Monthly Archives: February 2010

Is it just me or are bus drivers losing it?

God, the buses have been ghastly lately.

Last night at Liverpool Street the 242 arrived, rammed with commuters, and the bus driver refused to open the front door until every last person had got off. By then there was a rib-busting crush at the door – it was raining – and one bloke simply got on through the back door. The bus driver spotted him and made him get off – after lengthy negotiations we all had to watch from the rainy pavement – so he got on through the front door behind me.

We started moving, but at the next bus stop more yelling was heard from below. It appeared that the bloke was being told to get off, even though he’d paid for the journey and come through the front door with everyone else. The yelling escalated into accusations of racism hurled at the bus driver (he was Chinese; the bloke who’d got on the back door was black).

I was reading My Brilliant Career, so for a while was far away on a drought-stricken dairy farm in Australia, but as the yelling continued it became clear that an intervention was needed. Some sparky young Aussie girl yelled down the stairs – Ask the driver for his name, he has to give it to you!

So I went down and did just that, and although he didn’t give it to me, he did decide to start driving again. The driver and the bloke (along with a few other commuters who’d got involved) continued arguing about who’d been in the country longer and the bloke assured the driver that you’ll be dead within two weeks, blud.

All very pleasant.

At this point the bus was moving, albeit rather jerkily and with much yelling, so I retreated upstairs with the bloke close behind me, smiling.

I blame Boris.

Bus drivers are having to take a much harder line on people climbing on through the back door because people are sneaking on for free. They are sneaking on for free because the bendy buses have been taken off the streets. Now I know that it’s wrong to ride a bus for free, which is what half the people on the 38 used to do. But times are tough, and at least the bendy buses were always moving, because the drivers could simply turn a blind eye to fare-dodgers.

And let’s not forget that while tube fares (generally used by wealthier Londoners) have gone up by 3.9% this year, bus fares – the cheapest way to get around – went up by a much harsher 12.7%. Particularly tough in East London, which doesn’t even have a tube. And as for people who commute into London – your Surrey stockbrokers and the like – well, their fares fell by 0.4%, in line with inflation.

If you can decipher it, the Conservative Manifesto has a few more treats like this in store. I particularly like the fact that missing an NHS dentist appointment will – under Cameron – incur a £10 fine. Now who will that hit the hardest?

I do feel sorry for bus drivers – it must be incredibly stressful trying to deal with fare dodgers and abuse all day. And quite frankly, public transport should be free anyway.


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Swedish Brunch at The Claptonian Arts Club, Clapton

There are quite a few supper clubs and underground restaurants in East London (and London in general), but only one that does Swedish brunch – The Claptonian Arts Club. I’m not entirely au fait with the idea of going round to an unknown house for dinner – what if there’s cat hair everywhere? What if they just can’t cook? But I liked the sound of the menu, and somehow the thought of eating an unfamiliar cuisine is more appealing than going round to a stranger’s place for scrambled eggs on toast

We were emailed the address once we booked, and found the place by spotting a row of very Scandinavian-looking candles burning in the window. On arrival we found ourselves in a rather Swedish-looking room – all white walls and beautiful glassware and artwork on the walls (the girl who runs it is an artist, and uses the room as a gallery and studio as well.) Continue reading

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Yarnfest this week at The Book Club

I’ve only just worked out on Twitter how to access messages that people send me using @eastlondonlocal.

And so I’ve only just realised that Yarnfest is on from 20-24 February at The Book Club, and in the evening there will be a programme of short films, plus other stuff. What’s more, tickets are a delightful two pounds.

Check it out here:

Nothing much to report East London-wise, as I’ve been entombed on the eighth floor of an airless office block in the City for the past week, and will be for another week. And after that I’d had enough of London so went to Hampshire in search (unsucessfully) for the tomb mentioned in Philip Larkin’s poem which has one of the loveliest last lines I’ve ever read.

Just googled, the tomb is not in Arundel, but in Chichester. The name refers to the person in it, the Earl of Arundel, and not the church. Well, that explains that.

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Spare five minutes? Email Boris with some advice…

I just read in the Hackney Gazette that our local MP Diane Abbott has been asking Boris Johnson about the Rape Crisis Centre he promised in his election manifesto. Since then, he has reduced funding for four centres across London from £2.2 million to £1.4 million. One is opening in Ealing, West London, but he’s yet to announce locations for ones in North and East London.

You can read the full story here

Abbott is keen for a centre in Hackney, as it ‘has the highest incidence of rape in north and east London last year, and where gang rape has become an alarming phenomenon‘. I wrote about it last year after seeing a report on Channel Four. She says she sees a lot of people who will talk to her about the problem, but won’t go to the police, such as migrants and refugees, and it is these people in particular that a support centre would help.

I thought I’d email Boris over the next few days to remind him of his election promise. If anyone else feels like doing the same, his email is

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Link update…. help needed

Now that my kitchen-window narcissus has bloomed and the sun is sort of shining, I have decided to give my links a good going over, and was wondering if readers could help…..

The Shop, Eat and Art & Culture pages of this blog have been rather neglected, and it would be great to give local businesses some publicity, so if you know of any good shops, restaurants or galleries I haven’t mentioned (and there are plenty, particularly shops), please let me know, either by commenting or by emailing me at and I’ll add them to the site.

Thank you!

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The Annual Clown service at Holy Trinity Church in Dalston

The annual Clown Service is held on the first Sunday in February every year at 3pm (worth checking exact time), in memory of the clown Joseph Grimaldi, and to honour clowns who have died. According to Wikipedia:

A famous ‘sad clown’ anecdote was first told of Grimaldi: A young man goes to see his doctor. He is overcome by a terrible sadness and doesn’t think anything will make him feel better. The doctor says, “Why not do something happy, like going to see Grimaldi the clown?”. The young man answers, with a knowing look, “Ah, but Doctor”, he says, “I am Grimaldi.”
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Happy birthday, Russell Hoban

Thanks to Londonist for informing me that today is novelist Russell Hoban’s birthday. If you see a sheet of yellow paper with a message scribbled on it on the tube or a pub table, then you’ll know that a fellow fan is marking the occasion.

I first discovered Russell Hoban when I chanced upon Amaryllis Night and Day on a three-for-two deal in Waterstones. It’s been too long since I read it, and it’s exactly what this grey month calls for – here is an introduction to the novel:

The first time Peter Diggs saw Amaryllis she was at a bus stop where the street sign said Balsamic, although there was nothing vinegary about the place. The bus was unthinkably tall, made of yellow, orange and pink rice paper, lit from within like a Japanese lantern. That was a dream, but where this romance goes as the dream begins to intersect reality is nothing that a reader can be prepared for. ‘Trust me, I’m a weirdo,’ says Amaryllis as she and Peter embark on their nocturnal experimentation, which leaves no one, on quite the same footing with reality.

I loved that book, and I loved him even more when his writer’s room appeared in The Guardian. Was it yet another orderly, antique-cluttered little loft conversion in North London? No. It was a pigsty. He actually commented that sometimes, when he’s looking for a particular book or DVD – which form part of his exobrain of inspiration – it’s often more time-efficient to simply buy a new one than spend time looking for it.

Happy Birthday Russell!

And while I’m here, I’d like to mention the lovely Gallery Cafe in Bethnal Green, which has a newly launched blog, and is running all sorts of crafty and poetic events in the evenings, including a Crochet For Beginners Class on February 25 from 6-8pm (£15). Here is its website. And they have vegan Black Forest Cupcakes this month!

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