diamond geezer

 Friday, April 19, 2019

Hampstead's high on the list of London's most enticing neighbourhoods, and is always good for a visit. The High Street has a bohemian vibe, the backstreets are gorgeous and the Heath is extensively explorable. But if your day out needs a little extra, Hampstead is also home to half a dozen historic houses... just don't try to do them all in one go.

Fenton House
Admission £9.00 (free to National Trust members)
Opens at 11am (closed Mondays, Tuesdays)
[website] [full-on blog report, 2017]

This is the eclectic/pretty one.

A fine old house on the higher side of town, Fenton House is a treasure trove of ephemera amid a gorgeous garden. Its last owner, Lady Binning, loved to collect porcelain of dubious artistic value, and the National Trust have used this as an excuse to cram the house with more porcelain, period tapestries and keyboard instruments. "If you hurry upstairs," said the guide at the door, "the harpsichords are about to kick off." The garden is on the large side for Hampstead, and exquisite, with an upper terrace and a lower orchard/vegetable garden which don't initially appear to be connected. At present the house and garden are overrun with middle class off-school children, and this weekend sees the annual Egg Hunt Weekend so stay well away, but avoid the holidays and Fenton is a truly genteel treat.

Burgh House
Admission free
Opens at noon (closed Mondays, Tuesdays, Saturdays)
[website] [full-on blog report, 2009]

This is the independent/museumy one.

At the heart of chalybeate Hampstead, Burgh House was rescued by local residents in the 1970s before it could be sold off as yet another private dwelling. They established a museum upstairs to tell Hampstead's story, filling two rooms, and later added an art gallery round the back. The main display doesn't change much, so they keep visitors coming back with additional exhibitions, which at present include a lovely paean to The Ponds on the Heath. Keeping the place ticking over is expensive, so the fact that weddings are booked every Saturday until next year really helps, plus what people really come for isn't the museum but the basement cafe. Its terrace teems with local life, politely poised over coffee and cake, but do step beyond to the enjoy the collection.

Keats House
Admission £7.50 (free to Art Pass holders, half price NT members, £2 Camden residents)
Opens at 11am (closed Mondays, Tuesdays)
[website] [blog report, 2011]

This is the poetic/dreamy one.

The creative high point of John Keats' tragically short life came during his brief stay in Hampstead, precisely 200 years ago. In 1818 he took lodgings with his publisher on the edge of the Heath, in April 1819 the love of his life moved in nextdoor, and in 1820 tuberculosis struck and off he sailed to Italy. The house is now Keats House in Keats Grove, adjacent to Keats Community Library, and is operated as a visitor attraction by the City of London. It's very well done, essentially in setting an atmosphere because not much survives of Keats time' here other than letters and of course those odes. Sit here, listen to this, read these, and stand in the actual rooms where he wrote and slept. With three storeys-worth to explore and several bicentenary events planned, now is a great time to visit (just not next week when the house is closed for maintenance).

2 Willow Road
Admission £8.00 (joint ticket with Fenton House, £14.50)
First tour at 11am, explore independently from 3pm (closed Mondays, Tuesdays)
[website] [full-on blog report, 2012]

This is the modernist/architectural one.

Hampstead's long had a creative left-leaning bent, so was the obvious place for Hungarian architect Ernö Goldfinger to build a house. Neighbours protested at his plan to replace a row of cottages with a box on concrete stilts, but today his home is thought worthy enough to be protected by the National Trust. Come early and you'll need to join a tour, kicking off with a seriously retro 1996 documentary in the garage, then following your guide up the spiral stairs into the house proper. The guide I got was excellent, buoyed by guests who asked pertinent questions, and gave us 15 minutes longer upstairs than we were due. Only the Goldfingers ever lived here so the place is a proper time capsule (Sony Trinitron in the lounge, tin of M&S ham in the kitchen, Rimmel eyeshadow in the bathroom), as well as being an pioneering exemplar of interior design. My third time round, but I still loved it.

Kenwood House
Admission free
Opens at 10am
[website] [full-on blog report, 2016]

This is the grand/arty one.

Kenwood House perches at the top of the Heath, surrounded by trees, and is the most-visited of the six. It was gifted to the nation by the Guinness family and English Heritage now use it to display the finer points of their art collection. That means florid portraits, including Vermeers and Rembrandts, but with plenty of other historical infill, and the Library is symmetrically gorgeous. When I dropped by yesterday upstairs had been roped off, which limited the attraction somewhat, and the sentinel at the door was attempting to flog the guidebook with coldcaller-levels of focused devotion. For most the cafe is the focus rather than the house, but Searcys don't come cheap so feasting on the paintings might be the wiser option.

Freud Museum
Admission £9.00 (half price for NT members, Art Pass holders)
Opens at noon (closed Mondays, Tuesdays)
[website] [full-on blog report, 2009]

This is the thoughtful/psychological one.

It's also the only one I haven't been to this week, because you can't do them all in one go. But next time you go to Hampstead, pick one or more and make a great visit better.

 Thursday, April 18, 2019

If you've been through a tube ticket hall recently you may have seen, or picked up, TfL's new promotional leaflet.

TfL normally go to great lengths not to print anything, indeed over the last few years leaflet racks have become tumbleweed holders for tube maps, accessibility screeds and not much else. So someone must have thought it financially worthwhile to produce a 20 page full-colour leaflet banging the drum about transport improvements and distributing it widely across the network. That might be the Mayor, who gets to pen a cheery upbeat welcome on pages two and three. Or it might be some other executive who's worked out that people won't ever click on a webpage about TfL's improvement programme but might read about it if you print it out for them.

Rather than eulogising generally, the leaflet focuses on seven different changes, some underway, some complete. Each gets a double page spread with text and two photos, and each covers a different aspect of the capital's transport system. Let's take a look at the chosen seven.

Improvement 1
Easing congestion and improving accessibility at a transformed Victoria station

This is a strange place to start. TfL are rightly proud of the mammoth reconstruction project they've had underway at Victoria since 2011, and which they finally completed six months ago. A new entrance at Cardinal Place, extra interconnecting walkways and full step-free operation are certainly something to crow about. The transformation has also done much to ease congestion, mainly by deliberately directing passengers down extra passageways on tediously devious routes. Lengthy bastardtunnels were first put into operation at King's Cross St Pancras in 2009, and are much despised, and further bastardtunnels have since made an appearance at Tottenham Court Road (oh god, how much further does this corridor go?) and Bond Street (I have no idea where I am, but this cannot possibly be the quickest way to the trains). It's the opening of Victoria's bastardtunnels which has allowed the station to enter a lengthy period of escalator renewal, with a tedious one-way system around a miserable shuffling labyrinth in operation until July 2020. So when I currently think of Victoria the last thing I'm thinking is 'improvement', merely additional grind, and maybe it would have been wiser to keep quiet.

Improvement 2
Greener buses for a cleaner city

The Mayor's been banging the drum about air pollution ever since entering office, initially to emphasise that he inherited the problem rather than causing it, and more recently to be seen to be doing something about it. Fixing bus engines is one of the few things he can proactively do, hence now "all new buses are equipped with state-of-the-art technology". This doesn't mean zero emissions, indeed double deckers only have to be diesel-electric hybrids which "are estimated to reduce carbon dioxide by up to 30 per cent", a fairly meaningless phrase. Meanwhile all new single deckers will be zero emission but only from 2020, and that's only "at tailpipe", and as for the Mayor's long-promised 12 Low Emission Bus Zones, they won't all be in operation before the end of the year. Getting there, but nowhere near job done.

Improvement 3
A more frequent and spacious service on the tube

Here's one of TfL's more overused claims, indeed Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson could rightly have used it, and whoever's Mayor in 2024 will probably be able to do the same. That's because increasing capacity is a mammoth project, involving both signalling and rolling stock, and because nobody's been able to complete the project as quickly as they'd have liked. The leaflet boasts specifically about "two more trains an hour during peak periods" on the Victoria line, and extended evening peak service on the Northern line "between 5pm to 7pm", and an "increased" number of trains on some of the Jubilee line during the "busiest periods in the morning and evening". That's great, but your journey probably hasn't just been mentioned. The leaflet also praises the 192-strong fleet of spacious S Stock trains on the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines, which affects far more passengers, but this replacement programme started way back in 2010 and was completed in April 2017. Future stock renewals remain distant pipedreams, so don't merit a mention.

Improvement 4
Stay connected and updated as you travel

The fact that over 95% of Underground stations have wifi isn't new, indeed checking Facebook underground's been perfectly possible for more than six years. What is new is that you can now connect at Victoria Coach Station and (finally) at 79 London Overground stations. The leaflet went to print in February, so doesn't mention that the impressive fact that onboard wifi is now available on purple TfL Rail trains, nor that free wifi was switched on at North Greenwich bus station this week. What may excite you more is that 4G mobile coverage is coming to the tube "from 2020", unless you're the sort of curmudgeon who enjoys hearing fellow passengers' phone conversations collapse when they enter a tunnel, in which case you'll no doubt hate the idea.

Improvement 5
Connecting more of London with new Night Services on the Tube and Overground

The word 'new' is doing a lot of heavy lifting work here. The tube's had an overnight weekend service for almost three years, and even the most recent Overground addition was in February last year. It makes sense for the leaflet to praise the Night network, and to labour the obvious point that fares in the small hours of the morning are off-peak. But Improvement 5 is also entirely retrospective, with zero mention of any further Night Tube extensions to come, and very much old news.

Improvement 6
Updated Santander Cycles for improved safety and comfort

This is an intriguing headline claim, effectively confessing that the original bikes were unsafe and awkward to ride. Turn up at a cycle hire station today and you're likely to get one of those. The new less cumbersome bikes are being built in Stratford-upon-Avon, and "will offer riders improved handling, safety and comfort, with a new gel saddle, lower frame, tyres with puncture prevention and a new gear hub." The leaflet explains no more, and doesn't mention that they first entered service eighteen months ago, nor that they won't be replacing the original eleven thousand outright, merely adding to them.

Improvement 7
'Please Offer Me A Seat' badge scheme

Here's another welcome, but non-recent, introduction. The POMAS badge scheme was launched two years ago, in April 2017, providing visual notification that the wearer might need to sit down more than you do. The badge is by no means foolproof, as the more recent #LookUp campaign felt compelled to address, but this doesn't get a mention. Instead the double page spread is more a nudge that certain readers might find the badge useful, and the rest of us need to know what it means.

...and the elephant in the room? That's Crossrail, of course, which doesn't get a single mention in any form anywhere in the leaflet. We're now four months past the point where TfL should have been screaming the name Elizabeth in every press-release, poster and publication, but instead all mention remains resolutely off-limits and we don't even have official confirmation of how late it might launch. I choose to see this 20 page leaflet as a distraction, a handful of shiny things new and not so new, designed to help us look the other way.

 Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A walk round Clapham Common

Clapham Common South Side
WC Wine & Charcuterie.
Pigeon-splattered benches.
Cyclist resting on tree stump, phone-tapping.
Crow with opened ketchup sachet in its beak.
Planning notice 18/05422/RG3
Lime-green lime leaves, budding buds, swollen-trunked plane.
Royal Exchange 4½ miles, Whitehall 4 miles.
Bearded jogger in orange shorts.
Bottletop, Kinder Bueno, beauty treatment price list, KitKat Chunky.
BBQs or fires are not permitted.
A baby's bonnet with two pompoms, abandoned on a fencepost.
Five geese on the Long Pond.
Orange balloon tied to pushchair.
Playing an undefined racket sport whilst simultaneously walking the dog.
Bench, fag ends, supermarket receipt, black plastic fork.
Controlled zone (20) Mon-Fri 9am-6pm.
The Windmill, 42 boutique bedrooms. Sunday Roasts. Chef's Pick.
Headphones over a woolly hat.
Chunk of polystyrene pecked by blackbird.
Crosslegged man, hat off, picnic plucked from a Sainsbury's carrier bag.
Cycle path. Discarded bicycle frame.
Red ice cream van, queueless.
Eagle Pond, reeds, railings, heron.
Danger Thin Ice. Do Not Feed The Ducks.
Angler with Warburtons loaf and tray of maggots.
Pauline Smith's tree. Bouquets. Plastic butterfly.
Pigeons on the pitch in 3-5-42 formation.
Dustcart, cement mixer, Driver Under Instruction.
Deep Level Shelter, information board, air vent.
Sawn stumps and piled-up branches.

Nightingale Lane
Discarded scratchcard.
Freshly-mown grass scattered across recreational space.
Two sausage dogs, two owners, one blanket.
A personal trainer and his enslaved starjumper.
Tussock with daisies and dandelions.
Zebra crossing.

Clapham Common West Side
Pergola. Tulips, the last narcissi.
Easter Holiday tennis session with merry kids and scattered balls.
Lucio's First Class Catering at Bowling Green Cafe.
Classic Breakfast £6.10. Healthy Option £5.50.
Lambeth Social Services, having a chat.
Heading home with the au pair, demanding an ice cream.
London County Council boundary marker.
Group hug.
Snogging on a bench.
Funfair, flags and flashes, waltzer, wigwam, win a pink teddy.
Low Level Air Raid Shelters.
Pausing on a bench for a fag and a flask of tea.
Synchronised pull-ups, topless, on the Fitness Frames.
Frisky sniffing hounds.
Kickabout, jumpers for goalpost.
Front lawn, electronic gates, intercom.
Centra Londo N Ultra Low Em Issionzone Oper Ates 24/7
Scooter adventures in Battersea Woods.
Dangerous structure, do not enter.
Plane tree avenue, stinkpipe, bluebells.
Children's playground, please shut the gate.
Three children riding aboard a twin buggy.
Impromptu cricket match using a tennis racket.
Bored girls climbing a streetlamp.

