Today is 10/10, so I've been out riding ten bus routes.
Specifically a chain of ten bus routes, riding one more stop each time.
First route one stop, second route two stops... and so on up to ten stops.
Obviously I started here...
8: Bus Stop M → Roman Road Market(1 stop)
As one stop journeys go this is a long one, three-quarters of a mile no less, which is why I've picked it for my first trip. The 8 starts at Bow Church because it can't get under the railway bridge so has to go to central London via the Bow Roundabout and the A12. Lots of local people are therefore able to use it for a quick hop to the shops, and they do, flooding into the empty vehicle (front door only these days, of course). I am not the only person travelling just one stop, but I am the only person getting off to wait for another bus.
488: Roman Road Market → Waterside Close(2 stops)
This is twice as many stops, but less than half the distance. My brief trip passes a fire station that's now a college, some just-demolished retirement flats, the end of E3's most famous street market and a council estate they've attempted to brighten up using sculptures of giant wild flowers. Thankfully another passenger wants to alight at stop number two so I don't have to embarrass myself by dinging prematurely.
276: Waterside Close → Rothbury Road(3 stops)
First it's under the A12, where the graffiti starts, then up and over the Hertford Canal. A large area of recently-commercial land on Fish Island is in the early stages of rising as new flats. Hackney Wick has already succumbed. The Rothbury Road stop is immediately alongside a sparkling new development, its courtyard still fenced off, but with a gap to allow fitters and marketing folk to slip through pre-launch. They've named this jumped-up alleyway Meldola Yard, after the dye Meldola's Blue which was once manufactured in Hackney Wick (but not precisely here, indeed we're on the wrong side of the railway, so this is not quite the heritage win it first appears).
339: Rothbury Road → Stratford International Station('4 stops')
There's only one other bus route from Rothbury Road, so I'm taking that. The 339 is the bus through the as-yet unpopulated parts of the Olympic Park, veering off down White Post Lane near Hackney Wick station (where graffiti is at absolute maximum levels). As evidence that the Wick has changed, not necessarily for the better, a silver caravan branded Cauliwingz opened last weekend dispensing florets coated in cajun batter at £7 a tray. Since the start of the year the 339 has been diverted round the south side of the Olympic Stadium, passing two temporary stops that TfL's systems still refuse to acknowledge. The onboard display instead insists the next stop is the London Aquatics Centre, as does the 339's webpage, so I too am pretending they don't exist for the purposes of tallying my journey (because it'll make changing buses easier). Even though this area is local to me, I still spot one building site that was open ground the last time I passed by. Stratford City's bus station is officially stop three, where almost everyone else gets off, but I wait to alight round the back of the multi-storey car park behind the multi-storey car park.
308: Stratford International Station → Hackney Marshes(5 stops)
When I traced out today's route at home this is as far as I got, so everything beyond Stratford is unplanned. The 308 whisks me through the former 2012 Athletes Village, now a thriving community, indeed there are more people walking around its streets with shopping bags, sandwiches and pushchairs than I've ever seen here before. More flats are going up in all the available gaps, even on top of the community gardens the developers were waxing lyrical about five years ago. The bus garage at the top of Temple Mills Lane has facilities for refuelling not very many hydrogen-powered single deckers. A school PE lesson is taking place on a convenient set of steps alongside Hackney Marshes. Posters at bus stops warn of disruption during the Hackney Half marathon five months ago.
W15: Hackney Marshes → Homerton Hospital(6 stops)
I'm impressed by how many staging points on my semi-random journey are turning out to be places you've probably heard of. I'm less impressed when the onboard electronic display isn't working, so I have to count the stops manually like it's 2004 or something. This accidentally reveals that the TfL webpage is wrong again, missing two stops around Homerton Hospital where the W15 is definitely scheduled to stop, indeed the underlying data is so wrong that even Citymapper doesn't know they exist. The lady in the seat in front of me is crocheting something very small and very brown.
236: Homerton Hospital → Mare Street/Victoria Park Road(7 stops)
You have to be patient if you're a bus driver picking up outside a hospital. Our driver waits for a slow pensioner, then allows in a late double buggy, then waits again to allow an elderly couple to catch up. The twins in the buggy are asleep, hands touching. An ambulance worker is walking back to Homerton Ambulance station carrying 12 pints of milk. The luxury brand outlet along Morning Lane is as vacuously empty as it usually is. An old garage on Mare Street is being demolished so it can become yet more flats. Oh hang on, this bus is now on diversion because of long-term gas main works. The on-board display flashes up "Announcement in progress" but only after the announcement has finished, which for hard-of-hearing passengers is doubly useless.
48: Mare Street/Victoria Park Road → Commercial Street/Worthy Street(8 stops)
I have a wide choice of buses from this stop, but there's only one I'm ever going to choose - the route that's withdrawn on Saturday. The 48 has been deemed surplus to requirements, spending too long running alongside parallel routes and not enough time doing its own thing. I'm lucky to spot it stops here because the 48 tile has already been removed from the bus stop and replaced by a pure white square. Unfortunately this stop is also where the drivers change over and ours hasn't turned up, so we get to wait almost ten minutes while the departing driver awaits his relief. "They don't need it any more," he tells a passenger. "You might want to get off now and catch that 55, it'll be good practice." When we do finally head off, most of my eight stop-journey follows Hackney Road, an East End road in flux. One of the age-old handbag manufacturers - Boris Bags - is closing down and a clearance sale is underway. What was definitely Gala Bingo the last time I rode past is being replaced by 66 boutique apartments. The British Lion pub is now a wine bar. And when we do finally reach the edge of the City, sigh, most of Norton Folgate is in ruins apart from one wall they've preserved as an edgy facade. This being Shoreditch, the white tile where '48' used to be already has a pink marketing sticker on it. This bus terminates at the end of service tomorrow.
205: Commercial Street/Worthy Street → Stepney Green(9 stops)
A ridiculously high number of buses depart bus stop D, which could take me to the West End or deep into south London. But because I'm on my penultimate bus I select the one that heads for home, making the most of a fortuitous (and unplanned) overlap. We nip through the City, dodging suited jaywalkers and ambiguously-dragged luggage. We break out through the Aldgate non-gyratory, then cross back into Tower Hamlets for the long straight road ahead. The hordes board at Whitechapel, including a boisterous backseat posse. Counting to nine is harder than counting to one, but I'm fairly certain the Genesis cinema is the right place to alight.
25: Stepney Green → Bus Stop M(10 stops)
The 25 is a lot busier than the 205 because it goes all the way and runs less often than it used to. I squeeze into an upstairs seat along what's a very familiar road and observe our eastbound progress. A wheelchair user manages to board by the canal, then requests the ramp goes back down two stops later. Bow Church station is the site of another protracted driver changeover (the bane of my life, because it's invariably quicker to get out and walk). And sorry, I was lying when I said my journey ended at Bus Stop M, because that was truthfully only stop number nine. Real life never quite works out as perfectly as we'd like, dammit. Instead I had to stay on one extra stop to Marshgate Lane to complete my 1-10 challenge before walking home. 45 stops in total, distance travelled 12 miles, ultimate distance covered 450m.