Saturday, 26 September 2009

Who were you with in the Bus Lane?

As previously observed, doesn't life throw some amusing twists sometimes?

The Brides on a Bus show is being presented by David van Day, he of Dollar fame in the 70s and 80s and, more recently, ITV's I'm A Celebrity.

Passing some time on a long drive yesterday, David and I launched into an impromptu singalong at the front of the bus. The old Tommy Steele hit Flash Bang Wallop What A Picture was surprisingly fresh in both our minds, and we sang it with great gusto.

It did make me smile. When I was a young DJ, playing Dollar songs on the radio, many moons ago, little could I have suspected that the next time I'd encounter David van Day would be at the front of a bus, with him dressed as my Clippie, me driving and the pair of us singing.

Happy daze!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

On the road again, again

Just a quick update to say that we've made our way across the Severn to Cardiff (where the Brides on the Bus played a Touch Rugby tournament), and then onwards in a slow, steady, uphill haul, to the high ground of the Brecon Beacons. We're in the village of Bwlch (yes, that's how you spell it. Pron: Bull (as in the male cow) Ch (as in "loch"), with a stunning view of the leafy valleys below.

Tomorrow, we aim for the Cotswolds town of Burford, Oxfordshire. More news to come, as the mystery tour continues...

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Road Trip continues

Here we are in Cheddar Gorge. And just to prove the old theory that you wait ages for a London bus and then two turn up at once .... no sooner had I arrived here than another Leyland Titan appeared. It's a local resident nowadays, doing tours around the hills. So my T23 and Cheddar's T860 have renewed their acquaintance, heaven knows how many years after they left London service.

Monday went very well, until we had an unfortunate breakdown on the way to our overnight hotel. Total loss of gears, right in the middle of a major roundabout in Devon. Not good! The Brides and the crew had to be offloaded onto a coach, and I stayed with the bus, the Highways Agency and Devon & Cornwall Police until recovery could be arranged. Both the HA and the Police were very good humoured and supportive, which was a great help in a stressful situation.

Bizarre coincidence: Talking to one of the Highways Agency team, the subject of our hotel for the night arose. I told him it was the historic Boringdon Hall in Plympton. He laughed and said (think broad Devonian accent) "Ahhh, don't let them put you in room 11 .... ahaaaarr!". "Er why?" said I. "They say it's haaauunted!". Turned out that, before going on the Highways, this man had been a night shift manager there and had seen many a scared guest. Great hotel (and no I wasn't in Room 11!). Apparently Henry VIII stayed there. I'm not surprised. I couldn't find the exit either.

Bizarre apparition: Picture the scene. Bus stranded mid roundabout. It's a huge roundabout, in the middle of nowhere, no buildings, no nothing, with a central island about the size of a football field. The scene is lit up by Highways Agency floodlamps, flashing amber beacons, there are cones, blue and red strobes on the police car, it's like a film set. I'm standing in the middle of it all, discussing tactics with the police, when a man appears. Nobody sees him approaching - he's just, suddenly, there. It's a chilly night, but he's wearing an oily string vest and comedy baggy trousers. He looks exactly like the binman that Geoffrey Hughes used to play in Coronation Street. He walks up to the cops and says "Excuse me. Could I have a word with you?" They look slightly apprehensive. Turns out he has a fairly technical enquiry about the legality of transporting a particular type of hazardous waste in his vehicle. One of the policemen spent half an hour or so obtaining the info he needed by radio. Then, as quickly as he arrived, he'd gone. There were 5 of us standing there, and not one of us had seen him arrive. Nobody was quite sure which way he went when he left, either. Weird!

The broken down bus was recovered to Launceston, where I rejoined it in the morning to do some fault finding. With my trusty test meter, and some invaluable advice on the phone from one of our chums who used to be a London Transport electrician, working on these buses, I traced the fault. It was a humble broken wire, in the circuit controlling the alternator. Without it, the alternator could not charge the batteries, and without charge the batteries reach a point where they can no longer operate the gearbox....hence loss of gears. Wire fixed, bus back on the road!

My party had carried on without me, using a hired coach. I made it to the hotel in Devon while they were still out filming, so there was a big cheer when they arrived at the hotel to find the Titan already ensconced in the car park, with me lounging against it in a "what kept you?" pose.

Off to Frome in Somerset tonight. Some nice local Cider, perchance....?

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Road Trip

I wear a number of hats, in this confusing lark we call life.

And the hat this week (and next) is my Bus Driving one. Regular readers will know that I am one of the chaps behind a small, but beautifully formed, bus company. We operate a little fleet of Routemasters (the famous London double-decker) doing transport for parties and weddings in and around London.

Around London. So, why is it that I am currently guiding one of our buses round the far South West of England?

It's like this. We were approached by Wedding TV, (Sky channel 266) looking for a bus for their pioneering new game show Brides on a Bus. It sounded like fun, and I fancied an adventure, so ... what better excuse do you need?

Here's the bus, snapped this morning in Penzance. Not a Routemaster, the keen-eyed observer may spot. This is the only non-Routemaster of our fleet. Also the young upstart of the band. The RMs are 40 years old, whereas this fine example of the Leyland Titan range, turned 30 this year. We're using this for the job because it's a little faster and quieter than the Routemasters, and it has doors, making it a little cosier if the weather decides to turn wintry.

There's a long journey ahead, starting at Land's End tomorrow, and winding up in Gretna Green, just over the Scottish border, on 1st October. Will we make it? Watch this space!

