used to be a mattress factory here called Staples – I never knew that until last week! We finally got in well over one hour late. I made it out to the tube station, and had enough credit on my Oyster card to make it to Finsbury Park for the First Capital Connect train to Royston. (The previous franchisee, National Express owned WAGN, was informally known as “We Are Going No-where”).
Now, here is a simple figure to work out.
Victoria to Kings Cross, £1.50 single by Oyster (off-peak) x 2 = £3.00
Kings Cross to Royston, £24.50 Saver Return
TOTAL - £27.50
Victoria to Finsbury Park, £1.50 single by Oyster (off-peak) x 2 = £3.00
Finsbury Park to Royston, £20.50 Saver Return
TOTAL - £23.50
So, work out how the same length of journey can cost an extra four quid, for no additional saving – just a different stop to jump ship. Kings Cross to Finsbury Park is about the same on the Victoria Line as it is on the overground – the latter gets about seven minutes. I had to visit overground briefly to get tickets for this bit of the run, and the first three machines had issues – only the fourth and final one was working! The new Finsbury Park bus station (remember I’ve not been here for some time) has been tidied up quite a bit, from the one I used to remember from years gone by!
So, from Finsbury Park north, not quite the 2057 (fast) or even the 2111 (stopper) that I expected to get – in fact, not until the 2211 stopper an hour later! so I sent a text to Caroline to tell her… and got one back saying “I somehow knew you would not be here until 11 hunny. I’ll be at the station waiting for you”. This is nice… even more so as the train didn’t leave Finsbury Park until two and a half minutes late! The train was a nice electric thingy, but still in Network SouthEast livery (or so it looked like), and the sealing strips were hanging off the side of the wall. Lots of label sticking of new fleetnames, and even a nice poster about how things would improve under the new franchise with First. That sounds familiar… In any case, it was a quiet and smooth journey, and although it sounded like Ned-U-(Don’t)-Like at Hitchin, I was the only one in my carriage for the last few stops to Royston. The train was blinded (and announced) “Cambridge via Stevenage” until after we left there, and it became “all stations to Cambridge”. Anyway, we got in about six minutes late to Royston, and Caroline was there, waiting for me. We chatted for a bit, and then she worked on supper until about 0100 hours on Saturday morning. Appreciated, given that I’d been travelling for 14 hours…
Tomorrow is going to be more fun – a visit to the surgeon and back. The rest of the day is pretty much open. Wonder what might happen…?
Thursday, March 29, 2007
(Thanks for all the messages and words of support in the meantime).
regards, love & hugs
p.s. In the meantime, who can Spot The Suzy in this picture, taken by Andrew Macintosh? Taken at Newtyle Church on the “last Leopard” day. Everyone has their back to the camera – see if you can guess which one I was…
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Oh dear…Today started well, then I had to get out of bed! Laughing but it is true! So true… spent an hour looking for my purse, and ended up finding it after nibbling on chocolate. Now, I’d not had any coffee first thing this morning – unusually – maybe that was why.
Currently wondering how I would be after several days without caffeine. Last time I was in hospital back in 2001, that was different – I ended up with a headache. Next time, that might not be a problem…
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Anyway, where was I – oh yeah – this is the first time I’ve ever complained in such a ”strong” manner. Given the severity of the situation, and the fact that non-existent snow was blamed for the problems, I think this needs more than just an acknowledgement…
Monday, March 26, 2007
So near, yet so far away
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Summer Time Started When?
David said “I didn’t wake you up did I ?” and I for once tried to say “No…” completely unconvincingly… still, never mind, went back to bed for a lie-down, and ended up asleep until the back of four…
When having the radio on later, the comment was made “You know when you sleep too long, and you feel worse for it?”
Well, today I do.
Labels: quiet day
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Farewell To The Leopard
Over the years, Strathtay have had three numbering systems – letter prefixes from 1985 to 1993, the three-digit numbers from 1993 to 2006, and the five-digit Stagecoach “telephone” numbers thereafter. Between 1985 and 1993, the numbers of Leopards ranged from SL1 to SL69, but not all at the same time (plus towing vehicles). At renumbering, those in the fleet were renumbered i.e. SL18 became 518 – 5xx series being used for the Leopards, and the four P-type Tigers. During this time, a further two examples (570, 573) were acquired. In 2005, the fleet were allocated Stagecoach series numbers, but following the CC enquiry, application did not start until 2006.
So, to begin with, we all made it to Dundee bus station in time for the 0900 departure on Service 57. The service bus is Trident 18506 (now back at Blairgowrie), but the duplicate was Leyland Leopard 25773.
25773 (EGB 73T) was new as Central Scottish T341, eventually being sold by KCB Network (1473) to Strathtay (573). During 2005 this vehicle went to Meffan’s, who have since been absorbed into Strathtay. It’s manual gearbox, and made for an interesting run for the first two journeys – 57 Dundee to Perth via Blairgowrie, and 16 Perth to Dundee.
As we backed out of Dundee with more than twenty passengers on board (more than the service bus managed!), we had the company’s network manager Dougie King at the wheel. Drivers were all Stagecoach group staff and managers, with Matthew Tosh volunteer conductor for the day. The promotional merchandise cupboard at head office was raided, and passengers were rewarded with pens, pencils, rulers, and AirDirect747.com branded mints…. All takings from the duplicate buses are to be donated to the Dundee Maggie’s Cancer Centre.
As there was enough time, photo stops were taken at Newtyle Church, Alyth Square, and then we crossed the River Echt into Blairgowrie. As we did so, we were in the queue for the lights, and our driver managed to stall the bus… We changed drivers at Blairgowrie Wellmeadow, and this gave us time to swap drivers too – with the former Strathtay commercial manager/director Sholto Thomas taking over the wheel. One of the long serving Blairgowrie drivers got out of his car a bit down the road for one last photo of a Leopard in Blar.
We got to Coupar Angus, and had a photo stop at George Street. During this time, the driver of the Trident in front of us was trying to get our attention for some reason. He wanted our driver to be reminded that he had to go into Scone Park + Ride (57’s have only been going this way since the beginning of January.). So, we did, and this worked out nicely for a photo stop with an almost new MAN/East Lancs on Stagecoach Perth Service 7. As the driver said once we got to Perth Bus Station “I wanted him to know how we feel…”
Upon arrival at Perth Bus Station, numerous goodies to behold. Once we’d finished with the take-away, there were buses outside to be nabbed too! The “service bus” on the 16 was Volvo/Wright 21124 (ex 613), PSU 374. The driver Gerry was quite pleased with the idea of a duplicate, and even more so if the dup would take all the passengers! Several additional passengers joined the bus here, and this included the Stagecoach Scotland MD, Robert Andrew.
We had another Stagecoach manager driving us out of Perth to Dundee, and photo stops were taken at Errol Cross, and Longforgan Turning Circle. In-between both of those, we were travelling up towards Grange Level Crossing, and had the turn for the minor unclassified road past Powgavie Farm towards Kingoodie (no bus service since 1986), Despite several calls from the back of the bus to go “straight on”, the driver turned right, calling me to question “just what part of ‘turn right’ didn’t he understand?"...We got back to Dundee. 25773 reversed into place, to pair up beside the next one, 25709…
25709 (TMS 409X) was new as Midland Scottish MPE409, but became Strathtay SL45 at the bus group reshuffle in 1985. In 1993 it became 545, then later 25709. Towards the end, it was earning its keep on a school run from Blairgowrie to Alyth, or some runs on Service 60. This bus has an (semi?) automatic gearbox.
We left Dundee towards Arbroath and Montrose on Service 39, with around 37 passengers on board! The bus was driven by Arbroath depot’s Jamie McEwan, who got off at Arbroath to allow him to work his shift driving the newer buses of the fleet! All told, we had about 45 different passengers on the various trips, with some coming for a quick taste, others travelling for the whole day. The service bus that we were duplicating was Volvo/East Lancs 16935 (Ex 715). A photo stop was taken between Dundee and Arbroath at Ethiebeaton Park (Dobbies Garden Centre), where Strathtay (now Bluebird) Commercial Manager Jim Gardiner nabbed the bus for a picture. From Arbroath, Dougie drove us north once more, and this continued at Montrose as Service 30 to Stracathro Hospital.
