There are ten 'E' buses, all of them in the Ealing area, the first three inaugurated in 1968 as Flat Fare routes. I could have chosen any of them, but with no stand-out option I decided to go with the bus that shares my postcode. Perhaps not my best ever decision, the route twisted all over the place and took forever to get nowhere very exciting. Enjoy.
An A-Z of LONDON BUSES
Route E3: Greenford - Chiswick Length of journey: 9 miles, 75 minutes
Greenford sounds lovelier than it is, along the main shopping street at least. The E3 pulls out of a sidestreet and doesn't hit its first stop until the other side of some traffic lights, giving adequate opportunity for any potential rider to break off from shopping and still catch it. I beat a cabal of post-church kids to the front seat on the upper deck, from which I shall be mostly underwhelmed for the next hour and a quarter. Immediately beyond Lidl we traverse the floodplain of the River Brent, not especially overdeveloped, and familiar if you've ever walked this section of the Capital Ring. The sports field where we turn right is completely speckled with seagulls, from the nearest goalmouth to the furthest rugby posts. And then we climb Greenford Avenue to a relatively lofty peak, between leafy avenues down which certain other E buses deviate as indirectly as possible.
We're in the vicinity of Castle Bar Park and Drayton Green, two of the least used stations in London, but running parallel to the railway so never intersect. Instead we head for Hanwell, a more socially mixed locale and our second burst of shops. Three large places of worship dominate Church Road, a big Methodist, a more trad Anglican and a rather more modern Roman Catholic. Behind me everyone is sitting politely and not talking, which would normally be great except that nothing noteworthy is happening, so you'll have to make do with me looking out of the window and telling you what I see. The Pamela Howard School of Dance on the Broadway. The entrance to the Kensington & Chelsea Cemetery, seemingly miles from home. The Diamond Hotel, which looks like it definitely used to be a pub. As you can see, the E3's highlights are legion.
Despite being an E bus we're not heading straight on to Ealing Broadway but turning off to escape the congestion early. The run down to Holdenesque Northfieldsstation features an increasingly upmarket retail selection, from a Wine Shop selling beer's and can's to the artisan Cheddar Deli. We pause a while outside the Ealing Christian Centre, formerly the Avenue Theatre, where the younger churchgoers have emerged onto the front step to check their smartphones. A more elderly worshipper waves her stick at the driver as she hobbles across the road, and we drive off a minute later with her safely aboard. Our next passenger has heels and a gold designer bag, hence Little Ealing Lane must be swisher, or is this South Ealing now - I've lost all geographical sensitivity.
You can tell from its wiggle that Popes Lane was once a country thoroughfare. Today a long curve of tasty semis shields the open space of Gunnersbury Park, which comes to the fore only when the gateposts of the Rothschilds' former mansion butt up against the street. Our dalliance with the North Circular is thankfully brief, making a direct beeline for Acton Town station, and in the process becoming an E3 in W3. Acton's 1930s fire station survives, but the Mill Hill Free House hasn't been so lucky and languishes all boarded up on a street corner. Ahead one badly parked car blocks our progress, and it's only when an E3 turns up travelling the other way that headlamps flash and we're on our way again.
Hang on, we're now back on the Uxbridge Road we left two paragraphs back, as the E3's meandering journey continues. Here it's known as Acton High Street, home to the very first Waitrose (now a takeaway), and where two policemen are keeping order by queueing at a cashpoint. But we don't stay on the main drag for long, instead nipping round the back of the old town hall to aim for a dog grooming and hypnotherapy studio in bijou Bedford Park. A blue plaque marks the former villa of John Lindley, orchidologist, whose son-in-law is responsible for turning a few sparse villas into the world's first Garden Suburb. Many passengers alight at Turnham Green station, at which point the shops vault up a gear to sequential bistros, boutiques and brasseries. My local postcode of E3 could never support a patisserie called Château Dessert, but on Chiswick Broadway it's positively buzzing.
We've been going an hour now and we're still not done. Indeed my ordeal is about to be extended by the dreaded crew-swap announcement. "This bus will wait here for a short time for a change of drivers to take place." We have an almost entirely new complement of passengers by now, boarding the E3 for its final leg out into tube-less territory. They're not best pleased at waiting either, but are probably well used to it, even the man to my left clutching a large laminated shelf. When our new driver's finally settled in we take the cut-through across actual Turnham actual Green, past Gilbert Scott's Christ Church isolated at its centre.
We have one last big road to cross, the busy A4, where the traffic lights let out only a few vehicles at a time. Annoyingly there's a bus stop partway down the lengthy queue and we're taking ages to reach it, but our driver kindly drops off expectant passengers early in the hope. Annoyingly one local resident doesn't take him up on the offer and holds back, dinging fifty yards down the road just before the stop, hence we miss our chance and get to queue one more time. But then we're across, entering the tongue of land inside the Chiswick meander and continuing almost all the way down to the Thames. But not quite, we halt finally on the lip of a housing estate - such a long way from Greenford, and so indirect too. An eye-opening ride for an east Londoner, but never again, E3, not all the way.