Lost property and scented candles – first published 12 July 2014

July 2014 and my second week as Team Leader was a manic one. It started off nicely enough with a river full of swans on Wednesday morning. Disappointingly the cygnets were nowhere to be seen but all the other swans who had suddenly appeared the week before were still hanging around close to the bank so I stopped on my way along the Boardwalk to take some photographs. Once I got to work though it seemed as if everything that could go wrong did go wrong. For a start there was the lorry fire…

Even before the news of the fire broke things were busier than usual. There were some fare changes over the weekend so a lot of the calls were people either confused by the changes or unhappy about them, even though, for most people, they actually meant their fares had gone down. Of course none of those people called us. Then there was a meeting to go to ending with a few new initiatives that didn’t go down well with all members of staff.

We learned about the fire after the meeting. A major road in one of the most congested parts of the country had been closed while firefighters tried to put it out which meant diversions on most of our routes in the area and gridlock on the rest. Of course the calls to complain followed pretty quickly. Logic seems to go out of the window when someone is waiting for a bus that hasn’t arrived and most of the calls were pretty angry. This is never fun.

Things took a turn for the bizarre when we found out a little more about the fire. This wasn’t just any old lorry, it was a Yankee Candles lorry, full to the gills with scented candles. Seriously, you couldn’t make it up and, in case you think I am, here’s a link to the news item. The wax had melted and covered the road which meant no one had any idea how long it would be before it could be opened. Having spilt the odd candle in my time I can only imagine the mess and the difficulty of cleaning it up. Still, I should think Bristol has never smelt quite as nice.

As I left home on Thursday morning I noticed the first of my tigridia have opened. That was something to make me smile at least, even if it was a red one and I prefer the yellow. The sky was a beautiful cerulean blue with not a single cloud as I made my way across Cobden Bridge. The deck garden on the houseboat under the bridge was bursting with colour as I passed. Perfect walking weather and I couldn’t help wishing I didn’t have to spend the day in an office.


With part of the road still closed in Bristol while they tried to clear up the scented wax our phones were busy again. This time people were asking questions about the diversions as well as moaning about the traffic and how late their buses were. Then there was the curious phenomena of the lost property. If I didn’t know better I’d think some kind of mind ray had been beamed down on the country, everyone seemed to be leaving things on buses.

Lost property always gets taken to the local lost property office when the bus comes to the end of its route. Anything not handed in during the journey usually gets found by the bus cleaning team overnight and sent off to the same place. Unfortunately, the general public don’t understand this concept. They think we should be able to make the bus driver stop and search the bus for whatever they’ve carelessly left behind right there and then and take it back to the depot. Of course we can’t. The amount of stuff that gets left on buses the poor drivers would never get round their routes if they did that.

You really would not believe the things people lose. Once we even had a wheelchair which makes me wonder if some of our vehicles have magical curative powers. Mostly it’s bags of shopping and mobile phones. One mobile phone in particular caused us no end of trouble. I took the original call.

The young man was very upset. He’d lost his five year old iPhone and he was sure it was on one of our buses. He didn’t know which one but he was tracking it using the find my phone app. He didn’t seem to understand that it didn’t matter if he knew exactly where it was, we still couldn’t stop the bus and get it for him. For over half an hour he talked me through exactly where it was going and how important it was for me to get it back for him. I lost count of the number of times I told him he would have to go to the lost property office the next day to pick it up.

An hour later he rang again and did the same thing to my colleague. Not long after I got him again and then another colleague. If we had known which actual bus it was on we might have been able to do more but this was a busy city filled with buses so knowing where it was didn’t really help, especially as nothing he said corresponded to an actual bus route. There was a huge temptation to tell him he should take better care of his phone and stop bothering us. The irony of so many expensive calls about a five year old phone worth about £50 was not lost.

When I finally emerged at the end of the day, blinking in the last of the sun, the starry knapweed seed heads were a welcome sight. I made my way home pondering on the day. Why are people so careless with their belongings? When did this culture of blame, where everything that happens has to be someone else’s fault, start? Why do people get so attached to their belongings but still manage to leave them behind like a trail of breadcrumbs?

The lost property phenomenon carried on into Friday. One man was really concerned about an arch support he’d somehow lost on the bus. Quite how that happened makes the mind boggle but I’m pretty sure anyone who found it would have just thrown it into the bin and the man will have to put up with an unsupported arch or buy a new one. Then there was the man with dementia who had lost a bus pass. His wife was calling about it and she didn’t know which bus he’d been on because he couldn’t remember. She wasn’t even sure he’d been on a bus at all. I felt sorry for her and rang the control office but, sadly, they didn’t have it.

