The bus blog is back: Essential Journeys

The Legendary London Bus Blog is back…but this time it’s not just London: it’s essential journeys everywhere.

As you can see from the above bus (no. 3 to Jennyfield, Harrogate), the writer posed an extremely low risk to fellow passengers.

The 3 is part of an electric fleet operating out of Harrogate’s attractive bus station, of which I have no pictures at present. The route takes you up the Ripon Road and round by ‘The Hydro’, not a dam or electric project, but a swimming pool complex. There is a Co-op and some attractive bungalows en route.

Other notable buses in Harrogate include the 36 (Harrogate to Leeds/Harrogate to Ripon) and the 7 (Harrogate to Wetherby). The 36 is a double decker with comfortable seats and Wifi that does not always work. The 7 is a single decker electric bus and has a private rival which takes you to Wetherby via a slightly different route.

The vibe on the ‘Harrogate area’ buses is, of course, different to that of London buses. A man who was not drunk, opportunistic or in any way mentally or emotionally challenged actually started a conversation with me on the 36. Really have to think hard of when that last happened in and around London. Very occasionally and even in these challenging times, you will get a certain ‘depth of conversation’ – however brief – on a London bus. Something started by ‘a humourous incident’: a cursory glance between passengers; the heaving shoulders of hilarity. And then there are discussions with drivers – when the bus is stationary – which is another subject to be covered, particularly relating to north west London buses, often laws unto themselves.

Best of 2016

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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.