A Journey Through North London

On Saturday night I had what might best be described as an anthropological journey through part of north London, seeing a side of my town that I don’t normally experience.

It started with an invitation, which contained within it a sort of sideways challenge: an invitation from friends to dinner in Islington, a mention of how tight the parking can be, especially on a Saturday night, and the observation that the number 43 bus stopped at the end of their road.

Now, the number 43 has been a talking point with a number of friends and acquaintances who live in trendier parts of north and east London to me, because the decidedly suburban name of my bit of London is the route terminus.  I tell them where I live, they say: where on earth is that.  I say: north, and then they say, I know, I’ve seen it on the front of a bus.  It’s really a place, is it?

I’d only been on that particular bus once before, a short hop into Muswell Hill, but I could detect the gauntlet of a public transport challenge being thrown down, so determined to give it a go.

I allowed plenty of time for the journey in at the start of the evening, and, at the beginning of the ride, was on my own on the bus.  To start with we sailed along, picking up people clearly heading home with bags of groceries and tired children in pushchairs, everyone minding their own business, reading or staring out of the windows, through the babycentric land of Muswell Hill, through student land at Archway and then down into the trendy bars and restaurants of Islington’s Upper Street.

Walking from the bus, without the challenge of finding a spot to park, was easy.  It all felt like a tremendously successful experiment.

After a delightful evening, in a beautiful house, eating delicious food, the shock of hitting the high street after 11pm was profound.  The relaxed pavement café ambience had been replaced by stumbling crowds.  We had to dodge the lurching of young women,  heads lolling loosely on their necks, whose legs would evidently not obey their brains, as they were ejected from a bar beside the bus stop.  The bus was busy, but I found a corner in which to stand out of the way of the crowds of shouting young people.

I’d had a few drinks myself, that was one of the consequential benefits of not driving, but mellow as I might have been, I was still astonished by the sheer volume of the noise the other people were making, how boring and repetitive they were and how they were so far gone that they didn’t notice they were standing in the doorway and blocking the exit, necessitating a degree of pushing and shoving that didn’t always look amicable.

At Highbury Corner some of the drunks disembarked, but more arrived.  By Archway, most of the people who might be described as being around student age had shambled off the bus, leaving reverberating eddies of noise behind them.  By Muswell Hill we were largely silent, although there were some who were holding fixedly onto their seats, perhaps the keep the world still as each eye wandered off in different directions.  The four of us who alighted at the terminus walked silently, but rapidly, off to each of the main compass directions.

I’d never known before how different the late night bus population is from that on the tube.  It was a fascinating slice of life, but I suspect once may be enough.

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5 Comments

  1. Haha! Now this all sounds a familiar sort of journey!!

    Reply
  2. Gosh, I do hope one of those lolling lurching girls wasn’t an 18 year old with long dark hair, grey eyes and a South African accent? gak
    I’m ashamed to say I’ve probably done a bit of lurching in my time. Late one night I once walked straight out of a steakhouse and into a bus. Which was stationary, thank heavens. I was after that, too.

    Reply
    • No Jill, I didn’t hear any South African accents – although sometimes it was hard to tell through the slurring. I’ve done plenty of stupid things after a drink or two as well, although not as bad as colliding with a bus! (Thank goodness it wasn’t moving!) When I lived in Moscow there weren’t any taxis as such, any body could drive around and give people a lift for money. It was an excellent system, but I still had residual anxiety over getting into a car with a stranger – I only ever did it when I was with someone else, or when I’d had enough to drink to stop worrying about it and to have enough (unfounded) confidence in my ability to negotiate in Russian.

      Reply
  1. A Journey Through North London « Reading and Writing | Muswell Hill News | Scoop.it

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