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A Bus Driver's Prayer - The Song

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The late, great Ian Dury.

In 1994, Ian Dury released an album called The Bus Driver's Prayer and Other Stories. The title track, 'The Bus Driver's Prayer', predates Cliff Richard's adaptation of the Lord's Prayer for his Millennium Prayer. Basically, it takes the driver on a clever route around London and the Home Counties, keeping the meter and (as far as possible) rhyme of the original, with hilarious results. So, hop on the bus and bring your prayer beads, mat, kippah or whatever you require for prayer.

This entry will also attempt to direct you from location to location1 using buses or coaches only2. After all, this isn't a tube or train driver's prayer. Also, this entry will attempt to show you how far you are travelling3.

'Our Father, who art in Hendon'

We start way up north at Hendon, home of the Metropolitan Police Training College (now known as the Peel Centre) and the RAF museum. Obviously picked for rhyming and scanning with Heaven, the name derives from the Old English for 'high down'. Its location is one of the most northerly of any on this prayer's route, which may suggest that heaven is up there — although not too far up north, as it is still considerably south of Watford Gap4.

The RAF Museum houses over 100 aircraft from the earliest bi-planes to some of the latest jet fighters. There is, however, also the old Hendon Museum to show you the history of the area before Brent Cross Shopping Centre (the UK's first such centre) was built in 1976, making it a focal point and more famous for shopping.

So what route does our bus driver take next for this prayer? Take the 83 or 183 to West Hendon Broadway/Herbert Road, change onto the 32 or 142 to Staples Corner and then catch the 112 to get to...

'Harrow Road be Thy name'

Distance of Stage: 6 miles
Subtotal: 6 miles

There are actually a large number of Harrow Roads in the London area.

  • The B161 in Wanstead, E11.

  • A short residential street in East Ham, E6, pretty close to Upton Park, the home of West Ham United.

  • Another small residential street in Luxford, IG1.

  • Another off the A123 Ripple Road, Barking, IG11, just south of Barking Hospital.

  • There's a residential Harrow Road in Slough off the Carshalton Road, but it crosses two postcodes: SM1 and SM5.

  • From the start of the A404 in NW1 at the junction with Edgware road out through Paddington W2 and up through Maida Vale W9, Kensal Town W10 and Kensal Green almost as far as Willesden Junction.

  • Another stretch of the A404 through Brent, NW10 - HA9, just north of the North Circular Road. The section's northern end is close to Wembley Stadium Station.

  • A short stretch of the A404 in Sudbury, HA0. The nearest railway station is Sudbury and Harrow Road.

The A404 Harrow Road is therefore the one that was meant by the song, as it is the only one that is a bus route. It is a busy thoroughfare which goes under the M40. A Victorian Turkish baths once stood at this point, next to the Metropolitan Hotel. Both these buildings were demolished in 1963 to make way for the flyover.

Take the 112 to Ealing Broadway, then get on the 65 to...

'Thy Kingston come'

Distance of stage: 10.6 miles
Subtotal: 16.6 miles

At the time the song was written, Kingston-Upon-Thames had just undergone years of major upheaval to the transport flow. This was to accommodate the building of the Bentall's Centre in the town centre. Students were astounded for a number of years when they returned from their summer vacations to see that the cars were driving a different way or in different directions along familiar roads around the town centre to get to and from Kingston Bridge. Sometimes even new roads or bike and bus lanes had sprung up. A bus driver most definitely had to pray on entering Kingston at this time.

The town itself is officially south of the River Thames. However, you need to head west to find London's main river. The town takes its name from the coronation stone on which many of the Kings of Wessex were crowned, which can still be seen in the town. It is a busy shopping centre, with many shops either in the Bentall's Centre or in the many pedestrianised streets around it.

Just a single bus transfer this time: simply hop on the 131 to the end of the line...

