- Route 35 (69 minutes)
I am a mess. Perhaps it was the four hours sleep last night. Perhaps it was England’s unfathomable win in the first Test yesterday. Whatever the reason, I have sprinted to the train station only to arrive without my wallet. My heart sinks, the early-morning enthusiasm fading fast at the thought of having to walk up the hill home and then back to the station, adding at least 45 minutes to my day.
However, I am nothing if not adaptable (I’m not adaptable). I pat my pockets. Salvation. 10 pounds. Enough for a £7.30 zone 1-4 travelcard, leaving me a £2.70 for a drink and Toffee Crisp from an extortionate newsagent somewhere along the way. My original plan to do the 113 to Edgware (out in zone 5) out the window, I make the snap decision to do the 35, which I’ve had my eye on for a while. It runs north-east from Clapham Junction to Shoreditch, taking in Brixton and Borough before crossing London Bridge and winding through The City to its trendy conclusion.
Clapham Junction quickly appears, but I am still a little flummoxed at my change of plans and lack of wallet as I head onto Falcon Road – and my mood is not improved when the two people I allow to board the 35 in front of me <AdamBuxton>TAKE BOTH OF MY SEATS AT THE FRONT OF THE TOP DECK! THEY ARE MY SEATS. EITHER ONE OF THEM WILL DO, BUT ONE OF THEM IS MINE. THEY ARE WHERE I ALWAYS SIT, PERFECT FOR PHOTOS. I CAN”T BELIEVE YOU WOULD DO THIS TO ME.</AdamBuxton>
I slouch moodily in a seat halfway back and Clapham and its Common are something of a blur as I brood. I am discombobulated. Clapham soon becomes Brixton. We pass a boarded up pub. A man saws some wood in his front garden. Opposite Brixton Station, a man with a cricket bag and a Guardian shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot.
I’m warming to the task now. As we turn towards Loughborough Junction, two elderly ladies chat amiably, but they are standing impossibly close, their noses almost touching. One looks like she’s ready to headbutt the other. Further along the same road, a man barrels along barking at his long-suffering friend so loudly I can hear him above the noise of the bus 30 yards away. Then, at Loughborough Junction, one of my seats becomes available. I leap up and race to take it before any new passengers steal it. Finally, all is right in the world.
The 35 continues north north-east. We round the corner after Camberwell Green and get our first sight of St Paul’s Cathedral. The grand old Newington Library catches my eye. Above the health clinic next door is a plaque with the words ‘The health of the people is the highest law.’ Then it is on to Elephant & Castle, where the elegant Strata tower…
…distracts me from one of my least favourite parts of London. I think I may have mentioned the fact I hate this place. Yes, I have. Three times in fact. Still, Borough High Street follows and it looks pregannt with opportunity. People bustle with great intent on Borough High Street. There is much road-workage at the moment, with the Market being improved and I ponder going to the Clink Museum until I remember I have no money. Next time. The incomplete Shard looms large beyond St George the Martyr, an important church in the area’s history. First mentioned in 1122 when it was given to Bermondsey Abbey and has since been rebuilt several times and was last restored in 1951. The church needs constant work because it was built on unstable ground. Behind it, the Shard provides another reminder of the huge transformation in the London skyline in the last 20 years.
We cross London Bridge, the Thames the pale grey of my Nan when she was really sick, and once the other side onto Fenchurch Street, the mood changes instantly as the gleaming towers and stately monuments of a failed banking system remain.
I guess bankers make buildings so impressive to distract people from the rats scurrying about below. Anyway, the 35 passes apologetically through the City of London, until it ends as quickly as it began and the towers stop and Hackney begins. Shoreditch, with its trendy bars, street art, wonky facial hair and assyemtric haircuts, is my destination. Shakespeare’s mate James Burbage founded the first playhouse in England here in 1576 and over 400 years later, the area enjoyed a property boom as artists took over empty warehouses and City types moved in. Since then, it’s become the hub for the second dot-com boom, with several companies (such as last.fm) based around Old Street. Tweetdeck, sold to Twitter last week, was one of those companies I think. Any doubts about its trendiness were dispelled last year when David Cameron, king of the bandwagon, made reference to the term ‘Silicon Roundabout’, as the area has become known.
It’s the sort of area that has trains on the top of buildings, but some of the street art is quite cool.
After some mooching, I decide to walk back through The City towards the river. Broadgate, round the back of Liverpool Street, catches my eye with the Broadgate Venus, a five-ton bronze statue…
…and after heading south towards the river, I find the ‘Building Worker’ statue on Tower Hill, erected in 2006 in honour of those killed in the trade.
Then it’s past the Tower of London and onto Pudding Lane and the Monument before descending into the Underground and home. For a day that began in such ramshackle fashion, that all turned out rather splendidly.
Here’s your map