Michael Cronogue

Independent of mind and incorrigible of manner; libertarian by nature and sceptic by experience; despiser of bureaucracy and irreverent toward authority; a connoisseur of humour and avowed enemy of all management speak!

Homepage: http://blackcountrylondoner.wordpress.com

A Tale of Two (no.33) Buses

Last month at the Walsall Writers Circle I had the immense privilege of meeting Stuart Williams from the Grand Duchy of Bloxwich, author, commentator and publisher of the irreverent but always topical, Bloxwich Telegraph. While we were chatting later about writing and general literary stuff, I came to realise that I had failed to post anything on my own blogs for some time, as I had become too busy with my regular blogging spots for http://www.2020uk.org and the Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association.

This lack of application has also previously been brought to my attention by the always lovely and always super-efficient, Sonia Dixon from Walsall Library Services, who is a great supporter of local literary talent – even of my inane ramblings. 

When it comes to keeping a watchful finger on our borough’s pulse, in addition to Stuart and his BloxTelegraph, we are also well served by Brownhills Bob, Brownhills Barry and not forgetting The Yam Yam. (If I have missed anyone out I should have mentioned, prostrated apologies will follow).

I had not posted anything on the Clayhanger Review since July last year, where I demanded and failed to receive (surprise,surprise), an explanation from that mythical of mythical beings, a Walsall Council Highways Officer, concerning the botched re-surfacing of our estate roads and footpaths the previous autumn.

So having decided once again to take up the cause of bringing Clayhanger to the wider world, I cast my eye around for anything of likely interest, or some new piece of official lunacy, with which to stretch your credulity even further.

I didn’t have to look very far….

A few weeks ago the organisation which runs the public transport network in the West Midlands, the imaginatively titled Network West Midlands, announced that an extra bus service would be plying the already overcrowded bus routes between Brownhills and Walsall. This half-hourly daytime service from Monday – Saturday would be provided by Midland, whose red buses look almost as old as some of their drivers. This new service – given route number 33 – passes through Clayhanger and Pelsall villages then via Rushall and up to Walsall Bus Station. The new service is designed to complement an already existing route – also route number 33 – run by Arriva Midlands for several years now and which coincidentally, also passes through Clayhanger and Pelsall Villages, then via Rushall and up to Walsall Bus Station. Everyone with me so far?

If you think that’s stretching credulity, look at the timetable below for the services at Clayhanger Lane. You will notice that during the main hours of operation between 0800-1600hrs ex Sunday, the buses are timed to run six minutes apart, although the Midland service appears to stop for lunch between noon and one o’clock. Clearly both man and machine need sustenance at crucial times!

Bus no.33's through Clayhanger

If the services are to run half-hourly, surely it would make sense to schedule them to run 15 minutes apart thereby ensuring an adequate gap between services?  As the Midland 33 runs only to Brownhills and no further it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of the route planners to organise this, or am I being too simplistic in my analysis?

It doesn’t take a genius to know what comes next: if either service is running slightly behind or slightly ahead of schedule, then the odds of both services arriving at any point along the route at the same time are better than William Hill’s. Yesterday for instance, while driving along Lindon Road at around 2.25pm, I saw an Aviva Midlands no.33 heading towards the Wheel Pub only to find when I went to turn into Coppice Road, a Midland no.33 exited from Friezland Lane barely a minute behind. If that wasn’t enough, about an hour later while heading toward Clayhanger Lane from Maybrook Road, I was passed by the same two buses about 30 seconds apart both heading back towards Brownhills!!

Nor is the first time since the new service’s inception have I personally witnessed this shambolic state of affairs. You know, it might just be time to invest in a digital camcorder, set the time and date stamp and take up a suitable vantage point near the Methodist Hall for when the almost inevitable happens again.The resulting footage I can upload onto the web and we can all have a good shake of the heads at the mindset which left has left our village with two bus services, with the same route number and with a timetable, even an illiterate teenager would realise is unworkable.

How the mind boggles!!!!

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WANTED: A Council Officer with a Convincing Explanation!!!

Having lived in the borough of Walsall for the past few years, I thought I had seen and heard of most of the daft things our local council gets up to. Readers of my Black Country Londoner  blog would have previously seen my postings on some of the more “original” ideas proposed by the council for the elderly, including the scrapping of the meals on wheels service in favour of lunchclubs and take-away services. Read full story at  http://wp.me/pSC99-3t 

However, what I am about to describe even manages to trump this piece of lunacy. The estate I live on was built about a dozen years ago, a fact which seems to have escaped double glazing and cavity wall insulation companies. They are forever telephoning or knocking on my door offering their latest deals at unbeatable prices, only politeness stops me from setting next door’s stroppy cat on them!  

