Routemasters in Finsbury Park
“Basically, it’s a tank without a gun barrel” said a man in a white shirt with yellow armpits. This was considered insightful judging by the nodding it produced. Routemasters are being phased out, replaced by long bendy buses that are difficult to overtake and occasionally explode.
You’d have been ill-advised to mention bendy buses in Finsbury Park yesterday. This was a golden birthday celebration of the Routemaster and lined up smartly in the sunshine were dozens of the things. Old ones (with external spiral staircases), Jubilee ones, green ones, Harry Potter ones, bizarrely adapted ones. Rows and rows of buses each surrounded by packs of badly dressed middle-aged men. The more sophisticated had digital cameras, but most had plastic bags full of old-school slides. I saw 60 year olds doing Panini style swapsies, childlike with enthusiasm. Many brought their kids along and some their wives; sleepy grey women feigning interest.
I eavesdropped on two red-faced men, “No, Martin, it terminated at Holborn.” Martin wasn’t having any of it, “John, the 14 terminated at Holborn, the 27 went to Ludgate Circus.” John looked like he wanted to punch Martin and punch him hard. I walked over to the ‘market stalls’ before the bloodshed began. “Jonathan Clay - Transport Art” was doing good business. Framed watercolours of bygone London buses were flying off the shelf.
From the caf’ terrace, struck brightly by the afternoon sun, the buses looked quietly impressive. The family opposite had come down from Sheffield for the day. The husband wore khaki shorts and socks with sandals. His prim wife and their restless daughter were bickering. I stereotyped them immediately. Then the wife stood up, said “right I want to talk to the driver of the Green Line bus and then we can go.” The husband rose reluctantly from his seat and followed her down the hill.