As the bus was heading north of Arbroath (just after David had rang), I had a quick check of my emails on my mobile phone, and I had one from Sarah, replying to one I’d sent her the day before. I sent her a text message, as it was a little bit easier than tapping in wap… As we were heading north out of Montrose, I got another call ion – from Sarah herself. Only thing was, 25709 was making quite a noise, as I am sure you can imagine. So, I said I would call her shortly – and after a brief photo stop at Brechin Panmure Street, we got to Stracathro Hospital. The hills and open fields of the Howe of the Mearns were in view, and I wandered over the grass and called her back. We talked for a bit, and afterwards I raided the timetable stand at Stracathro Hospital (not that there was a lot there) before we got ready to head south-westerly as a 21 towards Forfar.
We were due off at 1600, and Volvo/Wright 21126 (ex 615) PSU 376 got to Stracathro sharpish, and drove out just as quick (perhaps not realising he had management watching… and then following?) Well, this bus had a reputation for doing some serious speed when needed – quite often the limiter would kick in – so it was kept back for 16’s, and some short Megabus duplicates. This bus went off in service through Brechin, and out onto the A90. Dougie drove the Leopard with quite a good performance – mind you, anything less on a dual carriageway could be seen as a problem! For what was one of the fastest buses in Dundee depot (when 21126 used to be there), I was somewhat surprised that 25709 managed to catch it up! We left the A90 at Quilkoe Junction (the one before that for Kirriemuir – where you can head to Forfar, but not leave it), and at Heatherstacks Farm, we had someone who wanted to overtake the Leopard. Good, he did… fast overtake… oh **** where did the other bus come from perhaps, when hw saw the Volvo in front… lol
So that was, almost it, The driving of the last run of the day went to Sholto, and this duplicated the Service 20 (a M95x XES series Olympian) from Forfar to Dundee. Once we got into Dundee, we even did the City Centre loop – we didn’t have to, but who could deny one last lap of honour, especially as the driver was enjoying himself?
You can see all my pics on my Fotopic site. Many thanks to everyone who helped with today’s events, and thanks for observing the notable event that it was. This week’s £5.80 spent on a Rover was therefore totally different to the runs I had last Saturday, but will of course be totally different to that of next weekend!
Friday, March 23, 2007
More of the same – x2
54010, the newish Volvo/Plaxton Panther that I got home two weeks ago, is my chariot south to Glasgow this time. Third time I’ve been on one of these fifteen meter long beasts (sorry!), and I’ve only just realised that the seat armrests CAN roll forwards! During the trip, several passengers were still having difficulty with the lights and ventilation! Never mind…
I forgot to mention it here last time, but First Glasgow have a two-journey off-peak ticket for £2.00 – two journeys anywhere (return or transfer) for £2.00 (well almost anywhere, not the X6 and one or two others). As that would do me to/from Sandyford, that was purchased 32600, on the 16 heading west. I only noticed this for the first time about a month ago, but the building occupied by Sandyford used to be the Glasgow Eye Hospital… did you know? We had our usual hour to talk, and I’ve managed to complete the brief overview of space, time, and Suzy’s major life points so far.. lol
In all seriousness, these are proving to be very useful, especially on getting a “third party” opinion on things. Alex noticed that I was noticeably happier this time, and getting that way every time I’ve visited her so far! The time was also used to talk about my future, including a few things that I’d not said to anyone else so far… hopes, worries, fears, or just being delusional? A bit of everything I think! I go back again in three weeks.
I thanked Alex for yet another useful session, and left the centre. First Glasgow Service 57 is now terminating in Sauchiehall Street opposite Sandyford Place i.e. back to the “old” arrangement (thus meaning if you want dropped off opposite the centre, you won’t need to walk around the block in the rain…) 61024 took me into town, got a few things, before taking the subway up to Buchanan Street (car 206 – one of the to-be-refurbished trailers), and then 54008 took me north on the M8 back to Dundee at 1330. In heading to work, I was in Whitehall Street looking for a bus, and then walking-and-looking-at-something-else meant that a Travel Dundee driver walked right into me. Oops!
"WE ARE angry and irate workers for Site in Dundee’s technology park.
The Travel Dundee 14 bus is constantly 20 minutes late, making us late for work.
Several of us have emailed and telephoned Travel Dundee to no avail.
We are angry this has been on-going since November, with no explanation.
A dozen or more workers are hit. — Sitel Employees."
Unfortunatly, Travel Dundee have given us the brush-off...
Stuart Henry, corporate affairs manager, said, “Firstly we would like to thank the readers who took the time to raise issues surrounding our 14 bus service.
“Comments from our customers are vital if we are to continue to operate an efficient network across the city.
“With regards to the general level of service, Travel Dundee, like all other road users, experienced huge problems during the days of the recent heavy snowfall which we saw in the city. This adverse weather impacted on the timetables of all our services throughout that two-day period.
“With regards to the 14 service, in particular, we would like to urge those passengers who have raised direct concerns surrounding the service, to contact us directly by phoning us on (01382) 201121 or, if easier, email us at email@example.com with the specific times and dates that it’s claimed the services were operating late.
“If there is a larger issue, then we would be very happy to meet with the complainants to ensure a positive outcome.
“We are constantly monitoring our bus services and are committed to providing a first-class service.”
It would appear that the manager in question is based at Travel West Midlands head office in Brum, where there was snow recently! As my own boss then said when I tried to explain this… “What f******g snow?”
So, 2300, finished, home – for now – and I get to stay in bed for an extra hour before going out tomorrow. Yey!
Thursday, March 22, 2007
So, another “review” visit to my own doctors. As I’d been on the new stuff for a month, he wanted to ensure all had gone well. That bit went well enough, and I was even able to get my repeat prescriptions (which I would have got earlier in the week, but because I was visiting here today, it would not have been any quicker).
Anyway – same story as before, I try to save time by visiting the local chemist up the road, and they’ve got one item out of stock… and one of those that I’d ideally need today… but I found some in town. Back to work fairly quickly, and onto 2300.
Good news is, I think that will now be me “stocked” for two months – assuming nothing else goes wrong in the meantime! Next visit to the gp isn’t even booked at the moment, largely because they are getting a systems upgrade next month.
Now you know why I buy a DaySaver on my trips to the doctors…
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Race For Life – Sponsors Required
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Do we have to?
Monday, March 19, 2007
We Couldn't Start The Generator...
I got to work, and everyone is being sent home! The generator has apparently “blown up” and the building was in darkness!
Message for other Sitel (formerly ClientLogic) staff at Riverside House Dundee – don't worry, no-one is injured or hurt, and there are no obvious signs of damage to the building. If you are due in on Tuesday (20 March), call 07917 766879 and listen to the recorded message, sometime on Tuesday morning. This will explain if work is still closed or not.
I guess now with being sent home, I truly HAVE done everything at work...
... so at the moment, I am sat in Ubernet typing this up...
Hammy Is Dead...
"well I died yesterday thursday 8th march 2007, I wasnt well for a couple of weeks and finally my wee body just gave up... oh well its off 2 heaven I go where there will be loads of nuts to eat and I can sleep all the time... forever."
Two from TfL
Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone today welcomed the first ever three-year pay and conditions agreement between London Underground and the trade unions covering all staff.
The unprecedented agreement follows a sharp fall in disruption due to industrial disputes since the Mayor took control of the Underground in July 2003.
Mayor Ken Livingstone said: "This three-year agreement is great news for both Tube passengers and staff and is a real landmark achievement.
"Passengers will benefit from the stability provided by the first three-year deal for all staff in the history of the Underground.
"Staff will receive above inflation pay rises each year. At the same time, we will be investing record amounts in renewing the Tube.
