Friday, 24 October 2008

A Bus Journey

A Bus Journey

At the moment, all the talk is of The Crisis (also known as The Credit Crunch, The Global Recession, The Slowdown etc.). Having stayed indoors all day, I became a little depressed with the repetition of the gloomy news emanating from the radio, as well as Channel Four News....I therefore decided to go and stretch my limbs a little, and took a bus into Camden.
London buses are a strange phenomenon. Ever since I can remember, well at least since 1966 when our family arrived here, it has been quite common to wait for half an hour or more for a bus , only to see two or three of them arrive simultaneously! Nobody has ever been able to give a convincing explanation for this, and countless initiatives started by the former Mayor, Ken Livingstone, do not appear to have eliminated this irritating occurence.
Livingstone's administration spent millions of pounds on new buses, including the single-deck articulated "bendy buses", but, outside of the rush hours, it is possible to be left stranded at the bus stop for a vehicle which does not operate to any discernible timetable. I once fell into conversation with an exasperated fellow-passenger-to-be who speculated that the reason why three buses were emerging from the same terminus was that the drivers were sitting round playing cards with each other!
During the day, you can see uniformed inspectors dotted along most bus routes. They are charged with ensuring that the buses arrive on time; it must be a very difficult task, given the volume of traffic in London. Even the existence of exclusive bus lanes does not guarantee that passengers will arrive at their destination on time. Most of the time, the buses are fine, but I cannot help but feel that the introduction of the single-person modern buses has slowed down the traffic. Nowadays, the person who drives the bus is also responsible for collecting fares and issuing tickets, thereby further slowing it down.All the ticket collectors (conductors) have been laid off with the disappearance of the old Routemaster buses.
The one great advantage of travelling on the bus is the amount of money you save--especially if you buy a weekly Bus Pass. I pay £13.00 for a pass which allows me to travel throughout Central London. Thirteen pounds for a week's travel is a bargain, when you consider that a single-journey ticket costs two pounds!
As a consequence, I have not used the Underground train for over 2 years...I like to see what is going on around me as I travel, but there is no scenery on the Underground.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Food for The Soul in Holloway.

Food for the soul in Holloway

Finding somewhere to eat in London can present a major problem for the unwary visitor---there is an embarrassment of riches from which to choose. Anyone wandering down any of the main streets in the centre of town will be faced with the usual array of multinational fast-food brand outlets, as well as smaller outlets specialising in a wide variety of foods of the different ethnic groups which have estalished themselves here.
In general, you will find at least one "Indian" and one Chinese restaurant in every locality. Most of them offer a home delivery service at night. While the Chinese restaurants sometimes vary slightly in what they offer, being from different regions, the "Indian" restaurants are overwhelmingly owned by people from the Sylhet region of Bangladesh.
All ( or most) ethnic restaurants have a reputation for cheapness, and recently this has begun to cause problems for their owners. The pressure to keep prices down has meant that these restaurant are finding it hard to recruit and keep staff, considering the low wages which they can afford to pay.
As a consequence, the quality of the food varies from place to place.
One area which is bursting with eating places is Holloway. The area boasts everything from Ethiopian to Korean restaurants. Three of my favourites are located around the Holloway Road-Seven Sisters Road area.
If you come out of the Caledonian Road Underground Station, jump on a bus going towards the Seven Sisters Road (ask the driver), or walk the 10 minutes or so. Cross the Seven Sisters Road, and walk North. A few yards up the road, you will encounter The "Amazon Cafe. " Over here you can have a good, home-made meal lovingly-prepared by the women-only staff. I have only ever had a late breakfast here, but I can assure you that it is marvellous. Everything is freshly-prepared, and it shows...
A little further up the same side of the road you will encounter the Crystal Kebab House. This is a legendary little cafe with good food, and low prices. After early evening, there is always a queue to be served---the high turnover of customers means that customers are assured of fresh Turkish food.
Come back to the Seven Sisters Road , and take the bus 91. Get off at the second stop as it turns into Hornsey Road. Two or three doors away from "The Plough " pub, you will see "Mr.Cee,s ", a very good-value Caribbean Restaurant. Delicious Jamaican specialities await you in this friendly family-run establishment. Their Curried Goat with Rice and Peas is heavenly!!!
After filling up at any of these three restaurants, you can get on the bus 91 back to Trafalgar Square, or continue to enjoy yourself in the Holloway area. Bon appetit!