Monday, October 22, 2018
Allow me to introduce the TfL Polygon.
This is the area inside which all TfL services run.
Specifically it's the smallest convex polygon encompassing all TfL-operated services. That means the boundary is all straight lines, and none of the angles bend inwards. All of the vertices are either stations or bus stops. You cannot catch a TfL service outside this shape. Here's the map.
This is an entirely unofficial thing, and also inherently meaningless. But I still think it's interesting, so indulge me for a moment.
The TfL Polygon has nine vertices. Clockwise from top left, they are Chesham, Cheshunt, Epping, Shenfield, North Stifford, Bluewater, Chartwell, Dorking and Slough.
The first four vertices in that list - the furthest north - are stations. All the other vertices are bus stops.
To make this exercise worthwhile, we need to look at the TfL Polygon in relation to the boundary of Greater London.
As you can see, the TfL Polygon is larger than Greater London. Specifically it's 70% larger, having an area of 2704km² whereas Greater London covers 1569km². On average, the TfL Polygon runs three or four miles outside Greater London. The greatest distance is seven miles, to Chesham - a legacy of the Metropolitan line stretching way out into Buckinghamshire. A tiny section of Havering, near North Ockendon, lies outside the TfL Polygon, but that's OK because almost nobody lives there, and it probably shouldn't be part of the capital anyway.
It's by no means the case that everywhere inside the TfL Polygon gets a TfL service. There are no buses in the northwest corner, only a tiny handful of stations. There are no TfL stations to the south of Greater London, only a tiny number of unusually long bus routes poking down into Surrey and Kent. In general TfL services creep minimally over the Greater London boundary, because TfL exists to serve its own home area, and the few outliers which define the vertices of the TfL Polygon are very much the exception.
Let's run round the boundary and see what's going on.
Chesham → CheshuntLooking forward...
This is the longest side of the TfL Polygon, at 25 miles in length. It skirts Rickmansworth and Watford, then runs just north of the M25 from South Mimms eastwards. A year ago there would have been an extra vertex here in Potters Bar, nudging fractionally north, but when TfL cut back route 298 from the Cranborne Road Industrial Estate to the station, that disappeared.
Cheshunt → Epping
Before May 2015, when services to Cheshunt became part of the Overground, this vertex would have been a mile to the south at Waltham Cross bus station instead. Meanwhile the Epping vertex is another legacy of the outer suburban Underground. It would have been considerably further out in Ongar until 1994, and the extent of the TfL Polygon perhaps illustrates the sense in cutting back.
Epping → Shenfield
Shenfield is another May 2015 addition, courtesy of Crossrail. Prior to TfL Rail taking over this end of the line, the corresponding vertex was on Brentwood High Street, served by the number 498 bus. TfL aren't here to serve Hertfordshire and Essex, which is why no London bus routes cross the M25 between Potters Bar and Brentwood, other than dribbling a few hundred metres over the line in Waltham Cross.
Shenfield → North Stifford
Here's the only side of the polygon which passes (very) briefly through Greater London. The redundant part of the capital (near North Ockendon) is mostly fields and a golf course, and home to barely a dozen people. The next vertex at the Davy Down bus stop in North Stifford is only necessary because the 370 bus wiggles into Lakeside shopping centre from the east, otherwise a straight edge direct from Shenfield to Bluewater would have sufficed.
North Stifford → Bluewater
Here's why you shouldn't take the TfL Polygon too seriously. It may only be four miles direct between the bus stops at Davy Down and Bluewater, but to travel between them using TfL services requires heading at least 20 miles upriver to Woolwich and then back again. The journey can be done almost direct using an hourly Thurrock bus service, but crossing the Thames estuary by public transport is an ill-served afterthought.
Bluewater → Chartwell
Once again, this edge of the TfL Polygon closely follows the M25. Chartwell's bus service is a real oddity, a Sundays-only summer extension of route 246 to Winston Churchill's house, now a National Trust property. Once November rolls round, and until March, the Chartwell vertex reverts to the Kent town of Westerham. This reduces the area of the TfL Polygon by 50km².
Chartwell → Dorking
The southern edge of the TfL Polygon is a consequence of three particularly long bus routes stretching well out of London. As well as the 246 to Chartwell there's the 405 to Redhill and the 465 to Dorking. Redhill becomes a vertex of the TfL Polygon in the winter, narrowly, when the 246 retreats to Westerham. The 6½ mile elongation of route 465 into the depths of Surrey is a true anachronism, but Surrey help with funding, so who's complaining?
Dorking → Slough
This edge of the TfL Polygon is 20 miles long, skipping through rural and suburban Surrey. I had to check carefully to make sure we didn't need an extra vertex in Staines, but not quite - the bus station's half a mile inside the specified boundary.
Slough → Chesham
When I say Slough, I mean a bus stop on the High Street by the Queensmere shopping centre, served by route 81. It's TfL's westernmost bus stop, and we've also visited the southernmost (in Dorking), though not the northernmost nor easternmost. And finally it's back to Chesham, marginally skipping Amersham, through a non-TfL hinterland where public transport costs a lot more than £1.50 a journey.
When Crossrail is complete, on some belated unspecified date, the TfL Polygon will extend considerably to the west. Reading is 17 miles further out than Slough, which adds 750km² to the polygon's internal area, a 25% increase. Only five additional stations lie in the extension zone, again confirming that the TfL Polygon is practically irrelevant to those living within it. But as a measure of TfL's ambitions to extend its influence beyond Greater London, balanced against the realities of a budget forcing it to retreat, it's an intriguing indication of intent.
posted 07:00 :
Sunday, October 21, 2018When is Easter?
Easter is on 21st April 2019, exactly six months from today, so will soon be upon us.
It's never too early to start planning for the greatest springtime event of the social calendar.
What is Easter, and why and where and who and how and whence and whither?
Easter is a festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD.
We got our intern to cut and paste this information from Wikipedia, because we want you to read it on our website because we have adverts. Also, if we get in and publish this stuff early enough, with enough keywords, Google will recognise our useful webpage and promote it up its lists as the day of celebration approaches, which means easy clickmoney for us.
Why does the date of Easter vary?
The date of Easter varies because of variable reasons which vary from year to year, and are complex, because of their variability.
We could explain this properly but it's far too complicated, and we can't be bothered, because by arriving on this page you have already generated the micropayment we require, so we consider there to be no requirement to invest time providing you with an actual answer.
When are Good Friday and Easter Monday?
Good Friday is on 19th April 2019, which is a Friday, and Easter Monday is on 22nd April 2019, which is a Monday.
It ought to be bloody obvious to anyone with intelligence that Good Friday is two days before Easter and Easter Monday is one day after. But the general populace lacks wider education these days, or has become overused to relying on the internet to source information, so we are only too pleased to present these 'amazing facts' to cement our online status as the go-to expert on all factual matters.
Everything you need to know about Easter
Easter is all about Jesus and chocolate, but mostly it's the time when we celebrate the return of the outdoor cocktail pop-up. Every right-minded consumer enjoys a cocoa-infused negroni on the roof, right? So here's our exclusive list of all the top venues...
Selfridges Easter Rooftop Pop-up: Dates TBCObviously this isn't everything you need to know about Easter, we just wrote that to get your attention. And what do you know, it worked! Our version of 'everything' is commercially focused, and restricted to a very small range of things we actually know something about, even if we don't know much about them yet because they're still six months away. But we'll update this list later as the press releases ping into our inbox, assuming we remember.
Peckham Multi-Storey Insta Drop-In: Theme TBC
Bompas & Parr Make Smells: Venue TBC
The London Marathon 2019 Date Has Been Announced
The date to put in your diary if you want to see sweaty men in dinosaur costumes panting across Tower Bridge and well-known celebrities stopping to wee on the pavement is Sunday 28 April.
This is our favourite tactic, hinting at information you don't know in the title but not revealing the answer until you click through. You could Google it, but we're counting on you reading our version, because it's quicker, even though you didn't really need to know the information anyway. Oh how we love to dangle a secret titbit.
This is the best Easter event anyone will ever see
We received a press release recently which told us about an event the organisers really want us to tell you about. Here are the key details of that event, lifted directly from their text, because that passes for journalism these days.
Obviously this isn't the best Easter event anyone will ever see, by any objective measure, but we like to overpromise. We're happy to declare almost anything a superlative, because we're never too proud to exaggerate for effect, and because excess hype generates extra traffic. See also "the quirkiest chocolate bunnies", "the quaintest Easter egg hunts" and "the most fabulous afternoon teas". This kind of non-factual declaration of primacy is bread and butter to us.
Here's how to maximise the 2019 Easter weekend
There's a lot to like about Easter in London – two whole days off, gratuitous chocolate consumption and if we're lucky, some springtime sunshine. You will be spoilt for choice as to how you spend the year's first bank holiday, from spring fairs, to wild nights out, to giant Easter Egg hunts. Whether you want to spend the weekend clinking glasses, plunging into piles of chocolate eggs or strolling through London in bloom, we've put all the best eggs in one basket for you.
You might think focusing on Easter six months in advance is madness. But it's increasingly important to optimise web content by publishing it early and embedding it into search engines, as well as rebroadcasting it regularly on social media. All the serious events portals got their Christmas content up weeks ago, even though nobody currently cares, and will continue to flog it over the coming weeks on the off chance you might want to pre-book a night out. Indeed that 'how to maximise the 2019 Easter weekend' paragraph reproduced above was actually published on a certain well-known London website on 1st May, fifty weeks early, because premature content pays.
Revealed: the summer celebrations taking place this summer
And so it continues...
posted 07:00 :
Saturday, October 20, 2018Today is my Dad's 80th birthday, so as a special treat I haven't written today's post, he has.
Eighty years ago today something occurred in a small Hertfordshire village that made the Diamond Geezer blog possible. (Probably the most important bit happened about nine months before but we’ll gloss over that.) The baby boy born that day was DG's dad, who perhaps we should now call DGD. He managed to survive the austerity of war and many childhood illnesses, including scarlet fever. DGD grew up surrounded by new houses, close to a Metropolitan line station, alongside the Grand Union canal and plenty of nearby countryside. His mum would teach him to recognise all the woodland trees, wild flowers and birds. Soon he would be able to build a camp in the woods, make a bow and arrow, find and observe bird nests.
Seventy years ago DGD was a shy little boy in his last year at the village primary school. Before long he would be starting at the big grammar school in the nearby town, a year earlier than most pupils, having done unexpectedly well at the eleven-plus exam - he started there when he was still only ten. Now he had to wear a black blazer and cap. Being small for his age, he found it all very overbearing. Teachers were very stern, striding around the school in their gowns and quite happy to beat misbehaving children with an old plimsoll.
Sixty years ago DGD was a busy young man, cycling to and from to his scientific job in the civil service. He had survived peritonitis in his late teens and then left school with three A levels. No university was keen to have him, because admissions were much tougher in those days, so he was studying in London on day release from work. In the evenings and at weekends he was busy helping in the Scout movement. At a county event earlier in the year he had met a young Guider from the other side of Hertfordshire, and agreed to send her some photos he had taken, and now they had started writing letters to each other...
Fifty years ago DGD was happily married and living a small Victorian house in his home village with his wife and their two young sons. The elder son was already starting to read and was interested in doing sums, and the younger son was now walking. The family had not got a car so all travelling was done by foot, bus or train. DGD’s wife had taken on the role of Guide leader, and did part-time work at home for a local firm so she could spend time with the children. DGD was still working at the same location but was now more involved in press work.
Forty years ago DGD was the proud owner of a small orange car, having passed his driving test on the third attempt. This meant the family could go further afield for holidays – this summer it had been a walking holiday in the Peak District. But DGD was still cycling to work because he enjoyed it. The two boys were at the same local school that DGD had attended earlier, and even had two of the same French teachers. They were also singing in the church choir and playing in the school orchestra.
Thirty years ago DGD was still working at the same site for the same organisation, and was now running a much larger operation, very different from his original qualifications. But it was looking like privatisation might be on the horizon and the ethos might change for the worse. In better news, DGD found that it was possible to get cheaper car insurance just because you had reached your half century! Sunday mornings were usually spent on a visit to the allotment, Sunday lunchtimes eating the produce and Sunday afternoons doing more gardening at home.
Twenty years ago DGD had taken the opportunity to take early retirement from his paid work, and move away from Hertfordshire to Norfolk. The village was a very different place to be living, and a lot closer to the two grandchildren... with one more on the way. He still did occasional jobs as chairman of recruitment panels but was kept busy on his new allotment, playing short mat bowls and was getting involved in other village activities. This was that period of life when there was time to go off abroad together on coach holidays. Having done parts of the USA and Canada as well as Finland, a coach tour of Austria was being planned.
Ten years ago DGD’s wife was increasingly unwell and so he was doing more and more of the shopping, cooking, washing and even ironing. He was able to help the rest of the family by sometimes picking up the youngest grandchild up from school, and no longer went cycling as often as he used to. His birthday cake was decorated with bowls, a camera and some vegetables, and lots of friends from the village came round to help him eat it. It felt like the two of them were part of the local community now. They would share one more birthday together.
Today too many people seem to be aware that it is a significant birthday for DGD. He is getting very apprehensive about all the attention he is getting as he would happily celebrate with the all the family over some cake and a cup or two of tea. This morning there are cards to open and phone calls to take, and later on he is being taken to lunch at an unknown destination. He has been assured that no undue surprises are involved. Next week is looking really busy. It is still a good life if you make the most of it.
posted 07:00 :
Friday, October 19, 2018Gadabout: SHEFFIELD
One of Britain's largest cities, Sheffield is famously hilly and impressively green, as befits its location close to the foot of the Pennines. Formerly in Hallamshire, Sheffield is now the mainstay of South Yorkshire, a county which I acknowledge I've seriously underblogged thus far. So I grabbed a cheap rail ticket and spent the day in The Outdoor City to see how many of its sights I could get around. [Visit Sheffield] [map]
Like Birmingham and Manchester, Sheffield's Anglican cathedral is much smaller than might be expected given the city's population. Like Birmingham and Manchester that's because the Industrial Revolution brought the city to prominence, hence the parish church got promoted to cathedral status, but at least it's impressive, if not entirely awe-inspiring. The red-cloaked gent on the door was effusive and cheery, as well as deeply apologetic that the cafe had already closed by the time I arrived. The cathedral's interior looked somewhat smaller than I remembered, but I was last here aged 10, which may explain the dimensional shift. The most impressive addition since that visit is the abstract design in the lantern tower resembling a colourful symmetrical flower.
