Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Number 56 Route

Whipps Cross (Hospital) to West Smithfield (St. Bartholomew’s Hospital)

Tuesday February 16th 2010

Today was one of the few occasions when we could do directly ‘back to back’ buses: having just got off the 55 down the road, and walked the short distance after disembarking, using Tesco’s loos ('all they are good for?’) and admiring the local war memorial – Essex regiments in both wars.

We could never quite get the USP of this route, as for most of its time it snuggles up to our ‘old friends’ the 30, 38 and 48 and of course ‘new friend’ the 55, but given that this part of the world is thin on tubes and trains they probably do need more buses, and certainly though a very frequent service it was busy enough. The upstairs was bright and clean and HEATED, which meant of course less condensation, though the rain continued outside.

So we settled down on our cosy bus and did some waiting back at the Bakers’ Arms while the drivers changed. This was half term but most sensible people were skulking indoors and the several male passengers seemed to be destined for the couple of mosques we passed. We did notice that the driver quite often lowered the door thresholds as the bus knelt for buggies and less able passengers, and the whole bus sort of ‘sighed’.
Along the very long Lea Bridge Road we spotted the Sleeping Beauty Motel and the Waltham Forest Carnegie Library, which they have afforded a ‘local’ blue plaque – these have been in short supply through the Fifties… On the whole Lea Bridge has the usual selection of fast food and hairdressers Tangles and Montáge [sic]. This is not the first time we have passed the Lea Valley Riding Centre and never seen a horse so I expect they were skulking too.

At the Lea Bridge waterways junction there was a scenic riverside pub (Young’s of course) and another one called the ‘Ship Aground’, both testaments that this was once a busy working river, I imagine used for hauling stuff up to the City. Technically the River Lea or Lee (both spellings seem equally acceptable) is a canalised river joining Hertford to London.

Soon we were back down to the Lea Bridge Roundabout, probably better known as the Clapton Ponds, and then we poddled on through Hackney at quite a slow pace owing to the volume of traffic into town. There are some fine old Mansions we had passed before and lots of new build social housing, with more to come (we noticed the Queensbridge site had reduced its rubble to fine dust but not yet shifted it or built and foundations).

What had progressed was the work on the East London Line extension, with gleaming new tracks and pretty points seemingly close to completion, doubtless inspired by the ‘Empowering Church’ just opposite.

For sustenance of a different kind we passed again Arthur’s Café – the super Youtube link is on the Route 38, but this time we managed a photo.

Down into Canonbury via the Essex Road and the bathroom fittings on offer go suddenly upmarket – shops approaching the Angel included ‘Past Caring’ second-hand goods, Angel Cuts and ‘S&M’ food. For once the traffic through Islington and past the Angel was pretty clear though of course lots of people were out shopping in their lunch-hour. This continued down into the City where the range of umbrellas on view became altogether more sober and bigger. Lunch-type shoppers who had opted for the environmentally sound paper bags looked pushed to get back to their desks before soggy paper bag syndrome took over.

Our exposure to bus and roadside advertising has been pretty constant over the last year but we both really enjoyed the 118.118 adverts using tube stations as ‘eating stops’: apart from the one illustrated we had also seen Chutney Bridge, Piccallili Circus, Elephant & Casserole and Hyde Park Korma – a witty and friendly take on London eating.

The 56 turns down Goswell Street and it seems only from here on is it a sole bus. passing as it does the City University, dotted about in different shop fronts and the Dogs Trust (a recent rebranding, which might explain why we had not heard of it ) and appropriate for a trip which included a very well behaved dog.
We crossed over Old Street and then into the City past the Museum of London, which seemed inspiring when it opened forty or so years ago and can still please. However we need to wait until May 2010 for the refit of the modern galleries to be revealed.

The bus passes Gresham Street with its grasshoppers and close to St Paul’s, looking grey rather than white today, before turning right up to West Smithfield (the market sides covered with tactful wrought iron roses rather than meat carcasses) and stopping in front of the old part of Bart’s. We did not have Mary with us today who, along with several family members did her medical training here, but we salute it as one of London’s older hospitals, even if it's lost some of its former standing.

In fact you might say this was a hospital-to-hospital bus as we left from close to Whipps Cross passing the Homerton and arriving at Bart’s.

1 comment:

  1. Barts has its place in literature too: it's where Sherlock Holmes met Dr Watson for the first time.