Natty Routes is a new series about riding on London buses.
Eltham is home to a royal palace and the birthplace of Bob Hope and Frankie Howerd, but what it will always be known for is the racially motivated killing of Stephen Lawrence.
My sister Anna moved to New Eltham when she got married, a place distinct from Eltham in the same way New Kent Road is from Old Kent Road.
We’d gotten the train to my there from London Bridge for a family gathering. Lakisha and I were living in New Cross at the time and decided to get the bus home, changing in Catford.
It was fairly late in the evening and we sat downstairs near the driver. A group of teenagers got on and also stayed downstairs. Before long they were indulging in the classic obnoxious adolescent activity of spitting paper through a McDonald’s straw at strangers. The strangers in this case being me and Lakisha.
I turned on my seat in the hope that looking directly at the aryan with the straw would abate the unprovoked attack, but it only riled him and them more. I can’t remember the number after the heat of the moment, but there were at least four.
After threats of violence, none of which I responded to, they got off and on the way one swung a leg at me, which didn’t connect, and another spat at me, which did. Once they were off they continued to spit at me through the bus window and the driver stayed parked at the stop with the doors open for an unexplainably long time, almost inviting them back on.
Fearing being dragged onto the dark street and kicked to death I shouted at the driver to move and he shut the doors and drove off.
Lakisha was certain it was because she is black, while I was open to the idea that my long hair challenged their ideas about masculinity and sexuality.
We waited silently in the cold and rain in Catford for a 171, a familiar bus, to take us back to the multi-culturalism and safety of New Cross.
I’ve taken the bus to New Eltham since, but never with Lakisha.
This bus journey was previously mentioned in South London Hardcore episode 4.