"Whilst there will always be differences from time to time, my administration is committed to developing a partnership between the trade unions and management to deliver the best possible services to Londoners.
"This agreement is a good example of what that approach can achieve."
The three-year agreement runs from April 2006 to April 2009 and provides for the following pay increases:
- Year 1 (payable from April 2006): 4 per cent
- Year 2 (payable from April 2007): RPI+0.5 per cent (or 3 per cent whichever is greater)
- Year 3 (payable from April 2008): RPI+0.6 per cent (or 3 per cent whichever is greater)
All Underground staff are also eligible for a bonus of £250 or £500 each year if customer satisfaction targets are met or exceeded.
TSSA members voted to accept the London Underground offer by over 80 per cent in November last year.
The British Transport Officers' Guild has also accepted the offer.
ASLEF is balloting its members on the offer, with a recommendation to accept, and the RMT advised London Underground today that they have accepted the offer.
London Underground Managing Director Tim O'Toole said: "This multi-year pay deal is a real achievement, particularly as it is the first for several years to be accepted by all the trades unions without any industrial action.
"This agreement is good news for both passengers and Underground staff as it delivers stability to the Underground for three years and allows us to concentrate on the delivery of the major line upgrades - the first of which, the Jubilee line, is due to be due to be delivered in 2009."
Metropolitan Police officers working with Transport for London (TfL) have arrested a number of suspects believed to be linked to the biggest counterfeit operation ever perpetrated on the capital's transport system.
The suspects arrested may hold valuable information about a wide scale counterfeit fraud of Bus Saver tickets, believed to be masterminded by international organised criminals.
This criminal operation has resulted in the need to withdraw the current design of Bus Saver tickets and introduce a new design from the summer.
David Brown, Managing Director of Surface Transport for TfL said: 'The criminals who have carried out this deception have now added to their list of dubious achievements the exploitation of some of London's most vulnerable people who rely on these discounted tickets to get around the capital.
'We will not tolerate this fraud and we are taking action against those involved this week.
'Every pound these criminals skim off Transport for London's revenue is a pound taken away from transport services for all Londoners.
'We will be withdrawing the current Saver ticket between spring and summer this year to help stamp out this racket, so customers should be aware they have around four months to use up any leftover stocks.'
It is believed the sophisticated counterfeits have penetrated at least 10 per cent of the current Bus Saver ticket circulation - which itself makes up around 10-12 per cent of the Pay-as-you-go market.
Bus Saver tickets account for around 8m bus passenger journeys a year out of a total of 1.8bn journeys overall.
A new design of ticket, with a number of both covert and overt anti- counterfeit measures, is currently being produced and will be on sale from 2 April.
The current design will no longer be accepted on London Buses after 30 June 30, and we would advise anyone with spare tickets at home to use them over the next four months as there will be no refund or exchange of tickets.
In the morning...
I then left the hospital, came back to town...
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Late changes of plan
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Started on the 1125 20B from Dundee to Forfar, with Volvo/Wright single deck 21126. The bus driver correctly waited to time at Gateside Road End (until 1150), as we had arrived a couple of minutes early. This somewhat frustrated the passenger sat opposite me!
I got to Forfar, battled the winds, and waited on the next journey. On my trip in October, I mentioned that Strathtay were taking on some work to the Forfar depot from the “sister” company Meffan’s. Neil Meffan has since retired, and the remaining school buses from Kirriemuir depot will be relocated onto Strathtay licences. It means that it is coming up for five months since Strathtay’s Forfar depot took on the 117 (morning journey), 124/125 and 128 services. Mercedes Vario/Alexander ALX100 42357 had been transferred from Hull to Forfar for the 117/124/125. The bus does not have seatbelts, but has been fitted with an orange LED destination display. So, the driver had his last smoke for now, and we got ready for 1238 departure time (after a quick call to the boss, for help with navigating).
