A love letter to the 24 bus

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Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton on the only relationship she needs in this city


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'You're better than a taxi, because I can jump onto the back of you.' Photo: David Yeo
‘You’re better than a taxi, because I can jump onto the back of you.’ Photo: David Yeo

My darling 24,

As we’ve been in each other’s company for nearly three years, I thought it a good time to take a moment and tell you how much I appreciate you; and how I fall more and more in love with you with every day that you’re in my life.

I am, as you know, so proud of you. When I got my first flat, with its bare artexed walls, squatters upstairs and extortionate rent, you were the only thing I could boast about. For all of 2013, when I served up yet another vat of dal to disenchanted dinner guests in a house with at least ten mousetraps and only two forks, all I could muster was: “There is a bus stop outside and there’s a bus that goes into central London, 24 HOURS A DAY!”

Your route couldn’t be more perfect for me: Camden, Mornington Crescent, Goodge Street, Tottenham Court Road, Greek Street, Trafalgar Square. I knew whatever happened you could give me whatever I needed.

The postcards that were delivered to residents in July 2013 advertising the new-look 24 bus. Photo: SE
A postcard from 2013 advertising the new-look 24 bus. Photo: SE

You glide through the map of my past. I smile every time we pass KOKO, the hot, hormonal place that collected the majority of my teenage vomit. And at Mornington Crescent I see the three tower blocks topped with brightly coloured roofs, one of my first memories of this city that’s cradled me: at six years old, staring into space in a classroom on Arlington Road, I was asked by Miss Jackson: “What are the primary colours?” I whipped my head round, and peered out of the window to those three distant rooftops: “Red, yellow, blue,” I replied.

I love you most on the coldest dark nights in November, when you swing onto Tottenham Court Road, shiny and red, and I jump on and curl up in one of your seats. I love you when the windows are beaded with drops of rain, and outside people’s umbrellas turn inside out by the wind. “How lucky I am to have you,” I think.

But then again you’re pretty spectacular in May. Saturday morning, 11 am, top deck. While everyone gets cross about the excitable groups of tourists trudging through Camden High Street, I like looking down and seeing them descend on us. It’s like we’re the house everyone wants to go to for an after party. I find it quite charming.

You are my personal taxi service that I happened to share with the city. In fact you’re better than a taxi, because I can jump onto the back of you. And oh boy, if I jump on just as you’re about to move, well, you already know I look like James Bond. Thank you for making me James Bond, 24.

You have seen the best and the worst of me. You’ve seen me on the way to the parties I believed would end all parties: done up like Joan Collins, filling the top deck with Elnett hairspray like a giant glade atomiser.

''@ Photo: David Yeo
‘You’ve made me believe this city is kinder and quainter than I could ever have predicted.’ Photo: David Yeo
But you’ve also seen me the night I got drunk and decided to break a five-day juice cleanse. With dried barbecue sauce down my chin, like the trail of a snail with an upset stomach – fuck the diet, fuck people’s expectations, fuck being skinny – I ripped through my TWO bean burgers like a lion shredding a carcass. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder; the literary agent I had tried to impress at a party the week before.

“Oh hello!” I yelped. And with nothing else to crack the silence, I said: “Do you use this bus too then?”

And when I was seeing that awful man, we hatched a plan, you and I. That night as I lay in his bed at four am, staring up at the ceiling and wishing I had never gone over there, I heard you whispering to me from the street: just go. You have no reason to be here tonight and I will take you home. Get dressed, leave quietly, I’ll be waiting for you at Goodge Street. And of course, you were.

You’ve made me believe this city is kinder and quainter than I could ever have predicted. You guide me home, lovely thing (the BT Tower as my compass and you as my wagon). You’re my second star on the right, you’re my yellow brick road. You’ve bewitched me body and soul and I love, love, love you.

Yours always, Dolly

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Dolly Alderton is dating columnist for The Sunday Times Style magazine. Follow her on twitter @dollyalderton

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