diamond geezer

 Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tubewatch (27) The Little Book
I'd like to apologise to you if you've bought a copy of "The Little Book of the London Underground". This is a stocking-filler hardback, recently launched, which offers 200 pages of "wacky" tube facts for £9.99. It's been written by Times journalist David Long, who's written three other books about the capital including one particular volume that Amazon keeps urging me to purchase. David's latest densely-packed book contains chapters on Mapping the Underground, Heroes & Villains and Stories, Songs & Films. And look, I'd just like to apologise for the bits I wrote, because they're mostly inaccurate.

I was quite surprised to find bits in the book that I'd written, because nobody asked me if it was OK to include them. To be fair, David has tweaked them and written around them and applied his own take on things. But I take full responsibility for writing them in the first place, and for them not being entirely correct. If you want to ask for your money back, don't let me stop you.

When my annual Tube Week started, way back in 2003, one of the first lists I published was "the number of tube stations in each London borough". It was a lot like the list you can see in the post below, only a 2003 version. I sat there with a map and tried to tally up how many stations there were in each borough, and I made a list, and I published it on the blog. And blimey, what do you know, there's that same list on page 104 of David's book. OK, so he's listed the boroughs in alphabetical not numerical order. OK, so he spotted that Lewisham now has no stations rather than the two it had in 2003. And OK, so he's accidentally omitted Westminster, which is the single most station-packed borough in London. But I recognise most of the rest of the numbers in his list because I counted them myself six years ago. Even the ones that are wrong. Tower Hamlets doesn't have 12 tube stations any more, because the East London line's closed. Hillingdon now has an extra station at Heathrow, which makes 15 not 14. And Hammersmith & Fulham actually has 15 tube stations not 13 because online mapping was rubbish in 2003 and I couldn't be sure whether two of them were over the border or not. You may have added a few errors of your own, David, but I got it wrong first.

Then there's page 142, where David publishes a list of average speeds on various tube lines. That's a nigh-perfect copy of my original list, also from Tube Week 2003, where I divided the length of each line (in miles) by how long a typical journey was from end to end. Desperately unscientific stuff, and in no way related to the top speeds that trains on these lines actually reach, but David's published it all the same. My apologies, I should have researched it better.

Then there's page 60, which is the classic "it's sometimes quicker to walk" section. David's been kind enough to give me a namecheck here (I am the "popular Tube-blogger known as Diamond Geezer"), and then used exactly the same six examples of journeys that I used in Tube Week 2003. Unfortunately this time he's copied them wrongly, making the perhaps understandable error of assuming that metres are the same as yards. They're not. So I'd like to apologise, again, because Regents Park to Great Portland Street isn't 220 yards it's 220 metres.

I also had more than a flicker of recognition on page 92 - "Stations with lifts instead of escalators" (but no, David, you really shouldn't have added East Ham, Finchley Central, Hammersmith, Hillingdon and Wembley Park).

So look, I'd hate you to think I was ungrateful. And I'd hate you to think that I have any sort of rights over this sort of information, because it's freely available on the internet and anyone can use a blog for inspiration if they so wish. But I would like to apologise for providing incorrect information which has now been immortalised in print, thereby adding to a number of other inaccuracies stated as fact in David's book. So if you bought The Little Book of the London Underground, sorry, that could have been ten pounds better spent. And if somebody buys you this book for Christmas, please take all my bits with the huge pinch of salt they deserve.


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