Friday, November 14, 2003

Hoorah, Martlesham is finally open, the punters are coming in and I can get back to some semblance of normality again...

The launch event on Tuesday went pretty well in the end. It was, of course, dominated by the councillors etc who have never been on site before and probably never will again but at least a couple of the speeches managed to give some credit to some of the people who'd actually done the work. And the doves all flew without encouragement when they got released, which was a step up from events at the Bury Road launch in 2000. OK, so we were pleased it was all over before darkness fell as the lights in the terminal building didn't get fitted until yesterday, but otherwise good stuff. I even managed to get on telly for a few seconds that night. They even managed to make a cake in the shape of one of the buses that was surprisingly edible. Mind you, it was a grey and cold day (again). We really must get the hang of launching things in the summer from now on. Would be nice to have some scantily clad models around or something. Just to add a touch of colour to events you understand...

So Wednesday was the real test of all our hard work when we opened to the public. I got there at 0645 in time for the first bus to roll at 0700. And the first passenger finally rolled up at 0750 or thereabouts. Which was nice as we were beginning to think we'd be stood there all day waiting. So we did the ceremonial handing over of a 20 trip smartcard, bottle of wine and P&R umbrella. There were press around as well so I also ended up in the Evening Star that day. Fame! I'm gonna live forever, etc. Ahem. It all went pretty well from then on with a steady stream of people running through including several who bought smartcards before even trying the route (and thus committed themselves to coming back), a few who bought them on their way home again and also Joan and Mum (who I met on my bus back to the site, which was nice). Hoorah! It was of course another grey and rainy day so that may have put a few people off from trying us out, but in the end we must have had at least 60 cars through. Which compares well with the other two when they opened. But it was a long day and I was more than glad to get home. Despite ending up spending the evening on my own as Joan went out to Bingo with Helen. Total winnings £2.50 each. Whooppee, life of luxury for us from now on.

Then yesterday and we had hoped to get back to regular stuff. In fact I had hoped not to go near Martlesham, but that was not to be. The plan was simple enough - go out first thing and put up the "open for christmas shopping" signs at London Road (the one at Bury Road got removed last year and we haven't got ant for Martlesham yet) then pelt off to Bury St Edmunds to deliver some timetables to Greene King brewery. But while we were putting the signs up the phone rang. Martlesham. One of the new buses wasn't working properly so had been replaced by a spare. Which was a couple of inches taller. So naturally the driver had smacked into the overhanging roof of the terminal building, ripping a gutter off and twisting some of the planks. Marvellous.

Gary and I thus went over to see the damage and have a chat with the on-site engineer and project managers about stopping it happen again. After much arguing and stomping about we finally got them to agree to extend the kerb line away from the building. After all, we might end up running bigger buses still in the future (including double deckers) so need to be able to cope with those too. Not sure when it will happen, bu the sooner the better in my book.

All of which meant we didn't even leave here towards Bury until after lunch. Then on the way back Gary's phone rang - some furniture he'd ordered had arrived. As we had the van we picked that up and I did my good deed for the day by helping him get it up to his flat. Those little things that make me remember some of the reasons I was pleased not to be working at Argos any more. Flat-pack wardrobes are just so heavy!

And now the weekend is approaching rapidly. I think I will devote the rest of today to clearing the clutter that has accumulated on and around my desk during all the launch build-up, then next week back to the cut and thrust of trying to meet targets.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Only another day to go now before Martlesham Park & Ride opens, so hopefully with that out of the way I will be able to calm down my life a fraction and get back on with normal stuff like the rest of my job and things. Certainly had precious little time to keep up with it last week. So, what did I manage to do?

Tuesday was a training day - how to write better English. Not sure how much I learned really, and how much was just reminding me of how I ought to be doing things. Some of it was interesting but I think I could probably have got by without it. Still, we are supposed to be an organisation committed to continuous improvement so I shouldn't grumble. Going on the odd "not so useful" course keeps my name up there as someone willing to go on these things when something worth doing turns up. Plus it was a day out of the office, which normally would be welcome but this time of course was merely one in five days out in the week.

Wednesday and Thursday saw me do Martlesham, Woodbridge, Felixstowe and Lowestoft on P&R promotional duties. Both days went pretty well. The only complaints were related to the roundabout at the site entrance which is nothing to do with me and generally people were looking forward to us opening. In fact we were welcomed almost with open arms by some. My fears about the price compared to the other two sites may prove justified come the opening, but nobody raised them as a significant issue. Mind you, the number of people who never go to Ipswich (or at least say they never go) was staggering. I know they say Suffolk folk are an insular lot but I wasn't sure I believed it until now. The most extreme was a girl who confessed to having lived in Lowestoft 23 years and only been to Norwich once in that time and Ipswich never. I think I'd go stark raving bonkers (again!) if I didn't see different places regularly.

It was good to spend the three days out with some of the drivers and get to know them a bit better. There was a time when I knew all the P&R drivers quite well, but what with other jobs and them changing a lot I've sort of lost touch. So I will be making an effort with the other two sites as well to make sure people know I'm Mr P&R!

The trips also gave me the chance to confirm that the buses are comfortable for the longer journey in to town from Martlesham. OK, so I stayed awake and reading but other spare drivers managed to snooze their way around the county. We did also have a spot of excitement in Lowestoft at one retail park. First the manager of one of the units tried to make a scene about us being there and taking his trade away. But we had got permission from the site management to be there so that was easily resolved. Then we had a car catch fire in the car park which was quite spectacular. And the fire brigade were very quick to arrive so we got to see them at work before making our retreat - after all, a bus is no competition with men in uniform when it comes to getting attention.

Friday was a delivery day for me after we ran out of other people to do them instead. A slight mix-up with the van (mainly relating to the person doing deliveries for me on Wednesday smashing a mirror on it) meant we did 167 miles in a very nice Rover 75 estate. Which meant coming back in to town half way through for a re-fill but we were prepared to put up with that. After all, we did have a lovely leather interior and more toys to play with than you could shake a stick at. Down to individual climate control for each side of the car! Plus there was a nice lunch in Laxfield, another pub I will have to take Joan along to one day. Roll on next summer and us starting to have days out again.

So that was the working week over with finally. I was fairly knackered by the time I got home on Friday night and looking forward to relaxing a bit. Of course Joan was at work both Saturday and Sunday so I was still up around normal time to take her in. But then I spent two days doing a bit of tidying and ironing, a bit of reading and a bit of playing games on this here PC. OK, so I also did a lot of struggling with stupidly designed spring clips while trying to change a headlamp bulb (I think I wasted over an hour trying to undo the blasted thing before giving up, getting help from Dad and watching him solve it in 5 seconds flat). Went on a bit of a downwrd spiral for a while after that - mainly frustration over being either beaten by something so stupid or at being so stupid myself. Didn't really pick up until Joan came home again - she is my living anti-depressant.

On the book front I am now on to number 4 - The Gap into Madness: Chaos And Order and still we are meeting new characters and situations. Which is good in the stopping boredom setting in stakes but adds more twists and turns to the plot that will need resolving at some point. Am definitely enjoying the series but at the same time wish I could get to the end quicker.

Last night we squeezed in watching Bend It Like Beckham which managed to be a lot funnier than I had expected from the reviews. Could be that some of the jokes made more sense to us through knowing Bhupen and his family than perhaps they would to others.

So now we are almost up to date again. This morning was the final on-site snagging run through for Martlesham before the launch ceremony tomorrow. Found a few minor things that give cause for slight worry (like the building lights haven't arrived yet!) but I think we should be OK in the end. I'll be glad when the first punter turns up on Wednesday morning though. Then this afternoon I have been working here after yet another trip to the dentist. Just the normal one in Felixstowe today for a check up and filling. Face still a bit sore but then I did need extra anaesthetic again as I was a tad sensitive when he started drilling. Right, that will do for today.