diamond geezer

 Friday, October 23, 2020

Gadabout: TELFORD

Telford is a new town in Shropshire, and a very large one at that, located roughly midway between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton. It grew up in the '60s and '70s to house families relocated from Birmingham and swiftly enveloped the existing towns of Wellington, Oakengates, Dawley and Madeley. The industrial crucible of Ironbridge lies on its southern edge, which is where I was heading a year ago today. And although I blogged at length about how excellent Ironbridge was I never blogged about Telford, so today I'm planning to put that right...
...assuming I can remember much about the place, that is. Problem one is that I was only passing through, crossing between the railway station and the bus station (and later back again). Problem two is that I gave the place short shrift in my diary, focusing instead on the attractions in the gorge. And problem three is that, looking back, I see I only took nine photographs. I'll do my best.

Telford's town centre is a soulless place, having been nowhere of significance before the new town arrived. Let's build a huge shopping centre here, they said, then surround it with car parks and maybe the odd office block. It has a very open feel as a result, at least until you venture inside the shopping centre at which point you could be absolutely anywhere. And because Telford was built with the motor car in mind it turns out that the bus station is on one side and the railway station further away on the other, which isn't ideal for anyone with interchange in mind.

The railway station was added late, in 1986, so the path across to the town centre feels very much like an afterthought. A very new footbridge carries you high above two dual carriageways, one of which is nominally the A5, before dumping you amidst an administrative backlot. The path then wends in a minor manner via an inconvenient set of steps towards a separate footbridge above the innermost ring road, after which it trails between a car park and the edge of Aldi. At least at this time of year the trees are stunning.

The shopping centre is a giant grey box, highly irregular in shape, and almost all at ground floor level because there was never any need to save space. It covers 25 acres and runs to well over 150 shops in total, which means a lengthy trek from Debenhams on one side to House of Fraser on the other. M&S and Primark have the other two flagship stores, which is all bases covered, but you'll also find a Zara, a Krispy Kreme and a Betfred. The Queen came to open the mall in 1981, and has only been back to Telford once since.

The best reason to visit the shopping centre, assuming you have no intention of buying anything, is to view the Frog Clock. Officially it's called the Telford Time Machine, but the big green frog is what strikes any shopper who pauses awhile in Sherwood Square. It sits atop a starry clockface looking out across a long metal track strung high above HSBC. Every half hour the contraption springs to life as a gold ball is wheeled from one end of the track to the other where it passes through the frog and drops gently down a set of metal prongs. I only caught the denouement, alas, as the red wheel headed back towards Boots.

The clock's creator was none other than famous Masquerade hare-hider Kit Williams, who also produced a very similar timepiece for Milton Keynes Shopping Centre and a Wishing Fish for Cheltenham's Regent Arcade. Telford's version was installed in 1995. Originally the frog blew a stream of bubbles and a burst of jolly music played, which must have been impressive, but sadly these features were switched off some years ago.

A town centre that's mostly shopping mall is a rotten place for nightlife, so in 2014 councillors opened the Southwater retail park nextdoor. They got a new civic library out of it, and residents of Telford got an 11-screen IMAX cinema, an ice rink, tenpin bowling and a dozen restaurants. But I'd been disoriented by the mall so failed to find it, indeed I spent much of my time in Telford bemoaning the lack of decent pedestrian signage. As a result I missed seeing the "Zen-like" water fountain recently installed in Southwater Square, not to mention the recreational glories of Town Park beyond.

But what I did do, on my way to and from Ironbridge, was ride a couple of single deckers between the town centre and the outskirts. We followed tree-lined arterials to carefully-segregated industrial estates. We looped round a seemingly endless chain of spacious but nondescript housing estates. We weaved between open greenspace and patches of preserved woodland. And we stopped off amid the remnants of a Victorian town centre as confirmation that this urban maze is nothing but an imposed modern construct. The fine detail may have faded, one year on, but I'm pleased to have experienced the real Telford.

 Thursday, October 22, 2020

Dear Sadiq,

Thank you for your letter requesting additional funds for Transport for London.

We recognise that TfL cannot continue to provide a comprehensive transport system during this unprecedented pandemic, and are revelling in the position of strategic dominance your weakness provides.

Thank you also for your continued intransigence. This enables us to impose increasingly punitive conditions on the capital thereby furthering the government's stranglehold over local democracy.

As you know my special adviser Andrew Gilligan used to contribute to Mayoral transport policy so is an unrivalled expert. Additionally the Prime Minister spent eight years chairing the TfL Board and you've barely managed four. Consequently we are convinced that central government is considerably better placed to make strategic decisions than a mere directly-elected representative.

As part of our latest funding settlement we require you to:
» increase fares by more than inflation
» end free travel for the under 16s and over 60s
» roll back over-generous pension payouts to TfL staff
» obtain future funding through a precept on council tax
» extend the Congestion Charge to the North and South Circular Roads
Centralised control will allow us to impose all the transport policies Boris didn't dare introduce when he was in office, safe in the knowledge that your administration will now get the blame.

We therefore intend to impose additional legislative conditions as payback for a further series of short-term funding settlements going forward.
• taxi drivers to be given unlimited access to bus lanes
• Waterloo & City line permanently closed to fund pothole repairs
• Westminster station to be renamed 'Sir Winston Churchill'
• unaccompanied children to be banned from buses
• deregulated introduction of e-scooters

• a fresh coat of paint on all London's cycle lanes
• new cablecar to replace Hammersmith Bridge
• touching-in to be enforced on rail replacement buses
• branches of IKEA to appear on the tube map
• Oyster card phased out in favour of contactless only

• free parking for French lorries in all non-Royal parks
• Piccadilly line to be renamed after highest bidder
• DLR temporarily suspended to save money
• half-price bus fares on all New Routemasters
• work to restart on the excellent Garden Bridge

• vouchers issued for one free Uber journey per household
• Zone 6 to be seceded to the neighbouring Home Counties
• step-free access must be added at all stations
• full steam ahead on London's Estuary Airport
• bus fares to match those in The North

• trams withdrawn because most Londoners never use them
• Congestion Charge extended to all Labour-controlled boroughs
• free travel for partners of TfL staff to be repaid retrospectively
• start building above Overground tracks to provide new housing
• London to pay for Metropolitan Line Extension in Hertfordshire

• all bus routes ending in '9' withdrawn to save money
• Bakerloo line to be extended non-stop to Bromley
• TfL employees to be rehired on new zero hour contracts
• £2bn penalty clause if Crossrail not open yet
• HS2 to be funded from London council tax

• Shaun Bailey appointed Chair of TfL
These conditions will be applied sequentially and cumulatively in return for funding barely adequate to keep the capital moving.

Your fares freeze has bankrupted TfL, or so everybody will assume, because we intend to point the finger squarely in your direction.

