Best of 2016

wp_20160428_002Spring

Blossom by the Heritage Park development, Tooting Bec.

Buses: 249, 319.

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Summer

Algae homage to Monet, St James’s Park

Buses: 24, 211 etc

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Autumn

March of the faithful, Streatham Mosque,

Streatham Village

Buses: G1, 249, 319, 333 etc

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Winter

Put your foot on it! Another wedding bus hurtles past….

Tooting Bec Road

Buses: 249, 319

 

 

Let’s recap: the no. 6

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It was an overcast day when I took the No. 6 (Aldwych to Brent Park, near Willesden) and some time ago.  The journey to Bertie Road, its terminus, had been uneventful save for the occasional muttering from another passenger.  The 6’s USP is undoubtably Little Venice (W9 2PF), which it traverses en route to Willesden in north west London.

The route itself, passing by Marylebone, Paddington, Queens Park and Kensal Rise was relatively quick. Yet I had a stronger desire to return to the aforementioned Little Venice, about midway on the journey, than to linger at the terminus.  It’s no particular reflection on Bertie Road and environs: this is bog-standard suburbia with its mishmash of local shops and roads leading somewhere else.  But Little Venice, with a chill clarity of air from the canal’s water, was akin to being on a mountain above a pollution maelstrom.

So take the bus for this.

Scores: 

Comfort: 14/20

Interest: 16/20

Momentum: 18/20

Character: 15/20

Style: 17/20

Total: 80

And a curious thing….

A month or so ago, whilst travelling on a bus through Elephant and Castle, a passenger notified the driver that there was a person on the roof.

Being of occasional nervous disposition – and shortly to alight – I took a peek out of the upstairs window and finding no evidence of said person, gingerly got off.

But lo and behold last week, the Evening Standard reported that a chap had indeed been riding the roofs of buses…..around the Elephant and Castle: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/shocking-video-of-man-dicing-with-death-as-he-rides-on-top-of-doubledecker-bus-in-central-london-a3363236.html

The last time I’d seen such antics was in Sam Taylor-Wood’s film Nowhere Boy: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2009/dec/13/nowhere-boy-sam-taylor-wood though the Elephant and Castle footage is significantly more dicey.  Parcours this is not.

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202 bus towards Crystal Palace,  June 2016

2016

Jack, a fan from Purley (a leafy part of Surrey bordering south London) contacted me recently to ask about the status of this blog. Writing back, I told him that sadly – due to unforeseen circumstances – I had not had sufficient downtime to devote to long bus journeys in recent months.  So here is a test card of a bus seen on the bridge at Streatham Hill recently.  As you can see, it’s not a regular bus but rather a bus to take a wedding party to a reception.  Nice and shiny, isn’t it?wp_20160611_003

What grace! What beauty!

But this time, what a surprise! The 6 is a little-known tourist trophy.

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Mock tudor apartments in Maida Vale

Sure, you have to get past the melange of Edgware Road, a little Beirut of shops and stationary traffic.  A branch of Topps Tiles further on signals the beginning of suburbia.  And what a series of gems you pass through: St John’s Wood, with its huge Georgian villas, Maida Vale and Little Venice, where the air seems purer than elsewhere.

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Shops in Maida Vale

How time passes!

Life sometimes becomes invaded by responsibilities which inhibit straightforward progression.  Such has characterised the last year or so.  Of course, all the things that happen during challenging times contribute to one’s literary sense.  The mind has a complex series of filters which eventually produces a pulp from which, with skill, one may produce a work of quality.

In the meantime, it’s necessary to get back on track, which is where the No. 6 bus comes in.

Looking back through the annals of this blog, the last time I reviewed one of my sequential buses was in October ’13.  The No. 5 scored a cumulative 70/100 for my bus ‘criteria’: Comfort, Interest, Momentum, Character and Style.  The No. 6 is an entirely different creature.  Its route, from central London’s Aldwych to suburban Willesden (https://tfl.gov.uk/bus/route/6/), cuts a tranche through north west London.  On paper, I was not inspired.  Indeed, a previous attempt to ride the route ended in soggy despair around Marble Arch (condensation mists rising on the upper deck precluding serious enjoyment).

