diamond geezer

 Thursday, January 10, 2019

Route 507: Victoria to Waterloo
London's 3rd shortest bus route
Length of journey: 2.24 miles (15 minutes)

For the first time in my countdown I've hit a route I've blogged before, and fairly recently too. But that was eastbound in the rush hour, so this time to avoid undue duplication I'm riding it westbound at the weekend. The 507 isn't really a weekend kind of bus, having been introduced in 1968 as a Red Arrow service to whisk commuters from Waterloo or Victoria to their desks and back, its service designed to cope with two peak-time spikes. Over the years it's seen flat fare buses, bendies, longer-than usual-single deckers and today a fleet of cutting edge electric vehicles. It is no ordinary service.

Dougal and his mummy are waiting at the first stop on Upper Taxi Road. "It's a day for doing nice things with Mummy," she says. They've already watched Jade Thornton busking something from The Greatest Showman on the mainline concourse, and now they're catching a 507 to continue their bonding experience. Once the bus arrives they walk through the cattle class standing area and settle into one of the seats at the rear. Mummy opens up her rucksack, from which she takes out some Tupperware, from which she takes out some neatly scrunched tinfoil, from which she unwraps a healthy snack for Dougal to enjoy. "Thank you Mummy," says Dougal. "You're very welcome," says Mummy. If the zebra crossing outside the station ever clears, we should be underway.

Two tourists with luggage have settled into the view-free seats immediately behind the driver, squandering the opportunity for world-class sightseeing later on. Another woman yells "Yeah, I'm on the bus" into her phone, because it's not a ten-part series on London bus journeys unless that happens. The 507's super-duper electronic display won't tell us how long it is before we reach Victoria, but the last stop before the cut-off always seems to be seven minutes distant. "Let's stop off at a lovely bakery," says Mummy. "I love bakeries," says Dougal. "You can't get nice bread in a supermarket," says Mummy, and I wonder if this statement might be the best definition of being middle class I have ever heard.

A new family board the bus at St Thomas's, their dad savvy enough to know that they can use the middle doors. He stands near the pushchair with grandpa, and the two of them engage in blokey banter about Chelsea and Stamford Bridge and Fabregas and FA Cup prospects that's probably not stopped for the last 30 years. Mum sits further back with their daughter, whose name is never uttered, not least because this parent is too engrossed in what's happening on her phone. The Thames is a slightly darker shade of grey than the sky. A pair of pleasure boats moored upstream have nowhere to go today. A dozen red buses can be seen strung across Westminster Bridge, almost nose to tail. Daughter clutches her CBeebies magazine and stares forwards.

The cafes on Horseferry Road are silent because the civil service haven't come to work today. Former offices at 9 Millbank have become a vast hole which will become luxury flats. Channel 4's HQ looks partially boarded up, but no, they haven't redistributed to Leeds just yet. Our next fresh boarders are a bunch of middle-aged geezers, one clutching the Racing Post under his arm. "Warmer in 'ere innit?" he says. They launch into a well-rehearsed spiel about football, ending with the line "everyone hates Tottenham" at which everyone guffaws. A noisy ambulance speeds by. "Do you know what the first letter of ambulance is?" asks Mummy. Dougal knows.

With their rucksack repacked, Mummy and Dougal alight outside Westminster Cathedral to continue their adventure. A nice bakery somewhere awaits their custom. Clued-up passengers also disembark here because the final leg of the journey involves a slow crawl into the far end of the bus station, whereas there's a new tube station entrance just across the road. On the home stretch silent daughter chirps up for the first time, announcing that she needs a wee but can hold it in. In her hurry to clamber off she accidentally drops her furry lion which falls unnoticed to the pavement. I prepare to undertake my heroic deed of the day, but just in time she notices and turns round and runs back and is joyfully reunited. The weekend 507 is a breed apart.

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