Please confirm your acquiescence to our future domination forthwith.

Love and kisses,

Grant Shapps

Secretary of State for Transport

 Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The News from Maryland - [an exercise in micro-local journalism]

Maryland is a geographically ambiguous district just northeast of Stratford.
Lots is happening in Maryland.
Here are seven 100-word news reports.
n.b. to avoid haemorrhaging readers, some of the local stories have a wider appeal.

The location of the Twisty Clock has changed

Work on digging up the road outside Maryland station for "Crossrail complementary measures, public realm and interchange improvements" continues, seemingly endlessly. The mini-roundabout has been replaced by a T-junction, with the former Time Spiral artwork relocated alongside the new traffic signals. Its refurbished clock mechanism will be installed within the next few weeks, along with additional street furniture and several planters. Final resurfacing will take place at the end of November. The junction now has paving and pseudo-cobbles, as well as raised kerbs to try to persuade people to use the proper crossings. Good luck with that. And about time.

Reduced ticket office hours at Maryland station

The tube may now be ticketofficeless but insignificant Maryland still boasts staff behind a window to sell you an off-peak return. Normal hours used to be until 1.15pm on weekdays and 1.45pm on Saturdays, then everything closed down because of the virus, and the new hours are now until 10.10am and 10.40am respectively. One day you'll be able to buy a ticket to Maidenhead and catch a train straight there, allegedly at the beginning of 2022 according to TfL's Transport Commissioner yesterday, but we can only wait to see if such generous ticket office hours remain available at the time.

Bow Street has been blocked by two planters

In August Newham and Waltham Forest launched a joint Low Traffic Network across the Maryland/Forest Gate/South Leytonstone fringe. 22 modal filters have been introduced, dividing up the wider neighbourhood into twelve distinct disconnected chunks. One of the modal filters is at the western end of Bow Street, forcing all motor vehicles requiring access to Maryland Square to enter via Forest Lane. It's also helped make Bow Street a school street for safer term-time dropoffs. Many local residents with cars are not happy, but local resident Derrick was very busy last month watering the Bow Street planters and planting spring bulbs.

The Cart and Horses looks like it's closed

As every heavy metal fan knows, Iron Maiden first performed at Maryland's Cart and Horses pub (as did the two bands they formed out of, Gypsies Kiss and Smiler). Iron Maiden emerged as a covers band in 1975 earning £10 a gig, although only bassist Steve Harris survives from that time. Their final gig at the Cart was on 7th April 1978. It's still a rocking pub but all boarded up at present, which looks potentially terminal but the good news is they're only closed for refurbishments and should reopen in March. The perfect time to go into hibernation really.

The Stratford Bollock is progressing

Officially it's the MSG Sphere, the 100m high auditorium due to crashland between the platforms of Stratford station, but the Bollock deserves a more hateful name. Laminated posters went up around Maryland last week announcing the receipt of additional planning documentation, including further details of the advertising lightshow the promoters want to emblazon across its surface. Apparently this will have a "moderate beneficial effect" on the local townscape by providing "a distinctly new visual experience", although they do now promise to lower the brightness between midnight and six. Balls to that. I hope 2020's collapsing entertainment sector kills it off.

Leaves in Maryland are changing colour

Reports are coming in that the leaves on many of the trees in the Maryland area are no longer as green as they used to be. Some have turned yellow, others are a bright shade of red and several are more shrivelled and brown. What's more this change of colour appears to be accompanied by reduced adherence between leaf and branch, with the slightest gust of wind causing the affected foliage to fall to the ground (as here at West Ham Cemetery). Scientists have however confirmed that this is a regular seasonal phenomenon and not a marketing campaign by Instagram.

Cat spotted on top of bin in Albert Square

A cat has been spotted on top of a bin in Albert Square. This was an actual black and white cat on an actual refuse bin, but not the actual Albert Square (of EastEnders fame) because this is a residential street in Maryland (i.e. E15 rather than E20). The cat was sitting on the hinged end of the bin and facing north. The bin looked a lot scruffier than the newer bins in nextdoor's garden. The cat is no longer believed to be in an identical position, but is expected to return to the bin top in the near future.

 Tuesday, October 20, 2020

22% of London is covered with trees. This is according to aerial survey company Bluesky International who've been bashing the statistics to calculate tree cover across the country. This is quite a subjective thing to measure, because exactly how much land does a tree cover anyway, but the data does allow some intriguing comparisons. The BBC News website ran a decent report at the weekend, with maps.

Across England and Wales the eight local authority districts with the highest proportion of tree cover are all in Surrey or Berkshire, with Surrey Heath topping the list at 41%. Both Camden and Croydon make the top 20 with coverage at 30%, which is damned good for a supposed built-up area. Meanwhile the three lowest concentrations of trees are in Lincolnshire and the Fens, at around 5%, with further poor performance across parts of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales. An avenue with gardens has a lot more trees than a field.

The capital's chief treeless district, fifth from the bottom of the list, is the City of London. That's unsurprising given that the City is a commercial powerhouse with vast numbers of office blocks and no substantial greenspace, indeed it's easy to stand somewhere within the Square Mile and see no trees whatsoever. But several fine arboreal specimens exist, especially in former churchyards and other undevelopable corners, which is why in 2013 the City of London Tree Trail was published. I downloaded the pdf at the weekend and went in search of the eleven featured trees.

City of London Tree Trail

1) Sweet gum, St Paul's Churchyard
"Found on the south side of St Paul’s, this is the largest Sweet Gum in the City at 25m high"

There aren't too many trees on the south side of St Paul's Cathedral, and this is by far the prettiest. Its branches twist upwards, its leaves are on the turn and immediately alongside is a horizontal statue of Thomas a Becket. That's the tree I took photographs of anyway, even though it didn't strike me as being 25m high, because the directions in the leaflet were somewhat vague. But on getting home and researching further I discovered that the sweet gum was actually in the background (far right) swooping up beside the south transept, and what had impressed me was probably a strawberry tree. Poor start, sorry.

2) London plane, junction of Cheapside and Wood Street
"Originally purchased for sixpence over 250 years ago, this is believed to be the oldest plane tree in the City"

I couldn't miss this one, a vast tree planted in what used to be St Peter's churchyard, and which completely dominates its Cheapside street corner. The London plane is an American/Oriental hybrid which has proven unusually resilient to the capital's air pollution, and featuring it at Tree 2 is a masterstroke because you shouldn't now be confusing it with any of Trees 3 to 11.

3) Judas tree, Aldermanbury
"Beautiful dark pink flowers combined with heart-shaped leaves create a stunning tree during Spring and Summer"

Alas it's Autumn, and I struggled to find this one too. "Opposite St Mary Aldermanbury Gardens" doesn't help when St Mary Aldermanbury Garden is singular and isn't signed from the street. I'm fairly certain I found it against the rear of the Guildhall, like a woody shelter made of foliage, but after my sweet gum debacle I'm not entirely sure.

4) Foxglove, Barber Surgeons' Hall
"Its beautiful flower-spikes look like the foxglove plant (hence its name) and bear small egg-shaped fruits"

I went to the wrong side of Barber Surgeon's Hall to start with, and searched in vain in its manicured central garden. I now believe the foxglove is on the other side, probably, though the scrap of photo in the leaflet was insufficient to help me identify it. Still, a secret garden with chunks of Roman wall, brutalist Barbican pillars and waterlilies is as good a place to waste your time as any.

5) Handkerchief tree, Postman's Park
"Particularly stunning in late May when covered in white bracts that resemble handkerchiefs"

Less stunning in October when it completely fails to stand out among all the other trees in Postman's Park. A tiny photo in the trail leaflet means I think I deduced which of the deciduous trees along the longest wall it was.

6) Fig tree, West Smithfield Rotunda Garden
"Interesting species within the lovely Rotunda gardens include two Caucasian Walnuts and a very impressive mature Fig Tree"

If you know Smithfield, this circular garden lies within the sweep of the meat market's vehicle ramp. I assumed the ultra-gnarly tree with small roundish fruits underneath was the fig, but if so there are two of them, and now I'm concerned I actually got excited about the Caucasian Walnuts.

7) Tulip Tree, North end of Old Bailey
"This is an example of new tree planting and landscaping within the City and creates a vital living legacy for future generations to enjoy"

I only spotted two trees in the location suggested, so assumed these were my target, but closer inspection confirmed they were both London planes. I now understand the tulip tree was further back, outside the Magpie & Stump, but it appears to have withered since the trail was published in 2013. Another fail.

8) Maidenhair Tree, Sermon Lane
"Ginkgo trees, native to China, can be traced back 270 million years when dinosaurs walked the planet"

These are splendid at present, dropping copious yellow leaves onto the steps above the walkway leading down from St Paul's towards the Millennium Bridge. Indeed, even though I'd been hoping for a splendid autumnal display by making the walk in mid-October, only these ginkgos truly delivered.

9) Elms, Queen Victoria Street
"The New Horizon elm species is significant as it was developed to resist the damaging Dutch Elm disease"

Forget Nine Elms, here are seven, all lined up in a row near Salvation Army HQ. They're also the only trees on the entire trail to have their own plaque, confirming that the Lord Mayor planted them in 2004, so the only trees you can be 100% certain of identifying correctly.

10) Swamp Cypress, Cleary Garden
"A native of North America, and one of the few deciduous conifers to be found in the UK"

It was most likely the big conifer in the centre of the garden... but what a garden. I'd always assumed the Cleary Garden was merely a row of benches but no, another terrace lurks behind and then further steps down to a lower pergola. A delightful mini-space to explore, making the entire Tree Trail worthwhile, thanks.

11) Silver Lime, Festival Garden
"An impressive hedge of pleached lime trees surround the Festival Garden developed on the site of bomb-damaged land"

It's that tall silver-barked tree, I thought, the one that isn't a silver birch. Unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the road, it seems, and should instead have been looking at a rectangularised hedge. That's a final total of three City trees definitely identified, four probably correct and four complete misses. At least it was a nice walk.

» City of London Tree Trail
» London Tree Map

 Monday, October 19, 2020

When Victor Watson and Marjory Phillips picked the locations for the London version of the board game Monopoly in December 1935, little did they realise how famous their selection would become. They travelled down from Waddingtons HQ in Leeds and spent a day touring the city before deciding which places would make the cut, but alas left no evidence to document the reasons for their choices.

Supposedly they stopped for lunch at The Angel, Islington, which would explain how a pub found its way onto the board amongst the streets and squares, but nobody really knows. And whilst they picked some obvious zingers they also picked several streets with little resonance, which is how places like Vine Street and Coventry Street have become famous despite hardly any Londoners having a clue where they are. If we started again from scratch, we could do better.

        Old Kent Road, Whitechapel Road
        The Angel Islington, Euston Road, Pentonville Road
        Pall Mall, Whitehall, Northumberland Avenue
        Bow Street, Marlborough Street, Vine Street  
        Strand, Fleet Street, Trafalgar Square
        Leicester Square, Coventry Street, Piccadilly
        Regent Street, Oxford Street, Bond Street
        Park Lane, Mayfair
   🚂    King's Cross, Marylebone, Fenchurch Street, Liverpool Street 

I've had a go at doing better.

I considered starting completely from scratch but decided it was better to start with what we've got. I decided to focus on specific streets rather than general areas. I wanted streets with residential properties (and also hostelries to make pub crawls easier). I considered spreading my net wider across Greater London but decided places like Canary Wharf and Wembley didn't cut it. Most importantly I didn't do it how you'd have done it, so like Victor and Marjory I've also got it wrong. My apologies... but at least I've had a go.

       Old Kent Road, Whitechapel Road
       Old Kent Road, Brick Lane

I quite like how the board kicks off away from the city centre, as befits the least valuable properties on the circuit, so the Old Kent Road still feels like a perfectly valid first choice. For the other brown I'd like to nudge away from the Whitechapel Road onto a better known sidestreet, Brick Lane, which also introduces some welcome diversity into the game.

       The Angel Islington, Euston Road, Pentonville Road
       Marylebone Road, Euston Road, City Road

Victor and Marjory's light blues all follow the New Road, London's 18th century northern bypass. I'm happy to stick with this particular road to maintain a peripheral trio, but The Angel has got to go for starters and Pentonville Road is underwhelming too. Instead I've picked the New Road's three major constituent parts and run them in order from west to east. This has the additional bonus that it keeps the word 'Marylebone' on the board, because that station is of course going to be kicked out later.

       Pall Mall, Whitehall, Northumberland Avenue
       Pall Mall, Whitehall, St James's Street

This is the tweak I'm least happy with. Northumberland Avenue ought to go, being far less important than it once was, but St James's Street isn't the perfect replacement (and hardly trips off the tongue). At least it's significant and in the right general area, and it contains genuine commercial properties (unlike seemingly-better contenders Birdcage Walk, Horse Guards Road and The Mall).

       Bow Street, Marlborough Street, Vine Street
       Tottenham Court Road, High Holborn, Charing Cross Road

The original oranges are linked by law and order, representing two police stations and a magistrate's court (the latter officially in Great Marlborough Street). I'd like to ditch them all, and the judicial connection, switching instead to three previously overlooked thoroughfares. My new three are also geographically co-located, near enough, which is of course deliberate.

       Strand, Fleet Street, Trafalgar Square
       Strand, Aldwych, Victoria Embankment

Fleet Street has to leave the board because it's no longer important now the press have moved out. Trafalgar Square also has to go, under my rules, because it's not a street. Instead I'm bringing in neighbouring Aldwych (because the word would look great on a set of deeds in a board game) plus the grandiose sweep of the Victoria Embankment.

