Becoming the 213 bus

My  life has become the bus. This project has been on my mind for the last 7 months, and there has been no escape because I have to use the 213 bus every day to get to work and back again. On Tuesday I have to hand something in for my MA degree at Kingston. It’ll be ready, but I’ve got the sort of work ethic which makes me want to go right up to the wire, even if that isn’t entirely necessary.

One of the earliest memory fliers that I received was from my course mate Pirrko and this is what she wrote:

My bus stop is NA

I’ve been using the 213 bus for – years

I walk past the Fairfield Bus Station on my way to University of Kingston and often see the 213 bus, which makes me think of Amy who is doing a creative project on that bus route. In a sense, the bus has become to symbolise Amy – her creativeness and love for quirky things.

You may remember from a previous post that I did joke about dressing up in a cardboard bus costume at Malden Fortnight. Unfortunately, with one thing and another I didn’t quite get it finished in time. However, it is finished and last week I went on the bus as the bus…You might ask why, and to be honest, if I’d been asked that on the bus I don’t quite know what I would have said.

The essay component of my project is all about the everyday, and how we should find more joy in our daily lives – bus travel can be joyful if you look at it the right way. Yes, waiting at the stop in the cold and rain is rubbish, and the stink of stale alcohol and wee on some late-night journeys can be really unpleasant. But looking out the window, you are bombarded with endless images, some of which are incredibly beautiful: the sunset, daffodils in bloom, pouring rain which makes everything glimmer. The buzzing of the air con relaxes me so much I tend to fall asleep, and eavesdropped conversations can be so funny, or thought-provoking, or utterly bizarre.

On the bus, you are with a whole load of strangers who you might never meet in another aspect of you life. This is important for social equality, if you sit in a car all day you might feel safe, but you are also isolated from the world and other people. On the bus you have to be with people who you might totally disagree with, or you might meet a future husband or wife. The bus is a place of possibilities.

I became the bus because I wanted people to think about the bus for once, I wanted people to be intrigued or amused, I wanted to intervene in the everyday lives of a few unsuspecting bus users. Secondly, I felt the need to possess the bus – I’ve invested so much of my life in this project, I’ve often felt totally consumed by it, becoming the bus is kind of taking it over, making it mine. Thirdly, I’ve got an epic fancy dress costume for Halloween and a great talking piece in the form of a bus costume-bedside cabinet!

A lot of people simply won’t get the point of this project. And it may mean absolutely nothing in the long run to anyone but me. On the other hand, we all have a 213 bus: it might be the bus or train you get to work or school everyday, or even the route you walk to get to your local shops. It’s a time and place where you live most of your lives – I hope my project inspires someone somewhere to re-imagine their 213 as joyful, something worth paying attention to, as you simply don’t know what will be revealed.

It is worth the expense of youthful days and costly hours if you learn only some words of an ancient language, which are raised out of the trivialness of the street, to be perpetual suggestions and provocations

Jane Bennett (2001) The Enchantment of Modern Life. Woodstock: Princeton University Press. p.95. Originally from Henry David Thoreau’s On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.

P.s. Next week the local history starts in earnest with Fairfield Bus Station (K1)  – a history of the Cattle Market Car Park in Kingston. Bet you can’t wait?!

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On a hot and sticky bus…

So Spring/Summer has arrived (probably for a brief visit- after all, we are in Britain!) and the bus is smokin’, particularly in the evenings. I quite like seeing all the people dressed up for summer and the cooling breeze coming through the windows whilst sitting on the upper deck. I don’t like the sound of the air con at the back – it’s so loud! The seats as well can begin to feel a bit sticky and prickly when it’s so warm.

I’ve got a bit of a love/hate relationship with my bus at the moment. I love it, because of this project and how many nice people I’m meeting and all of the stories I am gathering, but at the same time, I’m really under pressure with other work deadlines, and the length of the journey is getting me down. I’ve taken to listening to the radio off my phone – which only works on the upper deck – and that seems to pass the time quite nicely. I normally do some reading on the bus in the morning, and just sit thinking and snoozing on the bus on the way home.

