LONDON ICONS – THE LONDON BUS

SI SPENCER, AUGUST 2017

I’m not a fan of the new Routemaster; its access for the disabled and people with pushchairs could be improved and the downstairs is like some weird children’s play area with split levels and seats facing in wrong directions and too close together. If there’s one thing the average Londoner doesn’t want, it’s being forced into close proximity with their neighbours.


Not all London double deckers are Routemasters by the way There are several different models of London bus on the road at the moment but unless you’re a serious bus anorak, listing them all would make you lose the will to live. (Seriously, I did this research so you never have to that murky underworld).
‘The Man on the Clapham Omnibus’ is a phrase enshrined in English law to represent the reasonable opinion of a reasonable Englishman. It was allegedly first used in law during the infamous Tichbourne Claimant case of the 1860s and 70s. In 1866, Roger, the son of the wealthy Baron Tichbourne appeared on the family doorstep after having been presumed lost at sea en route to Australia twelve years earlier. After years of legal wrangling, ‘Roger’ turned out to be a butcher’s son from Wapping.
In 1952 bus driver Albert Gunter was happily driving his 78 bus to Shoreditch to usual when crossing Tower Bridge, he noticed it was opening. Heroically slamming his foot on the accelerator, he successfully leapt the bridge; the only injury was to his conductor who broke his leg. Albert received a day off and ten quid as a reward.
Three different buses were used in the classic 1961 Cliff Richard movie ‘Summer Holiday’ (and none of them were Routemasters). Two were used for studio filming while the third made the actually journey across Europe for the ‘library-footage’ style exterior establisher location shots. All three have been scrapped.
Cambridge Gardens in Ladbroke Grove is said to be haunted by a phantom Number 7 double decker bus. It’s said that in the 1930s, passers-by saw the bus plough towards a driver who swerved to avoid the head-on collision and smashed into a wall, dying in a ball of flames. The bus then vanished into thin air but sightings continued until at least 1990.
During filming of classic school-based kid’s drama, a London bus was frequently seen in the background in the playground scenes. While narratively logical for a school, its true purpose was to hide the entrance to the Eastenders shooting lot next door.
In 1989, it was reported that a London Bus has been discovered frozen in the pack ice of Antarctica. Given that this story appeared on the front page of the illustrious Sunday Sport I have no reason to doubt it.

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