Clapham Common North Side
Headlong dash carrying a football and six orange cones.
Urinating poodle.
Long-tailed rainbow kite, aloft.
Kopparberg bottle, Maryland Cookies wrapper, Dr Pepper.
Old lady walking one dog and carrying the other.
Half-hearted jogger. Stoic jogger. Jogger wielding pushchair. A dozen other joggers.
Ponytailed woman doing enforced press-ups.
Tree number 157 (dead).
Inspection covers for MWB, GPO and BT.
Post inscribed Battersea 1874.
4-way Control Wait Here. Waiting cyclist with backseat toddler.
Illegible milestone.
Laminated poster detailing Mortlake Green Playground Implementation Proposals.
Defecating staffie.
Look Both Ways.
Brown paper bag, candystripe paper bag, plastic carton.
Horse chestnut candles.
Railway ticket sales voucher, price £24.60.
Holy Trinity Clapham. Planters, daffodils, cherry blossom.

The Pavement
Yesterday's Metro, open at page 5.
Cock Pond, drained, imperceptibly sloped, awaiting summer paddlers.
Penalty Charge Notice wrapper.
Green Flag.
Squatting greyhound.
Picture-perfect apple blossom.
Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association trough.
Joe Public - pizza by the slice.
Homeless guy, Special Brew in hand, with black labrador.

 Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Anorak Corner (Paris)

Those nice folk at RATP, the Parisian equivalent of TfL, kindly publish an annual list of passenger numbers at every Métro station. It's part of a large online datafile which includes maps, pictograms, precise station locations, air quality figures and Pantone colours. The file in question is called Trafic annuel entrant par station du réseau ferré. Importantly the data is for entrances only, not exits nor interchanges. 2018's figures are due out in the next couple of weeks, so what follows are passenger numbers for 2017. RER stations are counted separately, so their passengers do not appear.

Paris's ten busiest Métro stations (2017)
  1) Gare du Nord (51m)
Saint-Lazare (47m)
Gare de Lyon (37m)
Montparnasse-Bienvenue (29m)
Gare de l'Est (21m)
Republique (18.2m)
Bibliotheque (18.1m)
Les Halles (16m)
  9) La Defense (15.3m)
↑1 Bastille (15.2m)

The top 5 are all Métro stations attached to major rail termini. Gare du Nord, at the head of the list, is Europe's busiest railway station. Montparnasse is the busiest Métro station south of the river. Four of the top 10 are on line 4, and four are on line 5. Republique is a major hub served by five different lines. By contrast Bibliotheque, Les Halles and La Defense are served by only one Métro line. Châtelet was in the top 10 last year, but has been nudged out this year by Bastille. If passenger numbers for Châtelet and Les Halles were combined (they form a Bank-Monument-style duo), it'd be in fifth place.

To compare these figures with the London Underground, which counts entrances and exits, we'd have to double them. That'd make the combined Top 10 as follows...
» Gare du Nord, King's Cross St Pancras, Saint-Lazare, Waterloo, Oxford Circus, Victoria, Gare de Lyon, London Bridge, Liverpool Street, Stratford

Paris's ten least busy tube stations (2017)
  1) Église d'Auteuil (177017)  [line 10]
  2) Pelleport (361581)  [line 3bis]
  3) Pré St-Gervais (367131)  [line 7bis]
  4) Buttes-Chaumont (542357)  [line 7bis]
  5) Bolivar (552896)  [line 7bis]
  6) Danube (595883)  [line 7bis]
  7) ↑1 Porte d'Auteuil (651903)  [line 10]
  8) ↓1 Chardon Lagache (660183)  [line 10]
  9) ↑1 Saint-Fargeau (715468)  [line 3bis]
10) ↑1 Falguiere (889118)  [line 12]

I've already blogged about the top three stations in this list. Numbers 3-6 are all on line 7bis, the disconnected branch to the northeast of the city. Another two (2 and 9) are on the nearby, even shorter, line 3bis. Another three (1, 7 and 8) are on the buckled loop of line 10, previously discussed. The only other line which gets a look in is line 12, where Falguiere is very close to Montparnasse. Half of the top 10 are served by trains in one direction only.

To compare these figures with the London Underground, again doubling makes sense (although it's not entirely fair for one-way stations). Whatever, the combined Top 10 would be as follows...
» Église d'Auteuil, Roding Valley, Chigwell, Grange Hill, Pelleport, Pré St-Gervais, Chorleywood, North Ealing, Moor Park, Theydon Bois

Église d'Auteuil
ligne 10, XVIe arrondissement
Trafic annuel entrant par station: 177,017
The least used Métro station in Paris

The least used Métro station in Paris is down these steps.

We're in southwest Paris, north of the river, in the former village of Auteuil. This was swallowed up by the city in 1860, back when it most mostly home to nobility and vineyards, and has been a hangout for the nouveau riche ever since. It's pleasant without being overly snobby, and quiet without being dead. It's not the kind of place where you'd expect to find the least used Métro station. But there are reasons, and they're complicated.

We're near the tip of line 10, which was originally line 8 when it opened in 1913. The line ended in a loop, turning back at Porte d'Auteuil on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne. Line 10 took over in 1937, thanks to some tunnelling jiggerypokery elsewhere which need not detain us. In 1980 the line was extended westwards towards Boulogne so the loop was cut and instead became a kind of buckle. Trains head out of town through Église d'Auteuil, Michel-Ange Auteuil and Porte d'Auteuil, and back into town via Michel-Ange Molitor, Chardon-Lagache and Mirabeau. Here's a map, along with annual passenger numbers at each of the stations.

Line 9 cuts down the middle of the loop, with a remarkably equitable two and a bit million passengers at each station. None of the other stations on line 10's buckle come close, and all feature in the 20 Least Used Métro stations. But Église d'Auteuil's total of barely 180,000 is way off-kilter, despite being in the heart of a residential neighbourhood. And the chief reason for this is that RATP only count passengers entering the station. Passengers entering the station can only travel west, towards the banlieues, whereas they probably want to go east towards the city centre. What's more there are two eastbound stations within 250 metres - that's closer than Leicester Square is to Covent Garden - so they get the traffic instead. Lots of people get out at Église d'Auteuil, because it's the first station across the Seine, but they don't officially count.

If you do enter the station, descent is via a couple of flights of steps past all the usual maps and diagrams. At the foot of the stairs are two ticket machines, then a window behind which sits a member of staff without much public to administer to. Beyond the ticket gates is a single tiled platform, gently curved, with four orange plastic seats in the centre. And at the far end is a second exit, not available for entry, which reaches the surface partway down Rue Wilhelm. This station was in fact originally called Wilhelm, after the 19th century French musician, but during the First World War a local councillor became convinced it had been named after Kaiser Wilhelm instead, so he successfully campaigned for the name change. Fake news is nothing new.

Arriving at, rather than departing from, the station involves an intriguing train manoeuvre. The track rises steeply after passing under the Seine, so reaches Mirabeau station at an awkward angle and continues climbing towards Église d'Auteuil without stopping. Those waiting on the eastbound platform get to watch trains whooshing up an incline, and those aboard westbound get to look down on them as they pass. Here's a video which shows, repeatedly, how that looks.

