diamond geezer

 Tuesday, August 16, 2022

(more niche bus content disguised as clickbait)

You'll never guess the unique peculiarity that connects these two bus stops

(apologies, you might actually guess)
(apologies, I've probably misused the word 'unique')
(apologies, it's less a peculiarity, more a coincidence)
(but hey, that's how clickbait works)

This is bus stop BT at Bromley Common, Turpington Lane.

Only one other bus stop in London shares the same amazing peculiarity.

Bromley Common is a long main road to the southeast of Bromley, quite close to Southborough. One side's mostly suburbia and the other side's mostly grass. Bus stop BT sits on the grassy side where almost nobody lives, beside a cute little cottage with a clock on its garage and whose owners sell free range eggs. This is the lodge for Oakley House, a large 19th century manor once owned by Admiral Sir William Cornwallis, which is hidden down the end of a private drive. These days the house is used for weddings, banquets and provincial masonic shenanigans, none of which are activities normally attended by bus. By a strange quirk the lodge's house number is 358 and 358 is also the number of a bus route which stops here, but this is not the coincidence we seek.

The bus stop is mostly used by residents of the postwar estates opposite, who generally gain access via a pelican crossing because the A21 can be quite busy. The bus stop has a shelter displaying adverts for Pepsi and Ocado and also a Countdown display. It's a busy stop because four different bus routes stop here, by my calculations a generous 20 times an hour, which is more than a road that's half grass generally deserves. Two of the timetables are present (the 261 and 358) and two are currently missing (the 61 and 320) because everything in the left hand panel has fallen out. It's a pleasant spot on a sunny day and I imagine a bit forlorn on a miserable night. And it's also a request stop, but this is not the part of the coincidence we seek either.

This is bus stop LN at Bell Green Sainsbury's.

It's the only other bus stop in London which shares the same amazing peculiarity.

Bell Green is part of Sydenham, specifically Lower Sydenham which is about a mile south of Catford. It used to be the site of the Crystal Palace District Gas Works, a belching polluter, which in the late 20th century proved the ideal spot to turn into a massive retail park. The centrepiece was a 149,000 sq ft silver shed containing one of the capital's largest Sainsbury's, and surrounded by an even larger car park because in Lower Sydenham the car is king. Not only can you buy groceries here but also dine on sushi, get your eyes checked and leave your children with a tutor to learn their times tables. The Pool River which passes immediately behind this Sainsbury's feeds into the River Ravensbourne which also crosses Bromley Common, but this is not the coincidence we seek.

The mega-Sainsbury's is only half the story because this retail park also includes a B&Q, a Next, a Curry's/PC World, an Aldi, a Mercedes service centre and a McDonalds. This is shopping nirvana for Londoners who'd rather never set foot in a high street again, hence the recent opening of 55,000 sq ft of additional units. And all this economic activity is why TfL send five different bus routes here - three terminating and two doing an annoying loop where they drive in and drive back out again. Three bus stops have been provided to spread out the departing shoppers, each with a separate utilitarian shelter. One is for buses heading north (181), one for buses heading south or east (181, 352, 356) and one for buses heading west (194, 356, 450). Only the latter satisfies the unique coincidence we seek.

It's your last chance to guess the peculiarity before I finally spill the beans.
[BT] Bromley Common, Turpington Lane: 61 261 320 358
[LN] Bell Green Sainsbury's: 194 356 450
(this is not normally how clickbait works)
(the whole point of clickbait is to lure you in with a teasing headline, and as soon as you click through you've achieved your purpose, marketingwise, so they can safely reveal the big news straight away)
(instead I've been teasing you with several opening paragraphs to build up the tension)
(and to give you the opportunity to feel smug by spotting the connection)
(which hopefully you have)
(drumroll please)

Bus stop BT at Bromley Common...
...and bus stop LN at Bell Green...
...are the only two bus stops in London whose route numbers add up to 1000.

What's strange is that they're five miles apart, because you'd expect stops with identical totals to be on opposite sides of the same road. But the Sainsbury's bus stop is a one-off because it's at a turnround/terminus with no matching bus stop opposite, and the Bromley Common bus stop is on a long stretch of road where bus stops are provided only sporadically. The 61, 261, 320 and 358 are the only buses along half a mile of Bromley Common but somehow there's only one northbound bus stop and nothing whatsoever heading south. Up by Crown Lane the 208 has intruded so the next stop totals 1208, and down past Turpington Lane the 336 has emerged so that makes 1336. Only bus stops BT and LN hit the millennial sweet spot.

I should say that I'm getting my data from a spreadsheet released in an FoI request back in January. It turns out that if you ask for a list of all TfL bus stops and all the TfL routes that stop there, TfL are willing to oblige. It's unlikely to be 100% accurate because TfL databases never are, and it also doesn't include any changes since the start of the year, but it is the best data we've got.

I should also say that I'm ignoring any bus stops served by lettered routes, because you can't add E2 or R10 onto anything, so these stops are all instantly disqualified. This rule also knocks out any bus stop with an N-prefixed night bus route, which is a heck of a lot of stops, because my "adding to 1000" target requires arithmetical purity. I've also ignored schoolbuses because schoolbuses don't count (and if you disagree you're welcome to bash the data yourself).

Most London bus stops have totals under 500, indeed only about 10% get into four figures. The bus stop with the highest total is bus stop QQ on Western Road in Romford, where 66, 86, 128, 165, 193, 247, 294, 296, 347, 365, 370, 375 and 496 add up to 3428. No other bus stop's total exceeds 3000.

The only bus stops which total 100 are those served solely by route 100 - no other combination hits the ton. Six bus stops total exactly 500, all of them in Wimbledon (serving routes 57, 93, 131 and 219). No bus stops total exactly 700, 800 or 900. In terms of near misses, 1000-wise, bus stop T outside Camden Town station hits 997 (that's 88, 168, 214, 253 and 274) and bus stop E at North Finchley bus station reaches 1001 (134, 221, 263 and 383).

