Thursday, 28 May 2009

Christ on a bus

If there’s any truth in a rumour that’s circulated prison reform groups for years, a watchdog group on the Isle of Man might interest Dan Brown, the writer of conspiracy novels who gets up the Vatican’s nose so much.
I learnt about the rumour over a year ago, when joking to some prisoners rights activists that the most hated prisoner governor in recent British history had become a bit of a trainspotter since retiring here. Knowing my interest in religious fruitcases, one of them replied, much amused, but asking if I’d heard the trainspotting pensioner in question was also an Opus Dei member.
Sorry, I’ll make that a bit clearer. Brendan O’Friel was Governor of Strangeways at the time of the infamous riots in the early 1990’s. After retiring he moved back to the Isle of Man, where he has reinvented himself as head of a local transport watchdog, Travelwatch Isle of Man.
Amongst prisoners, it was a common belief that his rigid views on running prisons were rooted in his rigid religious views, and that while other prison officers got in or on in the service by joining the Masons, O’Friel, as a Catholic, had done it via another secretive bunch of hocus-pocus merchants, namely Opus Dei.
This wild story, which I’ll openly admit might stem more from whatever pulp fiction prisoners can get hold of than hard fact, got me thinking. Do trainspotting and religion have more in common than a tendency to attract nerds who love trivia and can’t cope with adult relationships?
I decided to look into it, and almost the first hit I got was a story published on 27th May about a group called London TravelWatch who want to ensure bus routes are planned to take account “of the faith and cultural make-up of Londoners”.
Apparently they weren’t happy with the results of enquiries by Transport for London into the transport needs of ‘minority faith communities’. TfL did a lot of modelling, public surveying and so on, and found little need to change.
This annoyed London TravelWatch, who did their own survey of demand for a bus route between the Orthodox Jewish communities of Stamford Hill and Golders Green.
We’re told that Sharon Grant, Chair of London TravelWatch, said: “It was clear from the responses to our survey that there is a very clear requirement for a direct bus link between the two places, both of which have strong Orthodox Jewish communities, despite TfL’s modelling showing insufficient demand. We are asking TfL to reconsider, and investigate the provision of a bus service on a trial basis.”
Cheeky, freeloading gits! You can read the report at, which itself seems to have it in for Boris Johnson and thus might not be entirely balanced.
(Update - Mayorwatch stress they don't take a position on Boris, just....well, do as it says on the tin and watch the mayor (see comments), so I'm happy to take an honest fellow blogger at their word there!)
But if it all gets out of hand(special tube trains for lasses in burquas, no guide dogs, no public transport through Orthodox Jewish areas on Saturdays or Muslim ones on Fridays…….) don’t say you weren’t warned.
All right, I’m winding you up, letting my imagination run away with me here. Trouble is, folk with invisible friends don’t joke about these things, and make little distinction between real world needs and faith-fixated fantasy – especially when public money and facilities are involved.

1 comment:

martin said...

"You can read the report at, which itself seems to have it in for Boris Johnson and thus might not be entirely balanced."

Actually you read all manner of nice things about Boris at MayorWatch, including this

but where he gets things wrong you'll also find us covering that as is the case here

We don't have a position on Boris, the site is neither anti or pro and the only bias I as the site editor have is towards London.