Saturday, July 16, 2005

On the buses

In the aftermath of the London bombing there has been an almost delirious outpouring of rhapsodic prose about the city and its pleasures. Following Iain Sinclair's Theatre of the City piece, Laura Barton penned a hymn to London buses in yesterday's Guardian, apparently based on a day traversing the capital by random routes. As I sat on the 171 into work yesterday, I read her poetic observation that 'Londoners sail the buses, floating along its surface like the flotsam of the city, each passenger following their mystical routes as if by divination'.

Sinclair and Barton are in a line of double decker flaneurs. In 'The Nights of London' (1926), travel writer and journalist HV Morton included an essay 'To Anywhere' with the starting premise that 'Strange things happen now and then if you just take the first omnibus and sit there long enough'. He describes a journey that ends with him getting off the bus and wandering through a park by cricket matches, a political meeting and open air dancers. Only as the night closes in as 'Lovers drifted slowly under the moon' does he ask a policeman ''Where am I?'... He looked at me suspiciously, and replied: 'Peckham Rye''. Must have been a number 12.

See also: A Delaware County writer recalls a trip with a Deptford bus driver.


No comments: