213 v The Rest

This memory from Tim, recounts an aspect of his school days at Kingston Grammar between 1968 and 1975. It is all about a football team which became the ‘213’, and shows how buses can become more than just objects which take us from A to B, they can also become signs for something else.

The bus can begin to represent people you know who use it, and inversely people who use the bus can in a sense become the bus. When I first met my boyfriend (i.e. before we went out), every time I saw a ‘45‘ in Newcastle I would say to myself, that’s Jamie’s bus, and look for him through the windows. Not wishing to compare him to a giant turquoise moving rectangle, Jamie will in a sense always be a 45 bus, because that is how I got to know him. More on this thinking in a forthcoming post ‘Becoming the 213’…

School began, from memory, at 9am. However, boys began arriving before 8, dumping their schoolbags in the classroom, then heading out to the Cage – the fenced area in the centre of the school, between the Victorian teaching block facing on to London Road and the 1950s teaching block facing the Fairfield. Down the side of the Cage was ‘The Covered Way’ – a concrete path, topped by a little flat roof to keep the rain off.

From 8am every schoolday, rain or shine, a little impromptu football match was played in the Cage, on the dusty, mucky, grubby surface. This match was always ‘213 v’. To explain: many of the most gifted natural footballers were, for some reason, from the North Cheam area. They bowled up on the 213 bus, and the rest of us non-North Cheam types had to muster a rival team to play them. So it was 213 v The Rest.

I was fairly rubbish at football, so usually ended up in goal. From about 8am to 8.30am, there weren’t enough people to muster full sides, so we played rush goalies, with the goalkeeper in theory able to gallop up the field to also become a makeshift outfield player. Not that I did a whole lot of galloping. Anyway, 213 invariably won. 

As well as North Cheam, Sutton and Worcester Park, the 213 also mopped up a fair few KGS pupils from New Malden as it trundled to Kingston, and a few from Coombe. Some arrived on the 213A, but the team name never varied from its original 213 title.

That early-morning football loosener was also a bond-builder, and many friendships began in the dust of the Cage in the heat of the 213 battles.  I doubt many football teams are named after buses, but the 213 has that rare honour.


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