Dear Readers, I have always loved taking the bus. My father was a conductor on the trolley buses that used to ply their trade in London in the ’50’s and early 60’s, and I remember him remarking how much he hated going upstairs to collect the fares: the combination of cigarette smoke and perfume was nauseating, especially first thing in the morning. But there were happy memories too: Mum would often get the bus when Dad was ‘conducting’ and would sit and watch him running up and down the stairs and being cheerful and pleasant to everyone. Who knows if love was born on the number 25 bus between Stratford and the West End? I can think of much worse starts.
However, it was some trolley bus rails that nearly caused Mum and Dad’s relationship to come a cropper in the early days. Dad had bought a tandem bicycle, and the loving couple were taking it for a (wobbly) spin when it somehow got caught in the groove between the metal rails. The bike crashed to the ground, and Mum and Dad fell off. On picking himself up, Dad went over and retrieved the bike while Mum was still laying there, dazed. When ‘asked’ about his priorities, he said
‘Well, the bike might have got run over’.
Yes indeed. But Mum soon put Dad straight, and, a few years later they were married, as they still are sixty and a bit years later.
So you can see that I have acquired my love of buses honestly. I would always rather take the bus than the tube if I have time, because it helps me to see how the different parts of London fit together. Plus, there is always something going on outside to attract the attention. So, today, I decided to take a trip to Tate Modern on the bus. I take the 263 to Archway, and then the 17 to St Pauls, where I can walk over the Millenium Bridge. Thanks to the new Hopper fare I only pay once, which is very gratifying. And I have such plans for taking photos through the window as the bus crawls slowly down the Archway Road! Unfortunately, there is no traffic, and so the bus speeds along and photography, already a challenge what with the dirty windows and the bright, bright sunshine, becomes a game of ‘snap and hope for the best’.
So, here is what I managed to capture.
Some tiles on the front of a group of rather run-down houses. Once upon a time, I suspect that they were rather grand.
This is known locally as ‘the suicide bridge’, as it’s a place where folk in the deepest despair come to end their lives. I wonder why the powers-that-be can’t make it more difficult for people to do this? Although, to be fair, I haven’t walked over it for a long time, so maybe there are some measures in place.
Off the bus at Archway, and I have about 20 seconds to get a snap of the street trees that were planted recently. One of the stone pines looks very unhappy, maybe it’s the pollution, but the other trees seem to be doing well.
My husband swears that I have a little friend called ‘The Bus Fairy’ who produces a bus whenever I get to a stop. It certainly worked today, as a 17 pulled up before I could say ‘Blimey, it’s freezing’ (which it was). There was a determined Arctic breeze, and I was to meet it full on later.
A young chap was taking advantage of the downhill to use his skateboard. Be careful, young chap!
Many of the trees are not only trussed up in fairy lights, but have solid municipal nest boxes attached to their trunks. I’m assuming that the boxes are reinforced to prevent squirrels, rats and woodpeckers from getting in, but I do wonder how many little birds would choose this particular spot to rear their young, so close to buses and general urban vibrance. Also, what’s with the miscellaneous bits of tin foil? You do get a different view of the world from the upper deck, that’s for sure.
The roofs of the older bus shelters become micro-habitats in their own right, places for birds to drink and for little creatures to breed. The newer bus shelters have convex roofs so that the water runs off. Much less interesting.
We turn onto Caledonian Road, and pass a most splendid example of what The Gentle Author calls ‘Facadism’ – the way that developers preserve the front of a building, whilst tearing down everything else. If you look closely you can see that a one-brick thickness of the original building has been attached to what looks like a very mediocre modern construction.
And it looks as if London has been taken over by an epidemic of cranes.
There are some truly remarkable plane trees in this part of London. I am always intrigued by the way that they seem to carry their seeds all year round.
At the bottom of Gray’s Inn Road, there are some enormous London planes which lean out over the road at a most alarming angle.