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Wednesday, 25 February 2004

The Continuing Dull Diary of Last Week

Topic: Eurotrash
Wednesday: Got up too late to meet Krystal and Derby at the British Museum (thank god, had enough seminars in there/at the museum tavern while at uni to last me a lifetime of damn Egyptian mummies and olde englyshe caskets), and rolled into Seven Dials at the crack of three pm to meet up for shopping and... erm... walking and sipping coffee. No fucking at all. (theatre joke, okay?)
It was freezing brass monkeys, and I had to wait forty minutes at Seven Dials so the whole afternoon involved lots of racing about the West End - tea in Neal's Yard, snacks in Chinatown, wandering through Soho, Golden Lion Square, Bond Street, Selfridge's, Marble Arch ... all very normal, although I have to wonder how come since I moved out of reach of a London Underground station, I've spent more time in central London than any point since I lived there?
Ah yes, the touristical fun and games started when I tried to board a bus at Marble Arch. I had cheap tickets to see Bombay Dreams (which troubled my brain exactly as much as watching an opera did, fact fans) in Victoria, and needed to get there fast. It's over a year since Derby moved Oop North from London, so I was trying to look all hard-nosed London local, by charging up to the third bus stop without checking the schedules, and hopping straight onto the first bus that came along. Mistake. Seems that Mayor Ken has introduced bus token stands, so that in congested areas, you pay your money to a machine, then simply wave a slip of a ticket on the actual bus. Didn't tell me about it, though, didya, Ken? Even though I pay #1600 a year in council tax, ya bastige.
Red-faced, I suffered the indignity of bus-driver-rudeness, getting off the bus again and watching it speed away, and most gallingly of all, German Tourist pleasantly showing me how to work the token machine. Sigh.
Next bus was a Routemaster, so I brushed off the shame, left the German vandalising the token machine (hah!) and thought I'd be able to regain my Thirteen Years in the Inner City Local's Demeanour.

You know the answer already, don't you?
Two minutes into the journey, having fought weary battles, red in tooth and claw, to gain seats on the bus, I looked up at the route map on the wall. Wrong bus.
Cue every single person on the bus telling me how to get off and get a bus to Victoria. This is London. This is wrong. People in cities this big don't talk to each other. They're not helpful. As Quiet Writer put it the other day, long spells in big cities breeds disconnection of the strongest sort. Come to London, where we ignore you because We Prefer It That Way. You don't chat on the bus!
Red faced and more like a tourist than ever, I fought my way over the help-offering throngs to get to the exit. Routemaster buses have an open platform at the back, meaning you can jump on and off any time the bus slows down (except if you're paraplegic of course, when you can only fall off, no jumping on there for you). Only this is no bloody use to you if the bus is speeding around the Hyde Park Corner junction, in the middle of eight lanes of traffic all doing 40mph at the time. And leaving by the exit lane diametrically opposite to the one you want. Lovely traditional West Indian bus conductor did his best to cheer me up by encouraging me in a hysterically-pitched scream to jump off and dart amongst the traffic via a strip of dirty grass verge every time we skimmed a traffic island at breakneck speed. I was nearly crying as I protested that I would break my neck because of the breakneckingness of it all. Eventually, my cowardice meant we ended up back at Marble Arch, and having to walk for half an hour to cross back over Hyde Park Corner. The fascination for the entire lower deck was palpable, all craned their necks to see my crestfallen trudging as we got off, still brassily debating how I should best have managed the transfer to a Victoria-bound bus. Glad I lightened their day. But by now I don't think I'm going to shed the feeling of being a tourist in my own city.
One hundred yards from the next bus stop, three Routemasters heading swiftly towards Victoria skim past us. At exactly the right moment, Derby whips out a hand and leaps onto the passenger platform of the last one. She screams encouragement at me. I leap.
Mid-leap, I begin The Wail. The one that the widows in Palestine do on telly. The heart rending "NOoooOOOOoooOoooooOOOOOOOooooooOOOOOooooooo" that makes every single head on the lower and upper decks turn to see me miss the platform and land in the gutter.
Derby keeps my nerve up by uttering encouraging whooping and screaming noises as the bus pulls away, accelerating. She's joined in this by one or two amused London commuters on the seats nearest the doors. I run.
I can run. I just can't be gainly about it. Or fast. Or successful. I was always the one who gave up in the hundred yard dash at school, and not only came last but walked the last half, whingeing noisily. But now, I ran. It was like Chariots of Fire and a heart attack, crossed.
As the bus got to the stop, I was a mere thirty yards away. The lower deck roared to the driver to wait, as one, I swear. Panting, sweating, wheezing, I hurled myself towards the platform. Derby did some celebratory whooping.
And I desperately tried to control my raging redfaced gulps, groans and unfit gasps as I oozed past faceless solicitor type forty something blokes. All of whom were giggling.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 9:14 PM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 25 February 2004 9:18 PM GMT
Post Comment | View Comments (19) | Permalink | Share This Post

Wednesday, 25 February 2004 - 9:26 PM GMT

Name: jatb

Buses are too difficult to work out now. That's the real reason I cycle, you know, I'm too resistant to change to come to terms with ticket innovations.