Which brings us back to the square containing Église d'Auteuil itself. The eponymous church which watches over the station entrance has a high narrow dome, several modern extensions and a busy congregation. The obelisk in the heart of the square marks the location of the tomb of Henri-François d'Aguesseau, former Chancellor of France, left behind when the remainder of the cemetery was moved on. Molière once lived in a country house beyond the pedestrian crossing. The Bistro d'Auteuil on the cobbles serves biers, charcuterie and salades. Parisians really are much better at making their street corners somewhere you might want to hang out (and simultaneously much worse at having a decent-sized patch of grass close by).

Rue d'Auteuil wiggles off from here, the historic thoroughfare at the heart of the old village. It's lined with charming little shops selling meat and bread and dainty glazed pastries, and flowers and jewellery and leather goods, like a local high street flecked with upmarket infill. Some of the city's richest citizens live out here in gated enclaves, which is rare in Paris, but those who venture out onto the streets clutching baguettes and bouquets are more bourgeois than grandiose. Keep walking and within four minutes you've reached the main Place d'Auteuil, a charming triangular marketplace where the next westbound staircase descends. Passengers flock here, to the 61st least used Métro station, rather than back there to the least used of all.

 Monday, April 15, 2019

ligne 3bis, XXe arrondissement
Trafic annuel entrant par station: 361,581
The 2nd least used Métro station in Paris

Pelleport and Pré St-Gervais usually jockey for penultimate position in the Parisian Least Used stakes, and Pelleport currently holds the title by a margin of just 6000 passengers. Alighting from the train it looks normal enough, a very typical pair of facing platforms within an elliptical tiled tunnel. Above ground it looks normal enough too, a very typical Parisian road junction in the eastern suburbs. The reason for such low footfall is the railway itself, specifically line 3bis - the runtiest Métro line of them all. Originally it was a branch of line 3, but got disconnected in 1971 to streamline services on the busier arm to Gallieni. Line 3bis therefore serves just four stations, nowhere anybody who isn't local wants to go, and Pelleport is one of the two in the middle.

The platforms are generally deserted, as you can see, partly because of location but also because trains are unnecessarily frequent. Tiles are white. Seats are yellow. A gallery of oversized gilt-framed posters lines the walls. This is a deep level station, indeed 3bis is a deep level line, so Pelleport's lifts are very necessary. On this occasion I decided to ignore them and take the stairs, there being no sign at the bottom warning that this wasn't a good idea. It proved not to be a good idea, as the staircase turned and turned and turned until eventually I'd climbed 98 steps. Adverts on the walls suggest people must come this way, probably downwards at the height of the rush hour, but it was a relief to finally reach the surface.

Above ground Pelleport has a very dinky entrance, almost chalet-like in construction, designed by Charles Plumet using reinforced concrete and ciment de Grenoble. The lift doors open directly onto the pavement, with egress from the stairs on one side and a hideyhole for selling tickets on the other. A high roof is required to conceal the lift machinery, decorated with ornate ceramics plus the word Metropolitan in smart lettering across the middle. Peer closer and the words Rue Pelleport appear in mosaic on the edge of the overhang, which would have been what counted as a station nameplate in 1921. Below that on the main wall are three similarly original signs... ← Billets ←, Ascenseurs and Escalier ...for reasons previously explained.

The station entrance pokes up at the intersection of Avenue Gambetta and Rue Pelleport, less than a kilometre from the edge of the city, on the same block as an oversized hospital. Other corners are taken by the obligatory bistro, an awninged cafe, a run-of-the-mill pharmacy and a tempting boulanger/pattisier/traiteur. No tourist is going to stumble their way out here, ensuring these remain genuine outlets for the immediate populace, along with further independent retailers tucked away on bifurcating sidestreets. Seven-storey apartment blocks shield the spring sun. Coffee and pastries are taken at outside tables. Traffic slowly streams. And a better station on a better-connected line is only 300 metres down the street, so why start your journey here?

Pré St-Gervais
ligne 7bis, XIXe arrondissement
Trafic annuel entrant par station: 367,131
The 3rd least used Métro station in Paris

When in Paris, why not visit its three least used Métro stations? Number three is on the northeastern outskirts of Paris, not so far from number two, almost on the edge of the city. To reach it you take line 7bis, which is a peculiarity in itself (as the name suggests). Originally this was a branch of line 7, but was chopped off in 1967 because it was significantly less busy, and trains now shuttle around a handful of stations. On the onboard diagram the line looks like a paddle, but in real life it better resembles a wriggling sperm, with four stations forming a one-way loop round the head and the other four forming a tail. Pré St-Gervais is the station at the nose end, indeed it's the timetabled eastbound destination (despite the fact that services arrive, carry on and head back).

Trains run into a single platform, commonplace in London but a rarity here, They don't hang around, so the handful of waiting passengers leap up off their blue plastic seats to head off towards Danube and Botzaris. There's no reason to linger. The only way out is up a flight of steps and along a bright tiled passageway, where you could then take further stairs but far better to take the lift. Going up. It's then a short walk past the ticket office and then a final flight to emerge in a quiet part of town beneath an old Métro sign. Most Parisian stations are far from step-free.

Five roads meet at the adjacent road junction, the local housing neither too old nor too new. A few old souls are hunched over on white plastic chairs outside the Bar Du Metro Brasserie. The temperature flashing up on the pharmacy's green cross is five degrees too optimistic. The greengrocer at the corner shop shuffles a few trays of wholly mundane fruit and veg. In the park on the hill a posse of four police officers on bikes stop to talk to some reclining teens, then pedal off. From the summit there's a fine view across the périphérique into the banlieues, densely packed to the horizon. A tram wiggles round what was once the city wall, heading somewhere more useful.

It's partly Pré St-Gervais' borderline location that keep its numbers down, and partly its train service being a one-way loop to nowhere much. But this was not always so. Between 1921 and 1939 an extra rail tunnel was opened between Pré St-Gervais and Porte de Lilas, allowing a more useful shuttle connection to link up with line 3. This operated again between 1952 and 1956, but Porte de Lilas now had a direct connection to the city centre via new line 11, so the underused link was permanently mothballed. But the tunnel's still there, and so is a totally unused tunnel connecting the other way, which is where one of Paris's most elusive ghost stations is to be found. [tunnel map]

Haxo is a brilliant name for a station, or would have been had it ever opened. It was planned as the eastbound twin to Pré St-Gervais, and is located (out of sight) just 100m down the road. But no connection to the surface was ever made, so no trace exists at ground level, only a scrappy raised terrace covered by evidence of exercised dogs and far too many pigeons. Neither is it visible from a passing train - all that can be seen is the entrance to the tunnel that eventually leads there. The only way to reach Haxo is via illegal adventuring, or as part of an occasional film crew in need of an authentic disconnected platform.

There are longstanding plans to reconnect line 7bis and line 3bis to create a brand new line, notionally numbered 19. This would create a more useful arc through the 19th and 20th arrondisements, linking Gambetta to (almost) Gare de l'Est. The two tunnels are disjoint, so the new line would pass through Pré St-Gervais in a westbound direction and Haxo heading east. Should this ever happen, the existing platform at Pré St-Gervais would be taken out of service and the parallel shuttle platform used instead. But newly-opened Haxo would instantly become one of the least used stations on the Paris Métro, because drawing an obvious line on a map isn't the same as running a profitable railway, so don't expect any expensive de-ghosting any time soon.

 Sunday, April 14, 2019

À PARIS: l'axe historique

London's not big on long straight lines, other than a few Roman roads transformed into traffic jams. But Paris boasts a full six-miler - the axe historique - a true ceremonial alignment of arches, obelisks and major thoroughfares. This is what happens happens when you stick kings, emperors and presidents in charge of town planning.

It grew in stages. Originally it was merely the central axis of the garden in front of the royal palace, the Palais des Tuileries, because the French do like a bit of formal symmetry. In the 1660s it was extended to provide a charming vista along an elm avenue, later renamed the Champs Élysées. This reached Place d'Étoile in 1710, where a century later Napoleon ordered the Arc de Triomphe to be built, eventually completed in 1836. The line continues along increasingly arterial roads and crosses the Seine to reach La Défense, a postwar business district sufficiently distant for Parisians to tolerate high-rise building. At the very far end is La Grande Arche, a whopping office block courtesy of François Mitterrand, which completes the line of perspective... for now.

The Louvre

The Palais des Tuileries is no more, having been burned to the ground by a rampaging mob in 1871. This opened up one side of the ginormous quadrangle that forms the Louvre, so today the eastern end of the axe historique is marked by the most famous art gallery in the world. I had been considering going inside, because Thursday mornings are one of the best times to avoid the queues, but decided against because a) the weather was too good to be trapped inside, b) I'd seen the Mona Lisa 39 years ago, before the invention of the smartphone, c) one huge art gallery a day is quite enough. Instead I wandered around the outside of the glass pyramid a bit, which was looking a bit less splendid than usual because the surrounding water features had been drained revealing triangular concrete slabs. All the usual tourists sat around enjoying a rest, or stood around in large groups, the Louvre being one of the sights you have to tick off even if you're not planning to spend hours exploring inside. Maybe next time.

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

This is the smaller of the two arches Napoleon had built to celebrate a string of victories, but the only one of the two to be completed before his string of defeats. It lines up precisely with the axe historique, having doubled up as the entrance to the Palais des Tuileries before that was demolished. Intriguingly it doesn't line up properly with the Louvre, whose central axis is slightly out of sync due to the slight curvature of the River Seine. Instead the axe historique now terminates at the equestrian statue of King Louis XIV in the Louvre's courtyard, seemingly naggingly off-centre but in fact perfectly aligned.

Jardin des Tuileries

The palace may have gone but its garden survives, remodelled as the ultimate in French formality. Pristine lawns and topiary clusters are carefully balanced to either side of a scrunchy central promenade, along with colourful flowerbeds and classical statuary. In spring admire the dazzling pinks of the cherry blossom. In high summer dive for the shade of the avenue of clipped trees. Two ornamental ponds complete the facilities, each medially aligned, one smaller and round, the other larger and octagonal. I could have grabbed a perimeter seat in one of the official green non-deckchairs, admired the fountain and watched the small boats, but I had an axis to follow.

Place de la Concorde

Largest square in Paris, threaded through with streaming traffic, centred on a 75 foot obelisk from Luxor and the ideal place to guillotine deposed royalty.

Champs Élysées

No longer bucolic fields the Champs Élysées is Paris's chief thoroughfare, almost two kilometres in length, and is also used for military parades and concluding the Tour de France. One end's green and palatial, the other's mostly shops. I headed to the latter to see what all the fuss was about and discovered a succession of brand temples on either side of a teeming highway. The traffic's far far worse than Oxford Street, but this doesn't matter because the street and pavements are much wider so the cars can do their thing while you windowshop. There's even space to fit tented brasseries between the roadway and the shops, so spacious is the Elysian experience. I checked for riot damage following the recent gilet jaunes protests, and spotted only a handful of shops with telltale boarding (although I doubt Lacoste previously covered their windows with sparkling metal grilles).

Arc de Triomphe

Built long before the motor car, the intention was never to become a roundabout, but that's essentially what this victory arch has become. It sits at the heart of an astonishing twelve-armed road junction, an effect which can only be achieved at scale, which means attempting to walk round it takes absolutely bloody ages. Cars and buses and scooters swirl round, like a circular Hyde Park Corner, while tourists step up to the roadside for a triumphant selfie. The proper thing to do is pay 12€ for the privilege of climbing 284 steps to the roof terrace, via a small museum in the attic, and gawp across Paris in a dozen directions. Thursday would have been a cracking day for it too. But I burrowed down to the Metro station that's sort-of underneath instead, and followed the rest of the axe historique by rail.

Line 1

This is the oldest, and the busiest, of the Métro lines under Paris, and follows the historic alignment from roughly Place de la Concorde to the Grand Arche. It's also fully automated, and has been since 2012, which means there's no driver to get in the way if you sit right at the front. From here you can see both tracks within a single squat tunnel, in this case almost perfectly straight, the most entrancing array of lights being those on the descent to Porte Maillot. For the 1992 extension to La Défense the tracks rise up to cross the Seine mid-dual carriageway, revealing a forest of skyscrapers ahead, before ducking back down into the gloom. It'd be even more fun than the DLR if only the seats faced forwards.

La Défense

Wow. This hi-tech commercial district stretches for a full kilometre uphill, its broad central strip bounded by office towers from the deepest recesses of architectural imagination. Be they colourful, slanted or merely very tall cylinders, each seems fearful of not being noticed so makes an extra special quirky effort. The overall effect is closer to London Docklands than the City, but with a far greater feeling of space despite the commercial clustering. I arrived at lunchtime to find office workers pouring out to collect lunch from a handful of streetfood vans, or more likely from outlets elsewhere, before diving back inside their separate vertical domains. I negotiated a succession of stepped terraces on my ascent, the expansive medial strip concealing an arterial road underneath where no foundations can be placed. I nipped inside Les Quatre Temps, which in 1981 was Europe's largest shopping centre, where armed soldiers mingled cautiously on the escalators. And I made my way inexorably towards the monster building at the far western end.

