London in chaos during the rush hour

I am reflecting on my journey home yesterday, and that of other work colleagues.

Working late having just fixed a problem with a financial application, I found out because one of the operators came through to the office, announcing that there was no power to South East London. No problem I thought, as I live in West London.

Then, apparently it transpired that there were no tube trains running. The operator suggested that it might be an opportunity to earn some "overtime". He is a fairly sarcastic person, who had a gleefull expression throughout. My parting comment was that I have other means of getting home.

Noticing the big queues outside Aldgate station (with shut barriers), I crossed over the road to the bus station. I noticed a bus with "Paddington" on the front. "Excellent", I thought, "Here is a bus that will take me to a mainline railway terminal, from which run trains that go to Acton, where I live."

I boarded this bus, among a crowd of many commuters who don't normally use London buses. Many were using their mobile phones to inform partners of their travel situation.

The bus progressed slowly, as the traffic in the City of London was heavy, and it was also raining quite hard. At many stops, passengers were jostling to get on, only to be told that the bus was full.

The bus queued to go past Trafalgar Square, and eventually passed Piccadilly Circus at 8:30. As I was confident that the bus was going to Paddington, I felt a certain amount of pity for the many queueing passengers on the pavements of the West End.

Horror of Horrors, when approaching Oxford Circus, the bus turned into Hanover Square, to a stop where bus routes terminate. The driver flashed the lighting off and on (a signal for everyone to get off). We all did despite much protest that we were expecting the bus to go to Paddington.

Oxford Street had a more or less continuous stream of full buses, all refusing to take more passengers. These included some Routemasters with open backs, where conductors were standing with their arms straddling the gangway.

A walk in Soho

The rain had subsided slightly, and I decided to explore some streets around the back of Oxford Circus. I found several bars (I won't call them pubs) not to my liking, a complete lack of real ale.

As the rain had subsided, I strolled further, towards where I remembered were some good pubs. Crossing over Regent Street, finding Kingly Street, I hoped to find a favoured pub I remembered from 15 years ago - sadly the pub is still there, but has changed beyond all recognition, and no real ale is available.

A further turn, and I see the coloured lighting of Carnaby Street, and I remember that it is near to a wine bar where a journalist friend of mine used to hang out. Turning into Marshall Street, I couldn't find the wine bar.

Strolling further into Soho, I stumble on The Blue Posts, which I remember from several evening excursions with my journalistic friend. The pub is still a pub, and is serving real ale. "Fine", I think to myself, "I can always phone for a taxi from here to get me home".

Three pints and several conversations later, I think it would be a good idea to check whether the tubes are back in action, and also that I would like to try and get to West London in time for a drink. Walking to Tottenham Court Road station, I find that the tubes are still closed. But I notice that the buses are emptier, and the queueing passengers not so frantic.

More frustration in West London

I board a bus to Hammersmith, which still takes an age to get through the queueing traffic of Knightsbridge and Kensington High Street. The bus eventually pulls into Hammersmith bus station at three minutes to 11. Dashing off the bus to the nearest pub, I get to the bar. Sadly I was told that it was too late to serve me despite my protests. Cursing the pub and English closing time, I head back for the bus station and another bus home.

Total end-to-end journey time 5 hours (but this included the stop in the middle at Soho).