Wednesday 25 January 2012

Urban Diary

I got to the high street and looked both ways. The newsagents was still there. The Jamaican takeaway was open for business. The pound shop was busy as usual. And the new bus depot kept swallowing buses up at one end and throwing them up at the other. Yet, there was a detail missing from this urban landscape.

I should have known. The death knell had been tolling for some time and after several painful months the long, slow-moving red monster let out its last gasp. I already miss it. And so will thousands of Londoners, who, like me, came to appreciate its functional and practical design.

The bendy buses, introduced by the previous Mayor, Ken Livingstone, in 2001, made the lives of many people in the British capital easier. Shoppers dragging heavy trollies loved the fact that they could go in through any of its three doors. Wheelchair-users found them disabled-friendly, not a word you can use about transport in London very often. I frequently carried my own daughter's pram when she was little. in one of them. They could fit more people than a double-decker.

There were downsides, too. The easy access was manna from heaven for fare-dodgers. The way bendy buses slithered around corners posed a threat to cyclists who risked the possibility of being crushed to death by one of these metallic beasts.

But in their own, unique London way, bendy buses were beautiful. Seeing passengers boarding the three doors was like witnessing little brooks joining a snaking, long river. The zigzagging movement reminded me of a gigantic, red Chinese dragon parading through the capital's streets.

There's another reason for this trip down memory lane (on a bendy bus, naturally). When my mum first came to visit me in 2003, we both boarded one and immediately she uttered the words I knew she would: "It's like the acordiones in Cuba! Remember?" Of course, mum, I do remember. Route 222 to La Lisa, route 76 to Santiago de las Vegas. We had our own bendy buses, too, our acordiones (literally, "accordion", after the musical instrument).

But this strange synchronicity between the city where I was born and the one where I now live will never be relived again. I mourn the passing of the bendy buses and with it, the disappearance of a practical, beautiful and polarising landmark of London life.

Photo taken from the BBC

© 2012

Next post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music”, to be published on SuTnday 29th January at 10am (GMT)


  1. What a beautiful and lyrical description of a bus, Cuban. Thanks.

  2. You are so good at describing place and scene and the feelings evoked by them. This made me think of your "road" posts --

    I'm sorry that this important part of your London life is passing --

  3. It is sad to say goodbye to something you have grown used to over the years. For my part, I have often failed to realize how used to I have become of even inanimate things, daily occurrences, till one fine morning they are snapped out of my life. Well, I guess, that is life.

  4. Amazing goodbye to the bendy buses and evocation of the Cuban acordiones. Miss them both ;-) in a way

  5. Many thanks for your kind comments.

    Greetings from London.

  6. Rest in peace, bendy buses. I only wish they would do what they are, apparently, doing with Malta's old buses: sinking them and making them into a diving attraction! Okay, maybe not diving in London, but they should do something cool to celebrate them.

  7. Our hearts ache when an iconic object that has charmed us falls.

  8. I want to ride the bus, I am tired of driving.

    This is a beautiful story Cuban.

  9. Thanks a lot for your kind words.

    Greetings from London.



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