Last year the powers that be at the highways department, decided the roads and footpaths on the estate needed to be re-surfaced. Not that there was anything wrong with the old surfaces, on the contrary, they had held up remarkably well. Anyone travelling along Pelsall Road from Brownhills or passing through Maybrook Road Industrial Estate, would have seen far more urgent cases that warranted their attention.           

Despite this, and with hardly any consultation, last autumn we were informed that re-surfacing works would be taking place on the estate. Private contractors were duly employed to carry out the works which involved firstly sweeping both the roads and footpaths, laying down a layer of hot bitumen, then covering it with crushed stone before applying a heavy roller to ensure it set properly. So far so good you might think. However it didn’t take long before some of us noticed little trails of stones following us into our hallways and lounges, on top of which, when the contractors came to clear away the excess material used to re-surface the footpaths, they managed to blow quantities of the stuff onto people’s lawns with the hand-operated blowers they used to collect it into piles.
 
If that was not bad enough, the snow and ice last winter left puddles of surface water as it melted because the excess  could not run freely into the drains, something frequently repeated when we get heavy rain. But even that is nothing compared to the deterioration in the surface noticed in recent weeks since we began getting the latest, albeit infrequent, spells of hot weather. It would appear the bitumen is melting in places and is seeping through the parts of the re-surfaced roadways and paths damaged by the winter weather. The following little montage illustrates what has been happening. 
 
    
 
Following several complaints by residents, including from one of my neighbours, it finally registered on the council’s radar, and last week they even managed to get an engineer to come and inspect the roads and pathways affected.  His explanation after walking up and down for a few minutes went from “nothing to worry about”, to “an experimental process being tried for the first time” to the ultimate bureaucrat’s response, ” it needed doing.”
 
Whatever the reasoning, most people on this estate are of the opinion that with the council’s budget under threat and with the need to save some £65m over the next three years, even the highways department could have found better uses for its money than the botched re-surfacing job we have been left with.
 
However, as another previous blog of mine made clear some time back; finding a council highways officer with a modicum of common sense these days, is almost as difficult as procuring rocking horse manure for the garden roses. The image below illustrates my point all too clearly.
 

Too bad if you're waiting for the Bus!

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Ex-Public Sector – Your Future’s Being Shafted!!!!

You’ve spent your working life loyally in the service of an ungrateful public, working long hours often for a pittance; you’ve endured public anger, ridicule, sometimes violence; you have been the subject of many a tabloid editors prejudices, and been compared unfavourably with the dynamic, forward-thinking private sector. But despite these hardships, you ploughed on, cushioned by the knowledge that at the age of sixty-five or less, you could put your feet up and enjoy your index-linked final salary pension.

Unlike your private sector neighbour, you won’t have to continue working to keep up with the demands of an inferior money-purchase pension scheme; and where in the private sector, getting caught in a compromising position with a photocopier at the Christmas party would guarantee summary dismissal; in the public sector, such an occurrence would ensure free drinks at least until Easter.

Where a day of sick in the private sector would bring accusations of slacking, in the public sector, a mere sniffle would see you sent home on health & safety grounds. Where in the private sector you were only as good as your last set of results; in the public sector you effectively had a job for life, cushioned by subsidised meals and bars where licensing laws were slacker than the MOD’s procurement programme. 

But that’s enough about being an MP.

Many public sector workers would certainly recognise most of the comparisons described in the first paragraph. At least those fortunate enough not to be contracted out, or because of TUPE legislation, managed to keep their former terms and conditions as their new employers were scared off by the cost of harmonising contracts.

However, not content with fleecing the taxpayer and letting bankers walk away with their ill-gotten bonuses, these same MPs have decided that in order to balance the country’s books, they will do what MPs always do: protect their own interests by screwing the rest of us; especially the old, the sick, the disabled and for them, the real cause of the country’s ills, the bloated, bureaucratic edifice that is the public sector! (Eric Pickles Italics)

According to a Daily Telegraph report last week, The British Chambers of Commerce conducted a survey among 4,000 businesses which concluded that although the labour market is showing signs of improvement, some 4 in 10 firms would be reluctant to take on former state employees. Apparently there is still a perception among some employers, that former public sector workers would not make a good cultural fit into their workforce, as they lacked the skills sets needed to assimilate properly. What it doesn’t make clear however, is what those skills sets are. If this is true, then it puts a rather large monkey wrench in Dave and Nick’s plans for the private sector to pick up the slack for all those public sector workers being shown the door.

So there you have it: ex-public sector workers are likely to remain surplus to requirements in all but exceptional cases.

The exceptional cases of course being former MPs; this is one group of ex-Public servants who never seem to have a problem gaining useful employment in the private sector.

All in this together are we?

 

 

 

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A New Political Acronym – L.E.T.W.I.N

A new acronym has entered the lexicon of english political speak. It’s inspiration is derived from that fine, upstanding beacon of meritocracy and admirer of the lower orders, Cabinet Office minister, Oliver Letwin.

Letwin stands for Little Etonian Twerp Wittering Idiotic Nonsense – geddit?

 It is a term which can safely be used to describe others from a similar background as Ollie, who seem to have trouble engaging their brains before their prejudices. London Mayor Boris and PM Dave could easily fit into this category too – and frequently have!

Following Ollie’s grassing up by Boris over his refusal to sanction additional airport capacity, leading to the now infamous remark about preventing people from Sheffield going on cheap package holidays; the good people of Sheffield are rightly annoyed and bemused at why they should be disparaged in this way. Surely Chesterfield and Rotherham should have been in Ollie’s sights, as they elected Labour MP’s in 2010?

What Ollie may not be aware of, is that Sheffield actually has an airport of its own; it features on all Ordnance Survey and google maps, even though it’s been some years since anything bigger than a microlight actually took off from it. However, this is no reason for Lord Snooty to suggest that people from the north should not join the southern branch of the great unwashed, and invade the working class meccas of Ibiza, Majorca, Lanzarote and Crete, where doubtless they will continue to enhance the already shoddy reputation of Brits abroad.

If only they could become more bourgeoise like that other well-know paragon of middle class virtues, Baron Prescott of Kingston-upon-Hull, then there would be plenty of airport capacity for those taking cheap package holidays abroad. The rest of us would travel by scheduled flights to our villas  in Tuscany, The Algarve, and Corfu – would we not?

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Postman Pat has lost my Mum’s Birthday Card!

I guessed that since Adam Crozier did to Royal Mail what he almost did to the England football team, standards had slipped; I never imagined however that we would go from cock-up to conspiracy in one easy step. Last Monday, I posted Mum’s birthday card at my local Post Office for delivery on Tuesday, in time so I thought, she could open it first thing on her birthday Wednesday morning; her postman never arrives before 11 o’clock either these days.

I asked the eldest offspring to keep an eye out for the card as it contained £20 in M&S vouchers – I know should have known better – however, if you can’t trust Postman Pat who can you trust? Seemingly standards have deteriorated much further than one thought, as at time of writing on Friday evening card has still not arrived and Mum’s birthday has been ruined.

Eldest offspring and Father celebrate their birthdays over the next two weeks, one thing for sure, I won’t be sending any more cards via Royal Mail: because whether through incompetence or – and I sincerely hope I’m wrong - some more sinister reason, I won’t be trusting Croziers Fusiliers with anything other than correspondence marked OHMS, that can go missing everytime!!

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NHS Appointments – Like a Game of Telephone Tag

My hopes that my GP’s surgery had forgotten to call me in for my annual diabetic blood test – loosely translated as my annual bollocking  – were dashed when a letter arrived last Friday informing me that they wanted to see me on August 4th. Now this being my dear old Mum’s birthday, there was about as much chance of me attending that appointment as an MP forgetting to claim their expenses. So in the spirit of co-operation – avoiding the nagging from the females in my life – I attempted on Monday to re-arrange said appointment. However, the appointments section can only be contacted between 10 am and 1 pm which is a fat lot of good when you have errands to run most of Monday. Now for the really fun part!

On Tuesday, at just after 10 o’clock, I dutifully rang the surgery to advise them of said need to change appointment – yes Lil I did heed your “or else” warning about NOT forgetting – only wait for it, I couldn’t get through! So having waited a few minutes I tried again, this time successfully getting through to a human being rather than Robot Rita. I explained to this individual my reasons for wanting to change appointment in what I thought was relatively simple english – I refuse to go completely native in Black Country dialect - you could almost hear the audible sucking-in of breath on the other end; like the NHS appointments system was designed for my convenience!

After much to-ing and fro-ing and much tut-tuting from the NHS side, we finally agreed a revised date of 26th August at 0830 hrs and yes, that is August 26th this year!!

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Wish me Luck as you wave me goodbye…….I think Not Gordon!

Unlike Our Gracie, not too many people will be sorry to see “El Gordo” leave Downing Street this evening. If I were the Queen, who constitutionally is the person who officially must accept his resignation, I would be asking “What took you so Long?” 

Now that the election is finally over all bar the shouting, and when Sam & Dave finally get to order the new drapes and bedding from Dunelms, perhaps we can look forward to more important things; like this summers cricket tourists – Pakistan I think this year – Wimbledon, the British Grand Prix and not to mention, the world play acting championships taking place in South Africa next month.

All in all a good summer of sport to come, and the politicians hopefully taking a back seat at last. I may even get to finish the Queen Mum’s biography before we go on hols.

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