'Thy Wimbledon'

Distance of stage: 4.2 miles
Subtotal: 20.8 miles

Wimbledon is famous for two things. British people remember in their childhood or that of their children the environmentally conscious Wombles5 who lived on Wimbledon Common. The TV show was a stop-motion animation narrated by Bernard Cribbens which lasted for 60 episodes in the 1970s. The characters would find a good use for the things everyday folks left behind on the Common. There is an intact windmill in the centre of the Common today which stands out as a bit of a beacon.

However, Wimbledon is known internationally as the location of the Wimbledon Championship. Every year at the end of June, the world's top male and female tennis players put away any coloured clothing for two weeks and compete. At the club is the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, which is open all year round, detailing the history of the sport since the 1860s.

Take the 57 or 493 to Tooting Broadway, change here for the 155 to Elephant and Castle, then take the 53 to Woolwich Arsenal. Finally, catch the 99 to Bexley Road/Cross Street...

'In Erith'

Distance of stage: 22.2 miles
Subtotal: 43 miles

Erith is in the London Borough of Bexley and is home to a modern brick theatre, the Erith Playhouse. This is sandwiched between two pubs: The Cross Keys and The White Hart. The theatre is just a minute off the high street, but it is hardly the centre of gastronomic pre- or post-theatre meals. However, for a full history of Erith you can visit the local museum above the library on Walnut Tree Road.

Get the 469 from the Swimming Baths to Woolwich Arsenal Station, then take the 53 to Elephant and Castle, change to the 168 at the Royal Free Hospital, then jump onto a 268 to Golders Green Station, take a short walk to the 83 stop at Golders Green and take this bus to...

'as it is in Hendon.'

Distance of stage: 47.7 miles
Subtotal: 90.7 miles

Back at our starting point — but having already covered this, we shall move on.

Long trip coming up: catch the 797 into Victoria Station, then take an M3 (bus, not motorway) out to...

'Give us this day our Berkhampsted'

Distance of stage: 19.2 miles
Subtotal: 109.9 miles

Berkhamsted is out in Hertfordshire alongside the Grand Union Canal and the A41, just outside Hemel Hempstead. Situated on the North Wessex Downs, it is close to the Ridgeway Path, which goes from Ivinghoe Beacon to the northeast of Berkhamsted before sweeping southwest to Overton Hill, which lies to the South of Swindon. So, if you want a break from the bus, the quick walk on the hills may be a healthy alternative — some fresh air after the pollution of London.

However, Berkhamsted's claim to importance lies with an event in 1066 when, following the Battle of Hastings, William, Duke of Normandy and his army skirted the Chilterns to suppress opposition. The Saxon leaders rode out of London and met the invader at Berkhamsted. They offered him the crown of England and he rode unhindered into London for his coronation on Christmas Day at, rather conveniently, our next stop.

For the return trip, hop back onto the M3 and return to Victoria, then either walk or take any bus to...

'And forgive us our Westminsters'

Distance of stage: 27.3 miles
Subtotal: 137.2 miles

Westminster is the only one of the four double entries to get two consecutive lines, but as there is a lot to cover here it can best be dealt with in two separate parts. Forgiveness suggests spirituality and Westminster is inundated with spiritual locations.

Firstly, there is the Abbey to which William the Conqueror travelled from Berkhamsted by horse, not bus, in 1066. His was the first of 38 coronations to be held at the Abbey. Only two monarchs since then have failed to be crowned at Westminster. The first was Edward V, one of the Princes in the Tower; the other was Edward VIII, following his abdication, which came months before the intended date for his coronation.

Nearby is Methodist Central Hall, which was erected to celebrate the centenary of John Wesley's death. It is the domed building you can see on the western side of Parliament Square. The building was opened in 1912. It may not have been around as long, but it has served its own role in history alongside its more illustrious neighbours. The suffragettes, campaigning for the right to vote for women, met there in 1914. The building saw an address by Mahatma Gandhi to members of the temperance movement in 1931. The foundation of the Free French movement was announced there by General Charles de Gaulle in 1940. The 1945 Conservative Party Conference was held there — Winston Churchill opened his address with the words 'Victory is certain, victory is near'. Also, the inaugural season of the United Nations was held there in 1946. Not bad for the young upstart on the block.

Westminster is also the home of the head of the British Roman Catholic Church at Westminster Cathedral, near Victoria Station. The current building was built under Cardinal Vaughan in the late 19th Century. The site was originally Bulinga Fen, part of the marsh that once surrounded Westminster.

The marshland was reclaimed by Benedictine monks, who went on to build Westminster Abbey. Following the reformation, the site was used as a maze, a pleasure garden and a ring for bull-baiting. In the 17th Century, the land was sold by the Abbey for a prison, Tothill Fields Prison, which was enlarged at the start of the 19th Century. The Roman Catholic Church acquired the land in 1884.

The Cathedral, which is dedicated to 'the most precious blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ', was designed by John Francis Bentley in an early Christian Byzantine style. The foundation stone was laid in 1885 and work on the building was completed in 1903. The interior decoration is still being completed. However, the Cathedral does contain the world-renowned fourteen stations of the cross designed by the sculptor Eric Gill.

Catch the M3 back into Victoria. There, a choice of buses — the 11, 24, 148 and 211 — all head to the next location, or you may prefer to walk. It's only about 20 minutes' walk to...

'As we forgive those who Westminster against us.'

Distance of stage: 0.2 miles
Subtotal: 137.4 miles

Those who Westminster against us can only refer to those who occupy what is known as the Westminster Village, ie, the politicians who inhabit the Palaces of Westminster.

The oldest part of the building still standing, which has survived the Great Fire of London in 1666, the Houses of Parliament burning down in 1834 and the London Blitz, is Westminster Hall. The walls, which have existed since Norman times, were built in 1097 - 1099. It also has one of the largest unsupported medieval roofs in Europe.

This part of Westminster is of course home to the Prime Minister at Downing Street and most Government departments are based in and around Whitehall. If you want to check the time, look no further than the clock tower at the Palaces of Westminster which of course houses the most famous clock bell in the world, Big Ben. This clock has kept pretty accurate time with only limited interruption since it first came into service.

Westminster is also officially the larger of the two cities that make up what people consider to be the centre of London. The City of London is only one square mile in the financial heartland around the Bank of England on Threadneedle Street. The City of Westminster however, takes up most of the West End, Whitehall and the Royal Courts of Justice.

Take the 11, 24 or 28 to Westminster Abbey. Then get on the CD1 or CD4. However, it is actually easier and almost as quick just to walk along the Embankment to...

'Lead us not into Temple Station'

Distance of stage: 1.2 miles
Subtotal: 138.6 miles

Temple Station is situated on Victoria Embankment, serving the District and Circle lines. This stop is very handy for Somerset House, the Strand and Bush House, home of the BBC World Service and the offices that formerly housed the h2g2 staff.

Another reason to avoid Temple Station is that it is the location of The Temple, one of the Inns of Court, the Royal Courts of Justice being not too far away. Being led here might be a sign that you may not be using public transportation for a considerable period of time if your brief doesn't get you off6.

Hop back onto the CD1 to Westminster Cathedral. Get on the 148 and head to Rockley Road, Shepherd's Bush Green. Then catch the 207 to...

'And deliver us from Ealing,'

Distance of stage: 10.6 miles
Subtotal: 149.2 miles

Get off at Broadway. Ealing famously gave its name to one of the most successful and famous of British film studios, Ealing Studios, still present on Ealing Green. They have been based here since Will Barker acquired the site in 1902. Basil Dean of Associated Talking Pictures bought it in the 1930s and Ealing Studios was born. The BBC acquired and ran the studios from 1959, though they returned to film use in 2000.

As well as the famous Ealing comedies, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Singing Detective and Star Wars: Episode 2 give you some idea of the diversity of production at Ealing.

Simply catch the 65 from the Broadway straight back to...

'For thine is the Kingston'

Distance of stage: 8.9 miles
Subtotal: 158.1 miles

Again another revisit, but as the town has an entry we recommend a visit to that instead.

Catch the 726 from Cromwell Road Bus Station to Carshalton High Street. Change for the 127 to...

'the Purley'

Distance of stage: 12.4 miles
Subtotal: 170.5 miles

Purley, Surrey is on the A23, south of Croydon. It was the home of British sitcom couple Terry and June, played by Terry Scott and June Whitfield. It is where Derren Brown the illusionist and Nick Harman the actor were born. Francis Rossi from Status Quo and actress June Brown (Dot Cotton from Eastenders) both live there.

The name comes from the word pirlea, which means pear tree lea. Kenley Aerodrome near the town was an important World War II airbase, as were nearby Croydon Airport and Biggin Hill. However, there is also a link to World War I on Promenade de Verdun. This street is planted with Lombardy poplars in a mixture of English and French soil as a tribute to the war dead. A memorial plaque bears the inscription Aux soldats de France morts glorieusement pendant la Grande Guerre7.

Take the 298 to Waddon Station and then take a short walk to Purley Way Waddon Station to catch the 726 to East Croydon Station. We have to take a short train ride to Gatwick Airport. Then the 100 or 2 takes us up to...

'and the Crawley,'

Distance of stage: 18.3 miles
Subtotal: 198.8 miles

Crawley is located in West Sussex just south of Gatwick Airport at the end of the M23. The name craw leah, meaning 'crow-infested clearing', was given to the area by the Saxons. Both its parishes, Ifield and Worth, are mentioned in the Domesday Book.

While this may be a bus driver's prayer, the expansion of Crawley and its importance came about as a result of the railways and most particularly the London-Brighton line. However, an even greater transport boost to the town started in 1891 with the opening of a racecourse at Gatwick just to the north of the town, which later became an aerodrome and then London's second airport.

Punk band The Cure hail from Crawley, as does Gareth Southgate the footballer.

We're going to take the National Express number 27 from Crawley to Victoria Station, then the Beeline 701 to Slough. Then we catch the number 58 to...

'For Iver and Iver'

Distance of stage: 47.6 miles
Subtotal: 246.4 miles

Iver, meaning brow of the hill, is in Buckinghamshire just to the east of Slough and to the west of the M25 between junctions 15 and 16. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book as Everham, meaning 'homestead by the brow of the hill'.

Iver is our second trip to a film studio, as Iver Heath, the home of Heatherden Hall, was purchased by Charles Boot in 1931 and it was transformed into Pinewood Studios.

The other estate in the area was Richings Park, once the home of Lord Bathurst. At one point the mansion on the estate was the headquarters of Bomber Command during World War II, before it was destroyed.

Back on the 58 into Slough, then the 701 into Victoria. Hop on the number 11 to Sloane Square and change for the Number 19 to Finsbury Park. Conclude with the W7, taking us to our final destination...

'Crouch End'

Distance of stage: 23.6 miles
Total: 270 miles

Crouch End is an area of Hornsey between Highgate and Harringay. Appropriately enough, our last stop is only accessible by public transport by bus, as there is no tube or railway station here.

Probably the most striking thing about Crouch End is the red brick clock tower at the end of Broadway. I'm sure after all that driving on a long and circuitous route around and about London, our prayerful bus driver deserves a break.

However, it is is also the location where Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics chose to set up a studio in an old church on Crouch Hill. This is possibly one of the reasons that DJ Andy Kershaw lives here, although it does not explain the presence of X-Files star Gillian Anderson in her childhood.

1Bus numbers and routes are correct at time of writing and obtained from local transport route-finder websites. Accuracy in the future cannot be guaranteed.2There is only one small exception to this rule.3All distances are best and shortest routes and are not necessarily the distance travelled by the buses stated.4Watford Gap Service Station on the M1 is considered by many motorists based in the south of England as being the gateway to the North. In fact, the services are only 50 miles north of London, thus making them 750 miles south of the extreme north of Scotland.5They first appeared in a book in 1968 and made their TV debut in 1973.6Translation: Your lawyer doesn't procure a 'not guilty' verdict in your court case.7To the soldiers of France died gloriously during the Great War.

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