Wednesday, 25 February 2004 - 10:05 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Red alert: Blatant Travelcard Lie ...?

Wednesday, 25 February 2004 - 10:08 PM GMT

Name: jatb

Not me, I don't have a travelcard...
Oh... did you mean you?
I feel rather silly now.

Thursday, 26 February 2004 - 8:27 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Oops, no I didn't.

Thursday, 26 February 2004 - 12:50 PM GMT


your post has brought back scary memories of leaping on and off number 13 buses on the Finchley Road, usually landing on top of various confused foreign students and causing a huge amount of mirth from the faceless solicitor type forty something blokes.
Fun times - not.

Thursday, 26 February 2004 - 3:24 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Finchley Road... Legomen? Panachetta? Francesca?

Thursday, 26 February 2004 - 4:48 PM GMT

Name: Kat
Home Page:

I hate to laugh at your misfortune (especially after yesterday's post) but this was very funny. I could see this being the beginning of a movie or something.

Hugs, sugar.

Thursday, 26 February 2004 - 8:44 PM GMT

Name: Legomen
Home Page:

I'm Sarf Ouest Darling. 4x4 school run etc

Do they do first class on buses??

Thursday, 26 February 2004 - 9:09 PM GMT

Name: sarah

see, if I tried to runa nd jump on the back of a bus i'd just bounce off and get crushed under the wheels. No wonder so many people migrate to london to follow their dreams of not getting squished.

seriously, another post that was by far the most entertaining thing I'd read all day - thankyou vanessa :P

Friday, 27 February 2004 - 12:47 PM GMT

Name: Finchley Road

got ya guessing there. Don't worry, you don't know me. Just followed a link from someone else's site once and have been hooked on your blog ever since!

Friday, 27 February 2004 - 2:51 PM GMT

Name: maxine
Home Page:

too bad we live so far away. I have about 20 coats and I'd be more than happy to share...

Friday, 27 February 2004 - 5:54 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Yes, it must be hot and stuffy under all those coats. You could try weaning yourself down to less - say, 18 or so at once? ;)

Friday, 27 February 2004 - 5:55 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

What a nice thing to say - I don't actually know them, either - I've foudn that reading someone's blog doesn't necessarily mean you know them, as I've spent most of the last three months wandering past complete strangers, wondering if they might be Creepy Lesbo, Belle de Jour, Panachetta, or Laura from Bridget Who...

Friday, 27 February 2004 - 6:07 PM GMT

Name: Finchley Road

...but in reading their blogs you feel like you actually do know them (and identify with a lot of the things they are saying!) but then realise you wouldn't recognise them if you bumped into them in the street!
Funny things, these blogs. Seriously though - yours has to be one of the most well-written and thought provoking that I have come across.

Friday, 27 February 2004 - 7:28 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

I read that as 'fruit producing' then shook myself and corrected it to 'puking'.
I think it's a lack of sleep sitch alert.
Anyway, you're welcome, please do keep commenting. Truthfully, I like it when people comment - my ideal is when it's frequently enough for me to feel less like a bully when I take the pi ss.

Friday, 27 February 2004 - 7:30 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

I often imagine having a road rage incident with another blogger, employing rampant self-justification in a cathartic blog post, then wishing the earth would swallow me up as I read their version.
God, imagine if Belle de Jour blogged your performance! Eep.

Saturday, 28 February 2004 - 3:55 AM GMT

Name: Cyn
Home Page:

Jeebus, I thought you British types were a civilised lot.
Running and leaping and falling in the gutter--to catch a bloody bus?! I've never heard of such a thing.
You folks need to get with the 21st century.
(I hope you've recovered physically, if not your poor shredded dignity.)

Saturday, 28 February 2004 - 3:58 AM GMT

Name: Cyn

Oh sorry. Just read your next post. Didn't realize that your car is broken atm.

Saturday, 28 February 2004 - 11:09 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Lol! I really like the fact that my blog gets all the polite commenters. Cheers, Cyn. :)

And we put all our civilisedness into the accent. There's nothing left over for the behaviour.

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