diamond geezer

 Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Where in the UK is the most densely-populated grid square?
That's the highest (resident) population in a single square kilometre.

Stats'n'maps expert Alasdair Rae has bashed the latest census data, because that's very much his thing, and confirmed that the most densely-populated grid square is in London. What's more, and what's amazing, is that he's pretty sure it's in Bow.

You can, and should, read his very long explanation of how he found this out because it's really very thorough.

In short he
• drew a 1km×1km grid across the UK
• extracted the population data for 18000 output areas from the 2021 census
• assigned population figures to each grid square
• looked for any grid square with a total population over 20000

When he looked for populations over 15000 this threw up 63 squares in London and one each in Leeds, Birmingham, Leicester and Brighton. But when it came to exceeding 20000 there were only three such squares, all of which were in the capital. One was around Lisson Grove (near Marylebone), one was in Upton Park (north of the station) and the third was in Bow (more specifically Bow Common close to Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park). Even at this early stage Bow was winning.

To be more certain he started again with a different grid, then another and then another, because population doesn't necessarily respect randomly oriented grids. This threw up a slightly different set of winners but Bow Common was still on top, now with a population in excess of 24000. Jiggling the grid slightly to the east allowed him to find an almost-entirely-overlapping square topping 25000 and this appears to be the UK maximum. So I've been to have a look.

This isn't the well-known side of Bow, it's the southern edge nudging into Poplar - the E3/E14 borderlands. The grid square misses all the main roads hereabouts, instead slotted safely inside the triangle made by the A11, A12 and A13. It has very little industry and few significant shops. Amazingly it has no stations, only the Fenchurch Street line clipping one corner, and its chief bus routes are two intermittent single deckers. The most significant feature is probably the Limehouse Cut canal slicing diagonally across the centre. On the face of it there's nothing at all special about Bow Common, it's mostly postwar flats, and maybe that's the secret to its success.

First things first, it doesn't generally look like this.

There are hardly any terraced streets within the grid square, barely enough to count on one hand, because they've almost all been bombed or otherwise demolished. The area was known for its slums before the war and widespread bomb damage subsequently hastened their blanket replacement. Terraces are relatively compact but not as dense as flats so that's what the borough of Poplar chose to build instead. And what they didn't particularly do was build high, at least not round here, so Sleaford House in the photo is one of only two or three proper tower blocks in the square. Relentless low-rise flats, that's what's been built instead.

Many are postwar blocks in long rectangular style. My carousel of photos shows Mollis House (the jagged boundary abutting Furze Green), Gough Walk (connected by walkways, ramps and footbridges) and Augusta Street (a bland wall on the edge of the Lansbury Estate). Each cluster has a certain homogeneity but across the grid square there's considerable variety having been built at different times. A lot of these flats originally had accessible entrances that have since had to be gated and keypadded. The population of Tower Hamlets more than halved between 1945 and 1981 so this level of development was perfectly adequate to house those left behind.

As time went by the types of flats become more mixed. Squat blocks with a central atrium, stacks of hutches with corner balconies, postmodern confections with pastel stripes and peculiar lumps designed on an architect's whim - all were packed in together. Few of these resulted in sprawling nomanslands so there was rarely any need for mass regeneration, only piecemeal replacement in manageable chunks. Over the last 15 years much of the gridsquare has come under the umbrella of housing association Poplar HARCA, a powerful council spin off with over 9000 homes on its books. They've repaired and rejuvenated but also in many cases substantially rebuilt driven by a need for densification, and it may well be down to them that this grid square now packs so many people in.

Another reason is of course household size, because density comes down to not just the number of homes but also the size of the families living inside them. My photos show very recent examples of houses attempting to cater for extended families - possibly multi-generational or with a lot of children. Technically they're terraced but also three or four storeys high to pack as many rooms as possible into what's still a narrow footprint. These examples are on Farrance Street and Masjid Lane and not yet commonplace, but they do demonstrate how you can increase density without always having to build flats.

Over the last decade bricky vernacular flats have started to take precedence, as they have elsewhere in inner London. These examples are from the (affordable) Leopold estate to the north of the square and the so-called New Festival Quarter to the south. This 'festival' branding was a shameless marketing wheeze to echo 1951's famous Lansbury Estate but in this case with no architectural flourish whatsoever. Here we find concierges and gyms encroaching on what's generally been a social housing neighbourhood, plus professionals buying apartments rather than families renting, but as yet this approach applies to a tiny fraction of the wider housing stock.

The Limehouse Cut has become a flashpoint for development as the warehouses that used to line the canal are sequentially replaced. Follow the towpath and a motley collection of balconied apartments look down on what was once grim and forgotten but is becoming prestige waterfront, with the height of the towers peaking around the bridge at Bow Common Lane. A few industrial units hold out along Thomas Road, should you need plumbing supplies or wonder where your Gorillaz home delivery bike originates from. But housing will always be the more valuable use of land, indeed the former jobcentre on Dod Street is currently in the process of being flattened to make way for 84 bland canalside flats.

You might expect the densest gridsquare in the UK to be light on open space but that's not the feeling you get if you walk around the area. Chief among the green offerings is Bartlett Park, a substantial recreational space that's been given a mighty spruce up recently and now even includes a coffee shop, a true local rarity. It's worth pointing out that before WW2 the park's footprint contained as many as ten squished terraced streets, so density hereabouts was once even higher. St Saviour's Church in the centre of the park was saved but that of course is now flats, while the loop of ordinary houses around it is merely a reminder that back in the 1980s nobody was trying to pack' em in.

It doesn't feel like the UK's most densely populated gridsquare, more like unfocused residential sprawl, but all those flats and families must add up. What's more there's plenty of scope for the population to rise even higher thanks to the regeneration of Bow Common gasworks on the northern edge of the square. This long vacant brownfield site has recently reached the 'flattening out and masterplan development' stage and is being lined up for another 1450 homes. Only 35% will be affordable, a fact which tends to bring in single professionals and keep families out, but this grid square could easily be knocking on a population of 27000 by the end of the decade.

Of course 25000 is nothing compared to some European cities, notably Paris and Barcelona, with at least one grid square in the latter exceeding 50000 residents. Britain doesn't really pack them in, the country isn't really full, especially if Bow Common is the worst it ever gets. My thanks to Alasdair for bashing the figures, and if you want more stuff like this you should be following him on Twitter or reading his blog.

 Monday, February 06, 2023

I hope you had a nice weekend.
I had a nice weekend.


Frank F says "whatever the taste experience, chicken must be capable of being more visually appealing."

Indeed. I'm not sure this poster at Beulah Spa was doing the Harvester menu any favours visually, let alone the text staying within the boundaries of factual correctness. It cannot be true that the tastiest chicken in the world is that generated by a chain restaurant rotisserie in Upper Norwood, otherwise Michelin have got their star system all wrong. Also the Harvester menu includes a choice of six different sauces and they haven't deigned to tell us which one takes the crown. I wasn't tempted, I didn't drop in, plus it was too early in the morning for world-beating chicken to be on offer anyway.

