Sunday, 4 January 2009

Happy New Year!

May I wish you a very Happy New Year!

I've been a bit quiet on the seasonal blogging front. I'd like to say that this was because of the wild social whirl in which I've been swept up for the festive fortnight. However much I might like to say that, however, the truth is more mundane, and involves tissues, decongestants, inhalations, paracetamol, ibuprofen etc. I don't recommend a combination flu-like symptoms and sciatica. Short on laughs and big on feeling sorry for yourself.

By the 1st of January, things had improved enough for me to be able to get out behind the wheel of our big red Routemaster bus. This important morale booster came in the form of an appointment to be part of the big London New Year Parade. A huge procession of costumed people, American Marching Bands and vehicles of all types, shapes, sizes and ages made their way along the parade route, kicking off as Big Ben chimed 12 noon. A sizeable crowd braved the winter cold and lined the route to enjoy the spectacle and cheer the parade on its way.

Yep....things were looking up!

But then we came down to earth with a bump.

Behind us in the parade was this old beast, a 1916 Dennis Fire Engine.

If it had stayed a safe distance behind us, all would have been fine. Unfortunately, for reasons known only to old Dennis and his driver, when our bus came to a halt, the fire engine didn't. There was an almighty bang, with simultaneous gasps of horror from the crowd. Up front in the driver's cab, I was a bit shaken, but I couldn't quite bear to get out and go round for a look. I stayed put and awaited a damage report from my Conductor. The picture isn't great. The back of the bus looks every bit as if it's been rammed by a heftily built, 93 year-old fire engine! Suffice it to say that our 1966 aluminium panels were no match for their 1916 steel and tubular brass!

When I'm feeling stronger, I'll publish a picture of our "modified" rear end, but right now I can't face looking at the evidence. No injuries to humans, though, on the bus or the fire engine, which is the most important thing.

A Press agency report on the parade included the line: "At one point an antique fire engine crashed into an iconic London Routemaster bus, but organisers said that nobody was injured.". Thanks to the wonders of agency reporting and newspapers' hunger for content on quiet days, this line made it into UK papers including the Daily Telegraph and the Mail, and further afield in publications in South Africa, Australia, France and the US. It felt strange to see this line pop up in web searches and know that that wasn't just any iconic Routemaster bus ... it was ours!


Ashley Brown said...

I was a member of the crew with the fire engine on New Year's Day and we are all mortified that a) we had an accident (they are thankfully measured in low single figures over the past 50 years) and of course b) that we hit your bus.

I don't know whether you will be repairing the bus yourselves or sending it off somewhere, but if you could get in touch we'd be more than happy to offer any assistance we can (this includes man power and/or manufacturing capability). Your conductor has a direct email for us, or I can pass a message on.

The fire engine (considered female, named Jezebel as a result of her temperament) has been run by a student club since 1955 and I'm sure many of us would like to buy you and your fellow owners the beverage of your choice.

Charles Nove said...

Thanks for your kind words, Ashley! Because this is a working bus, with commitments to revenue-earning service, it has to go off for professional repair, pronto. But we appreciate your sentiment. Jez is clearly built of stern stuff and, like most females, not to be trifled with!

Ashley Brown said...

I feel a tiny bit better knowing you won't have to slave away yourselves (although paperwork may be worse!). The offer of a drink still stands should you find yourself around South Ken.

If the listener who wrote in to Wogan on Tuesday happens to send you the pictures and video clip, I wonder if you could send them on? We still have a few unanswered questions about the accident (such as 'how do you hit a parked vehicle') and the video may be informative. All I saw from my perspective was Jez trying to board the bus without a ticket...