I was doing all right in London, until they hit me with the replacement bus service. I had regained my London legs: walking at warp speed, crossing the road more or less at random, slapping my oyster card casually down on the reader with insouciant ease. I have, somewhere, mislaid my chugger blinkers, but I think I’ve escaped more or less unscathed from the attentions of the cheerfully-clipboarded young people who kept flinging themselves in my path. I managed not to stop, stare, and loudly exclaim at the dirt, the prices, the traffic, or the casual litter-flinging habits of its inhabitants. I didn’t even get mown down by any bikes. And then I was heading back to Palmer’s Green last night, one G&T and one beer to the good, feeling rather proud that I’d remembered (this time) about the Victoria Line being closed after 10pm. At Finsbury Park I was advised to change at Ally Pally. On the way to Ally Pally it was broken to us that we would be changing onto a bus. Aargh.
The problem with replacement bus services – oh, okay, ONE of the problems with replacement bus service – is that there’s never any information on the ground. I mean, they’ve gone to the effort of planning some engineering works, and finding a bus, and a driver, and all of that, and it never occurs to anyone to put up some helpful signs. Like ‘Replacement Bus Service this way.’ Or a timetable. What we found when we got off at Alexandra Palace was a gnomic arrow that pointed us up the road to the left. This led us to a bus stop, complete with a bus (hurrah!) with a rail replacement sign in the window (double hurrah!) and a man in yellow, who told us to cross the road and go and wait at the other bus stop, off to the right. There we stood for the next ten minutes in the drizzle staring very hard at the man in yellow and his bus, trying to will him to come and pick us up. Eventually, he got out of his bus and ambled over.
‘We’re just looking for the bus,’ he explained. ‘Then we’ll run the service.’
‘It’s behind you,’ we said. But, as he explained, this wasn’t our bus. This was the spare bus. We couldn’t get on this bus, because then there wouldn’t be a spare bus and if that bus broke down then there wouldn’t be another one. When the other bus came, we could then get on the spare bus, as there would then be another spare. But not before.
We failed to see the logic of this. But then, we weren’t the ones wearing yellow, and there weren’t enough of us to overpower him and storm the spare bus, which had anyway remained at a safe distance, so we stood there chuntering in the rain until yesterday turned over into today, and the spare spare bus arrived and we could get on our way.
There have been times in the past six months, I have to admit, when I have wondered what exactly I’m doing up here and whether we were mad to come. Last night/this morning was not one of them…
Safely back, thank God.