Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Buses Plural

So what is the collective pronoun for a group of bus enthusiasts?

It's a serious question, and one that was prompted by a visit I made this week-end to the tree-lined lanes of Surrey.

I'd come down from Tyneside specifically to see the London Bus Preservation Trust's annual Spring Gathering, a popular event in the trust's calendar and one that usually sees a great many old London buses spruced up, rolled out and fired up for the day.

But this is more than just a rally for bus owners. Visitors (and there appeared to be many thousands of them) have the chance to actually ride on a wide range of vehicles to and from the trust's museum at Cobham, and they'll even collect you from the nearest railway station. Some of the vehicles were quite modern-ish and clearly recently 'in preservation', whereas others, and needless to say the ones that proved to be the most popular, were much, much older.

The show field itself was the former Wisley airfield and it was a veritable explosion of colour, though admittedly mostly red (these are London buses, after all) albeit with a fair sprinkling of green as befits the theme of this year's rally, the 80th anniversary of the inauguration of Green Line buses.

I don't think I'd seen so many red Routemaster buses gathered together in one place at one time, an amazing sight which prompted the thought that that every aged and time-expired Routemaster withdrawn from service must have been immediately snapped up by enthusiastic private owners - with the result that there' was probably as many of them on the road now as there ever was!

There were many much older buses, too, and more recent ones. There were splendid old taxis and coaches, fire engines, motor bikes and lorries, plus a rather magnificent horse bus complete with proud team of horses and a top-hatted driver and groom. But I still couldn't help feeling there was something missing.

Eventually, it dawned on me what it was. It was information. If you didn't know what it was you were looking at and you couldn't interpret the fleet numbers and license plates, then you were stuck. Few of the owners had brought information boards telling the story of their vehicles, though a couple had helpfully sellotaped a sheet of descriptive type to the inside of a window but not nearly enough. And with almost 90% of the buses on show being red, and all of them being roughly the same size and shape, telling one from the other was not easy, and without the necessary knowledge to distinguish one from the other I was surprised to find myself becoming (dare I say it) slightly bored.

As Elvis Presley might have said, 'a little more interpretation, a little less traction...'.

Was I alone? Well.. yes, I think I was. The vast majority of people present appeared tooclearly know their stuff, so lack of information on the various exhibits was clearly not a problem. Demand for the items on sale in the sales area of the show – spare parts, books, videos and photographs, for the most part – was also vigorous, with a throng of eager and knowledgeable enthusiasts.

Knowledgeable - that pretty much sums it up. And that's why I confess I felt just a teeny bit out of it. All of which I think is a bit of a shame because the spectacle of so many fabulous old buses, and the chance to ride on them, indeed the whole organisation of what was a truly major event (which, by the way, was flawless) could have made this a grand day out for the whole family.

So - a Garage of Bus Enthusiasts? Or should it be a Knowledge of Bus Enthusiasts? Possibly.

However, with a little work and a little more focus, it could so easily be a Family of Bus Enthusiasts.

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