I was however intrigued by the location of the restaurant on the Croydon/Lambeth fringe, because it turns out all the Harvester restaurants in Greater London are in Outer London. Those 16 are in Hanwell, Northolt, Edgware, Ponders End, Chingford, Ilford, Goodmayes, Gidea Park, Hornchurch, Sidcup, Bromley, Addington, Eltham, Morden, Sutton and here at Upper Norwood, i.e every single one's in zones 4-6. The Harvester phenomenon, like Toby Carveries, eschews the inner suburbs... perhaps because palates are different or perhaps because it's really important to have a car park.

Ken says "The railway bridge crosses the line between Sutton and Carshalton Beeches, just over half a mile east of Sutton Town centre, and immediately south of a similar bridge between Sutton and Carshalton.

Indeed it is. It clearly wasn't built with modern traffic in mind, nor the needs of pedestrians, particularly given it's the only crossing for over half a mile. Traffic was light so I crossed safely enough but I'm not sure I'd be too keen at night. This narrow bridge on Kings Lane was closed in 2020 as part of Sutton's Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme, but caused quite the uproar and they rolled it back within a year.

Ken adds "Can't begin to work out what brought you to this neck of the woods though?!"

Indeed, it is a bit off piste. I was trying to get from Carshalton to Sutton but no bus was scheduled for the next 15 minutes so I thought I'd walk via the backstreets. I don't expect I'll ever visit again. Nice crocuses in Hilcroombe Road though.

AndrewR asks "Is the Range Rover located (semi-appropriately) at South Wimbledon station?"

Indeed it is. Of all the places to spot a car with an almost-WOMBLES numberplate this is nigh perfact, although alongside Wimbledon Common would have been better. It's impossible to say whether the driver is a massive fan of local football club AFC Wimbledon, a massive fan of small snout-nosed litterpickers or a member of the Beresford dynasty. I tried to see if Tomsk and Madame Cholet were sitting in the back seat but the tinted windows didn't make that possible.

It was an auspicious weekend for a wombly experience because the very first episode of The Wombles was screened exactly 50 years ago on 5th February 1973. It filled that brief transitional slot on BBC1 between children's programmes and the evening news where the Magic Roundabout often sat. The Wombles was made by Film Fair and Ivor Wood using stop-motion animation and memorably narrated by Bernard Cribbins. The very first episode was Orinoco & The Big Black Umbrella, the tale of a very windy day, and I would definitely have been watching being bang in the middle of the target age group. Within a year Wombles merchandise would be everywhere, including my bedroom wall, and Mike Batt's catchy theme song would be making an assault on the top of the charts.


Nobody wrote "That's Croxley station, obviously. What were you doing there?"

Indeed. The entire Metropolitan line was closed all weekend which meant Croxley had a replacement bus service and that allowed the opportunity for a free express journey from Wembley Park. I don't think I've ever ridden a double decker down Batchworth Hill before, indeed the main road between Rickmansworth and London is generally served by no bus routes whatsoever. I spent a pleasant hour wandering around the streets where I grew up and will no doubt be subjecting you to overnostalgic bloggage later in the week.

Cottonsocks said "You should have come in for a cup of tea and a slice of home made lemon drizzle, maybe next time you're in LB Hillingdon."

Indeed, although he said this in December and didn't leave a forwarding address so I had no idea where to go. Also Hillingdon is a very large borough so when I parachuted into Harefield I may not have been at the right end (although I suspect I was). Also my travels tend to be planned at the very last minute which is not conducive to the sharing of tea and cake but thanks for the kind offer (I had an extra-large cuppa when I got home).

The photo shows the duckpond on Harefield Village Green, a rustic corner of a larger open space. It's also a Centenary Field, a British Legion project to commemorate 100 years since the end of WW1 by securing parks and green spaces in perpetuity in memory of those who died. The war memorial obelisk overlooking the duckpond is original but the detailed information board by the roadside is more recent. London's other Centenary Fields are at Grange Park (Old Coulsdon), Harmondsworth Village Green, Ilford War Memorial Gardens, Islington Memorial Green, Kensington Memorial Park and Roding Lane Sports Ground. The idea was to have one in every local authority in the UK but it didn't quite work out like that - Hillingdon and Redbridge have two apiece whereas most London boroughs are bereft.

Andy S says "Last photo looks like where some of Happy Valley was filmed. So maybe a satisfying conclusion to Sunday watching TV."

Indeed it was. These are the streets of Hebden Bridge (as seen from the climb to Heptonstall) in a photo taken five years ago. It's a very independent town, very charismatic, and the surrounding landscape makes the ideal backdrop for a Sally Wainwright drama. I had to go back and watch the first two series of Happy Valley again after I'd visited so I could say "ooh that's under the viaduct in Halifax" and "OMG that's Todmorden".

I loved the third series which was proper apppointment television, with multiple criminal threads you couldn't possibly see tying up by the end but which somehow did. Sarah Lancashire nailed the lead character and the scripts were pitch perfect with understated insight and gentle humour, entirely unlike your usual TV cop drama. I also raise my glass (having had this pointed out) to the perfect connection between the last few minutes of Series 3 Episode 6 and the opening scene of Series 1 Episode 1, the show having opened with Caroline confronting a drunk man doused in petrol... even the bookending sunglasses were the same.

 Sunday, February 05, 2023

News For Extroverts

Benches aim to ease the pain of loneliness

An exciting initiative in Sutton is making it easier to strike up a conversation with a stranger, and could literally save lives.

A simple plaque on a bench in Woodcote Road, Wallington, invites anyone 'happy to chat' to take a seat and receive a little boost to their day. 'Sit here if you don't mind someone stopping to say hello', it adds, in the hope that a kind passer-by will do just that. Any impromptu conversation is far more beneficial than drifting through life in silence, so this new project is a welcome step towards improving our collective wellbeing and self-worth.

Sitting alone on a public bench can be a dispiriting experience, especially when those passing by choose to ignore your presence. And yet the occupant may yearn to say nothing more than hello, or maybe to strike up conversation about the weather, or perhaps to share a little gossip to help the day go by. It's therefore hoped these special plaques will help those with something to say to connect more easily on a day to day basis, thereby helping to lubricate Sutton's social interface.

The inspiration for the 'Happy to Chat' project came from a depressing experience in a Cardiff park when Allison Owen-Jones, 53, spotted an elderly man sitting alone on a bench for 40 minutes. At the time she was too cautious to go over and interact, but she did wonder if the man was lonely and why nobody else seemed to care.

