diamond geezer

 Sunday, June 20, 2021

Tales From The Dock Edge
(in which, not for the first time, I walk along the Royal Docks and spot things to write about)

1) City Hall update: A year ago the mayor signalled his intention to move City Hall to the Crystal at the western end of the Royal Victoria Dock. The access road'll need a name change, I blogged, and so it's proved.

The Royal Docks have come up with a shortlist of three new names and are inviting Londoners to vote for their preferred choice by the end of the month.
Kamal Chunchie Way: Named after a race relations pioneer from Sri Lanka who in 1926 founded The Coloured Men’s Institute on Tidal Basin Road for the benefit of sailors and local residents
People's Way: Emphasises the civic role of the site for all Londoners, as well as referencing the ‘People’s Plan for the Royal Docks’ created by local activists opposed to the building of City Airport
World's Gate Way: Refers to the area’s international perspective, highlighting the Royal Docks as London's gateway to the world
I hope I'm not alone in this, but World's Gate Way is so appallingly contrived that it should never have seen the light of day, let alone made it to the final vote. I had assumed it dribbled off the desk of a Royal Docks marketing wonk but no, it appears they held a programme of community workshops to discuss ideas and naming principles, then trimmed down selections to a longlist of 20 and eventually 3. It's such a bloated process that the final report is a 25MB pdf, but that's Bermondsey-based brand strategists for you.

The two remaining choices could hardly be more different. One highlights historic diversity with a name that'll make most Londoners go "Who?", which is entirely the point, boosted by the brilliant coincidence that his Institute was located almost precisely here. The other ticks all boxes with its bland inclusivity, and'd give City Hall a cohesive address, but nobody's ever going to notice the alternative rooted reference to environmental activism. So long as the abominable World's Gate Way doesn't win, I'm happy either way. [vote]

2) Dangleway update: Ridership on London's favourite cablecar remains down on 2019, as you'd expect, but inequitably. Passenger totals are about 50% lower than they used to be during term time but oddly about 20% higher during school holidays. All I know is that every time I walk past, even on a Saturday, several staff are standing around waiting for nobody to walk up while vacant pods inch across the river.

3) Argh! Mateys update: Newish at the Royal Docks is an eight-stop augmented reality trail whereby you're supposed to "discover stories created by young people hidden in digital portholes" by pointing your smartphone at a colourful square and navigating to ar.arghmateys.org. I saw them putting one of the signs up earlier this year. But I've never got past the stage where the site wants access to my camera, and the view-at-home website isn't working, and I couldn't tell you where the full set of locations is, and all the effort expended in creating the project appears to have fallen flat through poor delivery.

4) ExCeL update: One thing nobody says about ExCeL is that it isn't long enough. 600m of exhibition centre ought to be perfectly sufficient, as anyone who's yomped down its cavernous central walkway knows. And yet it turns out the building's owners aren't satisfied and intend to extend the building to the east, boosting its length to a full half mile. This is why I always stop and read planning notices attached to lampposts, because you never know what megaproject might be about to arise.

The extension will be built across what's currently ExCeL's eastern car park, a fairly desolate space, stretching as far as possible without demolishing the hotels alongside. Officially it's described as ExCeL Phase 3, following on from a pre-Olympic extension in 2010, and has been lurking in the pipeline ever since outline planning proposals were submitted in 1996. It's going to be more of the same, i.e. exhibition halls at ground level and a suite of conferencing facilities above because that's where the big money is. As Project Vision Statement Bullet Point 1 confirms, the chief aim is to "Maximise Revenue Generation To Ensure ExCeL London's Long Term Economic Sustainability".

One innovation lurking in the planning documents is the addition of a floating walkway along the edge of the dock. It sounds more exciting than it is, not so much a bobbing adventure as an excuse to locate the new extension as close as possible to the water while maintaining sufficient circulation space. The new building also cuts off the most direct route from Prince Regent DLR to the dockside, so it's fascinating to read the spin which claims the new longer route will be an improvement. Students of urban planning should file away the useful buzzphrase "activation of the public realm", an excuse which can be deployed whenever transforming an empty space into a new development.

If all goes to plan construction will begin this autumn with Phase 3 opening to the public some time in 2024. The hope is that 130 new jobs will be created, and I wouldn't be surprised if a burrito bar and a noodle concession are among the top class refreshment opportunities providing employment. We might even have a flourishing international events industry again by then, unlike this summer when ExCeL isn't risking a scheduled exhibition any time in the next two months.

5) Rowing update: Saturday's the best day to see the dockside properly activated, awash with oarspeople aboard boats and/or fours and/or eights and/or whatever these are officially called, I always get told off for using the wrong term, anyway it's fun to watch, and if you're willing to join in probably more so.

 Saturday, June 19, 2021

12 things that happened this week #coronavirus

• G7 leaders promise 1 billion vaccine doses
final stage of unlocking delayed by 4 weeks
• July 19th is a "terminus date" (PM)
• hospitality sector exasperated
• cap on wedding guests lifted
• booster jab trials begin
• jabs to be compulsory for care home staff
• Hancock "totally f***ing hopeless" (PM)
• Wales and Scotland delay easing lockdown
• vaccination now open to all over-18s
• δ variant now 99% of UK cases
• third wave "definitely underway"

Worldwide deaths: 3,790,000 → 3,850,000
Worldwide cases: 175,000,000 → 178,000,000
UK deaths: 127,896 → 127,970
UK cases: 4,558,494 → 4,620,968
1st vaccinations: 41,291,331 → 42,679,268
2nd vaccinations: 29,450,653 → 31,087,325
FTSE: down 2% (7134 → 7017)

London's most north/east/south/westerly

constituencyEnfield NorthHornchurch and UpminsterCroydon SouthHayes & Harlington
settlementCrews HillNorth OckendonOld CoulsdonHarefield (West)
riverCuffley BrookMar DykeBonesgate StreamColne
geologyLondon ClayLondon ClayChalkLondon Clay
woodTilekiln OsiersClay Tye WoodPiles WoodPark Wood
roadM25Fen LaneDitches LaneHorton Road
M25 junctionJ25J29J14J14
stationCrews HillUpminsterCoulsdon SouthHeathrow Terminal 5
tube stationCockfostersUpminsterMordenHeathrow Terminal 5
bus stopNew Cottage FarmHome Farm CottageWesterham HeightsHarefield West/Belfry Avenue
bus route313347, 37024681
churchSt George's, FreezywaterSt Mary MagdaleneWesterham Hill Baptist ChurchWaterloo Road Church
Flash Lane AqueductUpminster Tithe BarnAnglo-Saxon barrow field, Farthing DownBrackenbury Farm moated site, Ickenham
Owls HallBury FarmhouseCottage Orne Attached to Spinning Wheel RestaurantWest Factory Block on Premises of Harefield Rubber Company
houseOwls Hall, EN2 8AZHome Farm, RM14 3RD454 Main Road, TN16 2HWRoyal Quay, UB9 6FG
pubThe PloughThe Old White HorseThe FoxThe King's Arms
schoolSt John's Prep and Senior SchoolThe James Oglethorpe Primary SchoolOasis Academy CoulsdonSt Mary's Catholic Primary School
hospitalThe Kings OakQueen'sRoyal MarsdenHarefield
museumWhitewebbs Museum of TransportUpminster Tithe Barn Museum of NostalgiaBiggin Hill Memorial MuseumBattle of Britain Bunker
libraryOrdnance Unity CentreUpminsterBradmore GreenHarefield
embassyTogoEritreaVatican CityNorth Korea
police stationEnfieldRomfordSuttonUxbridge
post officeEnfield WashCranhamOld CoulsdonCowley
postboxThe RidgewayOckendon RoadHawley's CornerJacks Lane
businessEnfield Garden Centre2ndhnd.comThe FoxForester Grant
WaitroseBarnetUpminsterBiggin HillNorthwood
Co-OpLavender HillUpminster BridgeRosehill RoadHarefield
football clubEnfield Town FCHornchurch FCChessington and Hook UnitedUxbridge FC
golf courseCrews HillTop MeadowCherry LodgeUxbridge
LOOP section1722512

» It rained so much yesterday I stayed in all day and compiled this table.
» It took ages longer than I anticipated.
» Even so, it won't be 100% correct.

• North's relatively straight-forward. The chief area to search is between the M25 and Enfield, particularly around Crews Hill, but also keeping an eye on the Lea Valley corridor south of Waltham Cross.
• East's the easiest. The only town out east is Upminster and the only village beyond that is North Ockendon, so that's where almost everything is.
• South has a spilt personality. The far south of London is open country near Old Coulsdon, but nobody lives there so often the southern end of Biggin Hill wins instead.
• West's the toughest. London's westernmost patch lies between Heathrow and the M25 where nobody lives, so instead you have to follow the River Colne checking West Drayton, Cowley, Uxbridge and Harefield (especially the valley slopes below Harefield).

» Other categories are available.

 Friday, June 18, 2021

Imagine if you will a 10-point scale of pandemic behaviours, from relaxed at one end to careful at the other.

I wonder where you are now. comments


In spring last year most of us were 8s, 9s and 10s, not least because the law said we had to be. But things are safer now, and looser, so most of us will be further to the left than we were before.

I'm not seeking to quantify precisely what a 7 means, nor what makes a 2 subtly different to a 3. Neither am I trying to define precisely what behaviours I'm talking about because this scale could be applied to all sorts of situations. Instead I'm particularly intrigued by the idea that, wherever you think you are on the scale, most other people are somewhere else.

Over the last fifteen months we've been bombarded with advice, rules and guidance on how to behave, backed up by a vast amount of evidence, opinion, common sense and hearsay. But we've all soaked up a different subset of information, and taken it on board to a very different extent, so that our ideas of optimum behaviour are wholly disparate.

Take washing your hands, for example. It's one of the first things the government advised us to do, merrily singing Happy Birthday twice as we headed to the sink after being outdoors. It's still top of the advice mantra 'Hands Face Space', and a lot of us are hardwired to sanitise more often than we ever did before. And yet handwashing actually comes from the influenza playbook, the first thing ministers reached for before they understood how Covid behaved. More recent evidence suggests the risk of passing on the virus by touch is insignificant compared to aerosol transmission so we may have been brainwashed into doing something intrinsically pointless. Well that's what I heard anyway, and you may have heard something completely different or disbelieved it or just gone along with what you were told... and is it any wonder we all have subtly different opinions on exactly the same thing?

Or take passing people in the street. Two metre distancing is another rule introduced early in the pandemic and reinforced by countless signs across the outdoor environment. Keeping away from others helped to keep us safe by avoiding any rogue breath, cough or sneeze invading our nostrils, as well as protecting them from us. And yet research suggests the chance of passing on the virus via a brief encounter outdoors is minimal, short of someone spluttering into your face at the crucial moment, or at least that's what I heard scientists had confirmed in that news article someone tweeted and the government have never specifically confirmed we're wasting our time. Again it's no surprise some of us still dodge out of the way and others walk straight past, because who knows precisely what body of information led us to our current behaviour?

I'm not really interested in your views on hand-washing or social avoidance. I'm even less interested in why you think you're right. But I am fascinated by the variety of behaviours across society at large, and how some people never stop to consider why others might act differently to them.


Wherever you are on this scale, on whatever aspect of pandemic caution, most of the population will be to your left or right. They've dipped into the same pool of information as you but seen different things, acted on different beliefs and drawn different conclusions. You might still be reticent to do something others do without worry, or you might have decided there's no risk in doing something others still feel they should avoid. It's how we are. There's no need to shake your head or sneer that others don't share your opinion on what correct behaviour should be.

If you're an 8 on masks it's pointless to get angry that some other people are a 2.
Had to use the tube on Saturday for the first time since forever, and - wow - not even a token attempt at social distancing, and less than half the people around us wearing masks.
And if you're a 2 on 'pavement dancing' best not be condescending that others are an 8.
Outdoor swervers and mask/visor wearers who pull self-righteous cats-bum faces when you dare to pass them are among the more annoying aspects of what has now become a national malaise of laziness and/or paranoia.
I'm particularly intrigued by the 0s, the minority who treat all guidance with diffidence or disregard. Some are just those who never pay any attention to others anyway, the kind of people who'd block a passageway with a wheelie suitcase without it ever crossing their mind someone might want to get past. Other 0s are perennial naysayers, mistrustful of government and unconvinced by experts, who see the less cockwombly in society as ignorant sheep. And some 0s have simply weighed up their selected evidence and decided it doesn't apply to them (I'm double jabbed, I'm fine), without considering that the rules might be there to protect others not themselves. comments

It doesn't help that the government has been deliberately vague on so many aspects of optimal behaviour. Instead of presenting agreed scientific evidence in crystal clear terms, for example the benefits of ventilation or the uselessness of visors, we get three word slogans and exhortations to use our common sense. If masks really should be an 8 and pavement dancing really is a 2, a press conference where this is explicitly stated would be more useful than another ministerial ego massage.

As lockdown inexorably eases and eventually there's no need to be a 7 or even a 3, remember that others may not be at the same point in their behavioural journey as you. They're not idiots, they've just come to a different conclusion, indeed evidentially they may be more on the ball than you are. Whatever your position on the continuum, a bit of self-awareness never went amiss.

 Thursday, June 17, 2021

It's the summer solstice on Monday, which'll mean...

• Days are getting shorter.
• Nights are getting longer.
• Evenings are getting shorter.
• Mornings are getting shorter.

But only two of these are true from Monday.
One isn't true until next Friday.
And one is already true today.
Here's why.

Let's start with the length of the day, because that's the easy part.

The amount of daylight doesn't change much at this time of year*.
But it does increase up to the solstice and decrease afterwards
(because that's how solstices work).

* In London the amount of daylight is...
...more than 16 hours for 57 days
...more than 16 hours 30 minutes for 26 days
...more than 16 hours 35 minutes for 17 days
...more than 16 hours 38 minutes for 7 days

Wed 16 Jun16h 37m 18s+33s
Thu 17 Jun16h 37m 43s+27s
Fri 18 Jun16h 38m 05s+22s
Sat 19 Jun16h 38m 20s+15s
Sun 20 Jun16h 38m 30s+10s
Mon 21 Jun16h 38m 33s+03s
Tue 22 Jun16h 38m 30s-03s
Wed 23 Jun16h 38m 21s-09s
Thu 24 Jun16h 38m 06s-15s
Fri 25 Jun16h 37m 45s-21s
Sat 26 Jun16h 37m 18s-27s

Until Sunday tomorrow always has more daylight than today (even if it's only three more seconds).
But after Monday the days start getting shorter again.

Ditto the shortest night is Sunday evening/Monday morning (at a mere 7 hours 21 minutes 27 seconds).
But after Monday the nights start getting longer again.

Where it gets complicated is sunset and sunrise.
And why it's complicated is because the Sun isn't usually overhead at noon.

DateSun highestchange
Wed 16 Jun13:02:24+12s
Thu 17 Jun13:02:36+12s
Fri 18 Jun13:02:49+13s
Sat 19 Jun13:03:01+12s
Sun 20 Jun13:03:13+12s
Mon 21 Jun13:03:25+12s
Tue 22 Jun13:03:37+12s
Wed 23 Jun13:03:50+13s
Thu 24 Jun13:04:02+12s
Fri 25 Jun13:04:14+12s
Sat 26 Jun13:04:25+11s

There are only four days a year when the sun is highest in the sky at noon GMT...
...one in mid-April, one in early June, one at the start of September and one at Christmas.

It's all because a) the Earth is tilted on its axis b) its orbit is an ellipse, not a circle.
I've blogged about this before, aka 'the equation of time', so I'll not go over it all again.

During June the time of solar noon nudges forward by about 12 seconds a day.

Normally 12 seconds is an irrelevant amount in the grand scheme of things.
But at this time of year changes in daylight are less than 24 seconds daily...
...which means changes in sunrise and sunset are less than 12 seconds daily...
...so the steady advance of solar noon skews the times of sunrise and sunset.

Example (17th June18th June)
Between today (16h 37m 43s) and tomorrow (16h 38m 05s) daylight increases by 22 seconds.
This splits to make sunrise 11 seconds earlier and sunset 11 seconds later.
But solar noon is 12 seconds later, which has to be combined with the other changes.
The net result on sunset is for it to be 23 seconds later.
And the net result on sunrise is for it to be 1 second later, not earlier.

Wed 16 Jun04:43:4621:21:03
Thu 17 Jun04:43:4421:21:28
Fri 18 Jun04:43:4621:21:51
Sat 19 Jun04:43:5121:22:11
Sun 20 Jun04:43:5821:22:28
Mon 21 Jun04:44:0921:22:42
Tue 22 Jun04:44:2221:22:52
Wed 23 Jun04:44:3921:23:00
Thu 24 Jun04:44:5921:23:05
Fri 25 Jun04:45:2121:23:06
Sat 26 Jun04:45:4621:23:04

So, sunrise starts getting later after today.
But sunset only starts getting earlier after next Friday.

That's a difference of eight days...
...four days before the solstice and four after.

n.b. This isn't special to London.
It applies across most of the country and at similar latitudes.
Precise times will be different but the 'turn-round' dates should be much the same.
n.b. solstices move slightly from year to year, so dates aren't always identical.

Finally, let me combine columns from my three earlier tables.

DateChange in
Change in
solar noon
Wed 16 Jun+33s+12s04:43:4621:21:03
Thu 17 Jun+27s+12s04:43:4421:21:28
Fri 18 Jun+22s+13s04:43:4621:21:51
Sat 19 Jun+15s+12s04:43:5121:22:11
Sun 20 Jun+10s+12s04:43:5821:22:28
Mon 21 Jun+03s+12s04:44:0921:22:42
Tue 22 Jun-03s+12s04:44:2221:22:52
Wed 23 Jun-09s+13s04:44:3921:23:00
Thu 24 Jun-15s+12s04:44:5921:23:05
Fri 25 Jun-21s+12s04:45:2121:23:06
Sat 26 Jun-27s+11s04:45:4621:23:04

The yellow zone is the crucial part.
It's where the daily change in daylight, halved, is less that the advance of solar noon.
It lasts precisely eight days.
Hence the earliest sunrise and latest sunset are eight days apart.

