diamond geezer

 Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Route 50: Stockwell - West Croydon
Location: London south
Length of journey: 9 miles, 75 minutes


It's traditional that every birthday I take a numerically significant bus journey, and my half-century is no exception. Eight years ago I took the 42 to Dulwich, seven years ago the 43 to Barnet, six years ago the 44 to Tooting, five years ago the 45 to Clapham, four years ago the 46 to Farringdon, three years ago the 47 to Bellingham, two years ago the 48 to Walthamstow and last year the 49 to Battersea. This year, for my sins, it's the 50 to Croydon. Rest assured that I didn't make this journey yesterday, I had better things to do, so what follows is a report from my very-late forties.



On arrival at Stockwell tube station, I note that the ticket office is scheduled to be shut for good on the very day of my 50th birthday. I take this as an omen for my journey, and not a good one. My bus awaits across the road, in hibernation at the stand outside the Post Office. I pause to take a photo, because today's post requires illustration, and am promptly spotted by an astute reader. I don't work this out immediately, it's only after I've crossed the road and checked my phone that I notice they've left a swift comment on my blog. "Haha! Just spotted you in Stockwell taking a photo of a number 50 bus!" Has it come to this, whoever you were, that I can now be identified in real life purely by the subject matter of a photo? But yes, bang to rights, well done, because who else in London could it be?

Very few of us board at stop number one, but I'm joined on the top deck by a middle-aged gentleman who appears to be talking in a foreign staccato language. As we head south towards Clapham it slowly dawns on me that the man is indeed speaking English but with a strong West Indian drawl, and that the short sentences are because he's rapping out loud to pass the time. As a special birthday bus treat I'm getting my very own performance in verse from the back seat, which would be fine if the bloke had talent but alas I'm unconvinced. He rhymes 'tree' with 'poetry' and 'irie', and if his lines don't scan he simply adds a swear word or three to fill the gap. "I come from the line of the Sun" he chants, to the bemusement of latecoming passengers, "eff the wicked things I've effing done." I'm increasingly certain that not all of this is improvisation, and that maybe he performs in local clubs to a paying audience, but with every passing minute I'm less keen to be one of them.

Clapham's High Street goes on for a while, with its mix of social services, refreshment outlets and quite nice shops. Sainsbury's occupies one of the more new-fangled buildings, architecturally speaking, while Byron hamburgers have taken over a Tudorbethan classic and painted it a most off-putting shade of green. We then spend a couple of minutes beside the Common. It's busy with clusters of footballers engaged in serious kickabout and panting joggers clearly hating every minute, while the ducks in the roadside ponds simply float and watch. At one pedestrian crossing the lights change quickly so our driver slams on the brakes, causing an empty can of Stella to emerge from beneath one of the seats and roll about. In the absence of a litter bin the man beside me picks it up and places it on top of the grab bar across the front window, where it remains safely out of harm's way for the rest of the journey.

As the Common ends we turn left to cut across from Clapham to Streatham. This involves a run down Cavendish Road, which seems a fairly normal avenue of tall Victorian townhouses until you spot the road signs. Blimey, this residential road is part of the A205 South Circular, a world away from the multi-lane North Circular, and routed this way for lack of any better alternative. I recognise the area as the terminus of the number 45 bus, which I rode five years back, although I don't remember seeing any food banks in the vicinity at the time. The 50 is the only bus down King's Avenue, threading through pleasantly residential streets to climb slowly towards Streatham Hill. We wait longer than expected at the lights to join the main road, sandwiched between Porky's Wine Bar & Brasserie and a pile of rubble that used to be something commercial.

