I've not been on a bus for six months. Six months today, in fact.
I have no plans to get on a bus today either.
But I thought I might go on a virtual journey instead... riding complete routes across London with each bus starting from where the last ended up. It'd be a ridiculous thing to do in real life, an utter and complete waste of time, so I'm taking advantage of not being expected to actually do it.
I am of course starting from Bus Stop M. Let's see where I end up.
8 Bow Church → Tottenham Court Road
The only bus that starts from bus stop M is the 8. It's amazing any route starts here at all, I've been lucky. Although the bus starts off heading east it swiftly does a 180° turn and aims for the West End via Bethnal Green. Once we'd have finished at Victoria, more recently Oxford Circus, but the latest terminus is Tottenham Court Road, near enough, almost.
And now my first problem. I need a bus that starts in the same place as the 8 finishes, and that's no longer straightforward to work out. Once upon a time TfL produced proper bus maps, including one for Central London that would have covered the Tottenham Court Road area. But they stopped producing these maps 4½ years ago, and a ridiculous number of changes have been made to routes in Central London since then, so my 2016 map no longer tells the truth. I could use the TfL website to locate the final bus stop and try to work out what else begins close by but what an ungodly faff that is, indeed for this purpose unexpectedly tediously impractical. This leaves bus spider maps as my potential saviour, except the new style maps no longer list the routes down the side, only show coloured lines extending out from the centre. What I need to find is a coloured line that leaves the centre but doesn't enter, which by an eventual process of elimination cuts the twelve routes down to three. One of these is the 8, which I arrived on. One of these is the 176, but that starts over on Tottenham Court Road proper whereas I've been dropped off the other side of Centre Point. Which leaves the 1, which has to be my next bus. If you are the muppet responsible for cancelling bus maps and buggering up spider map formats, this moaning 250-word paragraph is entirely your fault.
1 Tottenham Court Road → Canada Water
My second bus is the 1, the primary London route. That's two single-digit routes in a row, which is incredibly unlikely. I'm now off through southeast London via Elephant & Castle, where I can't get off because I have to ride all the way to the end of the route which is outside Canada Water station.
More choice this time. Three other buses start from Canada Water bus station, these being the 199, the 225 and the C10. I mustn't catch the 225 because that goes to Hither Green station and no other bus route starts there, which makes the 225 a dead end (and perhaps now you can start to see how my journey is actually a branching labyrinth where some paths simply don't work). But the 199 goes to Catford Bus Garage, which is OK, and the C10 goes to Victoria station which has got to be a doddle to jump ahead from...
Let's try the 199.
199 Canada Water → Bellingham, Catford Bus Garage
A tour of Deptford to start with, then south through Greenwich and Lewisham. I'm certainly getting around.
Outside the bus garage I have two choices, the 47 to Shoreditch or the 171 to, erm, wherever it terminates now. The 171 was one of the routes seriously massaged in the cull of several central London routes last year, and now only gets as far as (checks online) Elephant & Castle.
Let's try the 47.
47 Catford Bus Garage → Shoreditch
This bus retreads common ground, back through Lewisham and Canada Water, but continues to cross the Thames at London Bridge and on to Shoreditch.
At Shoreditch I have two options, the 35 or the 78. Or at least I think I do, my out of date maps aren't definitive. And the 78 is another dead end because it goes to Nunhead and no other bus does, so I have to pick the 35.
35 Shoreditch → Clapham Junction
Sigh, that's London Bridge again and Elephant & Castle again, but this time it's on through Brixton to Clapham Junction.
Three other buses start/terminate on the north side of Clapham Junction station, I think, and that's the 39, 295 and C3. I can't catch the 295 because that goes to Ladbroke Grove Sainsbury's which is a dead end, and I can't catch the C3 because Earl's Court Tesco is no better. So the 39 it is.
39 Clapham Junction → Putney Bridge
The 39 takes the very long way round to Putney Bridge via Wimbledon Park. Not normally one to ride all the way.
Putney Bridge is one of southwest London's major bus termini, so from here I could go all sorts of ways...
By my calculations the 85 connects to the 371, the 270 connects to the 355, the 378 connects to the 209 and the 414 connects to the 228. But this is all getting quite complicated now, branching inexorably out of control.
209 → Castelnau 228 → Park Royal 355 → Brixton 371 → Manor Circus
Let's try the 171.
171 Catford Bus Garage → Elephant & Castle
The 171 used to go all the way to Holborn, which would have been déjà vu, but instead after Peckham and Camberwell it now stops short on the road outside the Imperial War Museum.
The 171's last stop on Lambeth Road is also the last stop for the 155 and the 363, so it's got to be one of those next. Neither are dead ends.
Let's try the 155.
155 Elephant & Castle → St George's Hospital
The 155 shadows the Northern line through Clapham and Balham before veering off to stop in the grounds of the big hospital in Tooting.
The two other buses starting at St George's are the 264 and the 280. But the 280 terminates alone on the edge of London in Belmont, so instead I can only take the 264.
264 St George's Hospital → West Croydon
The 264 heads southeast through Mitcham to Croydon, roughly parallel to the trams. It used to terminate in the town centre, but now stops at West Croydon bus station.
TfL undertook a mass switcharound of termini in central Croydon last year to save a bit of cash. Trying to confirm which routes now start at West Croydon has been a bit of a pain, but my word there are a lot of them. I could go all sorts of ways...
C10 Canada Water → Victoria
A circuitous pootle round Rotherhithe, then some twiddly backstreets.
At least ten different routes start/finish at Victoria station. But the C10 doesn't serve the bus station, only Buckingham Palace Road, so I should concentrate instead on the two routes that share the same final stop which are the 44 and the C1. The 44 looks promising - it heads to Tooting station where I could swap to the 77, but the 77 is a dead end - so I can only switch to the C1.
C1 Victoria → White City
A single decker serving Knightsbridge and Kensington on the way to Shepherds Bush, terminating round the back of Westfield.
White City bus station attracts few passengers but several bus routes, so from here I could go all sorts of ways...
I'll stop there. My tree has now split from four branches to almost thirty, so following any further would be impractically unwieldy. But notice how the ends of those branches cover most of south and west London, from Uxbridge to Orpington and from Heathrow to Plumstead. Northeast London is thus far entirely absent, scuppered by ending up at Canada Water after bus number two. Its absence is particularly unexpected because northeast is the direction Bus Stop M generally serves, but if I kept on travelling I'd eventually get there.
Anyway, I set out on this virtual safari wondering whether my journey would stutter to a halt or inexorably open out, and it's very much done the latter. I could, if I so wished, ride end-to-end bus journeys from Bus Stop M and eventually reach most parts of the capital.... and beyond.
What I think I've demonstrated is that a London bus network comprising solely bus routes that start where others finish would be a pretty comprehensive network. This isn't a useful conclusion, nor something TfL should act on to save money, but it is definitely a journey best made theoretically rather than in real life.