It's also notable that the three buses terminating at Bell Green Sainsbury's are the 194, 352 and 450, which means the "Alighting point only" on the opposite side of the road scores a very close 996. But only bus stop LN at Bell Green and bus stop BT at Bromley Common have route numbers that add up to exactly 1000, so give yourself a pat on the back if you spotted that before I told you.

 Monday, August 15, 2022

This is the e-scooter park outside Bow Road station. It's full of e-scooters, generally parked in the right place because we're fortunate enough to have a large paved area where they don't get in anybody's way. But it's also full of e-scooters because hardly anyone hires them. London's first trial has been underway for over a year but has never really taken off, to the extent that the average two-wheeled gizmo doesn't move for over 23 hours a day. The three competing companies must be throwing their money away.

Last time I was in Paris e-scooters were everywhere, and even other UK cities have had more success in encouraging use. But Londoners haven't taken them to their hearts and so they languish in their parks, and occasionally across the pavement (though thankfully not as obstructively as if they were really popular). Perhaps it's because the trial the authorities permitted is quite restrictive - omitting most boroughs, limiting potential parking spaces and enforcing localised speed limits. Perhaps they're simply too expensive, gobbling up your money at (roughly) £1 per ride plus 15p per minute. Perhaps it's because private e-scootering on roads still isn't legal so the public have never got on board. Or perhaps it's because hire bikes took off with a bang in London over a decade ago and e-scooters don't have a hope of catching up.

The current trial runs until November so there's still time for e-scootering to pick up, but I bet it doesn't. If it hasn't thrived during a period including Covid proximity restrictions, two summers and soaring petrol prices, what hope is there? It seems the authorities misjudged how to run things (or else cunningly devised a structure that was bound to fail in order to keep these deathtraps off the road, depending). You won't catch me on one, but the fact you won't catch anyone on one does feel like some kind of mis-stepped missed opportunity.

This is the pile of Evening Standards in the stairwell at Mile End station. More to the point it's the pile of Friday's Evening Standards left over on a Sunday afternoon, and blimey there are a heck of a lot of them. I doubt these hoppers were full on Friday evening but I bet they were the same height, and the pile on the right is closer to the top of the stairs so has probably had more taken. There must be well over 100 unread copies here, which given it's now first thing Monday morning will already have been taken away and replaced by a stack of more popular Metros, and basically what an incredible waste of paper.

The Evening Standard is really thin these days, a measly 24 pages. That said it does still contain genuine news as well as features, finance, sport and a page of puzzles to help while away your journey home. The website has more content but it must still pay to get the physical version into Londoners' hands, despite the fact that advertisers aren't exactly queueing up to fill them. Friday's edition has just one full-page advert - that's Easyjet on the back cover - plus two half-pages, three quarter-pages and a tiny classified section on page 19. Four pages of advertising isn't going to make any newspaper publisher rich, particularly if thousands of copies end up unread at the end of the day.

It's great that London still has an evening paper, even if it's put to bed before lunchtime and is essentially an oligarch's plaything. But it's a trifle suspicious that the Evening Standard still claims to have a circulation of almost half a million, especially given how many of those are never picked up, let alone opened, merely sent off to be pulped, day in, day out, until economic reality finally bites.

Twice in the last couple of weeks the eastern end of the District line has gone very wrong and trains have had to be turned back at Plaistow. Both times it was unplanned, and both times I found myself at Plaistow trying to get home in the face of limited helpful information.

The first time it happened, due to signal damage at Barking, I entered Plaistow station just after everything had gone wrong. All the platforms were trainless and a lot of people were trying to work out what on earth to do. The next train indicator on platform 1 insisted a westbound train was 9 minutes away, always nine minutes away, which it wasn't. The next train indicator on platform 2 insisted an eastbound train would be here in six minutes, but it never would be. No helpful announcements were forthcoming so dozens of passengers waited for trains that weren't coming until eventually the penny dropped. When a train eventually pulled into distant platform 3 I deduced it would probably be heading back west, and hiked over, and was eventually rewarded with a homebound journey. I don't know how everyone else got away.

Last Thursday evening the disruption was identical but had already been going on for a few hours. A member of staff had written a brief message on the board in the ticket hall, and a long detailed announcement was being broadcast every couple of minutes suggesting doubling back to West Ham and catching c2c from there. But anyone with a poor command of English was really struggling, and the next train indicator on platform 3 was entirely blank which didn't help because that was the only platform any trains were leaving from. When a terminating train finally pulled in I was surprised to see about 100 passengers pouring off and leaving the station to continue their journey by bus. Plaistow is an entirely useless station to catch a bus from if you're hoping to head further east, indeed not one of the four bus routes that passes Plaistow goes to any other station on the District line. But nobody had told anyone this so they were just about to find out the hard way, thereby making a bad journey considerably worse.

Anyway, forget the minutiae, what really struck me on both occasions was that no member of staff was on hand to help, advise, cajole or direct. They might have been behind closed doors doing important tasks, they might have been hiding, or they might never have existed because some stations aren't generally staffed of an evening. But nobody was available to say "there are no trains from platform 2, the signs are wrong" or "yes, that train on platform 3 is going to Olympia" or "a bus really isn't going to help you here sir". This is what happens when you make excessive cuts to staff numbers and something unexpected happens - hundreds of passengers left to their own devices and inconvenienced - because misleading displays and disembodied messages really don't cut it.

 Sunday, August 14, 2022


As well as visiting the 1km×1km grid squares I've never visited before, I'm also visiting squares I've never set foot in. Usually I've been through on a bus so they're not entirely unfamiliar, or I've been through on a train so have at least seen them from the window, but now finally I'm alighting to see what I've missed. And once again these squares are getting minimal bloggage, so my apologies if you live in any of the following seven.

