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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Monday, May 21, 2007

My kingdom for a horse...

For some time now, I've purchased a new travel card once a year. (I used to do it once a month, but it's astonishing how quickly the month-end comes round. And, anyway, the bloke behind the counter at the then bus station used to give me the creeps: there is such a thing as being too pleased to see a particular customer.)

When I first started doing this, I was travelling to the office and back five days a week by bus. So it was worthwhile financially. These days I travel in to the office by bus three mornings a week, and back home by bus one evening. (I don't bed down under my desk on the other two days, you understand: I'm not that sad. A very lovely friend of mine gives me a lift home.) So now it's not remotely worthwhile financially. In fact, I'd really rather not sit down and calculate the actual cost of my journeys per month and compare that to one twelfth of the cost of my travel card. But what it does allow me to do - and this is enormously important to a woman in my condition - is to sit down before the bus suddenly pulls out and hares round a steep bend on two wheels.

So, anyway, my last travel pass being valid until May 19th, I decided on Friday afternoon that I would go and renew it at the local railway station.

Apart from anything else, I needed to know how long it would take me to walk to the station. This is because the bus I have been using to travel to work for the last twelve years, or thereabouts, has been withdrawn. As part of a programme to "improve services", of course. So, once I have conquered the side-effects of Tramadol sufficiently to be capable of rather more than just sitting at my desk and staring vaguely into the middle distance, I will need to catch a train for one stop in order to pick up the bus which no longer comes out this far. Thereby extending what used to be a thirty minute journey door to door into something considerably more time-consuming.

So I set off at what, for me, is a fairly brisk pace.

Unlike the walk to the bus stop, which was a straightforward downhill meander along the side of a dual carriageway, this one is more complicated. I've got to cross said busy dual carriageway, for a start. Something which throws an imponderable into the time-calculation. Plus, instead of smooth stretches of easily-navigable pavement, we have numerous very short stretches of pavement interrupted at almost unbelievably-frequent intervals by steep kerb cuts. Some of the houses on this route have two drives, would you believe? I'm busy keeping an eye on the time on the way there, but I'm determined that I'm going to count those blasted kerb cuts on the way back. Just for my own satisfaction. So that, in the absence of any more gripping conversational gambits, I will be able to splutter, "Do you know how many kerb cuts there are between home and the railway station? Do you? Go on: guess!" in an enraged manner. (Really, is it any wonder people queue up to avoid me?)

When I finally reach the station, I'm disappointed to note that the walk has taken somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes. (The walk to the bus stop used to take getting on for 15 minutes.) I'm still not persuaded it's actually any further to the station: just that the walk is more difficult.

Anyway, having established how long the walk takes, I move on to stage two of the plan. Slapping my travel pass on the counter, I cheerily request, "another year on that, please.".

"Sorry, luv", the chap says. "We don't do those here. They do them at Central, though."

"Oh. How long 'til the next train into town?"

"Three minutes."

"Ok, I'll do that then. Thank you." (Note: middle-class conditioning is so deeply-embedded that the impulse to be polite over-rides infuriated disbelief that you can't buy a travel card for a public transport network at all of that network's outposts.)

So I catch the train into town. Central station is, as always, a busy place. Too busy, really, for an ouchy crip in a Tramadol haze. But, hey: needs must, and all that. I queue up at the ticket counter for Quite Some Time. Eventually, I am able to slap my travel pass on the counter and repeat my earlier cheery request.

"Sorry, luv. We haven't got any annual ones. Merseytravel are supposed to send them to us, but they haven't. We sell them on their behalf, you see. You'll be able to get one at the Travel Centre. Do you know where that is?"

I do indeed know where that is. It's quite a long walk from Central station through some of the busiest pedestrianised parts of town. This is turning out to be such fun! I mean, you'd think people would be only too keen to relieve me of the better part of £500, wouldn't you?

So, off I go. I navigate past the small crowd of people who have stopped to look at a pigeon. (No, I don't know why.) I narrowly avoid being bitten in both ankles by a variety of sharpened baby buggies. And falling over the idiot who stops dead in front of me. And being mown down by the other idiot who is composing a text message while walking at full speed.

Eventually, bloody but unbowed, I reach the Travel Centre. I stand in another queue. Behind people with the most complicated and lengthy travel queries known to man. Who haven't the intelligence to fully understand either what they're asking, or the answers they are given. One woman has lost her travel pass. She's told that she can get a replacement for £5 if she brings in a new photograph and some proof of her address, e.g. a gas or electricity bill. For reasons which I can't follow, she doesn't have a gas or electricity bill. On the plus side, however, she does have an exceedingly vociferous friend who appears to be labouring under the delusion that it is her bounden duty to harangue the Travel Centre staff viciously over their entirely-unreasonable desire to ensure that they're issuing the travel pass to the right person.

At last, I get my travel pass renewed. By this stage, I am too tired to ask probing questions about why I have to come right to the centre of the transport network to have this simple task performed.

I wend my weary way back through the milling crowds to the bus stop. The one at which the number 82 bus has stopped since the Dawn Of Time. After watching two 82 buses sail past without stopping, it occurs to me that Something Is Wrong. Moving up the pavement a tad, I accost a gentleman in a luminous jacket.

"It's moved, luv", he says, helpfully. "It's round on Lime Street now. In front of the old picture house. Will be for the next twelve months, at least. It's all uphill from here."

Oh, well, that's just bloody marvellous, isn't it? (I don't say this to the gentleman in the luminous jacket. I know he isn't personally responsible for the fact that the city centre has been in utter chaos for the last three years.)

With faltering steps, I limp onwards towards the "temporary" bus stop. And look back with surprising affection on all those weeks when I wasn't fit enough to leave the house.

The Editor


Blogger dorothy said...

what a good read! ha ha ha

11:59 am  
Blogger Katie said...

I *hate* it when they move bus stops.


12:19 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done for obtaining a travel pass against such overwhelming odds. It makes one proud to be British.

Dame Honoria is about to start yet another round of battling with hospital consultants, and this blog has strengthened her resolve considerably.

Is there a reason why the transport powers-that-be go to such lengths to discourage people? It reminded me of Douglas Adams' description of viewing a planning application in HHGTTG.

12:58 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

I suspect it's a case of terminal corporate ineptitude rather than the cold-hearted and deliberate creation of obstacles.

Not that that makes it any easier to deal with, of course...

1:04 pm  
Blogger Mr Chuckles said...

I would be quite happy to provide Lady B with an 'orse. I happen to have a spare one of the pantomime variety that would gallop her to her workplace in no time - providing of course she can keep front and back end (of the 'orse) going in the same direction - said problem being the very reason it is going spare! Happy to help a real lady.

5:39 pm  
Blogger Mary said...

Ooooooh. What fun.

Partly it seems to depend what sort of area you're in. My flat is in a "deprived ward", all old houses converted into bedsit flats, where it's unusual to have a car and unheard of to have bought that car new. The nearest bus stop is approximately three metres from my front door, and if I grit my teeth I could probably wobble to the stops either side of it too.

I hear that being near a university full of non-driving students apparently helps for a good bus service too.

Unfortunately so far as I am aware there is nothing which can be done about drivers who pull away before you've had an opportunity to sit down.

6:07 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...


I think I've managed to give a misleading impression.

There are quite a few bus stops within less than five minutes' stagger from home.

They just don't serve the very few buses which go to the off-the-beaten-track part of town where the office is unhelpfully situated.

6:14 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...


What I really don't understand is the fact that the old 82 bus stop is still a bus stop. But it's a bus stop for another number of bus.

I don't know why the other bus - whose own stop has presumably been destroyed as part of the "improvements" to the city centre - didn't move to the just-another-few-minutes'-limp-uphill temporary stop.

This may be why I am not a town planner...

6:19 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must admit to giving up where town planners are concerned. Have any of them, walking stick in hand, actually tried to get to a stop? Let alone persuaded a bus to stop where it should? Thought not...
Like those who pontificate about our weather without so much as a glance out of the window, the planners are more concerned with telling us what ought to be rather than what actually is.
An unladylike finger to the lot of them!

7:45 pm  
Blogger Mary said...

Ah. Oops. Sorry. No, it's not you, it's me, I'm not all here today.

8:23 pm  
Blogger Katie said...


That really is special. So it's still a stop, but the number 82 has been moved to a different stop, and that is considered an improvement. Brilliant!

I mean, maybe there is a wobbler who lives near the new stop who is grateful for the change. Hurrah!

I love logic.

My uncle has a degree in town planning.

He is not very clever.

12:30 am  
Blogger Katie said...

Also I despise ineptitude more than I despise blatant discrimination.

At least with discrimination you know where you are.

With ineptitude, everyone just stands around being very very sorry.

12:31 am  
Blogger Melbamae said...

What is a bus stop anyway? I've heard rumours that there is a twice a week bus "service" in our village, but have never actually seen proof of this.

I kept wincing in empathy each time your enfeebled frame was forced to carry on. Not that I pretend to have the remotest inkling of what your frame feels like mind you.

It did though remind me of my early attempts to walk the minuscule five tenths of a mile to our local shop before having shed an ounce of myself. It nearly killed me, and that was without a disability, chronic pain and fog inducing drugs.

It must have been a horrendous spoon sucking journey. Well done for having survived it in tact and without giving "the inept" a sound stick thrashing!

10:01 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking as one who never boards the Devil’s chariot, on account of it being too far from my front door to the nearest chariot stop, I’d just like to input a comment if I may regarding town planning and disabled parking.

My home town has a population of 92,000. Recent town centre “improvements” have resulted in around 100 on-street “Pay and Display” spaces being lost at the same time as several streets’ worth of double-yellow lines have been converted to “loading only” bays or lost to the new pedestrian precinct, thus taking away about a further 100 parking opportunities for Blue Badgers (people with disabled parking badges that is, not azure members of the species “Meles Meles”).

There is still on-street parking to be had, and the odd remaining stretch of dubble yellers for one or two pukka crip cars. Heavens, we even have 8 (eight!) designated on-street disabled parking bays – which is sufficient for 0.0087% of the town’s population.

So why am I complaining? Only because at 10.30 last Saturday morning, I had to pilot the Rolls Canardly around the town centre for 45 minutes looking for a space sufficiently close to the shops I wished to visit. And all because the council is committed to “enhancing the town-centre shopping experience for our residents and visitors”.


2:07 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Might I suggest attaching a bungee cord around the waist of the more sprightly Dude Junior?

With a little practice as to speed of driving &c, it should be possible for Dude Senior never to actually need to get out of the Rolls at all.

2:45 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He may be sprightlier in theory but that doesn’t make him fast. He walks with the downcast shuffling gait of all teenage boys – and only then when he is full of enthusiasm for the destination.

Still, with the bungee, if he was taking too long, he would soon have to return to base for further instruction. I like the way your mind works!!

Now, if only I can work out a way to get him out of bed before Saturday noon when the Post Office closes....

3:26 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Pay a teenage girl (er, other than his sister) to run naked through his room at 9.30 am?

3:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I may regret asking this, but...

Where, prithee, am I going to find a naked teenage girl at 9.30 on a Saturday morning?

Heaven knows that, when I was a teenager myself, I never could!

11:37 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Ah, but now that you are suave, sophisticated and rolling in cash...

7:04 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hah! I've more chance of finding a pantomime horse, I'll wager.

PS. What makes you think I am rolling in cash?

7:48 am  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

I would say, "rolling in cash in comparison with the average teenage girl", but I have a sneaking suspicion you could produce statistics (culled from a quick survey of your daughter's friends) to prove me wrong...

8:00 am  
Blogger fluttertongue said...

I recognise this scenario all too well, although my major bug bear is when you ding the dinger and yet the bus wizzes past your stop because you haven't stood up in time to look like you want to get off. Planning to go somewhere, getting there with just enough energy to do the task at hand, and then being told I have to go somewhere else is just about the most irritating thing, especially as I'm incredibly impatient. I'm impressed by your resolve!

2:18 pm  

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