Kevin Rawlinson: Go west I was told – but getting there was no easy ride

On the buses
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Getting around London is difficult enough for an outsider. Many of us have been found wandering aimlessly round King's Cross, clutching a Tube map and muttering about how much easier it all is at home.

But when the Tube is crippled by strikes, to someone who has lived in the capital for a grand total of three days, Walthamstow and Kensington seem worlds apart. That said, the bloke on the bicycle who overtook the first of the four buses I got, looked rather pleased with himself. I tried to turn my head away but being pushed up against the window, I was forced to witness his relatively smooth progress down Ferry Lane.

It seems there are a lot of things you only consider when you find yourself standing with your head in someone's armpit on a bus. How they seem to cough every three seconds. How them listening to David Hasselhoff through their headphones so loud you could sing along is actually quite annoying. How you informing them of that fact doesn't seem to go down too well. How the Hoff's "Looking for Freedom" seems to stick in your head.

Thank God therefore, for the helpful bus driver who offered up such pearls of wisdom as: "Please, no standing upstairs, it is prohibited to stand upstairs. Could passengers please refrain from standing upstairs, to summarise, please no standing upstairs."

Another bus journey before a quick jaunt on one of the few sections of the Tube to be running passed. Both equally long. It was at this point that my companion finally lost faith and struck out on her own. On the fourth of my bus journeys, I was ashamed to simply accept the driver's refusal to open the doors after I missed my stop. I had wanted to follow the example set on my first day in London when one lady staged her very own Tiananmen Square-style protest on Oxford Street.

The irate woman stood in front of a bus, holding up traffic for so long that a commuters' revolt sprang up on board. Customers forced open the doors and cheered as she boarded.

The only positive thing to come out of the whole debacle? Getting to the office a full hour before my friend. I refrained from telling her that, in the end, I had got a taxi. She muttered something about wanting to go home – I know how she feels.