Sheffield Winter Garden/Millennium Galleries
What to do when redeveloping your city centre, obviously, is to build a huge temperate glasshouse as a meeting point and thoroughfare. Today spiky trees soar beneath larch arches, suitably sheltered, with benches and a nice cafe tucked in on either side. It's all very genteel, although a slight whiff down the far side made me suspect several gentleman might be enjoying temporary residential status until turfed out in the evening. Adjoining are the Millennium Galleries, a bit like a shopping mall but for culture, with two permanent galleries and two moveable feasts. The main attraction is a celebration of Sheffield metalwork, the city having earned its wealth through knives and forks and spoons and steel and silver. There's some fabulous creations in here, from all kinds of cutlery to teapots and toastracks, right up to exquisite modern day commissions. Another unit focuses on the collections of John Ruskin, including geology and volumes of animal illustrations, and the rest of the place was "between exhibitions", which is sometimes how it goes.
Ooh, that's the Crucible where the snooker happens. Ooh, that's the green police box in Surrey Street which got a mention in the opening episode of Jodie Whittaker's first Doctor Who episode, famously set in Sheffield. A bit less ooh are the Peace Gardens, although a nice place to sit and watch the fountains with your lunchbox open. Nextdoor is the Victorian Town Hall, and then up the road City Hall, which is a generation younger but trying to look much older. If you fancy a thorough amble with a focus on 32 of Sheffield's most interesting buildings, old and particularly new, this two hour circuit from the Institution of Civil Engineers might be right up your street.
National Centre for Popular Music
It seemed like a good idea to establish the UK's first pop-focused tourist attraction in Sheffield, as a city which has always punched above its musical weight. A landmark building was created near the station, comprising four interlinked steel drums with rotating blowhole tops. But this millennial project was woefully undervisited, and went into administration after only seven months, because Heaven 17 soundscapes and hands-on composition zones lacked appeal. The museum limped on until the following spring, then gave up and became a live music venue, then gave up completely and was sold off to Sheffield Hallam University. They now use it as their Students Union, a place for advice-giving, socialising and making photocopies... and this year's freshers weren't even born during its initial incarnation.
Turner Museum of Glass
This took some finding, because the museum is housed on the campus of the University of Sheffield on the second floor of the Materials Science building. This meant walking through a throng of students despite not looking anything like one, climbing a somewhat functional staircase and nervously opening a swing door into what looked like a common room. And a common room it proved to be, albeit also home to a collection of display cases containing some exquisite examples of 20th century art glass. I tried to admire these while students at tables alongside pored over laptops and stuffed themselves with hot-packaged lunches. A little awkward, but gorgeous.
Weston Park Museum
The city's chief museum of Sheffieldness can be found in Weston Park, which is not entirely central. A long neoclassical building, much extended to the rear, it contains galleries on diverse topics from local archaeology to Arctic lands. In a city of half a million people, the populace needs somewhere to go to learn about Anglo-Saxons, sporting triumphs and woodland ecosystems. The gallery of Sheffield-related landscapes is particularly fine, as befits the watercolour potential of such a scenically-located city, and I also enjoyed sitting down in a reconstructed 60s kitchen to watch a series of videos about Park Hill. As for Weston Park, it's one of a trio which includes Crookes Valley Park, formerly a reservoir, and a long scrubby tumble called The Ponderosa. Amazingly this is named after the ranch in the TV series Bonanza, which was very popular in the 1960s when the park was created.
Kelham Island Museum
Hello target audience, this is the museum for you. The Sheffield Industrial Trust's flagship repository is housed in a former transport depot on the site of an ironworks in the city's riverside manufacturing heart. At £6 it's the only attraction on today's list which I paid to enter, although you can see the country's last surviving Bessemer Converter out front for free - it's much too large to come inside. As well as tools for metalwork and tales of everyday craftsmanship, the museum contains a considerable amount of machinery from the old days, much of it in working order. The most imposing is the River Don Engine, Britain's most powerful surviving steam engine, once used to press the thermal shields for Calder Hall nuclear power station. It fires up twice a day, and you'll find it (honest) in the Hugh Wentworth Ping Room.
Explore all the nooks and crannies to find Sheffield's last crucible shop, a small-traders alleyway, a recreated Zeppelin raid and the world's largest collection of 'tools'. You have not lived until you have seen a 2000-bladed Stanley knife, an A-Z of planes, a giant trowel and a room full of nothing but different types of hand-saw. Hopefully your visit won't be plagued by a school party running amok trying to find all the items on their worksheet, and studiously ignoring absolutely everything else. And when you're done inside the museum you should find refreshment outside amongst the CAMRA-friendly microbreweries of Kelham Island. This mini-district's gently gentrifying, but hasn't yet lost its steely edge.
Five Weirs Walk
Several rivers meet in Sheffield, chief of these the Don which flows onwards towards Rotherham and the obvious -caster. The section of the Don between central Sheffield and the Meadowhall Shopping Centre has been made accessible vis the Five Weirs Walk, a regenerative project completed over 20 years, meandering five miles along the riverside. I only had time to walk a tiny fraction, from the start at Lady's Bridge round the first couple of bends. It was surreal looking down into the Don to see a man stood fishing in midstream, just below a multi-storey car park. But rather more amazing was the Cobweb Bridge, a footbridge suspended through a deep arch in the Wicker Viaduct while giant metal spiders hang above in dampened gloom - as if every day were Hallowe'en. Sorry, that was all I managed.
National Emergency Services Museum
Yes, honestly. Includes a row of police cells and over fifty 999 vehicles. But closed on Mondays and Tuesday, so you'll have to tell me.
That other Sheffield thing
No I didn't, there wasn't time.
My Sheffield gallery
There are 40 photos altogether [slideshow]
posted 07:00 :
Thursday, October 18, 2018If it's brutalism you want, move to Sheffield. The Park Hill estate is a renowned concrete behemoth, looming down over the city and located impressively close to the centre.
It was built on one of Sheffield's not-necessarily seven hills. Previously the area had been packed with back-to-back tenements, with residents living in increasingly slum-like conditions, and Sheffield City Council were keen to redevelop. This being the 1950s they played a bold card and went for concrete, strongly influenced by the work of Le Corbusier, and designed a snake-like wall of flats and maisonettes taking advantage of the sloping site. A key concept was the inclusion of "streets in the sky", so that former neighbours on the ground would still be neighbours at elevated level. Initially it proved very popular.
But it didn't last. Maintenance wasn't all it could have been, people didn't always like the neighbours who moved in later, and the council eventually found itself with flats it couldn't rent. Redevelopment opportunities were sorely limited when Park Hill was listed in 1998 - the largest such building in Europe - and eventually plans were made for a part-privatised refurb. But renovation's been running very much on the slow side, already several years behind schedule, and only the main Sheffield-facing block has been completed. But it looks stunning, if that's the kind of thing you're into, which hundreds of new residents evidently are. (more) (more) (more) (more) (more)
A short climb uphill from the back of the station brings you to a gridded wall filled-in with balconies, glass and brightly coloured panels. Look carefully and the tableau animates - a child pushed up against a window, an office worker at a terminal, a leaning bicycle. Businesses installed on the lower levels include a film company, the obligatory bijou cafe and an advertising agency with the necessarily-umlauted name of Über. The Park Hill sales office is here too, should you be interested in moving in. Prices are low enough to make Londoners go "wow that's cheap", whilst simultaneously expensive for Sheffield, because Park Hill is no longer for the lowest in society.
Alas, you can no longer walk around the streets in the sky. The foot of each residential staircase is now fiercely guarded by electronic jiggerypokery, making former public spaces private as well as keeping out unwanted troublemakers. But it is possible to step through to the courtyard beyond, a vast stepped swathe of terraced green, whose lawns are speckled with an astonishing range of autumn fungi. Here the impact of the upgraded concrete wall is at its greatest, and the varying number of storeys in each building more evident, as a long screen of glass and citrus-coloured panels shields the city from view.
Follow the connecting gangways with your eye and you'll see the adjacent blocks have not yet been similarly upgraded. Their walls are unfaced brick, their window frames grubby and the rooms behind empty, indeed by far the largest proportion of Park Hill remains sealed off behind a fence topped with intruder-proof spikes. Some of the least accessible curls will eventually end up as student accommodation, because planning rules are laxer, while other flanks will be spruced up into sleek modernist cells for Sheffield's more aspiring.
While I was making the most of a rare splash of sunshine, a minibus arrived and a teacher led his geography class up to the toppermost mushroomy lawn. "Does anybody know what this place is called?" he said, before launching into a meatier question and answer session debating the evolving purpose of the site. Park Hill remains a talking point 60 years after its construction, once an aspirational escape for thousands, now a sparkily sanitised refuge for a few. If nothing else, at least it's all still here. [12 photos]
I wanted to walk a bit further, into proper residential Sheffield, so continued up Duke Street and City Road between Victorian villas parts of London would be proud of. In the suburbs a hilltop is never too far away, as I discovered when I doubled back and climbed briskly to Sky Edge. This is where Richard Hawley used to walk his dog, and his Mercury-nominated album in 2012 was named after it. From this breezy grassy ridge I could look down over the city centre, spotlit in its valley, with low cloud rolling over the lofty heights of Peak District moorland beyond. Immediately beneath me on the lip of the escarpment were several pigeon lofts, ideally located for a fast return, confirming this as a truly northern panorama.
And then, to walk some more, I took up the offer of the Norfolk Heritage Trail (map). It's named after the Dukes of Norfolk, who owned this hilltop when it was part of a deer park, and the start of the trail is a small Tudor hunting lodge which survives amid a much more modern housing estate. Don't expect to get past the railings unless it's a Sunday. Next the trail weaves down through the city's largest cemetery, then through Norfolk Heritage Park, one of the country's oldest public parks, following a sweeping lime avenue. You don't get to see the real Sheffield while shopping at Meadowhall.
Almost back at Park Hill, on the cusp of a woodland path, I reached the intriguingly-named Cholera Monument. The city was badly hit by the disease in 1832, losing over four hundred residents, including the Master Cutler for that year, John Blake. He got a swish raised tomb in memoriam, whilst the others collectively made do with a slim stone needle topped with a gleaming cross. The benches alongside are now a preferred place of rest for smoking teens and puffing pensioners, looking down over the heart of Sheffield in its gap between the hills. There is much to see down there too.
posted 07:00 :
Wednesday, October 17, 2018100 Brexits
1) The one where Chequers proves unexpectedly workable.
2) The one where furiously redrafted technobabble saves the day.
3) The one where a digital workaround for frictionless trade solves everything.
4) The one where an overlooked solution to the Irish problem suddenly becomes obvious.
5) The one with three intertwined mutual impossibilities.
6) The one where a red line is withdrawn to ensure a solution.
7) The one with a permanent customs union.
8) The one with a permanent customs union but called something different.
9) The one where it turns out privileges of membership are not available to non members.
10) The one where other European leaders allow Britain one crucial concession.
11) The one where the EU decides its four freedoms are divisible after all.
12) The one where a deal is always possible at the next-but-one set of talks.
13) The one where it was all sorted out over dinner.
14) The one where Andrea Leadsom plays a pivotal role.
15) The one where Nigel Farage marches on London.
16) The one with a hard border in the Irish Sea.
17) The one with a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
18) The one with customs checks 10 miles from the Irish border.
19) The one where the DUP say "oh go on then, why not?"
20) The one that's so bad Sinn Fein MPs actually turn up in Parliament.
21) The one where the peace process is deliberately sacrificed and violence returns.
22) The one with a Clean Brexit.
23) The one with a Fudged Brexit.
24) The one with a Red White and Blue Brexit.
25) The one where nobody can agree a backstop, so there is no deal.
26) The one where nobody can agree a backstop to the backstop, so there is no deal.
27) The one where the backstop kicks in and the EU smirks.
28) The one where the backstop would have been better than what actually happened.
29) The one where a People's Vote decides to Remain after all.
30) The one where a People's Vote decides no deal is better than a bad deal.
31) The one where a People's Vote decides a bad deal is better than no deal.
32) The one where a People's Vote fails because nobody could agree what to vote on.
33) The one where a People's Vote has three options, and none gets a majority.
34) The one where a People's Vote is overturned by civil unrest.
35) The Swiss option.
36) The Super Canada option.
37) The Norway plus option.
38) The Cloudcuckooland doubleplusgood option.
39) The one where Parliament votes to put a halt to the process.
40) The one where Parliament is refused a final vote to prevent a no deal outcome.
41) The one where the Speaker gets the casting vote on the nation's future.
42) The one where Tory rebel MPs cause us to crash out with no deal.
43) The one where Tory rebel MPs cause us to remain in the EU.
44) The one where it was three Labour rebel MPs whodunnit.
45) The one where the cabinet sacrifices Theresa May to ensure Brexit takes place.
46) The one where the cabinet sacrifices Theresa May to ensure a no deal Brexit.
47) The one where the cabinet supports Theresa May until 2022 simply to avoid an election.
48) The one where an obscure cabinet minister becomes PM as the least worst option.
49) The one where a protracted leadership election scuppers all talks.
50) The one where the only way out is a General Election which changes nothing.
51) The one where another General Election only makes the arithmetic even worse.
52) The one where a General Election returns Theresa May with a whopping majority.
53) The one where a General Election gifts Brexit to the Labour Party.
54) The one where the Labour Party splits shortly after taking power.
55) The one where the EU shrug and leave us to get on with it.
56) The one where Article 50 is revoked at the very last minute.
57) The one where the cliff edge is utterly gobsmackingly terrifying.
58) The one where our ongoing economic disaster is all the EU's fault.
59) The one where the EU won't let us back in because we no longer pass their monetary tests.
60) The one where not even a transition period moves things forward.
61) The one where the transition period is extended by another year.
62) The one where the transition period is extended indefinitely.
63) The one where the population rises up against eternal vassalage.
64) The one where making trade deals with other countries couldn't be easier.
65) The one where making trade deals with other countries never happens.
66) The one where PM Johnson bumbles the country into long-term irrelevance.
67) The one where PM Rees-Mogg takes the country back to the 19th century.
68) The one where PM Corbyn establishes a penniless socialist utopia.