Annoyingly the iPhone man was back. He’d first called in before I got to work because his phone was still going round and round the streets according to his tracker. Finally Something that might have been the right bus had been identified and even searched when it got back to the depot but no phone was found. I took another call from him later in the morning with yet more reports of exactly where the blasted phone was and an accusation that one of our drivers had found it and stolen it. Eventually I thought I’d made him understand he had to go to the lost property office because we’d done all we could do.

Of course he called again. Yet another colleague went through the whole process again. The next time he rang Jess took over the call. An hour later she seemed to have convinced him to give it up and wait for lost property to find it. Afterwards she called the lost property office to brief them and check that it hadn’t actually been handed in already. She was still on the phone when the next call came in.

The man had tracked his phone to one of the large terminus areas where lots of different services converge. He’d stopped every single bus and forced his way on board to search them. To give him credit he had actually found the phone. It was wedged between the seat and the seat back completely out of view. There may be a moral to this tale about persistence but I have to wonder if a phone is really worth wasting so much time and energy on.

The last call of the day was also about lost property. This time it was a great deal more serious than an old phone. A very worried lady told me her husband had left his insulin kit on the bus. Anyone who knows anything about diabetes will know this is a major problem. Luckily the lady knew which bus and exactly where he’d got on and off. Although it was after closing time and I should have been going home, I called the control office and explained the situation.

“Flipping heck,” the chirpy control man said, “I’ll put a call out. Hopefully we can track it down.”
I listened as he put the call out and I heard a few crackly replies but I couldn’t make out what was being said. After a while the controller came back to me.
“The driver has got it,” he said, sounding relieved. “Where is the lady right now?”
When I told him he said the bus would be passing a stop nearby in about twenty minutes. If she went to the stop he’d tell the driver to look out for her and hand over the insulin kit.

The lady was impressed to say the least. She was more than happy to go to the bus stop and stop the bus and very grateful for my help.
“When he gets home I hope you’re going to tell him off,” I laughed, feeling pretty relieved myself.
“I will,” she said. “Honestly, men. They’re more trouble than they’re worth.”

After such a fraught day I was wandering home along the river feeling slightly shell shocked. I looked over at the water and could hardly believe my eyes when I saw three black swans amongst all the white ones. A single black swan has made an occasional appearance both along the river path on the other side of the Big Bridge and at Riverside Park and I’ve always felt a little sorry for him. The other swans seem to shun him and he seemed lost and lonely to me alone amongst all those swan families. It would have been nice if they’d been closer and I’d got a decent photo but seeing three together made me smile. Somehow this very rare creature has found some friends.

After what felt like a hard week it was a relief to finally come to Saturday morning and the final walk to work, even if I do have to go in on Monday to cover for someone. Another tigridia had opened in my garden so I stopped for a quick snap. The flowers don’t last long so I knew it was likely to be gone by the time I got home. This was another red flower but this time with a yellow centre, speckled with spots of red.

On the way to Monks Path I spotted what may be a fern or possibly a spleenwort growing on a wall. Something about the green leaves and the crumbling brick appealed to me so I took a photo or two. Further on a mass of mop head hydrangeas stopped me again. If I stopped less and walked faster I could probably leave home later but then I’d miss so much.

On the quiet little path a few odd wisteria flowers were making a last gasp and perfuming the air nicely. This is obviously the second flowering of the season, probably due to some judicious pruning by the owner of the nearby house. Below them the red bracts of leycesteria formosa were tangled amongst the nettles. The sight took me back to my recent walk on the Hamble Rail Trail where they tumbled across the path. Inside each bract a pretty white flower hides. I tried to get a picture of the flowers but couldn’t quite get it in focus and there was no time for dallying.

Despite the need to get a move on I did stop again for the first white buddleia flowers of the year. They may grow on every piece of waste ground and building site but I have a soft spot for them all the same. Sadly the black swans were nowhere to be seen when I reached the river but the first blackberry of the season was my final stop.

In the office there was no respite from the lost property plague. There were more phones, a purse containing a passport, several bus passes, some glasses and a walking stick and those were just the calls I took. Some kind of protest march in the centre of Bristol caused more traffic chaos than usual in an already chaotic city but at least the candle wax appears to have been cleaned up.

My final call of the week was yet more lost property.
“My bag is lost, yes?” a worried sounding Polish voice said.
“Which bus were you on?” I asked.
“On bus, yes?”
“What was the number?”
“On bus, yes?”
“Where are you in the country?”
“In country, yes. My house in country.”
“Where in the country?”
“My bag in country. All my things, phone, passport, keys…”
In the end I resorted to naming all the cities I could think of hoping he would understand the one he was in at least. When I got to Bristol I seemed to have hit the jackpot.
“Bristol, yes?”
I’m still not actually sure he was in Bristol but, for want of a better solution, I gave him the number of the lost property office and crossed my fingers he would find his bag. With that I shut down my computer, put the answer phone on, locked the doors and went out into the last of the sunshine.

Please see my copyright information before you copy or use any of the above words or pictures.

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Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

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