March 11th, 2014

(relatively) recent


I read somewhere I can't now find a little while ago about how Routemaster buses were judged the most recognisable symbol of Britain, or something.

Well, they aren't. What they are is the most whatever-it-was of London, and portraying them as representative of Britain is yet another example of London-centric thinking (though I will grant that as far as foreigners are concerned, it will be features of London that represent Britain for them).

Where I grew up, there was nary a Routemaster in sight. Indeed, only half of the buses, the ones operated by Northumbria, were red, and even those were later repainted to match the company's revised branding.

The local buses, the ones operated by the Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive until its deregulation in 1986, and Busways thereafter—i.e. all the ones I ever took—were, rather, yellow:

Image by Martin Addison.

This, though it looks a bit funny to my eyes now, was the right colour for buses to appear when I was little: that, and red (and green in Leeds).

(As a teenager, my mother, like myself when I too was first prescribed them, avoided wearing glasses when she could possibly get away with it. She used to tell the story of how she finally realised she had to start wearing them more, when, waiting at a bus stop, she tried to flag down a bus, only to realise as it came nearer it was actually a girl in a yellow cagoule on a bike. :o))

FWIW, the child fare on one of these buses was, at the time, 5p. (I remember a friend telling the story of how a driver refused to give him change when he tried to buy a 5p ticket with a £20 note!) It's now 60p; why has it risen so much more than inflation?

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