Total Pageviews

Featured post

New Review

Always nice to get a positive review for one of my books and even better when it comes from another 'ex-pat' Burtonian!  Carol post...

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Late and Seen!


This month's Derby Telegraph article (published on my birthday, too!) is about my inadvertent training for world-class athletics-ish:


Here's the text, if you can't read the photo:

Last month, I was bemoaning the fact that nobody was really sure whether I was a manager or not when I worked at Harold Wesley Ltd., in Burton in the 1970s.  Actually, that’s not quite true.  The senior management of Wesley’s and I were in no doubt as to where I fitted in the pecking order.

I think my mum had aspirations though.  That became clear when I received, unexpectedly one birthday, a very nice quality small suitcase with incorporated document case.  I think she rather thought this was what the aspiring young executive should have.  However, a document case rather implies that you have work to bring home and I barely had enough to do in my normal hours of work, without traipsing any home with me.  I did try to act the part for a while by transporting my lunchtime sandwiches in the suitcase, but it just made it look as if I was constantly leaving home, so I abandoned that idea.

In truth, any hopes of advancement I might have had would have been kippered by my inability to arrive at work on time.  You may recall that I had the same problem at the Plastics Warehouse?  Well, this was exacerbated by Wesley’s being the first job where it wasn’t practicable to walk or cycle to work, I had to catch the bus.

Catching the bus should not have been a problem, and wouldn’t have been to most people.  The best to catch was the No. 5 at the bus stop diagonally opposite from All Saints’ Church on Branston Road.  This left at about 8.10 and would get me comfortably to Dean and Smedley’s on Horninglow Road, around the corner from Wesley’s, just before 8.30 (which is when I was due to start work).  However, for every time when I caught this bus, there were at least a couple of times when I didn’t.

I should have been a world-class athlete as a consequence of running to try and catch the bus.  Never good at getting out of bed in the morning (I’m still not) I would leave my departure from our house in South Broadway St. until the very last moment.  A fast-ish walk down South Broadway St, whilst lighting a cigarette, usually turned to a steady lope along All Saints’ Road which then became a flat-out sprint as I saw the bus go past the church at the top of the road.  Sometimes there would be other passengers waiting at the bus stop and I would have sufficient time to get to the bus before it pulled away.  On other occasions, dependent on the degree of sadistic pleasure on the part of the driver, it would either wait for me to make it to the bus stop and fall aboard gasping for breath or, more frequently, pull away just as I was within a few yards of victory, leaving me doubled up with exhaustion and frustration.

If I missed the No. 5, I was left with the prospect of catching either a No. 12 or a No. 6.  Neither of these would get me to work on time, or anything like it and would also entail getting off in Waterloo Street to then walk, or more likely run, up Victoria Crescent. 

I would then have to try and insinuate myself into the factory in a way that didn’t call attention to my late arrival.  The best option was to make my way up the loading dock, hoping not to bump into anyone, and then, with a piece of paper gripped in my hand, walk determinedly toward my office as if I had just been somewhere to collect some vital statistics.


 I was now sharing an office with Gwen (who sometimes writes for this paper) and, for this ruse to work, I had to hope she wouldn’t call attention to my late arrival.  In her memoir ‘Wednesday’s Child’ she writes, “I’m sure Philip didn’t take kindly to me joining him as he liked being on his own – I suspect he thought I might grass him up when he sneaked in through the back door – late most days”.  Fortunately, she didn’t!

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Steak Pie On Wheels



I’ve written quite a lot, just lately, about my doomed attempts to buy a steak pie from a local cafĂ© (see here, here and here).  The continued absence of this comestible, despite it featuring prominently on the Specials Board, seems to me to be redolent of a societal longing for something that used to exist, but no longer does.  Alternatively, it could just mean that they can’t be *rsed to change the Specials Board.

Anyway, it seems to me that this ‘steak pie’ attitude to customer service can be found in lots of other places, for example…

The other day we had to go into Burton upon Trent to collect a second-hand car we had ordered for my wife.  The reasons why we’ve had to buy a replacement vehicle for my wife (by which I don’t mean that I’m having the car instead of her, although…) are sufficient to drive a relatively sane person barmy, so I won’t go into them here, other than to invoke a specific curse on the person who knowingly sold a particularly lethal car to a young family.  May he (and the person who gave it an MOT) rot in an exclusive circle of Hell.

We decided that it would hardly be environmentally friendly to drive into Burton and bring two cars home so, as we unusually had some time on our hands, we opted to take the bus for a change.  I should point out, at this juncture, that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, there has only ever been one bus service running through our village and that goes, about once an hour, to Burton.

