08 October, 2006


Tales from the Multiculture, continued

Weekend line closures due to engineering work on the railways are, I suppose, inevitable, though I do wonder whether there need to be quite so many of them, and whether the work could be better co-ordinated to reduce the number of separate closures. When our line is closed, replacement buses are laid on, as is the usual practice. These I generally avoid as Govia are as big a bunch of cheapskates as the previous, sacked, private-sector franchisees, Connex, and hire ... well let's just say they tend to hire at the bargain-basement end of the coach hire market. I usually take the scheduled bus service, which is a significantly slower journey, but I am considerably more confident of getting to the other end in one piece.

These bus journeys serve as a salutary reminder of the demographics of South East London. When I travel, as I generally do, by train, the passengers are typically 20%-40% Africans – mostly Nigerians – with a dash of other "minorities", particularly Vietnamese, Chinese and occasionally South Asian. This overbearing diversity is depressing enough, but travelling by bus through the streets of South East London reveals an altogether starker truth: the Woolwich area has, over a period of less than a decade, become overwhelmingly Black. Woolwich town centre is now full of "African Cash & Carry" outlets and you find yourself involuntarily playing the game of spot the White man. I find I have to stop myself from exclaiming out loud in delighted surprise when I see other White people.

The more recent colonists welcome contributors to our vibrant multiculture seem to be predominantly Nigerian. To be fair they seem – so far – to be decent enough people, and their happy-clappy churches are bursting at the seams at weekend but, when it comes down to it, there are just too fucking many of them.

On the subject of rail replacement buses, this weekend I broke my usual rule and caught the service laid on by the railway. Waiting at the bus stop were the usual crowd of Poles, Nigerians and Unidentifiables, along with a surly half-caste of vaguely African heritage openly smoking a joint. The double-decker deathtrap that turned up was dirty and smelly. The driver (or his gearbox, or both) was, shall we just say a bit on the uneven side – holding onto the the seat in front at all times seemed advisable. At one stage he rode over the pavement while turning a corner, which was fun. I will concede that some creative parking by the Woolwich Africans didn't exactly smooth the traffic flow.

And then when we eventually got to Greenwich I found myself having to give the bus driver, who from his appearance and accent was Turkish or Middle Eastern, directions to Greenwich railway station. He was, it transpired, unfamiliar with the district. I wouldn't be particularly surprised if he turned out to be unfamiliar with the entire country.

I wonder if the bus ever got to New Cross in the end.

Good old Sarf London, eh?

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