69) The one where PM May spins plates on a tightrope forever.
70) The one where No Deal is an unalloyed economic triumph.
71) The one where No Deal is an unmitigated economic disaster.
72) The one where Britain refuses to pay the divorce bill, and the EU pulls the plug.
73) The one where the European Court of Human Rights pokes its nose in.
74) The one where the EU decides something we can no longer veto.
75) The one where The Tories make such a mess of Brexit nobody ever votes for them again.
76) The one where Labour make such a mess of Brexit nobody ever votes for them again.
77) The one where the Liberal Democrats suddenly become totally relevant again.
78) The one where the existing political parties collapse and new groupings emerge.
79) The one where a fascist dictatorship is running the country by 2023.
80) The one where Ireland ends up reunited.
81) The one where Scotland votes for independence and rejoins the EU.
82) The one where it's so bad even Wales votes for independence this time.
83) The one where England votes for independence and enjoys Tory rule forever.
84) The one where all the expat Brits come home and the NHS grinds to a halt.
85) The one where all the EU migrants are sent home and the NHS grinds to a halt.
86) The one where trade deals with non-EU countries bring about a Golden Age.
87) The one where chlorinated chicken becomes a much-loved High Street staple.
88) The one where regaining our sovereignty restores national pride.
89) The one where the M26 becomes a lorry park and the food runs out.
90) The one where civil war breaks out, winner takes all.
91) The one where half the population celebrate with bonfires every year.
92) The one where half the population never come to terms with the outcome.
93) The one where even Remainers decide it wasn't so bad after all.
94) The one where even Leavers decide leaving was a bad idea.
95) The one where nobody can remember what all the fuss was about.
96) The one where nobody can remember how good life used to be.
97) The one where it all works out by magic.
98) The one where it turns out Russia was the common enemy after all.
99) The one where the Queen dies at a crucial moment and everything collapses.
100) The one where Donald Trump presses a button and none of this mattered.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, October 16, 2018Who knew Eel Pie Island had a museum?
That's Eel Pie Island, the ait in the Thames opposite Twickenham, an elongated enclave of boatyards, studios and reclusive housing. But fifty years ago it was a renowned musical hotspot, frequented by many famous names, and a place of bohemian legend. How fabulous to have a museum about the place.
In important news, it's not actually on Eel Pie Island. That's remains private, across its little footbridge, and visitors aren't generally welcome (next opportunity, 8th/9th December). Instead the museum's on Richmond Road, opposite the Civic Centre, at the rear of the ground floor of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. Press the right doorbell, wait for someone to walk down a very long corridor, and you're in.
The main focus is music at the Eel Pie Island Hotel, whose ballroom started to be used for trad jazz nights in 1956. Under promoter Arthur Chisnall they grew in stature and attendance, aided by construction of the first bridge a year later. Acker Bilk, Ken Colyer and Lonnie Donnegan played here, not to mention Cyril Preston's Excelsior Jazz Band and Len Baldwin's Dauphin Street Six. A transition began in 1962 when Arthur introduced "Rock and Twist Night" on Wednesdays, with the Rolling Stones enjoying a five-month-long residency in the following year.
Other almost unknown faces at the time included Rod Stewart, Jeff Beck and Davie Jones (later Bowie). The weekend before I was born belonged to Long John Baldry and The Hoochie Coochie Men, and the week after to Alex Harvey and his Soul Band. The museum has a huge stash of the club's contracts so is able to display a gig by gig rollcall, both in the museum and online. As well as posters, and evocative black and white photos of hep cats on the dancefloor, there are also tiny Eelpiland passports used as membership cards and signed by 'Pan, Prince of Trads'.
The police closed the club in 1967, after which a more progressive series of nights kicked off including Hawkwind, Genesis and Deep Purple, even Brian May with a pre-Queen band called Smile. When a hippie commune moved in the atmosphere changed, and when they started dismantling the hotel for firewood in the winter of 1970, its days were numbered. Demolition work was hastened by a "mysterious fire", and before any further entertainment option could be considered the site had been snapped up for housing.
Other aspects of island life are covered, including a bit of history, and an in-depth look at the boatyards which proliferate and the many craft built there. A delightful alcove is devoted to Eel Pie resident Trevor Baylis, inventor of the clockwork radio, including bits of his childhood Meccano, some workbench and his battered leather armchair. Trevor sadly died in March, after an astonishing life, but lived long enough to visit the museum and give it his blessing.
Eel Pie Island Museum has a professionally amateur feel, its curators plainly devoted to keeping memories of the island alive. It's clear that their predilections favour music rather than history, as the record deck playing vinyl jazz or R&B plainly indicates. You almost get the feeling that this is a youth club for grown-up teenagers of the 1950s, indeed the opening hours (Thursday-Sunday, noon til six) seem better suited to a social drop-in than a profitable enterprise. But at £3, a visit is more than worth the money... and if you're a local music lover, £5 annual membership must be a bargain.
Within quarter of a mile is the Orleans House Gallery, another February 2018 opening, or in this case reopening. Based on the site of a Thames-side mansion from the same era as Marble Hill, it's been the borough of Richmond's arts hub for many years, but has just been impressively enlarged and refreshed. I hardly recognised the place. All that remains of the original house is the Octagon Room, dazzlingly restored (no doubt because it makes an excellent space for civil ceremonies and so brings in an income). It was rescued from demolition in 1926 by nextdoor neighbour Nellie Ionides, who liked to name her poodles after varieties of champagne, and who also donated 500 local landscapes to the collection.
The new West Gallery is sleek and clean, with an additional mezzanine and study centre upstairs. The current exhibition is Collection Curiosities, an excellent excuse to drag exhibits out of the archives which aren't normally displayed, including Sir Richard Burton's meteorite and a 35-panel bedspread embroidered with a Thamesside map by four local Townswomen Guilds in 1941. An inspired touch is the ability to comment on each piece by writing on a luggage label and sticking it on the wall alongside. "My late father made this. A very pleasant surprise to see it." reads one. Another, annotating the placid portrait of a bright young thing, says "He drank many a bottle of wine - I know, I served him!"
Don't forget the Stables Gallery outside - I nearly did, it's not well signposted - but 100 works by a talented local illustrator made the damp dash worthwhile. There ought to be a cafe nextdoor, but that's closed "pending the finalisation of the necessary permissions to advertise the opportunity". I couldn't depart without the lady on the front desk reminding me about the upcoming Richmond Literature Festival and the imminent opening of their Christmas shop. But when in Twickenham, the Orleans House Gallery is now well worth a nose.
Within quarter of a mile, another recent opening is Sandycombe House, the country home of the artist JMW Turner. His little villa was smart, because he designed it himself, but nothing overly grand. Today you can go on guided or self-guided tours for £6, but only if you pre-book, and I hadn't. But I did bump into the chair of the Turner’s House Trust leading a landscape walk to the top of Richmond Hill, sheltering beneath brollies and waterproofs in the trees beside Marble Hill House. That's the danger of pre-booking for you. But my word there's a lot that's new to see and do round here.
posted 07:00 :
Monday, October 15, 2018ENGLISH HERITAGE: Marble Hill House
Location: Twickenham, London, TW1 2NL [map]
Open: by guided tour only (2 tours Saturday, 4 tours Sunday) (closed Nov-Mar)
See also: The Marble Hill Society
Four word summary: George II's mistress's reward
Time to allow: an hour and a bit
The lifestory outlined by the guide in the first room on the tour is so good it ought to be made into a film. The daughter of a Norfolk landowner, Henrietta Howard was orphaned by the age of twelve, her father having died in an unnecessary duel. She married a drunken womaniser, who gambled away their money more than once, and the pair cunningly sought to regain favour by joining the court of the Elector of Hanover just before Queen Anne died. Returning to London, Henrietta diplomatically escaped from her husband to spend a decade as the mistress of George II, before being elevated to the role of Countess of Suffolk. I've skipped over lots of good twists. But importantly for today's post, in 1724 she bought 66 acres of land by the Thames in Twickenham and built Marble Hill House. Somehow it's still there.