The only timetable we had was a few years old but we decided it should be a reasonable guide and so we presented ourselves at the nearest bus stop about ten minutes before the appointed time, and an hour and a half before the appointment made to collect the car.  Burton is only a half-hour ride from our village.

Can I say here, I think it is a shame that in order to make bus-shelters more or less vandal-proof, they’ve also made them decidedly uncomfortable?  The same is true on unmanned railway stations, where (in both instances) those tip-up seats allow you to perch precariously, but not sit properly.  Mind you, I suppose it is an advance on the stainless steel hurdle that constituted  bus-stops in my youth, against which you could lean or, if small enough, hang from like a monkey.

The bus arrived bang on time and we boarded.  My wife has a bus pass but I don’t due to my relative youth (yes, I know it’s hard to believe).  She said to the driver, very clearly, “A single to Burton Town Centre, please”  My wife prides herself on her clear diction, whereas I, apparently, mumble.

“You don’t need to do that, now” the Driver replied, “you just have to touch your card against the scanner” So she did.

I followed and said, “Well, I need the same but I have to pay for mine” and he duly charged m £3.10 and issued me with a ticket.  I thought that this was a bit steep but it’s been years since I last caught a bus.

We settled down in our seats and prepared to enjoy the novelty of a bus ride.  Actually, ‘enjoy’ might be rather over-egging the pudding.  It has to be said that if you were hoping for the smooth and relatively silent glide of a coach, you would be somewhat disappointed.  I think you could have had  a more tranquil journey in the revolving section of a cement mixer.

After a while, my wife said “Shouldn’t we have gone through Sudbury?” (our neighbouring village).  “I thought so” I replied with my usual quick wit and ready repartee.  “Perhaps they don’t go there anymore?” She suggested.  I shrugged my shoulders, my conversational capacity exhausted.

Our bus then joined the A50 and continued on its merry, bone-shaking way to Mickleover.  By now we were looking at each other quizzically.  No bus going to Burton would readily divert through Mickleover.  I hauled my ticket out of my pocket and noted, for the first time, that it said ‘Single to Derby’.  It is, perhaps, worth noting that Derby is in exactly the opposite direction to Burton.

Still unwilling to accept the written evidence, and that of our own eyes as we trundled around various Derbyshire villages, my wife asked another passenger where the bus was going, and she confirmed it was for Derby.  As getting off in any of these villages would not guarantee the possibility of a bus back to Burton, we realised that we were trapped until we reached Derby City Centre.

“We’ll get off at the Bus Station and catch another back to Burton” my wife decided.  “Does this go to the Bus Station?” She asked our helpful fellow passenger, as we weaved around the streets of Derby.  “I’m not sure that it does” came the less than helpful reply.

With the Bus Station in sight, we pressed the bell and the bus pulled up.  The conversation with the Driver then went like this:

Wife:  “Do you go to the Bus Station?”

Driver:  “Oh no, we try to avoid it because it gets so busy” (foolish of us to imagine a bus actually using a Bus Station, obviously)

Wife:  “We’ll have to get off here then.  I asked you for a single to Burton, you know?”

Driver (looking at us blankly)  “Oh!”

As it was clear that this conversation was getting us nowhere, other than Derby City Centre, we got off and headed for the Bus Station with all haste.  The haste was, actually, a little redundant as we had just witnessed the express, non-stop bus to Burton gliding serenely past us as we alighted from our previous instrument of torture.  Sure enough, on entering the Bus Station, we learned that the next bus to Burton would depart in twenty minutes and would call at all of the little villages we had just, unwillingly, visited, plus a few more for good measure.

By the time we caught our new bus, it was well past the hour when we should have been collecting the car.  One apologetic phone call to the garage later, and with me nearly £10 lighter in cumulative bus fares, we set off for another scenic tour of the more obscure villages of Derbyshire and Staffordshire, accompanied by the usual crashes, bangs and bone-shaking bounces that are such a fun feature of public road transport.  Quite why they offer free wi-fi is beyond my comprehension, I should think it would be a minor miracle if you ever managed to get your finger anywhere near your touch screen without doing you, or your companion, a serious and possibly deeply embarrassing, injury.

When we finally dragged ourselves into the garage, weary, deafened and shaken to the core, we had been in almost permanent transit for a total of three hours in order to complete what should have been a fifteen mile journey.

So, if you’re wondering why we need a second car when we have such a wonderful public transport service on our doorstep?  Don’t ask, just don’t ask!