Monday 13 June 2011
Mary being busy, Linda and I met at Finchley Road Tube Station and we were onto our single decker 187 promptly at 10.00, bound for the Central Middlesex Hospital.
It was a murky morning, with little sign of the promised sunshine and 24 degrees, and the bus had rather dirty windows as well. But we were able to see the large Waitrose which had once been John Barnes, as well as the Octavia Charity Shop, which supports a housing charity, though the websites I have found are rather vague about any link with Octavia Hill. We came rapidly to Swiss Cottage and to the Basil Spence Public Library, which has had a complicated history with changes of function and refurbishments as well as part demolitions. We also noted that the nearby Japanese Restaurant, Benihana, appears to have stopped trading.
Our next landmark was Quintin Kynaston School, which was in the news a few weeks ago with its plans to provide accommodation for homeless students.
It was around here that we spotted a bus advertising the "Indian Property Show'. We do, as it happens, know some people with a second home in India, but were surprised to realise that it was such a big market. It is rather dependent on affordable air travel, and not exactly a 'weekend retreat' option.
Passing St John's Wood Station, we turned right at the Wellington Hospital, in an area of many mansion flats as well as large houses, mostly divided. We liked the Art Deco-ish detail on the former National Provincial Bank, and showed our age by tracing back the former names of current high street banks. We agreed that inertia tends to rule: both of us are still with the banks we started with.
The shops in this affluent area are interesting: the Sheepdrove Organic Farm Shop is one of two, the other being in Bristol, which makes sense, since they are about half way between the two cities.
Meanwhile the Baker and Spice Cafe had a piper on its balcony (a statue, that is, not a living one). Soon we came to another Bar, this one called Idlewild. Linda knew it was an airport in New York, but I, being older, remembered it from the theme tune of an American TV series called 'Car 54, where are you'. Not many readers will remember it, as it was back in the early 1960s: but the lyrics did say 'Khruschev's due at Idlewild'.
We haven't been collecting hair cutters' names recently, but enjoyed the look of Hair D'zign.
The area began to look a little more familiar as we came past the Chippenham Hotel and turned into Kilburn Lane, coming to Queen's Park Station. The houses along here, both before and after the Linen House are attractive terraces, many of them with Arts and Crafts detail in their plaster work, and a number with a pattern in green bricks on their gable ends. The small front gardens were pretty colourful, too.
On the other side of the road are a number of modern blocks of flats, with more going up. The area is already densely populated, and our bus was slowed by the fact that the roads are not really designed for the amount of traffic they carry.
We paused briefly in the forecourt of Kensal Rise Station, where we admired Just Barking, with its claim of providing 'Doggie Day Care' as well as, apparently, a dating service for single dog lovers: but our bus swept us on before we could note the details.
Now we swung off the main roads, to serve some residential areas of Neasden, very different from the busy routes we had travelled before; but then we came back into Park Parade, to find slow traffic as a result of major 'water' works. It was a bit of a surprise: two years ago, it seemed that every street was having its Victorian watermains sorted, but we had grown out of the habit recently.
The road turns into Harlesden High Street and then Acton Lane where we came to Our Lady of Willesden. The church is 1930s and not particularly beautiful (though the roses around the gateway were) but it is interesting to note that they offer preparation for baptism (for parents presumably) in Portuguese, under a Brazilian flag; and it has a long history as a shrine, according to a number of websites which refer to its Black Madonna.
We next needed to cross the enormous number of railway lines. Linda had calculated that there are seven stations called 'Acton something' or 'something Acton', and certainly the railway bridges were extensive.
This part of North Acton turns into Park Royal, and we nipped around the industrial and business estate, remarking that the McVitie's Factory clearly also makes McCoy Crisps, before coming to the enormous Asda, where many people got off our bus. Opposite is a bench with a mother and child sculpture sitting on it. Last time we came this way a rather drunken person was sharing it with them, but this time they were alone.
A further few minutes brought us to the Central Middlesex Hospital, less than an hour after leaving Finchley Road: not bad, considering the extensive tour of West London areas which this little bus takes you on.