The surrounding park is always open, the house rather less so, being closed throughout the winter months. It was supposed to be closed for the whole of 2018 for conservation work, but tours quietly restarted a few months back, and I thought I'd better dash before everything shuts down again at the end of the month. Access is only via guided tour, and there aren't many of these, indeed turn up on a Saturday after 12 noon and you'll have missed them both. I turned up on a Sunday, when there are four, and wasn't surprised that an intense downpour had kept people away. On decent days they get thirty people looking round, but our tour didn't even muster half a dozen.
Photography is not allowed inside the house, which is why I'm illustrating this post with essentially the same exterior photo three times. The front and the back look quite similar, which is how things were in the early 18th century as the Palladian style gained favour. Chiswick House was the pioneer, and a fair few similar mansions were built along this stretch of the river. I could see the similarities... and would say that Chiswick is more stunning, but Marble Hill much more interesting.
Your experience here will be very much dependent on which guide you get - I could tell they're very different simply from encounters in the gift shop. To be fair, I was a little worried. But my tour proved to be a tour de force of facts and stories, delivered at a rattling pace, cramming in everything anyone might want to know about Henrietta's story and every item on display. Whilst most of the interior is original, most of the furnishings are not, but they do give an appropriate flavour of an elegant Georgian home. The beds come from the V&A, the busts are of famous neighbours, and the portraits include some of Henrietta even if they never hung here.
Downstairs looks good, but things really bling up when you ascend to the first floor, the piano nobile. At the heart of the building is the Great Room, a cubic saloon with lavishly gilded decoration and bedecked with fine art. English Heritage had to spend a lot of money to buy back the original five capricci paintings by Pannini, two of them from the British Rail Pension Fund. The handpainted Chinese wallpaper in the dining room is only a reproduction, but still got a wow. Elsewhere is a portrait of another of the house's residents who was also a mistress to another King George, because I told you the stories were good.
Just when you think you're done there's a trip to the second floor, via what looks like a minor servants' staircase but was in fact the sole access to another suite of rooms. The long gallery's not especially long, but contains yet more of the house's collection of Chinese porcelain. Further Chinoiserie includes a bequest of hand-painted mirrors, because English Heritage thought this would be an appropriate place to display them. And after your final circuit, exit down the stairs through the gift shop.
English Heritage have big plans - lottery-millions-worth of plans - to upgrade the house and especially the surrounding parkland. They want to relandscape by cutting back trees, reinstate the formal gardens leading down to the river and improve the legion of adjacent sports pitches. Their plans are so big that they've already had to scale back in the face of local opposition, but haven't scaled back enough that opposition has gone away. The next protest meeting, copiously advertised hereabouts, is at 7.30pm this Tuesday in St Mary's Church Hall.
There has been a long history of vocal local protest, which is the sole reason Marble Hill House is still here. In 1898 the Cunard family bought the house with the intention of demolishing it and turning over its estate to suburban development. But that would have destroyed the famous view from Richmond Hill of an elysian bend in the Thames, as painted by Turner, and this was to be prevented at all costs. Their raised voices led to the Richmond, Petersham and Ham Open Spaces Act 1902, then to the Richmond Hill (Preservation of View) Bill, and Cunard duly sold up. The weather yesterday was too poor to see the preserved view at its best, but here it is in the opposite direction from a bit further along the river.
If English Heritage's revised plans get through, regular guided tours of the house will cease at the end of 2019. The bonus is that Marble Hill House will be open five days a week, and entrance will be free of charge. But information will be imparted by "explainers" and light touch information boards rather than seventy minutes of expert commentary, and I'd be amazed if 2020's visitors departed similarly enriched. If you prefer the human touch there are two more weekends to go this year, plus the whole of next summer, to get your Henrietta Howard fix.
English Heritage 2018: Apsley House & Wellington Arch, Eltham Palace, Kenilworth Castle, Dover Castle, Wrest Park, Down House, Carisbrooke Castle, Osborne House, Battle Abbey, Pevensey Castle, Ranger's House, Chiswick House, Stonehenge, Richborough Roman Fort, Walmer Castle & Deal Castle, Audley End, Marble Hill House
posted 07:00 :
Sunday, October 14, 2018I've been out for a couple of long walks in the countryside this week. One through the Surrey Hills and the other across Richmond Park (which, although not not technically countryside, in some spots definitely feels like it). On one walk I heard beastly sounds approaching through the trees, which thankfully turned out to be cyclists, and on the other was startled when a deer suddenly rose up from a patch of ferns and ran away. And it struck me how perfectly happy I am to go walking alone, some considerable distance from potential human assistance, because we live in a country where the natural environment doesn't generally kill you.
There are trails in America where hikers have to be alert for a mauling from brown bears. There are forests in Europe where wolves still prowl. There's undergrowth in Africa which might contain a venomous snake or spider, or worse. But the British countryside is generally benign, which is good news if you're walking through it by yourself along remote tracks in areas of dodgy mobile coverage. That's more deepest Surrey than Richmond Park, for the avoidance of doubt.
Here in Britain we tend to be top of the food chain when we're out and about. Foxes aren't generally interested, deer may be large but run away, and the ubiquitous squirrels couldn't be less of a threat if they tried. Rodents aren't of a size to be disturbing, birds don't eat us, and even the UK's only poisonous snake hasn't killed anyone since 1975. Only about 100 adder bites are reported in Britain each year, generally to the feet or ankles, with the most serious injuries confined to people who decided to pick one up. So that's pretty much avoidable.
Farm animals are of more concern, though again not much. Cows are the biggest killers, relatively speaking (and generally cows with calves rather than bulls). An HSE survey confirms a total of 74 fatalities between 2000 and 2015, of which three-quarters involved farm workers rather than walkers. Of the 18 members of the public killed on rights of way, all but one were accompanied by a dog (which is why the official advice is always to let go of the lead in such situations), and 13 of the 18 were over the age of 60. As a fit and healthy dog-free rambler my risk of being trampled or gored to death is exceptionally low.
My bête noire is dogs - the one land mammal which can persuade me to turn back along a footpath and go another way. Generally it's lively off-leash dogs which give me the willies, especially the "but she's only being friendly" type, and I can still point out the precise four locations within the boundaries of Greater London where a dog has leapt up at me while its owner was elsewhere, or didn't care. In fact the number of deaths from dangerous dogs in the UK only averages about three a year, the majority of these in the home, so I should really calm down and stride on.
