It’s OK. The decorators are here! They pulled up outside the house at 5.30am in a big black van and have been watching my windows, for any signs that I am up and ready to let them in. At first I found it incredibly intimidating. Now I comprehend why they do it. If you are a tradesman or tradeswoman….or tradesperson…ugh…Let’s start again! If you are a plumber, electrician, painter, decorator…chances are you find it easier to use a vehicle for work.
If you have a trade and you have to travel to various residences to complete tasks then you will likely have to take tools, dust sheets, paint or whatever else you might need to be able to carry out tasks. It is helpful to have your own vehicle to carry with you all the equipment and materials you will need.
Now in most parts of the UK it makes sense to be a driver. Roads move fairly freely, in many areas there are few restrictions or charges to park your vehicle on a residential street. But think again in London!!! Traffic congestion, restrictions on parking in most areas, and then when you do find a pay and display area, it can cost a lot. On the road I live on you have to pay-and-display between the hours of 8.30am to 6.30pm. It costs £2.90 per hour, however, you are only allowed to park for a maximum of two hours. It must be a nightmare for a tradesman with a vehicle.
This is why the decorators are here so early. Now I understand, I make the effort for them. I have been up since 4.45am. I am rather house-proud so I always do a tidy up and basic clean in any rooms they are likely to enter. As soon as they arrive, I send them a text message to say I am up and about. They love it! I let them in at 5.35am. Am I not one of the nicest customers/house-holders? I can see they are not wasting any time. If they can get the work done and then get home missing the rush hour traffic jams completely…well good for them. I am happy to adjust as it makes sense…now that I actually understand why they are sitting outside in a big black van staring at my windows at 5.30am.
Although I am a driver, I have rarely used a car since I moved to London (only when I was asked to drive on behalf of the infirmary I worked for – but that was a fleet car). But I have felt that I just don’t need to drive at all, not for myself. The only thing I miss, is not having a car to do a big weekly shop. Instead, I do two of three small shops each week and I am sure I end up spending much more money.
Now…I really want to talk for a little while about buses. I have been preparing tomorrow’s post…and be warned it is a weepie!!! I need to shrug it off and dismiss it from my mind for a while. So to do that I would like to think about those gorgeous shiny red double-decker motors that tourists love to take photographs of. If you are not remotely interested in London buses….this is a signal to stop reading now….
The public transport system here is amazing. I can walk to the end of my road and every 4-8 minutes there is a bus that will take me on a 48 minute journey for £1.50. The bus route runs 24 hours a day!
Elsewhere in the UK the story is not the same. In the town where I grew up, we had to walk fifteen minutes to get to the nearest bus stop. The buses were supposed to come every 30 minutes, but were often way off schedule. They certainly are not 24-hour routes. They normally start at around 6am and finish at around 10pm. Our town had no train station. There were some villages that had a bus just one day a week. It would pass through at around 9am and then make the return journey at 4pm. For many residents it was their only way to travel into town to do their weekly shop.
When I first moved to the south of England I lived in a fairly rural area (actually it was a little taste of paradise)…half-way in between Andrew Lloyd Webber and Princess Kate (I never hear anyone calling her that) neé Middleton’s family. For three and a half months I worked in a nearby town. It just happened that those months were November through to February. My hours were 9am-1pm each weekday. To drive in a car it took about 25 minutes. However, I had no car back then. So I had to catch the bus. Well three buses…that is on the journey to work…and two buses on the way back. I woke before 5am every weekday. I had to walk 20 minutes to a bus stop where a bus would take me to a village. There I had to wait in the cold, in the dark for another bus to appear. At that time of the morning there was no direct bus service. The wait for the next bus was schedule as 23 minutes, but it was sometimes much longer. Some mornings I remember it was bitterly cold and I had tears streaming down my face because the cold was so painful. I would arrive in the town center just after 8pm and then I had to wait for a third bus to take me to the business park where I worked. I worked out I was traveling anywhere between five to six and half hours each day, but being paid for four hours per day.
Are you feeling sorry for me yet? I hope so!!! What did I face when I reached work?
My job involved dealing with customers, a few of whom behaved rather obnoxiously. I am going to say something controversial…Customers are not always right…and if I owned the business there are some customers whom I would have asked to leave and not to come back again. The numerous occasions when I have looked at a cashmere sweater which a customer wants to return, and wondered to myself, “have they tried to feed it through a shredding machine unsuccessfully and then decided just to lay it our on their road and drive over it several times?”
However, I am one of the most uber-polite people I have ever known and I even admire myself for the incredible ability I seem to have to remain completely calm when somebody is outrageously rude and unreasonable. I am able to explain a company policy clearly in a respectful way and hold my ground. Nobody was surprised though, when I gave my notice in. They thought it was a miracle that I had never been late and never had a day off sick after standing around in the freezing cold each morning for all those months.
I have another story…it is too long for this post. Look out for it in the future…I think I will call it “Teenager Tantrum Leads To Traumatic Travel Tale” or something like that…it is really the story of one of the most provoking teenagers I have ever had to deal with…but it will also demonstrate to you how unreliable the public transport system can be in some parts of the UK.
No, here in London, I truly do not miss having a car. Public transport is wonderful. Yesterday there was a huge change to the train time-tables here. Plenty of people are upset and full of angst about the changes…but for most travellers, they will get use to the changes within a few weeks. For me…I cannot complain. Compared to my public transport experiences elsewhere in the UK…London is a breeze!
Come on London Buses!!! Woo-wooh to hopper fairs!!!