Wednesday, July 31, 2013
95 current* blogs with diamond geezer on their blogroll**
*(at least one post since July 1st) **(blogroll must appear on blog's main page)
(affable-lurking), All Tickets Please, Along the Central Line, AngloAddict, Aslef Shrugged, Autolycus, Blogging Up The Works, blue mai, Blue Witch, Brian Micklethwait, Brockley Central, CabbieBlog, Cabin Essence, Cameron Counts, Cardunculus, The Charlton Champion, Chertsey, Chicago Addick, Clandestine Critic, (Clapham Omnibus), crinklybee, Crying All The Way to the Chip Shop, Dave Hill's London Blog, Days on the Claise, The Deptford Dame, Depthmarker, dig your fins, Distracting From The Now, (D-Notice), D4D, 853, Eine Kleine Nichtmusik, English Buildings, Every Station, evilmoose, A Fistful of Euros, F-Life! Beta, FolkestoneJack's Tracks, Fresh Eyes on London, Games Monitor, ganching, Gingle lists everything, Goonerholic, The Great Wen, i9blog, The Ham and Egger Files, Instant London, In the Aquarium, Jane's London, John Nez Illustration, Karen's Walks, The Knowledge, LinkMachineGo, (London Cemeteries), London Daily Photo, The London Review of Breakfasts, Londres Calling, Make Lard History, (McFilter), Mick Hartley, Municipal Dreams, The Musings of a Red Dalek, My London Your London, Neil Turner's Blog, Newsjiffy, Notes from a small field, Northern Food, A Novice Novelist, Order of the Bath, Ornamental Passions, Oxo Cube Editorial, The Piranha Brothers, Pocket Book, (Private Secret Diary), Put 'em all on an island, rashbre central, theRatandMouse, round the north we go, St Margaret's at Cliffe Photo Diary, Scaryduck, Scoakat's blog, Silent Words Speak Loudest, Still here, thamesfacingeast, things magazine, Tired of London, Tired of Life, Tory Troll, Town Mouse, Transblawg, (Transportationist), Travels around London, Trial by Jeory, The Willesden Herald, W-Wa Jeziorki, (Yurt16)
blogs that weren't on last year's list are underlined (blogs returning to the list appear in brackets)
I'm duly honoured by each and every one of these blogroll links, so many thanks to you all. But I also notice that the list is 5% shorter than last year (which in turn was 15% shorter than the year before) (which was 20% shorter than the year before that) (which was 20% shorter than the year before that) (which was 20% shorter than the year before that). Ouch!
I compile this list every year, so I started by checking all 99 blogs on last year's list to see how many of them still linked here. About one in four have fallen by the wayside and don't appear this year. Most of these are on hiatus (either deliberately, or through month-long neglect) which is a shame. One blog has vanished off the face of the internet (most years it's more than that, so something's improving). One has removed its blogroll altogether after updating to a revamped template. And five are still going strong but have removed me from their blogroll, the most high profile of which is the Visit London blog (not that I'm complaining, you understand, just saying I've noticed).
One interesting thing this year is that several blogs have returned to my list after a year or more off. They slipped out because nothing was posted during the month I last ran this survey, but something's appeared again this July so now they're back in. For some, it seems, a blog is now somewhere to publish thoughts occasionally, when inspiration strikes, without feeling pressured to post something more regularly. Meanwhile I can usually refresh my annual list with several new blogs, but this year (although I've hunted) there don't appear to be many to find. My list is ever-shrinking, and is now less than half the size it was five years ago.
These collapsing numbers could be explained by an increasing lack of interest in what I have to say, and far fewer people linking as a result. Who wants to read the verbose ramblings of a self-indulgent non-professional when the web now has so much more varied content to enjoy? And it takes effort to read 800 words a day, a length which I'm sure scares many potential visitors away. It's so much quicker to read a pithy 140 character summary, or to look at one lovely photo, rather than taking time out to plough through seven potentially irrelevant paragraphs. But no, I don't think it's that.
No, this is the continued long-term decline of blogging as a means of communication. Fewer people blog these days because alternative platforms exist (and take far less effort to update). Blogrolls have become invisible and irrelevant, especially to anyone subscribed via an RSS feed, so only us old-school bloggers maintain them. The majority of fresh 2013 blogs have no blogroll at all, because sidebars don't look good on smartphones, and because the focus is more about self-promotion these days. Most importantly, new readers no longer come clicking via a long-standing blogroll in a sidebar, they arrive via a one-off reference on Twitter/Facebook/whatever. A blog is now only as good as its last post, and long-term reputation counts for very little.
I still have a blogroll, obviously, I have done since I started. It's over there on the right hand side of the page, assuming you're reading this page as I intended rather than just the stripped-out content elsewhere. I link to 20 blogs I like and admire, partly to showcase them to others, but also so I have a quick means of reading them. Less than half of these blogs have a blogroll, so only a fraction link back, but hey, no problem.
Anyway, I hope that today's list is fairly complete, but I bet it isn't. Let me know if I've missed you/anyone off the list, and I'll come back and add you/them later. And maybe you'd like to click on a few of these 95 links to see what you're missing. I can't promise they're all thrilling verbal discourses, but I'm sure you'll discover plenty that are.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, July 30, 2013They've been talking about it for years. If and when we win the Olympics, they said, we'll turn the Lower Lea Valley into a landscaped park for the public to enjoy. And yesterday they finally did. Not much of it, and nowhere you can probably easily get to, but the people of East London have now a brand new landscaped recreational space. Good news, it's been worth the wait. [40 photographs]
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park doesn't look too exciting as you approach. A broad pedestrian thoroughfare, the equivalent of four lanes wide, runs beside some stunted trees and a patch of dry grass. It doesn't look much better when you reach the central intersection, where an even wider bridge strides off towards what looks like a stack of Costa Del Sol holiday flats. Some flags, the odd solar-powered lamp and a security camera globe-on-a-stick do not an attractive location make. Thankfully it gets rather better after that. Or you could have entered via the secret entrance, down the stairs from the pedestrian crossing - look around carefully, you'll find them. This route brings you in beside the river, alongside one of the few bits of wild flower planting to have survived with colour. It'll be quiet and peaceful down here, trust me, plus you'll catch sight of the half telephone boxes lurking in the wetlands - seemingly the sole survivors of last year's many Olympic Park artworks.
It's probably best to start by exploring the western half of the park. This is the simpler section, essentially four lawns sweeping down to the river, and not too much else. This is where folk sat to watch the big screen action during the Games, and they were sitting and sprawling here again yesterday only in much smaller numbers. The Park's first topless sunbathers were stretched out, while another entwined couple were entirely oblivious to their surroundings. On the steeper grass a group of children screeched with delight as they rolled down the slope - simple pleasures, but isn't that always the best way to enjoy parklife? It being Monday afternoon, even the first Monday of the school holidays, people were fairly thin on the ground. Indeed we visitors appeared to be outnumbered by security staff, park guides and litter pickers. Security, in particular, clustered and chatted for lack of any transgressors to chastise, while at least the litter pickers kept busy doing their job. Your local greenspace probably struggles to find the cash to employ a full time parkkeeper, whereas someone's funding Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park's personnel budget way above and beyond the austerity average.
Up the far end, where the hockey pitches used to be, things ain't so nice. What I remember as arena and flowerbeds has been turfed over, presumably to provide appropriate standing-around space for all the festivals the Park's been hosting lately. And there's the pig-ugly Olympic Broadcast Centre, transforming quietly into the iCity development, whose aircraft hangar style will only look nice if the row of trees in front grows thicker and hides it. You can't walk as far north as was possible in 2012, no further than the broad bridge across to the Velodrome. The riverside path stops dead beside a fresh set of steps, any onward progress prevented by a metal barrier and couple of (bored-looking) staff. There are still tents and other detritus to remove from Hopkins' Field, and the trucks are keeping busy. An even greater transformation is taking place on the other side of the bridge, where some of my favourite parkland (round the bandstand) has been destroyed wholesale. Bright orange sand is being sculpted into giant mounds below the Velodrome, not because planners had a landscape deathwish but because the new VeloPark's outdoor cycle circuit is under construction.
The view from the bridge is one of the best in the current Park, looking directly down the Lea towards the Stadium with broad parkland to either side. The banks are lined with reeds and rushes, quite deeply in some places, but there is one spot where you can step out onto a wooden jetty and almost dangle your legs in the water. Don't, by the way, because that's one of the Park rules. Also on the legislative shortlist are a request not to walk more than five dogs at a time, a ban on fires and barbecues, and encouragement to cycle responsibly. I spotted a few cyclists yesterday taking advantage of the Park's streamlined contoured paths - one pair had even brought a picnic to enjoy. There's ample cycle parking by the Copper Box, by the way, although some jobsworth has seen fit to ban cycling on the road from the Hackney Wick gate so you'll have to walk your bikes through this bit. 'Mental!' was the verdict of one lady cyclist flagged down by security in the shadow of the Energy Centre, and I have to say I concurred.
The lawns, fields and gardens on the eastern banks are more extensive and more picturesque than those to the west. The Park here is on two levels, with a series of ridges and banks up top and a broader sweep of green down below. The reedy riverside path might look tempting, and I can recommend a visit to the frog ponds to the north, but every path down here is a dead end. It won't be eventually, but currently you'll reach either a barriered bridge or a sealed cul-de-sac and be forced to retrace your steps. Or you could be naughty and stomp up slopes or through flowerbeds, as it seems many festivalgoers have been doing over the last month. We had the same problem during the Olympics, the creation of desire line paths where the public want to walk, not where the planners hoped they would. It doesn't look quite so awful this time round because in 2013 there are no wild flower meadows to destroy - I can't work out if that's deliberate or simply the end result of a scorching July. Certainly the lawns and grasses look like they could do with a damned good watering, and there are disappointingly few colourful flowers dotted between.
Wend your way carefully and you'll find yourself up on the long ridge where the giant Olympic rings were placed last summer. There's no such photo opportunity now, although this is another of the finest panoramic viewpoints. Just don't look behind you at the mess surrounding the Velodrome, nobody's trying very hard here at the moment. Considerably more impressive is the adventure playground, named Tumbling Bay, strung out along what used to be the edge of the Basketball Arena. If you have kids they'll love playing here in the forest of timber, woodchip and netting, plus an area devoted to water play - hopefully extensive enough to cope with the rush of off-school children heading here over the next few weeks. This family-friendly zone is also where you'll find the Timber Lodge, home to the North Park's cafe. From the outside it screams eco-sustainable, while on the inside is a welcoming space for sipping and munching. The facility's run by Unity Kitchen, a 100% social enterprise founded to create jobs for people with disabilities. Big ticks for that, and for the series of community activities they'll be running in the Events Space nextdoor, and for my perfectly decent cuppa.
Two groups of people will be making their way to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Those of us who got inside last summer and want to rekindle old memories, and those of you who didn't but want to find out what it looks like. Sorry, but we had it better. We saw the Park buzzing with people, felt an overwhelming sense of occasion and dazzled at so much colour. What's reopened this week is a shadow of the Games experience, but then anything would be, and what's here is still a triumph. This is no tumbleweed ghetto, the terminal result of Sydney's and Athens' Olympic dreams. Instead Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a coherent landscaped vision that's considerably more attractive than this part of town used to be, and will be a mighty fine location to while away many an afternoon. Plus there's still lots more to come, including the reopening of the South Park next Easter, plus the creation of a fresh Canal Park along the Lea and that large VeloPark I mentioned earlier. You'll be visiting, I presume... although don't all rush, QEOP's delightfully quiet at the moment.
My Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park gallery
There are 40 photographs altogether from the park's opening day. [slideshow]
posted 01:00 :
Monday, July 29, 2013One year on
After a month of special ticketed events, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park finally opens to the public at 2pm today. Not much of it, only an approximate square in the northern half of the London 2012 site, but that'll have to do for now. And there's only one way in. The entrance is in the southwest corner of the enclosure, where event visitors have been filing in for the last month, in the middle of the Park close to the Copper Box. It's not an especially convenient spot. You can't drive here, although you could take the bus, the 588 stops immediately outside. More likely you'll walk the last bit, and then there are two sensible approaches, one from Westfield and one from Hackney Wick. Most people, alas, will choose wrongly.
Stratford → QEOP (1¼km)
This is the obvious way in, not least because so many railway lines converge on Stratford. It's also been the only way in for the last month, for those intent on seeing Springsteen, Jay Z or Tiësto. And yet, as you'll remember from the Games, if you went, it is a bloody long way from Stratford station to the northern end of the Park. Nothing's changed, it still is. Black signs will direct you out to the northern side of Stratford station, not necessarily via the quickest route because they're optimised for Park events, not Monday afternoons. Then you get to climb to the upper level and plod through the shopping centre, via brand-stores and restaurants, just as the mall's owners desire. Eventually you'll be deposited on Westfield Avenue, which is the road adjacent to where the London 2012 security tents used to be. But don't expect the pink-shirted volunteers to be out for your walk to the Park, at non-event time you're on your own.
