Do you remember the old double-decker buses in London, where you could hop on and off at the back of the bus? They were called Routemasters, and they are back.  Here is a New Routemaster approaching Parliament Square on the number 11 route.  You can just see the London Eye in the background.

routemaster rear doorSometimes a conductor stands at the back, and the door stays open.  If not, then you have to wait until the bus stops, when all the doors open at once – at the front, middle and rear.

Inside the bus feels similar to the old Routemasters, but with all the new technology needed for Oystercards and contactless payment cards.

swipe inI’m happy to find a connection between London and Northern Ireland in these buses: they are  built by Wrightbus in Ballymena.

wrightbus signIf you are interested in vehicle number plates, you may be keen to know that the Routemasters have “LTZ” plates, which come from the Northern Ireland system of numbering, not the London system.

If your only concern is to get off the bus in the right part of Marylebone (maybe to get away from the passenger talking about number plates?), just press this button and leave through one of the many doors.

stop button on bus

And if you want a souvenir of your London bus trip, why not join in the Bus Art charity auction and bid for a bus sculpture?

bus sculpture

This is the Westminster Bus designed by Jenny Leonard.

bus sculpture back end

The auction closes on 24th March 2015, so don’t miss the bus – click here for more details.


Year of the Bus

I was singing the praises of London buses last week without realising that it was the “Year of the Bus”.

Year of the Bus - stop outside Selfridges

Transport for London (TFL) are celebrating several bus-related anniversaries in 2014.

It is 60 years since the creation of the iconic Routemaster bus and 75 years since the launch of the RT-Type bus.  It is also 100 years since the world’s first mass-produced motor bus, the B-Type ‘Battle Bus’, was taken from the streets of London to be used in the First World War.

Within days of the declaration of hostilities in August 1914, the British government began requisitioning buses from the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) and other bus companies. By October 1914 over 300 buses had been pressed into military service; by the end of the war over 1,000 buses were in use on the front as troop carriers, ambulances and gun carriages.  Their red LGOC livery had been covered over with grey or khaki paint.

One B-Type bus is being restored to full working order by the London Transport Museum, and will be seen at various anniversary events.

Click here for a blog about the restoration project.

Click here for more information from the BBC about the battle buses.

Click here for TFL’s list of anniversary events.

Number 159 bus on Oxford Street

Now some travel advice for 21st century bus passengers in London.

There has been a strike at London Underground this week, so passengers have been diverted from the tube on to buses instead. The photo above shows a modern vehicle, but you may also find yourself on an older Routemaster bus this week, as captured by the excellent Leftover London blog (click here to see today’s photo of the Routemaster).

Even with the tube out of action, do look at the traffic conditions before you decide to take a bus.  Does the road look like this?

Bus lane on Marylebone Road

Or like this?

Regent's Street sign for roadworks

After the strike, Marylebone will continue to suffer some disruption. If you are travelling to Bond Street tube station, and you come to Distant Drumlin for travel news – which seems a bit unlikely – this is what you need to know.

  • Right now, Central line trains are not stopping at Bond Street.

  • At the end of June the Central Line comes back, but we lose the Jubilee Line.

  • In December both lines serve Bond Street again, but the station operates on an exit-only basis until the end of 2014.

The disruption should be worth it in the end, for a bigger station and an interchange with the new Crossrail line in 2018.  But who knows where I will be living in 2018?!

London Buses, Taxis and Bicycles

London Underground trains are great at swallowing you up at Point A and spitting you out at Point B, but then you don’t get to see the city in between.  That’s where buses can be useful.  You don’t even need to pay for a special sightseeing bus – look at the route of the ordinary number 15.

Bus 15 destination

The same pass that everyone uses for tube journeys – the Oystercard – works on buses too.  Just touch the Oystercard pad near the driver as you board the bus.  Then go upstairs and take the front seat for the best view (even if it’s just a view of more buses).

Oxford Street traffic - number plates adjusted

If you’ve enough money to ditch the bus and take a London taxi, don’t think that all “black cabs” must be black! red taxi

If you really want to see London close up, hire a bike.  The rental scheme started in 2010.  The first sponsor was Barclays, but nobody calls them Barclays bikes – they are universally known as “Boris bikes”, after Mayor Boris Johnson.

boris bikes hoxton

boris bike sign

If you don’t want to spend most of your journey looking at the back of a number 15 bus, follow the recommended cycle routes.

cycle routes



How many Coconuts can you Carry on A Bicycle?