Grande Arche de la Défense

Officially it's a hollowed-out cube, 110m in length/width/height, clad in marble, but everyone calls it an arch. It was opened in 1989 to mark the bicentennial of the French Revolution, and now houses a couple of thousand civil servants within its twin pillars. Intriguingly the arch is twisted six degrees off-centre, partly to echo the skewness of the Louvre at the other end of the alignment, but chiefly because the railway lines and motorway buried underneath didn't allow the foundations to go in straight. For 15€ it's possible to ride a scenic elevator through the central void to an upper observation deck, which I tried in 2005, got the willies and vowed never again. An "elevator incident" in 2010 did indeed close the attraction down for the next seven years, which I feel somewhat justifies my irrational fears. Instead I settled on the steps, whipped out a thermos of tea and spent several minutes staring back down the canyon of offices towards the Arc de Triomphe, an Egyptian needle and ultimately the Louvre. It's incredible that the central axis of a old royal garden has become all this.

l'axe historique gallery
There are 25 photos altogether [slideshow]

 Saturday, April 13, 2019

À PARIS: Centre Pompidou

Fifty years ago Paris lacked a permanent showcase for the contemporary arts, so President Georges Pompidou decided to build one. A major international competition was conducted, ultimately won by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano with a groundbreaking 'inside-out' design. Centre Georges Pompidou opened in 1977, across seven functional floors, and was thoroughly refreshed for a grand reopening in 2000. Today it attracts over 3½ million paying visitors a year, which is more than any UK attraction manages, and there's nowhere else quite like it. It's also really difficult to photograph.

The large car-park-esque building is located a few blocks north of the river, alongside a rectangular open space whose footprint is approximately the same size. This is a good place to sit and stare up at the pipes, girders and struts on the exterior, plus the tubular escalator snaking up the side. I've got as far as outside the building before, but been thwarted by lack of time or the fact it's always closed on Tuesdays. On this visit I picked my day carefully and timed my visit to avoid the queues by turning up at 4pm. The Pompidou keeps all its exhibition galleries open until nine, so a late visit pays.

Anyone can get inside the main building for nothing, but you do need to make your way through security first. This grants access to a huge atrium, with all the exposed painted pipework and ducting you'd be expecting, plus an underutilised mezzanine level and a labyrinthine basement. If all you want is a wander and the Photography Gallery that's fine, but basically you're not getting anywhere decent without paying. Further wandering costs 5€, but what everybody goes for is the 14€ “Museum and exhibitions” ticket, otherwise all you're going for is a view. Sticking your rucksack in the cloakroom is obligatory, but now free.

As a first time user I confess to being impressively baffled as to where the art was and how to get there, but the gist is that it's "up the escalators". The short escalator I thought connected only to a cinema was the key, leading first to a ticket check and then to the external tubular experience. It's here you step into the escalator zigzag up the side of the building, shielded inside a grimy perspex pipe which might once have felt hugely futuristic but now has shades of '80s shopping mall. It's further than you think. The first two floors contain a public library, accessed elsewhere, and the next floor is only for the exit from the main collection, so you need to climb one grinding flight higher.

Four paragraphs in, and at last here's the art. The Musée National d’Art Moderne showcases key works from 1905 to the present day, conveniently split by floor into 'before I was born' and 'after'. On the 5th floor that means Expressionism at one end and Pop Art at the other, arranged pretty much chronologically, which makes a pleasant contrast to the vagaries of Tate Modern's woolly thematic blur. Starting off down the first long compartmentalised gallery I was starting to worry that the two hours I'd allocated weren't going to be enough.

You don't get a lot of any particular artist, but you do get a lot of artists. And while French painters get more of a look-in than others, that's no bad thing. I loved the bright speckly Matisses, and the expressive Kandinskys, and made tracks to further investigate Quizet. It was inspiring to be surrounded by a select few googly-eyed Picassos, a couple of them pointedly blue. An added dimension was provided by objects rather than canvases, for example a selection of Bauhaus furniture, as well as some intriguing historical displays tucked up intermediate side-passages. All in all a big thumbs up to the fifth floor, and I wish I'd had the chance to walk a bit slower.

Downstairs comes the modern modern art, post 1965, arranged more conceptually. Here we find the plastic lumps, deconstructed metaphors and video installations, tons of them, filling a similar-sized space less densely. More a showcase than a permanent exhibition it's still an intriguing wander, even if nosing round certain corners can be a brief disappointment. A handful of artists get their own mini-exhibitions up one end, these currently including Stéphane Mandelbaum's cartoons, Isidore Isou's graphics and Ellsworth Kelly's windows. I'm not sure whether I enjoyed this floor more for its variety or its unfamiliarity.

Scattered across the building, on the top floor and the first, are four further galleries devoted to specific temporary exhibitions. In the main upper galleries that's currently a Victor Vasarely retrospective. I initially thought "who?", but grew to enjoy his dazzling optic art more and more with each twist and turn. He's on for three more weeks. Downstairs offered The Factory Of Life, a thought-provoking assemblage of bio-chemistry masquerading as art (and vice versa), plus a body of bold vegetal sculpturings from Brazil. Each of these galleries was noticeably busier than the main collection, presumably because all the local visitors have already seen that, possibly several times.

All in all, hugely worth the initial 14€.

Aside: In London the core art comes free, but you get stung for a lot extra to see small individual periodic exhibitions. In Paris entering the art gallery costs, but the small individual periodic exhibitions bear no additional cost. Both models have their positives, and I love that London offers so much for nothing, but the Parisian model is undoubtedly better value for money.

And when you're done with the art, there's the view. The sixth floor balcony extends the length of the building, and is higher than the entire neighbouring skyline so would have some amazing views if only it weren't inside a grime-encrusted plastic tube. The fifth floor balcony has almost as good an aspect and is entirely open, so that's the place to be (beating the fourth floor where the rooftops opposite start to block everything). A few steeples, obviously the Eiffel Tower, distant Montparnasse and a single compact skyscraper cluster in the distance. What wowed me most though was Sacre Coeur on its hilltop, a domed spectacle above lines of chimneypots, proving that architecture is also art. Formidable. [12 photos]

 Friday, April 12, 2019

À PARIS: Five months ago Eurostar launched a special offer for cheap travel between January and March. With all those dates to choose from and Brexit looming, obviously the day I picked for a day trip to Paris was our last full day in the EU, March 28th. That'll be fitting, and fun, and potentially tumultuous, I thought.

But Eurostar texted the day beforehand and said sorry, French customs officers are on strike, please change your dates. With Brexit already postponed by a fortnight, obviously I delayed my trip by a fortnight, and then Brexit didn't happen again. Not a problem. Yesterday turned out to be a glorious day in the French capital, with not a cloud in the sky, and I had a lovely day out. Here are a few observations for starters.

I remain impressed that I can wake up at 5am, be whizzing underneath Stratford at 7am and stood outside Notre Dame listening to the clock strike eleven three hours later.
The exchange rate is appalling these days, and euros are essentially pounds.
I tracked down kilometre zero, the point from which all distances from Paris are measured. It's on the Île de la Cité in the middle of the Seine, which is exactly where a central point should be. Specifically it's marked by an unobtrusive octagonal brass plate within the cobbles in front of Notre Dame cathedral. The inscription says Point Zéro Des Routes De France but is now very worn. People don't generally give it a second look, unless their tour guide brings them over to make a fuss, but it felt like the kind of thing this blog really ought to mention and so I have.