More dangerous, it turns out, are bees and wasps. They're responsible for an average of five deaths a year by causing anaphylactic shock, but only to those specifically allergic. The other insects you really want to watch out for in the countryside are ticks, whose bite can pass on Lyme disease, and apparently do so an average of eight times a day. The disease doesn't generally kill but can cause lifetime paralysis and a host of other unpleasantnesses, hence it pays to be careful walking through undergrowth in shorts and socks. According to the signs in Richmond Park, "when you have been out in the park, be sure to check your armpits...", but please don't let that worry you unduly.
I can avoid killing myself in the countryside by not eating strange things, because I am not my grandmother and don't know which berries and fungi are poisonous. I always step carefully when out walking in the middle of nowhere on my own, because a trip or fall could mean curtains, or at least a long wait for someone to notice my seriously injured body. And I don't know if it's just me, but occasionally the thought flashes through my head that "this would be a really bad place to have a heart attack", even if that meant the last thing I ever saw was adorably bucolic.
But the most dangerous mammal to meet in the countryside is obviously other homo sapiens. It's not adders, cows and bees I should be watching out for, but fellow human beings, some of whom are out to cause harm, and some of whom are evil conniving murderers. There again, statistics suggest towns and cities are far more dangerous places to meet one's end courtesy of blade or bullet, so that's no reason to avoid a good walk in the countryside either. Given how safe it is, I'll see you out there again very soon.
posted 07:00 :
Saturday, October 13, 2018In an attempt to avoid the inaccuracies which have plagued some of my recent posts, today's post has been deliberately written to avoid specific factual content.
Earlier in my lifetime, considerably closer to today than the day of my birth, I visited a place. I travelled there from my home, taking a specific amount of time to reach my destination. At a certain time, I arrived close by.
A walk was required to traverse the distance from my point of arrival to the first point of interest. Other people were also making a similar walk. Because it was a particular time of year, the trees and foliage were exhibiting seasonal characteristics. The path was not straight and the land was not flat. I passed a vehicle, a place of worship and a ground where one particular sport is played. A countable number of dogs was going the other way.
Later than I had departed, I arrived at the precise point I had hoped to reach. The contours of the location were noteworthy. Either nowhere in the wider vicinity is higher or else this is not the case. It was possible to look down across much of the surrounding landscape, which was very interesting. I saw so many things, some of them relatively close, others much further away. I was particularly interested to be able to see one particular location, and individual vehicles arriving at that location. On some days further locations are visible.
At some point in the past a structure was constructed on this very spot. It is not the same as it once was because it has been changed. Through the exchange of metal, or the presentation of imprinted plastic, it is possible to ascend the structure. The staircase winds either clockwise or anticlockwise. Partway up is a space where I read some very interesting information about the structure and its history. The view from the highest point was even better than the view I had seen previously. I remained up here for some time.
I was by no means the only person present in the immediate vicinity. Their general presence over a long period of time had encouraged the opening of a refreshment outlet at the base of the structure. It is an unusual place to find a refreshment outlet. Many people were purchasing liquid sustenance, and I decided to join them in doing this. My beverage option came in a receptacle of uncommon size and colour. I experienced unspecified emotion while consuming my liquid sustenance specifically because of the nature of this location.
When it was time to depart, I departed. I chose not to follow the same route as before, my destination being different to the point of my arrival. The path was straighter than the previous path, and its gradient substantially dissimilar. I passed between a great number of trees of a certain type. I did not meet anybody apart from the few people I met. At one point the path changed direction and continued through a different landscape, and later it did this again. I thought the stream was particularly interesting.
Unexpectedly the path opened up into a tiny village at the head of a ravine. The village is named after an unusual thing to be named after. It has a drinking establishment which is more popular than the size of the population would suggest. A lot of people were enjoying a greater range of refreshment options than were available earlier in my journey. You should have seen their cars. I have seen this village before in an episode of a children's TV drama series, and recognised the large body of water from a particularly memorable scene.
I had a lot more walking still to do. Some of it was uphill and some of it was downhill, with considerably more in one direction than the other. It was especially exciting to come across an unexpected landscape feature. One does not normally expect to find such a landscape feature within the general area in which I was present, and certainly not one of these dimensions. I watched the motion of this phenomenon for a measurable length of time and then continued. Altogether I walked much further than I had walked the day before.
I have definite thoughts about the journey which I undertook, and the landscape I traversed, and the meteorological conditions I experienced. I conjecture that you might have similar thoughts in certain respects were you ever to undertake a similar journey across an identical landscape under similar conditions. It remains a plausible possibility that I may have inspired you to follow in my footsteps.
posted 07:00 :
Friday, October 12, 2018How quickly can you visit every borough in London?
I've had a go to find out.
By 'visit' I mean 'be present within the borough boundary'. There's no requirement to stand on soil, or get out at a station, merely somehow to pass through. Buses, trains and bikes are fine, as is walking, or indeed driving (or minicabbing or whatever). For example, taking the Eurostar from St Pancras to Paris would tick off six London boroughs, even though the train doesn't stop.
Ollie O'Brien's completed the whole thing in 9 hours 25 minutes, approximately half the distance on a bike and half on trains. He made things much harder by adding a rule requiring a photo of a street sign with each borough's name on it, so 9½ hours is damned good going. But I attempted the simple version, no photos, no collateral, just a lot of dashing about.
I suspect a large proportion of Londoners have never even visited every London borough during their lifetime. Bexley's really far-flung if you live in Harrow, and Sutton's a very long way from Enfield, so why would they have done? I have of course visited every London borough countless times, but this time my aim was to visit all 33 in a day. With a bit of planning I hoped it would be possible in under eight hours... and it was.
How to visit every London borough in 7 hours, 13 minutes
Train 1: Romford → Forest Gate
I started in Romford, because Havering's one of the awkward out-of-the-way boroughs. One day Crossrail will cross a dozen boroughs on its way to the other side of town, but I had to make do with ageing TfL Rail stock on a shorter track instead. That said, I'd ticked off Barking & Dagenham and Redbridge within four minutes, and Newham shortly afterwards, so it was an excellent start.
Time elapsed: 18m. Boroughs so far: 4
Train 2: Wanstead Park → Blackhorse Road
Rather than continue into town, and miss out on nearby Waltham Forest, I interchanged to the Overground via a brief walk between Forest Gate and Wanstead Park. It's all very well speeding ahead, but strategy dictates it's important to pick up outlying boroughs while in the vicinity. The morning peak had just faded, so my train wasn't too crowded.
Time elapsed: 41m. Boroughs so far: 5
Train 3: Blackhorse Road → Finsbury Park
Time for the first underground section of my journey. I knew I'd be travelling through Haringey, because that's where Tottenham Hale is, but I couldn't be certain about other boroughs without checking on a decent map. I used OpenStreetMap to confirm that the Victoria line passes under Woodberry Down, which took care of Hackney, and that Finsbury Park station is marginally inside Islington.
Time elapsed: 50m. Boroughs so far: 8
Train 4: Finsbury Park → Southgate
It wouldn't be a proper challenge without some kind of major disruption, and here I discovered that the Piccadilly line was operating with 'Severe delays'. Thankfully I hopped almost immediately on a northbound train, because the next one was over 20 minutes away. North of Bounds Green all the stations are in Enfield, but there is a brief section between Arnos Grove and Southgate where the Piccadilly line curves into Barnet, and that did me.
Time elapsed: 1h 7m. Boroughs so far: 10
Train 5: Southgate → King's Cross St Pancras
I had a very long wait for this train, thanks to a trespasser at the other end of the line, which didn't help. Doubling back through boroughs previously visited is also never a good use of time. But just beyond the disused York Road station I entered Camden, so that was one extra.
Time elapsed: 1h 46m. Boroughs so far: 11
Train 6: King's Cross St Pancras → Eastcote
Hurrah for the Metropolitan line speeding out into peripheral suburbs. I got lucky and an Uxbridge train turned up almost immediately, taking me into Westminster, then back into Camden, then on into Brent. Obviously Harrow-on-the-Hill is in Harrow, and then I had to stay on the train until Eastcote to make sure I'd been to Hillingdon - one of the harder to reach boroughs.
Time elapsed: 2h 30m. Boroughs so far: 15
Train 7: Eastcote → Acton Town
Time for my third journey on the Piccadilly line, which by now was behaving itself a little better. Heading back into town the line eventually entered Ealing, just south of Alperton. If only Piccadilly line trains stopped at Turnham Green I'd have alighted there, but they don't, so I had to change at Acton Town.
Time elapsed: 3h. Boroughs so far: 16
Train 8: South Acton → Kew Gardens
Somehow I'd arrived at Acton Town during a half hour gap with no District line trains, which forced me to change my plans and yomp to South Acton for the Overground instead. Thankfully I knew which way to walk, and got there just in time. But then Gunnersbury was in Hounslow and Kew Gardens was in Richmond, and I was now over halfway through my borough list.
Time elapsed: 3h 31m. Boroughs so far: 18
Train 9: Kew Gardens → Earl's Court
Switching to the District line for my return journey, I picked up Hammersmith & Fulham (just after Stamford Brook) and Kensington & Chelsea (just after West Kensington).
Time elapsed: 3h 55m. Boroughs so far: 20
Train 10: Earl's Court → Wimbledon
The Wimbledon branch was similarly productive, covering Wandsworth (once the Thames was crossed) and Merton (just before Wimbledon Park).
Time elapsed: 4h 22m. Boroughs so far: 22
Train 11: Wimbledon→ New Malden
Train 12: New Malden→ Wimbledon
Kingston is the bête noire of this challenge, being a borough devoid of Underground and light rail services, and connected to central London only via rail lines through Raynes Park. To reach its innermost station I caught a train from Wimbledon to New Malden, then headed straight back again, thankfully wasting only half an hour in the process.
Time elapsed: 4h 51m. Boroughs so far: 23
Train 13: Wimbledon→ West Croydon
It was time for a tram, because that's a decent way to grab awkward Sutton. The line slices the edge of the borough from Beddington Lane to Therapia Lane, and that's good enough for this challenge. My tram then obviously continued to Croydon, another outlying beastie, and suddenly there were only eight boroughs to go.
Time elapsed: 5h 23m. Boroughs so far: 25
Train 14: West Croydon→ Shadwell
I had an annoyingly maximal wait at West Croydon, but the Overground north provided another profitable run. Anerley and Penge West earned me Bromley, then came five stations in Lewisham, and at Surrey Quays I entered Southwark. I then continued under the river to Shadwell, having deliberately skipped Tower Hamlets earlier because I knew it'd be easier to collect it here.
Time elapsed: 6h 11m. Boroughs so far: 29
Train 15: Shadwell→ Bank
One stop on the DLR grabbed the City of London, another borough I'd skirted but skipped previously.
Time elapsed: 6h 19m. Boroughs so far: 30
Train 16: Bank→ Waterloo
The last central borough I'd somehow not quite been to was Lambeth, but thankfully the Waterloo & City line existed to whisk me there. I didn't run at any point in this challenge, but if I had I could have caught a fractionally earlier W&C train, and then caught an earlier final train and finished the whole challenge in under seven hours. So it rolls.
Time elapsed: 6h 31m. Boroughs so far: 31
Train 17: Waterloo East→ Abbey Wood
The last two boroughs I had to mop up were Greenwich and Bexley. This wasn't ideal because I'd been very close to Greenwich half an hour ago, indeed I'm certain I didn't find the optimal way to tackle this challenge. But a quick walk to Waterloo East offered a choice of three routes to reach both boroughs on a suburban service, and the first departure took me to Abbey Wood. I should have waited for the second, to Falconwood, because that would have been quicker. By now I'd hit the evening peak and the train was unpleasantly crowded. Interestingly the platforms at Abbey Wood are in Greenwich, and only by walking up to the ticket hall did I finally enter Bexley and stop the clock. But that was all of London's 33 boroughs visited in 7 hours 13 minutes, which I'm going to declare as a record until told otherwise. There are definitely cheaper and more interesting ways to spend a day. But go on, beat that.
Time elapsed: 7h 13m. Boroughs so far: 33
...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan18 Feb18 Mar18 Apr18 May18 Jun18 Jul18 Aug18 Sep18 Oct18
Jan17 Feb17 Mar17 Apr17 May17 Jun17 Jul17 Aug17 Sep17 Oct17 Nov17 Dec17
Jan16 Feb16 Mar16 Apr16 May16 Jun16 Jul16 Aug16 Sep16 Oct16 Nov16 Dec16
Jan15 Feb15 Mar15 Apr15 May15 Jun15 Jul15 Aug15 Sep15 Oct15 Nov15 Dec15
Jan14 Feb14 Mar14 Apr14 May14 Jun14 Jul14 Aug14 Sep14 Oct14 Nov14 Dec14
Jan13 Feb13 Mar13 Apr13 May13 Jun13 Jul13 Aug13 Sep13 Oct13 Nov13 Dec13
Jan12 Feb12 Mar12 Apr12 May12 Jun12 Jul12 Aug12 Sep12 Oct12 Nov12 Dec12
Jan11 Feb11 Mar11 Apr11 May11 Jun11 Jul11 Aug11 Sep11 Oct11 Nov11 Dec11
Jan10 Feb10 Mar10 Apr10 May10 Jun10 Jul10 Aug10 Sep10 Oct10 Nov10 Dec10
Jan09 Feb09 Mar09 Apr09 May09 Jun09 Jul09 Aug09 Sep09 Oct09 Nov09 Dec09
Jan08 Feb08 Mar08 Apr08 May08 Jun08 Jul08 Aug08 Sep08 Oct08 Nov08 Dec08
Jan07 Feb07 Mar07 Apr07 May07 Jun07 Jul07 Aug07 Sep07 Oct07 Nov07 Dec07
Jan06 Feb06 Mar06 Apr06 May06 Jun06 Jul06 Aug06 Sep06 Oct06 Nov06 Dec06
Jan05 Feb05 Mar05 Apr05 May05 Jun05 Jul05 Aug05 Sep05 Oct05 Nov05 Dec05
Jan04 Feb04 Mar04 Apr04 May04 Jun04 Jul04 Aug04 Sep04 Oct04 Nov04 Dec04
Jan03 Feb03 Mar03 Apr03 May03 Jun03 Jul03 Aug03 Sep03 Oct03 Nov03 Dec03
Jan02 Feb02 Mar02 Apr02 May02 Jun02 Jul02 Aug02 Sep02 Oct02 Nov02 Dec02