Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Time for 't'

One thing I could always do was spell. From the earliest age I can remember, I would look down my nose with all the supercilious smugness of the insufferable teacher's pet that I strove to be, as the other children put their 'e' before their 'i', allowed a silent 'k' or 'w' to slip away undetected, or were in two minds over which 'too' to resort to.

But I have finally been outwitted by the residents of Winchester. From the start of this week we have been operating a short term contract for Hampshire County Council, providing local routes 2 and 6a in Winchester until June. The 2 is easy. Oliver's Battery and Badger Farm hold no fear, but the 6a has me beaten!

It goes to Abbotts Barton, but in my mind - no matter how hard I try to train myself - it goes to Abbots Barton. Even though a simple glance at the map reveals the truth, and the tender documents and existing publicity reinforce the point, I cannot bring myself to double that 't'! Every time I write it, I write 'Abbots' and then - if I'm lucky and remember - go back and correct it.

I don't know why this should be so. It has something to do with the poor, innocent people of Abbots Langley, a Hertfordshire village that I served at the first bus company that gave me a home - the late, great Buffalo Travel. I must have read and written 'Abbots' so many times on official forms, in publicity and probably replies to complaint letters that I have that spelling firmly embedded in my mind.

(As a complete aside, in Buffalo days I once registered the evening service on route 344 through that village entirely in German - von Hemel Hempstead Busbahnhof nach Croxley Green Reptonweg ueber Watford Exchangestrasse - and the then Office of the Traffic Commissioner accepted it!)

To my shame the timetable leaflets refer to Abbots Barton, because I drafted and proof-checked them and failed to spot it. I only realised today that the website referred to Abbots Barton throughout, and even now the Bright Tech destinations on some of our Darts show '6a Abbots Barton' because I programmed them.

Luckily the Mobitec kit on the Solos that we are actually using has been programmed by our Commercial Assistant Mikey, and he has no such hang-ups. Indeed it is he - displaying the full condescension of one half my age and twice my ego - who has gleefully pointed out most of my slip-ups so far! He has also designed the roadside publicity which is equally correct and has attracted much favourable comment.

So all is not lost, but I'm getting to the age where old habits are hard to break, so I apologise in advance if the odd Abbot manages to slip through the net in the future! If it gets too bad, I might just have to Hyde!

The good news is that the new routes have started off extremely well. Timekeeping has not been the issue we were told to expect, with both routes running comfortably to schedule, and early passenger numbers are exceeding expectations.

Hopefully we are also exceeding theirs - certainly many positive comments have been received about the vehicle, the publicity and the drivers. Steve and Geoff are the regular presenters, backed up yesterday and today by Mikey doing the 'meeting and greeting'. Indeed for a while today all three were on the bus together, outnumbering the passengers at times.

During today's brief period of triple manning, Steve (or 'Scooter' as some of his former colleagues might apparently recognise him) managed to escape for long enough to take this rather nice shot of 222 pausing at Winchester Station on its way to Badger Farm.

The 6a also appears to have its own Les, which will no doubt add interest and colour, and it is already clear that the regular congregation have their own interpretation of where the bus is required to stop, which bears little resemblance to such trivial issues as where there happen to be signs on poles saying "bus stop"! But these are the kind of routes we love, and we look forward to being of service to our new Winchester clientele for some time to come.


  1. Perhaps if you're going to spell it with a single T then the bus destination should read Abbot's Barton, with the dreaded apostrophe ; )

  2. You're a man born after your time :-)

    From a A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5, edited by William Page, dated 1912.

    "North of the site of the abbey in the meadows on the way to the Worthies is Abbot's Barton Farm, the manor farm of the Abbot of Hyde's manor of Abbot's Barton. Within the last few years the meadow land between the site of the abbey and the Abbot's Barton Farm has been let out for building, and the result is a new colony of small modern semidetached villas still spreading to the north".

    It's interesting to note that Abbotts Ann (near Andover) also has the double 't' spelling. Could it be that the additional 't' is a replacement for the apostrophe?

  3. I am greatly reassured by your observation Malcolm. I am tempted to put everything back to a single 't' and claim that I am respecting the heritage of the area! Not sure I'd get away with it though!

    And there was me carefully trying to steer round the whole apostrophe issue Busing! If we were writing about the abbott and his barton, we would of course refer to the abbott's barton, but a proper noun is a proper noun and it is what custom and practice says it is rather than following any normal rules of grammar. Therefore if the normal usage is Abbotts Barton, then Abbotts Barton it must be! Clearly the residents of the north of Winchester are less possessive than Oliver was about his battery!

    Of course even trying to work out the current name for somewhere is not always straightforward - I can remember lively debates in the Bluestar Commercial Office about whether a certain suburb of Southampton should be described as Lord's Hill, Lords Hill or Lordshill, with valid arguments being submitted for each.

  4. Not that I want to be pedantic, but wouldn't Exchange Street be Tauschstrasse (or maybe Börsestrasse) in German?

  5. Yes it certainly would, you're quite right, but i went for comic effect over strict accuracy! In all honesty I can't remember whether Exchange Street was on the registration, nor why we thought it would be a good idea to register it in German, but we certainly did and it worked! I should stress that I have no intention of repeating the trick!

  6. Isn't it odd how we all have jinx words which defeat us. If that little meter on the bus which tells you haw much air or fuel you have left goes wrong, I never know whether to write gauge or guage on the defect card . . .

  7. My copy of Ekwall E (1960), "The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Place Names" (fourth edition), Oxford, The Oxford University Press, does not refer specifically to Abbotts Barton. It does, however, state that "Barton" is a common name and means inter alia "corn farm". Can one therefore assume that this place was some sort of grange tied to a monastery?

    If so... I submit that the possessive apostrophe should stand!

  8. Just call it ABB. BARTON (& claim you've not enough space on the bus destination screen & on the timetables!)

  9. Anon @ 03:37: Very good! Or perhaps '6A Service' for the destinations.

    Busing: If we were referring to the (or an) abbott's barton in the course of normal text I would agree with you that the possessive apostrophe is needed. But in this case it is a proper noun, and no matter how grammatically inept it may be, a proper noun is what it is and it is not for us to change it if we think it could be improved!

    If I announced that henceforth I wished to be called "Phi'l" (which I'm not about to do by the way), you'd all think I was an idiot but I would expect you to call me Phi'l!

    Likewise, I'm sure there is a reason why you spell Busing with one 'S' and I wouldn't dream of calling you Bussing just because the activity of bussing people about has the double consonant in the middle.

    Where there is more than one common usage of a place name (eg Chandler's Ford and Chandlers Ford are both widely used) then usually I'll choose the one that is grammatically correct, but as I have never seen Abbott's Barton written then I don't feel I have the write to invent it (despite my best efforts to invent Abbots Barton!)

    So that's my logic as to why the possessive apostrophe doesn't apply in this case!

  10. For the ABB. BARTON dilemma, maybe that's why Stagecoach dropped the service!!

  11. Ooh let's hope they have the same dilemma with Bishops Waltham! I quite fancy a crack at the 69...

  12. I avoided getting drawn into Mr Busing's apostrophe debate, but now we're on to place names, I am always tickled (and puzzled) by the different treatment of the two adjacent stations on the Piccadily Line - Earl's Court and Barons Court. Now, if only there was an Abbot's Court !

  13. Very well presented vehicle Phil, only thing I don't like is painted wheels but that's just a personal taste.

    But get your route numbers on the right hand side all the way around the bus sir! :)

  14. Not *too* bad - in Milton Keynes there was a bus run by one company that had a blind (paper, so expensive to correct) with "Wolver ton" on it. It had been erroneously ordered as "Wolverhampton" and the "hamp" had been coloured in in black pen.

    There was also one with "Bletchley" misspelled as "Blehtcley".

    Both have now been replaced with LEDs, fortunately. Interestingly, one of the operators with those uses a slick-looking serif font - wonder if that is deliberate.

  15. Luke

    Thanks for the kind words. Actually we're not convinced about the painted wheels either and I'm not sure they will be a feature of future repaints.

    As for the route numbers, they are very deliberately on the left. Again, it's a matter of opinion, but our view is that most intending passengers look for the route number first then the destination. As we read from left to right and the brain processes the information in that order, it makes more sense to have the route number on the left! :)

  16. Phil,

    I know exactly what you mean, we used to have it like that and every other main operator in the area also does it that way. I just was in a pedantic mood one day and decided they should all be changed so that they're as DDA-compliant as possible (well regarding what's shown on them it's "best practice" not regulation, but still) lol!

    Easiest way if you want to be strict is follow whatever London's doing this week I suppose, minus the scroll blinds.