On the way back tonight, I decided to start looking out for how people hail down the bus. Really fun to watch actually so I might do some more observations at a future date and create a classification system with diagrams and pointy arrows. Here are my observations:

Fairfield Bus Station: (hailing a 131) little girl clicked her fingers and jumped then clicked her fingers again

New Malden High Street: man performed abrupt thrust with hand and immediately returned hand to his side

New Malden The Fountain: man gave an (almost) longing look towards the bus – ‘please stop!’

St James’ Church: lady grasped out (as if walking in the pitch black), clutching forward

Blake’s Lane: youngish man adjusted hair, vaguely waved down the bus and then adjusted his hair again before boarding

The Plough: middle-aged gentleman straightforwardly put his arm out, palm flat and facing driver

In other news, there is a new bus stop! Thank you to Roger and Jamie for pointing out to me that between Lindsay Road and Longfellow Road, Worcester Park, there will soon be a new bus stop, ‘Brabham Court’. I clearly haven’t been observant of late! Not sure how you pronounce it so just waiting on the announcer lady to have her voice recorded to find out. My project really is about ‘living heritage’ as things are changing all the time! This new development has reiterated to me the need to find out more about the history of the physical route – I am hoping that Transport for London’s Archives may help.

A new bus stop for Worcester Park

A new bus stop for Worcester Park

A Walk from Lindsay Road to Blake’s Lane

First off, I have an email address now, feel free to message me with any thoughts about the project or contributions which you’d prefer not to share publicly. It’s 213bus@gmail.com!

Now to the blog….

This blog is a bit more about my project rather than specifically about buses or local history.

I’m completing this project as part of a Masters degree called ‘Heritage (Contemporary Practice)’ at Kingston University. Instead of doing a traditional dissertation I have chosen to do this, a creative project. There are three elements which I will be assessed on: a 5000 word essay, a journal (this blog) and a creative outcome. Initially, I thought that my creative outcome or proposal should be a local history exhibition. I’m still exploring if this will be possible but in the meantime I want to keep my options open and have come up with a few other ideas: a 213 festival (events programme, heritage bus, gingerbread buses!), a historic bus tour (seems appropriate, travelling on an old 213), or a group of walking tours (with guide to the local history). Which is your favourite? Any other suggestions?

I spent a bit of today doing some good old fieldwork. By that, I mean I walked from Lindsay Road – my stop, to Blake’s Lane next to the A3 roundabout taking photos of stuff. At each bus stop I took a photo of the stop itself and the view from the stop (if you looked directly ahead of you). I’m hoping to come across some old photos of the stops so this should make a good contrast. Plus, I want to deposit my research in an archive (possibly, Kingston, Sutton and the London Transport Museum if they want it) so it will be nice to have a record of the 213 as it is in 2013 for unknown people in the future to look at….see the example below of Lindsay Road, where I wait for my bus most mornings…

left: view of the stopright: view from the stop

left: view of the stop
right: view from the stop

As well as photographing the stops, I was also on the look out for interesting things to research. I could look into the design of stops themselves, Lindsay Road has a new shelter because an old tree feel on top of the last one, and I must say it is absolutely rubbish! Way too tall that is doesn’t actually function as a shelter either from wind, rain or sunshine! Or maybe look into the history of pubs on the route: today I passed the North End Tavern and the Worcester Park (boarded up). Other interesting things: churches, F W Paine funeral directors, Police station, interconnection between railway and bus route, interconnection of different bus routes, Manor Park Recreation Ground, ‘Roadstar’ art piece….. Lots of possibilities!

I then came back and designed a business card. Have you guys got any good suggestions of where I can print it without excessive postal charges? I also made up a postcard/flyer thing which I’m thinking of getting printed as a way to start collecting other people’s thoughts, memories and experiences….A lot to think about, a lot to do!

Business Card       Postcard