Monday, 3 December 2012

The Number 453 Route

Thursday 29 November 2012

It was with some excitement that Linda and I met at Deptford Bridge Station on this nearly-but-not-quite sunny morning.  It has been some time since we have followed a Central London route, and we have been looking forward to the 453 pretty well since it was a bendy. 

We sent off just after 10.00, at quite a rapid pace, which meant we could admire but not get a clear photo of Abstracticus, an emporium with a skeleton and a spangled Harlequin outside it.  It is listed in directories as a seller of second hand furniture, but does not seem to have a website.   It would be nice to see inside some of the living rooms furnished here. We also passed the Sion Chapel, and a number of attractive terraces in between the less than thriving shops, as we moved into New Cross Gate.  

Goldsmiths was looking impressive, and we also admired an alcohol shop with winged creatures at roof level.  They looked a bit topless to be angels, though if you’ve visited Mulcheney Church in Somerset you will know that bare breasts and angels can go together. 
As might be expected near a University, there were a number of bars and cafes’ including a salsa bar with shop dummies on the roof, waving vinyl discs.  We also liked a notice, sadly on a shuttered shop, which read ‘tired of feeding the fat cats? Please use local shops and services’ and enjoyed the council notice about ‘feeding the cows’ to go with the recycling bins which are painted like Friesian cattle.  (By the way, have you noticed that Americans call this make of cow Holstein, though they pronounce it Holstien? But I digress)  We passed the Dig this Nursery garden centre, and then were a little saddened when our driver refused to reopen the doors for a man who panted up to the bus stop just to late.  We were happy to note that later in the journey he was more charitable.

We headed on along the A2, resisting the temptation to fork left into Peckham, as so many buses do, and passed the building site which, in the mid 20th century, was New Cross Hospital.  It seems to be going to be new homes built by Hyde,  though there has been more demolition than construction so far.  With views of the Shard to our right, we were passing many shuttered shops, as well as a former bank, now a bookie. (‘same thing’ said Linda)

We came to the large Avondale Estate which is owned by the asset-rich and space-poor City of London, a reminder of how ‘affordable housing’ used to be provided in the past.

Trafalgar Avenue to the left, which is where the 63 comes and goes, marked the start of very much more familiar ground, and we passed Burgess Park, having a makeover which included planting ‘like in the Olympic Park’, and then we came to the Bricklayers Arms, as the bus stops are called, though there is no longer a pub here.  Our bus was very full by this time, both upstairs and down.  

The Old Kent Road becomes the New Kent Road, and the route runs through what used to be the great Heygate Estate.  Not much remains, though the Mural on the United Reformed Church is still a bright spot.

Elephant and Castle seemed much smoother than on many previous journeys, and we were soon alongside the Imperial War Museum and passing St George’s Catholic Cathedral.   It’s St George the Martyr, by the way, because he never really slew dragons,  such depictions being representations of his hatred of evil:  rather he was tortured and beheaded by the Emperor Diocletian. 

Heading on past Morley College and Lambeth North Station, we passed Westminster Bridge House, once the HQ of the Necropolis Railway, about which we have written before.  Disposal of the dead, like clean water and safe removal of sewage, is something we tend to take for granted, but it was big business in the nineteenth century, as London’s graveyards became overfull and the dead, like the living, needed to move to the suburbs.

From now on, our journey was pure tourism.  We passed the Coade stone lion which guards Westminster Bridge.  This stone is actually a kind of ceramic, invented by a woman in the 18th century, and very weather resistant.  Over Westminster Bridge with fine views of  Big Ben and of course, poetry ringing in our heads, though of course not much now lies ‘open unto the fields’.
A quick turn right in Parliament Square, where the peace protest is till clinging on, gave us a glimpse of Winston Churchill before we headed up Whitehall.  They were removing the poppies from around the Cenotaph.  I suppose they might accumulate litter if left for even a month.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how coy government departments are about their names – compare Macdonalds, or Marks and Spencers – but we passed the small name plate of HMRC, as well as the gates of Downing Street and the unlabelled but – obviously - identifiable Horseguards and then the Admiralty.  I had thought that the screen was by Wren, but it was actually Robert Adam.  Similarly we weren’t sure which statue the naked man had climbed on a few weeks ago, but it was the Duke of Cambridge – not the current one, obviously. 

We turned left in Trafalgar Square and then right into Waterloo Place.  It’s odd that the Crimean War Monument should be in an area named for a much older battle.  The monument was apparently only erected in the ealy 20th century fifty years after the event. 

Regent Street is decorated for Christmas, apparently by the Paralympics authorities, with illustrations of the 12 days of Christmas  though I think these swans look like geese.    

We were able to maintain the Christmas spirit when we noticed the van in front of us was a purveyor of Christmas Trees called ‘Pines and Needles’.

Regent Street was not as slow as it often is, and we got across Oxford Street without more than a glimpse of the strange marmite themed decorations there.  I’ll leave it to DG to comment

We had good views of the new BBC behind All Souls Church, before passing the various statues in Portland Place.  I suppose the most ironic thing is that the wartime leader of free Poland, General Sikorski, is right outside the embassy of the ‘Peoples’ ‘Republic’ of China.

This is rich Blue Plaque territory, but we only had time to note General Gage and Frances Hodgson Burnett, writer of the relentlessly sentimental ‘Secret Garden’ and ‘A Little Princess’.

A left turn took us along the Marylebone Road, to pass Madame Tussauds  and Baker Street Station as well as the Royal Academy of Music before turning right to reach Marylebone Station at 11.10.  We just had time to glimpse the blue plaque in Dorset Square, to George Grossmith, an amazing man, who not only starred in the premieres of several Gilbert and Sullivan operas, but also co-authored ‘The Diary of A Nobody’.  A great way to finish a ride full of touristy interest, which had taken us just over a hour.

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