I don't really do "internet shopping". I actually enjoy going to the shops and having a good look at things before I buy them, whether that's food, clothes or anything else really. But there are some things that it's getting increasingly hard to find without going online.
There used to be a bookshop in Manchester run by publisher "Ian Allan" and specialising in books on transport. As it was located on the approach road to Manchester Piccadilly station I used to call in regularly on visits to the city and rarely came away empty-handed (or with a full wallet!) But rising rents have put paid to the bookshop as what was a row of interesting shops and local cafes becomes a street of coffee outlets, craft beer bars and a branch of Waitrose.
For some reason that I can't fathom most bookshops don't sell many transport books. You might find the odd railway book or two, but very little on buses and trams, or canals for that matter. So when I heard that someone had written a book on one of the local bus companies that ran services around my home town of Llanelli in the 1960s and 70s I knew I'd have to go online to get a copy.
I found one easily enough and, in typical internet fashion, it was ordered yesterday and delivered this morning. But of course the book on "Samuel Eynon & Sons Ltd" of Trimsaran was not the only one on offer and I came away with this little lot:
I first became aware of Eynon's buses when I started travelling to school. The boys in my village who passed the 11 plus went to school in Llanelli on the service buses of the South Wales Transport Company, part of a large group of companies and considered a respectable way to travel. The Girls, on the other hand, not only went to a different school, but a different town - catching a "school special" provided by Eynon's. Eynon's used second-hand buses from a variety of sources - including London Transport - but it has to be said that they were not usually in the best state of repair, the company obviously being run on a shoestring and not at all "respectable" - I'm looking forward to reading more.
Of the other books, "Steel Wheels and Rubber Tyres" is the third part of an autobiography of a well known former bus manager. I've enjoyed the first two parts - and the "behind the scenes" insights into bus operation. So well-known is the author that when he died recently a bus in Halifax was specially repainted and named in his honour.
"Home with the Heather", the only second-hand book in the package, is an account of a journey from London to John o' Groats and back undertaken by Getrude Leather - then a middle-aged woman (and not even a bus enthusiast!) - on her own in 1955. I've been aware of it for some years and in a way I think it was a bit of an inspiration for my own "Around the Edge of England" bus tour, although unlike me, Gertrude undertook the journey in one go, didn't have the benefit of the internet for timetable planning or booking accommodation and didn't have a free bus pass! When she got to John o' Groats, she turned around and came back - by bus of course!
"The Delaine" commemorates 125 years of operation by a family-owned bus company of that name based near Peterborough. It's one of the few family-owned firms to have survived the various upheavals of regulation, de-regulation, nationalisation and privatisation during its existence. Most of the others have been taken over by the big groups or just gone bust. The Delaine also operates in a part of the country - the edge of the fens - that I've always felt attracted to, although I can't for the life of me think why and it's always been one of my favourite bus operators despite the fact I've never lived within 200 miles of any of its routes!
And lastly "The Long Reach" is an account of the rather esoteric subject of bus services run by council-owned bus undertakings in Manchester and Salford that extended well outside the municipal boundaries. Many "municipals" (as they were known) were restricted to running within the borough boundary but Salford, and Manchester in particular, ranged far and wide. I moved to Salford shortly before the two operators were subsumed into "SELNEC" - a forerunner of Greater Manchester Transport - and can remember "Manchester" buses running well into Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire and even what was then the West Riding of Yorkshire.
So, a £20 purchase became one of almost four times that. One of the dangers of internet shopping perhaps - although it's likely that the same thing would have happened in the Ian Allan bookshop. At least my books arrived at the same time as the annual letter from the DWP informing me that they will be paying my "Winter Fuel Allowance" any day soon.
If things get desperate I suppose I can always burn them to keep warm!