       Leicester Square, Coventry Street, Piccadilly
       Haymarket, Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly

Victor and Marjory were being geographical here, Coventry Street being the road that connects the nightlife of Leicester Square to Piccadilly. Piccadilly's the only one of the three I want to keep, being both significant and an actual street, and the new two are both streets which meet at Piccadilly Circus.

       Regent Street, Oxford Street, Bond Street
       Regent Street, Oxford Street, New Bond Street

Famously there isn't a Bond Street, only a New Bond Street and an Old Bond Street, which has niggled Monopoly purists for almost a century. I intend to solve this by switching to New Bond Street, by far the longer of the two. I'll make no other changes, this penultimate trio being pretty much perfectly pitched.

       Park Lane, Mayfair
       Knightsbridge, Kensington Palace Gardens

Sacrilege... I'm replacing the entire highest tier. Knightsbridge feels more classy, or at least more moneyed, than Park Lane, and then Mayfair has to go because it's a huge area and not a street. Where better to replace it than the billionaires row of Kensington Palace Gardens, by some distance the UK's most expensive street? Admittedly it's a bit of a mouthful and unlikely to be a crowd-pleaser, but its commercial supremacy is unarguable.

 🚂   King's Cross, Marylebone, Fenchurch Street, Liverpool Street
 🚂   King's Cross, Liverpool Street, Waterloo, Paddington

Finally let's do the stations. Victor and Marjory famously picked only LNER termini because they came from LNER country in Leeds. I've been more diverse, picking one mainline station from each side of town so that they can be positioned appropriately on the four sides of the board. I'm aware that you would have chosen differently but sorry, like Victor and Marjory I don't care.

        Old Kent Road, Brick Lane
        Marylebone Road, Euston Road, City Road
        Pall Mall, Whitehall, St James's Street
        Tottenham Court Road, High Holborn, Charing Cross Road 
        Strand, Aldwych, Victoria Embankment
        Haymarket, Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly
        Regent Street, Oxford Street, New Bond Street
        Knightsbridge, Kensington Palace Gardens
   🚂    King's Cross, Liverpool Street, Waterloo, Paddington

I'm not proposing to change the names of free parking or jail because these are common to all national Monopoly boards. Likewise I'm sure that Tate Modern would be a very clever replacement for the Electric Company but no, the utility companies don't vary from country to country either. Instead I shall simply recommend to you my chosen changes for the properties and stations, safe in the knowledge that future generations will argue interminably about why I shouldn't have chosen what I did.

 Sunday, October 18, 2020

London has one Autumn Drive, two Autumn Closes and just one Autumn Street.

Conveniently it's in my postcode, on the very edge of Bow between Wick Lane and the River Lea. It's one of a seasonal trio which once included Spring Street and Summer Street until those were wiped away by the A12 fifty years ago. Nobody ever bothered building Winter Street, presumably because the name was too downbeat, so today only Autumn Street lingers.

It doesn't linger well. Originally this was a residential street with twenty terraced houses on either side leading down to a wharf on the river. These houses survived the war but not the subsequent developmental free-for-all, so the northern flank is now a warehouse for the building trade and the southern flank is used for storing trucks and minibuses. Meanwhile the wharf has long been built over with industrial units, which means 21st century Autumn Street is a 100m dead end with a broadly unwelcoming feel.

Howdens Joinery is the kind of place whitevanmen drive to for flooring, doors and kitchen units, and presents an unyielding wall of brick and corrugated metal to the street. Howdens see themselves as the John Lewis of joinery, guaranteeing* not to be beaten on price (* but only for any 'like for like written quotation'). I have a fairly desperate need for cupboard doors at the moment, but as a non-tradesperson I'll not be getting inside.

Likewise I am unlikely to be welcomed opposite at Falcon Print Transport, Fox Transport or B&B Self-Drive Van Hire, their respective fleets jammed in behind railings topped by swirly metal barbs. Shifting freight and people remains a thriving business at this difficult time, so a smattering of '70' registrations can be found in amongst the older vehicles. The only other yard along Autumn Street contains overflowing bins and an abandoned van belonging to streetfood wannabes BBQ Lab, whose execrable slogan used to be "Making American Barbecues Awesomer". They've since moved on to open a chain of chicken shops, which I guess is why they no longer need their converted ambulance.

At the far end of Autumn Street are unmarked gates into a larger yard where the wharf used to be, now packed with assorted motley warehouses. Think grubby brickwork, think lorry-sized shutters, think metal staircases climbing to dubious doorways. One of the blocks has been divided into small units to give creative mini-industries somewhere to create, while another has been taken over by the Bloc nightclub. Hardly anybody lives within earshot, but a complaint from a vexed neighbour in 2014 was enough to get the club's license scaled back to two nights a week. They must be loving the peace and quiet in 2020.

I've never walked down Autumn Street before, deterred by its low-commercial dead-end ambience, but on Saturday it was empty and I was able to roam unperturbed. The only two vehicles parked in the street looked unloved and abandoned - a Peugeot van with both numberplates missing and a BMW with one numberplate stashed on top of the dashboard. But there was evidence that plenty of people park up here at other times on the unregulated side of the street, courtesy of a hedonistic selection of litter scattered across the tarmac.
» one Durex 'extra safe' condom packet; two used tissues
» one black mask; one white mask
» one receipt from McDonalds in Canning Town for a balanced meal comprising a medium Coke, medium fries and three cheeseburgers
» a brown McDonalds paper bag; the red box the fries came in; three abandoned cheeseburger wrappers
» an empty family-meal-sized KFC box
» three generic oat bar wrappers
» one Sainsbury's so-called 'bag for life'
» two squashed soft drink bottles; one flattened can of Red Bull
» a Costa cup (probably from the garage round the corner)
» a pink Little Miss Princess mug (still filled with green tea leaves but also now stagnant rainwater)

I should also mention Autumn Street's pair of bus stops, located at the top of the road in Wick Lane. Litter is a problem here too, despite the presence of a black bin, perhaps because the 339s don't come past often enough. One local resident has been sufficiently enraged to have stuck a passive aggressive sign inside the shelter reading 'So now everyone knows how to wash hands, can we teach them how to use a dustbin'. A special hello to you sir, a regular reader of this blog, although I'm sorry to say the eyebrow threading price list I spotted on the pavement suggests not everybody's taken heed.

Evidence of autumn itself is hard to find. The street's sole tree, a yellowing sycamore, has yet to deposit more than a few shrivelled leaves across the tarmac. Any seeds which eventually helicopter down have no chance of taking root. Nobody's wearing the latest seasonal fashions either, especially not now the nightclub's closed. But this is definitely a street that's past its peak, a street awaiting chillier conditions to come, so perhaps Autumn Street is well named after all.

 Saturday, October 17, 2020

20 things that happened this week #coronavirus

• second national lockdown possible
• Trump claims he's now immune
• three Nightingale hospitals on standby
3-tier lockdown restrictions introduced
• Liverpool placed in 'Very High' tier - pubs closed
• scientists warn measures are insufficient
• unemployment at 3 year high
• confirmed case of reinfection in Nevada
• Sir Keir proposes 3 week circuit breaker
• PM defends regional restrictions
• NI closes schools for 2 weeks (& pubs for 4)
• Wales bans visitors from tiers 2 & 3
• London, Essex and York move to tier 2
• Italy joins the quarantine list
• masks required in Scottish workplaces
• Manchester holds out against joining tier 3
• R is between 1.3 and 1.5
• fast turnaround tests due in a few weeks (PM)
• month-long curfew in nine French cities
• Israel eases second lockdown

Worldwide deaths: 1,070,000 → 1,110,000
Worldwide cases: 37,000,000 → 39,500,000
UK deaths: 42,760 → 43,579
UK cases: 590,844 → 705,428
FTSE: down 2% (6016 → 5919)

TfL have launched a consultation to adjust bus routes in Sutton and south Croydon. It's a significant consultation affecting 12 different routes, introducing three new ones and withdrawing one altogether. It's also somewhat complex, especially the way TfL have described it, explained via 14 bullet points, 26 individual impacts and seven maps. The maps are good but don't show how the whole thing fits together, so I suspect most of those who might be affected by the changes won't fully understand how. Allow me to bullet point it differently...

Three major issues are being addressed.

1) Reorganisation of buses around the new London Cancer Hub at the Royal Marsden Hospital
The London Cancer Hub is a developing science park to the south of Sutton town centre and needs better connections.
As part of the proposed changes Sutton's existing 'S' routes are to be rationalised, and generally shortened. A new S2 route will be introduced, using a number withdrawn in my part of town in 2008, meaning Sutton will finally have its full complement of S1, S2, S3 and S4.

The S1 will be nudged to serve the hospital rather than Belmont station.
The S2 takes over what's currently the northern half of the S4.
The southern half of the S3 is taken over by the 413.
The remaining half of the S4 is extended northeast towards IKEA, replacing half of the 455.
Additionally the S2 extends to High Down Prison to replace the 80, which is being curtailed slightly to terminate at the hospital.
The 164 may be extended to the hospital at a later date.
The before/after map is mine, not TfL's, so my apologies if it's incorrect.

2) Reorganisation of buses between Purley and Caterham
The 407, which currently doglegs from Sutton to Caterham, will be halved in length to operate between Sutton and Croydon only.
The southern half of the 407, from Croydon to Caterham, becomes new route 443.
Another new route, the 439, will link Waddon Marsh via Purley Way to almost-Caterham.
The 434 will be extended from almost-Caterham to Caterham, and divert round previously unserved streets in Kenley.

3) Withdrawal of route 455
The 455 is a wildly circuitous route from Carshalton to Purley via Croydon. It dies.
The western half of the 455 is taken over by the S4, as previously discussed, but only as far as Waddon Marsh.
The southern half of the 455 is replaced by a diverted 166 as far as Purley, then an extended 312 to the terminus at Old Lodge Lane.

There are also minor tweaks to:
the S1 in St Helier (away from backroads so it can be operated with longer buses)
the S3 and 470 near Sutton Common station (to provide more direct journeys)

The consultation closes on 29th November. If you have strong opinions, and nothing else to do, it deserves your attention.

 Sutton bus route quiz
This grid contains the numbers of 20 bus routes in the London borough of Sutton.
Look horizontally, vertically and diagonally.
How many can you find?
(Answers in the comments box and, please, no more than two buses each)

   4 1 4 5 X 1
   7 5 1 2 5 1
   0 4 6 1 7 4
   4 1 0 8 2 6
   S 3 9 2 1 3

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 Friday, October 16, 2020

Earlier this week I received a plastic-wrapped 'newspaper' in the post, a 32-page promotional mailshot bigging up the delights of Canary Wharf. I didn't ask for it, they targeted my address and spent money on postage, so keen are they to bring paying punters back to the estate. The newspaper is called Discover Canary Wharf and focuses on retail, hospitality, recreational and property-owning pleasures. Its target audience is affluent, style-conscious, experience-loving consumers. And the strapline is All The Space You Need To Meet, Relax And Reconnect.

This is a poor strapline. Canary Wharf isn't somewhere you'd come for 'space', being mostly offices and malls and tightly packed buildings. Meeting and reconnecting are no longer advised, or won't be indoors from tomorrow once London's risk level is raised to High. But the biggest issue is that lazy phrase All You Need, which copywriters often employ to make something sound much better than it really is.

The 32 pages are awash with lazy copywriting. This, for example, is the third paragraph of the introduction on page 3.
"From a theatrical, flaming-throwing cocktail bar to a cutting edge esports cafe, a host of international eateries to an ice-cream parlour from one of the world's most famous gelato makers, Canary Wharf has never been such an exciting place to live and visit."
Set aside the fact that "flaming-throwing" is not a thing, and that the activities may sound like your personal version of hell, and scream instead at that final phrase. It's October 2020, many businesses are closed or acting under stringent restrictions and a sizeable proportion of the estate's working population is staying at home. The idea that "Canary Wharf has never been such an exciting place to live and visit" is self-evident drivel, for example in comparison to February 2020 or (hopefully) October 2023. Lazy copywriting all too often thrives on thoughtless exaggeration.

So I've been through all 32 pages in search of examples of lazy copywriting. Here are two dozen unjustifiable claims that leapt out.

