suzyscottdotcom: (Roary&Me)

When I did the last one of these, I did not intend to make this into a monthly personal blog post, but then again, I’ve been busy. Also, the State of the Suzy posts were meant to be every month – who knows…?

 

A is for Anniversary. Yesterday was our 3 Years 4 Months anniversary. We didn’t do anything special (see under C) but we had a little celebratory meal inside the day before, in addition to the events under C.

 

B is for Busy. Yes, been busy again.

 

C is for Civil Partnership. I was at a friend’s, which was my first, yesterday. Malc and Ray got hitched in the Hotel Russell. A handful of random photo shots here, but suffice to say, we enjoyed the day.


D is for Driving Licence.
Well, I got the full “clean bill of health” from the HD Clinic earlier this year, so I decided I would apply for a driving licence. I’ve never had one before, and I did know that one day, it would be refused or revoked on medical grounds. Well, it transpires that as my meds sometimes make me sleepy, they aren’t even giving me a provisional. (They even sent me £50 application fee back, which came in handy the week before payday!)  So, Plan B was to apply for one of these travel permits (“bus pass” as they are otherwise known), or ENCTS (English National Concessionary Travel Scheme). Bear in mind that I’ve now been refused a driving licence, I now qualify, so nothing to lose! I took the application down to the council offices in Letchworth a week past Friday (22nd July), and arrived in the post yesterday (31st July)! So, yes, I now get free travel, across most of England, off-peak (or all day in London & Herts). As you can probably imagine, this may well save me some money! Before anyone reminds me that this is subsidised by the taxpayer, my income is taxed too, so I am still contributing substantially towards the cost. I knew I’d be refused a driving licence one day, the HD would see to that. However, it was a bit of a surprise, but Plan B was a good one! (Plan C was to appeal Plan B, then Plan D was to appeal Plan A). Interestingly, driving licence applications give you six months to appeal in England or Wales, or 21 days in Scotland. Why the difference?


F is for feelings. Again, doing very well.

 

G is for Girlfriend. Caroline is now working in Stevenage, following the relocation of her work, earlier this week.

 

H is for Hospital, which was under A last time (Addenbrooke’s). Well, I’ve had the dietician appointment, fine; some good points included a kilo and a half less since my referral letter! I am still waiting for the call back re the other appointment from the Gastroenterology department, so my Doctor is now chasing.

 

R is for Randomness. Now, Dougie (thebustocrookes) does an interesting thread called #randomchocolatetuesday where he takes a random chocolate, photographs it, then eats it – the posts are a lot better than this brief recap. So, if I had to do one Random thing, what should it be, and when? In previous work, when I didn’t work Fridays, I had my own personal policy of “try something new Friday” – back in the days before this blog! So, what should mine be? Transport related, GF food related, Health related, Love related, Clothing related, Shopping related, Coffee related? Thoughts would be welcome…

 

S is for Shopping. End of month means a few new things, as ever. However, I mention this as I’ve got a new wardrobe – well, got some more clothing, ordered online. MY account was clear, and it’s around this time of year that I need some stuff for both seasons. Some stuff I’d not had on in a long time… C seems to like the way the slinky vests go around my chest!

 

T is for Tigers. Well, I will try and keep transport stuff separate from these posts, but Tiger Line/Woottens are my main employer, so there may be the odd sighting or report here! In my post earlier today, I explain how things are going, with a picture of one of the repainted buses. Monday 9th August is the target date, and I’ve just got the resetting of the Wayfarer (ticket machines), setting up the electronic blinds (the traditional blinds for the new Tigers have arrived, and been fitted) and the last bit of route learning, and the launch. Duties are being issued to drivers this week, and all going well, we’re ready to roll on 9th August 2010. You can see a set of pictures here, which includes some “mid-way through” shots.

 

 

On top of all that, there are some other projects that I’m doing, behind the scenes.

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Caroline left the car in the garage for it’s annual MOT (annual government mandatory roadworthiness inspection test)…
Cut for length and pics )
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Further to this post earlier...



RMT slams “damaging” TfL fare increases

 

TUBE AND TfL union RMT today slammed confirmation from Mayor Boris Johnson that tube fares will increase by 3.9% from next year and bus fares by over 12% as “dire news in the middle of a recession which will be deeply damaging to passenger numbers and revenue income.”

In further bad news for public transport in the capital, TfL's business plan, to be considered by TfL's board next week, includes the deferral by three years of all remaining station renewals which were to have been completed by the failed private Tube maintenance company Metronet.

Also work to upgrade one of the Tube's busiest stations - Victoria - will not now be completed until 2018 and the business plan suggests that there will be some bus service reductions and reductions in service on some parts of the Tube.

Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary, said today:

"RMT firmly believes that any increase in fares above inflation will be damaging and will drive passengers away from the system deepening the financial crisis at TFL. The shocking increases confirmed today will have a dire impact on passenger numbers, will force more people back into their cars and make a mockery of the green agenda promoted by the Mayor of London.

“A large chunk of the multi-billion financial black hole facing TFL is a direct result of the failure of tube privatistion. Passengers and staff are being asked to pay a heavy price for the failures of politicians and it is no surprise that they are angry at these heavy weight fare increases.

“The continuing shambles over the station renewals and upgrade programme following the collapse of Metronet is just another part of the grim legacy from the privatisation disaster. The politicians who created this mess should be taking responsibility instead of asking passengers and staff to take the financial hit.”


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In addition to the most obvious change of status (last week), it’s clearly not my week this week either.

Monday I felt unwell, run down, tired, but more so than usual. Made plans to go out Tuesday, but hoped I’d not be unwell then too.

Tuesday, day out.
Bought my Explorer ticket off Arriva The Shires 2404 on the 331, although my first journey was on
Richmond’s Solo YJ 05 YMY 23 Royston, Bus Station – Hitchin, St Mary’s Square (driver doesn’t do change!)
Arriva Volvo/Wright 3302 100 Hitchin, Hermitage Road – Stevenage, Lister Hospital
Was going to change at the bus station, but as the next bus was behind..
Arriva Enviro 3557 301 Stevenage, Lister Hospital – Hatfield, Gracemead House
Had planned to get off at Welwyn but stayed on for the next one
Uno Dart 574 624 Hatfield, Gracemead House – Watford, Town Centre
Driver swapped at St Albans, and the outgoing driver was upset about his controller phoning his mobile! The replacement driver was okay, but questioned if I was interested in him, while snapping up the bus at Watford… he didn’t spot the engagement ring then!
Woottens Tiger/East Lancs A12 WTN T2 Watford, Town Centre – Hemel Hempsted, Bus Station
Uno Citaro 303 634 Hemel Hempstead, Bus Station – Hatfield, UH Forum
Next bus arrived 13 minutes late…
Uno Dart 650 641 Hatfield, UH Forum – Hertford, Bus Station
… and arrived into Hertford 17 minutes down, thus meaning I managed to miss the connection for the last bus to Royston….
Arriva Versa 2403 331 Hertford, Bus Station – Buntingford, Baldock Rd opp Greenways
… where C picked me up in the car, saved me walking the 7.5 miles back to Royston! You can see all the pictures here.
They have been condensed even smaller than the last (Ely etc.) lot, so do let me know what you think.

Wednesday/Thursday, and the hard drive on the Mac has failed. The majority (since yesterday morning, when the main hard drive started to go) had already been automatically backed up, although on restart, Entourage downloaded ALL the email (I leave four weeks on the server or so), not just those from the last 24 hours that had been missing.
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Yesterday (Thursday 24th) I decided to get out the house, and go for a bash around on an Intalink Explorer.


Cut for length and pictures )


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While browsing the Stagecoach group website for other reasons (in the midst of preparing for a forthcoming ABF trip, and I needed a logo to go on the notes, as they’ve supplied the bus!) I did come upon a press release about the virtues of Megabus.com in the US - and apparently (although not mentioned), there has been some kind of competition with the First/Laidlaw operation and Stagecoach (CoachUSA/Megabus) – not that I’d know such things so intimately.

The press release made mention of new services based on NY State, with some place names that sounded familiar from chats online. So, interestingly enough, a new service by Megabus (USA) is about to be introduced (On May 30th) from New York (Penn Station), via Buffalo NY (Niagara International Airport) to Toronto, Canada (Royal York Hotel). The service between NY and Buffalo is around seven hours (around what Amtrak trains take to get to Rochester), while between Buffalo and Toronto is two and a half hours. (I’ve not investigated time zones yet, but that trip should be straight enough).

Now, a couple of points here. Firstly, I’m fairly sure I did an April 1st spoof a few years ago, of a new Megabus service from Dundee to NY (it sounded like a good get-away-from-it-all at the time…), so I have to say, be careful what you wish for, or there maybe a chance of through ticketing one of these days!

Second, there was a person who I’ve known online for five and a half years now, and has been consistently solid and wonderfully supportive to me. I did say I’d consider visiting in a few years, back in late 2006 - according to Google Maps, it’s about 55 miles from Buffalo to Spencerport/Rochester.

You can tell what I’m thinking. Give it a couple of years (from now), who knows. Having said that, I guess it’s another one of these ‘brand recognition’ things – I don’t know who is who over there (so much – Amtrak, Greyhound etc.) but I do know the megabus brand well enough. Saves investigating who, what and where, if it’s a concept I already know. Wonder if they can send a text from the USA system with a ticket code to a UK phone? If not, no hassle, I can scribble it down or print it off. Then, there are the rest of the operators and their procedures etc. that I hear sporadically about. Coming from 4,000 miles away, a slightly easier default option maybe nice.

I doubt that was the intention of product recognition behind having the same brand name on both sides of the pond. Having said that, I’ve just done a price check for those journeys in September (to get the timing information, as the ‘schedule’ – we call them timetables over here - isn't there yet), and they are USD $1.00 each. Yes, looks like I’ve still got the touch. At the current rate of exchange, even with booking fees, that’s less than the local fare within Royston town on Stagecoach 26!

