Yesterday evening I was invited to a friend's birthday celebration in Manchester. So off I went, despite the fact that, like Cinders, I would have to leave the party early, not because my frock would turn to rags and tatters but because of the stupid bus service, of which more later, although not MY rant this time. The pub was noisy, as you might expect, but it was good to catch up with old friends and colleagues.
As I left the pub and walked along Deansgate, I serendipitously came across another group of old friends and colleagues, who had been having a departmental Christmas meal and were on their way to greet the birthday boy. Lots of grown-up people getting excited and hugging in the middle of the street! Splendid!
I scuttled away to catch a tram to Victoria station, followed by a tram to Oldham Mumps, keeping my fingers crossed that I would manage to arrive there before the last bus left. With only two minutes to go when I reached Oldham Mumps, I was a little anxious that the bus might have left early, not unusual on our route. But all was well.
At the stop was a small, rather gnome-like gentleman. Now, I will happily initiate conversation on public transport, on train platforms and at tram and bus stops. This gnome-like man was clearly of the same turn of mind. He enquired which bus I was waiting for - the same one he was planning to catch - and, after reassuring me that it had not yet gone, went into a tirade about how ridiculous it is that the last bus from Oldham centre to Saddleworth leaves at 10.28. After all, they have just opened a new cinema complex in the town centre and their last showing finishes at 10.30!!! Why is this allowed to happen? Thus he ranted on and on until the bus arrived.
On the bus he continued, to my amusement. He asked if I knew who owned the local bus companies. No idea! Not something I have researched! Well, he told me, one of them belongs to an American company, the one that runs Greyhound buses all over the States. Billionaires! So any suggestion that they don't run more frequent and later buses because few people use them and they can't afford not to make a profit is a lot of nonsense. Another company is owned by the German public transport network. They can afford to subsidise their transport system, he told me, because they make a profit from the privately-owned services they run in the UK!
All of this I took with a pinch of salt, especially as he further went on to tell me that the bus company does not bother to train drivers who are new to a route but simply tell them to work it put and, if they are stuck, ask a passenger; they usually know the route! Now, this I know to be untrue as I have travelled on buses where new drivers are accompanied by a trainer. However, it was an amusing bus-ride home!
And it would not really surprise me to discover that our bus services are foreign-owned. After all, EDF is a French electricity company and the Chinese are building a nuclear power station here. So it goes!
Today I walked to the local supermarket at Greenfield, another of the Saddleworth villages. All along my route I kept coming across masses of skinny Santas! What was going on? Then I remembered that today there is a fun run: the Saddleworth Santa Dash. Consequently, there were Santas of both genders, of varying heights and ages but almost all skinny runners; very few traditionally plump Santas. They seemed to be organised in teams according to the area they came from. Near to the supermarket, the Greenfield Santas were busily donning orange beards. Look carefully at the photo. Perhaps they have discovered that Santa has Celtic origins. Perhaps they want to counteract the prejudice against ginger folk.
Despite the fact that my bus journey back from the supermarket was somewhat slowed down by this surfeit of Santas, I can only applaud the Christmas spirit and hope they made a lot of money for charity!