We’re just coming to the end of our first three weeks on the sightseeing bus and the popularity of our tours has been, rather like the weather of late, mixed. But there have been some highlights, such as the one pictured below.
This was a couple of days ago when the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines kindly turned up to provide some musical entertainment while I collected the fares. I jest, of course. They were leading a parade of Royal Navy personnel, the crew of HMS Torbay. I’m quite a fan of military band music, especially the Royal Marines, so this was a rather exciting addition to our morning. The relaxed pace of their marching music brought me back to my youth when I was a member of a Boys’ Brigade marching band. For a number of years we had an instructor who was also a member of the Royal Marines band, based at Lympstone on the banks of the River Exe. He insisted that we march at the same pace as the Marines band! Compared to other regimental bands (and indeed most other civilian bands) their marching tempo was marginally slower and hearing the band this week brought back some marching memories!
We went on to include HMS Torbay in our commentary that day. It went a bit like this: “We have HMS Torbay visiting us today, folks. But don’t bother looking across the bay to see her, HMS Torbay is a submarine!”
As I mentioned, the weather has been mixed and this affects the popularity of English Riviera Sightseeing Tours. After all, who wants to sit on a wet seat for an hour and a half? We’ve had a few days like this and sometimes we’ve had to admit defeat and park the bus up. We need eight people on board to make a tour viable and on a few occasions our tour guide, whose job it is to sell each tour to passers by, had to take shelter on the platform and shout from there. Unfortunately there were very few people at the harbourside to shout at!
You’ll notice that he’s wearing a smart uniform, which is a new development for this year. I very much approve of this, having worn a proper busman’s uniform from the start myself. In fact, I’ve recently bought a new jacket from Yarmouth Stores especially for use on the sightseeing bus. This is partly because my other jacket is an authentic Western National item but is both tatty and the wrong colour! My new one is tan with burgundy trim which suits the livery of the bus very well. I’ll post a picture as soon as I can persuade someone to point a camera at me. However, I digress. Smart uniform or not, wet weather is not conducive to open top bus rides!
Most days though have been fine, if a bit chilly at the moment. There have even been a couple of occasions when the top deck has been virtually full.
On trips like this the bus is harder to handle. The extra weight makes cornering more difficult, acceleration is sluggish and climbing hills (of which there are many in Torquay) is tedious. Coming down them is a slow business too, if it’s a steep one. Part of our route takes us down from Daddyhole Plain, past the Imperial Hotel and down to the Harbour. This part is very steep at the top and I routinely drop down into first gear to decend safely.
At the end of my first week back on the sightseeing bus (I’m doing five days a week this season instead of just three) I was absolutely shattered, having lost my level of fitness over the quiet winter months. But this kind of work soon builds muscle tone so for instance yesterday I came home and went straight out into the garden to do some digging!
Onto other news now. Sadly the Agatha Christie bus which I drove for a while last year has been notable by its absence. Although the Greenway Ferry company website advertises the AC1 service to the National Trust’s property at Greenway House, the service hasn’t actually run at all. People hoping to ride on the popular green Leyland PS1, unaware of the situation, must be getting regularly disappointed when the bus doesn’t turn up as advertised.
Another bus operator in the Bay is due to take delivery of a very unusual vehicle any day now.
As for me, I’m off to Minehead on Saturday. This will be one of a series of duties for Crosville which sees a couple of heritage buses providing free rides for people arriving at Minehead on the West Somerset Railway’s steam trains. Also in attendance at the station will be Postman Pat and his black and white cat Jess. I’ve been rostered with an open top Lodekka which I haven’t driven since 2012.
Finally, I’m still looking for a pair of front wheel nut guard rings. These will complete the appearance of the sightseeing bus, which looks rather undressed without them. If you have any useful leads, or indeed have a pair lurking in your garden disguised as fancy planters, please let me know!