Susie Rushton: Why I'm staying on the buses

Urban Notebook
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The Independent Online

They say that this is a cosmopolitan city. But you can actually divide all Londoners into two distinct camps: those who travel on buses, and those who would rather lie in front of a speeding number 36 than be seen riding one on one of the big red symbols of the capital.

I'm in the former group, but know plenty from the other side, those for whom the great bendy bus debate of 2008 was purely academic. The gripes of the anti-bus lobby are many and various. But really, they say, the bus must take forever to arrive, doesn't it? And when it does, riding it would certainly make them feel sick. Then it'd get stuck in traffic. And the rarely admitted aloud but obvious addendum: somebody might see them, and sitting on a bus is déclassé.

Not many of the anti-bus brigade cite danger as a reason to avoid using our useful, frequent, pleasant bus network. They soon will. When a double-decker dramatically flipped over this week in Battersea, after being hit by a lorry laden with rail track, even I started to wonder whether my favourite way to get to get around town should carry a health warning.

Although foreign tourists and Boris Johnson love the traditional red Routemaster, I've never forgotten the horrible story of a friend's father who slipped and fell on the narrow staircase, hitting his head and sustaining an extremely serious injury.

So though usually I'll happily sit on the top deck of a London bus, I can't bring myself to go down the stairs until the vehicle is totally stationary, which, given the drivers' general dislike of keeping doors open for more than a split-second, means quick, quick feet.

But on seeing pictures of that bus lying on its side like a beached beast, I've been a bit nervous this week about climbing the stairs of the number 27 (it's further to fall, right?). It seems likely the bus involved in this week's somersaulting incident appears to have had little chance once struck by the lorry's payload; double-deckers are required to take a "tilt test" that allows them to lean to an extreme, and very unlikely, angle of 28 degrees without toppling, even when heavily laden on the top deck wit h the fattest passengers imaginable. I'm staying downstairs. And I don't care who sees me.

A poor German import

German Christmas markets are one of my favourite things about this time of year – if I'm in Germany. I recently read an article about how the Brits are embracing that traditional gluhwein-and-bratwurst format, but hadn't visited the anglicised version until last weekend. Mein Gott! I wish I hadn't.

It didn't help that I arrived at Hyde Park's "Winter Wonderland" fair with three ex-pat German friends. For as we promenaded past the frankly creepy talking moose head, the sausage stalls and a Nintendo Wii arcade, their excited expressions rapidly melted away. In Germany, these magical, twinkly, fir-scented markets sell not only hot booze and fried wurst but pretty wooden toys, delicious bread and decorative biscuits. The only authentically German souvenir we took home that evening was a dose of weltschmerz.