Picture of a judge's wigThis Is Not A BLOG!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 22/01/15

Losses And Prophets

Allow me to tell you about my impossible day.

To start with, there was the bus.

Now, regular readers will know that I have a certain type of relationship with Arriva. It is never openly combative, but it nonetheless consists of a rather fuzzy annoyance on my part and a sense of complete indifference on theirs. However, this was one occasion when sympathy with one of Deutsche Bahn's more exotic outposts was not out of place. This is why...

As part of the long-delayed laying of what has become known as the Spine Road from the former steelworks site to the edge of the existing village, it has become necessary to close a section of road for a period of three weeks in order to upgrade the sewers thereabouts. The map below shows (in red) the bit that has been blocked off:

Map of roads, with one section filled in in red to indicate closure and one sharp bend circled in blue

And here's a photo of the same stretch which I took only last Saturday, when part of the affected road was controlled by temporary traffic lights:

Photo of a stretch of road with temporary traffic lights

This closure - of a mere sixty yards or so of carriageway - presented a problem with regard to our bus services. You see, both Arriva's 12 and 13 services - along with GHA's 15 - come up to Brymbo via Clayton Road, Pentre Broughton (under the tail of the arrow on the map up there), but return Wrexham-wards via Railway Road and Station Road. The red-marked section of road on the map is part of Railway Road, and its closure means that you can't even reach Station Road from this side at the moment. So, a solution had to be found, especially as the one which would have presented itself quite handily in past years was kiboshed by the actions of one idiot speculative builder in destroying Queens Road.

The answer turns out to be that - instead of having two 12s, two 13s and two 15s an hour - we would be reduced to two 13s and a 15, the rationale being to minimise the possibility of two buses - travelling in opposite directions - from meeting each other either along the very narrow stretch of Clayton Road at its northern end, along the even narrower Green Road to its west, or - crucially - on the hairpin bend at Halcog (shown circled in blue on the map).

Now, going to work of a morning, this wasn't going to bother me too much, as one of the remaining 13s is the one I usually get anyway. Coming home is a different can of Castrol altogether. You see, the service 14, which usually runs to us via Tanyfron and the Lodge, can't run beyond Tanyfron because of the closure (and because of Road Traffic Regulations which mean that buses are not permitted to reverse when they have passengers on board - there's nowhere in the Lodge for buses safely to turn around). This means that my usual bus home from work (at least, from Tuesday to Friday) has been ruled out for the duration. What it also means is that my Monday afternoon journey home from Sainsbury's on Plas Coch has been made more difficult by the fact that the 13 - which goes past there, whereas the 12 doesn't - only now goes as far as Pentre Broughton, which leaves me with ten to fifteen minutes to wait there for the next 12.

(12s go up as 12s and go back down as 13s. 13s go up as 13s and return to Wrexham as 12s. Still with me so far?)

Right, let me come right back to this morning.

We were already running a bit late when we reached the hairpin at Halcog, due partly to the necessity of easing the bus past the cars parked on Green Road (you can always tell the cars of the people who live there; they have their mirrors turned inwards. Visitors tend to have to have theirs knocked askew a few times before they take the hint); but partly also to the tendency for that journey to start late anyway, as - in normal circumstances - the drivers don't want to reach either of the two 'Timing Points' on the route ahead of their appointed time and have to sit in the lay-by at either (or both) for the clock to tick to the time they are allowed to continue. It doesn't seem to have occurred to any of them yet that the diverted route makes this practice not only unnecessary but counter-productive.

When we got round the hairpin and started up the slope, we were met by someone driving one of those absurdly large Nissan things coming down. And he wasn't going to reverse, was he? Oh, dear me, no. It might be seen as a blot upon his machismo, and he might be ceremonially drummed out of his membership of the Arrogant Sods Driving Cars Far Bigger Than They Actually Need Club.

So, our bus driver applied the parking brake, put on the hazard lights, and we sat there at loggerheads (not this Loggerheads, though) for a couple of minutes. Then, sensing that the twerp wasn't going to bother looking for his reverse gear, he got out and went to have a quick word with the drivers of the two cars and a van which had fallen in line astern of us. One car reversed back around the corner onto Green Road, the other backed into Halcog itself, and the van driver backed up a bit before driving a few yards up Brynmalley Farm's driveway. We then reversed hesitantly down to the bend to let King Arsehole through. As I happened to be sitting on that side, I mouthed a silent "Wanker!" at him as he squeaked by. The trouble was, this had all taken so long that about five cars and two vans had accumulated behind him (locals knowing that this was - at least in theory - the quickest way round the closure), and we had to wait for them all to go by as well.

So we were a good seven or eight minutes late by this time, and more fun was to come. As we came out of the junction at the bottom of Bryn Hedd in Southsea, there was an ominous "Clonk!" from the offside rear of the bus. We pulled in at the stop a few yards down, and the driver got out again, although what he could discern from looking at the front nearside instead, I'm not quite sure. Evidently something was seriously amiss, and we limped in an undertaker stylee down to the timing point in New Broughton. There was a service 10 from Minera behind us, which our driver flagged down. This was to be our transport for the rest of the journey. The problem being that - because of the reduced frequency of service - there were about twenty people on our bus, and about twenty on the service 10 to which we were forced to decamp. We managed all to get on, although most of us were now standing, with things not being helped in this regard by a large and stupid woman refusing to move very far back. Thus overloaded, we drove past one poor girl waiting at the next stop. We then stopped outside the depot to pick up three drivers who were going on shift.

