Saturday, 19 January 2019

The NUMBER 19 Route

Finsbury Park Hub to Battersea Bridge (South Side)
Thursday January 17 2019

Note the new names in this – ‘hub’ for bus station and ‘South Side’ for Parkgate Street . However same old route on a sturdy double decker that went from North to South West barely batting an eyelid – so to speak.
We had used the facilities at Finsbury Park Station remembering they are on a platform where the trains head north. As the bus was just leaving as we returned to street level we leapt on without taking any photos. Jo had just about recovered from freezing to death while I got lost behind Finsbury Square trying to find the 153 which brought us here – it had wrinkled its way through the back streets of Islington. The 19 was to go large.
So it was London Calling as Kevin told us last time we took this route. 
Here’s a link to the track he referenced if you want to follow it up

‘The Twelve Pins’ which is the first pub you see in exiting the bus station looks well cared for. I thought it might be a variation of Ninepins , the old pub game, while Jo thought it might be a reference to the nearby Cotton works building and something to do with weaving – both wrong. It is named after a mountain range in Ireland and is one of several pubs round here for Arsenal supporters – like the Arsenal barber further along the Blackstock Road. Having spent the up trip admiring the pared down lines of Islington’s Georgian builds we could see these homes were of later design.  Interspersed were some independent shops like ‘La Maison des Chiens ‘ for cat and dog grooming. I was quite excited by The Walnut Club until I found out it was a tanning parlour – turning an artificial nut brown not being my hobby of choice.

The workaday aspects of Finsbury Park give way to a more gentrified Highbury with a couple of handsome terraces and The Loxfordsa former mansion that had belonged to the  Dents Family of glove manufacturers  After they moved on it was used as a children’s home and Family Centre – then the site was purchased and developed into housing but the  handsome frontage maintained.

As the diversity of Highbury gives way to a busier thoroughfare we entered Highbury Corner still undergoing its transformationIt feels unending and painful but will presumably benefit the pedestrians and cyclists amongst us.

The 19 carries on down Upper Street to the Angel, passing all the usual and occasionally changing delights of Islington – the King’s Head and Almeida theatres , many places to eat and a whole shop outlet for Le Creuset cookware! We made good progress for a section of travel that can often be slow. ‘The Dead Dolls House’ seemed to be a very unprepossessing name for a venue – as that is what it is – so we preferred to think about Sir Hugh Myddleton with little dolphins at his feet to remind  us he was the inspiration behind the New River – Islington has also given him some rather jolly spring primulas.

Once we had crossed the busy East/West route we were heading down past Sadlers Wells with its newer extension. In fact this part of Holborn/Clerkenwell seems to have become something of an area for dance education and the Urdang Academy has taken over Finsbury Town hall. The bus passes the narrower façade of Mount Pleasant, which presents rather sweetly as a post office with all the sorting and distribution facilities behind.

The Theobalds Road is a hybrid of what remains of old bits of small scale industry, service or otherwise and fringe academia. Having found the Anaesthetists’ Museum rather soporific we hope their training HQ along here is a little livelier.  This passage through London seemed a good way of avoiding  Lower Oxford Street
We joined the stream of traffic that snakes slowly round the one way system from Holborn to the West End – I am never sure why it is slow apart from being single lane but I want to blame ongoing Elizabeth Line works at Tottenham Court Road! The slowness did at least give us time to appreciate how lovely is the old fascia of the Umbrella shop. There is a great temptation to go in and request a sword stick perhaps?
Shaftesbury Avenue reminds one quite how many musicals are running in the West End which must be cheering for all those dancers in training.

Piccadilly has road works too and Jo said there was significant water in the hole perhaps indicating a main had been ruptured? Trouble free we continued past Green Park to Hyde Park Corner – by now the upright haka figures  of the NZ War memorial were looking like old friends – I almost expect them to wave to us. We also got a full frontal view of Apsley House before turning down Knightsbridge  for …Knightsbridge. Once an entrance to Hyde Park Corner station then for some time Pizza on the Park it has now morphed, at some expense I would guess, into the Wellesley Hotel.

The shops here and when the 19 turns off at Knightsbridge station down Sloane Street are of the sort where goods are not priced in the window and if you need to ask the price you can’t afford them. Also we were following a Porsche, but it was no faster than the bus.
Between the venerable mansion blocks there are some handsome squares too, notably Cadogan Place, but all locked so no public access.  The Cadogan Family still own much of the land round here and from the bus you can see that Cadogan Hall takes a whole block – conceived initially for Christian Science worship it was converted and can now seat nearly 1000 people for a range of musical events.

There is more culture round the corner in the shape of the Royal Court Theatre and both are well served by Sloane Square station.  On the whole this part of London is not generously provided with train or tube lines and this one is the last for a while. Once round the roundabout that is Sloane Square we headed quite smartly along the King's Road before turning left into Beaufort Street, very uniform in its red brick fullness though difficult to capture on a photo when driving straight into the sun.