Streatham High Street is the longest high street in Europe, so the banners on the lampposts say, although they spell LONG with thirteen 'o's for added impact. And they're not joking, it goes on and on and on. Thankfully it's not an especially chain store street either, so there's plenty of variety, including some original parade buildings bedecked with cupolas at rooftop level. One grand building looks like it was once a cinema, another still is, although not everything has architectural style. The new mega-Tesco and ice rink combo, for example, hugs an old church the developers clearly wish hadn't been there, but which will undoubtedly survive longer than the bland boxy buildings now surrounding it. As for the green slopes of Streatham Common, they're completely empty apart from a large flock of seagulls, it being a bit bracing for picknicking and not flat enough for football.

And yes, our rapper is still in full flow. He eased off a bit as the top deck became fuller but seems to have regained his confidence of late, and is now extemporising angrily on an Ice Age theme. "Thirty thousand years ago," he growls, "man went in black as coal and he come out albino." I think the words rhymed better when he did it, but they still didn't necessarily make any sense. "Shubbadabba shubbadabba doo," he adds, which has become a particularly common cop-out when he has half a line to fill. By now I'm both grimacing and delighted, the latter because I know I'll be able to get two paragraphs out of him when I write this up, but am mightily relieved all the same when Norbury arrives and he finally shubbadabbas off.

I've been wondering for a while why 'Melfort Road' has pride of place on the 50's front blind, and soon I have my answer. We turn off up a mile-long street alongside the railway, to one side Norbury Road, to the other Norbury Crescent, which swiftly becomes Melfort Road. Parked cars make it narrow, hence other drivers aren't entirely delighted to discover a double decker bearing down on them, and generally have no chance to argue. As the gabled semis sweep by, a new loudmouth kicks off from the back seats, this time a bloke berating his girlfriend in public for her inadequacy. "Are you effing dumb, how dare you say that to me?" he effs, and I wish she'd eff him back and storm off, but their relationship lingers on.

I've somehow never been to Thornton Heath before, I realise, at least not the main street past the station. I'm not immediately keen to alight. It's 2pm, and the streets are full of scarved gentlemen (and ladies, but mostly gentlemen) setting off for the match at Selhurst Park, or sitting outside the Prince George on the corner with a pint and flicking through the day's programme. The traffic slows here, allowing plenty of time to peer down at two gents getting a £4.99 haircut, and peeling posters for the long past Thornton Heath Arts Week. What looks like the former telephone exchange is now a Job Centre, such is life, but still with a modernist 1953 sculpture perched on one side. The curving high street's a bit shabby, all told, but also more characterful than than the highrise heart of Croydon that's coming next.

The stream of red and blue continues, overseen by a pair of horseback cops with as yet nothing much to do. A different kind of football is underway on Whitehorse Road Rec, the pumped-up shoulderpads and US-style helmets I suspect belonging to the local London Warriors. By now our bus is full of shoppers, accumulating for a trip to the Whitgift, which is accessed down an angular glass canyon of Manhattanish real estate. If Croydon is reinventing itself, it's not necessarily doing it in an attractive manner. Our bus's destination is officially given as 'Town Centre', but few stay on for the last two stops south of the main shops. The High Street's more for food and restaurants these days, and Grants Department Store sold its last Lace Gloves, Silks, Dresses, Mantles and Linens thirty years ago.

The 50 terminates just before the Croydon Flyover, where just three of us alight, then turns up the concrete sliproad to await the next trip north. Nobody recognises me this time as I pause to take a photo of the next bus along, although I suspect I do get some strange looks hanging around on a traffic island outside the Buffalo Bar & Grill. And as I walk back to the station for the non-bus ride home, I notice with some trepidation that both the 60 and the 75 also pass this way, and hence it seems I'm doomed to spend every milestone birthday touring the Croydon one-way system. The town and I may be looking somewhat worse for wear by 2025, and best not even consider 2040.



Route 50: route map
Route 50: live route map
Route 50: route history
Route 50: timetable
Route 50: The Ladies Who Bus


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16
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    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Sat 24 - Sun 25 September
Southend Charabanc
Seaside pleasure trip with arty installations linked by bus.
Part of the ESTUARY Festival.

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
scaryduck
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
onionbagblog
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

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

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
penelope
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv