Friday, 1 April 2011

On the road again!

I have gone on at length before now about the advantages and disadvantages of public transport in the UK. Well, here I go again with another little rant. We are spending a long weekend in London, cat-sitting and flat-sitting while our son and his wife are away. So late morning yesterday we set off for the bus stop at the crossroads near our house, aiming for the number 350 bus at 11.53. This would connect us nicely with a bus from Oldham bus station and eventually to a train from Manchester Piccadilly.

Step one was fine. The bus arrived more or less on time, set off with a lurch as usual just before anyone had time to reach their seat and shuddered to a stop at every bus stop, throwing passengers around. This is all par for the course.
Then we arrived at Oldham bus station. This is one of those modern structures made of tubular metal and lots of perspex, noisy and cold because the whole place rattles whenever the wind blows, which happens frequently as the sliding doors open and close automatically every time anyone walks past. It is made up of two sections: the main bus station and a kind of annex just around the corner. The main section has a delightful public address system which reminds you in condescendingly dulcet tones of a variety of things: “These floors can be slippery when wet.” “Pickpockets operate in this bus station; always keep your belongings close to you.” “It is against the law to smoke in this bus station; please do not smoke” (There is a small, possibly anarchist, minority who ignore this last one.) “This bus station is patrolled by GMPTE police.” (Now why are they never around to tell the anarchist smokers to go outside? That’s what I want to know.)

Anyway, our bus arrived at the main bus station and sailed through without stopping until it reached the annex. We could see our connecting bus to Manchester but by the time our 350 bus had come to a juddering halt that connecting bus was setting off. So we had to wait for the next one, fortunately only a matter of 5 to 10 minutes but that is not the point. Had the 350 bus stopped to allow passengers to alight in the main section, we would have caught the connecting bus. So we asked the driver why he had not stopped. Well, it seems that his bus changes from a 350 to 183 on reaching the bus station and the 183 stop is in the annex. Yes, but would it not make sense to allow the people who caught the 350, not the 183, to get off first? Oh, no, that never happens. Now, that is simply not true. I use that service frequently enough to know that many more co-operative and passenger-friendly drivers do just that.

We WILL complain!!

The rest of our journey, you will be pleased to hear, went according to plan. We did have to remind a phone user that she should not be having her conversation in the quiet zone but she was quite amenable to stopping. And there were rather a lot of announcements from the train staff, also disturbing the quiet zone, but you can’t have everything.

So we reached our destination without further mishap, settled ourselves in, took ourselves out for a rather nice Italian meal and came back and fed the cat.

This morning the cat came and woke us up at around quarter to eight, demanding to fed once again. When we baby-sit, the grandchildren feel perfectly within their rights to demand breakfast at any time from six o’ clock onwards. So on the whole cat-sitting gives me more sleeping time. And Audrey the cat does not ask for just another five minutes before bed and just one more story before going to sleep.

Now, we have our Oyster cards and our bus passes; time to get this London tourist thing underway.

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