"Wouldn't it be nice if there was a simple way to let people know you're open to a chat," she thought, and so the idea of a notice tied to a bench came into being. The initiative proved remarkably successful, tapping into that innate desire we all have to reach out and connect, and soon spread around the country indeed around the world.

There's now no need for folk in Wallington to sit at home and stew, they can simply head out to their nearest bench and make clear their desire for company. We all need a regular injection of communal time to boost our mood, some even more frequently than others, because what is the human condition if not regularly shared? Just be careful not to sit in front of the sign because an invisible cry for help is no help at all!

News For Introverts

Chatty benches make it harder to get a seat

A thoughtless intervention in Sutton is making it tougher to find somewhere quiet to sit down, and could literally be damaging to your health.

A selfish plaque on a bench in Woodcote Road, Wallington, invites anyone 'happy to chat' to take a seat and await impromptu conversation. 'Sit here if you don't mind someone stopping to say hello', it adds, in the expectation that a misguided passer-by will do just that. But that's not why people take a break, they do it to seek solace and respite from their fellow humans, meaning this bench is now effectively out-of-bounds 24 hours a day.

Imagine the worst case scenario. A reclusive soul is sitting lost in their thoughts when some inconsiderate stranger makes themselves known and wrecks the moment with mindless smalltalk. Nobody needs a inane greeting, nobody's genuinely interested in the weather and nobody wants to hear random opinions on the world around them - these are all anathema to the simple act of sitting quietly.

The wording on the sign is borderline offensive and discriminates against those who would rather hide themselves away than interact with a stranger. Once again the establishment insists on insinuating that gregarious behaviour with regular social top-ups is the norm, whereas in fact only time separated from the masses recharges the soul.

Overnight a portfolio of benches across Sutton has become unusable, sadistically restricting opportunities for recuperation, relaxation and meditation. What's more no "non-chat" benches have been provided, despite the obvious benefits of somewhere peaceful to hide away in designated isolation, as once again the needs of the 'deviant' silent have been cruelly overlooked.

From the wording on the sign it almost sounds as if the bench is under observation from a patrol of well-meaning community do-gooders who intend to magically appear, impose their company and say hello. Sutton's not yet a no-go zone, indeed you can always thwart the chatty bench brigade by sitting in front of the sign so it can't be seen, but when will people finally realise that 'alone' doesn't always mean 'lonely'?

News For Sutton

Small plastic rectangles appear on benches

An intervention in Sutton is hoping to ease loneliness by adding 'Happy to chat' signs to a dozen benches in Beddington and Wallington.

The plaques were installed by the Beddington and Wallington Local Committee using funding from their Public Realm Revenue budget. The total cost to the council was £454. The selected locations for the benches were as follows.

Wallington North: Wallington Green (near the Dukes Head); Elm Pond; Manor Road (near the station)
Wallington South: Woodcote Road (outside Old Town Hall); Shotfield (on the new bench); outside Sainsburys on the steps down from Stafford Road
Beddington South: corner of Lindberg and Mollison Drive; near new Spitfire weathervane; outside the Phoenix Centre
Beddington North: Beddington Park by the Cricket Green; in the park on the left as you walk from the church; Bandon Hill cemetery

Funding for the plaques was agreed at a committee meeting on 10th March 2020, immediately before lockdown, which was pretty much the worst possible timing for a social scheme encouraging people to sit together. It took until the summer of 2021 before local councillors felt confident enough to recommend using the benches, pointing out that "many have missed those mini-conversations we took for granted... and some people have had almost no one to talk to for much of the pandemic."

The bench in the photo can be found alongside the Blenheim Gardens bus stop on Woodcote Road. This bench lies immediately underneath a big tree so its left-hand end is somewhat splattered, making sitting here for a chat somehow less enticing. Those seeking to sit in peace can always use the red benches in the bus shelter which are unsigned. Do pop down the next time you're feeling excessively solitary, but don't necessarily expect anyone else to stop and say hello.

 Saturday, February 04, 2023

(and while we're doing FoI requests)

Where is London's busiest bus stop?

That's the bus stop where the most passengers board buses.
According to an FoI request it's here.

This is bus stop N outside Brixton station.
It's the stop beside Boots and King of Trainers.
It's used by a lot of people getting off the tube and continuing their journey further south.
According to the data, over 8000 people board a bus here on a typical weekday.

Except that when I turned up to have a look at bus stop N, something looked a bit odd.
And this is why you should always do your research.

There are three southbound bus stops at Brixton station.
N: routes 35, 355 and P4
P: routes 45, 59, 109, 118, 133, 159, 250 and 333
Q: routes 2, 3, 196, 415 and 432

It seemed very wrong that the busiest bus stop in London could possibly be the stop served by only three routes, given the other two had so many more.

And it turns out this is because the data in TfL's spreadsheet is for a typical weekday in June 2022, and back then the stops outside Brixton station were organised differently. During the pandemic the number of stops had been reduced to two to aid social distancing, forcing those heading for Tulse Hill to walk a long way to Effra Road instead.

At the time the designation was
N: routes 35, 109, 118, 250 and 355
Q: routes 45, 59, 159 and 333

After many local complaints, even a petition, these stops were reorganised on 21st June 2022 which must have been just after the survey date. Bus Stop N is not the Bus Stop N it used to be. So we need to disregard Brixton station and ask the question again.

Where is London's busiest bus stop?

This is bus stop R at Marble Arch.
Officially it's called MARBLE ARCH STATION / PARK LANE.
It's at the top of Park Lane facing Speakers' Corner.
It's served by all the southbound buses.
That's routes 2, 6, 13, 16, 23, 36, 74, 137, 148, 390, 414 (and four nightbuses for good measure).
According to the data, over 7500 people board a bus here on a typical weekday.
A lot of them are tourists.
I can't say I'm surprised it's London's busiest bus stop.

Let's do you a full top 10.

London's busiest bus stops
  1) [R] MARBLE ARCH STATION/PARK LANE (s/b) (2 6 13 16 23 36 74 137 148 390 414)
  2) [H] WOOD GREEN STATION (n/b) (121 141 184 221 232 329 W4)
  3) [A] STRATFORD BUS STATION (n/b) (69 158 257)
  4) [R] ELEPHANT & CASTLE STATION (s/b) (12 35 40 45 68 136 148 171 176 343 468 P5)
  5) [N] WOOLWICH ARSENAL STATION (n/b) (96 99 122 177 180 472)
  6) [B] HARROW BUS STATION (w/b) (114 140 X140 395 483 H10)
  7) [M] LONDON BRIDGE (n/b) (17 21 35 43 47 133 141 149 344 388)
  8) [D] SEVEN SISTERS STATION (n/b) (76 149 243 259 279 318 349 476)
  9) [K] BARKING STATION (e/b) (5 62 368 EL2 EL3)
10) [E] ELEPHANT & CASTLE/LONDON ROAD (e/b) (1 53 63 168 172 188 363 453)

I like how varied that list is.