» "Read on to discover the best places to socialise and shop, to exercise and explore, to live and unwind." (no, it's entirely subjective)
» "What to expect from the must-visit new openings in Canary Wharf" (nowhere is a "must-visit")
» "Obicà offers the freshest traditional Italian dishes" (fresh, but not freshest)
» "For dinner with a view, French restaurant Plateau cannot be beaten" (it bloody can)
» "Those dreaming of sunshine should visit Venice Beach by way of Ahi Poké, a Californian-inspired poké brand" (they needn't bother)
» "A charming outdoor terrace is the perfect spot to watch the world go by, cocktail in hand" (it really isn't)
» "Wanyoo is a place where everyone can enjoy themselves" (I beg to differ)
» "For those who've missed watching the latest films on release, the Everyman in Crossrail Place will be a must-visit this autumn" (oh mate, I have news for you)
» "Blondie and David Bowie, the great icons of the past century..." (two of them, perhaps)
» "Calvin Klein Underwear - the ultimate uniform for lazy duvet days" (I don't believe it is)
» "These are the menswear brands and services to know about this season" (they are perhaps some of them)
» "For those who spent lockdown in loungewear, Reiss's new collection will be a hit (unproven and incorrect)
» "If you've missed out on a holiday this year, seek out your favourite international cuisine at Canary Wharf" (total non-sequitur)
» "If you don't know your your EMOMs from your aMRAPs, it's time to sign up to one of 300 weekly courses at Third Space" (I don't, and it isn't)
» "Experience the ultimate clean swimming experience in Canary Wharf's 23 metre pool" (I bet there are ultimater)
» "Tennis, basketball, running, boxing, rugby - name a sport and JD Sports will cater to it" (polo? hang gliding? rallycross? Eton fives?)
» "The skin might be the largest organ in the body but it's often the last to get the attention it deserves" (skin invariably precedes spleen)
» "Canary Wharf is the new leader in wellbeing therapies" (it very much isn't)
» "There's never been a more important time to look after ourselves, whether that's with general check-ups, sports consultations or cosmetic retouches" (a wholly dubious claim)
» "Canary Wharf has all you need to make your house a home" (not even John Lewis is that good)
» "No modern home is complete without the latest technology" (at least one modern home is)
» "Canary Wharf's new neighbourhood, Wood Wharf, is home to a vibrant community" (not yet it isn't, it's a building site)
» "The new neighbourhood offers unbeatable views" (hundreds of locations beat it)
» "Exceptional architectural feats offering the best in waterside living" (Venice does it better)
» "For art-lovers, this must be on your list of places to visit in London" (no, you're allowed to skip it)

Let me focus more closely on the paragraph about Harbour Quay Gardens, the new riverside park at Wood Wharf. It's less than half finished, backs onto a building site and the view from its benches looks like this.

Here's what Discover Canary Wharf has to say.
"A day by the seaside in a far off destination might be a distant memory for some of us, but you can relive the fantasy a little closer to home at this waterside spot. The boardwalks are the perfect place to stroll while enjoying views of the surrounding docklands; wind your way along the path, or take a breather on one of the many waterside benches."
Treat this as a masterclass in how to construct zingy promotional content out of nothing. First use the "if you liked X you'll love Y" construction, comparing something great with whatever lesser version you've got. Then claim something you have is perfect, even if it isn't, and round off with a sentence so bland it could refer to anywhere. That's how easy it is to write overblown hype, even if you've never been to the place you're writing about.

I should point out that most of the remainder of the newspaper's content is fine, avoiding false claims by presenting factual comment without additional qualifiers.

» "There are plenty of places to grab a drink in Canary Wharf"
» "For special occasions consider booking the private dining room"
» "Own a home in one of London's most exciting new neighbourhoods"
» "Choose from a menu of hydrating, multi-vitamin and immunity-boosting drips"
» "Guests at The Grandstand Bar are known to spill out onto Canada Square Park"
» "Awakn is a luxury wellness facility offering strength, cardiovascular, boxing and functional classes"
» "Like jukeboxes, Polaroids and vinyl, the last few years have seen shuffleboards get the hipster treatment"

When the English language is so rich and varied, there really is no need to copywrite lazily.

All The Some Space You Need Could Use To Meet, Relax And Reconnect

 Thursday, October 15, 2020

It's been six months since I suspect I caught coronavirus. I don't know I did, I'm not stupid enough to assume, but all the clues were there. It's also not a conclusion I jumped to at the time, more something I've concluded later, and only because I'm the kind of person who keeps a diary.
Saturday 18th April: At 4pm a bit of a headache arrives, which is probably nothing isn't it. Isn't it?
Sunday 19th April: Hmm, my headache is back (on the right hand side), hmm. No other obvious signs.
Headaches were not on the list of coronavirus symptoms to look out for. They might be now but they weren't then.
"Our data shows that the most commonly experienced early symptoms are actually headache (82%) and fatigue (72%) - and this is the case for all age groups. Only 9% of COVID-positive adults aged 18 - 65 didn’t experience headache or fatigue. Of course, headache and fatigue commonly occur in other conditions which is why they don’t trigger a test on their own. In fact, only 1% of people who reported fatigue and/or headache on our app ended up testing positive for COVID. So while headache and fatigue are commonly found in people who have COVID (alongside other symptoms), having either or both of those symptoms alone is unlikely to be indicative of COVID." (Covid Symptom Study, 23rd September)
The headache continued, intermittently. It was annoying but nothing debilitating.
Monday 20th April: Woke up at half three, half five, half six and seven o'clock. It's my headache, which I'm increasingly convinced may be toothache of a kind in a wisdom tooth. Hardly horrific but annoying enough. Hopefully it's only temporary.
Tuesday 21st April (am): Again not the greatest sleep. Upper gum nagging a bit. But hey, I'm fine probably, it's just mouth things.
I'm not prone to toothache so this was unusual. I'm also not prone to headaches, which is a blessing, indeed I've never reached for a paracetamol in my life. I knew something wasn't normal, wasn't right. But there was still absolutely nothing conclusive here.

Then came the Wagon Wheel incident.
Tuesday 21st April (pm): Unwrap a Wagon Wheel and hang on, it doesn't taste of anything! Oddly bland. Losing sense of taste is a virus symptom, ulp? A Polo mint tastes absolutely fine though, so I haven't lost it.
The Wagon Wheel was an instant concern but the Polo mint was an immediate relief. If I could taste the Polo mint then I hadn't lost my sense of taste. Later in the day I confirmed that chicken pie and vegetables tasted perfectly normal but strawberry yoghurt tasted oddly bland too. I appeared to have lost my ability to taste sweet things.

Obviously what I did at this point was consult Google. I searched and searched to try to discover if a change in sense of taste was a Covid symptom but found nothing suggestive or conclusive. Loss of smell (anosmia) yes, loss of taste (ageusia) yes, but change of taste (hypogeusia) no. I also searched specifically for in inability to taste sweet things, but nothing came up. This was a relief.

We now know differently, that a change in your sense of taste is a good indicator that you might have the virus. But this wasn't the case back in April, indeed it'd be another four weeks before 'change in smell or taste' would be added to the list of symptoms which triggered self-isolation.

I wasn't feeling great that particular Tuesday - I had an intermittent headache, I'd lost some of my sense of taste and I felt a bit tired. But six months ago it was all about coughs and fevers and I didn't have a cough and I didn't have a fever so I didn't worry. Instead I went to bed early.
Tuesday 21st April (pm): Might wind down early tonight. Nothing that ticks boxes, but lacking oomph. Maybe sleep'll help.
Wednesday 22nd April (am): Blimey, that worked. A decent long uninterrupted sleep, and that toothy headache and slightly wasted feeling has gone too. Excellent.
And then I carried on with my life. Wagon Wheels still weren't especially tasty and Mint Cornettos lacked a punch, so something hadn't been fixed, but the headaches were gone and no other official symptoms came along either.

Six months later the headaches and the change in taste look like a big giveaway, but April was a different era and they didn't then. You couldn't even get yourself tested, it'd be another four weeks before the government afforded its citizens that possibility.

If I did indeed catch coronavirus in mid-April then it'd be interesting to know how and where. Thankfully my diary allows me to check back and look for likely candidates.
Friday 10th April: Went for a 2 mile walk. Kept away from everybody. Met nobody.
Saturday 11th April: Went for a 4 mile walk. Kept away from everybody. Met nobody.
Sunday 12th April (Easter Day): Sunny and 25°C outside. Stayed in all day.
Monday 13th April: Went for a 4 mile walk. Kept away from everybody. Met nobody.
Tuesday 14th April: Went for a 4 mile walk. Kept away from everybody. Met nobody.
Wednesday 15th April: Went to Tesco. Bit of a free-for-all inside.
Thursday 16th April: Went for a 4 mile walk. The 'bin' incident.
Friday 17th April: Stayed in all day.
My first symptoms were either on the 18th or the 21st, depending, which means I should look for potential exposure during the previous week. Most of the time I was alone indoors. Five times I went out for a walk and tried very hard - I think successfully - to keep away from people. I touched nothing. Which points the finger of suspicion at either the supermarket or the 'bin' incident.

My local supermarket had got its act together by mid-April with one way systems and screens at the tills. Instead it was the other customers you had to be careful of, lingering mid-aisle and walking the wrong way past the yoghurts. I could have caught it from them (although I spent no more than two seconds alongside any of them) or from the trolley handle (although I washed my hands vigorously afterwards) or simply by sharing an indoor space with other people (although there weren't many around at eight in the morning).

The 'bin' incident occurred because I attempted to be public spirited. The binmen had left a big metal bin on the pavement so I stopped and tried to move it out of the way. Unfortunately it was very heavy so a random lady decided to walk over and help me out, even though my inner voice was screaming "no ffs go away". We couldn't move it between us either, but only confirmed this after a minute of close-up breathing and I wonder if I caught it off her.

I can also look back now and see if I might have infected anyone else while I was (potentially) contagious.
Friday 17th April: Stayed in all day.
Saturday 18th April: Went for a 4 mile walk. [Headache]
Sunday 19th April: Stayed in all day.
Monday 20th April: Went for a 4 mile walk.
Tuesday 21st April: Stayed in all day. [Loss of Taste]
Wednesday 22nd April: Went for a 3 mile walk. Went to the chemist.
Thursday 23rd April: Went for a 4 mile walk.
Friday 24th April: Went to Tesco. Less of a free-for-all inside.
Saturday 25th April: Went for a 4 mile walk.
Sunday 26th April: Stayed in all day.
Monday 27th April: Went for a 4 mile walk.
Tuesday 28th April: Stayed in all day.
Wednesday 29th April: Went for a 4 mile walk.
Thursday 30th April: Went for a 2 mile walk.
Hopefully not, then. Most days I either stayed in or went for a defiantly anti-social walk. I was still staying firmly inside my mile-wide lockdown box at this point, so hardly spreading myself around East London. As for my trip to the chemist the shop was empty apart from the lady at the counter and she was behind a screen. Which just leaves my trip to the supermarket... where I was trying my hardest not to get close to anyone, but I guess if I could have caught it there the previous week then I could also have passed it on again.

These days if you exhibit a change in your sense of taste you have to self-isolate for 10 days, but that wasn't the case in mid-April and I only stayed indoors for three. Indeed it's all too easy to apply current rules to past situations and beat yourself up over it, whereas six months ago the official list of symptoms was shorter, the rules were different, face coverings weren't important and I couldn't have got a test anyway.

I haven't allowed my self-diagnosis to amend my behaviour. I haven't resumed normal activities convinced that I'm immune because I doubt I am. I don't swan around thinking "yay I've had it I won't get it again" because I might be wrong. I confess it has taken the edge off worrying somewhat, but I still keep my distance just in case.

It's also been a wake-up-call. I thought I was behaving angelically back in April by avoiding other people and social situations as far as possible, whereas it looks like one trip to the supermarket or a brief grapple with a bin is all it takes. You only have to be unlucky once.
Tuesday 2nd June: Still not enjoying apple pie and custard as much as I should, six weeks on.
Friday 5th June: A slice of apple pie with custard suddenly tastes normal again, so that's a relief.
In conclusion I suspect I caught the virus, I can't be certain where and I don't think I passed it on.

But I'm not positive.

 Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Random City of London ward (1): Candlewick

My first random ward is also one of the smallest, having an area of just 13 acres, and is squished into the area between Bank and Monument stations. The rather splendid name derives from the candle makers who used to work along Candlewick Street, now Cannon Street, back when households and particularly churches needed an abundance of tallow and wax candles. It's not a ward brimming over with public buildings, tall buildings or indeed population, nor are its lanes and alleys especially noteworthy, but that didn't prevent me finding several flickering points of interest.

The chief focus of Candlewick ward is the road junction outside Monument station (where both the A3 and the A10 begin, and the A4 once did). It's overlooked by the magnificent frontage of 68 King William Street, originally the offices of Guardian Insurance and more recently a House of Fraser department store. But it's been empty since 2018 because City types no longer need to leave the office to buy clothing and fragrance, the ground floor now cavernously empty apart from a few green bins, assorted tools and a lot of unsurfaced concrete.

From here Cannon Street leads west, Gracechurch Street leads north, Eastcheap leads east and King William Street forges inbetween. But Candlewick doesn't stretch the full length of any of them, for example encompassing Monument station but not The Monument itself, and stopping just short of the legendary London Stone. The ward's eastern boundary is Fish Street Hill, once the main road down to London Bridge but when this was rebuilt in the 1820s a new approach road had to be carved through Candlewick, wiping Wren's St Michael's church from the map.

One of Candlewick's two remaining churches, St Clement Eastcheap, is nominally famous worldwide. The nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons kicks off here, reputedly, because the church was close to the docks where citrus fruits were unloaded. It's another Wren rebuild, inconspicuous from the street but more magnificently rectangular inside. The noticeboard outside is also the place where Candlewick ward publicly lists its alderman and councilmen - that's Emma, James and Kevin - in gleaming gold on black. Coincidentally the second church in the rhyme, St Martin Orgar, also lay within the ward but wasn't rebuilt after 1666, so all that survives today is a rebuilt tower and a small locked grassy churchyard.

This part of the City is still based on the medieval street pattern, King William Street aside, with narrow lanes leading off narrow roads leading to even narrower back alleys. Half a century ago most of the buildings would have been banks whereas today they're merely offices, with neoclassical facades hiding corporate foyers and blocks of modern administrative infill inbetween. Perusing their doorways I spotted digs for Mitsubishi, TK Maxx and the insurance company I was arguing on the phone with last week. Five to seven storeys tall is commonplace, indeed only one of Candlewick's buildings (on Cannon Street) nudges higher into double figures.

And whereas wandering off down the sideroads might once have been atmospheric, today you're more likely to find gates to delivery bays, bin stores and all the other service paraphernalia required to keep the businesses up above up and running. Ventilation grilles exhale into medieval lanes. Yellow lines keep the non-existent traffic moving. CCTV watches you every step of the way. The working heart of the City is high on practicality and low on heritage.

Candlewick's alleyways are even more uninspiring, reduced to providing access to back doors rather than gateways to interesting discoveries. Lombard Court for example is bland at one end and overshadowed at the other, joining up in the centre with a gloomy backway that feels more like a tunnel. That said it's the only place I found life in the ward on a Sunday morning, thanks to a well-hidden gym pumping out the hits for the benefit of those pumping up. Further along Plough Court is a plaque marking the birthplace of poet Alexander Pope in 1688, when (unimaginably) this was the kind of residential backwater where the family of a successful linen merchant might reside.

The closest Candlewick comes to a continental piazza is at Abchurch Yard. Here bistro tables spread across a courtyard of patterned cobbles and stone, served by bar staff from The Vintry, a giant wine bar with the misfortune of completing its refurb a month before lockdown. A splendidly retro painted streetsign points the way towards a narrow jagged alley in the far corner. The northern flank is overlooked by St Mary Abchurch, one of Wren's finest (and squarest) City churches. Not only is it grade I listed but its What3Words location is bound.affair.mild, which I don't think is something I'd advertise on the outside of a place of worship.

But Abchurch Yard's ambience is diminished at present courtesy of a huge building site dominated by concrete silos and a yellow crane. An entire block between Abchurch Lane and Nicholas Lane has been demolished, some 5% of Candlewick's entire area, and all so that you can catch a train more easily. It's at the heart of the Bank Station Capacity Upgrade, or BSCU, the £600m upgrade of one of the world's most complicated subterranean railway stations. When complete it hopes to boost capacity by 40%, simplify interchange, increase step-free access and add a major station entrance on Cannon Street. It'll all be tremendously transformative.

Bank's biggest tweak is that a new southbound Northern line tunnel has been dug so that the old one can become a passenger circulation space, alongside fresh banks of escalators connecting to the DLR, the Central line and the surface. Latest timelines suggest completion in 2022, but don't hold your breath. And because the existing Bank-Monument 'escalator link' follows the line of King William Street it's all taking place in Candlewick, the ward millions of people interchange beneath but few get out to explore.

 Tuesday, October 13, 2020

It's been a while since I undertook a random psychogeographical task. I used to pick boroughs out of jamjars but I completed that. I continued by visiting boroughs just outside London but that wasn't random, I tried riding random bus routes, visiting random grid squares and researching the environs of random stations, but gave up long before even scratching the surface. Let's have another go.

These are the 25 wards of the City of London, administrative districts of medieval origin with an electoral function. They vary greatly in size and shape, the largest being those once outside the city walls. Each elects one alderman and a number of councilmen commensurate with their resident and working population. They're also all within walking distance of home, which is useful should limited horizons remain a feature of our future. Many of them have cracking names.
Aldersgate, Aldgate, Bassishaw, Billingsgate, Bishopsgate, Bread Street, Bridge, Broad Street, Candlewick, Castle Baynard, Cheap, Coleman Street, Cordwainer, Cornhill, Cripplegate, Dowgate, Farringdon Within, Farringdon Without, Langbourn, Lime Street, Portsoken, Queenhithe, Tower, Vintry, Walbrook
I haven't enlisted my jamjar this time, simply numbered the wards alphabetically and used a random number generator. I used it on Sunday morning when the streets were quieter and the weather brighter, so I already know where I'm going, indeed I've already been. I'll bring you my report tomorrow, and then let's see if I can ever be bothered to go random warding again.

In the last few days Cockfosters has become the 80th step-free tube station. The number passed 70 as recently as 2016, and works are currently in progress to bring the total up to 97.

The new step-free station has yet to appear on the digital map available on the TfL website, but was added prematurely to the paper tube map released in May. A white wheelchair blob now exists at the northern end of the Piccadilly line, which is all very well and good but also means the terminus 'bar' has been lost.

Harry Beck introduced this iconic design feature back in 1933, with Cockfosters one of the ten terminus stations so marked. But with the advance of step-free stations, Cockfosters now included, only one such terminus bar remains. Perhaps you can work out where it is before I complete my exposition a few screens down.

Two things have brought the terminus bar to the edge of extinction - the accessibility blob and the interchange circle. Their joint assault began almost 20 years ago.

At the end of 2000 the tube map included 25 terminus bars...
2000: Amersham, Brixton, Chesham, Cockfosters, Edgware, Epping, Harrow & Wealdstone, High Barnet, Kensington Olympia, Mill Hill East, Morden, Richmond, Stanmore, Upminster, Uxbridge, Walthamstow Central, Watford, West Ruislip, Wimbledon; New Cross, New Cross Gate, Shoreditch; North Woolwich; Beckton, Lewisham
...but in May 2001 eleven disappeared...
Lost 2001: Amersham, Brixton, Harrow & Wealdstone, Richmond, Upminster, Walthamstow Central, West Ruislip, Wimbledon; New Cross, New Cross Gate; Lewisham
...transformed into interchange circles because they were also National Rail stations. Kensington Olympia was circled the following year, as it probably originally should have been. The total was now down to 14.
Lost 2002: Kensington Olympia
Step-free blue blobs first appeared in 2006. There weren't very many back then, but several terminus stations were already accessible because steps aren't always required at the end of a line. North Woolwich also disappeared that year when the station permanently closed.
Lost 2006: Chesham, Epping, Morden, Stanmore, Uxbridge; Beckton; North Woolwich
There were now just six terminus bars left. Two more disappeared in when 2009 step-free access came to the northern end of the Northern line.
Lost 2009: Edgware, High Barnet
Shoreditch had closed by this point and lingered on the tube map only as a replacement bus service. It vanished after the East London Line joined the Overground in 2010.
Lost 2010: Shoreditch
A decade-long pause in terminus bar abolition followed. It was broken earlier this year when Mill Hill East finally got its lift. Cockfosters now joins it, bringing the total down to just one.
Lost 2020: Cockfosters, Mill Hill East
The only remaining terminus bar, if you haven't worked it out by now, is at Watford. By rights it should have disappeared a few years ago when the Metropolitan line extension opened but, with that project cancelled, Watford's unique situation should continue. Along with a half-bar at Aldgate it is the sole survivor of Harry Beck's intended end-of-line design.

Nothing says 'tube map' quite like a terminus bar. They have alas all gone, bar one.

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