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Friday, January 14, 2005

Going bendy

Sometimes I wonder what right I have to write about a far-flung country where I wasn't born and didn't grow up. Of course this is a fairly stupid thought, but it is true that European/American commentary and 'expertise' on other parts of the world is often far too much of a one-way street.

So it's always interesting to read something (preferably well-informed) by a Korean about where I come from. The ever-useful Oh My News has this nice article today on the end of the 50-year-old Routemaster bus.

The reporter talks about the anguish this is causing among many Londoners who have very affectionate feelings for the old buses. He also wonders how this will affect the image of London, which he says is represented more by the doubledecker buses than anything else. This is an excellent article that really goes out of its way to find out what Londoners think and get a sense of how people here feel about this aspect of their lives.

The author mentions in passing that many of the old routemaster routes are being replaced by 'bendy buses' (learnt a good bit of new vocab here: 굴절버스 - never seen one in Korea though, maybe thay used to have them), which I have to say that I rather like.

I think perhaps my own feelings on this subject are combination of nostalgia and neophilia. I remember travelling on routemasters with my mum as a nipper just about as far back as my memory goes. Even then (late 70s, early 80s) they seemed pretty ancient and had that very distinctive chugging, trundling sound. Now my local route, the no. 12, the same one I travelled on from East Dulwich to Peckham or Piccadilly or wherever as a kid with my mum, has gone bendy forever. But as I said, I can't help liking the shiny newness and slightly exotic 'European' air of the spanking mercedes machines with their big concertina in the middle. I agree with the author of the article that it was very sad to see the conductors (차장 - another good bit of vocab) disappear as they were often very recognisable characters who you saw again and again and became part of the 'scenery' of London. But on the other hand most people round here seem to like having no conductor because it means you can travel for free...


At January 15, 2005 9:50 AM, Blogger Antti Leppänen said...

In Jo Jung-rae's 10-volume Han'gang novel, one of the characters works for some time as a ch'ajang in mid 1960s in quite demeaning conditions: they were body searched down to pants and bra by a bus company man every day at the end of the turn to prevent stealing of bus fares.
An article in Sunday Seoul in May 1970 about bus conductors and stealing of fares.

And back to the Routemasters: in Finland, the TV comedy about the London buses (seems the original name was "On the Buses") was so popular that one character was brought to appear in a commercial for some candy which had "London" in it's name.

By the way, there seems to be something wrong with the link to the Ohmy article, at least the url doesn't open for me.

At January 15, 2005 11:14 AM, Blogger kotaji said...

Interesting stuff. I'm particularly amused by the idea that 'On the Buses' was so popular in Finland.

My only knowledge of ch'ajang in Korea is from the film Ch'ingu, where the female conductor shouts "Ajôssi orai". I suppose we'll also have films soon with nostalgic scenes like that.

I think I've fixed the link.

At January 16, 2005 10:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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