Coming over the brow of the last big hill before Penzance was a lovely experience today. The sun was beating down on the bay, and the English coast was looking very good. I swear I felt a little surge of excitement from my red steed, as she glimpsed the seaside. It's a long way for a London bus to come. I hope she packed her bucket and spade.

And me? Well, cruising the highways at a top speed of 45mph affords time for thought, and sightseeing. I was held up in a queue of traffic passing Stonehenge. I thought it was being caused by people slowing down to look at the stones, but then realised that, in fact, they were slowing down to gawp at a field on the other side of the road, a couple of hundred yards along, full of pigs, lounging in big muddy pools. They looked blissfully happy, their top halves warmed by the sun, their nethers cooled by the water and mud. Happy as a pig in ... er...mud.

Managed to confuse a waiter in a roadside dining emporium somewhere near Exeter, by ordering Vegetable Soup, followed by Roast Chicken. "Do you want the soup as a starter?" he asked. I spent much of the following hour or two pondering what else he thought I might have wanted to do with it. A bodyscrub? A footbath?

More reports to follow as this strange saga unfolds. Tomorrow, the Brides board the bus. Wish me luck!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Where I've been going wrong

The Evening Standard reports:
Lady GaGa shocked the audience at the the MTV Video Music Awards 2009 in New York with a live performance which culminated in her pretending to stab herself while playing the piano

Now I know where I've been going wrong all these years. My broadcasting career has been held back by a lack of this sort of thing. Not enough bloodshed. Insufficient immolation. Failed flagellation. An apparent absence of asphyxia.


Tomorrow's 0800 News bulletin on Radio 2 will, simultaneously, plunge new depths and ascend to new heights of danger. I shall deliver the news in my usual unruffled style, whilst juggling burning batons and throwing knives at my knees. That'll do it. No more safe broadcasting for me!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Signs again

The world of itillerate signs makes another audacious grab for my attention.

I know, I know: the fact that you can't spell doesn't make you a bad person! Surely, though, if you're commissioning expensive graphics, you'd get someone to check?
Or maybe there was just nobody, er, avaliable?

Perhaps here the only available person was unavoidably detained on the Mezza....what?

That's enough dodgy signs for today, says my Nurse. Time for my medication.

But just time before I close to show you the entrance to an emporium in Hull. After scoffing in a cafe, I headed for the toilet. The signposted route led me past an array of freezers, interrupted only by this portal .....

Tempting, but not quite tempting enough!!

And finally, top marks for honesty to the owners of this place in Glasgow:

You can't say fairer than that!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Newsreading Cake

The Daily Mail reports Sir Terry Wogan slams 'self-important' newsreaders whose job is a 'piece of cake'

Needless to say, I'm far too cool to give the proverbial stuff about what anyone thinks, so I waited all of two nano-seconds before lunging for a copy of the rag to check if I was on the list.

And .... relax....
'Get your good suit and tie on, and a quick dab in make-up. Make yourself comfy and here comes the Six O'Clock News, all written nicely and clearly before your eyes.' continues Sir Tel.
'Read it clearly and distinctly, ask the reporter the questions you have written down in front of you and there!'

Phew! He's having a go at the TV newsreaders. That's a relief. On radio, we have a much tougher time of it. No make-up, for a start!

Wogan's swipe is, of course, a deftly timed release from his forthcoming book.

Is TV newsreading really that easy? Actually, I don't think it is. Is it watchable?, not really, most of the time, not in my house. I find I can only tolerate a few moments of TV News before the mechanics of it start to drive me nuts.

  • The gratuitous hand-waving (some Consultant told them it was a good idea..!)
  • the fact that Fiona Bruce always does a sweeping movement with her script-holding hand during the second sentence of the opening to the BBC 10 o'clock bulletin
  • and why do they stand up for the first link and then sit down? Is it supposed to convey the impression that life in the newsroom is so frantic that they haven't managed to make it to the chair in time?
  • the little shake of the head when we're supposed to emote (leave it to me to decide whether I'm upset, will you?)
  • the gratuitous live tops and tails, where the reporter stands outside a closed and locked building, in which nothing has occurred for hours, in order to deliver a 10 second intro to the VT package he's prepared earlier AND THEN has to be interviewed by the newsreader at the end of the package, to reiterate what was in the package or confirm that there's nothing more to add. "So, John, what more can you tell us?". "Nothing, otherwise I'd have told you in the piece you've just run, wouldn't I? Now sod off and let me go to the pub!"
  • the ghastly spectacle of journos trying to do ad lib banter
  • gratuitous insertion of names: "our correspondent Bert Bloggs is there. Bert." "Michael. The incident happened ...."

  • and that staple of Rolling News channels: "well of course it's too early to speculate as to the cause of this disaster, but joining me now is Sid Snodgrass, a Professor of Speculation at Bridlington University's Centre for Speculative Studies. Professor, just what might have been the cause of this disaster?"

I could go on, but I think you get my drift....

Anyway, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, here's a clip of a TV Newsreader in trying circumstances, complete with the gallery talkback, some or all of which will have been blasting into the newsreader's ear as she ploughed bravely on.

And back in the land of Radio, here's a gratuitous pic
(photo by Barry Norman, (c) The Sunday Post)
of me and Sir Tel discussing the merits of some finely turned prose
Or perhaps (more likely?) we're discussing a piece of cake...!