Wednesday, 17 February 2010

On the buses

For the first time in many years, I spent most of yesterday on a bus, or to be precise, several buses.  My second trip to London turned out to be under the rules of a deck of playing cards, to be spent travelling the city's bus network (although the dice was unwilling to secede its role as I threw 3 threes in a row which was last week's choice, before eventually throwing a five, which denoted the cards!)  The following rules applied:

- Use the cards to ascertain which direction to take - red card for E or W, black card for N or S
- Get on the first bus that comes along
- Select a card from the pack
- Disembark after the number of stops indicated by the card
- Walk about for a minimum of 30 minutes or until I find another bus
- Repeat the process - if a red card is selected, continue in the same direction, if a black card is selected cross the road and travel in the opposite direction
- If a joker is selected, travel to the end of the route

The cards selected to go east along Marylebone Road, and I eventually got out on Pentonville Road and wandered into Islington.  Chance tactics work in strange ways - with the whole city of London to explore, chance was determined to send me to places I was familiar with - this seemed to be the pattern for the whole day.  I decided to refrain from consulting my A-Z to give myself more of a chance to wander into unfamilar territory.  Further buses took me back into the city to Finsbury Square, and then back out again into the farther reaches of Hackney. 

I hadn't been on a London bus for quite some time and was surprised to see that each stop is now announced by an illuminated board accompanied by the refined tones of a female announcer....just as well, as the view out of the window was obscured for the most part by a film of condensation and raindrops, creating that special atmosphere of sheltered intimacy that you only get on the top deck of a bus but preventing you from seeing where you actually are. There is something very egalitarian about bus travel - once on board all passengers are part of a band of travelling humanity which has equal rights - no first class carriages or VIP lounges here, though those that choose the top deck as I always do, are members of that club that shares an elevated view of the world!

Throughout the day my view of London seems to have been filtered by a succession of windows or screens of one sort or another.....



God was obviously not prepared to take a back seat this time either.  Everywhere I went, I found images relating to his importance in people's lives, probably not surprising considering the poverty and disadvantage endemic in most of the areas I visited.  I wonder if his presence would be quite so visible in the more affluent suburbs? 


  1. I must admit that your rules- strategy were some difficult for me to obey, but it may be a very original idea and experience which should find some followers! I well understand your thoughts and feeling considering bus driving (I preferred the top deck in London, too) - the different faces from allover the world are so fascinating for me, too- and sometimes I like to imagine some stories about them, many persons look very tired, so my feel as I was recently in Berlin.
    The 'output' of your second London journey is very rich- wonderful and atmospheric pictures- and how 'beautiful' is London in the rain when the views are blocked! Yes, religion seems to be one of the most important 'ingredient' in people's life- and you havde to know much about that in order to understand the different cultures and biographies! But it could be that my (and perhaps also your) eyes are fixed on those details?
    I find this series great and I would like to accompany you- but sometimes I think we see quite more when we are alone-while on our own discovering our ways - not distracted by the opinion and words of other persons!

  2. Thanks for your comment Philine - sometimes I feel it's only you and me out there, though I know that other people do read this blog! Perhaps you are right about my eyes being fixed on certain details - the subconscious works in strange ways. I definitely agree with you about the necessity of being alone when undertaking this kind of work - to be with another person is enjoyable but distracting and you are always having to consider their wants and needs. I usually end up trailing behind while they wait for me!