Saturday, 6 November 2010

The Number 117 Route

West Middlesex Hospital to Staines
Friday November 5th 2010

For reasons too complex to explain at this point we were for once ‘bussing’ on a Friday and on an extended trip at that – this in fact was the key route for the day but came wrapped around by 5 other outer South West London buses. Of the six this was in fact the least interesting, overlapping as it does very much with the 116, so finding novelty is something of a strain…

Well, there we were, having arrived at the West Middlesex University Hospital by a route so rare it only runs once an hour (well worth the wait but you will have to be patient for another 300 or so routes before you hear about that one). The 117 itself only runs three times an hour, so not surprisingly was from the off pretty full, taking both passengers and employees from the hospital to points west and south.

Once we had turned off the Twickenham Road along St John’s Road we knew why this was only a single decker – the roads are narrow, quite lane-like at points, and very soon we passed under a very low bridge that takes a railway line to Isleworth. This led to some speculation as to why it is pronounced (IZAL-worth) (NB older readers may remember quite nasty school toilet paper with that name) and not ILE-worth – after all we don’t live in the British Izals?
Once back on the main road into Hounslow (not again they cried) there was the usual run of empty office blocks (a theme for today) and small sandwich shops struggling to survive once the office workers have upped and gone. The Noshery tries by dint of ‘as much as you can eat offers’. Also along here – inevitably called the London Road – was a fire station, not striking today of all days, and West Thames College.

Passing through Hounslow was very slow today, probably contributing to a slight headache, and we ticked off our familiar landmarks – Hounslow Bus Station, which in our view needs an upgrade, our magic bus stop C near the fruit man, a chicane through the High Street (small buses only), and then out along the equally slow Staines Road – this is where Hounslow is trying to renew itself with sites reduced to rubble and other new builds springing up. Further along is the Folium development, which seemed a strange name to call anything though it seems to relate back to Descartes algebraic curve – help me out here some-one? Haven’t seen it but I expect it has a bendy roof?

The road narrows by Hounslow Heath and over the River Crane at Baber Bridge, part of the London orbital loop. Today the overhead planes are more to be heard than seen given the very low cloud and poor visibility.

The 117 turns off the Staines road – direction Feltham and from here is the only route for most of the way to Ashford. Unfortunately these bits of border country between London and Surrey are very similar to other bits. Feltham schools line the road with Feltham Hill Junior. Though subdivided into boroughs round here called Spelthorne, the county of Surrey is a very large local authority and speaking to a friend who works for them the employees describe it as stretching from Heathrow to Gatwick airports – think about it.

The road signs also promised us Chattern Hill. Hill, what hill? I humphed to Jo – it’s all as flat as a pancake round here otherwise they would not have built an airport, but she maintained she saw a slight rise in the contours, and thought I had been spoilt by living on a (real) hill in South London. Even more surprising was a shop offering tackle for deep-sea fishing? If hungry you could try the ‘Rumblinging Tum’ – not sure if this spelling is deliberate or not

The shop names were excellent – in quick succession Ashford and Knowle Green offered me Lookrite Hairdressers trumped by ‘Streaks Ahead’ and the 'Stagger-In' fancy dress shop.  Inevitably vampires seem in the majority but I noticed a Kermit in there and more to the point an Ali G, whom we all know hails from Staines. Staines, which only this week has decided to revamp (as opposed to revampire) its image and is considering calling itself Staines-on-Thames.

Staines upon water seems more appropriate because of all the nearby reservoirs, which we had passed on other routes on other days.

I suspect this one will run and run, which is what we had to do as we arrived at Staines bus station which appears to be nowhere near the Thames, to catch our last bus of the day, and our last bus out of Staines, back to Kingston (upon Thames).

Enough yet. Bring on the 118 which we completed some few hours earlier.

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