If you're not a fan of walking, try to get to Stratford International (ideally the DLR, rather than arriving by expensive High Speed train alongside). That'll cut half a kilometre off your trek, plus you'll be able to take a look at the Athletes Village on your way. Since 2012 stacks of dormitory flats have been paired up and kitchens added, ready for sale imminently on the open market. They'll not win any prizes for architectural beauty, indeed nothing in this corner of E20 will, because the emphasis is on functional floggability, not style. There's currently a feeling of dusty openness, which may be because it hasn't rained much recently, or may be because the waste ground north of International Way isn't yet flats. Head west past the no-buses-yet bus station, watch out for the disappearing pavement by the fast-rising student accommodation block, and join the main thoroughfare across the Park.
They've only just started letting pedestrians across the next bridge, the one that cuts across the heart of the Park. But opening this up is a massive and very welcome change in terms of local accessibility. Previously those on foot attempting to reach Hackney Wick from Westfield faced a three mile detour to the north or a two and a half mile detour to the south. Now there's a direct cut-through less than three-quarters of a mile long, and a gaping void in the Lower Lea Valley has been healed. Look out for broad sweeping views as you cross the bridge (but only to the south because the vista on the northern side is blocked off). Below is a triangle of entirely undeveloped land surrounded by railways, beyond which (quite some way away) the Olympic Stadium rises. A new loop road, not yet unlocked, heads off on stilts above a gloopy pond. And there's the River Lea, its towpath accessible during the Games but not yet reopened. To reach the patch of QEOP that's open veer right past the Copper Box and there's the portal in the security fence. It's at least fifteen minutes of walking from Stratford, I'd reckon, but then you can plonk down on the Olympic lawns with a smile.
Hackney Wick → QEOP (¾km)
If Westfield is the corporate gateway to the Park, Hackney Wick is quite the opposite. Its unique mix of leftover industry and emergent creativity has survived the coming of the Games solely because the dividing line was drawn along the Lea, and this side of the river was spared. Instead various artistic collectives thrive here in the low rent warehouses, while the sweet smell of Mr Bagel's pumps out across the streets. In one discarded yard a pop-up skateboard park has been established, in another a mini-theatre presents pre-Fringe comedy. You can tell the artists rule round here because the wall along the end of White Post Lane was painted with bright heritage murals last summer and no graffiti artist has yet dared, or succeeded, in scrawling over it. Hackney Wick has an impressive sense of community and joie de vivre, with none of E20's bland manufactured sheen.
To lead the way from the Overground into Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, for locals and wider visitors alike, various bits of brightly-coloured signage have been added along the approach road. All the lampposts have been wound round with pink sticky tape to mark the route, with cheeky signs partway up saying "Almost there". Further signs have been painted on walls to draw passers-by's attention to the many delights in the area, from a waterside micro-brewery pizzeria to the salmon smokery on Fish Island. More playfully a series of blue plaques entitled 'Wick Wonders' has recently been erected featuring nuggets of industrial heritage, not just for important sites like the Clarnico sweet factory but also celebrating the development here in Hackney Wick of the world's first perforated toilet paper. Originally little more than some back streets to hurry through, now there's much more of a reason to hang around.
But for how long? Now that White Post Lane has finally reopened and a connection to the Park has been established, the risk is that Stratford City's commercialism rushes through and shamelessly gentrifies the Wick. Developers are eyeing up prime sites beside the station, indeed the boarded-up Lord Napier pub is already pencilled in for some characterless residential highrise. Yet again the tale is of the artistic community moving into an unloved corner of the capital and making it hip, only for speculators to pile in afterwards and accelerate the transformation. As part of the fightback I picked up a copy of 'The Wick' newspaper over the weekend, from a pile left on the pavement outside the skatepark. It's a quite brilliant production, this third annual edition, with a 24 page broadsheet banging the drum for a less commercial future and a 24 page pictorial supplement shining a light on the past. Throw in a full colour map entitled Lea Valley Drift and this package is a must-own, if you can find one.
White Post Lane is the only way in for now, but there'll be others to north and south come next year. Once over the Lea and through the pedestrian gate, the route to QEOP enters a development wasteland. All trace of the warehouses, dairies and workshops present in 2007 has gone, and only the pattern of the roads remains as a reminder of times past. It took a while for me to register that the bland slope ascending past the Energy Centre had once been the southern end of Waterden Road, but the presence of an old railway bridge partway up jogged my memory. And then you're outside the Copper Box, at least five minutes quicker than the equivalent yomp from Stratford, and via a much more interesting neighbourhood too. For 100% proof come back over the third weekend in August for the Hackney Wicked Festival, which is an artistic treasure trove par excellence. But for now, get yourself down here after two o'clock this afternoon and step into East London's newest free public park.
» There are now 48 photos in my Olympics+1 gallery. The new ones are in the bottom half of the gallery (assuming that new-Flickr, designed by cretins, allows you to open the full page before your computer seizes up).
posted 01:00 :
Sunday, July 28, 2013One year on
One year on from the London 2012 Opening Ceremony, yes one year, the Olympic Park almost properly reopened. There were three places to be. One was the Olympic Stadium in the south park, where day 2 of the Anniversary Games was taking place. Another was the River Lawns in the north park, home to the celebrations of the Open East Festival. But I didn't have tickets for any of those. Instead I went to the third place, its reopening less well heralded, and revisited the Olympics proper. To the Copper Box, home to the handball, now suddenly part of the local community. Job done.
I had to do a double take on the road outside the Copper Box. Last time I was here this was the Games' main pedestrian thoroughfare, with spectators streaming through from one end of the park to the other. Just to the left the BBC studio and a string of food outlets, just to the right the Panasonic 3D Theatre and the path down to the big screen. The only remaining point of reference, one year on, is the set of mirrored letters - R U N - propped up above a grassy slope. Picture those and you can just about remember how things used to be, before the road arrived and the Olympic dressing was swept away. Head back six years and this was the foot of Waterden Road, home to evangelical churches and cash and carries, plus a concrete viaduct the Olympics made redundant. Planners had just built a bridge to carry traffic to the planned Stratford International station - it had traffic lights and pedestrian crossings and everything - until the need to create an Olympic Park ensured there'd be no through traffic. During the Games they set it out with picnic tables, mostly underused, and now it's the main road through the Park.
