Friday, 15 February 2019

The Number 23 bus route

Thursday 14 February 2019

It seemed there was something logical (as we Vulcans say) about travelling the re-jigged 23 route so soon after doing the now-defunct 10, since the changes are to cover that loss. But there is nothing particularly logical about the revised 23 route.  It does indeed complete the last part of the 10 route, but before that, it behaves like knitting wool that a kitten has got at.

We arrived at Westbourne Park station on this blindingly blue spring morning, delighted to have the company of the occasional traveller from Swindon, and waited a brief time for the handsome 23 with its damson and blue interior and remarkably clean windows. And we were off at 11.05, heading northwards.

We came very close to the Trellick Tower, about which much has been written and filmed. When we visited Erno Goldfinger's not-high-rise house in Hampstead, we were told that he had once spent six weeks in a tower block to see what it was like.  I said at the time, unkindly, that I supposed the lifts were working then.  It is now partly private (obviously, we are in Kensington and Chelsea) but still having a troubled time.

On we went, past the former Cobden Working Men's Club, and other offices and studios, in a block called 'Canalot' which caused Linda to groan. 

As we turned into the Ladbroke Grove Sainsbury's which we shall visit many times on this project, we noted that the HQ of Innocent (the smoothie people) was here, or at least their logo was large on a wall.

We headed south down Ladbroke Grove, past St Charles', where there was a hospital which looked after our mother/in law for some time, past Ladbroke Grove Station, and then on and on southwards.  It's a street with handsome terraces, and also shops, including a pharmacy which was celebrating the day.

Then we turned east, to cross the Portobello Road and travel a very long way along Westbourne Grove.  It was at the stage that one wanted to suggest that Hammersmith, the destination of this route, was in the opposite direction.  Again, this is an area of fine terraces interspersed with shops and studios, and eventually we arrived at Eastbourne Terrace, still completely blocked by the works for the Elizabeth Line, to the chagrin of all bus users, who used to nip out of Paddington and find their stop here.  Due to open in December 2018, Crossrail still looks so unfinished that we suspect that December 2019 won't see a grand opening either.

Still, most vehicles seem to have realised how slow this area can be, as we got down to Praed Street comparatively smoothly.  Then we turned left, heading east again and away from Hammersmith.

St Mary's Hospital is of course where Alexander Fleming went on holiday without washing up his petri dishes, and changed the history of the world.  Like many hospitals in London it is having building works done.
We were taken with the picture outside a small supermarket: a butterfly with two radiccio wings and an asparagus body, and I also noted an ex-Trumans pub, now a restaurant called the Fantasia Palace, which appears to be Greek.

The next bit of the journey was slow, in a way that has become rather familiar in the past few weeks:  down the Edgware Road, reaching Marble Arch and heading down Park Lane.  At least we could say that we were now on the former Number 10 Bus route.

We passed the 'Animals at War' memorial and the Dorchester Hotel, established in 1932, and always catering for the wealthier parts of London's population, and so came to Hyde Park Corner.  We got round quite smoothly and were finally heading towards Hammersmith.

Once again, we headed west, slowed by the fact that the bus lane was impeded, not for the first time on this journey, by building works going on. 'Public roads blocked for private profit', I muttered, as we passed the building which has made no progress since last week, though the propped up facade continues to be interesting.  We forked right before reaching Harrods, this time, to pass Knightsbridge Barracks and some remarkably tall hotels and other buildings.  One had a fire escape which looked so frail and high that we doubted its usefulness.

Linda and I reminded each other of our interesting trip to the Polish Institute, which is along here, and also the outing to the Albert Memorial, gleaming in the sun.

The Royal Garden Hotel now has a restaurant attached which offers Polynesian food and cocktails.  It's called Mahiki, which apparently means 'path to the underworld', and it's a branch of a club in Dover Street. Given the health issues connected with the current diet in the islands of Polynesia, I suspect that what the restaurant offers is not what Polynesians themselves eat at home.

The pretty brick and stucco building which we passed, and which was dated 1852, proves to be the HQ of the Iranian Melli Bank.  I was not aware that Iran was able to have such simple financial links with London
After we had passes Kensington High Street Station, and Adam and Eve Mews, named for a long-vanished pub, and reached the Design Museum, we had a moment of drama.  Suddenly the tannoy on the bus began shouting repeatedly 'this bus is under attack. Please dial 999'.  Happily no-one did so before someone checked with the driver.  He had accidentally activated this alarm and could not turn it off.  But after a few noisy moments, peace was restored, and we were able to continue.

The next event here will be the Best You Exhibition, 'arrive with questions leave with answers' which seems to be going to offer solutions to everything from Climate Change to unhealthy eating habits.

But by now we were looking forward to the end of our ride, and were pleased to be passing the former bits of St Paul's School, to reach Hammersmith Bus Station by 12.30, just about within the 84 minutes predicted at the head stop.  We did feel we had been round in circles;  but then most people only use a bus route for the bit they need, so the fact that we had been round the houses does not really matter.

