Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The Number 18 Route

23 June 2009

A lovely sunny day and easy journeys to Euston meant that we were in good humour as we boarded the 18 at 10.20. Our bendy bus headed pretty well due west, passing the Friends’ House (which Linda knew from the days when her school held whole school functions there) the Wellcome Trust and UCH, which Jo likes to think of as ‘her’ hospital, since they pinned her broken wrist.

We were running parallel to the Underground system, passing Euston Square, Warren Street, Great Portland Street, Regent’s Park, Baker Street and Edgware Road stations, as well as a number of handsome mansion flats. Past Madame Tussauds, and Marylebone Library, Church and School, Linda was delighted to be crossing rather that going up the Edgware Road. We went over the canal at Paddington, and on past Warwick Avenue Tube, before inspectors boarded the bus under the Westway. The usual cohort of police were on the pavement, but the young man was in ‘plain clothes’ – a tee shirt and jeans – which may make him less obvious. We noted that the same was happening to an 18 going the other way. If you are interested, there is some FOI data here about fare evasion for your delectation
. For instance, the stats show that the 18 has a higher level of evasion than the 12!

The Harrow Road took us past intensive public housing, including the imaginatively named 6th, 5th, 4th etc Avenues. Modern public housing is more attractive than the unforgiving 1950s concrete blocks, though we realise this view may make us sound like the Prince of Wales. Kensal Rise Cemetery and Crematorium made us think of Sylvia as we passed from Westminster into Brent.
Once we were over the North Circular, the housing became much more suburban: Tudor type semis and new build with balconies and gardens from the Brent Housing Partnership. Our bus then announced it would terminate at Wembley Central, but we only waited a few moments for the next.

Having been in a very Brazilian/Portuguese area (judging by the eateries) we found ourselves effectively in South India, before moving into a more Jewish area. We also passed Copland Community School, regrettably famous as much for the recent financial scandals as its very sound results. And so to Sudbury and Harrow Road Station, in just about 90 minutes, and a gentle walk round the corner, and our next bus.

In case anyone is wondering, we did not spot a single blue plaque from the Number 18, which seems a little improbable!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Number 17 Route

21 March 2009

A reminder for those of you who do not carry the whole of our blog in your heads that the 17 was the route we took back from the 4. So it was the Burbage boy and bird (still the only paying bussers so far, and, as it happens, Simon the only bloke so far) who were on the trip.

Having taken quite a long time to get to Archway on the Number 4, the 17 seemed amazingly speedy. I don't want to make claims I can't prove (with more than 500 buses still to go) but I think the 17 is very unusual in being a '2 Prison' route We passed familiar places like the Nag’s Head Waitrose and zoomed down Caledonian Road, which is getting very trendy with the LSE and other student accommodation. We were down past Smithfield in what seemed like no time, though it was in fact about half an hour. Of course a City bus at the weekend is likely to be unimpeded. As we crossed the River we had beautiful views of Jo’s old office, as well as Tower Bridge and City Hall.
A plan to do some shopping in Borough Market was stymied by the huge crowds of sightseers and lunchers, so we walked along Bankside to Tas for a tasty lunch before heading home. Simon had a dessert so large it was our duty to help him with it.

This may be the moment to explain to all of you who have asked what ‘the rules’ are: they are few and simple, and subject to change without notice by agreement of any/all the bussers
• The key ingredient of each journey is the ‘next bus’ numerical order. But we may take a different bus or other means of transport to get to the end
• The journey is from Head Stop to ‘this bus terminates here’ in either direction
• Complete routes of return or supplementary buses are written up at the time but appear later in sequence: the 17 is the first to be blogged in this way
• any one of the three of us needs to be on the trip, but guests and followers are welcome
• we do not travel in the rush hour as it would be cruel to take up the seats
• we sit at the front upstairs whenever possible: and as we start at the start of each route, it usually is
• we are not interested in bus companies or the engine size and manufacturer of each bus: but there are plenty of websites for anyone who is
• our pictures are taken opportunistically through more or less clean windows on the move, as their quality sometimes shows

The Number 16 Route

Monday 15 June 2009 Victoria Station on a pleasantly warm morning: Linda and I felt proprietorial as we waited among buses we had already sat upon, and noted that we should be passing here frequently in the next few months. The very helpful information man had reassured us that we would get all the way to White City from Cricklewood: the map we had, which he replaced, was out of date (but that journey is not for today).