Today was the first day of Glamis Castle’s “summer” season opening. (Note previous comments about snow due anytime now). So, as a result, most journeys on the 124/125 (and Sunday service 20C) now run into the castle grounds. We squeezed the bus through the gates in, and back out. We then headed for Eassie and Newtyle, and the driver then questioned if I’d done this run before (I was the only passenger). I said that I had a few times, then he said “is this the right road for Eassie?” Well, when Meffan’s drivers did the route, it was often made up on the spot, so anything sometimes went in that regard. We had a passenger waiting for us, who got on during the one-way sector of route on the way to Newtyle. The driver actually went the “correct” way around Newtyle to end outside the church, not opposite it as the Meffan’s drivers did every time!
So, I got off the bus here, and had seven minutes before the next one. We’d got in two minutes early, so no rush! Trident/ALX400 18509 on the 57 took me from Newtyle to Blairgowrie, where I then found I had an hour and a bit to spare before my next bus. More extravagant spending i.e. £8 on a new jacket, as well as some new skirts which I liked the look of. (Almost floor length, even on me, is a challenge!) It was at this point that I had a text in from Adam… and an exchange of texts saw me agree to take on his shift tomorrow evening.
After this, a bit of something different. While Strathtay have ran a Service 71 in Dundee since 1999 (and a previous 71 from 1986-1989), they added another earlier this year. From Monday 7th January 2007, they took over the contract from Smith & Sons for Service 71, which links communities to the north-west of Blairgowrie. The bus leaves Blairgowrie, over the River Echt, and heads up Hatton Road, over the “bailey” bridge, through Bridge of Cally, Ballintimum, Kirkmichael, passing Straloch Primary School, before reversing at a “private road” sign at Tarvie Road End. However, on Saturdays, two journeys have been newly extended beyond Tarvie to continue to Moulin and Pitlochry. Tarvie is an un-natural terminus, and it’s been this way for more than two decades. Glenisla Coaches had ran the route as long as I can remember, before Smiths won the tender in 1995. The number (71) was added in the 1999 retendering by Perth & Kinross Council. I did the bit from just before Kirkmichael to Pitlochry previously on Service 501 last summer, but this is totally different. This was the tenth week of the extended service, and it was one of the reasons I wanted to go for a bash today.
A good choice for today’s run was Mercedes Vario 42225 – the newest step-entrance bus at Blairgowrie that was small enough! We had one other passenger on the way up from Blairgowrie to Kirkmichael, and of course I was going end-to-end, i.e. Blairgowrie to Pitlochry, on the 1507 departure. We climbed out of Blairgowrie passed the redevelopment of Keathbank Mill, the “snow gates”, the holiday park, through the villages, over the signal-controlled clattering “bailey bridge”, before dropping our passenger in Kirkmichael. After that, it was a winding single-track road for most of the way to Pitlochry, and it had proven too much (in the wind, but dry) for one driver, who was being recovered from the fields by a contractor. We got into Pitlochry with a moment or two to spare, and I had about 10 minutes – long enough to see former Tayside Volvo H157 CSP still in at Yule’s depot, and Stagecoach Perth’s 56-plate Solo on the 24 shuttles.
For the return, we had two passengers as far as Kirkmichael too! One other female passenger boarded the 71 from Pitlochry to Kirkmichael, and I stayed on through to Blairgowrie Tesco (stop on the one-way loop around Wellmeadow). The driver who we spotted crashed on the way to Pitlochry was now being towed back, and passed us shortly after the “Blairgowrie 22” (miles) sign. Interesting to see a new section of route that has lasted just 10 weeks with as many passengers as the established bit of the service!
Anyway, Volvo B7/East Lancs 16932 of Dundee depot, on their early evening run on the 57, took me back from Blairgowrie to Dundee. Not sure where the intended Trident was, but this was almost good enough – except the bus needed a shutdown-and-reboot at Rattary Cross… and subsequently put in a fairly good turn of power for most of the trip. The drivers module (ticket machine data cartridge) was showing as full, so he was advised by control to issue manually written emergency tickets. This slowed the trip a little, as each fare had to be looked up in the book! I got off just round the corner from home, and got to the foot of the stairs, to see a couple in full embrace in my doorway. I waited till she made eye contact, and wiggled my keys and asked if I could squeeze by… they moved…