They also include Bus Stop Q at Brixton station, and I fear it's perfectly possible that the newly rejigged Bus Stop Q ought to be in the Top 10 somewhere, possibly quite high. Which just goes to show you can't simply bash the data, you have to query it too.

It would be fun to ask...

Where is London's least busy bus stop?

...but unfortunately the data isn't up to answering that question.

The spreadsheet contains 117 stops with zero boarders, many of which did have boarders but the model didn't recognise them. This is what happens when you collect data at certain times on certain days then scale it across a week generating meaningless averages to five decimal places, plus when data collection can't cope with Hail & Ride sections, plus when Abbey Wood accidentally scores zero due a data balls-up, and it's all patiently explained in the FoI request but basically you can't trust the zeroes to be zeroes, sorry.

Hopefully you can trust that MARBLE ARCH STATION/PARK LANE is London's busiest bus stop.

(if you're not especially interested in buses and trains, here's a brief diversionary interlude in Enfield)

You'll know Bush Hill Gardens if you use Ridge Lane Library, get your fish and chips from Rocky Reef or leave your jackets at Landfield Dry Cleaners. You'll have passed the busy street corner with the old school signpost so typical of erstwhile Edmonton, perhaps while riding merrily up Cycleway 20. You'll have seen the metal arch glinting enticingly above the gate, maybe even stopped to read the Public Spaces Protection Order on the railings. But if you've never stepped through the entrance you've missed out on discovering what lies within this sylvan acre, and that might be a pity.

The gardens are in two parts - a mostly flat grassy space suitable for a minor kickabout and a contoured landscaped hollow. It looks very much like a big old house might have occupied the top half while the pretty bit with the big trees is their old garden, but it turns out no, this just was the corner of a field that Enfield Urban District Council transformed into a public park in 1925. The faded noticeboard inside the gates isn't quite that old but must be 1980s at the very latest with its references to Park Keepers and a list of byelaws signed by Wilfred D Day, Chief Executive & Town Clerk. Among the activities still subject to a fine of TWENTY POUNDS are beating a carpet, leading cattle to pasture, erecting any pole and letting your greyhound off its lead.

A perimeter path allows for complete circumnavigation, interrupted only by a set of rustic steps and intermittently enhanced by the pleasant smell of pines. But it's really only the landscaped half where you'll want to linger, perhaps staring into the reedy pool or crossing the decorative bridge over the pointless stream. Here you may meet some of the local hoodied teenagers, alternately vaping and making out on the bench below the shrubbery. But if they're absent this is the ideal spot to sit and eat that Steak Bake you bought from the Greggs over the road on Bush Hill Parade. Just be advised that, although separate Ladies and Gentlemen's entrances remain on Village Road, the public conveniences were demolished many years ago so maybe don't buy the Large Americano.

(if you're not especially interested in buses, trains or Enfield, my apologies)

 Friday, February 03, 2023

TfL closed all their ticket offices at Underground stations in 2013 to much initial outcry.

But the Overground is a completely different kettle of fish, coming instead under the National Rail umbrella, so their ticket offices have mostly lingered on. You can still rock up at Acton Central, Dalston Junction or Penge West and buy an actual ticket from an actual human, should you so desire, so long as you rock up during the designated hours the ticket office is actually open.

So how many people are still buying tickets from ticket offices at Overground stations? Thanks to a Freedom of Information request published this week we can answer that question, and it turns out that last year just over 150,000 tickets were sold. The top performing ticket office was Walthamstow Central with total sales exceeding 300 tickets a week. But many Overground ticket offices are selling a lot less than that, and at one station the annual ticket sales equate to less than two tickets a month. We'll get to that...

A bit of background for you. TfL only operate ticket offices at 62 Overground stations. They don't have responsibility for larger National Rail stations like Richmond, Watford Junction, Barking and New Cross, or indeed smaller ones like Cheshunt and Denmark Hill. They've never sold tickets on the Gospel Oak-Barking line because those ticket offices had gone before TfL took over. Back in 2018 they proposed closing ticket offices at 51 of their Overground stations but, against the usual run of things, backed down and merely reduced the opening hours. The only Overground stations to have lost their ticket offices over the last five years are Stamford Hill, White Hart Lane and Theobalds Grove where 'temporary closures' were quietly made permanent.

The FoI request concerns ticket sales at each Overground ticket office during the period 01/01/2022 to 31/12/2022, i.e the whole of 2022. You can download the spreadsheet here, have a look at an ordered list here or just stare at this map.

Some of those numbers are very very low indeed.

The Overground stations with the highest ticket sales in 2022
  1) Walthamstow Central 17381
  2) West Croydon 13461
  3) Norwood Junction 13097
  4) Enfield Town 10056
  5) Edmonton Green 8782
  6) Bushey 7723
  7) Forest Hill 7648
  8) Crystal Palace 7536
  9) Chingford 6941
10) Brockley 6925

Top of the heap, by some distance, is Walthamstow Central. It serves the Victoria line as well as the Overground so has a bit of a head start. West Croydon is also served by Southern trains, and Norwood Junction by Southern and Thameslink, and they're on this list because TfL ultimately run the station. Enfield Town is the highest placed station served solely by the Overground. A lot of these stations are at the end of the line so bridgeheads to a much wider area. The West Croydon, Crystal Palace and Chingford branches feature strongly.

But although these numbers may look strong, if you divide annual sales down into weeks or days they start to look weaker. Only Walthamstow Central, West Croydon and Norwood Junction are selling more than 200 tickets a week. Chingford and Brockley aren't even managing 20 tickets a day. The only other Overground stations selling more than 10 tickets a day are New Cross Gate, Sydenham, Willesden Junction and Highams Park. Admittedly 2022 was a tough year on the rail network, affected initially by the pandemic and later by rail strikes, but these are not especially high figures.

Typically when I dropped in at Walthamstow Central yesterday the ticket office was temporarily closed, but that may have been down to the member of staff fiddling with the innards of a ticket machine by the gateline.

Brace yourself.

The Overground stations with the lowest ticket sales in 2022
  1) Caledonian Road & Barnsbury 18
  2) Rotherhithe 63
  3) Brondesbury 77
  4) South Acton 80
  5) Hoxton 86
  6) Bruce Grove 89
  7) South Hampstead 92
  8) Brondesbury Park 104
  9) Haggerston 120
10) Shadwell 132

Theses are staggeringly low totals for ticket sales during an entire calendar year. None of these stations are averaging more than three ticket sales a week. Rotherhithe is barely managing one a week. Caledonian Road & Barnsbury has rock bottom ticket sales averaging one sale every three weeks. Scroll further down the list and another dozen stations failed to sell more than 365 tickets last year.

