When I first started dating my boyfriend he was the proud owner of not one, but two gas guzzling SUVs. One was for the hour-long commute to work every day, and the other, a bright red 1972 Chevy Blazer, was for driving around San Francisco on the weekends. Country music required.
One night shortly after we met, my boyfriend and I found ourselves outside of Harry’s Bar in Pacific Heights at 2am with neither of his SUVs in sight and no prospects of finding a taxi.
Just then the 22 bus pulled up. “Get on,” I said. “What?” he asked, visibly repulsed. “Get on the bus,” I repeated. “It will take us home.” Stark white and shaking like a leaf, my boyfriend followed me onto the bus as if it were the belly of the whale. “Are you okay?” I teased. “I feel like we’re in a movie and I’m the rich guy and you’re the poor girl and you’re teaching me how to ride the bus,” he smiled. “Ouch.”
Fast-forward two years my broken-hearted beau had to sell one SUV and leave the other behind when we moved to London. Soon he was riding the tube like a pro, but the bus was still something he avoided like the Great Plague of 1665.
Unfortunately for him, there are some parts of London that just aren’t served by the tube. Normally he circumvents this inconvenience by renting a car, but sometimes I’m able to twist his arm and get him to board the big red buses.
One such occasion happened quite recently. As part of our ongoing quest to see every square inch of London, my boyfriend and I went out to Stoke Newington. Well off the beaten path and completely off the tube system, “Stokey” is just north of Dalston, the neighborhood of White Teeth fame.
We made our way out to Angel and caught a bus going north. My bus-phobic boyfriend held his breath the entire way, as he was certain that we would get stabbed by a band of angry yobs. Despite his fears, we alighted at Stoke Newington safe and free from gaping flesh wounds.
We started our visit on Stoke Newington Church Street, where we were delighted to find a smattering of achingly hip boutiques, a hundred tiny cafes, the requisite number of neighborhood pubs (I think the rule is one per person in London), and a handful of brightly-colored ethnic restaurants. There were also several Italian delis, one of which we stopped into for a quick bite.
After walking around for awhile we decided to check out Clissold Park, a huge green space that dates back to the days of William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book. The park had some beautiful gardens and tranquil ponds, and like Golders Hill Park and Alexandra Park, it also had the requisite number of farm animals (I think the rule is one farm per park in London).
Short on time, we hopped back on the bus and once again made it back to the tube with all body parts intact and knife-wound free. My boyfriend was glad we made the trip, and I’m beginning to think he may start taking the bus on his own one of these days.