Sunday, 6 January 2019

The NUMBER 16 Route

Cricklewood Bus Garage  to Victoria Station
Thursday  January 3 2019

This was our third bus of what had so far been a very slick day – the charismatic 31 and the interesting 316 had led us to the start of the – well – ordinary Number 16. It goes essentially in a straight line from Cricklewood Broadway to Marble Arch where it takes a right for Victoria. I could stop there and say that was that but will attempt to make a ‘pedestrian’ (wrong use) journey more interesting.

In fact the most entertaining factor was a Spanish family who boarded very early on and stayed to the end: they took the other front seat and dad was encouraging his somewhat restless daughter to guess what the English shop signs might mean via a sort of Spanish ‘I-Spy’. As my newly acquired Spanish is at a pretty rudimentary (Intermediate) level I was trying to follow the conversation.

The first part of the trip, down to the end of Kilburn High Road, duplicates that of several routes but certainly the 316. After the rather  desolate area of closed wholesale outlets and some abandoned shops (Toys R Us) (Decks)  it was good to get into Kilburn proper  which has always had a buzz – it must get even livelier at the weekends with the Bingo halls and large pubs, once for the Irish locals,  still open for business.

The area is much more multi-cultural now with a well-established Muslim Charity and a Polski Sklep still hanging in there. Meanwhile our travelling companion was being asked to work out what Fried Chicken might be in Spanish ‘pollo?’ she hazarded correctly.

I am not sure what either of them would have made of the ‘Beaten Docket’ pub whose curious name we had looked up ten years ago and alas forgotten – thanks to the Wetherspoons websites ( not their politics thank you) we can refresh ourselves:
A beaten docket is a losing ticket, often associated with horse racing – a feature of this area in the late 19th century. Attracting thousands of race-goers, Kingsbury Races were held five times a year, on land leased by William Perkins Warner, proprietor of the nearby Old Welsh Harp.

As NW2 gives way to NW6 there are some homes between the parades of shops, Watling Gardens reminding us this was once the Roman Watling Street. Also there are references to Brondesbury, not an estate agent’s way of gentrifying Kilburn but a genuine name (origins of which are undoubtedly historical but a bit murky) and with two stations, just off the route. Clearly on the route is the well- used Kilburn Station, now Jubilee but with the Metropolitan Line whizzing through too and whom we have to thank for the well maintained 100 year old bridge.

Alongside, way past its heyday there was a launderette with a strangely ornate pediment.

Kilburn High Road can be slow but perhaps folk were still at home for the seasonal break: whatever the reason we pushed on through at a very steady pleasant pace. As Brent & Camden give way to Westminster  we passed  Maida Vale  with its grand and gracious mansion blocks each with its own  style, some art deco some pseudo Tudor. Towards Edgware Road Station there was building that seems to have been underway for the last ten years but promises to deliver many homes with all the usual in-house facilities.

I am not sure what our Spanish travellers made of the shops and restaurants lining the route to Marble Arch as many of them have Arabic or Arabic derived scripts with the odd ‘Fatoush’ thrown in.. Even Robertsons with its venerable three golden balls must be a bit of a mystery to non-English speakers. Pawnbroking (or lending against goods) is a very old trade and interesting it has retained its sign, where few other shops or dealers do.

Peering down Oxford Street as we turned right at Marble Arch made us glad we were not going straight on at this point as it looked busy – reducing the number of buses down Oxford Street can only be a good thing really. As we glimpsed the green of Hyde Park the daughter asked whether there were ‘flamencos rosas en el parque’ and Jo and I both said no in unison.   I love that the Spanish for flamingo is flamenco which conjures up the exuberance of this florid tropical bird, not usually found amongst our homelier park waterfowl.

In spite of a lingering police presence along Park Lane following a New Year’s Eve ‘incident’ we progressed on to Hyde Park Corner – there were queues, or rather the 21st century equivalent of hustles of people at the bus stops but few interested in the 16 which remained empty upstairs.

The portrayal of the Queen as a large stamp (well she is on all the real ones) has intrigued Jo and this was her best photo yet. She also admires all the Commonwealth War memorials round the Wellington Arch from the cheeky backside of the Machine Gun Corp’s  ‘David’ to the graceful Haka-like plinths of the New Zealand tribute.

The building site at Hyde Park Corner, like many of those we had passed today, seemed quiet and we passed on by another garden, that of HM the Queen – no use trying to peer over – even when the leaves fall there are thick shrubs behind the even thicker walls topped with plenteous wire, so privacy is maintained.
After the statutory turns to get round into Victoria this was really a very straight and uneventful trip enlivened mainly by trying to see well known bits of your  home city through the eyes of strangers, who like us disembarked at the station.  

A last lingering lonely Christmas tree to remind you today is the last day of Christmas, but HAPPY NEW YEAR is still OK.  

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