All the stations with weak sales have reduced opening hours, introduced just before the pandemic, with the shutters up between 7.30-10am on weekdays only. That's 12½ hours a week, whereas (for example) Walthamstow Central is open more than 12½ hours a day. This suggests that, on average, staff at Brondesbury Park are selling one ticket every 6 hours, staff at Rotherhithe one ticket every 10 hours and staff at Caledonian Road & Barnsbury one ticket every 35 hours. I think it's fair to say those ticket sales aren't enough to pay the staff's wages.

Staff in ticket offices can of course perform a number of useful tasks for the public, such as being able to sort out awkward ticketing enquiries, selling unfamiliar tickets and offering complex advice. But when I dropped in at Caledonian Road & Barnsbury yesterday a second member of staff was also available by the card reader and poised to offer most of the assistance passengers might have needed, even how to use the machines to buy an off-peak return between two towns in Scotland had that been requested. Meanwhile the member of staff in the ticket office was looking down at the counter, their head at a slightly defeated angle, as they waited for the end of their morning shift to tick round. I could have asked for a ticket just to give them something to do, but I already have a chip in my pocket which enables me to travel so like everyone else I swept past, and therein lies the issue.

Looking at the overall figures, ticket sales appear to be especially low on the core Overground section between Dalston and Surrey Quays. With a few exceptions annual sales are also very low on at stations on the line between Richmond and Stratford. It would be tempting to point The Finger of Efficiency at these ticket offices and close the majority, even the lot, although it's notable that TfL haven't tried, perhaps because co-existing with National Rail regulations makes such a move harder. But if past consultations had highlighted real data like this, rather than bland weasel phrases like "to meet changing customer needs" and "to better meet demand", maybe they'd have been more successful in getting the wider public onside.

And while we're at it...

The Crossrail stations with the highest ticket sales in 2022
  1) Stratford 159,584
  2) Romford 101,375
  3) Hayes & Harlington 81,634
  4) Abbey Wood 78,213
  5) Brentwood 77,811
The next 5: Ealing Broadway, Burnham, Southall, Ilford, Langley

That's more like it. All these ticket offices are selling over 200 tickets a day, very much justifying their existence.

The Crossrail stations with the lowest ticket sales in 2022
  1) Acton Main Line 1818
  2) Maryland 2862
  3) Hanwell 3196
  4) West Ealing 6001
  5) Manor Park 8520
The next 5: Forest Gate, Seven Kings, Goodmayes, Iver, Taplow

But these are a bit low, even for a railway that only really kicked into action halfway through the year. It's the stations closest to central London with the lowest totals, although compared to the Overground they're doing relatively well. Look at poor old Acton Main Line though, a brand new station building, a welcoming ticket office facing the street, opening hours exceeding 27 hours a week, friendly staff waiting expectantly behind the counter... and they still only managed an average of five ticket sales a day.

Use it or lose it, or as things currently stand Don't use it but keep it.

 Thursday, February 02, 2023

London's next dead bus
271: Finsbury Square to Highgate Village

Location: inner London north
Length of journey: 5 miles, 45 minutes

The 271 has been linking the edge of the City to the heights of Highgate since 1960. It's a remarkably simple route, indeed almost a straight line, ploughing workhorselike up the Holloway Road with barely a deviation. It's well used, carrying an above average load of passengers annually. For a mile through Islington it's the only bus. But all this counts for nothing when over-capacity has been identified elsewhere along the route and so, following a consultation in 2021, the 271 will run for the very last time tomorrow. I've been for a final ride.

Finsbury Square is a large open quadrangle at the top end of Moorgate and is unusual for having a bowling green in the middle with a car park underneath. The 271 parks up round the far side where the drivers can stretch their legs and check their phones out of passengers' view. The single decker 214 parks up alongside, a service which coincidentally is also going to Highgate Village, indeed this is a rare case of two different bus routes running between identical destinations. Until tomorrow.

The 271's first stop is outside the London Metal Exchange on the west side of the square. You wouldn't know any more because The Men Who Change Tiles have already been round, indeed they came round two weeks ago so tile-wise the 271 has been dead for a fortnight. That's plainly better that turning up two weeks too late, but it does seem extraordinary that over 100 bus stops have been displaying entirely premature numbers since the middle of January. That said, anyone checking for a timetable should spot a bright yellow map confirming that the 271's being withdrawn on Saturday, and if you can decipher it then all you need to know about future arrangements is there.

We set off up the City Road, 'we' being just the driver and me so far but the bus'll be getting a lot busier later. We pass between Bunhill Fields and Wesley's Chapel, making this full-on nonconformist territory, and also pass a stack of three mattresses left incongruously by the roadside. The bus is rattling somewhat, but that won't be an issue when the route no longer runs so that's an issue solved. Ahead is the Old Street no-longer-roundabout, the first of three un-gyratoried junctions we'll be passing on our journey north. It still has temporary traffic lights, inadequate cycle lanes and a heck of a lot of ongoing works in what used to be the centre of the roundabout, but hopefully four years of messy reconstruction will be finished soon.

Ahead is the splitting point between the 214 and 271, the former continuing towards the Angel Islington and our doomed route making its one big right turn into Provost Street. Beyond the wall of glitzy skyscrapers comes a brief insulating layer of repurposed warehouses and then the flats of southwest Hackney begin with a vengeance. Whether you prefer generic postwar blocks or modern brick hutches above a Tesco Express, all options are covered. Our bus is now picking up multiple passengers at every stop, possibly because the 271 is still a popular route or possibly because there hasn't been a bus for fifteen minutes. And then the ridiculous announcement plays for the first time, and sheesh what were they thinking?
"This route will be changing from the 4th of February 2023. Please visit tfl.gov.uk/buses for more details."
Oh come on, this route won't just be changing it'll be abolished, but there's no mention of that in the recorded spiel. Instead you're expected to navigate to a website which it turns out is just an index page, where the link to 'Bus changes' is tucked underneath a big splash for another consultation which ended three weeks ago. Should you eventually make it to the right page then, because changes are listed in numerical order, you need to scroll past seven other bus routes before eventually discovering that "Route 271 will be withdrawn." I get that TfL don't want to make their announcement too complicated, or even unduly pessimistic, but this is no way to inform passengers of imminent withdrawal.

At Mintern Street the other top deck front seat is occupied by a mother and her young daughter, only one of whom is excited about being on a bus. Mum soon has her phone out while her daughter engages in happy singing and sets about investigating the contents of her pink Hello Kitty rucksack. From downstairs we hear the distinct sound of the button in the wheelchair space being pressed, followed two seconds later by a plaintive "sorry", suggesting it's got rather crowded down there. To our right is Shoreditch Park, straight ahead the Regent's Canal and beyond that the stretch of road that only the 271 covers. It's time to start talking mitigation.

