Several weeks ago I wrote a blog post about a long trip up to Yorkshire to deliver a Bedford OB coach to a restoration centre. I was also given the chance to bring the same vehicle back to Somerset again after it had been tidied up. Despite the distance, I decided to accept. Not least because if I start a job, I like to finish it!
Unlike last time I decided to do the return trip in one day, having been assured that the misfiring which had plagued the outward journey had been fixed. So, after travelling up to Hunmanby on the train the day before, I turned up bright and early at Cobus. Steve Waggitt, the proprietor, was there to meet me and was grinning like a Cheshire cat! And here’s why:
I followed Steve round to the garage where ‘Bosworth’ the Bedford stood, ready to go. The Cobus team had worked a miracle on the Duple Vista-bodied coach, which had externally looked a bit tired when I delivered it three weeks earlier. Now it stood looking for all the world as if it had just been built! The patchwork-effect Tilling livery, previously several shades of cream and green, was gone and in its place was a showroom-finish paint job that left me awestruck.
Steve proudly showed me the aluminium trim which had been polished and mounted on rubber strips. New glazing rubbers had been fitted around the back windows and all the dinks in the panels had been levelled and filled. They had done a top job, right down to the finely signwritten legal lettering.
An interesting job came my way last week while on duty for Greenway Ferry on their Agatha Christie vintage bus service. Richard Wilson, probably most famous for his portrayal of Victor Meldrew in the TV sitcom ‘One Foot in the Grave‘, is making a new travel documentary for ITV and he visited Greenway House as part of his tour of Britain.
I had been forewarned about his visit but, other than that, it was a fairly normal day on the bus. I usually turn up for duty at around 08:30 and, as I arrived, one of my colleagues had just finished giving ‘the old girl’ a wash and she was sparkling in the early morning sunshine. After doing my daily checks and collecting a list of pre-booked passengers I set off in first gear up the steep, narrow lane that connects Greenway Quay to the rest of the road-going world.
At that time in the morning there was little traffic about so I stopped on Paignton seafront to wait time. I was a bit apprehensive about Richard’s visit because I’d heard that he wanted to talk to me as we were travelling along. I really wasn’t sure how that would work out as it is so noisy in the cab. I had all morning to ponder on this as he wasn’t due to board the bus until the afternoon.
I picked up about half a busload of passengers in Torquay and headed back to Greenway. I’m gradually getting used to giving a commentary as I drive but it’s still the most difficult part of the job at the moment. Next came a trip back to Paignton seafront for the 11:00 departure but there were only 4 people waiting this time. Then came a trip into Brixham where I picked up about 15 passengers from the stop beside the quay. As I turned the bus outside the new Fish Market, many cameras pointed my way as tourists tend to congregate here as they wait for boat trips.
One of the most pleasant parts of the job is that I get to sit in the gardens at Greenway for my lunch and today it was really warm in the sunshine. All too soon it was time to head back to Torquay with my passengers. At the stop near Torquay harbour I was met by Ellie, one of the TV production team. She told me that Richard and the film crew wanted to board the bus outside the Grand Hotel so I gave my usual welcome and introduction over the tannoy. As we approached the Grand Hotel, which is where the newlywed Agatha and Lt Archie Christie spent their honeymoon night, I was told that Richard was outside the main entrance and that they wanted to film our arrival. This was a bit off-route as we usually sail past the hotel on the seaward side. Anyway, I saw a man beckoning me on (he turned out to be the director) so I drove up to where they stood. After some discussion about how we were going to turn the bus around, they filmed Richard Wilson climbing aboard. He’d already been told my name so he reached through the gap behind my seat and shook my hand. “Good afternoon John, I gather you’re to take us to Greenway,” he said in his distinctive Greenock accent.
In an effort to avoid ‘Greenway overload’, here’s a brief account of a wedding hire I did a few weeks ago for Crosville Motor Services. It wasn’t a particularly complicated duty so it afforded me the chance to experiment a little with my driving technique.
Sometime ago a couple of my regular readers commented that in the old days (they were obviously ‘old hands’) they used to be so proficient at changing gear with the Bristol constant mesh gearboxes that they could do it without using the clutch. Judging by comments made by other drivers from the same era, they were not alone in the habit of clutchless changes. Anyway, one of them challenged me to try it one day.
I decided to pick up the gauntlet, so to speak, and try this for myself. But first I had to deal with a bit of stress at the depot. While doing my walk around checks on the Hants & Dorset Bristol FLF, I found that the nearside indicators weren’t working. I’ve had this once before and the fact that neither front nor rear indicators worked pointed to a failed bulb. Unfortunately, both duty mechanics were out on an emergency recovery so I had to wait until they returned before my bus could be fixed. To their credit, they both set to work straight away as they knew I had a deadline to meet. With one up a ladder at the front and the other crouching at the rear, they quickly replaced both bulbs and normal service was resumed.
Not wanting to cause any further delay, I postponed my clutch experiment until the empty return journey so I took the long-legged Lodekka from Weston to Bristol using the textbook double de-clutch technique I’ve always used. I picked up a bus load of passengers from the Arnos Vale Cemetery (strange place to have a wedding…) and took them the short distance into the city where they were due to eat and party the night away at the Rummer Hotel, which is close to the Bristol Registry Office in Corn Street/Broad Street (pictured above).