diamond geezer

 Saturday, December 06, 2003

Cube Routes: Day 6 x 6 x 6
Bus 216: Kingston - Staines
Location: London west, outer; Surrey
Length of journey: 13 miles, 55 minutes

"Get out of the road you dozy fuckin' idiot!"

We were still attempting to leave Kingston bus station when our driver let rip at a bemused-looking bloke trying to board our bus after the doors had closed. He was a charmer was our driver. Thirty seconds down the road we attempted a sharp turn into the main shopping street. A mother was trying to cross the road with her three children, each of whom had been transformed into a jungle beast by some nearby council-sponsored face-painting scheme. She blundered into the path of the bus, then hurriedly dragged her little animals quickly back onto the pavement out of harm's way. Our driver burst forth again with another warcry like a big game hunter.

"Get out of the road you bleedin' dozy twats!"

Delightful. I was on safari aboard the 216, tracking the wild waters of the River Thames to the west of London. It's a long journey, and one of the few London bus routes to venture outside the boundaries of the capital, in this case penetrating deepest Surrey. Or is it Middlesex? Of all the seven bus routes I'm sampling this week, this was the only single-decker, which appeared to mean virtually no legroom for anybody over five foot six. I should have sued for possible deep vein thrombosis.

We crossed Kingston Bridge, the sun shining up from the sparkling river below, and sped through royal parkland to Hampton Court. The riverside terraced house where Christopher Wren used to live is now neighbour to the Cardinal Wolsey pub (book your Christmas party here) and a traffic-clogged roundabout. A man with a smelly dog got on board and sat rather too close to my nostrils. We drove on into Surrey, upriver and upmarket - sailing clubs, exclusive residential islands, Kempton Park racecourse and Mail-reading couples out walking labradors. Sunbury Village with its narrow lanes and arty hotchpotch of cottages could easily have been in deepest Suffolk, except that there were three buses queued in the main street.

The view shifted as we reached the giant roundabout at the start of the M3, back into featureless semi-commercial suburbia. The bus detoured off the arterial road to visit a huge new Tesco superstore, picking up a doddery old man who shuffled slowly to the nearest seat. He was carrying two barely-filled plastic carrier bags, either all he could afford or all he could carry. The bus dropped him off two stops later - I guess he's forced to travel little and often.

We sped on through deepest Ashford, all diamond-lattice windows and nail bars, before sailing past the reservoirs of West London and inching into Staines. Just before our destination (at this week's umpteenth shopping mall) we halted unexpectedly on a bleak estate. Here we were treated to a new driver, a fountain of dreadlocks sprouting from the top of her head, who took five minutes to adjust everything just the way she wanted it. Meanwhile our old driver escaped into a waiting white van and pulled out into the traffic... directly in front of a honking car - the bleedin' dozy twat.

216 link
Route 216: timetable

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