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November 19, 2014

This Bus Terminates Here….

I have been driving a London Red Bus for almost two years come September. However, I’m not making it to my two year anniversary… because I am chaining jobs (again), but staying within transport!

I’m actually off to work for London Underground, not as a a driver (yet!) but as station staff, I stumbled across the vacancy on the TfL Linkedin page and thought “why not!”.

Like most jobs i’ve applied for, I had some scepticism as TfL jobs, like many high profile companies, notoriously have thousands of applicants, so it’s a long and competitive process. I applied a few months ago with a small bit of resentment when I got news I was being put on rota for the 174, in the same week I was doing spread-over (split hours) shifts. I remained optimistic, because I have the possibility of progressing and trying for operations roles fulfilling another boyhood dream of playing with a real size train set!

So I applied, a few months back and made it through the various assessments, interviews and finally the medical… and i’m off to play with the railway!

To be honest, I’m not sure if the time was right, there where a few things that interested me with the bus operations such as iBus and Service Control, plus learning a few more routes such as rail replacements & so on.
When I was rostered for the 174, I  started highlighting problems with our management so they can take our concerns up the chain of command.
At the same time, I don’t want to miss this opportunity to work for TfL, who knows if I would have got another chance?
I admit I have some sadness leaving the Buses, the team at RM made the job worthwhile, It’s left me with a feeling of ambivalance over the whole thing, which is a shame as part of me really wants to celebrate that i’m changing jobs.

I start training in a week, so I can let the excitement develop!

No more ‘This Bus Terminates Here‘. Instead; ‘Mind The Gap‘!

 

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July 31, 2017

Austria: EU Road Trip

So we’re back on the mainland, after playing with the boats, and we’re driving away from Venice, as we’re crossing the SR11 (Bridge?!) from Venice, I notice a very famous train passing by. The Orient Express! Wish I had the time and money to have holidayed on a world famous train, Lee didn’t know what it was sadly.

 

Today was a lot of driving, in fact we where due to spend a very large part of the day on the road, in fact somewhere in the range of 6+ hours, driving.
We agreed while on the boat, that we had done a lot of recent motorway driving, and decided that we would go via the Italian Countryside. and that when we get into Germany we would be doing a lot more motorway… Autobahn driving.

We traveled around the Italian countryside, admiring the towns, villages, vineyards (most of the crop was harvested), Part of our detour from the motorways took us round the foothills of Dolomite mountain. mountains where a good sign for our next country stop. What I hadn’t realised initially is Lee had suggested the detour to visit Ai Pioppi, a human powered playground! We had both heard about it through YouTube.

We arrived to find it was closed as it was classed as the winter period when the park shut. but we still parked up, got snacks from the coolbox and drove on.

We carried on through the mountains, reaching the Austrian boarder.
Initially we planned to stop in Austria for a night, but this would add extra time we didn’t have onto the whole trip. However, we still needed to buy a Vignette to drive on the motorways

Much like Switzerland, Austria was very picture-esque, We had no plan for Austria, apart from driving through it to get to Munich, However we had decided on planning we should take a break in Innsbruck, just to split up our long day of driving. So where better to stop, than half way up a mountain, with views of this;

Innsbruck

Innsbruck

Needless to say, Austria is on my return list. even if I just take pictures like that all day.

The final part of our journey was shorter and took us into the early evening, and it took us across into Germany where we aimed to reach the hotel in Munich.

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November 12, 2016

Italy: EU Road Trip

Now Italy is sort of the half way point on our trip, it’s the furthest point we’re traveling too before heading back towards the UK.

Firstly one notable items about driving in Italy… They LOVE tolls, possibly more than France…
Italy so far has become the most expensive place just to get around.  We had two destinations, Milan and Venice, A few hours after leaving the Swizz boarder and becoming a few Euro lighter in the pocket, we reach Milan…

Milan

Milan is a old feeling city, but famous for being the culture of fashion and design, which explains the abundance of cloths shops, after parking the car a few streets away in a secure attened car park we checked into our nice looking budget(?!) B&B Hotel, It’s comparable to the Premier Inn chain in the UK, just without Lenny Henry….

After ditching the suitcases, we decided to give the car a rest and use public transport, Doing some quick Google’ing I discovered you could download an App for the Milano Transport System ‘ATM’, and purchase a 24 hour ticket for Buses, Trams and the Metro (Underground), It used a QR code that you scanned before entering the Metro system and for other surface transport show the app ticket if requested – Simple, London I hope you’re taking notes!

We had a quick sights trip (quick being the key word here), firstly to Castello Sfozeco, A massive medieval fortress. before jumping on a Tram to see the equally massive cathedral. Next door to the said Milan Cathedral was the GAllera Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the oldest shopping malls in the world, I believe, it’s a very large glass covered shopping Mall, This is where you got a taste of the fashion with all luxury clothing brands Including, but not limited to Mercades, Fararri, Parada along with numerous restaurants of which we decided to enjoy dinner at.

The only thing that ultimately let Milan down was the street vendors, attempting to rip tourists off at every turn, selling selfie sticks, wristbands, scarves, handbags, roses and some silly children’s toys… These con artists were more of these annoying than the people than on London Bridge and Covent Garden put together, They began to get my nerves so much that I didn’t overly enjoy Milan at all.

I was relieved to return to our Hotel and prepare for the next leg of our journey to Venice!

Parma.

Milan to Venice was roughly 3 hour journey, so Lee suggested we check out another section of Italy this time Parma, Home of Ham & Cheese.
This flying visit resulted in a long walk from the carpark to the sort of town center, we saw the Baptistery of Parma, the Cathedral and bought some Parmesan cheese, well it would be rude not to..

Venice

Finally, the ‘furthist’ point of the trip, I booked a hotel on the island of Lido, but didn’t think to pre-book or research the ferry… On the plus side, the car did come to Lido, and it had a 2 night rest… It’s probably thankful to us.

We both agreed as we left the mainland of Euroupe and had sailed across to another island (albeit the same Country) it actually felt we was more ‘on-holiday’ than any other trip.

In Venice boats rule, Lido and the Santa Croce area of Venice are the only places you’ll see cars!

The first night, we arrived late afternoon / early evening so we only wondered around Lido, found food, along with some wonderful Red Wine (Italian Merlot I believe) before going to sleep.
Next day we caught a boat back to the main part of Venice, passenger boats run as regular as buses, there’s loads to pick from. There was much to see in San Marco including a long walk round the islands, we watched the Gondals weaving among the canals, We debated going on one but at €80 for 30 mins this was a bit steep just for us… (If I had been on holiday with a girlfriend, then i’d have a different answer). The public transport / river boat done us fine and for €20 we had a 24 hour pass to use any of the city transport services.
The ticket was like an Oystercard too, simple.

We spent majority of the day in San Marco and ventured across to Murano for lunch, Murano we learned is famous for glass making, the majority of shops selling hand crafted glass items. After lunch and getting lost in Murano then buying Ice Cream we found a boat to take us back to Marco, after another spot of wondering round the maze of walkways we decided to get dinner at a riverside restaurant before catching the boat back to Lido and finding our Hotel.

Where we requested more teabags… Which could have been the most British thing we’ve done this whole trip!

Negativing the ferry back was confusing and fun, The port at Venice had clear markings and a full on ticket barrier and clearly marked lanes.. on Lido you get the barrier and ticket office, but you essentially queue up on the side road next to the ferry entrance!

I was sad we had to leave so soon, but we have more driving ahead of us into Germany!

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November 2, 2016

Switzerland: EU Road Trip

The journey from Luxembourg to Zurich was “Only 3 to 4 hours…”, according to our host as we checked out handing the keys back… In the grand scheme of things that’s not too bad, we did a lot of driving to get to Luxembourg, and we know there was way more ahead of us….

Switzerland, home of Swiss Cheese, Swiss Army Knives, that annoying film sound of music and posh watches…. We eventually rolled up to the border, whereby you’re stopped not for a passport check, but to pay road tax. A Vignette is basically a tax for using the motorways, sort of like a toll for the whole country – Not an issue, for the ammount of milage we’d be covering this would be classed as cheap compared to the french & Italian tolls.

We had another AirBnB booked just outside of Zurich in the suburb of Zollikon, Our host gave us loads of useful information and highly recommended using the public transport. We had drawn similarities to London driving when passing through Zurich, notably the lack of car-parks, most comical (Well to us) was the traffic light sequencing allowing a grand total of 4 cars through (pretty much like sitting at the lights at the A127 Ardligh Green junction).

After sorting the room out, we ventured out to the new city we found ourselves in heading the advice given about the Public Transport system we found a Bus Stop and bought a ticket, the ticket allowed us to travel across the Zurich using any local Bus or Tram for a full 24 Hours.
Buses here are more like low floor coaches, where you can board from any of the 3 doors and the drivers pretty much get on the with driving no assault screens (and they take cash) Plus the on-board information is more detailed.

A key feature of the Zurich is it’s Lake, featuring many small boats (sort of like Westcliff & Chalkwall seafront) and quite a few activities based on the lake, sadly we wasn’t spending enough time to take advantage of everything on offer. But we went of a nice walk enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of this city.

The next morning, we left early to make the journey to Milan, Most of this leg of the journey took us through the picturesque sights of the Swiss Mountains, and it was outstanding to see such natural beauty, but also the marvels of engineering in building roads, houses and railways on the side of a mounting.

We made a short stop for breakfast in a Swiss town of Beckenried, which lay beside a still water lake, despite being in the

Truely breathtaking.

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October 31, 2016

Luxembourg: EU Road Trip

Our first destination on the road trip was Luxembourg, a historic picturesque city (It looked relatively nice on Google Street View) that’s small and amazingly nice.

We decided to spend 2 nights in this country, but we also booked our room through AirBnB. It’s an relatively new concept whereby you can rent out a spare room / apartment / bed for short term stays, usually undercutting most local B&B’s or Hotels. Our booking was an en-suite room, in the hosts basement with it’s own private entrance, located in Leudelange, just outside of Luxembourg City.

The first thing I noticed when wondering the city was how clean it is. The native language is actually Luxembourgish, which takes aspects of French, Flemish and old Anglish (Anglish, being the basis of English) Majority of people we encountered spoke French and where polite with Hello, Goodbye and Thank You being used in abundance (Although I wish I could remember more french from the years I spent learning it in school)

On the full day of exploring Luxembourg we tried the hire bikes (same system as London’s ‘Boris’ Bikes) before deciding to take a Tour Bus to see the true sights of the New & Old city. After getting an better idea of where things where, we decided to drive across to the New city and enjoy the sights again.

I quite enjoyed Luxembourg, if I had more time I would liked to have visited the museums or gone further across the country.

 

 

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October 30, 2016

EURoadTrip

Would you believe I’m 25 years old and I have never been on a holiday abroad. I have never explored another Country ever (Not counting the school trip to France year ago, I choose to forget that experience through choice).

Actually, I know of people who are older than me and have never stepped foot abroad. I am due to have some annual leave late October / Early November and for the best part of a year, myself and Lee had been talking about going on Holiday. Most likely somewhere in Europe as that’s cheaper than going to the USA, New Zealand or somewhere far, far away.

We decided to start bouncing ideas of places we would like to visit, after-all the Europe is a big place.
My one request was to avoid france, I had very little intrest in staying there, plus Lee had already been ealier in the year. So we both agreed the first stop en-route would be Luxemberg.

Venice was chosen as the  the furthest destination and worked out how many days it would take to get there, we used Furkot  to help plan the trip, it works out the days, and forces ‘rests’ into your journey – Clever stuff!
Now with an idea of places we would be recommended to stop, we started reviewing places we perfered.

Luxembourg (avoiding France), Switzerland, Italy, Germany…

Now we had to narrow the list down to actual places en-route, plus with a few extra places thrown in, Lee suggested Czech Republic, so that went in. I discovered Hammberg had the worlds largest model railway (as a child I went to a few Model Railway exhibitions in London with my dad) so my inner child could be amazed.

From here we have a route… a long, long route… averaging 2500 miles… that’s not including driving round towns and the Cities….

Places to stay

This was inevitably going to be awkard, trying to book places that A) Spoke English, of some degree. B) Had Twin rooms (I’m not sharing a bed with Lee… I snore and i’m greedy with the covers (Ladies, i’m your typical bloke when asleep…)). C) Wasn’t too far from the places we wanted to visit…

I suggested we try Air BnB I remember reading about it, and seeing mostly positive outcomes we decided to book a couple of places, along with a few hotels… We have however, decided to only book 50% of the rooms, just in case we change our minds en-route.

 

So now to pack, get money, and go….

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October 15, 2016

Refitting Studios

There is never a dull moment in volunteering, this is quite true at Bedrock, Since our merger with The Jumbo Sound, we’ve had a lot on our plate. I’ve had a team of Trustees to oversee different aspects of the merger  – But the bit I’ve gotten myself most involved in is the studio rebuilds!

It’s fair to say I’ve made quite a few changes over the 10 years I’ve been at Bedrock.
Mostly involving the way the studio operates. With temporary studios, ‘that’ll do’ fixes and the last one ‘functional & practical until the next one’… and now the current one.

Not only is it my favourite studio build I have been involved with – It’s also the best looking!
Of-course I’ve not done it alone, I’ve had Lee working with me on the projects. The studio at Queen’s in Romford is a small rectangle. That’s got awful acoustics, and in all honesty is a bit all over the place, oddly placed plug sockets. A window into the office and a door that doesn’t have an automatic closer (which can be very annoying…).

But this is the Third and FINAL! (take note Lee) studio build for the studio at Queen’s.
It’s got everything I envisaged. It looks professional. It looks tidy & most of all I’m proud of it.

So what’s this new Romford studio box got? 

  • Sonifex S2 mixer (acquired through the Goodmayes (Jumbo) merger);
    This actually created the first problem, the woodwork at Goodmayes was actually too big for the Romford studio. It left very little space to manoeuvre, and the only orintation the desk would go, resulting in the presenter lookin at the window and no room for co-hosts. Which resulted in us buying…
  • A Bespoke Studio Desk.
    Sonifex have a range of furniture for S2 mixer that’s modular, which looked nice, but resulted in limiting the space again, Lee and I looked around and found Broadcast Warehouse also done furniture, but again the suggested ones would limit our space down.
    Sitting in the studio one afternoon, I got the the idea of a droplet shape, resulting in the presenter not directly facing the wall or window, but rather towards the door, with the mixer modules angled appropriately to maximise space.  So we drew the idea out on a whiteboard (because my best ideas are scribbled on these). so Lee measured up, resulting in a Bespoke desk for Romford! – Unique to our studio only!
  • 4 Microphones.
    Another request of mine was to introduce a 4th Mic if we had room, some of our team shows resulted in 2 – 4 people being in the studio at once, and often resulted in two people sharing.
    We’re using B-1 Behringers in the studio (I actually own one of these personally, and I quite enjoy the warmth the mic has)
  • Extra PC’s
    So the presenters in our studio have their Myriad Playout PC, that was actually rebuilt with a rack-able PC case. They also have an ‘Internet PC’ for emails, research, spotify etc…
    We decided to include a second ‘Internet PC’ for the co-hosts to use, as the one for the presenter was extremely far away from the co-hosts. both these actually plug into the desk… but only the presenters one is able to record.
  • Mic Live Light
    Okay this one is cheating a little bit – We already have a Mic Live LED light in the window in our office, Plus we have info-screens with cue lights on… so why the extra one?
    Well we decided this was more of a luxury extra, but would also be in eye-shot of everyone, In the studio or the office. when it’s on… don’t enter! (But you always get someone who does.)
  • Speaker Poles
    This was an afterthought. We realised that with the new position the speakers needed to come down from the walls and be repositioned to be central to the presenter – now in an ideal world I’d love to cealing mount the speakers but that would breach the lease. So we opted for speaker stands, it rises them off the desk & keeps the stationary
QH Studio

Mixers and PC’s just in… more work still to do!

Apart from some of these extra toys, we also repainted the whole room white. Plus a featured green wall, that will have a massive white Bedrock logo on it soon.

The only real problem we’ve encountered is the acoustics, since we dumped all the old panels (that had seen better days) we’ve not really focused on what’s going to replace them.  Foam ‘Egg Box’ panels seem a reasonable idea, but we know people will start to pick at the texture and it will make a mess – I’m opting for flat bevelled edge squares, but the challenge will be trying to mount them onto the walls…

 

What about Goodmayes? 

Well they are getting a new fancy studio too (It’s due to be put together soon (May 2016)).

This studio is receiving the equipment that came out of Queen’s but it’s perfect as the Goodmayes studio is being used less than the Romford one.

  • Sonifex S0
    It’s a fantastic compact mixer & a great workhorse of a desk. – there’s one still sitting at Queen’s in the office production area.
  • New Desk.
    The old one was water damaged, but as mentioned above was too big to fit into Queen’s, we tried to offer it out to other stations. sadly no takers so it’s gone to the local recycling centre.
    The new desk is a fairly standard rectangle but has plenty of room for the mixer and gear.
  • No Mic Live Light.
    Now That’s a Lie! – There are two info screens at Goodmayes that have a Mic Live cue light on them, we debated keeping the old ones, but didn’t like the amount of wires required, so the screens where given the job.
  • PCs?
    Yes, it’s got a Myriad Playout PC, an Internet enabled PC. Plus some other engineering bits.
  • Speaker Poles!
    The old Goodmayes studio had the speakers wall mounted behind the presenter, but again this involved running wires all round the room and we’re avoiding running masses of wire.
    So like Queen’s, speakers are being screwed onto the desk on poles! much neater!Goodmayes was painted up a few months back, plus had some new carpet tiles laid, it’ll also get Logo’d up. Oh and it does have a small green ‘feature wall’… just because we really like green!

The most rewarding bit so far is how ‘impressed’ they are with our studio builds.
Hopefully the programmes that are broadcast from them are just as impressive, we’ve given presenters facilitates – let’s hope they are used. (Fingers crossed)

 

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May 22, 2016
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April 28, 2016

Merges & Acquisitions

I always find that volunteering at Bedrock has presented a range of new challenges, and the last few months have given us a new one…. A merger! Bedrock has expanded, and it’s all gone rather smoothly.

I’ll be honest and say a lot of the work was done by delegation, having the correct people talking to one-another. That is how any organisation should work really. The right people, sorting the right items.
So as of April 2016, Goodmayes Hospital Radio (Jumbo Sound) is now Bedrock.

We’ve got the next project to come may bank holiday – refurbishment of the studios.
(Yes Queen’s gets another refit – This one is FOR GOOD!)

Read the press release (posted on bedrockradio.org.uk);

Bedrock Radio to provide service for Goodmayes Hospital and wider health community.

Bedrock, the health & hospital radio service is to take over broadcasting from The Jumbo Sound (Goodmayes Hospital Radio Association (GHR))
The Jumbo Sound had recently celebrated it’s 40th anniversary in 2015 and soon after suffered major equipment damage, caused by a burst radiator flooding their studio forcing the station off-air. For several years volunteer numbers dropped as did income. As insurers evaluated the cost of damage, The Jumbo Sound (GHR) voted to merge into neighbouring station Bedrock, Queen’s Hospital, Romford.

The merger will see Bedrock Radio provide programmes to the Goodmayes area as early as April 2016.Mathew Watson, Chairman, Bedrock commented: “I appreciate the team at GHR/The Jumbo Sound made a very difficult decision to merge. We welcome their volunteers to Bedrock and look forward to sharing ideas, meanwhile we are working tirelessly to repair the studios to reintroduce live & local programmes to Goodmayes Hospital & it’s health community’

Jumbo Sound LogoGoodmayes Hospital Radio Association was founded in 1977, in 2006 the station adopted ‘The Jumbo Sound’ as it’s on-air name to modernise the station and attract new volunteers. The studios are still located in the old Goodmayes hospital building, but provide a full broadcasting service to patients receiving treatment under North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT).

Marj Young, Chair of Jumbo Sound: “Our studio equipment was becoming unreliable, and our membership numbers dwindled making it difficult to fill our programme schedule and raise funds. I would personally like to thank everyone involved with Goodmayes Hospital Radio from the 70s through to the remaining members who have struggled to keep the station running, we have every confidence that Bedrock can take the station forward successfully.”

Lee Howe, Engineer for Both Bedrock & Jumbo Sound said, “There is a lot of work ahead to re-build a studio at Goodmayes, but the merge with Bedrock will see an increase in programmes. Utilising the latest technologies available, we will be able to provide shows that are either presented specifically to each hospital, or shared between both”

Bedrock formed in 2002 as a merge between Oldchruch & Harold Wood Hospital Radio’s in preparation for the opening of Queen’s Hospital (2006), Bedrock is built upon a 52 year heritage from it’s founding stations. The station calls itself a ‘health and hospital’ station focusing on both in-patient entertainment while keeping outpatients, staff & local community informed of heath related matters.

We are Bedrock Radio, Your Healthy Music Mix.
Merger
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April 28, 2016

“Professional Driver”

credit: wikipedia / GeographBotAfter 7 weeks of training, passing numerous tests, I’ve finally succeeded in obtaining my PCV (Public Carriage Vehicle), Category D licence. Alongside this I’ve also obtained my Drivers certificate of Professional Competence (CPC). So what’s next for me?

I’ve been signed over to my garage, I’m route learning plus now on the job learning how to work with passengers, plus correctly completing my paperwork.

It’s been said numerous times to me now “You’re a professional driver”… I’m actually a professional something (On paper with the CPC!), I feel somewhat a little smug now, but I know there’s much more to learn. I’ve put in hard work to get this far, and I’ll continue to do just that, do my job and learn while doing it!

 

I’ve patted myself on the back, and now to do some ‘real’ bus work!

 

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November 6, 2015