Although destined, as a bit of a geek, to become a train-spotter, an unnatural affinity to trolley buses deigned this was never going to happen.
As a kid, my nan had a grassy-knoll-type flat whose window overlooked Balham High Road; I would spend hours staring out of this window making a list of the buses travelling up and down the street.
I didn’t need an especially large sheet as there were only three routes: 88,155 and 181. I’d sit, eating my nan’s Callard & Bowser’s toffees (she had no teeth, so toffees were a complete waste on her) recording each bus as it passed. I would do this until I spotted my Auntie Vera’s alighting from here 155 as she returned from her job at Freeman’s near the Oval.
Sometimes a complete spanner would be thrown in the works by the appearance of a 711 Green Line Bus. This vehicle never stopped at any of the two stops I could see so, in my mind it never existed – a bit like the little-known philosophical theory, Schrödinger’s Bus. It certainly was never entered onto the toffee-covered list.
In the mid-60s, when I was around eight, my Auntie Vera decided she would take me on a trolley bus. We travelled on a 155 to Wimbledon where we picked up the trolley bus to Belmont. It might as well have been to Belize, such was my geographical lack of knowledge anywhere outside SW17. Ironically I now live near there (Belmont, not Belize, where I still don’t quite know where it is (it is only near Belmont alphabetically)).
Three years on and I had my next out-of-Balham experience. I was selected to play for the school cricket team. The first fixture was away at Sutton Manor (now Sutton Grammar). I stood, with my dad, on the platform at Balham, looking in a direction I’d never been before (dad had assured me they’d all been lavender fields the week before). I assumed that, before we even got to Sutton, we’d have fallen off the end of the world.
When I changed schools from Bec to Emanuel I discovered several of my new form-mates were into plane spotting. I asked my dad if this would possibly be something for me? He replied saying: as long as I knew what an ME109 looked like, I’d probably best stick to bus-spotting. Any more fares, please?