Sunday April 28th 2013
However, there we were, boarding and re-boarding an elderly and number-less double decker red bus and sidling along Wapping High Street and Wapping Lane, routes more officially assigned to the single decker Numbers 100 and D3. What was going on?
The folk/staff at the London Councils, who had organised some publicity for us back on Route 381, wanted to make a little film about the eligibility for and benefits of the Freedom Pass, and had recruited, alongside a group of extras, the Ladies Who Bus to take part.
So at the unearthly hour (I am not a morning person, as they say) of 8AM we, alongside some sprightly dancers, assembled at Tower Bridge Studios.
While the dancers went off to perform and record the Bus Stop Zumba (don’t ask, we never really saw what they were up to) Mary, Jo and Linda had some light make-up applied. Amie too was a volunteer for the day and kindly stuck around to retouch her handiwork after we had spoilt it by eating lunch and drinking tea. Amie, we learned, combines make-up with her other career as an illustrator, but most interestingly she does the make-up for the Madam Tussauds waxworks, both UK models and overseas ones too. As you might expect, she works from very high-resolution good quality photographs in order to reproduce the flesh tones of David Cameron et al. However if you want a glimpse of her artwork do look here.. We were very grateful to her for covering our flaws but not making it look artificial.
Once the Zumboids returned, somewhat chilled and in need of coffee, we set off down Wapping Lane so that we could be filmed waving from the back top deck of the bus; this shot was to be enhanced further by opening the window, and leaning out but sun reflection problems for the camera man put paid to that ‘vision’. The bus London Councils had hired was clearly an ‘older model’ and I think quite venerable – can you imagine the health and safety implications of having an outward opening upstairs back window on a bus without CCTV?
Along the High Street is the 'Town of Ramsgate' Pub, close to Wapping Stairs, and the Pierhead houses. Whether you walk or ride along the narrow street, so tall are the blocks it is hard to imagine and impossible to see the river behind, so it is in the names such as Pierhead, or Chandler Street (chandlers did and still do provide all those ropy hooky things for boats) that tell you it’s there. Most of the warehouses have been very sympathetically converted with high loading bays now balconies.
Jo had had occasion to visit the week earlier, having a family member doing well in the marathon. 30 years ago another relative ran the same stretch and was able to say how the former dereliction had been greatly improved. The area seems quite mixed also with some Tower Hamlets social housing and community centres down Wapping Lane and a sizeable congregation coming out of the Sunday service at St Peter’s C/E London Docks. As London churches go it is pretty new (built 1856 as an Anglican mission for the poor and just in time to bury the victims of the latest cholera outbreak) and its website enlightened me as to who Stanhope Wainwright might be as we later passed his Blue Plaque – a local one I think, commemorating a local priest who had worked for 50 years for his then very impoverished parish.
Rather than doing yet more loops for filming purposes, our Random Route struck out for Shadwell and Whitechapel, even running into the Number 15 –one of the heritage routes. Our director wanted some ‘shots’ of the words ‘BUS LANE’ so we went way out past Cable Street, Tower Hamlets car pound and the beginning of Whitechapel’s rag trade stretch of road. Once the requisite shots were ‘in the can’, or more likely digitally captured, we headed back to the studios to deliver the extras for their lunch after which most were free to go.
Meanwhile the three of us were filmed climbing the stairs, then boarding the bus and finally (in grand reverse order) beeping our Freedom Pass on the Oyster reader, except of course it neither beeped nor was an active reader. For reasons of technical fuzziness this last shot took longer than you might think so were pleased the others had left us more than enough sandwiches.
There was to be some location shooting on Monday, but this did not require any people or buses. We are not quite sure how long the editing of this film will take – it is intended to be 2 or 3-minutes long – but we promise to provide a link when it is complete. It is planned to launch it onto the London Councils website, Youtube and Twitter.
We, as indeed all Freedom Pass holders should be, are very grateful to the London Councils for their administration of this scheme and the funding which allows us and so many of the elderly and less able to travel independently round London, and while we would normally avoid publicity, we do feel we owe London Councils for their tireless support for (and defence of) the Freedom Pass.