Copper Box employees were standing at the road junction with balloons in hand yesterday, hoping to tempt passers by to come inside. That wasn't easy because you don't pass by this spot on foot unless you're here deliberately, and those who were were probably on their way to the Open East Festival instead. Nevertheless several diverted through the trees to take a look, possibly because they'd realised the festival site would struggle to hold their attention for eight hours solid. Good move, especially if you had kids with you. "Daddy daddy look they have boxing can I go can I can I?" A couple of minutes later the small boy was in the temporary ring, gloves raised and grinning, getting a taster of participatory sport. Elsewhere there was table tennis, and a jump-abouty-thing, and even the occasional adult joining in too. I was particularly chuffed to see a boccia taster, this the Paralympic throwing sport, being enjoyed by able-bodied children with a disabled trainer.
The Copper Box has been taken over by Greenwich Leisure Limited, a 20-year-old collective (nothing to do with the Royal borough council), who'll also be running the Aquatics Centre next year. Their employees wear green, and were all over the place welcoming visitors ("It's air-conditioned in here, you know") and offering help. And woo, I was back inside a bespoke Olympic venue again, exactly as I remembered it but not quite as serious. Still the amazing ceiling of light tubes overhead, and still the seemingly-random-coloured flip up seats which are the building's characteristic feature. Last summer's lower terraces have been pushed back and hidden in the walls to increase the size of the central playing space. Back then we cheap seat punters were ushered round the back and up the stairs, but yesterday we could wander freely round the rim of the arena and stare down at the action. The huge floor was divided informally into zones of action, including badminton, handball and inflatable tennis - mostly for kids. It's a big space, and has fantastic sporting potential for the local community, should they decide to sign up.
A series of exhibition games was underway on the court at the far end, where I got to watch an impressive U16 basketball match between the Hackney Jedis and the Haringey Hawks. Watching the teenage slamdunk talent it would have been easy to imagine this as a triumph of Olympic sporting legacy, but alas not so. The Haringey Hawks are being forced to disband due to lack of funding and the loss of their coach, so their victory in this game was a final outing, a last hurrah, and all the players now need to find new clubs. An outfit with a rosier future are the London Titans, the capital's premier wheelchair basketball team, who split into red and blue outfits to play one another. Theirs is an end-to-end sport, not quite as thrilling as wheelchair rugby but damned impressive all the same. Ade Adepitan was playing, you'll know him from C4 presentation and BBC1 idents, one of several players with an uncanny ability to find the net. Meanwhile the next generation of chair-bound chuckers were lining up to practice on the mini-court alongside, and missing with abject regularity.
One of the biggest differences between the Copper Box last summer and this is that there's more natural light. A ring of walls has been unblocked on the middle level, revealing gym equipment (and the river Lea), indeed there are plenty of spaces tucked away for pumping, boxfit, pilates, whatever. Hackney Wick's latest exercise facility will only succeed if East Londoners forego their current Fitness Firsts and Virgin Actives and take up a subscription here. A Leyton-based handball team are moving in, and the London Lions basketball team are making this their permanent home (with a first game against Iowa University on August 14th). Even if sport's not your thing there's always Café E20, hidden away on the ground floor, accessed round the side by the gym entrance. I can vouch for the tastiness of their sandwiches, and the decent-lookingness of their hot food, although their prices are a little middle-class organic. You ought to come and poke around the Copper Box, and the Open Weekend continues today so you can, and you'll see pretty much the same as I've described above. You can even wander upstairs and sit on the very top row, in the vertiginous section, and pretend it's still 2012. The Copper Box remains The Box That Rocks, if we all join in and make it so.
» More information about facilities at the Copper Box in legacy.
» There are 25 photos, so far, in my Olympics+1 gallery, including several of the Copper Box.
» If all this bores you, take a look instead at some Pearly Queens and a jellied eel walking down Bow Road yesterday. Honest.
posted 01:00 :
Saturday, July 27, 2013One year on
The Games ended in September, so technically we're only ten and a half months on. But today it's one year since the Olympics began, the day a long-planned jamboree finally hit the road. That evening the Opening Ceremony fired the public's hearts (you can relive your broad grin by watching BBC3 this evening from 7pm), then a fortnight of sporting achievements sealed the deal. Come July 2013 there's much talk of legacy, and a rather more positive spin than many might have expected. But it's us folk who live round the Olympic Park who've seen the greatest transformation, and will continue to live with that change as the months and years go by. So, obviously, I've been back to see how things have developed one year on, and I'll be telling you all about it over the next few days. There will also be photos. Here are the first ten.
The athletics is back. A Diamond League meeting is taking place this weekend in Stratford, rather than poor old Crystal Palace whose days may be numbered. The event is The Anniversary Games, three days of running, jumping and chucking stuff (including a Sunday of paralympic sport for breadth and balance). As a resident of Bow, one of the surest signs that athletics is back is the presence of a helicopter hovering in the evening sky, forcing those of us with our windows open to turn up the volume on the television.
Plus crowds of non-Londoners have returned to Stratford station. Thousands of them, pouring off the trains in the evening rush hour with tickets clutched in sweaty hands. The entire station has been decked out with special signs to guide folk towards where they want to go... which is north of the railway lines to E20, not south to E15. Some of the signs are magenta, echoing the summer of 2013, while others are black and more permanent. Yesterday teatime the hordes ran thick through the subways, rising up to the gateline where the barriers were open, and out into Westfield.
Here the pink shirted volunteers are back, though this time with Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park uniforms and tennis racket manufacturer sponsorship. The public greet them like old friends, and grin and smile, as you'd expect, although I have a nagging suspicion this lot aren't volunteers. There are also considerably fewer of them than in 2012, so you can walk for some distance unguided by a big foam hand. The route's different too, this time up the steps or escalator, then directed onwards the length of Westfield's outdoor Street. Some of the shops are pleased to see the additional footfall, but the East Village information outlet has packed up early for the weekend and tens of thousands of potential flat-purchasers walk past unaddressed.
While the majority file dutifully towards the Park, a few take the opportunity to sneak off to John Lewis's Olympic Shop. Unbelievably it's still there on at the back of the third floor, although much shrunken, with the childrenswear department now encroaching into the majority of the space. Up the far end by the window are the last few dregs that haven't sold - some bunting, some £1 Team GB sweatbands and a pile of out-of-date Time Out guidebooks (which at £5 will never shift). Nobody wants Police Officer Mandeville Magic Face Towels (which the designers really ought to have guessed), nor mini-inflatable Wenlocks and Mandevilles for 50p each (bargain, I own one of each). Step through to the viewing gallery and the legendary London 2012 fish and chip forks are still present in great numbers. John Lewis seem unwilling to drop the price below £2.50 a pair, but the good news is these forks will probably still be around at Christmas as stocking fillers. If they're not the last things to sell out, perhaps it'll be the London 2012 deckchair slings instead, which not even damn fine weather and 75% off can shift.
