Last Saturday dawned bright and warm, to the delight of the bride’s family at today’s wedding no doubt. A very fashionable affair, with the wedding taking place in Bristol Cathedral and the reception at Bristol’s Mansion House. This job required two buses.
I was allocated the Bristol FLF, seen in the background above, which was waiting for me outside the Crosville Motor Services garage when I arrived. The FLF is an ex-Hants & Dorset bus, delivered in 1965. The Bristol L in the foreground is the one I took out last weekend to Shepton Mallet. The FLF was showing ‘Southampton’ on the destination blind but I wanted it to show ‘Private’ or something similar so I started winding. Various destinations in Hampshire and Dorset passed by but, as my arm was getting tired, I left it on ‘Ringwood’.
The FLF has had a new clutch fitted since my last trip with it. That was when I nearly didn’t make it back to the garage as the clutch friction disc had virtually disintegrated. I was looking forward to finding out how it behaved. So, having checked lights, oil and water and that it was equipped with the requisite number of wheels, I climbed into the cab and set off behind the Crosville Bristol L. The FLF was a delight to drive and gearchanges were refreshingly easy after the trauma of my last two driving jobs!
We took the direct, cross-country route to Bristol along the A370 through Congresbury. Arriving with plenty of time to spare, we parked the buses in the turning circle outside the Cathedral and then retreated to the shade of the Central Library.
It was a glorious day for a wedding and soon the Cathedral bells began to peal and the bridal party and guests emerged into the bright sunlight. Numerous photos were taken before the new Mr and Mrs glided past our buses in a gleaming Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. The guests then piled onto our buses, immediately throwing open all the windows. Some enterprising chaps even opened the emergency exit window upstairs on the FLF, unaware that it had set off a buzzer in the cab. I climbed the stairs and apologetically told them that I would have to close the window but that they would soon feel the breeze when we moved off.
After a brief discussion with the other driver about the most suitable route, we set off. As usual, I had studied Google Maps and had done a couple of ‘dry runs’ with Google Street View so I had a route in my head. With a new clutch beneath my left foot I put all my effort into giving my passengers a comfortable ride. We soon met Jacob’s Wells Road which involved a long pull up to the Triangle at the top of Park Street and, with a full load on, this meant doing most of it in 2nd gear!
The Mansion House, the reception venue, is less than 2 miles from the Cathedral so we were there in a matter of minutes, it seemed. The other driver had taken a slightly different route with the Bristol L single decker and arrived outside the Mansion House seconds before me, but from the other direction! With cheers from the occupants of both buses, we pulled up alongside and I opened the electrically operated doors. The guests poured out and headed for the reception. One young lady pointed her camera at the front of the FLF and then came round to the cab and told me she was pleased to see that I had put ‘Ringwood’ up on the destination blind. Apparently she was the bride’s sister and Ringwood is where their parents live! The bride’s father spoke to us as well, insisting that we pose for a photograph in front of the buses.
The job done, we headed back down Bridge Valley Road to the Avon Gorge and over the junction to re-join the A370. The drive back was pleasant with all the cab windows open and my jacket off.
On arriving back at the garage I had to join a queue, as there were two other Lodekkas in front of the Bristol L waiting to get back inside. It was a busy day for weddings! We reversed the Lodekkas in and parked them in a row. I just had to take a photo of a bunch of Bristol K’s and another Bristol L lined up tidily in the opposite corner of the garage!
Also parked in the garage was Crosville DFG81 (891VFM) which had an event-filled trip back from the restoration workshops. Apparently, after this photograph was taken on Blackpool’s Promenade, the front offside tyre exploded while driving down the motorway at 45mph. This was immediately followed by a lurch across all 4 lanes and a very close encounter with the central reservation. Mercifully no damage was done, except to the tyre, which was shredded. It too was in the garage as if to remind the boss of his narrow escape!
This fine vehicle is due to enter revenue-earning service on Weston-super-Mare seafront soon. It is to operate the Service 152 from Weston to Uphill.
Next weekend I have a double-bill duty, both turns taking me to Wiltshire – county of my birth!