We enjoyed crossing  Battersea Bridge which gave us a lovely view of pretty Albert – one bridge up. The 19 stops just one short bus stop south of the river having bravely made its way through several significant entertainment and shopping streets and taking all comers in its stride. We did enjoy it. 

Sunday, 13 January 2019

The NUMBER 18 Route

Sudbury Railway Station to Euston Station
Thursday January 10 2019

We had arrived in Sudbury via a ‘cross-country’ bus from Edgware so today was very much about North-West London.  It had also been a very cold bus on a grey day so with our extremities frozen we scurried from the forecourt of the Piccadilly Line station round the corner to see a row of 18s patiently waiting.
The last time we rode this route the 18 had been a ‘bendy bus’ (remember those?) and the police had put us in lock down while they checked the tickets. No such adventures this time and whatever the bus company (nice blue upholstery) they had rejected replacing their bendys with a Boris bus so we travelled comfortably, with heating and reasonable visibility.
Having only ever whizzed in and out of Sudbury it remains an enigma but it does have a large and largely open park.

St John  the  Evangelist, just as you approach Wembley Central, has a very pretty lych gate (with a clock, just what the coffins pausing there needed?) and is apparently a Giles Gilbert Scott design. The churchyard looked very extensive for a parish, but I learn it included Wembley old burial ground.

Wembley, on the other hand, seemed very familiar and was bustling today.  The national stadium completed just before the last project, had brought a lot of new building to the area and it seems to continue to thrive – there were four vegetarian outlets next to each other, and without the boost and enterprise of many incomers this High Street might be declining also. And the entrepreneurs manage to send money home.

Surprisingly there were two large construction sites on the main road. I am not a crane geek but  I gather from this the crane is something special. I am interested that ‘luffing’ and ‘jibbing’ seem to have been carried over from the sailships as the last time I met these words was when we visited the Cutty Sark.   Henry would appear to be a construction company, as opposed to a developer and we were certainly dogged by a scaffolding lorry on both this trip and the previous 204. 

Down the road, past the Best Western was another site, this time Henley, who are apparently developing the site of the old Brent Town Hall – this must be how local authorities, who have had to prune their staffing and services radically, try and make up the budget deficits resulting from this government’s continuing ‘austerity’ measures.

Once through Wembley the 18 continued to be busy – not entirely surprising as it seems to be the only bus route between here and Harlesden, passing through Stonebridge Park after crossing the North Circular. There was a bus lane all of the way so we could keep up a good steady speed.

Housing is fairly densely packed round here and there was no shortage of religion either with a Moravian Church next to St Margaret’s joined with St George (two saints couple up) and then a United Reform . The Moravians, although originally from what used to be Czechoslovakia, seem to have popularised their Christian beliefs worldwide and have a strong Caribbean following – hence presumably the presence in Harlesden.

Harlesden has a one way system, flowing freely today, which brought us into Kensal Rise – we were promised an ‘Artisan Quarter’  but could not really identify what was meant by this. Apart from Gallego offering us specialities from Galicia we had a run of Brazilian enterprises: Sabor Brasileiro, Brazilian Steak house and Sunshine Brazilian  hair . I don’t imagine Brazilian hair could not be catered for elsewhere in the borough but I expect if offers a good level of gossip also.

Jo was a bit surprised at the unsold advertising space though I pointed out that the ‘folk’ opposite in Kensal  Green Cemetery would not be that interested..
 The Cemetery was the last resting place of  Dr. James Barry,  who served as an Army surgeon at the Crimea  but became even more renowned after ‘their ‘ death. There are many other more famous names buried here.

Talking of gossip we were both entranced by the conversations behind us –  friends discussing the one’s pregnancy and her determination not to know the sex of her expected child  via the ultrasound process but prepared to  flirt with the traditional methods – pointy front or back, needle on thread  suspended above the bump?  There was also an extensive list of her food cravings. As they stayed on the bus till the end I can only hope they were heading for a conventional check at the nearby University College Hospital.
Were they talking rubbish? – no they weren’t but we were also taken with a van of that name  passing in front of the bus – its website  explains what it does.

We were still on the Harrow Road and passed several closed pubs – the Nelson Arms and more controversially the Windsor Castle, once famous as a music venue. By now we were close to crossing the Edgware Road, busier than last week on the 16.  

Leaving aside other routes we found ourselves running parallel to Westway  above us , and with good views of the canal to the left and Paddington basin to the right . Though clearly the traffic  pounds and pollutes overhead it seemed quite calm at this level with green spaces between the blocks and a still leafy aspect to what is very much Inner London.

Paddington Green Children’s Hospital, to which I once escorted a reluctant attender, is long gone with parts of the building residential , though some adolescent mental health is on offer. Paddington Green Police Station, on the other hand, hangs in there. 

Happy in our bus lane we continued alongside the heavier traffic and passed some dowdy buildings to one side (?due for demolition) and some brightly clad ones across the way. By now we were on the Marylebone Road passing Regents Park, a good view of the GPO Tower,  the turning to the station of the same name and the various civic buildings that grace this thoroughfare – the courts, the former Town hall and the Landmark Hotel which will celebrate 120 years since its July 1899 opening. .
The Wedding Gallery perhaps showing pictures of nuptials that did and didn’t work turns out to be a ‘luxury department store’ for planning would-be-weds. Enough said.

We spotted what looked like a glass  protected  art installation on the pavement but it turned out to have several nifty bird feeders on offer, to birds of course . 
Enough travelled too as we had arrived outside Euston station, having made it from the further reaches of the NW bit of the Piccadilly line in Sudbury in just over the  hour, as promised.

PS I promise no more birds next week.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

The NUMBER 17 Route

London Bridge Station to Archway
Thursday October 10 2018

This trip was to access the Number 4 at Archway and to reverse the journeys taken by Jo and her family back in early 2009.
Since then London Bridge has become a transformed station albeit with some cosmetic and commercial stuff still to come. Improvements already complete include a makeover of the Undercroft linking rail to tube, where lurk some currently free and fine loos.

Above ground there is a bus station too, admittedly not nearly as smart as the revamped train one but rebuilt nevertheless. BUT the poor old 17 has been ostracized and starts from outside the fitness centre in London Bridge Street. As you can see from the picture he had not changed his destination board.  Getting on,  we asked the driver why was he excluded; he looked bemused and said ‘they don’t like us?’ and we drove off turning right to cross the bridge. We had plenty of time (like nearly  10 minutes ) to admire the  neighbouring bridges,  the river at low tide again and such  riverside buildings as the  Glaziers Hall at the south end and the Fishmongers' Hall at the North as it took that long to cross due more to an overflowing building development  than to road works. Some of the construction appeared to belong to Wells Fargo
. ‘It’s a stagecoach’ said Jo thinking perhaps of the right to drive sheep across London Bridge. I believe it’s a bank… but a very recent arrival in the City. It would be nice to think they might drive a stage coach with a sheriff and gold on board? 

Once past these works and the poor invisible Monument we headed left past Cannon Street, and apparently the back of Bank Station – can they really need 12 more escalators at this station? As it is you wander in endless circles trying to find the right exit.
The main roads apart,  one of the attractions  of the City of London, not yet obliterated by all the building, is the charming  names of some  side streets – Plumtree Court or Bread Street (not far from Pudding Lane of course)
Leaving the financial sectors behind we made swifter progress along past St Paul’s and briefly along Farringdon, for once open to traffic,  carrying on through Holborn, the untrendy end of Clerkenwell.  I thought it was interesting that the Staple Inn (which is as old as it looks) now houses the HQ for the Actuaries opposite the once thriving Prudential Assurance Company whose unmissable red brick building now houses a variety of bars and other firms. Actuaries, and their close relatives,  auditors, have not performed well recently with several big firms going under despite having seemingly healthy balance sheets, which had supposedly been fully audited?? The Prudential Building is currently housing the Grenfell Enquiry.

But we were leaving big business behind and heading into the more Dickensian parts of Clerkenwell with legal firms and the Foundling Hospital, all off to the side  of the Gray’s Inn Road , which also follows a similar  North South route to the River Fleet.

My notes, which can be both illegible and out of order, referred to Hubbards Cupboards which at a swift glance looked like the sort of slightly down at heel shop that might be found on the Caledonian Road but research indicates it is indeed on the Grays Inn Road and actually sells better office furniture!

Our journey round King’s Cross was remarkably smooth and we sailed past the waiting buses (joys yet to come) and a sharp right and left took us through to the Caledonian Road, generally known as the Cally, as various cafes, swimming pools and even the station call themselves (I have a son who takes exception to the misuses of reflexive pronouns but there you go). Cosprop more or less does what you might expect  

The cafes and pubs give this sometimes shabby road a cheering aspect – who could resist the Rabbit Hole café, New Rook café, the Owl and Hitchhiker Pub (Owl for Edward Lear, youngest of 19 or 21 (Jo couldn’t remember) and Hitchhiker for Douglas Adams – apparently they sell pan- galactic gargle blasters…) probably best of all is the Breakout café opposite Pentonville  which looks grim and run down rather than forbidding, the prison that is not the café.

Shortly after this we arrived at what Jo assured me was the Nag’s Head junction with the Holloway Road – I could see no pub after which it was presumably named but then it went in 2004. The route from here is definitely uphill and not very far to our finishing point for this bus, namely Archway, another major road interchange. Somehow we missed the last stop and were swept on to the number 17’s resting place alongside the oldest bits of the Whittington Hospital so we apologised to our patient driver after a trip which had taken closer to 1½ hours rather than the 1¼ expected.

We admired all the pedestrian-controlled crossings which took us safely back to the departure point of the Number 4 which I maintain, out of Jo’s earshot, is a pretty crazy route.