And there, out of the window, is the one-year-on view of ticketholders entering the Anniversary Games. The security aspect's much reduced since last summer, no army gents with airport-sized scanners here, instead parallel lanes leading up to what looks like a minor bag check. And then they swirl on across the bridge, beneath the nose of the de-winged Aquatic Centre and onto Stadium Island for the Important Running. There's no pottering around the southern parkland, no enjoying the terraced flowerbeds, not for this one-off. Instead hang on for Spring 2014 when it should be possible to gain access without grabbing tickets online in advance, just as is happening this weekend further north.
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the Park, the View Tube is growing. An extra section of this container-based cafe was delivered on Wednesday, and workmen are now busy attaching the extension to the rest of the building. An extra balcony now runs across from the classroom landing to the top of the lime green shed, which'll presumably be used as somewhere extra to put tables. I imagine the view from up top will be rather splendid, so long as it's not raining, and not as obscured by plantlife as the ground level panorama. To be honest, the View Tube could do with something extra to draw back the crowds. They're not coming in anything like the numbers they were two years ago, and although I've never seen the cafe empty, I now rarely see it buzzing.
The main problem is that the Greenway remains very cut off from Stratford and the rest of the Olympic Park. That was great before the Games, when this was the only coffee-enabled viewpoint, but now all there is to do is stare at the Stadium and the Orbit and go home again. A footpath exists directly into the Park, it's the same point of entry as the Victoria Gate at last year's Games, but that'll remain blocked off for some time. One benefit of this backwater status is the survival of a small patch of wild flower meadow, all lush gold speckled with blue - the very sight that thrilled visitors to the Olympic Park last summer. Elsewhere, from what I've seen, such planting's mostly been lost or wiped away, but here it's peaked for late July again and quite stirs the heart.
It'll take more than one year on for this end of town to reach its full potential. Alas that means thousands of bland flats as well as glorious parkland, so the view will both improve and decline as the summers pass. But once more I have to thank the taxpayers of Britain for their investment in my local part of town, it's coming along nicely.
posted 01:00 :
Friday, July 26, 2013It's taken a while.
Nearly seven years, in fact.
Concerned that this might be pointlessly addictive.
posted by diamondgeezer [10:15 AM Dec 10th, 2006]
But I've finally got round to writing my 2000th tweet. Actually that's not quite true. At time of writing I'm only up to tweet number 1999, but I'm sure inspiration will hit shortly and my bimillennial offering will slip forth.
I'm very aware that 2000 tweets is a paltry total. Most Twitterers tweet more often. I know this because I've counted. I've been back to check up on the first 25 people I followed on Twitter (or, at least, those who are still going, which makes this a slightly self-selecting sample). Of those 25 people, 24 have already posted more than 2000 tweets, 80% are over 5000, more than half are over 10000 and six are over 30000. I'm not really trying, am I?
I've averaged one tweet every 29 hours between 2006 and now, which sounds like it ought to add up to quite a lot. But when there are people out there dribbling forth their every waking thought in 140 characters or less, my occasional outbursts rank as mere amateurishness. I try to tweet when I have something special to say, rather than spout in quantity, and I think that puts me in the minority.
When I started out on Twitter (user number 54943, don't you know), it wasn't immediately obvious what possible use the service might have. Micro-blogging, perhaps, or the opportunity to reveal to the world what you were eating for breakfast. I fitted in perfectly back then. But since the site truly took off back in 2009, Twitter's made its mark by becoming the communication channel of choice for many, and I'm no longer playing the right game.
Here are five things that other Twitter users are doing a lot of but I'm not. Here's why I'm still only on 2000.
1) Noticing stuff
A lot of messages appear on Twitter because people have noticed something and would like you to notice it too. Sometimes that's great, because it's something you'd never have noticed otherwise. Other times it's less great, because you don't share the tweeter's opinion that it's interesting, except you only find that out when you've opened it. You'll follow a bit.ly link and... oh, it's nothing exciting. You open up an Instagram photo and... oh, is that all it is? Twitter hides stuff behind a cryptic curtain, and you can waste a lot of time craving originality but getting shlock and tedium instead.
I have started tweeting photos much more than I used to, now that I own a smartphone which can cope. But I do try to hint roughly what the photo's of in my accompanying text, rather than assuming you'll click a link just because I've tweeted it. And I'm sparse and selective in what I'll invite you to click, waiting until it's something unusual, or vaguely newsworthy, or generally unphotographed. But I'm aware I'm now relying more on photos than words than I used to, and I probably need to mix modes more often.
A lot of messages appear on Twitter because people have noticed something and want to tell you their opinion on it. It used to be that when we read things or saw things we could only share them with a partner or our inner monologue. Now we can broadcast those thoughts to the world, instantly, without having to go to the effort of finding someone to talk to or writing a 400-word blogpost. Hate something in the news? Snark about it in 10 words. Neighbours making a racket? Send a passive aggressive message they'll never read. Watching a TV programme or a sports event? Fire off a stream of one-sided comments as if we were all sitting beside you on the sofa. And a new baby prince has just been born, you say? Yes, we knew already that thanks, now ssssh.
I used to do running commentaries on things back when Twitter started. I tried Big Brother entrance nights, and even the Eurovision Song Contest once, but soon learned this pissed readers off. So I stopped early, after which Twitter evolved and users decided running commentaries were the way to go. I may read yours, but don't expect me to join in.
There's nothing wrong in banging the drum for yourself. Indeed those who never promote themselves are liable to be overlooked. But Twitter (and Facebook) have become the means by which many people announce to the world that they've done something, because other people would never notice otherwise. I wrote something somewhere that none of you read, here it is. I took this photo of something fantastic I'm doing now, look at me. I wrote something somewhere that none of you read three hours ago, here it is again. Indeed, no blogger needs a long-term reputation these days, they just need one killer post and wham, everyone arrives to read it.
One thing I probably ought to be doing via Twitter is tweeting every post I put on this blog. If I did that you'd be able to retweet my tweet if you liked the post, and that'd give me a warm glow, and might well draw other readers in. But I don't tweet my blog because the feed would become all-enveloping. I'd have pumped out an extra 3000 tweets since 2006, and anyway you all already know to tune in at 7am every morning and there'll be a brand new post to read. I have you lot well-enough trained that I don't need to fire up a daily advert to draw you in.
Back on day 1, Twitter's big question was "What are you doing?" That made it a personal place for sharing activities and thoughts, mostly via status updates, although rather less of a community than today. Then in 2009 the question changed to "What's happening?", which was a fair enough evolution, but signalled the oncoming encroachment of commercial activity. Brands were chomping on the sidelines hoping that we'd follow them and accept their steady drip of promotional messages, and not everybody fell for it, but a lot of people did. Rather than simply mentioning a brand you write @brand or #brand instead, and a portal opens. Some company asks you to retweet a message to enter a competition, and like sheep you do. And Twitter can only get more brand-infested, the underlying business model requires it, diluting the purity of the activity stream still further.
I'm not immune to corporate tweets. I'm aware I mention Creme Eggs too often, for example, which I'd argue is because I like them a lot, but you could easily accuse me of chocolate brainwashing. One thing I am a stickler for is removing followers whose purpose on Twitter is solely promotional. If your twitterstream is an endless succession of me-me-me adverts or vacuous retweets, I'll block you straight off. Indeed I'm amazed that I still have 3500 genuine followers after all the crap's been stripped out, that's considerably more followers than posts, which I understand is quite rare.
This is the big one. This is how come so many other Twitter users are on ten, twenty, thirty thousand tweets while I'm still on two. People now use Twitter to hold conversations with folk around town, around the country, around the world. You say something, someone replies, and a lengthy meaningful dialogue develops in real time at no cost. It's a convenient way to keep in touch, and an amazing means to make friends with people you've rarely (or have never) met. But blimey, people are doing this in public, with every utterance 100% visible. Twitter very cunningly made their Direct Messaging system almost completely unusable - hidden away and requiring additional menu clicks - and users now willing undertake their chats under a global spotlight.
I remain entirely unwilling to engage in conversation with people via Twitter, because it's far too public and I don't want people knowing what I'm doing. I mean, sheesh, some of you I could stalk to the point of criminal intent. I know which station you're passing through, which pub you're in, who you're meeting tonight, which boss you hate, when you're away from home and burglarable, everything. Some of the younger generation seem content to tweet their entire life without thought of privacy, but I could never expose myself like that. And that's probably the main reason my tweet total is so low - I'm not bumping it up by dozens daily talking back to you lot. It does mean that if you get an @ reply off me that's rather special. But my Twitter presence remains mostly inert, broadcasting one-way only.
When I first joined Twitter back in 2006, fewer than one million tweets had been sent. Now the global total's up to 170 billion, and mine is but a tiny voice in the wilderness. Thanks for listening, if you do, just don't expect the conversation to hype up any time soon. Just be patient and tweet 2000 will be along shortly, any time now, maybe even today.
posted 07:00 :
Thursday, July 25, 2013VICTORIA: Underground overground
Passengers on the Victoria line travel entirely underground, because that's where all the stations are. From Brixton to Walthamstow Central, not a chink of daylight is visible from any platform or train. But the trains do run overground, if you know where to look, should you ever want to see them on terra firma. The reason for their emergence is because every line needs a depot, somewhere for trains to be stabled and repaired, and when you have four dozen trains that can't be below ground. Instead the depot was slotted in beside the Lea Valley railway line, close to Northumberland Park, just across from the reservoirs. Additional tunnels were dug from Seven Sisters, bypassing Tottenham Hale and the eastern end of the line, and it's from here that Victoria line trains enter and exit the system.
Seven Sisters has a "secret platform" from which no passenger train ever departs. If your northbound train terminates at Seven Sisters you'll alight here on platform 4 before your empty train rattles on into the tunnel. It could then reverse back and head southbound, or more likely it'll continue onwards quite some distance before emerging above ground alongside the Lee Valley Technopark. Ordinary passengers can't stay aboard, but members of Victoria line staff are allowed to use these trains from platform 4 at Seven Sisters to get to the depot. They look out for the special diamond on the display panel on the side of the train, hop aboard and are shuttled ahead to Northumberland Park for their next shift, or whatever. If this mysterious service intrigues you, please go away now and read The Secret Life of Seven Sisters over at London Reconnections. I'll wait here until you get back (and it's 2500 words long, so you could be some time).
Alighting at Northumberland Park station isn't the best way to see the Northumberland Park depot, not unless you have a staff pass and can enter through the front gates. They're hidden up a dull dead end lined by car parks, enlivened only by a very lovely flower bed at the far end, from which only the walls of the depot can be seen. To see the trains it could be quite a hike out towards Tottenham Marshes, or else take the 192 bus a couple of stops north from Tottenham Hale. This will deposit you at a lonely bus stop called, promisingly, Northumberland Park Rail Depot, whose presence is the only likely reason for getting off here. Look, there it is through the railings. This is the home of the lesser spotted Victoria line train, indeed barely spotted above ground at all. An arc of railway tracks fans out towards a massive blue shed, one of two on the site, this with parallel openings numbered to at least 47. There might be lots of red-fronted trains inside, or the majority might be out doing their thing. A tall white chimney rises up from the trackside, and the occasional empty service rumbles in and out.
But that's not the best vantage point. A few steps away is a footbridge, one of the few means of crossing the tracks in these parts. It's clearly a lowbrow hotspot, judging by the number of discarded lager cans, plus (when I was there) a completely out-of-place cuddly elephant abandoned at the foot of the steps. Climb to the top and you can stare down over the tracks and watch the activity... but only if you're a likes-trains sort of person, otherwise there's no reason to be here at all. Every few minutes a train will exit the shed and edge its way towards a gantry, awaiting the signal to proceed. Then it'll pass on and wait again, if you turn and look through the grating on the other side of the bridge. And finally it'll get the signal to descend into the depths, run down to Seven Sisters and join the other trains providing a public service.
If there's another train coming out, returning to the depot at the end of a shift, you might get to see a rare sight - two Victoria line trains on opposite tracks, one with halogen white lamps at the front, the other with red lights at the rear. It may be hard to poke your camera through the fence, what with the protective wire gauze being rather close-knit. But like I said, if trains do nothing for you, stay away, else the occasional passing local will give you such a hard stare. Proper enthusiasts should note that there's another footbridge a short distance down the line, this with a better view of the subterranean portal. A very gentle slope leads down beneath a concrete viaduct, this carrying a nearby road inelegantly above the tracks. Come at the right time on a weekday and there'll be a couple of trains queueing to slip back into the system, to add capacity or to provide relief. One last chance for the driver to catch a glimpse of daylight, before re-entering the artificial world of London-under-ground.
This vantage point is well connected for the middle of industrial nowhere, with a subway running beneath the tracks linking exactly the same points as the footbridge above. Indeed this is probably the only place in London where you can stand both above and below a Victoria line train, obviously not simultaneously, but close enough. If that last sentence gave you a frisson of excitement, you're probably exactly the sort of person who'd enjoy a trip out to this lonely spot. It's not an attractive location otherwise. Dirty mattresses and charred remains in the undergrowth suggest that the adjacent footway is used regularly as an overnighter for the homeless. Sleep here and you'd be well out of the way of passing pedestrians during the hours of darkness, but the whining of the trains would pause for only brief respite during the early hours of the morning.
If all that staring at trains has made you want to ride one, follow the subway to the east out to the wilds of Clendish Marsh. This is a delightful spot with several acres of long grass dotted with wild flowers (or at least it is at the moment, I can't vouch for February). The first river you meet isn't the Lea, it's the Pymmes Brook, which runs in close parallel for about a mile preventing pedestrian access to its more important sibling. That comes only at Tottenham Lock on Ferry Lane, at which point trainspotters should turn right and approach the bowels of Tottenham Hale station. You won't see here any of the trains you've just seen overground - they enter the network one stop down. But ride to Seven Sisters and wait on platform 5 until a completely empty train arrives, and now you're one of the few who's in on the secret of where it's just been.
posted 01:00 :
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
What the media are saying...
The whole country is on tenterhooks waiting for the birth of the royal baby. The entire nation is agape with excitement as the Duchess of Cambridge's due date approaches. And arrives. And passes. Expectation across the whole of the United Kingdom has reached almost unbearable levels. How thrilled we are, as we wait for Kate... Oh, she's gone into the hospital round the backway when nobody was looking.
So, erm, we're not quite sure what's going on, but we do know the Princess is in the early stages of labour, which could mean she's giving birth right now, we're not sure. All we have is a very short press release and two tweets which I'll read you, and then my colleague will read them all again shortly. This is the same hospital where William was born, incidentally, whereas Kate comes from a village in Berkshire. Let's see what the village in Berkshire looks like. And let's cut back to the hospital. There's still no news, but let's ask some people why they're standing here and whether they think it'll be a boy or a girl. A boy, you say? A girl, you think? Wouldn't it be monumental, equalitywise, if it was a girl? But still very exciting if it was a boy. It'll be either a boy or a girl, but it seems the public are divided over which it'll be. We're all very excited here I know. I'm sure you're all very excited too wherever you are. Let me read that press release for you again.
Still nothing. There's nothing to say at all, except for the thought that the royal baby might be born any time now. Oh hang on, it was born four hours ago. And it's a boy, IT'S A BOY! It's not a girl, it's a boy, so it's not a girl then. We've learned that the baby was born at 4.24pm, that's twenty-four minutes past four this afternoon, a teatime baby. And he weighed 8lbs 6oz, that's just over 8lbs, I'm not sure what that is in metric. A sturdy little chap then, 8lbs 6oz, born at 4.24pm. So we have a boy, a PRINCE, and he'll be King one day, but not for a while yet. It's the best news the country has had all year, a baby boy for the Duchess of Cambridge, 8lbs 6oz.
Now here we are outside Buckingham Palace for the official announcement. A man and a woman are going to walk out carrying a golden easel which has on it all the news I've already told you. Let's film them doing that. Let's take a look from our helicopter. The crowds are so massive it's hardly possible for anyone to get close to the railings, but everyone wants their photo with the easel. Let's ask lots of people why they're here, and speculate about what the baby might be called, and read out the message on the board again. A boy, it's actually a boy. And let's listen to the Prime Minister saying nice things. We are all so proud.
So it's the day after the birth, and there's nothing new to report, apart from the fact it's a boy. Perhaps he'll be called James or George or even Alexander, we don't know really, and we may not know for days. Ah look, it's the proud grandparents. They've been inside and they say he's gorgeous, but they would wouldn't they? Our reporter is standing in their village in Berkshire, although there's nothing to report because everyone's here. And the other proud grandparents are here too. What wonders must their eyes be seeing right now? Baby Cambridge is a real tonic for the nation, and no mistake.
And as we continue to look at this hospital door, let me just recap on the latest news. The Duke and Duchess should be leaving any time now, we're probably only minutes away. I think I saw the door move there, it should be moving soon anyway so stay tuned. All the world's press are here because this is the photo everybody wants. It'll be very soon, we understand. There were guns and bells earlier, let's listen to those again. I wonder what the prince will be called. We know how much he weighs, but the name is still a mystery. Just a few last formalities here at the hospital, and then I'm sure we'll be seeing the new family out here in front of the world. Perhaps any minute now. Perhaps sooner than that.
Oh look, the door's opening and here they come and oh blimey there he is. It's The Baby, the actual Prince of Cambridge, slightly visible inside a blanket, poking out from the arms of the Princess. Doesn't she look radiant, so beautiful, in the full bloom of motherhood. And the baby looks so very happy too, I think, it's hard to see much, but he must be happy surely. This is so emotional and amazing, it's history in the making. Such good news for us all, as the nation cheers, and the prince rides off in a car seat. It's not yet time for the next programme so let's just pontificate about what this all means, and how happy we all are, and show the same footage again in case you missed it five minutes ago. I may actually melt with pride and excitement. See you all back here in 2043?
What the media aren't saying...
Has she not had that baby yet? Sheesh, this is going to go on for weeks, isn't it? Mindless speculation and excitable smalltalk, that's all we have to look forward to until the royal sprog drops. Like we care. She's just a lucky commoner, and a virtually upper class commoner at that, who happens to have shacked up with a bald chap with good genes. I couldn't give a toss quite frankly.
Oh God, she's entered the hospital and the show is on the road. I suppose they're going to broadcast non-stop now until the entire performance is over, even if there's bugger all to talk about. The media have no information at all, it's just people talking about nothing much to fill the time. There's plenty of real news in the world at the moment, much of it about ordinary people being shafted by authority, but do we hear any of that? Oh no, instead we get a rolling outside broadcast from a stuck up village, a scrounger's palace and a private hospital. Heaven only knows what the government's getting away with at the moment, busy dismantling another wing of the NHS while the media fixates on the royal cervix. It's a good day to bury any kind of news whatsoever. And why do these reporters keep saying everyone's so very proud and happy. I'm not, I'm sick to the back teeth already, and nothing's happened yet. Will somebody please shut Nicholas Witchell up?
Hang on, why have they cancelled the TV programme I wanted to watch? Oh boy, she's actually had the baby, and I guess we'll not hear the last of it for hours. It's really nothing special - woman gives birth to child, it happens thousands of times a day. It's just that this child is part of the bloodline that runs the country, poor bugger. The rest of us have the freedom, if not the money, to do what we like, but he's doomed to a life of permanent scrutiny and opening old people's homes. Ah yes, it's a boy, this royal baby. Wouldn't it have been great if it had been a girl, newly equal in the eyes of the law? The Daily Express wouldn't have known how to react.
Ok, so we know the basics, it's a boy and he'll be king one day. We don't have to hear it again and again and again, except apparently we do. I presume somewhere there's an audience lapping this up, the sort who buy Royal Baby teatowels and who'll stash tomorrow's souvenir newspaper away for posterity. Indeed precisely the sort of sheep who turn up outside Buckingham Palace to try to catch sight of a tiny easel beyond some railings hidden behind a seething barrier of human snappers. Oh shut up Prime Minister, we don't all care, we're not all proud, and this is no special day in the life of our nation.
Have you seen the lickspittle front pages of all the papers? And they're burbling about nothing else on breakfast television, or at least burbling about nothing. Just wait a week and we'll all find out the prince's name, so stop speculating. It'd be great if he was named Prince Finlay or Prince Jayden or Prince Mohammed, because that would look great on all the coinage in 60 years time. And for all we know this baby will turn out to be a republican, or an embezzler, or a serial adulterer, or even a well-adjusted homosexual. That'll bugger up the traditional line of succession, and no mistake.
Seriously, are we all watching a hospital door now? The TV and the press, from the UK and abroad, all staring at a pair of swing doors until an unspecified moment. I'd rather be watching The One Show than this, which is saying something, especially given it's a highlights show tonight. Please stop talking about nothing, Nicholas. I know it's what you're paid to do, but couldn't you introduce just a slight element of questioning or doubt rather than spewing forth a stream of sentimental claptrap. At least you're not interviewing that bloody town crier character again - once was too much - or claiming that we're all "living in a fairytale". Honestly, this broadcast's nothing but promotional puff for private healthcare.
Oh at last, they're coming out to face the world. The baby's not very visible, is he. You wait all that time and then the best view is of half a bald head sticking out above a sheet. And as for the friendly chat with the Duke and Duchess, did nobody think to point a microphone at the journalists asking the questions? All we're getting is two parents' smiley responses to unheard queries, which makes for embarrassing television, not a moment to treasure. Please stop cooing and fussing. It's only a baby for goodness sake, what were you expecting, a space lizard? In any well adjusted society a future monarch's birth would be a brief lead item on the news, not a fawning 24/7 global media bandwagon. Here's hoping for less vacuous hysteria in 2043.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, July 23, 2013100 years ago today, on 23rd July 1913, Streatham's Rookery gardens opened to the public. If you've ever been to Streatham Common you may have found them, up the top end, beyond the cattle trough and the Italian cafe. Step through the gate to discover a beautiful enclosure tumbling down from lawns to formal gardens, immaculately presented, courtesy of Lambeth's crack horticulture team. And if you have ever discovered this space, I'll bet you've been back.
Step back beyond today's centenary and this spot was rather more famous. Mineral springs were discovered in Streatham in 1659, and a house was built by the wellspring in the early 18th century to service visitors. The arrival of the railways spurred numbers further, making Streatham Spa a fashionable resort, and thousands flocked to The Rookery to taste the waters. Here's part of an advert from 1878.
No trend lasts forever, and the spa water business soon began to fade. That left the big house and its grounds up for sale, which didn't please the local population so they clubbed together to protect it from development and raised £3075 for its purchase. In turn they presented The Rookery to the London County Council, who removed the old house and transformed these three acres into an ornamental garden. That took another year, until a brand new public park was opened on the edge of Streatham Common, with no pomp or circumstance, on 23rd July 1913.MINERAL WELLS or STREATHAM SPA
5 miles from London; on the Croydon Road
At the extreme end of Leigham Lane,
Opposite the "White Lion" Tavern, Streatham, S.W.
This celebrated MINERAL WATER was first discovered in the year 1659. It rises at a temperature of 52° Fahrenheit. When recently pumped up, it has a slight odour of Sulphur, is sparkling and bright, and, although it contains much Sulphate of Magnesia, is not unpleasant to the taste; on the contrary, it leaves behind a freshness grateful to the palate. It is strongly impregnated with Iron, passing in its course through several strata of that metal.
This CHALYBEATE WATER has been celebrated for upwards of two Centuries, for its great efficacy in renovating the impaired functions of Life, and is strongly recommended by the Faculty in all obstinate Diseases of the Skin and Lymphatic Glands, especially in that afflicting disease called Scrofula... It is a most valuable remedy for persons labouring under Nervous Debility.
SOLD IN BOTTLES AT THE WELL AT SIXPENCE PER GALLON.
Good Accommodation for parties to drink the Water on the Premises. Admission, 1d.
The prettiest part of The Rookery is the ornamental garden, especially in the blaze of summer. A network of paved geometrical paths twist between formal beds surrounding a central sundial. That's been renovated for the centenary, with a pristine black dial presented by the Friends of Streatham Common. Two long pergolas drip with roses, and the original well remains beneath a rustic wooden gable. Ideal for sitting around, if the weather's fine, and if you can find a bench to spare. Do check behind the wall for The White Garden, whose flowers are the obvious colour, where you might find an employee wielding a hosepipe to keep the beds from drying out.
Leading gently up the slope to one side is a rockery dotted with herbaceous plants, where a narrow channel of water cascades down through the stones to a lower pond. At the top is a long terrace lined with wooden benches, looking down over a sloping lawn. A tall cedar dominates, beneath which (while I was there) a group of local women gyrated and waved their arms in tai-chi joy. A centenary flowerbed has been installed in a roundel near the top gate, although to prevent damage it's had to be surrounded by metal barriers which diminishes the effect somewhat. And watch out for the perimeter path that's the Woodland Walk, easily missed as it wiggles through shady trees.
Anniversary celebrations have been underway, in a muted manner, for a few months now. The main event, with music and tours, took place a couple of Saturdays ago (presumably to avoid clashing with the Lambeth Country Show last weekend). Romeo and Juliet is being performed here, in the open air, next Sunday evening. And if you turn up this evening at 7.30pm, thunderstorms permitting, a centenary plaque will be unveiled near the entrance to the White Garden. They treasure their ornamental hideaway hereabouts, but then The Rookery is definitely one up on your average 100-year-old park garden.
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