Saturday, 27 October 2012

Let's go for a London bus journey

Norwood Lane Bus Stop, Hornchurch

This is the bus stop I mostly used, Norwood Avenue in Hornchurch. Staying in London and having to travel to my dad's place every day, the bus was a necessity. I grew up in London, visit about once a year, and have now been in Switzerland 46 years, so you do get out of touch eventually. Busses were my main means of transport in my residential days, travelling to school and home and otherwise going places, but as everything, things change over the years.

First of all I had to equip myself with an updated oyster card. This is a payment method for London busses and the easiest and cheapest way to do it. I acquired my card a few years ago and keep it in a safe place at home to take with me on my London trips. So the first step is to go to a newsagents and get it uploaded for a week, costing about £18, which is quite reasonable, allowing you to hop on and off of busses all over London.

I soon noticed that my days of hopping were gone, and with a careful step I managed to get onto the platform. The oyster card is placed on a sort of electronic reading device next to the driver and then you are ready to go. The next step is to find a place to sit. Being in a somewhat more greyhaired advanced age, the seat has become an important asset in the bus, but unfortunately travelling at certain times seats can be rare. Of course you can go to the top deck of the bus, where there are almost always empty seats. Another problem as the driver pays no real attention to who is seated or not, he starts the bus when everyone has been loaded at the bus stop. Climbing up bus stairs on a moving bus is like a helter skelter ride at the fair, but with no real guarantee that you arrive safe and sure. I thus prefer to remain on the ground floor and usually occupy the first seats reserved for the aged and ailing if possible. Anything else requires mountaineering skills having to climb to a higher level. 

London Bus, Rush Green road

Possibly the first two or three stops might be spent standing and clutching onto the rail with a tight grip to keep your balance, but somewhere on the way a seat may become available and then you sit and start to enjoy the bus ride, hoping the driver takes the sharp curves with care. There is a programmed announcement system at every stop so you know where you are. My journey to my dad's place was from Norwood Avenue to Oxlow Lane on the 175 bus (busses are numbered) and after a week in London I knew each stop by name.

I really had to admire the mothers with their prams mounting and leaving the busses. They had special wider places to park the pram and stand (although if a wheelchair arrived, they had to give way). They pushed the pram onto the bus and  left backwards with no problem. I noticed that the busses were much cleaner and more cared for than they were a few years ago. There had been a lot of vandalism and it was becoming an ordeal to take a peaceful safe journey, especially in the evening. There were notices forbidding alcohol and warnings that the busses were under surveillance by CCTV. On some of the busses you actually saw the screen showing what was being seen. I took the opportunity to take a photo of the screen showing me sitting on the bus.

Camera in Bus

You can see me on the extreme left with the camera in my hand. In front is the place reserved for prams and wheelchairs. My neighbour on the bus had deposited her shopping trolley there. The quality of the photo is naturally not so good, as busses are not made for winning Pulitzer prizes with the camera.

You are never really alone on a bus and somehow a conversation always develops with the person sitting next to you, especially with the golden oldies like myself. It usually starts with the weather but leads to all sorts of interesting subjects. I once got so engrossed with my conversation that I missed the stop where I should have left the bus, but bus stops being very near to each other, there was no problem in walking the short distance back. 

There are two kinds of bus stops. Those where the bus always stops, and those that stop by request. The request stops mean that if you see your bus coming, you take a step near to the curb of the road and put your arm out signalising the bus to stop. It was here I found it was time to have an eye test. I had my eyes tested a couple of years ago, and Mr. Swiss had been telling me for some time I should think about having new glasses. As I stood waiting to signalise the bus it had to get very near for me to read the number (and they are big). Bus stops accomodated many busses and 175 can resemble 174 or even 5 I realised. Yes, it was time for new glasses. It once happened that I was sitting at the bus stop taking a photo of the street, or perhaps playing with a stupid game on my iPhone and the bus I was waiting for just sailed past as I did not see that it was arriving.

I often travelled back from my dads in the evening, around eightish when it was dark. This was no problem and everyone was well behaved on the bus. I was becoming a real profi with riding busses in London. I noticed that it was a good idea to avoid busses from 4 to 5 in the afternoon as this was the time when the uniformed school children were let out of the school, but here again they were very well behaved and absolutely no problem, the were just so many of them. I must say they were very well behaved, and in general and it was a natural thing for seats to be offered to the more needy and helpless (like myself?).

Yes bus journeys in London are fun. My biggest problem was getting off the bus. The step seemed to be so far from the pavement, but I even got used to that eventually.

Rush Green Road, Hornchurch


  1. Ahhh, how things have changed since the says of the old Routemaster buses!! Although I grew up in Birmingham rather than London, your post made me feel nostalgic, as my youth was spent travelling on similar buses. To school, to the city centre for shopping, etc. I didn't learn to drive until I was 35, so bus journeying was a way of life. I moved down here to Wales not very long after becoming a regular car driver, and have not ridden on a bus since.

  2. I didn't take my driving licence until I was 38. I did it in Switzerland so still cannot drive a righthand drive car. I don't actually like driving any more and only take the steering wheel in the hand when Mr. Swiss makes me. He says (with right) I shouldn't forget how it works.

  3. What a great post! Those buses are quite impressive!

  4. Another excellent post Pat.
    I understood everything that you said and it is very similar here in Aus when taking public transport not that I do it very often.
    You sound like you really enjoyed your bus times. Good for you the photos are a bonus to the post.