The one bike accessory that is essential in Bangalore is a string of tender coconuts.  The sickle on the handlebar is an optional extra.

coconuts on bike

coconut bike sickle

One little detail caught my eye about the next bike – it is propped up on a stand. My own bike leans to the side when its stand is in use, but this one is sitting upright.  Am I naive in only knowing one kind of bike stand until now?


bike stand close up

I guess it takes a strong upright stand to hold a bike steady when it is loaded with plastic containers.

bike water bottlesIf you do overload your bike, you can get it repaired at one of these places – Roadside Bicycle Repairs. But note the perceptive comment at the end of that post from B Gourley about the speed at which bicycles are being replaced by motorbikes on the streets of Bangalore.

Full Service at the Petrol Bunk

Our car has been blessed; now it needs fuel.   We fill her up with diesel every week at this place. I call it a petrol station; Americans call it a gas station; but the local name is “petrol bunk”. P1020419

Filling up at Shell is expensive; we could save money by buying fuel from the local Indian petrol bunks like Bharat Petroleum.  But we do get service with a smile.

Shell sign There is no self-service here.  If I hadn’t been taking photographs, I could have stayed in the car while these guys filled the tank, took payment and gave a receipt.

Shell guy filling diesel

Every petrol bunk has a never-ending queue of two-wheeler customers. This one includes a lovely blue Royal Enfield.

P1020420It’s years since I saw a petrol station in the UK offering service like this.  British petrol stations are all self-service now, with most expecting you to walk in to the shop to pay (and not drive off without paying).   So, Distant Drumlin readers, how do you refuel? Same as India, or self-service?

Dussehra – At Home

Our driver, Dayalan, celebrated the Hindu festival of Dussehra this week by performing a ritual for the vehicles and tools in our household, i.e. our car, my bicycle, the driver’s own motorcycle, and – for the first time – my camera.

Here are two photos of Dayalan performing the ritual. In the first he is holding a pumpkin. At the end of the ceremony he threw the pumpkin to the ground to break it in half, and then placed the two halves at the entrance to our driveway.

puja with pumpkin

In the second photo he is holding a coconut, which smashed beautifully at the end, more easily than the pumpkin. Can you see the banana leaves on the front of the car?  This year we used leaves from our own garden, instead of buying them.

puja with coconut

We have a beautiful garland of roses on the car now.

rose garland

Performing the ritual on Friday afternoon at 4.30pm served two purposes – it was an auspicious time, and it was late in the week, so the prices of flowers had dropped by 40 per cent.

flowers on front of car
We placed lemons under the wheels of the vehicles.  The final part of the ritual was driving over the lemons to smash them.  Almost impossible with my bicycle; tricky with the Suzuki motorbike; but dead easy with the big Toyota Fortuner.  Now we are ready for anything on the roads of Bangalore.

Related posts from 2012 and 2013:
2012 Dussehra – part 1 – the car

2012 Dussehra – part 2 my bike

2012 Dussehra – part 3 the offerings

2013 Dussehra – the Prequel

2013 Dussehra – On the Streets

Dussehra – on the Streets

It’s festival time. Now you can see where some of the flowers and leaves from Sunday’s blogpost have gone.

Dussehra truck

On Monday, several different groups of people were gathering at one temple in Whitefield. We watched one group from Ramgondanahalli carry their idol through the streets. Here is the back view, complete with flags.

Dussehra Whitefield idol back view

And here is the front view, complete with drummers. Can you see the money pinned to the idol? The 100 rupee notes are at the top; 10 and 20 rupee notes are pegged to a string near the bottom.

idol and drummers

Roadside Bicycle Repairs

Who needs an actual shop to run a cycle repair business? After all, your customers are on the road. Just string up a few tyres, and wait for the victims of Bangalore’s badly-surfaced roads to ride by.

Is it my imagination, or have the roads got even worse over the past two months while I was away? Any pothole that had been poorly repaired earlier in the year has been attacked and enlarged by the monsoon rains. In other places it looks like the surface of the road has been peeled off. Getting across the city is harder than ever.

Cycle repair shop

By the way, today is a holiday in India – Gandhi Jayanthi – to celebrate the birthday of Mohandas K Gandhi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948).