diamond geezer

 Thursday, December 09, 2004

Square Routes: Day 9 x 9
Bus 81: Hounslow - Slough
Location: London west, outer
Length of journey: 12 miles, 55 minutes

The 81 heads west out of west London and keeps going, and keeps going, right off the edge of the map. I think (and Matt will undoubtedly tell me if I'm wrong) that the 81 is the London bus route that terminates the furthest away from the centre of the capital. About 25 miles away, in this case. And, as for that final distant destination, I had hoped I'd seen the last of this particular town earlier this year when my bosses sanely decided not to relocate my workplace in this far-flung hellhole. But no, here I was destined to return. Bloody square numbers.

Hounslow felt far west enough, but this was merely where my journey on the 81 began. The bus station here has seen better days, just eight featureless bus bays beneath an ancient roof, and thankfully due to be rebuilt before the end of the decade. I could have bought a halal burger for just £1.50 nextdoor in the Hounslow Snack Bar but I chose not to. The town centre was thronging with red and white buses, while jet planes droned overhead on their final approach into Heathrow. I didn't think the shopping centre was too bad actually, but then I'm used to East London and almost anywhere else's shops are better than that.

In the High Street our bus was boarded by a teenage single mother in a bright pink coat with white fur trim. At first glance her hair appeared blond, but closer inspection showed that her roots were as black as her eyeliner. She carefully manoeuvred a giant pink three-wheeler pram (with leopardskin trim) into the wheelchair space, then settled down to flick through something important on her mobile phone. The pram was full of cuddly toys, its interior completely sealed off from the outside world by a protective plastic covering. Of the baby itself I neither saw nor heard any trace for the entire journey.

We followed the old Bath Road out of Hounslow, then took the A4 along the northern perimeter of Heathrow Airport. I ducked instinctively as an Air China jumbo screamed unexpectedly low above our heads. The airport stretched out beside us for a good three miles, a mass of towers and tailfins and terminals. On the opposite side of the road stood an endless succession of anonymous shoeboxes, or 'hotels', where weary business travellers prepared to spend yet another lonely night emptying the minibar. Near the motorway slip road the bus was boarded by a swarm of off-duty cleaners and service staff, heading west away from their menial jobs towards where the cheaper housing is. Some town planning joker had named a nearby cul-de-sac 'Heathrow Close', which was an understatement.

Suddenly we were crossing over six lanes of snarled-up traffic on the M25 and making a clean break out of London. Grey gave way to green. The winding village of Colnbrook looked like it had been successfully saved from the ravages of 75 years of motor damage thanks to the building of one of Britain's first bypasses. Langley was more suburban, one of its lampposts transformed into a shrine by the addition of several bouquets of flowers. The bloke beside me began to fall asleep, as if in anticipation of our final destination, gradually lowering his weary head onto my shoulder. As we swung round the M4 roundabout he woke with a start, apologised profusely to cover his embarrassment and then promptly fell asleep on my shoulder again.

And then Slough was upon us. Home of the Mars Bar, birthplace of Thunderbirds and an inspiration to John Betjeman. Or, as far as I could tell through the bus window, a fairly typical modern town with a huge shopping centre, lot of cars and no character. My apologies to those who live and work here, but I'm glad that I do neither. We made a full circuit of 'that roundabout you see in the opening titles of The Office' before pulling up just outside the equally legendary Brunel Bus Station. It's a grim building, dark and filthy and forgotten. My photo shows the westernmost bus stop on the entire London Transport bus network, where a line of Slough residents waited to board escape vehicle 81 back to civilisation. I had the choice of a dingy subway leading south towards the delights of the town centre or a short walk to the railway station and a fast exit. I'm sure you can guess which route I chose.

81 links
Route 81: anorak-level route information
Route 81: timetable

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream