1) 131 bus - involves me walking 10 minutes at the end closer to home, but it stops right outside the college
2) 213 bus - stops 3 minutes away from my house, but involves me walking 10 minutes at the end by the college
3) cycling - only possible if I'm not too tired, so it's ok if I'm just doing an hour or two, but isn't sensible if I'm working all day
All three methods take around 25 minutes in total. What I usually do is take the 131 to get to work and the 213 home. But it's variable - if I come out of work and see that a 131's coming, I'll get on it, because a bus that's there already will usually get me home quicker than walking up to the 213 stop for a bus at $unknown_time.
Today I left work, and there was no 131 in sight, while the Countdown indicator was entirely devoid of content. So I started walking up the road towards the 213 stop. By the time I'd reached the second 131 stop, a bus had come, but having walked that far I wasn't going to get on the 131 and have to walk the same distance at the other end. (Bear with me.) So I went round the corner to the 213 stop. Here, the Countdown was reporting rather strange final destinations for the 213 - Darley Drive, wherever that is. A random person at the bus stop knew why:
$random1: "All the buses to Kingston are being diverted. Apparently there's a huge fire outside Wickes."
h-l: "Oh great - I live near there."
Another random person chimed in:
$random2: "No, it's a bit further down than Wickes. It's outside the kebab shop by the railway bridge."
h-l: "Oh God - that's even closer to where I live!"
Got on the second 213 when it came, as contrary to $random1's idea only half the buses were being diverted (to try to make up lost time). I checked TFL's WAP site from my phone, and the very first entry was:
LONDON ROAD KINGSTON: Due to a traffic accident Routes 57 85 and 213 are unable to serve London Road between Kenley Road and Coombe Lane West.
This was extra-specially worrying, because TFL covers an enormous area, and normally the first page of realtime news is reserved for central London problems. For somewhere as far out as Kingston to be the very first entry, clearly something Very Bad was happening.
I will spare you the tale of woe about having to walk home with a sore leg, and give the exciting news. Yes, there is a burnt-out bus at the end of our road. It was entirely blocking up the London Road and causing many mile tailbacks in all directions. It's pretty disturbing - the engine at the back of the bus had overheated enough to melt some of the metal, the entire back end of the bus was covered in soot, many of the upstairs windows were smashed, and I could swear some of the roof looked ripped-off. Except it was just an ordinary London United 57, the same type of bus stock they always use on that route, which have been happily passing under that railway bridge for far longer than we've lived in this area.
It was especially disturbing for me because the 57 is one of "my" routes that I get regularly, and while it's not one of the London United buses that operates out of Tolworth, so I don't know all the bus drivers, it's still one of the numbers of bus that gives me a warm feeling of recognition when I see it. These buses include the 57, 213, 371, K2 and K3, and sometimes the 85, though less so, because I tend to associate the 85 with when I was at Imperial and had to get back late at night, after the trains had stopped being every 15 minutes. I'm trying to learn to get a warm feeling with the K4, because that recently had its route extended to pass near our house, but I still get annoyed with the silly buggers it plays between Kingston and Surbiton where it goes out of the way round a housing estate - even though, if I ever got up in the morning, it would take me right to the council's official tip where you have to go to recycle some things, and to Villiers Road sorting office, to claim the items the postman couldn't be bothered to deliver.
I can't find anything about it on the internet, except on the Transport for London realtime travel news site, which just relays the same information I got from the WAP site. So it will remain a mystery until the local papers are published this time next week. Hrm.