A Travellerspoint blog

Night Bus

550 to Canning Town. The next stop is St. Edmund's School.

semi-overcast 4 °C

"Come on, just one more," they say.

You look at your watch. Ten minutes to midnight. If you ran, right now, to the tube station, you'd be able to catch the last central line out to the DLR, and then onwards to Mudchute, where you live. You look at your glass, empty, and your friends, only half full of beer. "Hmm, maybe another pint can't hurt," you think. After all, your friends aren't full of beer yet.

And, of course, you can always catch the night bus...


A few beers later, after you are most drunk and your friends are full up on beer so you head out. Soho is, as always on a Friday night, crazy.

"You looking for some women?" a woman asks, not the first and not the last to ask as you move through Soho.

"Sure," you think, I'd always be up for a women, but they aren't asking because they have a bunch of women hanging out looking to sleep with pasty, fat Canadians for free.

"£200 for a night," they say. £200, you think, is 80 pints. That is a lot for a woman, especially, you think, when if you drink 10 pints women who used to look... ummm, to be kind... not so good looking would, after 10 pints, look awesome.

So you skip past the women offering the services of other (mostly eastern-European) women and keep walking through Soho. The temptations are not finished, though.

"Coke," the man hiding in the shadows says. Unlike those offering sex, those offering drugs hide in the shadows, quietly offering their wares. You, though, aren't interested in much beyond bed at this point, though, so you keep walking without even acknowledging those offering you cocaine.

Soon, though, something tempts you. The smell, as you get closer to Oxford Circus, gets stronger and stronger. It is the smell of hot dogs.

The hot dogs are boiled to almost being finished. Close to being ready to eat, they are finally slapped upon a grill to finish before being put into a soggy bun to be served. Boiled hot dogs are, to be frank(furter), crappy. But something about frying them on the metal grill prior to serving gives it an excellent taste. The frying give a crispy outside.

Then comes the best part of the Oxford Circus hotdog. The toppings.

"Onions?" they ask.

"Of course," you say. And the hot dog vendor piles on the fried onions, partially brown and partially translucent, the onions add a sugary blast to the meaty taste of the crispy-outer, gooey-inner taste of the hot-dog. Only one thing can make it better, you think to yourself, as you trace a line of mustard along the length of the hot dog. You take your first bite of the dog, and you can only think one thing.

"Oh my god, this is so good. Cook me up another," you say.

Halfway through your first dog, you are given your second dog, and your thoughts turn from getting fed to getting home. Hot dog and a half in hand, you wander over to the nearest bus stop and check out if you are anywhere near a night bus which is heading to where you live.

The night buses take over once the tube, trains and regular buses stop running. The London night buses run out from the centre of London into the suburbs like the arms of a spider. No matter where you are going, you can find your way home, as long as you are starting out in the centre of London. Most of those who are looking to catch a night bus are, whoever, looking to get out from the centre. After all, what other reason other than drinking, dancing and partying at some club in central London can you think of for taking a bus at one thirty in the morning.

You check out the bus stop, and realize that you are in the wrong place. To get to the Isle of Dogs, where you live, you need to head down to Piccadilly Circus and catch the 550. It's not a far walk, and it gives you time to finish your hot dogs and pick up a Diet Coke for the ride home.

Nobody plans to get a night bus, but rather stumbles out of a bar late in the night and wanders to a night bus stop. If you are lucky, the bus arrives soon. If you aren't lucky, you have to wait for 20 minutes, maybe even 30 minutes, until the bus arrives. Tonight, you are lucky. As you are trying to focus your beer-muddled eyes on the schedule, trying to figure out when the bus will arrive, the N550 drives up to the stop. You quickly jump from the schedule out to the street, flagging down the bus.


You walk up to the second floor up the bus, grabbing a seat up amongst the other travellers heading home for the evening.

The bus windows soon fog up with the breath of those riding the night bus. You keep wiping off the windows of the bus to see what is passing you by. At the start, it is the historical monuments of London. St. Paul's Cathedral, the Victorian Embankment and the Bank of England pass by you. Soon, you are in East London, and monuments give way to less impressive edifices. Kebab shops and the occasional Chicken Shack are all that is open, but you pass the closed clothing, stationary, and grocery shop. You sit silently watching the landscape move by you. Other bus riders sit quietly, some chat among themselves. Rarely, you get someone who causes trouble, but that happens rarely. Tonight, you get a quiet bus, other than a couple sitting near the back , the man who is from London and the woman who is from Chicago, the bus is quiet. You watch the scenery pass you by as you, like the rest of the silent bus, listen to the couple from London and Chicago discuss their lives.

Soon enough, after the bright lights and glass towers of Canary Wharf pass you by, St. Edmund's School arrives. You press the red button, and once the bus stops you work your way down to the ground floor before jumping off. A 3 minute walk takes you home and to bed. The night buses has delivered again. You had a good night in the centre, and somehow, without issue, you made your way home.

If you weren't already quite drunk, you might think about raising a glass to the night buses. But as it stands, you really just want to go to bed, and so the night buses are, as usual, unheralded. One hopes, though, that the night buses know that you really love them. Cheers to you, night buses.

Thanks for getting me home, you buses with an N before your number.

Posted by GregW 15:00 Archived in England Tagged backpacking

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