BTW, as I read the press release, Neneh Cherry’s Buffalo Stance was going through my head. When I googled the song, I was surprised to find Westlife have covered it. Is nothing sacred?
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As previously mentioned, an old friend of Caroline’s called Moray stopped by last night, and stayed over till this morning. Lots of talk about former work and colleagues, amongst many other subjects. As he drove onto Cambridge this morning M dropped me off at Royston Cross, and I went for a wander around the town centre.

I’d not been in Royston town centre for some time – and I don’t really known why. C mentioned this to me, that I’d not been into town recently… and yes, she’s right. So, had a look around the town (got a v. nice compliment from one store I frequent, asking where I’d been, and similar familiar smiles etc. elsewhere. Have I been in Royston that long?)

Got a new multi-ring folder from The Stationery Cupboard, before picking up lunch and stopping briefly to sit down (to catch my breath!) at the bus station at the south end of the town. While I was there, I got a picture of a new Solo for Centrebus on the 90/91 (see here) at the bus station, before walking back to Melbourn Street (snapping it again!) then back home.

After being a little bit flexible about my dates for my next set of coach bookings (and getting Cambridge – London – Dundee for £2.00 rather than over £50 [fully flex pay-on-the-day], or the £23 [funfares] I was more expecting to pay), I managed to save myself enough to buy a takeaway for the two of us tonight, which we both devoured (and yes, there is still several days worth in the fridge. That new take-away seem to do enough to feed an army!), and I concocted a mix of TVX Blue (small bottle – 275mls or so) in a pint glass, topped up with Tesco Rapsberry Crush. It’s got 5% Scottish raspberry juice in it, maybe it counts as fruit?  LOL

So, we’re now lounging around having a quiet one. I’m sat on the big double bed in ‘our’ room (I’ve taken to lying on it during the day, instead of the chair in the study which is a little wonky!), and Caroline is finishing off reading Becoming Drusilla… ☺
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Further to my post yesterday about the former Prime Minister being let off with a £24.50 fare on the Heathrow Express, here is the opposite end of the spectrum - a passenger prosecuted for being 20p short on her Oyster card...

The secretary of a London archbishop is being dragged through the courts - for mistakenly falling 20p short on a bendy bus.

Rachel McKenzie, a committed Christian, has told the Evening Standard of her despair at being branded a criminal for the first time at the age of 54.

If convicted, she will be given a criminal record and ordered to pay legal costs and a fine of up to £1,000. One lawyer suggested the case could cost taxpayers up to £5,000.

Ms McKenzie was caught out last November as she boarded a No12 bendy bus from her home in East Dulwich to her workplace in Southwark. She swiped her Oyster card through the reader and, unaware that the machine had beeped because she had insufficient funds, she took her seat. But two stops before the end of a journey a ticket inspector got on, checked her Oyster card and discovered she had just 70p on it - rather than the 90p then needed for the journey.

Mrs McKenzie, who works for the Catholic archbishop of Southwark, told the Standard: "He told me I was 20p short. I was really surprised. I told him it was an innocent mistake, that I had swiped the card next to the driver and he hadn't said anything and that I would pay the difference.

"I reached to get out my purse but he said I couldn't do that and that he had to report me. I thought that would be okay because I'll get the chance to explain it was just a mistake. I never thought it would end up with a criminal prosecution.

"It makes me think it is a ridiculous abuse of the legal system. I made a genuine mistake and was honest about it because I was sure the British legal system was a just one. I wonder about that now."

Ms McKenzie has enlisted the help of lawyers who are fighting her case free. But Transport for London has refused to cave in and she has now received a summons to appear before Sutton magistrates on 22 May.

Her legal adviser, Mark Stephens, said: "It is disgraceful. This prosecution is likely to cost as much as £5,000 to recover 20p. This is a scandalous abuse of the court system. She should have been allowed to pay the difference or, at worst, pay a penalty fare." He added that a criminal conviction could prevent MsMcKenzie working in the community in future or make it difficult to obtain a visa to travel to America.

TfL's legal department wrote to Ms McKenzie last week saying: "Consistent with all cashless services, it is your responsibility to ensure you have sufficient credit in your card to pay for your bus journey."

The TfL enforcement policy says it seeks to be "firm but fair" and aims to ensure prosecution is only considered where there is clear evidence of irregular travel. It also says it will prosecute if the offence occurred "in an area known to occasion high revenue loss".

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From The Ticket Collector comes this rather interesting story... who remembers the time when his wife got pulled up on Thameslink (now First Capital Connect) for not having any money to buy a ticket?

Tony Blair caught without a ticket, and then allowed to travel for free!

Former prime minister Tony Blair was left red-faced when he was caught travelling on a Heathrow Express train on Wednesday without a ticket and said he had no cash to pay the fare.
Blair, who has earned around 500,000 pounds being a speaker at various events since leaving office in June, was confronted by a ticket inspector as he travelled to Heathrow Airport to catch a flight to the United States on Monday.

He claimed he had no cash for the £24.50 pounds fare because money an aide had given him was no longer in his pocket.
Blairs bodyguard offered to pay the ticket, but the inspector said he could travel for free.

Blair’s spokesman was unavailable for comment.

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