Friday, 8 February 2019

The Number 22 Route

Thursday 7 February 2019

We picked up this, our second bus of the day, at Putney Common, near a site which Linda remembered to have been where a hospital was.  And indeed, that was the case, but it is now a school and apartments, after more than 10 years of closure with the huge costs of guarding an increasingly derelict site.  

Fortunately, given the biting west wind, we did not have to wait long, and were on the bus at 12.05, heading back into Putney.  We passed a butcher, with a (surely dairy?) cow outside, as well as a piece of art depicting a parent weighed down by her burden and a pale ghost sign.

 We knew from previous visits to the Putney Bridge area to look out for Kenilworth Court: there can't be many buildings in London with three blue plaques.  Hugh Jenkins, the Labour and CND hero who lost his seat to David Mellor, is one. Gavin Ewart, poet, whose plaque is actually a Putney Society marker is another, and the third is Fred Russell, 'Father of British Ventriloquism'.

I doubt if the three of them had much in common, but then their tenancies did not overlap, so banter in the lift was unlikely.

Here we paused for a driver change, and  then continued to the  bridge, where there are works being done around Putney Pier. These seem to be to do with the Thames Tideway sewer works, which we came across a few weeks ago in Battersea Park.
Soon we were over the river (the bridge does have very pretty lamp posts) and travelling alongside Fulham Palace and its grounds.

Fulham and then Chelsea proved to be rather s story of many pubs.  We liked the decorated entrance to the yard of the Kings Arms (now glassed in for dining, but presumably where the drays used to unload)

and we did also pass the almost hidden access to the Tube Station, and the Bottle kiln which marks where Fulham pottery was made from the 17th century on.

Linda very kindly pandered to my obsessions by photographing the cycle lane  - working so well - and we both liked the plastic flowers decorating Katie and Jo's clothes shop.  We first spotted this kind of decoration around Christmas, but it was clearly more than a passing fashion.

The small patch of green we then passed is Eel Brook Common, which became a public land in 1881, and was rescued from various developers, including the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who wanted to build on it.  The crocuses are out: spring is definitely coming!

Across the road was yet another blue plaque, this one for the graphic artist Ralph Steadman.


What with ghost signs and huge wrought iron clocks, and a shop boasting 'rock crystal chandeliers' we were almost dazzled by the retailers of this trip.  But I said a moment ago that this was a pub-laced journey and here was the Worlds End Distillery, looking more like a palace than a pub, and shortly afterwards, signage promising 'new pub coming soon' but the interweb seems silent on what this means


We were also passing the houses of the prosperous, and the accommodation of the not-prosperous, though this person at least had a bench and a solid looking tarpaulin. We thought there was possibly less new-build going up than in other, less salubrious areas.  Here was Chelsea's old Town Hall and, nearby, the site where the Curzon Cinema is being redeveloped, but will still have films alongside dining and retail.

 We admired the pretty Six Bells pub, and the Chelsea Potter, as well as noting that 'Sticks 'n' Sushi still had what appeared to be its Christmas greenery
By now we were coming to the Saatchi Gallery and the world of green, but private square gardens, and thus into Sloane Square. 
Here we saw yet another Blue Plaque, this one to the excellent radical politician Charles Dilke. His private life is quite interesting too, as you can read at this link.

We also spotted that Boodles the jewellers had been founded in 1798, when Britain was in the grip of war.

As we came into the Knightsbridge bottlenecks, Linda remarked how often roads were affected by  building works rather than roadworks:  and we got a good   view of the huge block where the developers are having to preserve the facade while destroying everything behind it.

Once we got to Hyde Park Corner, Linda kindly photographed the New Zealand war memorial, as well as the Wellington Arch. She knows how much I admire these standing pillars, leaning forward like warriors (or the All Blacks) at the Hacka, and embellished with symbols of New Zealand Flora and fauna (and a rugby ball).
Then it was just a matter of the laborious plod along Piccadilly until we turned off to go slowly round Berkeley Square, something no other bus does.

There was the pretty Park Chinois restaurant (I envisage a French-Mandarin fusion) and the less pretty, but interestingly named, Sexy Fish.

 Still more Blue Plaques followed, one to George Canning, around at the same time as the Duke of Wellington, and one to Clive of India, 'soldier and administrator' which is a succinct summary of an imperialist.

Winding our way through the streets of Mayfair to reach Regent Street, we were again help up by road works or possibly building works, so we had time to watch some buskers with electric violins and an amplifier, and also to spot the Lalique shop.  I thought you might like some ideas for next week. Oh, yes, and another Blue Plaque, this one for the fashion designer, Norman Hartnell.

Regent Street is never fast, but we reached the end of the route just north of Oxford Circus at 13.05, which was less than the 66 minutes predicted for this journey.  It had been very entertaining to see so many areas where wealthy people go shopping.