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The No. 6 bus (interior)

The No. 6 Bus

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Little Venice

Bus from the lagoon

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A blue, dry ice mist filled the bus; dazed passengers reclined.

The fluorescent light fitting above mutated into a light sabre.

I got on the 355 at Lidl, Tooting Broadway.  The other passengers greeted my curiosity at the mist and blue aura with nonchalance.

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The man in front put his hand to his head; another looked at his phone.

The 355, Mitcham to Brixton (https://tfl.gov.uk/bus/route/355/), an enigma in the many variations of Transport for London’s collection.

The Spy Bus

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Sometimes, you read about certain innovations, put down your newspaper and swill around a mouthful of coffee before spluttering the realisation they have come into existence.  Recently, one of my living nightmares – cameras in the seats of buses – manifested itself.

This is how it works: every time a bottom vacates a seat, the camera feeds a numerical reading to the monitor (pictured) of said vacancy. But here’s my question: what else is the camera looking at?  Who’s monitoring the pictures? There could be a whole bank of boffins ogling the ‘shapes’ of London.

It’s not that long since nameless airport staff got caught out for studying images of selected women who’d passed through their body scanner.  So next time you’re tempted to take one of those seats on the upper deck of a Spy Bus, make sure you’re wearing your sensible undies.

Losing the will

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Losing the will on the top deck of the 24 bus (southbound)

Chris Rea’s song about the M25 – The Road to Hell – could well be ascribed to sitting in London traffic. On a bus.

The toxic combination of passive aggression and boredom emanating from passengers builds to a sickly stupor.  Well-intentioned design features of the new Routemaster bus – panoramic windows and doors that close in an instance – magnify the sense of despair.  This vehicle promises much yet delivers an ambling experience.  It is like being stuck on a river boat whilst involuntarily inhaling nitrogen dioxide (see London’s pollution indices).

Transport for London trumpeted the new design.  It was the best thing since sliced bread and hit the scene around the same time as the 2012 London Olympics.  The stylist, Thomas Hetherwick, also created the Olympic Cauldron.  I’m not suggesting the new Routemaster appeared in the couldron; after all, It fulfils TFL’s design brief to replace the old ‘unsafe’ Routemaster. Something good could not come from something with negative historical overtones (a cauldron), surely? But as I have got trapped in those super-efficient closing doors twice, the question as to whether this Routemaster really meets all the safety standards must be raised.  Do I blame the stylist or the person who really sat down and drew up this thing?

The problem is that the nouveau Routemaster is that it tries to be all things to all men.  And yes, feministas, I am using the word MEN to describe all people including women, a collective noun with men as its second syllable. Should I wax lyrical about the ever-morphing nature of the English language or the political correctness that succeeds in strangling common sense or true equality? Should I decry the chest-beating state of 21st century feminism which – in its bullying of men who dare comment on some women’s propensity towards tears – threatens to erode the gains women made in the 20th century? No, as with much relating to PC-pickling, I shall remain mute. After all, it is written, ‘even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent’.  Then some would say, “Aha, dost thou sayest thou is a fool? Thou has shot thyself in the foot.”

And I would reply, in a French accent, “You do not and will never understand…” adding for effect, “Vous ne me comprenez pas.”

Which would leave them perplexed and advocating a trip to the nearest pub or garden centre.

But the bus……..I’d forgotten about the bus…the marvellous New Routemaster Bus… is supposed to be disability and environmentally friendly.  TFL says Nouveau Routemaster uses the ‘latest green diesel-electric hybrid technology’.  Oh, and they remind you to only get on and off the bus when it is stationary and to ‘watch out for moving traffic’.

There’s no fun any more.