TQ2068: New Malden (Kingston)
Where's the square? Along the Kingston Road between New Malden and Kingston. (click on the map reference and have a look if you're really interested)
What's here? A railway viaduct. Quite a big Aldi. Green Lane Recreation Ground. Local streets include the confusingly named South Lane West and the amusingly named Dickerage Lane (which leads to Donkeys Alley).
Point of marginal interest I spotted a hair salon called Curl Up And Dye. I got quite excited when I saw it because this punny business always seems to end up in lists of "amusing hairdresser names', indeed I think I first heard about it last century. I got less excited when I found out there are also Curl Up And Dyes in Caterham, Detroit and Springfield.

TQ2662: Carshalton Beeches (Sutton)
Where's the square? South of Carshalton, very nearly in Surrey.
What's here? The London Cancer Hub. The northern tip of Oaks Park. Serious suburban piles with back gardens so large you could squeeze an entire extra road in there. Needly avenues (the equivalent of leafy avenues but for areas where the majority of trees are conifers). It's all within ideal commuting distance of HMP Highdown and HMP Downview (but entirely unattainable on a prison officer's salary).
Point of marginal interest The pillarbox on Pine Walk has a jaunty crocheted boxtopper created by Emma Billin featuring two fish and a seagull.

TQ3261: Purley Downs (Croydon)
Where is it? Unsurprisingly, east of Purley.
What's here? Half the grid square is golf course (alas they don't believe in public footpaths). Most of the rest is lovely houses. Trains to East Grinstead stop at Riddlesdown station not very often. And you already know what the local shopping parade looks like because that was the answer in last week's quiz.
Point of marginal interest Riddlesdown Tennis Club is sponsored by Cleankill environmental services.

TQ3460: Sanderstead (Croydon)
Where's the square? Much further south than Sanderstead station. A bit further south than the medieval parish church.
What's here? A long Tudorbethan parade of quite nice shops that save having to drive into Croydon. A big Waitrose (ditto). The small but much-loved Priscilla's Tea Room. An old smithy called The Old Smithy. Several places to play ball sports. One suspects the Leadbetters would have felt very at home.
Point of marginal interest: My favourite section of the London Loop starts 500m down the road in Hamsey Green.

TQ4067: Hayes (Bromley)
Where's the square? Off Hayes Lane, due south of Bromley.
What's here? The housing estate the 246 bus dawdles round. The home ground of Bromley FC (which yesterday hosted a tense nil nil draw against Altrincham). Quite an unloved-looking athletics circuit. Two of Norman Park's four utilitarian sports pavilions. Some very dead-looking grass pitches.
Point of marginal interest: I'd have been to this square before if only I'd blogged a walk along the River Ravensbourne, which I somehow never have, although at the moment there isn't much of a river in the ditch opposite Scrogginhall Wood.

TQ4265: Keston Mark (Bromley)
Where's the square? Between Keston and Locksbottom, if that helps. South of Bromley if it doesn't.
What's here? Essentially it's an old crossroads where the Croydon Road crosses the Westerham Road. The local landmark is a pub called The Keston Mark, except it closed in 2008 and is now flats. Originally it was called The Red Cross but they changed the name to avoid confusion with the international welfare organisation. Other sights around the crossroads include two car showrooms, a Shell garage and a mosque that used to be the local Methodist church. If you want a decent pub these days you need the Two Doves up Oakley Road.
Point of marginal interest A smallholding up the road is selling 'DIY Horse Manure' at 50p a bag.

TQ5986: Clay Tye Road (Havering)
Where's the square? Beyond the M25 in the sub-agricultural wilds of almost-Thurrock. Only one Greater London grid square is further from Charing Cross.
What's here? Just one road, Clay Tye Road, which is intermittently lined by bungalows, characterful cottages and patriotic fortresses. House names include Braeside, Wisteria, Hillview and Chubs Nook (the latter has two piglets on its gateposts). Puddleduck Farm Fishery, home to 100-peg Snake Lake, is home to a lot of silent Essex anglers at weekends. Pylons feed out of the starkly menacing Warley substation. I didn't risk the two supposedly public footpaths.
Point of marginal interest: Clay Tye Road is served by London's least frequent bus, the 347, and also by the similarly infrequent 269, a NIBSbuses route linking Grays to Brentwood.

And yay, the only squares I have yet to visit are all in just three boroughs - Bromley, Hillingdon and Hounslow.

🟨=1441, 🟩=14, 🟦=1, 🟥=7

 Saturday, August 13, 2022

reasons not to be cheerful

it hasn't rained for weeks
and drought has been declared
and millions face restrictions
and waterways are drying up
and wildlife is under threat
and the harvest is ruined
and crops can't be planted
and food shortages are getting worse
and wildfires are increasing
and water companies focus on profits
and heat records are being broken worldwide
and the Arctic is heating unexpectedly rapidly
and sea ice coverage is at a record low
and expect a lot more of this in the future
and probably worse

and we're too reliant on gas
and we don't have enough of it
and the international energy market is unstable
and there may be power cuts in coming months
and we never got round to insulating everything
and energy bills are skyrocketing

Energy cap
January 2022August 2022Oct 2022 (est)Jan 2023 (est)
£3.50 per day £5.40 per day£9.80 per day£11.70 per day

and the scale of this is beyond comprehension
and the upcoming winter is going to push millions into poverty
and the rich'll be fine
and the comfortable will be cutting back
and the majority will be struggling
and the less well-off will be sunk
and this may be the new normal
and the cost of living is out of control
and inflation is at a 40 year high

July 2020July 2021July 20222023 (est)

and wage rises can't keep up
and our standard of living is going backwards
and house-buying is still out of reach
and interest rates are repeatedly rising
and savings rates are still piddly
and here comes recession
and inequality will widen
and economic instability awaits
and we all need to scale back our aspirations
and strikes are becoming commonplace
and you can't rely on the trains any more
and the price of petrol is extortionate
and the future is fewer more expensive transport options
and even the Royal Mail are walking out
and central funding has been neutered
and there's no money for anything

and Boris hasn't gone yet
and decision-making is on hold
and his likely replacement is likely worse
and fields should be full of crops not solar panels
and no green levies just more fracking
and profit isn't a dirty word
and let's wage war against woke civil service culture
and politics is increasingly about what people want to hear
and whither truth?

and the BBC news website used to go Home UK World...
and now it goes...

and Trump could easily return
and Russia is still in Ukraine
and Putin is keen to destabilise
and China is no longer on our side
and the 2020s have been a giant leap backwards
and Covid hasn't gone away
and monkeypox vaccines have run out
and NHS dentistry is barely accessible
and the NHS is permanently in crisis
and short-term that means more deaths
and long-term that means more illness
and Brexit lost us a flexible workforce
and foreign travel is no longer frictionless
and the commonplace is now bloody awkward
and there's no going back
and it used to be better
and there will be good times
but overall it only gets worse

 Friday, August 12, 2022

Seven London streets are named after days of the week.
But only ever the same day of the week, and that's today.
There's no Saturday Road, no Sunday Drive, no Monday Avenue, no Tuesday Terrace, no Wednesday Walk and no Thursday Close.
When it comes to naming London streets it's always Friday.

1) Friday Street, EC4

London's most central Friday street is Friday Street in the City of London. Today it's a runty thing joining Queen Victoria Street to Cannon Street, within sight of Mansion House station, but it used to be four times longer and ran all the way up to Cheapside. In medieval times this area was the City's chief marketplace and various streets were named after the traders setting up there, for example Milk Street, Bread Street and Poultry. This particular thoroughfare was the preserve of a weekly fish market, hence Friday Street, because that was the one day of the week the Catholic church discouraged the consumption of meat.

Friday Street used to have three churches but only one was rebuilt after the Great Fire, St Matthew, which as "the smallest and cheapest of the Wren churches" was itself demolished in 1885. Most of the northern half of the street disappeared under the postwar New Change office development and has subsequently been utterly lost beneath the shops at One New Change, leaving a southern stub that's mostly for the benefit of queueing traffic. The most important building in modern Friday Street is Bracken House, a salmon-coloured office block built for the Financial Times in the 1950s, whose front door is topped by an astronomical dial with the face of Sir Winston Churchill as its sunburst centrepiece. But you need to walk round to Cannon Street for that, because Friday Street really isn't what it was.
In summary: named after fishmongers

2) Friday Hill, E4
3) Friday Hill East, E4

4) Friday Hill West, E4
5) Little Friday Road, E4

And so to Chingford, or more specifically Chingford Hatch, a pleasant patch of suburbia alongside one of the narrower threads of Epping Forest. Friday Hill is half a mile of former country lane which both climbs and descends a proper little hillock, and gets its name from John Friday who owned the land round here in the late 15th century. The summit proved the ideal spot for a Jacobean manor, then for a Victorian whitebrick replacement called Friday Hill House where the local vicar lived. The London County Council bought the estate in 1940 and created an extensive leafy estate, again called Friday Hill, and Waltham Forest council recently offloaded Friday Hill House to become several flats. Everything is Friday-related round here.

The original country lane, Friday Hill, is mainly for driving these days. Separate residential streets - Friday Hill West and Friday Hill East - have been jammed in parallel behind grassy verges so that front gardens open out onto much quieter roads. Little Friday Road performs this function to the northeast to complete a full-on Friday quartet. Points of (relative) interest along Friday Hill include the dubiously-named Pimp Hall Park (which has a 17th century dovecote), a pub called The Dovecote and not much else. Indeed you got lucky with this one because Friday Hill is officially the B146 and I abandoned my B Road safari after the B142.
In summary: named after medieval landowner John Friday

6) Friday Road, Mitcham

Brace yourself. This one's near Tooting station but officially in Mitcham, and looks like an innocuous street of fifteen interwar houses. One side's all walls and fences and the other is a terrace of what would be semi-detached houses if only they weren't all joined together. The tarmac's not terribly well repaired, there's a 20mph speed limit throughout and the S1 bus stops at the bottom the road close to the gate into London Road Cemetery. And that'd be about all there is to say about Friday Road were it not for the street it joins onto, up by the double garage...

Hang on, Crusoe Road leading into Friday Road, that can only mean... and yes it does. What we have here is a cluster of streets dedicated to Daniel Defoe's most famous novel, Robinson Crusoe, with Friday Road named after his trusty companion/manservant/slave.

The other street which joins onto Friday Road, halfway down, is called Island Road, and round the back of Crusoe Road is Pitcairn Road. In Defoe's book Crusoe is cast away in the Caribbean, not the Pacific, but the real life events that inspired him took place 400 miles off the coast of South America on a volcanic hump the Chilean government have since renamed Robinson Crusoe Island.

The reason for the Mitcham cluster is that Defoe once lived at nearby Tooting Hall, or it's said he did, while hiding from non-conformist persecution in the 1680s. 200 years later a woman called Mrs Taylor started a dairy on neighbouring pasture and, knowing the literary rumour, decided to call it Crusoe Farm. Her one-cow start-up grew into one of the largest milk businesses in south London, so it made sense that when the first residential streets spread south of Swains Lane one of them should be called Crusoe Road. Pitcairn Road is a contemporary, and Friday Road and Island Road came later replacing orchards. But oh man... Friday, who'd have guessed?
In summary: named after the day of the week a fictional castaway met a fictional tribesman.

7) Friday Road, Erith

And finally to Erith, not quite by the river but further inland above main road and railway. Several working class terraces were built here in Victorian times to serve a swathe of manufacturing and engineering works, one of which is Friday Road. It has 48 houses numbered up one side and down the other, as befits a cul-de-sac, and leads to a fairly unloved public footpath at the far end. Everyone parks on the road, assuming they can find space, with excellent reversing skills a key qualification. I only met one resident, a ginger cat who seemed somewhat wary, but I've marked down those at number three as 'borderline twee' and those at 46 as 'impressively green-fingered'. And that looks like all there is to say about Friday Road except once again the adjacent street is called Crusoe Road, and here we go again...

Alexander Selkirk was a Scottish buccaneer who in 1703 joined a privateer's plundering voyage around Cape Horn. After one skirmish too many he asked to be left behind on an uninhabited island rather than remain on board for fear the ship was unseaworthy and would sink, which it later did. Selkirk survived alone for four years and four months, sustained by feral goats and wild turnips, before finally being rescued by another privateer and resuming his original career. His ship eventually returned to England on 14th October 1711 and he stepped back onshore in... of course, Erith.

Bexley Council commemorated the 300th anniversary of Selkirk's return by erecting a pink signpost in Riverside Gardens. Not only does it point towards his birthplace of Lower Largo, Scotland (460 miles) but also towards Juan Fernández Island, Chile (7750 miles) where he was marooned.

Selkirk quickly became a celebrity, insofar as 18th century society allowed, and could have retired on the profits from his booty. But he was soon back out on the waves, this time on the right side of the law, until in 1721 he finally succumbed to yellow fever off the coast of West Africa. By this time Daniel Defoe had already fictionalised his story, creating what some have called the first English novel, and Selkirk's place in literary history was assured. The dubious honour of an Erith backstreet would follow later.
In summary: named after the non-existent companion of a fictionalised pirate

Seven London streets are named after days of the week, but only ever the same day of the week, and that's today.

 Thursday, August 11, 2022

It's well known that TfL sometimes install signs which deliberately direct passengers the long way round. The labyrinthine tunnels of King's Cross St Pancras are particularly egregious in this respect. But what's not yet commonly known is the sheer meandering cruelty they've imposed at one of central London's new Crossrail stations. Allow me to shine a spotlight on...

The Evil Arrows of Tottenham Court Road

When stepping off a train at an unfamiliar station, one of the first things people do is look for an arrow pointing towards the way out. They trust, not unreasonably, that this arrow will be pointing in the correct direction. But at Tottenham Court Road several of the arrows on the wall are deliberately pointing in the wrong direction and send you off on a walk much longer than it needs to be. And this isn't just on one platform it's on both, as well as misleading passengers entering down the Dean Street escalators. The bastards.

» Arrive at the rear of a westbound train and a passageway off the platform opens up immediately in front of you. This dogleg is indeed the fastest way out, but only the Northern line is signposted this way. The Central line and the Tottenham Court Road exit are both arrowed off to the left, and if you believe this white lie then you're adding over a minute to your journey.

The evil arrows direct you along the platform towards another, wider, passageway but brazenly send you straight past that as well. If you squint down that passageway you'll see a Way Out sign on a more direct route, but if you only believe the arrows on the platform you'll be walking further.

Not until the third passageway do the evil arrows finally deign you direct you towards the central passageway. And then they direct you back past the end of passageway two and eventually to the end of passageway one at the foot of the main escalators. This roundabout hike takes well over two minutes, and that's without kids or luggage, whereas you could have reached those escalators in just one minute. The bastards.

Anyone alighting from the rear three carriages of the train is embroiled in this deception. And those who alight from the front two carriages are embroiled in another.

» If you step off the front of a westbound train what you should do is head for the passageway at the head of the platform. But it's not signed, other than for those wanting the lift, despite the fact it leads directly to the central passageway for easy exit.

Instead the evil arrows point back down the platform, in entirely the wrong direction, before eventually pointing inwards and admitting entry to the return route between the platforms. None of this dubious kerfuffle is actually necessary.

If you watch a freshly-arrived train disgorging passengers, a few who know what they're doing take the quick route, 20 seconds tops. The proportion is higher than it used to be in the first week because familiarity breeds contempt. But the majority of passengers meekly do what they're told, sweeping round an unnecessary loop and reaching the foot of the Dean Street escalators a full minute later than necessary. The bastards.

» Meanwhile on the eastbound platform, the evil arrows trick those in the front two carriages into leaving via a roundabout route. It's particularly evil for those alighting from the very front of the train who are directed straight past the first connecting passageway and sent instead down the second, a diversion that adds at least another minute.

Both side-passages are enormous so congestion isn't the issue, just a perceived need to manipulate passenger flow. Again if you look down these passageways you'll see Way Out signs at the end of them. But a dutiful tourist in London for the first time isn't going to risk that, they're relying on the platform-based arrows to help them thread through the labyrinth, except the arrows are lying. The bastards.

» At the rear of the eastbound platform the trickery isn't aimed at people leaving the platform, it's for those arriving from outside. When you reach the foot of the Dean Street escalators the closest entrance to the westbound platform is actually immediately behind you. But the signs don't point this out, instead they direct everyone straight ahead along the central passageway...

...and only there do the arrows split into westbound and eastbound versions. Had you been awake and looked backwards you could have slipped through to the back of the train in 30 seconds, but this deliberate subterfuge instead delivers you two carriages further up the train one minute later. The bastards.

So that's four sets of evil arrows altogether, one set at each end of each platform, like so...

In each case passengers are being directed past one connecting passageway so they can use another instead. In each case the unluckiest passengers are being sent at least a minute out of their way, and in the case of the rear of the westbound platform it's a minute and a half. I reckon that's at least an hour collectively wasted every time a busy train arrives at the station.

And there's more.

» The Northern line connection at Tottenham Court Road should be brilliantly quick because this is the only station in Central London where Crossrail and the tube lie really close. But if you emerge up the stairs fresh from the Northern line, no sign directs you straight ahead down the shortcut to the westbound platform.

Instead the only signs for the Elizabeth line point to the right towards the foot of the main escalator and then along the central passageway. And only then, after you've walked the traditional 'unnecessary minute', do the signs finally split into westbound and eastbound to direct you to the platforms. The bastards.

I think I've worked out what's going on with Tottenham Court Road's misleading signage, and it's that each of the nine passageways connecting to the platforms is notionally one way.

On the eastbound platform there are two designated ways in and two designated ways out, and on the westbound platform two ways in and three ways out. In real life you can walk any which way you like, but all the arrows on all the signs assume the connecting passageways are one way and direct you accordingly. That's why they'll often direct you straight past the quickest exit and, if you believe them, delay your progress.

It's hard to fool passengers arriving at the station because as soon as they see a passageway leading to a platform they make a beeline down it. It's much easier to fool passengers looking for a way out, which is why most of the one-way arrows prioritise arrivals over departures.

In a small congested station with narrow corridors a one-way system can make perfect sense. But Tottenham Court Road is a futureproofed station with massive passageways, so all this one-way thinking feels totally unnecessary. I could imagine these arrows being helpful if a busy train was emptying at the height of some future rush hour, when yes it might be a good idea to keep opposing flows apart. But right now, and for the vast majority of the time, the task they perform is overly-pessimistic misdirection.

The evil arrows exist to cope with worst-case passenger flow. At all other times, which is the vast majority of the time, they cruelly send unfamiliar passengers unnecessarily out of their way.

The Evil Arrows send the following journeys the wrong way...
• Westbound Crossrail → Way Out (TCR) [rear 3 carriages]
• Westbound Crossrail → Central line [rear 3 carriages]
• Westbound Crossrail → Way Out (Dean St) [front 2 carriages]
• Eastbound Crossrail → Way Out (TCR) [front 2 carriages]
• Eastbound Crossrail → Central line [front 2 carriages]
• Eastbound Crossrail → Northern line [front 2 carriages]
Entrance (Dean St) → Eastbound Crossrail [everyone]
Northern line → Westbound Crossrail [everyone]

The bastards.

 Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Earlier this week this blog got shorter. You probably didn't notice.

I received an email out of the blue from Blogger informing me that they'd unpublished one of my posts.
Your post titled '' was flagged to us for review. We have determined that it violates our guidelines and have unpublished the URL http://diamondgeezer.blogspot.com/2003/05/big-brother-where-are-they-now-with.html, making it unavailable to blog readers.
I've never had a post unpublished before, nor knowingly violated any guidelines, so this came as a bit of a surprise. Also the post in question was from May 2003, which seemed a very long time ago to be suddenly getting het up about.
Why was your blog post unpublished?
Your content has violated our malware and viruses policy. Please follow the community guidelines link in this email to learn more.
I don't knowingly link to malware or viruses, so I deduced that one of the sites I once linked to must have faded away and been replaced by something much more malicious. 19 years on, that's actually quite likely.

The offending post was a smorgasbord of weblinks relating to the popular Channel 4 programme Big Brother. This may not be what you'd prefer to read about on the blog today but 2003 was a different world, not least because posts back then were often just a smorgasbord of weblinks.

The post was only 11 lines long but contained 31 different links, each of which I had to check until I found the gribbly one. In fact I checked all of them just in case more than one was gribbly, and what a lot of linkrot I found.
• 12 of the 31 webpages have completely vanished.
• 9 sites still exist but the specific webpage has long gone.
• 4 of the webpages still exist (all from the BBC or The Guardian).
• 6 sites have been replaced by a completely different webpage.
It was one of these last six where the problem was, a replacement page so virus-ridden that my browser refused to take me there. And unexpectedly, of all the celeb-ridden backlinks in the post the one causing the problem was the link to the Teabagbin.

The Teabagbin was the brainchild of Dean and Stuart from Big Brother 2. It was grey and plastic with a hinged lid for dropping your teabags through and I bought mine from Robert Dyas and I swore by it. Eventually the spring broke so I merely swore at it, and then it went in the actual bin.

A couple of years later I received an email from the actual Stuart saying he and Dean had started making them again and there was a new URL, teabagbin.co.uk. We had an eveningsworth of email conversation about how much BestMate's mum loved her Teabagbin and how many units they'd sold and it was a bit of fanboy moment. I never went back and updated the URL because that would have been successful marketing, but I should have done because it was that original URL which, almost two decades later, would trigger my first Blogger unpublishing.
If you are interested in republishing the post, please update the content to adhere to Blogger's community guidelines. Once the content is updated, you may republish it. This will trigger a review of the post.
I don't like gaps in my archive so I decided to amend the post. I could have deleted all 31 weblinks to be on the safe side or I could have deleted just the gribbly one, but instead I chose to replace it with a contemporary alternative. The acclaimed early-2000s weblog A Nice Cup Of Tea And A Sit Down had published a post about the Teabagbin so I linked to that instead, pressed republish and hoped for the best.

Within the hour someone at Blogger emailed me and said they'd reinstated the post, hurrah, and this had returned my archive to the full complement of 9422 posts.

Later that afternoon they emailed me again to say they'd unpublished another post because it linked to the teabagbin, this time from 2005, so I went through the rigmarole again and got it reinstated. Then they got stroppy about a 2006 post mentioning Uncle the fictional elephant, whose fansite had since been taken over by something nasty, and later that evening they found a 2008 Uncle post which was causing more substantial issues. It was like someone (or something) was going through my archives sequentially to find the gribbly links, reporting them to Blogger and getting them taken down.

All these posts have now been republished minus the offending links, which is nice because it suggests Blogger has a fast and fair turnaround on dodgy content issues. But it also flags up future risks for the blog in that numerous posts could be unpublished in the future, indeed two decades of persistent linkrot suggests it's highly likely they will be. Thus far it's only a teabagbin and a fictional elephant causing problems, but loads of things I've linked to in the past might one day become unwitting pathways to virus-ridden hellsites. Look a bit more carefully and they probably already are.

No I'm not going back through all my past posts to check them all. This blog is now in its 240th month which means I've published almost ten thousand posts containing several hundred thousand links. I can't possibly police them all. Readers who delve back into millennial archives should always be a bit careful what they click on.

If Blogger finds more gribbly links I can always act, but one day I may not be here to do so in which case my archives could slowly wither away. I published a risk log last year outlining the multitude of ways this blog could unintentionally go wrong, or become unreadable, or even vanish, and it seems I need to add historic malicious weblinks to that list. I shall be more careful how I throw my teabags away in future.

 Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Last summer I went for a walk across half of London's public footpath level crossings.
"London has ten public footpath level crossings, just ten, and half of them are in the London Borough of Havering. If you have three hours spare you can walk them all." (map)
Just in time, as it turns out, because a few weeks ago two of the five were permanently closed. If you want to cross the Overground between Emerson Park and Upminster you can no longer use a public footpath level crossing, because Network Rail asked to close them for safety reasons and the Secretary of State agreed.

What's astonishing is that Network Rail asked in 2016, and due process for agreeing that request took six years.
2016: Network Rail intend to close or modify 57 level crossings across Essex, Havering, Hertfordshire, Southend and Thurrock
2016: First round of public consultation
2016: Second round of public consultation
Sep 2018: Public inquiry opens
Feb 2019: Public inquiry closes
20th Jul 2020: Inspector publishes 559-page report
16th Mar 2022: Secretary of State publishes 62-page response, agreeing to close or modify 37 of the 57 level crossings
9th June 2022: The Network Rail (Essex and Others Level Crossing Reduction) Order 2022 is passed by government
30th June 2022: The Network Rail (Essex and Others Level Crossing Reduction) Order 2022 comes into effect
30th June 2022: Butts Lane and Woodhall Crescent level crossings permanently closed
Butts Lane (RM11 3NA) - closed

This one linked a suburban avenue to a suburban cul-de-sac north of Hornchurch. It crossed a straight stretch of single track with clear sight of the platform at Emerson Park station, but users of the crossing had to negotiate a stile on either side of the railway so it wasn't particularly accessible. Closing the crossing introduces a 750m detour, but in reality most people would just go a slightly different way, either via the station or crossing a former road bridge by St Andrew's Park. Residents of Maybush Close are more likely to be pleased that people won't be walking past their Essex-y piles any more.
The Inspector said: I conclude that the Secretary of State should include Butts Lane within the Order as the footbridge provides existing users of the crossing with a suitable and convenient alternative means of crossing the railway.
Woodhall Crescent (RM11 3ST) - closed

This one linked a suburban avenue to a suburban cul-de-sac northeast of Hornchurch. It crossed a cutting via a convoluted zigzag, and not just any cutting, this is the Hornchuch SSSI where the advance of Pleistocene ice sheets ground to a halt. The twisty passage and the chance to walk through a genuine geological anomaly made this my favourite foot crossing in the whole of London, but scientific curiosity cuts no odds and the closure went ahead anyway. Again there's a existing bridge nearby - that's on Wingletye Lane - and only a very immediate resident would ever need to make the full 430m detour. Damned shame though.
The Inspector said: Although users would be deprived of choice as a result of the closure of the crossing, they would be not be inconvenienced by that closure.
But it's not all bad news for Havering's public footpath level crossings. Two were never on the danger list and one was given a reprieve...

Eve's (RM14 2XH) - staying open

This one's on an obscure public footpath near North Ockendon, so obscure that when Network Rail did a 9-day survey in July 2016 they didn't record a single person using it. It was a slightly more useful footpath before the M25 scythed through less than 50m away, so this corner of a field is now more dominated by a thundering embankment than the single track railway to Grays. I got a real sense of "what the hell am I doing here?" when I came to cross it, so circumstance suggests it would have been fine to close this one. But no, because it turns out the alternative detour would have been just over a mile long, would have annoyed a farmer by sending people round two additional sides of his field, would have involved a substantial amount of road walking and would have necessitated the crossing of a dangerous roadbridge on Ockendon Road. It was this "inherently unsafe" bridge that eventually killed the proposal, and so this almost-pointless crossing lives on. The Essex Area Ramblers claim some credit for this.
The Inspector said: Although the proposed alternative would maintain an east/west means of crossing the railway it would be convoluted and counterintuitive to those current users who are likely to be inconvenienced by such a route in addition to that route being unsafe as users would be put at risk of collision with vehicles at the road bridge.
Had the closure of Eve's crossing gone ahead it would also have meant the extinguishing of Havering public footpath 252 but this survives - a decision which brings significant long term expense. The Lower Thames Crossing is due to sweep away from the M25 almost exactly here, so contractors are going to have to build a thin footbridge to lift the footpath over road and railway, obliterating the need for a level crossing at a stroke.

Amusingly the Secretary of State did agree to close the neighbouring Manor Farm public footpath level crossing which was completely severed by the construction of the M25 in 1982 but has never officially been closed... until now, 40 years later.

Other public footpath level crossing closures just outside London:
Trinity Lane (Herts) - between Waltham Cross and Cheshunt [footbridge provided]
Cadmore Lane (Herts) - between Waltham Cross and Cheshunt [replaced by footbridge in 2014]
Whipps Farmers (Essex) - between Upminster and West Horndon [Havering footpath 179 also extinguished]
No. 131 (Thurrock) - north of Purfleet alongside HS1 [700m detour to be provided]

Havering's surviving public footpath level crossings:
» Osbourne Road - between Romford and Emerson Park
» Brickfields - between Upminster and West Horndon
» Eve's - north of Ockendon (see above)

London's five other public footpath level crossings:
» Angerstein (Greenwich) - alleyway across freight line, separately reprieved from closure.
» Trumpers (Ealing) - also across a freight line, see Geoff's video here.
» Golf Links (Enfield) - along a minor footpath up Crews Hill way.
» Lincoln Road (Enfield) - south of Enfield Town, closed to road traffic in 2012.
» Bourneview (Croydon) - almost in Surrey, between Kenley and Whyteleafe.

 Monday, August 08, 2022

(a series in which I go somewhere mundane in outer London, briefly, and then attempt to make it sound interesting)

Yesterday I walked Footpath 245 in Welling, which is 600m long from Hill View Drive to Wickham Street.

If you get off the bus at the bottom of Shooters Hill outside the We Anchor In Hope pub, then take the second road on the left, that's Hill View Drive. It looks like being a total cul-de-sac, but on the penultimate bend a public footpath bears off and follows the remainder of the road behind green railings. Beyond the last house the path gets quite hemmed in, securely fenced between rolling farmland on one side and a cemetery on the other. The former looks quite alluring but you can't get over there. Three bends follow, including one at the end of Wordsworth Road where they could have created a connecting path through the garages but the residents prefer privacy to access. Instead you have to continue all around the edge of the cemetery until eventually emerging onto Chaucer Road at The Green Man pub, immediately alongside a seafood stall.

A dozen points of minor interest
1) They have unusual footpath markers in the London borough of Bexley.
2) The Bexley website has an excellent interactive map of all public rights of way in the borough. Well done Bexley.
3) You only get public rights of way in outer London, there aren't any in the London borough of Greenwich which starts just the other side of the adjacent field.
4) The unusually-named We Anchor In Hope pub launches its Christmas menu on 8th November, which'll include Katsu Chicken, Pulled Smoked Turkey Burger and Cauliflower Burger.
5) The far end of Hill View Drive used to be a school, and after that council offices, before becoming about 50 houses ten years ago. This helps explain why the footpath skips past the houses with no direct access.
6) The fields to the north became Hillview Cemetery in 1995. Thus far it's only half full and contains no graves of note. The footpath used to follow a shorter less roundabout route before the cemetery was added.
7) The hayfields along the western side of the fence belong to Woodlands Farm, the popular 89 acre city farm. They're celebrating their 25th anniversary with a Family Farm Fun Day this Thursday.
8) Green Chain section 3 passes through Woodlands Farm, or did until 2007 when the farm got all hissy and locked the gates at either end claiming access would lead to vandalism, and it was only a permissive path anyway, and a big row broke out between the farm and the Inner London Ramblers.
9) The gates are still locked because the argument didn't end well, and the farm suggests everyone follows footpath 245 instead, which it has to be said is massively less scenic.
10) The Green Man pub at the end of the footpath has a Thai restaurant attached, or does on days when they have enough staff. According to their website the next event is a Valentine's Day meal in 2017. They're marginally more awake on Facebook.
11) What is it with outer London boroughs and seafood stalls? This one's open three days a week, including from 9am on Sundays which seems ridiculously early for cockle-swallowing, but it had customers (plural) even before the pub had opened.
12) A local resident reminisces... <tbc>

Another successful London Hat Week is now over.

If you've long had 1st-7th August pencilled in your diary you'll know that London Hat Week is an annual celebration of milliners and millinery, showcasing the creative industries that help to keep our capital a-head. You may even have participated in the workshops, attended the Suppliers Fair, visited the pop-up shop, dropped into the exhibition, taken advantage of the masterclasses or listened to the podcasts. But the crescendo of the event is always the London Hat Walk, and 2022 was no exception.
Dress Code: Headwear eye-catching enough to stop traffic!
They gathered just before noon outside Morley College on Westminster Bridge Road. This had also been the venue for this year's official London Hat Week Exhibition, held inside Morley Gallery where a curated selection of work from established milliners and emerging talent included contributions from industry associations around the world including the British Hat Guild, the Dutch Hat Association, the Norwegian Hat Association, the Spanish Hat Association and The Worshipful Company of Feltmakers. Essentially it was some rooms brimming of hats.

The gathering must have been all of 50 strong, because what better to do on a summer Sunday than parade around the streets of Lambeth and Southwark in your favourite headgear. There were floral twirls and feathery fascinators. There were bold blue brims and ostentatious pink ribbons. There were pert pillboxes and frothy bonnets. There were hats Margaret Thatcher would have adored and hats resembling red frisbees. There were trilbies unless they were fedoras because I'm no expert on identification. There were hats at jaunty angles and hats so frail they almost weren't there. There were hats you'd wear to Ascot and hats you wouldn't have risked. There was one striped top hat with a windmill on a stick. There was something green and yellow resembling a cushioned snake which looked like it was being worn for a bet. There was a man in what looked like a red velour baseball cap with gold trim and a woman in what looked like a Napoleonic bicorne hat made out of a hessian sack. There was a lady with a bijou red creation wearing a t-shirt saying 'Wear More Hats'. And there was a photographer on hand to capture the moment because every hat is a statement and nobody who wears one is a shrinking violet.

Photos taken, the party set off on their 90 minute stroll. Their first stop was outside Lambeth North tube station, where tourists in matching baseball caps gawped and a bald man carrying shopping bags did a sudden double-take. I'm not sure what those further around the circuit made of the display, social media does not record. But I do know the entourage returned to Morley College at the end of the London Hat Walk to celebrate at the London Hat Week Wrap Party with light refreshments and a glass of bubbles. You're too late to join in this year, but if your creative ego has been tickled then expect plenty of opportunities to engage and celebrate hats together during London Hat Week next August, so best get millining now.

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