One of my childhood memories is of family days out discovering different parts of London by bus in the late fifties and early sixties. Sometimes my father had a particular destination in mind, other times we would just see where the buses would take us. Those were the days when an Oyster was something slippery downed by the dozen by people with more disposable income than we had and a Freedom Pass might have been a song by Pete Seeger. What there was, however, was a Red Rover Ticket which gave unlimited travel for a day on London’s red buses.
We lived on the edge of the red bus network close to Sidcup garage, a cavernous 1930s building now sadly demolished. Our day would start here and the adventure began even before the journey did. To purchase the Red Rover tickets we would have to go inside the garage itself and find the duty inspector who would usually be in the mess room. After which, as the buses used to turn round by running through the garage itself, if we were really lucky we were allowed to sit on the the top deck (where else?) of a bus inside the garage while it waited to leave. All heady stuff for a youngster and no doubt sowed the seeds of a long-held belief that the only real buses were London Transport ones.
When a friend sent word that The London Bus Museum had organised a running day these memories resurfaced and I just had to go. Well, all of that and the fact that I love vintage transport of all kinds.
I had no intention of making this a purely photographic expedition so I took the minimum of gear, a Minolta XD7 and a Vivitar 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5. Not being a great fan of zoom lenses I don’t often use the Vivitar but when I do I’m always pleased with the results although it is prone to vignetting. It doesn’t seem to have featured on 35mmc before and what little there is on the internet about it usually mentions the short throw of the focussing ring which is only about 40 degrees. Does this make for quick focussing or does it make accurate focussing difficult? I’ve really got no strong opinion either way. It’s just a characteristic of the lens that I have no problem with.
Wanting to treat my partner to a nice day out I took her as well and we made our way to North Woolwich via the Woolwich Foot Tunnel. From there we entered into the spirit of things by bus hopping to Wanstead while along the way I snapped a few images that appear to be influenced by those in Ian Allan’s ABC of London Buses or Buses Illustrated. As such, I’ve given these two suitable captions.
We reached Wanstead in time for a late lunch and if we were doing things properly we would have pulled our warm Tizer and fishpaste sandwiches from our tartan duffel bags and tucked in. As it was I rather fancied trying a pie and mash place that we had passed but this well meant suggestion was rejected and we ended up sitting outside rather longer than intended at an artisan café.
Time was getting on and I suppose the day’s excitement had got too much for Josie because she suggested that we catch the next bus all the way back to North Woolwich. So I thought that I’d better squeeze in some photography that was a little bit more imaginative.
The film was FP4 Plus developed 14 minutes in R09 1:50 alternating between gently agitating and giving one immersion every minute.
If tickets cost a pound apiece
Why would you make a fuss?
It’s worth it just to ride inside
That London Transport omnibus.
(From ‘A Transport of Delight’ by Michael Flanders and Donald Swann)
If you’ve stayed with me all the way and didn’t alight at an intermediate stop, thanks for reading.