Extinguishing the 271 sets off a chain of dominoes on other routes to ensure that connections are retained. The 21 is therefore being tweaked at its northern end and will now terminate at Holloway instead of Newington Green. It's been tracking us since Finsbury Square so all passengers'll need to do from Saturday is catch a 21 rather than a 271. Thus far they could also have caught a 76 or 141 as well, which is one reason TfL think this section is over-bussed, ditto the dogleg up to Newington Green. I doubt that anyone in Lewisham needs a direct bus to the Holloway Road but the 21 will now provide that opportunity.

Onwards, for now, past tiles that already say 21 instead of 271. By crossing the canal we've passed from Hackney into Islington and the housing stock has improved dramatically - now Georgian and Victorian terraces. An elderly man drops into the seat behind me and proceeds to breathe heavily because climbing the stairs has been an effort. To my right the small girl has dug into her rucksack and pulled out some imaginary cheese, but Mum is clearly not biting. We cross Essex Road alongside the throwback hellhole station of the same name and continue climbing, always climbing, into the heart of Canonbury. It's proper lovely here, assuming you like bijou pubs, art galleries and wine merchants with Latin names, thus well out of the reach of the majority of mortgages.

We're now approaching un-gyratory 2, the newly-forking junction at Highbury Corner. Our driver can't get into the bus stop because of upcoming queues and a badly parked van so misses our chance through the lights, then has to pull over into a cycle lane when the next set of lights don't change. I suspect it gets a lot messier in the rush hour. To our left is The Famous Cock and the ugly squat entrance to Highbury & Islington station, and to our right the orange shell of the original 1904 building. A bus lane now speeds our progress up Holloway Road, at least initially, and the mother/daughter combo are replaced by a woman muttering a torrent of Spanish into her phone.

Retail-wise Holloway Road peaks in the centre, but we're still at the sex shop, launderette and scooter showroom end. Islington Central Library brings a rare classical flourish, while the campus of London Met University is a jarring mix of redbrick, concrete, glass and jagged silver. Somewhere near the tube station the double decker Hogwarts Express passes us going the other way. Eventually we reach the supermarket cluster of Lidl, Morrisons and Waitrose (so something for everyone), plus Gibbo's Fruit And Veg (in a hut on the pavement), plus Selby's the independent department store (where the window displays are currently air-frier and Valentines themed). And as we reach the junction where the Nag's Head pub once stood, it's probably time to talk mitigation again.

The 21's come all the way from Lewisham so can't be extended too far, hence it'll be terminating here at the Nag's Head. Two other bus routes run the full length of Holloway Road, the 43 and 263, which TfL reckon is quite enough to cope with demand so the 271's loss may not be too keenly felt. Anyone waiting a few minutes longer from next week may beg to disagree.

Holloway Road still has some way to go and soon begins a steeper climb. The Odeon's shabby exterior does not match its 'Luxe' designation. Someone a few seats back is sneezing more often than seems entirely comfortable. Whittington Park contains a peculiar-looking topiary cat which, like many things round here, is Dick-related. At Upper Holloway station we wait for ages, which it turns out is due to changing drivers except nobody played the usual announcement apologising for the inconvenience. Our new driver does however kick things off with "This bus is ready to depart, hold onto the handrails when moving around the bus" and I really hoped we'd heard the last of that one.

Ahead is un-gyratory 3, the neutralised Archway roundabout, whose western flank is now a pedestrian precinct infested with pigeons. It was never a pleasant place to be, and given it remains overshadowed by a bunch of tall drab towers still isn't. Most through traffic climbs the Archway Road, essentially the Highgate bypass, which was built as a less steep toll road more than 200 years ago. This alas includes the 43 and 263, whereas the imminently-deceased 271 is the only route to continue straight ahead up Highgate Hill. And this means it's time to talk mitigation yet again.

To make up for the 271's withdrawal the 263 is to be diverted up Highgate Hill instead, eventually returning to line of route by the Esso garage. And this in turn leaves a section of Archway Road unbussed so the 234 is additionally going to be extended from Highgate Wood to Archway. This latter change is only a good thing, whereas the 263's deviation is going to peeve a few people who'll lose their direct connection to Highgate station. This is what happens when you start unpicking a long-established bus network, the repercussions multiply and a number of untidy tweaks are needed in addition to the underlying plan.

Near the foot of Highgate Hill is another of Dick's cats, this time life-size and in limestone, caged on the pavement outside the Whittington Hospital. What lies ahead is one of London's steeper ascents (signposted as a 10% gradient), so our driver's probably glad to avoid a hill start when he slips through the traffic lights at the end of Hornsey Lane. Unexpected buildings on the brow of the hill include Brendan The Navigator, an Irish pub with a copper turret, and the Ghana High Commission. Here the "This route will be changing..." message plays for a seventh and final time to a much depleted audience. It's exactly the same message aboard the 21, 234 and 263 too, I checked, so heaven help the passengers who haven't been paying attention and find themselves somewhere unexpected next week.

Highgate Village is proper lovely, a hilltop suburb perched around a throwback Middlesex high street. The 271 passes most of the cosy shops, like the florist, the grooming parlour and the microdistillery, before pulling off at South Grove and manoeuvring awkwardly into a bus stand. A nice touch is that an original London Transport timetable board has survived intact in the shelter alongside, although these days it only features local notices (Mari Wilson is playing Upstairs at the Gatehouse on the 24th). Come Saturday this focal point will never again by disfigured by terminating buses, which is both a grand decluttering and the end of an era. The 263 will merely head straight past... although the top deck view down Highgate Hill will still be as dazzling as before, which is why I made sure my very last ride on the 271 was straight back down.

The 271 lingers overnight because TfL know that a nightbus along this route is a beneficial thing. But it can't be called the 271 any more, it has to be renumbered N271, hence all the 271's existing stops now display an N271 tile. The route's also being extended all the way to North Finchley bringing a night service to the High Road for the first time, so that's a win. But during the daytime you'll now need to take two buses, the 21 followed by the 263, because nobody said this was about being convenient for passengers.

 Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Where are London's flyovers?

A flyover is neither a bridge nor a viaduct.
A flyover is a road carried over another road at an intersection.
To make it into my big list it's probably got a name like The Something Flyover.

Gallows Corner Flyover
Where is it? Between Gidea Park and Harold Wood in Havering. [map] [photo]
What's the name about? This is where the Liberty of Havering had its gallows.
What crosses what? The flyover links the A12 Eastern Avenue with the A127 Southend Arterial Road across the Gallows Corner roundabout. Traffic intending to stay on the A12 has to use the roundabout.
When was it built? 1970, by Terry and Co from prefabricated units. It was intended to be temporary but half a century later it's still here. It's not a smooth ride, there are sudden changes of gradient.
Why is it still here? Plans to build the M12 between Woodford and Brentwood came to nothing. Also despite serious corrosion it's been repaired just enough to avoid being condemned.
What's the weight limit? 7.5 tonnes. No buses go up and over.
What's its future? TfL would like to repair it but it's expensive. A bid for government funding in early 2020 floundered because of the pandemic. They intend to submit a business case for refurbishment and strengthening to the DfT this summer.

Chiswick Flyover
Where is it? Chiswick, not far from Kew Bridge. [map] [photo]
What crosses what? The M4 launches over the Chiswick roundabout then runs directly above the A4.
When was it opened? 1959, by Hollywood actress Jayne Mansfield. It was built by Alderton Construction and cost £820,000. Originally it just leapt over the (new) roundabout and back down again, but in 1964 it was extended westwards via a two mile viaduct which brought the M4 directly into inner London.
What's it like? It's more a Brentford Flyover than a Chiswick Flyover these days. It still feels a bit futuristic zipping between elevated offices, glitzy billboards and shiny showrooms. It'd be less congested if it was wider.
What's its future? They started essential stability works to the concrete structure last week, and these continue until May with several overnight closures.

Hogarth Flyover
Where is it? Beside the Griffin brewery at the Hogarth Roundabout, less than a mile from the Chiswick Flyover. [map] [photo]
What's the name about? The artist William Hogarth lived very close by, in a historic house you can still visit free every day except Monday. What crosses what? The A316 crosses the A4, northbound only.
When was it opened? 1971, as a temporary measure. It's strengthened with diagonal cross-braces. It's quite similar to the Gallows Corner prefabricated span.
What's the weight limit? Only 3 tonnes.
What's its future? The flyover underwent substantial repairs in 2014 so should be OK for now.

Marylebone Flyover
Where is it? The clue's in the name. [map] [photo]
What crosses what? The A40 Westway crosses the A5 Edgware Road.
When was it opened? 1967, as part of the LCC's carving of the Westway across North Kensington. But it's separate from the rest of the Westway, which after two miles on stilts dips briefly back to street level before launching again. Look out for the commemorative plaque on the southeast flank.

Hammersmith Flyover
Where is it? Bang in the middle of Hammersmith. [map] [photo]
What crosses what? The A4 crosses the edge of Hammersmith town centre allowing main roads and pedestrians to pass freely underneath.
When was it opened? 1961, at a cost of £1.2m. It was given the green light by transport minister Ernest Marples whose construction company won the contract. It's a very early example of a reinforced concrete flyover. It contained special electric cables for internal heating.
What's its future? It's a bit of a money sink, having had to be closed for a prolonged period in 2012 due to water ingress. Repairs continued until 2015 which should hopefully last a few more years. Nearby Hammersmith Bridge is enough of an engineering nightmare to be getting on with.

Lodge Avenue Flyover
Where is it? East of Barking. [map] [photo]
What crosses what? The A13 crosses a roundabout where Ripple Road meets Lodge Avenue.
When was it opened? 1966, as a temporary structure with a minimum design life of fifteen years. It's still operational but looks like it shouldn't be.
What's the weight limit? 7.5 tonnes.
What's the artwork underneath? That's Holding Pattern, an array of 76 stainless steel needles each topped by a blue airport taxiway light, part of Barking & Dagenham's A13 Artscape project.

Brent Cross Flyover
Where is it? Brent Cross, just east of the shopping centre. [map] [photo]
What crosses what? The A41 Hendon Way crosses the A406 North Circular.
When was it opened? 1965, to relieve one of London's worst bottlenecks. It comprises 19 bridges, a flyover, subways, retaining walls and culverts to thread the River Brent underneath.
What's its future? A 7.5 tonne weight limit was imposed last October for safety reasons. TfL are hoping for £50m from central government for extensive structural remedial works.

Bow Flyover
Where is it? Between Bow and Stratford. [map] [photo]
What crosses what? The A12 crosses the A11 (or what was the A11) plus the River Lea. It links Bow Road to Stratford High Street.
When was it opened? 1967, inspired by the success of the concrete flyover at Hammersmith. Part of the East Cross Route, a Ringway scheme which would have encircled (and mutilated) many inner London suburbs.
What's its future? After two cyclists died at the Bow Roundabout in 2011 TfL came up with a grand 'Vision for Bow' which might eventually have seen the flyover demolished to make way for a big crossroads. Instead we got a few pedestrian crossings underneath as part of an 'Interim Scheme' that now seems to be permanent, so the flyover's going nowhere. A rarity on today's list because it appears to have been well built so has no weight limit and is hardly ever closed.

Croydon Flyover
Where is it? Just south of Croydon town centre. [map] [photo]
What crosses what? The A232 crosses the High Street and the A236.
When was it opened? 1969, as part of an unfinished ring road plan. The late 1960s/early 1970s really were peak flyover.

Bricklayers Arms Flyover 1970 [photo]
Canning Town Flyover 1972 [photo]
Staples Corner Flyover 1976 [photo]
Greenford Flyover 1978 [photo]
etc etc etc, where do you stop?

For twenty consecutive Februaries on diamond geezer I've kept myself busy by counting things. Ten different counts, to be precise, in a stats-tastic 28-day feature called The Count. You therefore won't be surprised to hear that I intend to do exactly the same again this year. Expect to read a post of comparisons and contrasts at the end of the month. I kicked off this annual exercise way back in 2003 which means I already have two decades of thrilling historical data to analyse, and here comes a 21st. Here's my selected list of ten countables for February 2023.

Count 1: Number of visits to this blog (Feb 2022 total: 69714)
Count 2: Number of comments on this blog (Feb 2022 total: 850)
Count 3: Number of words I write on this blog (Feb 2022 total: 33056)
Count 4: Number of hours I spend out of the house (Feb 2022 total: 113)
Count 5: Number of nights I go out and am vaguely sociable (Feb 2022 total: 4)
Count 6: Number of bottles of lager I drink (Feb 2022 total: 1)
Count 7: Number of cups of tea I drink (Feb 2022 total: 132)
Count 8: Number of trains I travel on (Feb 2022 total: 17)
Count 9: Number of steps I walk (Feb 2022 total: 626817)
Count 10: The Mystery Count (Feb 2022 total: 0) (again)

It's the first non-pandemic February for three years, hurrah, so let's see if some of the more atypical counts finally get back to normal. I've also tweaked count 4 so it's no longer how long I sleep but how long I spend out of the house. I'm well stocked with Becks so I'm very much ready to go.

n.b. I'm also undertaking some annual counts this year, entirely additional to my normal stats-packed February, so let's see how they're going...
Number of London boroughs visited: all of them (at least three times each)
Number of London postcode areas visited: 184 (which is 78% of the total already)
Number of London bus routes ridden: 173 (31%)
Number of Z1-3 stations used: 122 (31%)
Number of Z4-6 stations used: 0

 Tuesday, January 31, 2023

31 unblogged things I did in January

Sun 1: Getting off the train at Alexandra Palace I was surrounded by a large crowd of sea captains, bright yellow bananas, red and white striped Wallys and a few passengers not in fancy dress. It's a darts thing apparently. Everyone was trying to tap out on the obsolete card readers because nobody's covered them over.

Mon 2: It took a fortnight for my walking boots to dry off after wading through what should have been a tiny stride-able stream just north of Tonbridge. Thankfully nobody mentioned the mud in the tearoom, they must be used to it.
Tue 3: That's the first time I've ever been accosted for cash by an alcoholic while tying my shoelaces outside a Michelin-starred restaurant. He was not successful.
Wed 4: Battersea Power Station, supposedly "London’s most exciting new shopping and leisure destination", is as dead on a weekday in January as you'd expect it to be. (Weekends though, blimey)
Thu 5: I would be totally honoured if you used my photo of Gracie Fields for the cover of your debut album, Nick, thanks for asking. (It won't be out until June though because sourcing vinyl is really difficult these days)
Fri 6: I watched the first 10 minutes of Our Flag Means Death but it didn't make me laugh so I stopped, and now every time I log into iPlayer it suggests I might want to 'Continue watching', and I wish there was a button to say 'I am seriously not interested never suggest this again.'
Sat 7: Maybe I left it too late to go to the sales, or maybe there was nothing worth having, or maybe I have all the pillowcases and tableware I need.
Sun 8: Secrets of blogging: I do a lot of my on-the-spot research by scribbling notes on the back of a folded-up envelope.
Mon 9: I renewed all my library books using the Tower Hamlets app but totally missed that one of them hadn't gone through because someone had reserved it. Thankfully I checked again later, just in time to dash it back to the Idea Store and avoid a fine. Thus far all my borrowing has been free and long may it stay that way.

Tue 10: I was at Baker Street for the tube's 160th anniversary celebrations on platform 5. I'm not sure the Mayor unveiling a heart-shaped roundel really deserved a big cheer, and by the sound of it the rest of the assembled crowd agreed.
Wed 11: The volunteer at Richmond Museum told me the Poppy Factory exhibition was very good, and on the way out I had to agree with her, the Poppy Factory exhibition had indeed been very good.
Thu 12: Dear Elon, nobody wants a sticky 'For you' tab, they want an uncurated chronological feed of just the users they're following. You already know this, so damn you for going ahead and doing it anyway.
Fri 13: I was riding a bus through Merton when the driver received a phone call, nipped off the bus to answer it, then told all the passengers about the serious electricity supply problems he was having back at his house. Admittedly he did this on a Hail & Ride section and I did have a lot of sympathy for the guy, but I suspect that's a disciplinary offence.
Sat 14: I waited for almost half an hour outside Bromley-by-Bow station before realising that no, there weren't any replacement buses despite the line being closed all weekend. I think that's a first.
Sun 15: One day I will get the Woolwich Foot Tunnel entirely to myself (and I've nearly managed it several times) but today was not that day. At least the cyclist passed through quickly (but he shouldn't have been doing that).
Mon 16: For no particular reason, here's a photo of a ginger cat padding past a modernist church in Yeading.

Tue 17: While getting off the train I suddenly realised the bloke alighting behind me was BBC transport correspondent Tom Edwards, so I was totally expecting a report from Barnes on the local news that evening but it never happened.
Wed 18: I've finally got that new psychogeographical London book out of the library. I was chuffed to discover that this blog is referenced in chapter 6, but less chuffed to be called out for something I wrote that was plainly wrong.
Thu 19: I got to the platform at Bromley-by-Bow just as the doors were closing and with an 8 minute gap until the next train, so I sarcastically saluted the driver. They then opened the doors for me so I saluted again with considerable thanks, and I fear the two distinct meanings may not have been readily apparent.
Fri 20: I unexpectedly bumped into Tim Dunn and Siddy Holloway standing in the middle of a ticket hall so stopped to say hello, and only then spotted two camera crews down a passageway preparing to film them from a distance. I am therefore able to exclusively reveal one of the stations that'll be featuring in the next series of Secrets of The Underground.
Sat 21: It's been a while since my landlord raised my rent so I've been steeling myself for an unpleasant email, but when the news actually arrived it was a text message at 8am on a Saturday morning and that jolted me awake somewhat. Could have been a lot worse, thankfully.
Sun 22: The boss of Tesco told Laura Kuenssberg that "some food manufacturers might be using inflation as an excuse to hike prices", and I yelled back at the TV that 18 months ago Tesco own-brand choc ices were ten for £1 and now they're eight for £1.30 and that's a 62% price increase which is a totally unjustified price hike, but I fear he never heard me.
Mon 23: I got as far as Hounslow before realising I wasn't wearing my watch, and I feared it'd fallen off like it nearly did at King's Cross at Christmas, which'd be a bummer because it's going to be 30 years old next month. I then spent an agonising three hours before I got home where I confirmed no, I just hadn't put it on that morning.
Tue 24: My Chiltern train journey started out under heavy cloud which lingered over London all day. The frost started at Denham, the clouds cleared by High Wycombe, the fog descended through Princes Risborough and hurrah, Banbury had crystal clear blue skies all day. So that was a win.

Wed 25: While researching lists for the blog I came across this very very long list of Unusual Wikipedia Articles, and if you're ever bored I recommend it as the perfect time-sink.
Thu 26: BestMate loves planes, indeed we've been on a day trip to Duxford together and been for a walk following the Heathrow flightpath, so I was gobsmacked when he said he'd never been to the RAF museum in Colindale. Maybe it was just somewhere cub packs to the northwest of London went. It's now very much on our to-do list.
Fri 27: That is unexpectedly tempting and I would totally get a kick out of it but I'd better not. If only you'd asked five years ago.
Sat 28: The day started with the flat downstairs holding a banging party, and ended with them holding another banging party with pulsing bass that went on until 5am. They'd better not try that again next weekend. I did however get more sleep than I was expecting.
Sun 29: Outside New Eltham Library I came across a rather large lady sitting uncomfortably on the pavement. She asked if I could help her stand back up again, except she was holding a frisky alsatian on a lead in one hand and that was quite the moral dilemma I can tell you.
Mon 30: In 2021 my local Tesco stopped stocking Becks, other than the pointless non-alcoholic version, so I was amazed to spot a single box all by itself in the wrong location with no price on it. It's now all mine, hurrah, effectively at 65p a bottle and just in time with February coming up!
Tue 31: Yesterday's tales of your experiences with natural hazards were fascinating, thanks, and well worth a read. I have lived a very cushy life phenomenon-wise. The highest score came from MartinG (who's lived in China and Japan) with 7 out of 10 (E2 V2 H2 T1). Mary and a nameless person scored 6. As of 7am this morning earthquakes are by far the most commonly experienced hazard, with volcanic activity in second place and hurricanes and tornadoes some way behind.

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the diamond geezer index
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my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards