diamond geezer

 Friday, February 14, 2014

I blog a lot about bus journeys. I'm blogging a lot of them at the moment, as I journey round London by bus. So far I've subjected you to write-ups of fifteen different bus routes and, sorry, there are still another ten to come. When I write about the Underground I always think I'm carrying a few more of you with me, as train journeys are somehow seen as intrinsically more 'interesting'. But buses, well they're just buses aren't they, and I do wonder how many of you genuinely care where an outer London service goes.

It doesn't stop me. I like blogging about buses because the view's better than from the tube, and because the write-ups get to be more about geography than infrastructure. Since this blog began I've written about dozens of bus journeys, from the centre of town to the outskirts, either because the route was of topical concern or because I liked the route number. I once spent three Decembers riding prime, square and cube numbered buses, which helped bump the numbers up, and of course there's my annual birthday bus ride in March.

Here's all of my London bus reportage pulled together in one place, purely to act as a useful index, you understand.

» 1 2 3 4 5 7 8 9 10 13 16 17 19
» 24 25 25 25 27 36 38 38 38
» 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49
» 53 60 64 64 66 71 81 96
» 100 125 135 142 148 159 166
» 207 216 216 246
» 308 331 N343 368 388
» 412 464 467 488 492
» 507 588 607
» 702 724
» B12 R8 R11 U3 X26

I make that 63 different bus routes altogether, which sounds like an awful lot. But that's nothing compared to the achievement of Jo, Linda and Mary - The Ladies Who Bus. They've ridden every single one of London's red bus routes (school buses, night buses and mobility buses excepted) from end to end, and blogged about the lot. That's a heck of a lot of buses, almost 600 all told, which puts my mere 10% firmly in the shade. Every week for five years they set out on a journey to ride one more route, or perhaps a cluster of routes, with one of the trio taking notes and one snapping photos along the way. I do the 'taking notes' thing too, because it's the only way to remember the finer detail of what you've seen, else you get home and have to write something dull like "erm, yes, we rode through Brixton'. And then The Ladies posted their adventures in sequential order, working up through the numbered routes and then onto the letters. Their report of route 1 back in March 2009 was a bit terse, to be honest, but they soon developed an observant style and started to chronicle the capital in depth.

I'd hope you've already been to read their site, because I've plugged it on and off over the years, not least during my latest orbital bus journey. No matter whatever London route I've ridden they've already been, so there's always an alternative interpretation to link to at the bottom of the post. And it's their comprehensive completeness that makes their bus project a unique record of the capital in the early 21st century. Most online media content focuses on central London, because that's where all the well known stuff is, but the red bus network threads through every corner of every suburb, out where the majority of us actually live. The opening of the Shard has been extremely well chronicled, for example, but in years to come only TLWB will recall the existence of the Always & Forever bridal shop in Feltham.

Earlier this week Jo, Linda and Mary rode their very last London bus, the X68. They gathered near Russell Square mid-afternoon and rode the express down to West Croydon, with notebook and camera in tow. A gaggle of appreciative readers joined them on the top deck, and Geoff from Londonist was around to take a video to record the event.

The ladies aren't yet quite done, they want to ride the trams through Croydon and the two riverbuses. But then the future's up for grabs - maybe tackling all of London's cemeteries, or perhaps ticking off every London museum. Once a completist always a completist, I'd say, and there is a genuine sense of achievement in making it to the end of a mega-long sequential project. Anyway, I'm delighted to offer my congratulations to the Ladies on their 1 to X68 journey. And to anyone else who's thinking of undertaking a similarly obsessive yet marvellous undertaking, why not give it a go, you have only your free time to lose.


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