Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Back on Board

On a recent visit to London I invited myself for a visit to my old boat Starcross and to meet, for the first time, the lovely people that bought her and have made her into a wonderful home.

Chris and Jess were happy to allow me aboard and gave up their evening to ply me with food and drink and show me the transformation they had brought about to what had become a very run down boat in urgent need of attention.

Obviously as live-aboards they have very different priorities and the work they have done  ("done" not "had done" - i.e. they did it all themselves) has improved her no end.  It was an odd experience for me - some things were completely different whilst others were just as I remembered them.  They were happy for me to take some photos so you can compare them with some I took when Starcross was put up for sale and see for yourselves:  
and new
The kitchen area (old)

Looking back from the front (new)

Looking back from the front (old)

I don't have and "before" shots of the bathroom area, but that has also had a complete makeover. No discussion of a boat would be complete without a reference to the toilet arrangements and Starcross now has a composting loo. This replaces the old Thetford Cassette loo, the emptying of which was usually my job!
The new loo

Chris and Jess have kept the old Villager solid-fuel stove but added diesel-powered central heating. They've added solar panels and also removed as much gas as possible, doing away with the troublesome Morco water heater and the gas oven, which we hardly ever used, replacing it with the boaty version of an Aga.  They've replaced most of the lighting and painted the old tongue-and-grove wood panelling white, which makes a surprising difference to the ambiance inside the boat.  I think I approve of (nearly) everything they've done. They've certainly made it into a lovely home.

It all brought back a lot of memories and although I knew that they have no plans to sell I couldn't help asking, as I left, for "first refusal" if they ever do. . . . . . .

Thursday, 1 June 2017

There and Back Again

My certificate, given to me by Hilary
I've only just got around to posting this but on 22nd May I completed my bus tour "Around the Edge of England", arriving back at the same bus stop at Bridge Road, Lancaster from where I set off in April 2015.
Regular readers will know that I haven't been travelling continuously all that time and that the journey was done in stages as and when time was available.

Full details are on the Around the Edge of England by Bus blog but the basics are:

I travelled on 51 days
Covered 5,000 kilometres
Used 257 buses
13 Ferries
5 trains
3 trams
1 "electric railway"
1 miniature railway
1 pier railway
1 tube train (on a pier) 
1 "floating bridge"
1 transporter bridge
and a hovercraft.

Most of the bus travel was free, because I am the lucky owner of an English National Concessionary Bus Pass, but it did cost me:
£37.80  in bus fares for journeys before 09.30 (before when the pass isn't valid)
£34 on ferries
£22.55 on train fares
£17.30 for buses in Scotland
£12.50 for tram fares
£12.40 on the hovercraft (by far the most expensive journey per kilometre)
£1.60 on the transporter bridge
40p on the floating bridge
The pier railway and the tube train on the pier were included in the ferry fares and I forgot to record how much the fare was on the (Volk's)  Electric Railway.

97.3% of the 257 buses did exactly what they were supposed to do and 77% of them were exactly on time, with most of the rest being no more than 10 minutes late. I think this is a tribute to how well the bus industry is run and what a reliable and dependable form of transport buses are.  I only had to adapt my plans to cope with disruption twice and those changes were minor and easily accomplished.  The trains that took me to and from each leg of the journey caused more problems than all the buses combined.

Most bus drivers' behaviour could be described as "neutral". They did the job, but nothing else (although the automatic reading of bus passes by the ticket machines much reduces the scope for interaction between drivers and passengers). The friendliest drivers, without a doubt, were on the Isle of Wight. There was really only one unfriendly soul - ironically on the very last bus of the trip, although I did witness a rather heated confrontation between one driver and one passenger over a fare.

Roughly one-third of the 257 buses I used were double-deckers, which I consider far superior to single-deckers, some of which were very cramped and uncomfortable. (For those who don't know me I am  1.86m tall and most buses are designed for shorter folk.)  In all honesty I couldn't recommend local buses as a particularly comfortable means of transport.

The travel was extremely safe. I experienced one very minor collision between a bus and the roof of an overhanging building and saw one passenger, who was standing up and not holding on when the bus suddenly accelerated, slightly hurt. These were the only safety-related incidents.

My favourite stretches of route were in North Cornwall, Northumberland and the Cumberland coast and my least favourite were in north Kent and south Essex.

Now where shall I go next?

Friday, 26 May 2017

An Hour in Barrow in Furness

I only went to Barrow to get the bus out, but the combination of train times from Lancaster and infrequent bus times on the coast road to Ulverston meant I had an enforced hour to spend in the town.

Like much of the north-west, and indeed the country as a whole, Barrow has seen better days and I did wonder whether sixty whole minutes might be too long, especially first thing on a Monday morning, when nowhere is at its best.

But I was pleasantly surprised.  Most towns have a statue or two to commemorate some local bigwig - usually a military man or an industrialist who made his money on the backs of the local workforce. To be fair, Barrow has at least one of these, but the statue right in the town centre is rather different:

They may be anonymous, but at least you can be sure they worked for a living.

Then there was this chap:

These mannequins turn up outside butchers' shops all over the country in a variety of different coloured aprons, with or without hats and sometimes with cleavers or other implements of the butchery trade. Regular readers of this blog might not be surprised to learn that I have a growing collection of photographs of them.  In Barrow I bagged two - "Big Baz" above on the High Street and his smaller cousin in the market hall.

On another stall in the market I was able to buy some of my favourite sweets  direct from Wigan. . . 

. . .served as they should be - from a glass (well, plastic) jar into a paper bag.

"and finally" (as befits a news-related item) Barrow is one of the last places where the (locally-owned) "evening" newspaper (on sale in the mornings these days) is still sold through on-street newsvendors

Even though he wasn't shouting out "Evenin' Maaaaaail" or some such, I couldn't resist buying a copy of the paper from which I learnt the astonishing news that Barrow's rugby league team had just played an away match in Toronto, Canada, following the admission of the Toronto Wolfpack to the third tier of the English Rugby League!

So, after an hour in the town I could hardly tear myself away to get the bus!

Monday, 24 April 2017

Hold Tight Please!

I've noticed that, increasingly, younger bus passengers remain in their seats until the bus comes to a stop, even when sitting at the back or upstairs. Meanwhile, more elderly passengers struggle down the aisle to reach the entrance so as to be ready to alight as soon as the bus comes to a stop, even when laden down with shopping or other baggage.
In days gone by we were all expected to do this so as not to delay the bus a moment longer than necessary, and if we stumbled or the bus jolted us we just thought we must be more careful next time.

Of course, it could be that younger people actually read - and obey - the various notices now found on buses telling them to stay in their seats.  Here's one I saw on a Stagecoach bus recently - it's quite clear that passengers should stay seated until the bus stops, presumably because to do otherwise is dangerous.  What it doesn't explain is what the 24 STANDING passengers are supposed to do!

Of course, if everyone obeyed these notices, buses would spend so long at stops that they'd never get anywhere on time!