Saturday, 24 November 2018

The Number 12 Route

Thursday 22 November 2018

Well, now, this was supposed to be a seamless and efficient journey, landing us up at Dulwich Library in good time for lunch chez Linda.  And the first part went well as Linda has explained.  At Liverpool Street, we stepped straight onto the Central Line, to get to Oxford Circus, where the 12 begins.  It was 12.10. Hollow laughter is appropriate at this point.  After waiting for 10 minutes for this famously frequent bus, we rechecked the bus stop: no notice. So Linda looked at the TfL website and, lo! thanks to the bridge works at Parliament Square, it now, apparently, starts at Whitehall Place. Were we downhearted? No! (well, yes actually, but I couldn't resist the First World War reference there) . So we hopped onto another bus, and disembarked in Whitehall, only to find that the bus stop there was closed, with a notice telling us that the bus starts in Westminster `Bridge Road, the other side of the river.

Walking across the bridge was made bearable by (for me) the fact that it had been closed to all vehicles except bicycles:  perhaps a foretaste of what the whole city will be like before I die?
But also because, every 20 metres across the bridge there were young men offering that classic con trick with the three cups and the ping pong ball.  We concluded that there was an organised gang operating on the bridge.  For anyone who does not know that this is a scam, here is a helpful website.

So eventually we passed the Coadstone Lion and got onto the bus at 12.53, and we were off.  This bus was marginally less arctic than the 11. Here's a question for Mr Johnson, when he has a moment.  How can his pet buses, so hot in summer that they are known to all who are forced to travel on them as Roast-masters, be so cold in winter?

We made steady progress down under the former Eurostar Platforms at Waterloo, past the Walrus Pub, with its toothy sign, and past the attractive planting outside Morley College, which used to be guerrilla gardened until the Council took it over.  We even began to look forward to a not-too-late lunch.

But then we reached Elephant and Castle. And stopped, because Environment Rebellion had got there a few minutes before us.  It was only about 10 minutes, but some people on the bus got very tetchy, about meetings they would be late for and so on.

When we did move on, we came to road works (of course) and progressed along the Camberwell Road, past various shop and office fronts, including the 'Passion for Beauty' shop, where they 'have the secret code for beauty'.

As we came past Burgess Park, we were quite pleased with the progress we were making, but then we were stopped, this time by a car in the middle of the road, apparently malfunctioning.  A number of people were gathered round it, opening and closing the doors, and bonnet, jumping up and down on the door sill (cill?) to no avail, until suddenly, after about five minutes, it drove off, and on we went.

Linda was interested to see Seabass Cycles, of which there are apparently several branches in South East London, and we also noted two hairdressers next door to each other, definitely separate businesses, because they had different phone numbers.

We were, as always, passing newly built apartments all the way along here, past Camberwell Green and down towards Peckham.  We passed the parish church of St Giles;  he is known as one of the 14 holy helpers in Germany, and is the saint of beggars and the downtrodden.  This is interesting, I think, since the area of St Giles (around shiny Tottenham Court Road) used to be one of the nastier rookeries of London in the time of Charles Dickens.

Then we came into Peckham, Linda reminding me that when the bus goes the other way it avoids the congested High Street.  Not us: we went past the Library and the Aylsham Centre and the Wing Tai Chinese supermarket and then encountered our next hold up: a splendidly insouciant bloke,  trundling his trolley load of bags of rice up the street despite the motorised vehicles getting annoyed with him.

We were amused, therefore, to see the notice at the next lot of road works, begging pedestrians not to walk in the road. We braced ourselves for another delay when we saw two police cars stopped but flashing their lights;  but they did not seem to want to stop the traffic.

South London always has interesting churches, and we noted The Beneficial Veracious Christ Church Miracle Centre, part of a global church promising exactly what its title suggests.

'Nearly there', sighed Linda, as we turned down to pass the Rye and then fork right to pass the HQ of Suzanne James catering.  We don't often, you will agree, tout for commercial concerns, but since we have both had very good family parties catered by SJ, it seems only reasonable to let you have a look at them.

And then all that was left was to get to Dulwich Library, where this bus terminates....eventually, at 14.00.

It's a route that both of us have used and enjoyed before, but never quite as slowly and annoyingly as this.

The NUMBER 11 Route

Fulham Broadway  to  Great Winchester Street (Liverpool Street Station  )
Thursday November 22 2018

When we did this route in 2009  we had been joined by my late mother, then aged  89 and a sprightly bus user; we also started at the neat Liverpool Street Bus station,  so today saw us heading to the  other end – namely Fulham Broadway which  had been an old cut and cover station  now totally enclosed with a shopping centre (and toilets) on the way out.  Just as well, we thought four hours later…

Opposite Fulham Town Hall had been our advised starting point but then we discovered Fulham Town Hall has two facades – the older  commissioned building opposite the Underground with a newer extension on Harwood Road , where indeed we found  our stop and our bus. The Fulham Society describes the Town Hall as ‘unloved for seven years’ from which I take this listed building has not found any takers prepared to respect its integrity in any future development. 

No time to linger though as we sped east along the Harwood Road – I was always under the impression that Fulham had been the kind of working and middle class support (ie the ‘downstairs ‘ to Chelsea’s upstairs)  to neighbouring  rich Chelsea and the rows of modest houses seemed to reflect this though I doubt the  area is quite so mixed nowadays. As we approached World’s End the bespoke shops became even glossier – Bagno design is not, as you might think, a designer handbag shop but the kind of bathroom outlet that sells huge freestanding roll top baths, all of which necessitate  large rooms.  Between the furniture design shops we admired a householder who had managed to tame his olive tree into a screening hedge – a strangely English approach to a Mediterranean shrub – not that today felt at all Mediterranean with near zero temperatures.

Indeed one might be grateful for a garment made of Alpaca as sold by the Peruvuian Connection (we have local living  Alpacas in the Horniman gardens)and more chandeliers than in a BBC period costume drama (you know, the one with the ball scenes) or more conventional cashmere from Brora – you can tell the upstairs of the new Routemaster is not very warm as we yearned for something cosier. The former Post Office gave us a warm glow though I doubt the posties woudl recognise it! 

By now we had been joined by four travelling companions – three of them Australian by their accents and at least two in the front seat tourists, for whom this is an excellent route. There used to be some difference between the World’s End part of Chelsea and the rest of the King’s Road but it was hard to detect today in the range of luxury shops. Limelight Movie Art stocks all kinds of vintage film posters which seems a little ironic given that the Curzon Cinema closed in March of this year but seemingly with plans to be  reborn as part of a major new development 
Still on a cinematic theme there was a Blue Plaque for Carol Reed , film director.

Well all good window shopping must come to an end and once we were down by the Saatchi Galleries
 (very extensive) and Peter Jones we had reached Sloane Square and our right turn down towards but not quite all the way to the river along Lower Sloane Street – the large red brick Victorian mansion blocks lining the road seemed to have remained unscathed by WW2 bombs and thus redevelopment – their interiors presumably served by a range of antique shops along Chelsea Bridge, then Ebury Bridge roads.

We changed drivers at Victoria  but this was not the cause of slowness, which rather seemed to be sticky traffic in Victoria , most of which seems to be a quite complex one way system that takes the 11 right up to the back walls of Buckingham Place before coming back round . The route passes both coach and train services and there has been much building close to the station, which is also having a makeover.  We spotted a penthouse which must just about be able to peer over the Palace walls?

Once we were on Victoria Street we made better progress – incidentally we had been here the previous Saturday on a Hidden London tour of 55 Broadway – TFL’s beating heart , which also happens to be  in what they call London’s first skyscraper, completed 1929 and thanks to a recent demolition site visible from this route.

Our Australian fellow passengers were benefiting from this two cathedral (Westminster & St.Paul’s) and one Abbey route.  Sadly Westminster is a mess with the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the bridge all having fabric or road works. That did not seem to deter the tourists who were milling around as ever. Fortunately this route does not cross the river so  we had a reasonable run down Whitehall passing a very fenced off Downing Street and just missing the 11 o’clock Changing of the Guards. The wreaths from the Remembrance Day ceremonies were still looking in good order. We fared far better than last week crossing Trafalgar Square though the Strand was slow as always, improving after Aldwych. Our fellow passengers became quite excited as we passed Australia House, which itself is celebrating a centenary. One Australian passenger pointed out to her companions the shrapnel holes in St Clement Dane’s Church and when Jo nodded her assent they asked her if she had been in London for the Blitz! No, we are not quite that old.  The RAF are rightly proud of their church with its older and more recent history

 Fleet Street has a really good range of street clocks, some of which still work. I suppose it was important to know the time for erring journalists to meet their deadlines?  The other passengers got off at St Paul’s, and as this had been a pretty quiet bus we were alone now until the end of the route.

