LONDON BY BUS: I went down to Camberwell in south London yesterday to visit my friend Carrie and her husband Roger. Carrie and I have been friends for more than a decade, introduced by an old flame of mine. I recall many interesting nights at The Masquerade nightclub in Atlanta and recovering from hangovers at dawn at Waffle House from that era. Carrie lived up in Chattanooga and I made a number of trips up there before she went backpacking through Europe one year and met Roger, a Brit, in Amsterdam. It was love at first sight and they've been together ever since. Three months ago, they had a baby, Francesca. This was my first chance to see her.

I took the tube as far as Kennington, then had to switch trains because it suddenly terminated and get another train to the Oval station where Carrie was waiting for me. We then took a double-decker bus to her flat. This was the first time I'd been on a bus in London in about 10 years. I usually only do the tube or, if I'm feeling posh, take cabs. Carrie warned me that Camberwell was nicknamed "Camberhell" by the locals, a huge melting pot of black, white, Asian, Polish and every other nationality you could imagine. It's a working class neighborhood, both working class and poor. You won't see Camberwell in the tourist brochures for London. This is where the ordinary Londoners live, mainly because they can't afford the city proper.

Carrie and Roger's flat was on the top floor and was quite lovely. They were packing up the flat because they are coming to the US for an extended stay. Roger wants to stay in the US, but Carrie is keen to return to the UK. She said its so expensive to live in London that it verges on the ridiculous. I can certainly agree. Money has left my hand like water this last eight days. The dollar is weak, which means anything that might cost $1 in the US costs $2 here. My movie ticket to see The Queen technically cost $18. You have to try and stop thinking in dollars or you'll go mad.

Anyway, Francesca is beautiful little girl and at just three months is fascinated with television and already wanting to pull up and walk and she can barely crawl. Carrie and Roger are doting parents. Rather than go out to a pub, Roger prepared a nice little pasta meal and popped out for some wine. The afternoon disappeared quickly.

Rather than take the tube back through rush hour, Roger put me on the number 68 bus. It was a 68 that was blown up last summer by terrorists near Tavistock Square (which is less than a minute walk from my hotel) and that Carrie might have been on had she not overslept that morning. The ride took nearly 50 minutes, but what an incredible way to see London at night. We crossed over Waterloo Bridge and everything was lit up and St. Paul's Cathedral looked ghostly in the moonlight.

While on the bus, I started feeling sniffly and today I have the beginnings of cold. Not surprising since it appears that most of London has colds now. Not exactly the souvenir I wanted from this trip, but what can you do? Tonight I'm off to meet fellow Kate Bush fans for drinks and dinner. More tomorrow...the last day in London.


Robert said…
Yeah, I caught a bug around this time of year last time I was there, too. I guess we don't have the same critters on this continent. Next time I'll pack extra antibodies.

Enjoy the end of your trip! So jealous. :)
M. Ru Pere said…
sounds like a really great bus ride, those bridges at night . . . sigh . . . and that damn Christopher Wren w the St Paul and the Monument and the Greenwich stuff - whoa! - very cool you had buds over in C'well
Mumu said…
Buses are a far more civilised way of getting around London than underground in day time and at night - you can really appreciate the city and realise that actually everything in the centre is very close together.

Camberwell too is a great place - it used to be a wealthy area with large houses for people who worked up in London as well as smaller houses for workers but during the second world there was much bombing (thanks Mr Hitler)and so it declined but now it is on the up again as it is only 2 miles away from central London and well connected with bus routes, overground trains and easily accessible underground. I would urge anyone who visits London to come and visit some residential areas like Camberwell, Clapham, Brixton etc in the South - the restaurants, bars and entertainment is so much better than central London
Anonymous said…
Enjoy what time you have left in London Collin. Did you get to go to any firework displays?

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