I ate a Cornish pasty on the Champs-Élysées, sorry.
A Zone 1/2 Mobilis ticket (7.50€) costs roughly the same as London's Z1/2 daily cap (£7), but is hugely cheaper than our paper equivalent (£12.70).
The biggest change in central Paris since my last visit is the spread of the e-scooter. They're everywhere, scattered across pavements and piazzas, abandoned where their last riders alighted. Several operators are in town, most especially Lime and Bird but also Dott, Uber and Voi. At €1 per hire plus €1.50 for ten minutes they're cheap for short journeys, and fun, and generally used in the road or along a cycle lane rather than careering across a pavement. Tourists also find them useful, and I spotted several couples and family combinations riding tandem to save cash. At rush hour the bicycle remains king, and the motor-scooter is still immensely popular, but commuting by e-scooter comes a definite third. With hire bikes also a prominent feature, in a similar variety of operators and colours, Paris has clearly taken soft mobility to its heart.

Going through security at Gare du Nord is slower and more antiquated than going through security at St Pancras. Both are miserable experiences.
The passenger lounge at Gare du Nord has nowhere near enough seats.
Eurostar's wifi is very poor. I got better connectivity by turning it off.

8000000: Sometime this morning, before seven o'clock, diamond geezer will receive its eight millionth visitor. More accurately it'll be the eight millionth time that a slightly ropey stats package has registered a unique visit, which totally isn't the same thing, but still very much worth celebrating. Eight million visits is an impressive total - the equivalent of everyone in Scotland and Wales reading my blog once. But viewed another way it's not much - on average one packed tube train of readers a day, which isn't even 0.01% of the population of London. What I do know is that my audience is coming faster. The first million took five and a half years, the last million's taken fourteen months.

0Sept 2002 
      1000000    April 2008    5½ years
2000000Jan 20112¾ years
3000000Oct 20121¾ years
4000000Apr 20141½ years
5000000Aug 20151⅓ years
6000000Dec 20161¼ years
7000000Feb 20181⅕ years
8000000Apr 20191⅙ years

What I've traditionally done, each time one of these millionaire milestones rolls by, is look back and analyse which sites my readers arrive from. In particular I like to draw up a league table of top linking blogs, ordered by volume of visitors clicking here from there. This used to be hugely important, back in the era when blogs thrived solely because other blogs linked to them, but times change. Blogs no longer have a fraction of the traction they enjoyed a decade ago now that social media is king, because the ability to drive traffic has shifted away from those who generate their own content towards those who merely digest the content of others.

So my regular linking league table includes a range of websites broader than mere blogs, in particular three social media services that didn't exist when I started out, and which now dominate beyond expectation. My apologies if they've shoved your website down the table since my last league table in February 2018. I've also reduced the table from a top 20 to a top 10, sorry, because pretty much nothing is happening in the teens any more.
1) Twitter
2) Reddit (↑1)
3) Facebook (↑1)
4) Girl with a one track mind    
5) Londonist
  6) Random acts of reality
  7) Arseblog
  8) London Reconnections
  9) Blue Witch (↑1)
10) Scaryduck
For the first time the top three are all social media platforms, with Twitter at the top of the heap. I don't tweet about my blog much, and nor do many others, but my bot account @diamondgzrblog automatically tweets each new blog post to a small daily audience and that's helped rack up the clicks. Reddit hasn't been anywhere near as excitable of late, now that most of its tube geeks have been siphoned off into a minor subreddit, so its second place is mostly a reflection of past supernovae. And goodness knows how Facebook is sending so many people here because I'm not even on it, and the data never tells.

Girl With A One Track Mind, Gunner-tastic Arseblog, Tom's defunct Random acts of reality and the award-winning Scaryduck are only here because they were massive in the mid 2000s and nothing else has come along to dislodge them since. Londonist is no longer a blog but still occasionally links here, although I get most visitors when they retweet one of their old posts for the umpteenth time. I expect über-transport site London Reconnections to nudge up a place next time, which Blue Witch manages this time, both confirming the staying power of old-school blogging. Some of us carry on writing stuff because we want to, even if it's harder to be heard above the social media buzz than ever before.

But the vast majority of my last million readers didn't click in from anywhere, they rely on force of habit. I've hit eight million by being reliable rather than clickable, because there'll almost certainly be a new post to read every morning which hopefully you'll want to read. So I don't mind where my eight million came from, I'm just well chuffed that you still bother turning up. Thanks to all of you, and here's to millions more...

 Thursday, April 11, 2019

London has one street named Europe.

It's in Woolwich.

It's 100 metres long, with just five houses and flanked by two enormous blocks of flats.

It may look grim, but it's actually incredibly historic.

This is the Woolwich Dockyard estate, on the waterfront to the west of the town centre, and the very antithesis of the Woolwich Arsenal estate to the east. That's private, desirable and well-connected. This is council, down-at-heel and cut off.

Construction commenced in 1974, the lead architect being Elsie Sargent, with Norman & Dawbarn as consulting engineers. Pedestrian access is still through a grimy subway from the far side of Woolwich Church Street, rather than down any more convenient flight of adjacent steps.

Most of the western side of Europe Road is taken up by St Domingo House, a twelve-storey block of flats, most especially its bin store and an access ramp. Of more relevance is nine-storey Sovereign House to the east, because its postal address is officially Europe Road SE18.

A lofty security camera watches over all.

Closer to the river the maisonette blocks begin, most of which are technically on Resolution Walk. Only five front doors face Europe Road, each property gifted a small front garden behind a low wooden fence. The majority now have a satellite dish. Number 4 has gone to the effort of a tiled address.

I passed only one local resident out and about, and he was a shaven headed man leading a Staffordshire bull terrier on a long lead. It would be wrong to draw too many conclusions from a single random interaction. Equally, it might be wrong to draw too few.

Europe Road's most intriguing landscape feature is the dry dock at the far end - one of two, and best seen from the Thames Path. Today both are sealed off and in decay, but in 1979 these formed the South-East London Aquatic Centre, a hub for canoeing, diving, and fishing.

Both graving docks date back to the 1840s when they were part of the Woolwich Naval Dockyard, a nationally significant facility which once covered this entire waterfront zone. We're very close to the spot where it all kicked off in 1512 when work began on the Great Harry, the largest warship of its day.

Europe Road thus marks the heart of centuries of maritime tradition. It's where Henry VIII planned his assault on the continent. It's the backbone of Empire broken by globalisation. It's a residential backwater mired in austerity. It tells us everything and nothing about the state of Britain in Europe today.

 Wednesday, April 10, 2019

I would like to apologise for several inaccuracies on my blog this year, all of which have been pointed out by readers, but none of which have been retrospectively amended.

Yesterday I stated that within the ULEZ a 13 year-old petrol-driven car pays nothing, whereas in fact "it's the driver or keeper who pays, not the vehicle. There's a horrible tendency to blame the machine, not the person in charge." My apologies.

On 2nd April I used an official online portal to compare the area of London's lakes, whereas in fact one of my readers would have measured the area of constituent lakes using a different rationale, but it was "an interesting list and website, nonetheless!" My apologies.

On 31st March I concluded that Brexit might save the UK from a Summer Time choice affecting all of us forever, whereas in fact "it's a bit of an exaggeration to say 'forever', when the EU could decide to reverse the decision in decades to come, if it proves unpopular." My apologies.

On 30th March I described Chertsey's Sainsburys as enormous, whereas in fact "compared to most out-of-town supermarkets nowadays, it's quite bijou." My apologies.

On 29th March I incorrectly named a first aid group in a post about Brexit, whereas in fact "because DG never gets things wrong I am sure his use of St John’s Ambulance is a deliberate mistake instead of the correct St John Ambulance." My apologies.

On 28th March I suggested there were too many royal names on the Beckton branch of the DLR, whereas in fact "you can hardly have a surfeit of regal titles in the old Royal Docks. It is the Royal Docks." My apologies.

On 20th March I listed both the 11th century and time immemorial in a list dating UK cities, whereas in fact "in English law 'time immemorial' means before the start of the reign of Richard I, 6 July 1189", so it was improper of me to have provided the additional categorisation. My apologies. I was also unadvisedly unspecific when defining a cathedral city, whereas in fact "there are Roman Catholic cathedrals in several places you have listed as not having one". My apologies.

On 18th March I insinuated that Bombardier were the first recipients of TfL's 4LM signalling contract, whereas "the Bombardier contract was the 2nd attempt. The original contract was with Invensys (Nee Westinghouse, now Siemens Automation) for a system very similar to that on the Victoria line. This contract was part of the Metronet PPP. LU chose to let the contract 'die' when bringing Metronet out of administration." My apologies.

On 13th March I incorrectly hinted that the entire contents of the The Museum of British Transport shifted to Syon Park in 1973, whereas in fact "the collection was actually split. The London stuff going to Syon Park and most of the railway stock like Mallard going to the extended York museum." My apologies.

On 12th March I referred to the marker on top of Pollards Hill without specifically mentioning the metal disc on top of it, which isn't how one particular reader would have written things. "Pedestal? Don't you mean toposcope?" My apologies.

On 10th March I listed numerous features visible from the route of the number 54 bus, whereas in fact "You forgot to mention how Beckenham's Three Tuns used to host David Bowie and his Arts Lab music nights in the '70s." My apologies.

On 7th March I mistakenly stated that Verde in Victoria was a 21st century building, whereas "Verde is not a new building but a refurb/minor extension of an already very large '80's? Government building (last home to DCMS I think)." My apologies.

On 6th March I said that Legible London maps were enamel, whereas in fact I was wrong because "the map panels of the Legible London signs are glass with the map printed on a sticker on the inside, to allow for easier updating. The direction panels at the top and bottom are enamel, as they don't tend to need changed as frequently." My apologies.

On 2nd March I gave a false reason to explain why Bus Stop M's bus stop bypass did not originally feature a mini zebra crossing, whereas in fact "they weren't built in 2015 because they only became legal after with the introduction of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016." My apologies.

On 27th February I rounded off my Independent Local Radio post by referencing the imminent arrival of a Toby Anstis show across the network, whereas in fact "all of these stations already have Toby Anstis. Shame, your summarising sentence lets down an informative and mostly accurate post." My apologies.

On 21st February I suggested that Citymapper's Smart Ride service used black cabs, whereas in fact "the Smart Rides aren't in a black cab, but in a people-carrier minicab", coincidentally black in colour. My apologies.

On 14th February I postulated that a raindrop falling in Barnet might reach the Thames at Staines, whereas in fact "your reasoning falls somewhat though thanks to man-made waterways. Most of the water goes via the Grand Union Canal to Brentford or via Little Venice, Kings' Cross & your own neck of the woods to Limehouse (or via the Lea) then the Thames. The water travels perhaps fifty, sixty or seventy miles rather than the 100 miles you specify." My apologies.

On 11th February I mentioned the northbound platform at West Ham, whereas in fact "interesting post, but in the interest of accuracy West Ham's Jubilee platforms are eastbound and westbound. The Jubilee is officially west and east until Green Park where it becomes north and south respectively!" My apologies. I also referred to a map as fireproof, whereas in fact "nothing's 'fireproof' - raise the ambient temperature enough and anything will ignite. 'Fireproofing' is raising the ignition point higher than the expected range of events - melamine burns at too low a temperature which is why that excellent material is no longer used on the Underground." My apologies.

On 6th February I asserted that OpenStreetMap was copyright free, whereas in fact "OSM is not free from copyright, but it's licensed under a very permissive copyright licence, specifically the Open Data Commons Open Database License which basically ensures anyone who modifies and then distributes the map must release their modifications under the same licence, as well as attributing OpenStreetMap." My apologies.

On 5th February I used an inappropriate collective noun when describing vehicles pouring off the Woolwich Ferry, whereas in fact "I don't think the collective noun for traffic is 'hordes'. Nevertheless, an excellent piece of reporting." My apologies.

On 3rd February I mislabelled a disused feature on the Grand Surrey Canal, whereas in fact "a 'swing bridge' is one that pivots horizontally, and that magnificent red bridge is a rolling bascule bridge." My apologies.

On 28th January I was disparaging about the success of a West London football club, whereas in fact "I wouldn't say that Yeading FC's merger with Hayes was a complete failure. After all, they managed to get promoted to the Conference National in only their second season and managed to spend 3 seasons there. It was when they started groundsharing that the decline set in." My apologies.

On 14th January I over-confidently stated that someone in a control room must be responsible for defining service status on the Underground, whereas in fact "I wonder how automated this process is, because the only condition requiring human input is whether a train is in operation or cancelled, from what I can see the rest can be derived from network data, theoretically, therefore no human would be needed for escalation other than monitoring and organising response actions. But I haven't the slightest idea how control rooms work." My apologies.

On 8th January I selected an inappropriate verb when describing boat crews on water, whereas in fact "eights and fours would be rowing, not sculling. Octuples and quads might be sculling." My apologies.

On 7th January I described a school in Upminster as being formerly in Mile End, whereas in fact "the school was never actually in Mile End (as I understand it's boundaries in as much as they have any definition) but was formed by the merger of a girls' school in Bow (where a street, or rather a square, is named after its founder) with a boy's school latterly in Stepney", and thus my own hyper-local knowledge was deemed to be inadequate. My apologies.

Finally on 6th August 2017 I stated that the former Post Office depot opposite the former Camberwell station was now Camberwell Bus Garage, which I believed to be true until a reader took time out this week to email me because my post had confused him, whereas in fact "while the Post Office has a delivery depot in Camberwell Staton Road close to the bus garage, Camberwell bus garage has always been a bus garage. It was opened in 1914 but was immediately requisitioned by the War Office for the duration of WW1 and has been a bus garage ever since 1919. Significantly damaged by bombing during WW2, it was repaired during 1950 and this section can be identified by the yellow stock bricks used at the time." How obvious it all now seems. My apologies.

I accept that I was entirely wrong, excessively vague or technically incorrect in each and every case specified above. I apologise for ignoring your corrections and leaving false information on the web. I acknowledge that you would have written things differently had you written a post on the same subject. Please be aware that this factual inaccuracy will inevitably continue.

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jack of diamonds
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