There had been  a lot of police and security personnel round St Paul’s for no evident reason, whereas they needed to redeploy  a couple of them up to the  multiple junction by the Bank of England/ Royal Exchange. This has been a bicycle and bus only crossing for some months now in an attempt to reduce cycling casualties (and improve air conditions presumably) with other vehicles banned between 7am to 7pm. However in the space of waiting for  the lights to change we spotted two cars – one sneaked across in front of us – as for the other our driver leant out of his cab and told them what was what and they did do a U-turn. However as there did not seem to be anybody policing this we can only hope there is an ANPR and fines get sent out? 

The bus did not go far beyond  the Bank of England (another worthwhile Museum visit) before it stopped quite a way short of Liverpool Street outside a relatively modern block calling itself the Pinners Hall, or rather the site where their hall had been. I am not sure if this particular city guild still functions. To be honest we felt a little stranded and Liverpool Street was further  than we thought.

This very pleasant route taking in some of the classiest shopping and the best known sites of London had taken us 1½ hours from West to East and was to prove to be the star of the day…

Monday, 19 November 2018

The Number 10 Route

Thursday 15 November 2018

The Number 10 kind of encapsulates my time living in London.  When we first arrived, it ran from Hammersmith to Archway, unless we really wanted a ride up the hill of York Way, in which case it could be relied upon to terminate at King's Cross.  Then that end point became official, but the splendid 390 went up to Archway instead.  And now the Number 10 is over.  From Friday 23rd, it will be a former bus:  all part of the plan (to save money, said a driver I spoke to) to reduce the number of buses along Oxford Street.

So anyway, we picked it up in Wharfdale Road, at 10.20, and turned down into the end of Caledonian Road, to emerge onto the Euston Road and pass King's Cross, and St Pancras. Separate stations demonstrate the fact that private companies each built and ran their own railways, just as the fact of all the stations lining the North of the Euston Road show the power of the noble landlords (Dukes of Bedford and Westminster) who did not want railways on their lands.

Then comes the British Library, with a very interesting exhibition about the Anglo-Saxons at the moment, and then the former Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital (now a Trade Union HQ) and, on the other side of the road the 'new' St Pancras Church, which superseded the 'old' one, where Thomas Hardy was employed to oversee the removal of graves to make room for the railway.
We turned left down Woburn Place (in the olden days, the 10 used Gower Street as the 390 does now) and were trapped in very heavy traffic, but happily the route turns right at Russell Square, to pass the British Museum, before rejoining its old route in New Oxford Street for the long slow trundle to Marble Arch.

The smart new entrances to Tottenham Court Road Station are looking very busy already.  Apparently, once the Elizabeth Line opens, the expected footfall will be greater than Heathrow Terminal 5.

We did not think much of the Christmas Decorations (OX ST? Why?) but it did not take as long as we expected to get to Selfridges, and then the left turn into Park Lane.

The massed cyclamens outside the Dorchester caught our eye, as did a notice close to the southern end of Park Lane.  It actually refers to a plan by the Italian artists Matt Marga to use 1 million crystals to make a head of the Queen.  I am sure Linda and I will be passing this way again and so will be able to comment on it.  At this instant, my mind is boggling.

I have always loved the war memorials at Hyde Park Corner:  the simple angled poles of the New Zealanders; the wall of home towns spelling out the battle fields where the Australians fought; the cheeky Machine Gunners' statue of David (Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands) which so annoyed other branches of the army; the fine artillery memorial and of course the Iron Duke himself, or at least his arch.

Then we headed along into Kensington, with Hyde Park looking autumnal and lovely on the right.  At the end of Exhibition Road, the Royal Geographical Society has a statue of David Livingstone in a niche, reminding us that exploring was often done by missionaries in the 19th century. We passed the Albert Memorial, as well as the Polish Museum, both placed we had enjoyed during our museum project. We also noted that there are 'works' going on at the Albert Hall.

After these handsome buildings, one does not have to be the Prince of Wales to find the Royal garden Hotel absolutely hideous, but by then we were in amongst smart shops and restaurants, some with beautiful plantings, though some with plastic wisteria or amazing baubles for Christmas.

At Kensington Olympia, they were holding the European Pizza and Pasta Show, but we did not leap off the bus to experience it, which is as well as it proves to be a trade show, rather than an eatathon.

Even here, in smart Kensington, there was masses of building going on.  Soon we were on the outskirts of Hammersmith, where parts of St Paul's School have become a hotel, and where we enjoyed a glimpse of the attractive parish church of St Mary's West Kensington

The bus station is at the eastern end of Hammersmith, so we did not need to grapple with the difficult traffic there before rolling up onto the top level and climbing off, with barely a minute before our next bus departed. Ninety minutes to cross from on side of central London to the other is not bad in  today's  traffic conditions.