A similar thing happens around the winter solstice in December.
This time the earliest sunset is usually eight days before the solstice...
...and the latest sunrise is eight days after the solstice.
The much bigger range is because solar noon is advancing by about 30 seconds a day, not 12.

A fabulous consequence of this is that evenings get shorter for 171 days (25 Jun13 Dec).
But evenings then get longer for 194 days (13 Dec25 Jun).
So the optimistic 'half' of the year is 23 days longer than the glum half.

In conclusion...
• Days are getting shorter from Monday.
• Nights are getting longer from Monday.
• Evenings are getting shorter from next Friday.
• Mornings are getting shorter from today.

But if you're up really early tomorrow morning, I doubt you'll notice.

 Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Have you ever created anything that's entered the shared culture of the nation?

Shakespeare, Elgar, Lowry and George Michael totally nailed it. I can't claim anywhere near their level of success but I have sneaked a word into the lexicon, at least in the London area, and that's no mean feat.

It's exactly ten years (technically ten years ago yesterday) since I first suggested that Boris's new cablecar be called the Dangleway. It was in a post about TfL seeking a naming rights partner for their new cross-river connection, a year before it eventually opened. I suggested several ludicrous ideas including the London SkyLine, Groupon's Gondolas and the Vince Cable Car, and lurking in that list was the Wonga Dangleway.

As far as I can tell from Google the word dangleway had not been used previous to this date, because why would it? It wasn't used again for another six months until TfL proudly announced the cablecar would be branded the Emirates Air Line and shoehorned the sponsor's name onto the new tube map. In a grumpy post I renamed the project the ArabFly Dangleway, and carried on using that moniker as I reported on the cablecar's construction and launch. A few other bloggers joined in and the ball was rolling.

'ArabFly' wasn't a great choice, and at least two commenters accused me of potential racism which therefore was racism QED. By the end of 2012 I'd dropped the first part of the name entirely and the cablecar was simply the Dangleway. I called it that every time I blogged about it, which was frequently, rather than stoop to use the name a £36m contract wanted me to write instead. And slowly the name snowballed, in the manner of an underwhelming blizzard, until eventually it appeared in mainstream media.

In 2014 an Evening Standard diarist wrote...
But then so too does Boris’s likely legacy: blue bikes no one wants to sponsor, a dangleway to nowhere, and crises in housing and the air we breathe. The capital deserves so much better than Three Jobs Johnson.
...and I knew the word had arrived. In 2019 The Guardian used it in the description of a podcast...
From sweatbox buses to a novelty 'dangleway' and fantasy bridges that never saw a brick laid. Boris Johnson’s design legacy in London left the taxpayer with a bill of more than £940m after his eight years as mayor.
...although their use of inverted commas suggested the word was by no means general currency.

One reason I think the term dangleway proved successful is that the name Emirates Air Line was such an unmemorable contrivance. It's too easily confused with the UAE's national airline, indeed their Twitter feed was forever having to fend off comments from punters seeking information about the cablecar. There's no joy in calling the connection the Emirates Air Line, it doesn't slip memorably off the tongue, giving dangleway a decent chance of being adopted instead.

Retrospectively what I'm most pleased with is giving one of Boris's transport projects a demeaningly negative nickname. That didn't happen with cycle hire where the term Boris Bike comes with all kinds of endearing upbeat associations. But the cablecar is typical of the Boris we've come to know since, a distracting boondoggle masquerading as a public transport link, indicative of a leader more interested in the headline than the detail. If christening his project 'dangleway' has tarnished its branded gloss, that's reward enough.

dangleway noun \ˈdaŋ-gəl-ˈwā\
1. suspended river crossing
2. public-funded tourist attraction
3. aerial folly
First known usage: "With so much of East London's population in serious need of extortionate loansharkery, let's rebrand this The Wonga Dangleway" (diamond geezer, 15th June 2011)

I have no idea what percentage of Londoners would recognise my word, let alone use it in conversation, but I dare say it's higher than any word you've ever coined. I don't expect to ever see it in a dictionary, but as long as the gondolas continue to carry air across the Thames it stands a good chance of surviving in semi-regular usage until the dangleway dangles no more.

 Tuesday, June 15, 2021

It may be old news, but now I've taken a train to Norfolk I have finally seen The Stratford Diagram.

I found six of them, four along the walls of the same broad passage, but there may be more.

It's a mighty complicated diagram, but then Stratford is a mighty complicated station.

It is perhaps a mighty over-complicated diagram. Click to embiggen.

I don't think I've ever seen a diagram like it, with passageways as black lines and entrances to every single platform shown with a blob.

It doesn't help that platforms 1 and 2 are nowhere near platform 3, that platform 7 doesn't exist, that most (but not all) platforms can be accessed from at least two different subways, that the Crossrail platforms aren't consecutively numbered, that the Central line platforms aren't next to each other, that there are two exits to the south and one to the north, that some platforms are high level and others low level, that some passageways go under and others go over, that the westbound Central line has platforms on both sides, that there are three 'A' platforms but only one 'B' platform, that platform 10A is hardly ever used, that at rush hour a one-way system is sometimes introduced, that a handful of platform entrances aren't step-free, that if you go down the wrong passageway you might not be able to reach your platform, that the passageways form a giant loop and a dead end, that platforms rather than passageways are sometimes the fastest way to go, that platform 2 is next to platform 12, none of it helps.

The Stratford Diagram is designed to aid people who have little or no understanding of how the station works. Whether any of them would stop and try to use it is another matter.

Suppose you've just arrived from Norwich and are trying to get to Greenford. If you know which line it's on you can use the list of lines down the left hand side of the diagram, and if you don't you can use the index on the right hand side instead. The index tells you to catch the Central line from platforms 3 or 3A, so then you find those on the diagram and try to find a route through to one of them. Good luck with that.

The index is enormous and includes the vast majority of stations you can reach direct from Stratford. This includes backwaters like Battlesbridge, Brimsdown and Grange Hill as well as major destinations like Bond Street and Cambridge. It generally doesn't include anywhere you can only reach by changing trains, so King's Cross St Pancras, Victoria and Margate are not mentioned. The fact that Stratford International might be a useful nearby connection remains a secret.

If you already understand Stratford station you are not target audience, so you can stop tutting that it doesn't contain that useful shortcut you know, nor show the quickest way to get around, because it's not designed to show that.

What it does do is present a diagrammatic representation of how the station is laid out, which if you've never thought of Stratford as three subways and three connectors might be very useful for updating your mental map. But overall I suspect it's too complex, too mind-blowing, to be of much use to the majority.

Stratford station could be much simpler if a DLR line didn't carve underneath all the central platforms, forcing several passenger interchanges to involve a lot of up and down. A significant revamp of the station has been proposed to remove the bottlenecks and improve circulation, but that's a very long way off (and paid for by money nobody has). In the meantime what's currently London's busiest station continues to be stubbornly complex to negotiate. The Stratford Diagram probably hasn't helped.

 Monday, June 14, 2021

It's now four weeks since the government's roadmap eased all kinds of restrictions, including those about meeting indoors, travelling and staying overnight.
Coronavirus restrictions have been eased following the move to step 3. However we must continue to exercise caution.
I have therefore finally taken the opportunity to go and visit my Dad for the first time in absolutely ages [15 months].
You should also follow the guidance on how to stop the spread of coronavirus at all times, including if you have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
I could have visited before but I'm only recently double-jabbed, indeed the day I travelled was exactly the requisite fortnight after jab number two. It means I'm safer but also, more importantly, it means those around me will be safer too.
Remember that the risks of close contact may be greater for some people than others.
My journey involved leaving the capital aboard an inter-city train [9 months] and travelling to deepest Norfolk [15 months].
When travelling within the UK, you should aim to do so safely and plan your journey in advance.
It was great to see my Dad again as I stepped down off the platform, but not euphoric. The beardy son ahead of me bounded up to his family with a broad grin and hugged them all, before walking back to his parents' car hand in hand with his Mum. I merely said hello with a smile and climbed into the passenger seat [15 months]. We have never been a huggy family.
If you are meeting friends and family, you can make a personal choice on whether to keep your distance from them, but you should still be cautious.
Once I'd sat down next to Dad the very idea of social distancing disappeared. We'd be less than a metre apart in a confined space for the 20 minute drive home, after which the need to stay apart for safety's sake would be entirely redundant.
New guidance on meeting friends and family emphasises personal responsibility rather than government rules. Instead of instructing you to stay 2m apart from anyone you don’t live with, you are encouraged to exercise caution and consider the guidance on risks associated with COVID-19 and actions you can take to help keep you and your loved ones safe.
One of the first things we did was go out to a pub [9 months] for a meal [15 months]. We could have sat outside in the alleyway under a gazebo but stuff that, we wanted a proper table indoors.
Indoor hospitality venues such as restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes can reopen.
It was only the second time someone else has cooked me a meal since March 2020. The fact it came with alcohol, a choice of vegetables and a dollop of ice cream was a bonus. The 'steak and Guinness' was also the finest pie I've eaten in recent memory, and I don't think I'm saying that due to unfamiliarity.
The further away you can keep from other people, and the less time you spend in close contact with them, the less likely you are to catch COVID-19 and pass it on to others.
I'd be staying overnight [18 months], so Dad and I dropped all pretence of distancing and pootled round the house as normal. He held the ladder while I went up into the roof, I sat beside him as we fixed his email and we both stood together at the window watching the baby wrens in the birdbox prepare to fledge.
It is safer to meet people outdoors. This is because COVID-19 spreads much more easily indoors. However, you can meet up indoors with friends and family you do not live with, either in a group of up to 6 from any number of households or in a group of any size from up to two households.
I also went round to see my brother and his wife [18 months], and to see my niece in her new house [18 months]. We did spend some time out in their gardens, it being perfect sunny summer weather, but most of the time we spent indoors where the comfier seats and big-screen TVs were.
Minimise how many people you’re in close contact with, and for how long. The more people you are in close contact with - particularly if they are from different households - the higher the chances of you catching or passing on COVID-19.
What struck me was how normal our behaviour felt, despite the unprecedented gap since I'd last experienced anything like it. Even such rare treats as watching the news together [15 months], walking round the village green [18 months] and feeding the tortoise [2 summers] didn't feel overly special.
You should think about the risk of catching or passing on COVID-19 both to yourself and to others before meeting people you do not live with.
I'm staying for a few days so I expect to be up here when Boris announces a delay to the unlocking of all further restrictions. Mid-June was always a very optimistic target, a dangled carrot to raise the morale of the nation until eventually reality cut through.
By following these steps, you can help to protect yourself, your loved ones and those in your community.
It feels like the nation has already loosened itself, at least where everyday interaction is concerned, in which case Freedom Day has already been and gone.

 Sunday, June 13, 2021

I don't know about you but when I'm out and about I often see things I wouldn't have done. Sometimes I sigh, sometimes I tut, and sometimes I just take a photo so I can write a self-righteous blogpost later. Whoever did these things might have had a perfectly good reason for doing them, but I don't know what that reason is so in the absence of background information I assume the perpetrators are idiots. Oh to have the self confidence to be right all the time.

This is the Holly Tree pub in Forest Gate, right on the corner of Wanstead Flats. It's had an external spruce-up of late which included painting smart gold lettering around the rim of the roof Fine Wines & Spirits I can understand. Czech Lager is a bit odd. But Hand Pumped Cellar Cooled Cask Ales is ridiculous. Thousands of pubs across the country store their beer in barrels, thousands store that beer in a cellar to maintain an appropriate temperature and thousands serve that beer through proper pumps. It's really nothing special to do all three. I get that the Holly Tree is trying to signal it's not a tacky pub and that they take their alcohol seriously, no doubt at a premium price. But shouting from the rooftops that you serve Hand Pumped Cellar Cooled Cask Ales is taking the piss. I would never have done that. I fail to understand why they did.

This is a humped footbridge at Republic London, a private office development built in the old East India Dock. It's perhaps best known as the home of Tower Hamlets Town Hall, but they're sensibly moving out next year to save on rent. What concerns me is the sign on the footbridge which I think may be the most risk averse sign I have ever seen. The bridge's hump is minimal, maybe a foot high, as it passes over an ornamental pool. The bridge's width is enormous, easily broad enough for a netball team to cross side by side. And yet a slip hazard sign has been added saying Please Hold The Side Rails At All Times Whilst On The Bridge, and that is absobloodylutely ridiculous. The gradient of the bridge is almost nothing so it'd need extreme weather conditions before this became a death trap. Insisting that you stick to the edges at all times means a huge space in the centre has effectively been made redundant. Even if were icy you'd have to be perversely neurotic to hold onto the rails rather than simply walking a bit further up the waterside and crossing on a flat bridge instead. I should also mention the sheer impracticality of holding on At All Times because that's really really hard, more something you do when climbing a rockface than crossing a pathetic bridge. Being really pernickety, their request to Hold The Side Rails (plural) is physically impossible. Clearly someone's slapped up this sign as a legal get-out clause, so that should anyone ever fall over on slightly-inclined ice the landowner can claim they were told not to. But how utterly stupid for the authorities to stick this absurd sign on a bridge which, had they been genuinely worried, they'd never have built in the first place. I would never have done that. I fail to understand why they did.

This is a 'Travel Safe' poster that's been stuck up at various DLR stations, probably all of them, for the last few months. It lists seven measures introduced To Help Keep You Safe, one of which I reckon is nothing of the sort. Increased messaging, one-way systems and hand sanitiser, fine. Social distancing and face coverings are legally required anyway. The Passenger Service Agent keeping out of your way, sure. But as for introducing cashless payment machines, a measure taken across the network last August, how on earth is that making us safer? For the vast majority of passengers who never use the machines how they operate is irrelevant. And for the minority who were using them, making them cashless doesn't make them safer, only less convenient. Feeding in a £20 note was never dangerous, just a different type of 'contactless' transaction. The DLR's reticence to handle cash is actually about the perceived safety of its backroom staff, not To Help Keep You Safe, if indeed the virus can be transmitted via notes and coins which is debatable anyway. It doesn't deserve to be on this poster. I would never have done that.

This is a fenced-off patch of grass in Victoria Park, close to the gate into Grove Road. It's inaccessible because the grass has been reseeded to allow it to regrow after it was covered over last winter. The culprits were Pines and Needles, a Christmas tree supplier who appropriated this spot to sell the people of Bow and south Hackney hundreds and hundreds of rootless spruces. They paid the council to be here so it was all totally above board, but they left behind a large muddy expanse after they'd gone. Now in June they're making good and the area will As Good As New In A Month Or Two. But then they go on to say they'll be back again this winter, which presumably will kill off all the grass again, which means the revamped corner will only last from August until November when they return. It's all just greenwash, a corner of the park that's only pristine for three months a year so a private company can shamelessly exploit it. I would never have done that, whatever the unknown reason which allowed it to happen.

It's easy to see things and decide they must be wrong. It's easy to wade in and wag a finger when it wasn't you that made the decision. It's easy to jump to conclusions when you assume you know more than the experts. I would never have done that.

 Saturday, June 12, 2021

12 things that happened this week #coronavirus

• δ variant 40% more transmissible than α
• govt open to delaying end of lockdown
• vaccine rolled out to 25-29 year-olds
• holidaymakers rush home from Portugal
• minimise travel in/out of Greater Manchester
• 80% of UK adults now have antibodies
• France & Belgium allow indoor dining
• US to donate 500m vaccines to other countries
• δ variant now 90% of new UK cases
• NHS waiting lists exceed 5m
• Euro 2020 kicks off one year late
• δ variant 60% more transmissible than α

Worldwide deaths: 3,720,000 → 3,790,000
Worldwide cases: 173,000,000 → 175,000,000
UK deaths: 127,836 → 127,896
UK cases: 4,511,669 → 4,558,494
1st vaccinations: 40,124,229 → 41,291,331
2nd vaccinations: 27,160,635 → 29,450,653
FTSE: up 1% (7069 → 7134)

46 records that span the 1980s

(one of these records appears in every UK Top 40 chart during the decade)
(the number in brackets is the number of weeks spent in the Top 40)
(as one exits the chart, the next enters)
(they often overlap)
(this is not the only way to do it)
(1984 was something else)

2 January 1980: Nolans - I'm In The Mood For Dancing (10)
4 March 1980: Liquid Gold - Dance Yourself Dizzy (10)
13 May 1980: Don McLean - Crying (11)
22 July 1980: Sheena Easton - 9 To 5 (11)
16 September 1980: Ottowan - D.I.S.C.O. (11)
2 December 1980: Adam And The Ants - Antmusic (16)
10 March 1981: Landscape - Einstein A Go-Go (10)
6 May 1981: Adam And The Ants - Stand And Deliver (11)
21 July 1981: Duran Duran - Girls on Film (9)
22 September 1981: Dave Stewart with Barbara Gaskin - It's My Party (10)
1 December 1981: Bucks Fizz - The Land Of Make Believe (13)
2 March 1982: ABC - Poison Arrow (8)
27 April 1982: Yazoo - Only You (10)
6 July 1982: Irene Cara - Fame (13)
14 September 1982: Mari Wilson - Just What I Always Wanted (8)
9 November 1982: Wham! - Young Guns (Go For It) (10)
18 January 1983: Kajagoogoo - Too Shy (10)
29 March 1983: F.R. David - Words (11)
14 June 1983: Mike Oldfield - Moonlight Shadow (13)
13 September 1983: Culture Club - Karma Chameleon (17)
3 January 1984: Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Relax (37)
21 August 1984: Stevie Wonder - I Just Called To Say I Love You (21)
15 January 1985: King - Love And Pride (10)
19 March 1985: Phyllis Nelson - Move Closer (15)
11 June 1985: Harold Faltermeyer - Axel F (13)
10 September 1985: Colonel Abrams - Trapped (13)
26 November 1985: Pet Shop Boys - West End Girls (12)
4 February 1986: Diana Ross - Chain Reaction (12)
29 April 1986: Peter Gabriel - Sledgehammer (12)
8 July 1986: Chris De Burgh - The Lady In Red (12)
30 September 1986: Bangles - Walk Like An Egyptian (15)
2 December 1986: Jackie Wilson - Reet Petite (13)
3 March 1987: Mel And Kim - Respectable (13)
19 May 1987: Whitney Houston - I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) (12)
4 August 1987: Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up (14)
25 October 1987: T'Pau - China In Your Hand (13)
24 January 1988: Kylie Minogue - I Should Be So Lucky (13)
10 April 1988: S Express - Theme From S Express (10)
12 June 1988: Bros - I Owe You Nothing (9)
14 August 1988: Womack and Womack - Teardrops (14)
6 November 1988: INXS - Need You Tonight (10)
8 January 1989: Marc Almond featuring Gene Pitney - Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart (10)
19 March 1989: Bangles - Eternal Flame (13)
28 May 1989: Beautiful South - Song For Whoever (10)
16 July 1989: Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers - Swing The Mood (17)
22 Oct 1989: Lisa Stansfield - All Around The World (11)

Did you know it's free to catch a bus around the perimeter of Heathrow Airport? Well, un-know that fact because as of this morning it's no longer true.

It used to be possible to catch the 482 and 490 round the Southern Perimeter Road to Terminals 4 and 5, the 423 round the the northern side and umpteen buses along the Bath Road and into Terminals 2 and 3 without paying a penny. The idea was to ease traffic flow and make life easier for airport staff and passengers, for example those off to work in the Cargo Area or anyone nipping out of their hotel. But the airport's a lot quieter than usual at present, not least because T4 is closed and T3 only being used for red list countries, so Heathrow have decided to stop funding the Free Travel Zone, perhaps forever or until economic conditions permit.

It's bad news for fare dodgers who used to be able to hop on for nothing at the airport bus station and not get off until they were miles away. Catching a train between terminals thankfully remains free, there being no more convenient way to connect between T5 and the centre of the airport. Just pick up a free ticket before you travel, or swipe your card (which won't be charged), and you can still zip between terminals by your choice of tube, purple train or Heathrow Express. But as of today no longer by bus.

 Friday, June 11, 2021

All the blue plaques in Newham

1) Will Thorne [Trade Union Leader, Politician]
1 Lawrence Road, West Ham, London, E13 0QD

Will Thorne was a pioneer of the Trade Union movement, inspired by being on the sharp end of working practices since he was a child. He moved from Birmingham to London at the age of 25 and took a job at a gasworks, where the introduction of new machinery spurred him to call a meeting which led to the creation of the National Union of Gas Workers and General Labourers. This soon had over 20000 members and Will took the position of General Secretary for the next 35 years. He was later President of the Social Democratic Federation. Mayor of West Ham and for 41 years a local MP. His 94.9% share of the vote in the Plaistow constituency in 1918 has never been exceeded by any other Labour politician. He died of a heart attack at home shortly after stepping down from Parliament, having led a fascinating life.

The house stands on a quiet street corner a few streets west of Upton Park station. This is a pleasant and leafy residential zone, not so far from West Ham Park, rather than amid the close-packed terraces that characterise some other parts of Plaistow. 1 Lawrence Road is relatively substantial, with two sets of bay windows rather than one, and somehow still fully pebbledashed. The front door's actually round the side, with a large handle above the step to aid access for whoever lives inside. I could imagine a retired trade union official living here but not a leading MP, not any more, for what it's worth.

2) Stanley Holloway [Actor, Singer]
25 Albany Road, Manor Park, London, E12 5BE

In contrast, Stanley spent his childhood in Manor Park and then moved away when he became successful. His route out started out via singing in his local church choir, before taking to the boards just before and during the First World War. Stanley found success on the West End stage and became one of BBC Radio's first variety performers. He became famous for his monologues, notably the boy-eating The Lion and Albert, and later moved into film. He appeared in Passport to Pimlico, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Titfield Thunderbolt, but his career peaked with My Fair Lady where his portrayal of Alfred P Doolittle earned an Oscar nomination.

I'd never been to Albany Road before this week because it's tucked away in a dead-end residential wedge between two railway lines. Even though Manor Park (Crossrail) and Woodgrange Park (Overground) stations are very close by, nobody would ever have a need to 'just pass through'. Perhaps because of this it's really pleasant, a street of cosy clustered houses with varied front gardens and lush hedges, and somewhere at least one cabbie chooses to call home. Number 25 has a narrow sloping porch, a small flowerbed and a diminutive parking space given over to two wheelie bins. Stanley'd probably laugh if you told him his 3-bed terrace was now worth half a million.

And that's it, there are only two blue plaques in the London borough of Newham.

I'm talking official English Heritage blue plaques here, not any local scheme (like that operated by Southwark council). Newham have erected a handful, the latest of which is on a wall behind a pharmacy in Woodgrange Road, Forest Gate. It marks the site of the Upper Cut Club, a music venue where Jimi Hendrix played on Boxing Day 1966 and where he wrote Purple Haze while waiting for the gig. That's a fantastic story, and much more interesting than the usual 'lived here', but you can perhaps see why it didn't make the English Heritage cut.

Bexley also only has two blue plaques, one at Red House where William Morris lived and one for Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh. Given that there are 970 blue plaques in Greater London, Bexley and Newham are pitifully represented.

It gets worse. Three boroughs somehow only have one blue plaque.

» Barking & Dagenham has a plaque to footballer Bobby Moore in Waverley Gardens, just off the A13.
» Brent's sole blue plaque is for comedian Arthur Lucan a.k.a. Arthur Towle, Old Mother Riley.
» Sutton's singular plaque is for William Hale White, the novelist Mark Rutherford.

n.b. The City of London has only one official blue plaque, tucked away in Gough Square off Fleet Street. It's for lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson, and what's more it isn't blue it's brown. But it was erected by The Society of Arts in 1876, just before the City Corporation took responsibility for all commemorations within its boundary, and their subsequent blue rectangles don't count as official blue plaques.

It gets worse. Two boroughs have no blue plaques at all, namely Havering and Hillingdon, not because nobody famous ever lived there but because English Heritage's scheme is historically skewed.

To illustrate this skew, the borough of Westminster has an astonishing 316 blue plaques, that's 33% of London's overall total. Kensington & Chelsea is next with 185 blue plaques, that's 19%, followed by Camden with 173 (or 18%). This means Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea have over half the total all by themselves, and Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Camden have 70%. Admittedly these three boroughs were once very much the heart of well-to-do residential London, back when art was being painted, books written and inventions discovered, but it still feels geographically short-sighted.

Only 14 other boroughs' plaques scrape into double figures, and only Richmond, Wandsworth, Lambeth, Hammersmith & Fulham and Tower Hamlets exceed 20. And even these don't reach 30, which would be the borough average if only the glut of plaques in the West End were equalled out. A bit of future diversity wouldn't go amiss, not just regarding who we commemorate but also where.

 Thursday, June 10, 2021

It's solar eclipse day, which means diamondgeezer once again provides you with #solareclipsecontent
Previous #solareclipsecontent
12th October 1996 (51%)
11th August 1999 (97%)
31st May 2003 (52%)
3rd October 2005 (57%)
29th March 2006 (17%)
1st October 2008 (12%)
4th January 2011 (67%)
20th March 2015 (84%)
21st August 2017 (4%)
(that's all the solar eclipses visble from London during the last 25 years)
This morning's solar eclipse

Type: Annular, which means it would have been a total eclipse except either the Moon is slightly too far away or the Sun's slightly too close, which leaves a thin ring of fire visible at the point of maximum eclipse.
Why annular? The Moon's just past apogee, which means it's near the most distant point of its orbit, that's 250,000 miles away rather than the average 240,000.
Path: From northern Canada across the western edge of Greenland through the Arctic Circle to the Siberian coast, scoring a (rare) direct hit on the North Pole.
Maximum: The eclipse peaks off Greenland at 11:43 BST, with 89% of the sun's disc covered.
But: You won't be seeing a ring of fire. Europe sees nothing better than a partial eclipse, which by the time you get as far as the UK mainland is down to 38% coverage. The further south and east you go the less of a bite you'll see, so in Manchester it's 25%, London 20% and Paris more like 13%.
Useful links: one two three four five six seven eight
When: Here in London the eclipse starts at 10:08 BST and ends at 12:22 BST, peaking at 11:13 BST.
What will you see? Nothing, unless you deliberately look, which you shouldn't do with the naked eye. 20% coverage isn't anywhere near enough to dim natural light noticeably (even at 80% you'd never notice unless you knew it was happening).
What will you see? I have eclipse glasses leftover from the 1999 event and they're excellent, so through those I hope to see a sliver of sun missing from the top of the disc.
What will you see? In reality it all depends on cloud cover. Typically after several consecutive sunny days Thursday morning is due to be overcast, so our best hope may be occasional glimpses (or we may be much luckier, or we may see absolutely nothing at all).
What did I see? A cloudy morning with intermittent gaps proved sufficient to be able to watch the partial eclipse partially. I was fortunate that the longest clear slot fell either side of the maximum. The moon nudged in from the right, inexorably, until the Sun appeared to have two small horns. My eclipse glasses worked perfectly but only while the Sun was bright enough to cast shadows, not during lengthier interface moments. Just occasionally a patch of thickish cloud cover proved sufficient for displaying the Sun's silhouette direct, as captured here on my phone. And very gradually the moon edged away, a tinier bite each time I looked, and then it was gone.

Here in London it's not one of the great solar eclipses. 20% coverage is a bit lowly, although it is better than the next solar eclipse on 25th October 2022 (15%) and a lot better than the last solar eclipse om 21st August 2017 (4%). It'll do, while we wait for a big one.

The next bigger eclipse will be on 29th March 2025 (31%) and the next really big eclipse will be on 12th August 2026. That'll be 91% covered in London, which is the greatest extent since 1999 and won't be exceeded until 2081, so for most Londoners the last significant eclipse of their lifetime. Plymouth'll do even better with 95% and the Scillies 96%, but if you can get to Reykjavik or northern Spain you could see the magic 100%. Don't leave it too late to sort your travel plans.

I've already written a post about how rare total solar eclipses are, and how London is due to see only three over the next millennium. But even bog standard partial eclipses don't crop up terribly often, or for terribly long, so every one is an astronomical opportunity to be seized.

I've checked back through solar eclipses visible in southeast England and today's is only the 22nd of my lifetime. Worse than that I reckon it's only the 11th I'll actually have seen, given that I was too young for some or unavoidably indoors or clouded out. I saw most of mine between 1984 and 2008, indeed there have only been three since, only one of which I managed to watch. Solar eclipses are nothing if not a highly irregular phenomenon.

Solar eclipses in London, 1900-2099
(coverage over 80% in red)

A single point on the Earth normally sees about forty solar eclipses per century, which averages out to four per decade. But some decades see a lot, for example the 1920s when London saw seven, and some see very few, for example the 2040s when there'll only be one. Alas the last four decades have all been average or below, which is one reason I haven't seen a lot of solar eclipses during my lifetime. And brilliantly the next two decades are making up for lost time.

    • Thu 10 June 2021 (11:13 BST) 20%
    • Tue 25 October 2022 (10:59 BST) 15%
    • Sat 29 March 2025 (11:03 GMT) 31%
    • Wed 12 August 2026 (19:13 BST) 91%
    • Mon 2 August 2027 (10:00 BST) 42%
    • Wed 26 January 2028 (16:34 GMT) 51%
    • Sat 1 June 2030 (06:21 BST) 48%
    • Thu 21 Aug 2036 (19:07 BST) 60%
    • Fri 16 January 2037 (09:06 GMT) 46%
    • Tue 5 January 2038 (14:34 GMT) 5%
    • Fri July 2038 (15:03 BST) 8%
    • Tue 21 June 2039 (19:35 BST) 63%

London's due twelve solar eclipses during the next eighteen years, which is more than we've had during the last thirty-five. Admittedly some of them are a bit feeble and those in January rarely impress, but that's generally the case anyway. Plenty will be of a good size, especially in the 2030s, plus there's that absolute cracker in 2026. But notice that six year gap between 2030 and 2036, and indeed this bumper sequence is followed by a nine year gap between 2039 and 2048. The table above confirms there was actually a ten year gap between May 1984 and May 1994. Wherever you are in the world there are droughts and gluts.

England's golden era for solar eclipses will be the 2080s and 2090s when not only are there several but three are highly significant. 2081's is total in the Channel Islands, 2090 is total along most of the south coast and 2093 is annular across Glasgow and Newcastle. What a time to be alive... except most of us won't be so we'll have to make do with the eclipses closer at hand. Watch the skies this morning, assuming you can do so safely, and assuming you can.

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jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards