Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Number 13 Route

Golders Green Bus garage to Aldwych Monday May 11th 2009

Glorious spring day with temperatures in the teens, again!

Our bus enthusiasm was slightly dulled by the slow ride at the end of the 12, but after a snack at John Lewis and a very fast Northern Line tube to Golders Green we did feel restored. We had a choice of three Number 13s. For Linda in particular this was something of a nostalgia trip, the 13 having been, since she was a little girl, the bus to the West End to do ‘shopping’ and then later her school bus.

The bus garage abuts the Golders Green Hippodrome, in its day a marvellous venue for pantos, theatre shows and even the ballet, later becoming BBC studios. Even from the top deck we could see the passengers came from a different demographic with many of East Asian origin. The bus kept a nifty speed along the Finchley Road through NW11, NW2, NW3 and NW8. ‘The Castle’ pub (could be nicer) sports a plaque saying it used to be a Tollgate – presumably for the roads in and out of London to the North, and indeed we passed the access to the M1 via the Hendon Way. There follows a stretch where there are several upmarket furniture and kitchen showrooms (Natuzzi and Poggenpohl); however, sign of the times – the Mercedes Benz showroom was empty…

South Hampstead High School was just about visible from the Finchley Road before we hit the wide stretch along past Swiss Cottage – Linda remembers the bombed out buildings that in the Sixties were finally replaced by rather bland blocks and what were two adjacent schools Quinton (Boys’ Grammar) and Kynaston (Boys Secondary Modern) They are both still ‘in situ’ and a long time ago were combined into a comprehensive, now trendily 'QK' on its website. Mary remembers the school as the venue for a conference where Tony Blair praised it as the future shape of education.

Past St John’s Wood are the two sites of the Wellington private Hospitals where Linda’s father had several admissions, a plaque to Oskar Kokoschka on the fine mansion blocks and onto Lords’, now boasting the rather strange pod.

The very handsome St John’s Church looked lovely in the sunshine, as did the glorious gardens of some huge mansions (surely no-one can own that much real estate in London?) astride the Regents canal, and then past the showpiece Regents Park Mosque. On to Baker Street where there is now a plaque at 22b (no such address) to placate tourists trying to locate the flat of Sherlock Holmes. Also looking somewhat spurious is the unofficial plaque to John Lennon – did he live there for 5 minutes?

The Lost Property Office still has a shop front on Baker Street – who knows we may need it yet by the time we get into higher numbers and poorer memories?? This stretch also has the headquarters of both the HG Wells and the Arnold Bennet societies. The bus sneaks up the side of Selfridges, which this year celebrates its centenary with fabulous colour coded windows displaying goods at the 1909, 1929 and 1931 prices…well worth a linger. Oxford Street will always be slow but we swept along Regent Street round Trafalgar Square and the Strand ( as we have already done on routes 10). The route said 35 minutes but probably 1.40 to 2.55 would be a better estimate.

The Number 12 Route

Dulwich Library to Oxford Circus Monday May 11th 2009

Glorious spring day with temperatures in the teens, again!

Jo being in Australia,Mary and I decided we would continue the project and accordingly met at Dulwich Library. We went (as directed by the 40 Inspectors) to the Head Stop in Friern Road only to be told – in spite of trying very hard to chat up the driver – that we could not board there. However, he relented and picked us up on the way back to first stop in Barry Road.

The 12 is a single Decker ‘bendy’ bus known locally as the ‘free bus’. For Mary it is her local ‘get into town’ route, so very familiar and she has travelled it at rather more edgy times than today’s mid-morning. For Linda, it is the irritating vehicle that needs two goes at the lights to turn the corner at either end of Barry Road, and behind which we often sit fuming when travelling by car.

The 12 used to start at ‘The Plough’ pub, but when a few years back the pub transmogrified into something like ‘the Pie and Pattipan’ TFL played safe by using the very beautiful Passmore Edwards library as the end stop. As we swooped down Barry Road, Mary reminded me that it was on Peckam Rye that William Blake had had one of his earliest visions – “a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars” – but today little more than the odd dog-walker can be seen. ‘The Clock House’ pub on the corner of Barry Road and Peckham Rye always has the most splendid hanging baskets and today boasted a fine wisteria along it pergola and up its wall. Very handsome big houses line this side of the common until you get to the remnants of what was Peckham’s outdoor lido, where Catherine learnt to swim – sadly no more, just a few steps remaining. Also now only a memory is good old Austin’s, the second-hand furniture emporium from which we had all bought tables, now only commemorated in the name of the very bland town houses that have replaced it.

Rye Lane (effectively Peckham’s High Street) sometimes seems on another continent between the Beneficial and Veracious Chapel and the God Bless Restaurant , not to mention the (Brazilian?) Igreja Batista de Povo – also the many street shops selling bowls of chillies/peppers and mangoes to evoke warmer lands. Not surprisingly the passengers reflect the diverse and for the most part black community. Out beyond Peckham town centre we passed again the Peckham Pulse and award-winning Will Alsop Library and more soberly the Oliver Goldsmith Primary School, where Damilola Taylor went. The senior school is now rebuilt as the Harris City Academy.The Walworth Road has some fine municipal buildings including the very pretty town house kept for the Registry Office and the impressive Camberwell College of Art (now London Uni) in its Passmore Edwards Building. Mary had worked at the new and colourful Sunshine building, which houses the Child Development and auxiliary services for Southwark’s children.

On through Camberwell and passing the old Camberwell Baths – like our own in Forest Hill due for a refit. Camberwell Green apart from the juvenile courts also has some fine pre-war public housing and shortly afterwards the drivers changed at Camberwell Bus Garage. At the end of Walworth Road is the complex of old municipal buildings including the Cuming Museum, Newington Library and the former Southwark Health Centre which still sports over the door the bracing slogan “The people’s health is the highest law.”Built below some student flats the capacious ‘Dragon Inn’ restaurant comes highly recommended, even if it is close to Elephant & Castle, now suffering from ‘development blight’. We zoomed past the London College of Communication (formerly LC of Printing) and the Imperial War Museum. The less said the better of St George’s RC cathedral – drab and vast – but we noted our only Blue Plaque of the trip to "George Myers - Master Builder". Morley College needs a special mention for its creative courses for South Londoners. Then on to what was County Hall – the former traffic island opposite now sporting a very tall hotel development. St Thomas’s Hospital is the last south London landmark before you sail over Westminster Bridge – and indeed ‘earth hath not anything to show more fair’. After Waterloo the very busy bus emptied to being largely tourists – sitting near the back door we reckoned 1 in 3 people getting on there actually paid…

Unfortunately our bus came to a grinding halt as we were diverted away from Parliament Square (shades of the 11 two weeks ago), this time for legitimate demonstrations by Tamil supporters. Boadicea still impresses, but though we saw a wealth of statuary along the Embankment this is of course not the designated route. We got back on track at Trafalgar Square: thence up to a very slow Piccadilly and along Regent Street to Oxford Circus taking something over 1½ hours – we agreed that if we had not been on the project we would have got off and walked!