Well, I did get to work eventually, only to find that the items of work I had had to put to one side because of a technical problem still couldn't be sorted out because of a new bug in the way in which two of The Depratment's main computer systems communicate with each other; or, rather, how they don't. That, and the general slowness of all of our systems - caused in large degree by the cheap-minded oafs at the top end of the Disorganisation transferring all of our files into that reckless gimmick known as 'cloud computing' (at least, to those who don't know it as 'what was the fucking point of doing that?') - made for a highly frustrating day.

I somehow got through it, and it was on to the next ordeal: my appointment with the dentist. This was just a regular check-up, but one which had been postponed from before Christmas due to her children falling ill. These examinations are seldom trouble-free, and often betoken further treatment, but I want it clearly understood that she is a good dentist, and I always feel at ease in her hands.

This time, I reached the surgery to discover that there had been a minor medical emergency in the surgery (which must have been why I saw one of St John's finest leaving the premises as I was waiting to talk to the receptionist), and that my dentist was running rather behind as a result. I had resigned myself to whatever else the day could throw at me by that point, and sat grumpily serene to wait my turn.

When I got in, I found that what I had suspected for a few weeks was indeed true, in that my upper left canine had developed a hole. A temporary fix was put in place (interrupted briefly by the dentist's accidentally clocking me one on the side of the head with a small box of tissues. I laughed. What the hell else could I do?). There was another small job which needed doing as well, so I had to make an appointment for three weeks hence to get them both sorted out.

I felt cheerful enough when I left the surgery - I was just relieved that more immediate and substantial action wasn't needed at this stage - and so I went to get some cash from the bank and did some shopping. This included having to buy a new CMOS battery for my old XP rig, the old one having given up completely last week. Finally, I boarded the 12 (due out at 15:55, came in at about 16:02; par for the course, I suppose, especially today) and prepared to head home.

I noticed a couple of smartly-dressed young men getting on and somewhat hesitatingly buying their tickets, obviously strangers to the route. As they turned to 'pass right down the car, please', I realised that they were strangers to more than just one bus route hereabouts. I saw the name badges. I had seen similar ones when I answered a knock on my front door one Saturday afternoon back in September. Yea and verily, the Sons of Joe had come among us! One of them, a rather good-looking black-haired lad, came and sat by me. He asked me if I knew where such-and-such an address was. He had to show me it written down before I could figure out where he meant, but once I'd seen it I was able to reassure him that I did indeed know whereof he sought, and that his seeking would end about forty yards from my house.

We talked a lot, there being little else to do as we fought our way through the incipient rush-hour traffic. To be fair to him, he didn't start out on the proselytising schtick straight away, although I could sense his unease at not being able so readily to fulfil what he saw as his vocation.

Now, knowing me as you do, dear reader, you will be wondering how I could tolerate the presence of an acolyte of the fraudster Smith for more than a few seconds. Well, as much as I rail in digital print at the gullibility of the religious in general, and the followers of the more modern quackeries in particular, when you're actually sitting next to someone a different approach needs to be adopted. For me, this involves my merely stating quietly where I'm coming from and trying to steer the conversation in more profitable (for me, at least) directions. Besides which, going full-bore on Mormon missionaries would be a bit like kicking a puppy; I suspect this boy (and his confrère who was, I suspect, trying the same tactics on a young woman a few rows back and having, I also suspect, just as little luck) was no more than the nineteen summers attained by his colleagues who had granted me a visitation that early autumn afternoon.

So I used the same tactics this time, including telling him that my researches had indicated that a substantial number of my very dim and distant forebears (or, rather, another branch of the family) had left Sussex and Hampshire in some numbers in the late nineteenth century and had, indeed, ended up becoming Mormons and living in Etched Gold Plate Central out in Utah and thereabouts. Indeed, some senior members of the 'church' had borne the family name down the years (this one, for example), with streets being named after them as a consequence (this one, for example, probably named after the same chap).

A number of times during our discussions - which ranged across the fields of local history (to which his stock response seemed to be, "Wow! That's crazy!" - he didn't say it the way it looks written down like that, I should add), which for all I know is an LDS code-phrase meaning something like, "Earth calling Kolob. Come in Kolob. Help me, I'm trapped with a garrulous demon!") - via the nature of religious observance in a feudal society across to the nature of the desire to live a moral life and how (to me, at least) deities are an unnecessary accessory at best, and a nuisance at worst - he started to fumble in his satchel for something. Shortly before we reached our stop, he finally produced what he wanted me most fervently to have. Which is why - I, if you please - now have a copy of this:

The front cover of The Book Of Mormon

It was very sweet of him, really, and I was quite touched despite my knowing full well that his motives were not totally altruistic, and I put it in my shopping bag between the milk and the mushrooms. We got off the bus at the bottom of Edwards Avenue and I gave them directions to the address they were looking for (and I hope I haven't done the resident of that house a dis-service by doing so). I think we parted on good terms, although - as with their co-religionists a few months back - I was left musing sadly on how two young men with a fair bit going for them could happily spend their entire lives in the service of so crushingly obvious a set of falsehoods and false perspectives. Indoctrination, of course, which is why religion of all sorts should be kept away from children until they are of an age to have been inoculated against it, or at least be able to mount a critical response to it.

And that was my day, m'dears.

Oh, shit! I meant to ask him about The Underpants...