We headed north from Victoria as we had done before, passing the statue of Marshal Foch which was erected in 1930, in a place where French visitors, arriving at Victoria, could easily find it. It is hard to imagine the modern fighting allies accepting anyone from Europe as Commander in Chief.
We also passed a life-sized sculpture of a ‘Lioness chasing a Lesser Kudu’, commissioned by the Duke of Westminster, by the sculptor Jonathan Kenworthy. On along the shady side of Buckingham Palace Gardens (is this where the Queen will be growing her veg?) to Hyde Park Corner and the War Memorials. This time I’m only going to mention the Machine Gunners memorial because it was so controversial at the time of its dedication: not just because of the nakedness of the Boy David, but because of the quotation on the plinth ‘Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands’ (1 Samuel 21.xi) which did not go down well with other branches of the armed forces.

As we went up Park Lane we noted the remarkable statue of Achilles by the Queen Mother’s Gates and then it was up the Edgware road, again. We realised that we had missed a chance to taste the future, when we noted two ‘green’ hybrid 16s going in the opposite direction. On up through Maida Vale and past St George’s School, with its simple plaque commemorating the murder of Headmaster Philip Lawrence, and so to Kilburn, where Camden is one side of the road and Brent the other. Kilburn Station Railway Bridge has an extensive mural, as well as fine ironwork. The Beaten Docket seemed an odd name for a pub until we discovered that horse racing took place in this (then) very Irish area of London, and a losing betting ticket would be a good reason for a consoling visit to a pub.

The much larger Crown pub signalled our arrival in Cricklewood. Before catching our next bus, we went to Lidl and were generously allowed to use the staff loos before buying Linda a bottle of water.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The Number 15 Route

10 June 2009

Back from Australia, having enjoyed Linda’s blogs in various tropical and desert places, and onto the 15. It sounds so easy, but since this is the only bus to serve Blackwall Station, Linda and I felt we had already done a day’s travelling, when we got there via DLR and various tube lines.

The route used to go as far as Dagenham, and is the only bus (apart from its clone, the 115) that serves this slice of former dockland. So the upstairs was unusually (for us) busy as we passed a number of seamen’s missions and other reminders of the past. Through Limehouse and we began to see places we knew from the 25 and the 7. We admired the 'buses only' gate in East Cheap. Because the 15 route passes the Tower of London, it sometimes runs ‘heritage buses’ as does the 9. The Merchant Navy memorial is a place that Mary Linda and I all find very moving, and this was our first bus to go past it. 40,000 seamen are remembered here.

We were warned that the bus was on diversion, and after passing St Paul’s we snaked down Fetter Lane to emerge in Fleet Street. We were amazed by the Maughan Library, though would probably have recognised it as the former PRO had we been at its front, in Chancery Lane. It’s interesting to note that some of its collections (now that it is King’s College Library) come from the generosity of Andrew Carnegie, since we have passed a number of ‘Carnegie’ Public Libraries as we traverse London.

The Str
and and Trafalgar Square were very slow, though nothing like as slow as Regent Street. Surely the Mayor is not implementing his crossing scheme for Oxford Circus already? Then along Oxford Street (yet again, we muttered to each other, though the Selfridges Centenary windows were cheering) and up the Edgware Road, again familiar territory, round Paddington Station and into the Basin area.

We walked through the Basin, passing the less than prepossessing back of St Mary’s Hospital and the Imperial College Medical School, to patronise the posh (30p) loos at Paddington and walk round the corner to catch our next bus. We shall remind you of this some years from now, as our next bus was the 436 to Lewisham.

Monday, 1 June 2009

The Number 14 Route

Warren Street Station to Putney Heath (Green Man) on Tuesday May 26th 2009

Though we left home in heavy rain it was just drying out as we embarked.

Jo still being in Australia (but keeping up with our progress) and Mary doing good grandmotherly things for half-term I was joined for the Tuesday following the Bank Holiday by another follower – Sue G, whose expertise lies in all things 20th century, as she is a fully paid up member of the 20th Century society.

There were a row of 14s raring to go but they, and much other traffic, were held up as a woman had collapsed in the middle of the road – though only 10 metres from the front entrance of the spanking new University College Hospital police etc were waiting for an ambulance to pick her up! One way Gower Street (had we been doing the reverse journey we would have come down Tottenham Court Road) slices through Bloomsbury and university land – we noted University College London (UCL) is now calling itself the ‘Global University’, so there’s clearly some re-branding going on, but this is actually where we boarded at 10.45. Gower Street is stiff with Blue Plaques, and even so we probably missed some.
George Dance (the younger) Architect 1741-1825
1st Anaesthetic given
Lady Ottoline Morrell (1873-1913) International Hostess & Patron of the Arts
Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett (Suffragette and we had heard of her) 1847-1929
Lord Eldon Lord Chancellor 1751-1838
and a lesser
plaque to Richard Trevithick of the steam engine.

Gower Street is still an unbroken terrace, largely intact, and must have escaped war damage and for cheaper terraced housing has well stood the test of time. Before the main sign to the British Museum we also noted one to the Petrie Museum, which has an Egyptian collection too.

We flew down Charing Cross Road passing that old favourite – the unchanged umbrella shop – James (Jas) Smith and later the Oasis swimming pool – still run by Camden council and offering a unique city centre rooftop swimming pool.

For anyone in the market for eye-catching modern furniture we spotted Molteni and Dada on Shaftesbury Avenue. This was an odd street fellow to the ‘Hôpital et Dispensaire Français’ (a Francophone facility now relocated to Hammersmith), and later in Lower Oxford Street the very Thirties frieze on the Odeon Cinema. Surprisingly we were not slowed down at Piccadilly (see previous trips) but admired the concave windows of Waterstones, which of course used to be the much more upmarket store Simpsons – Sue having bought an early work suit there. Piccadilly has a mix of shop front airlines (I don’t suppose anyone was buying tickets for South Korea on the day their neighbours launch missiles and test weapons) and various upmarket arcades and hotels. Sue had been to breakfast at 'The Wolseley' previously a car showroom and one built by a 20th century favourite architect, Curtis Green.

Talking of Green the park was very but the tube station (Green Park) is having some kind of major make-over and is closed to underground trains. Still on tube stations we noted ‘Pizza on the Park’ (if you enjoy reading bad restaurant reviews click here) – by now we’re opposite Hyde Park – has a tube-style frontage – maroon gloss bricks favoured by the District Line. Before long we are well into Knightsbridge – some of it, like the Park Lane casino, quite hideous. The windows at Harvey Nichols were stunning though difficult to capture on camera from a moving bus. Interesting though Knightsbridge is with its big stores, there are many chain stores easily found elsewhere so it was illuminating to get to beyond South Kensington (traffic currently a nightmare) and the more quirky and independent shops of the early Fulham Road. . Butler & Wilson for e.g. are renowned for their 20th century jewellery. The wealth apparent in the houses round Onslow Square – a row of iced cakes so white – and Elm Park Mansions beggars belief. More wealth – fewer blue plaques.

Being upstairs it was never very busy though the bus serves the Marsden, later Chelsea and Westminster hospitals, and of course Chelsea FC (Gooners – we have to be even handed here). Fulham Broadway (still fairly familiar from the recent Number 11 trip) offered us a classic Town Hall, the Oswald Stoll Foundation, a charity which provides housing and other help for disabled ex service personnel, and some quirky pubs. On down the Fulham Road in SW6 with tantalizing glimpses of the side roads and their memorable names – Shottendene, Purser’s Cross and of course the independent butcher The Parson's Nose at Parsons Green adding to the villagy feel. However we did not feel any amount of trendiness justifies renaming a perfectly good ‘King’s head’ into ‘The Ramshackle ‘ pub… Fulham Football club have a supporters shop too…

We swept past the end of the New Kings Road wondering if the once close by Chelsea and Fulham Potteries accounted for the decorative porcelain over several shop fronts?

Putney High Street, which carries on in a straight line from Putney Bridge, is a more mixed and down to earth affair with the new ‘Putney Exchange’ built 1991 taking pride of place. Past the ‘Spotted Horse’, across the South Circular and up Putney Hill to the ‘Green Man’, which to our great delight is still a sturdy little pub with garden (for details of these and other pubs click here) wedged between some mansion flats (Manor Fields) the Heath itself and a very salubrious bus terminus offering high-tech whizzy loos, a shop/café, and a bench where we could eat our sandwiches. We noted twice as many 14s as 37s, and the fact the drivers really only had time for a loo before being expected to turn round. If ratings were allowed this would get a high 9/10.

Our trip had taken from 10.40 to 11.55 – exactly the time estimated by tfl.