diamond geezer

 Tuesday, October 19, 2021

In the wake of the awful murder of Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West, comes the news that Southend is to become a city. It's a fitting tribute to a man who campaigned over several decades for his home town to receive city status, or it's a populist kneejerk bauble diminishing a historic civic designation, potentially both.

Whatever, it's not often that an English town is officially elevated to the rank of city. Only six have received the honour during the last 50 years, one each for the Queen's Silver, Ruby, Golden and Diamond Jubilees and two for the Millennium. The last town to be gifted city status simply because it asked was Southampton in 1964.

There are approximately four city-making eras in English history. First were the ancient cathedral cities from 'time immemorial' to 1227. Second came the granting of six letters patent by Henry VIII in the 1540s as part of the Reformation. Third was a response to increasing urbanisation in the 19th and 20th centuries. And fourth is the more recent era of towns bidding for city status on special occasions with the most worthy winning the prize.
English cities, by date of designation
time immemorial: Canterbury, Durham, Exeter, Hereford, Lichfield, London, Wells, Winchester, Worcester, York
11th century: Lincoln, Chichester, Bath, Norwich
12th century: Coventry, Ely, Carlisle
13th century: Salisbury
14th century:
15th century:
16th century: Westminster, Chester, Gloucester, Peterborough, Bristol, Oxford
17th century:
18th century:
19th century: Ripon, Manchester, St Albans, Truro, Liverpool, Newcastle, Wakefield, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, Hull, Nottingham
20th century: Leicester, Stoke, Portsmouth, Salford, Plymouth, Lancaster, Cambridge, Southampton, Derby, Sunderland, Brighton & Hove, Wolverhampton
21st century: Preston, Chelmsford, Southend
n.b. This isn't a 100% definitive list so please don't feel the need to tell us you'd have done it differently. Yes, I know 'time immemorial' has a specific legal meaning. Yes, I know Rochester lost city status in 1998 due to an administrative error. Yes, I know the other home nations have cities too. Yes, officially it should be the City of Southend-on-Sea, not just Southend. Maybe also hold your breath as we dip a toe into the murky definitions of cathedrals and universities.
English cities without cathedrals: Bath, Brighton and Hove, Cambridge, Hull, Lancaster, Leeds, Nottingham, Plymouth, Preston, Salford, Southend, Southampton, Stoke, Sunderland, Westminster, Wolverhampton
Southend joins the ranks of the 16 English cities that don't have Anglican cathedrals. These used to be essential in a city, or perhaps an Abbey which is what Bath and Westminster had instead. The cities of Nottingham, Westminster, Lancaster, Leeds, Plymouth and Salford have Roman Catholic cathedrals but these don't count.

The first cathedral-less town to become a city was Truro, although it gained a newly-built one a few years later. Leeds (which gained city status in 1893) is the oldest city never to have had an Anglican cathedral, probably because it was deemed too close to Wakefield. Four English cathedral towns - Blackburn, Bury St Edmunds, Guildford and Southwell - are still waiting for the call-up to become cities.
English cities without universities: Ely, Hereford, Lichfield, Ripon, St Albans, Salisbury, Truro, Wakefield, Wells
As for what a university is, these days that's even more debatable. For example Southend has been home to a decent-sized campus for the University of Essex since 2013, so perhaps that counts, although the university is really based in Colchester (which isn't a city because there's no logic to any of this).

It's not just the town of Southend that's going to become a city, it's the entire unitary authority. This means city status for Leigh-on-Sea, Westcliff, Eastwood, Prittlewell and Shoeburyness, collectively at least. Thanks to an anomalous boundary only one end of Southend Airport's runway will be inside the city while the terminal remains outside.

Sir David's persistence in demanding city status for Southend is highlighted in the following list of failed bids. An awful lot of English towns have thought they had what it takes, far more than were ever going to be accepted with a single prize at stake. It's always worth a try, but this list showcases a lot of big-headed civic administrations punching above their weight.
Failed attempts to become cities
1951: Croydon
1953: Preston, Southampton, Wolverhampton
1966: Derby, Teesside, Wolverhampton
1977: Blackburn, Brighton, Croydon, Dudley, Sandwell, Sunderland, Wolverhampton
1992: Blackburn, Bolton, Brighton, Chelmsford, Colchester, Croydon, Dudley, Guildford, Ipswich, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Preston, Sandwell, Shrewsbury, Southend, Stockport, Telford, Wolverhampton
2000: Blackburn, Blackpool, Bolton, Colchester, Croydon, Doncaster, Dover, Guildford, Ipswich, Luton, Maidstone, Medway, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Preston, Shrewsbury, Southend, Southwark, Stockport, Telford, Warrington
2002: Blackburn, Blackpool, Bolton, Chelmsford, Colchester, Croydon, Doncaster, Dover, Greenwich, Guildford, Ipswich, Luton, Maidstone, Medway, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Reading, Shrewsbury, Southend, Stockport, Swindon, Telford, Warrington, Wirral
2012: Bolton, Bournemouth, Colchester, Corby, Croydon, Doncaster, Dorchester, Dudley, Gateshead, Goole, Luton, Medway, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Reading, Southend, St Austell, Stockport, Tower Hamlets
It's not yet known which towns will bid for city status in 2022 because the deadline for entries isn't until the start of December. So far Boston, Dudley, Medway, Milton Keynes, Middlesbrough, Swindon, Reading and Newport on the Isle of Wight have all expressed an interest, at least according to media reports. Southend was planning a bid but need no longer bother. Tower Hamlets is no longer run by an egomaniac so won't be trying.

Bournemouth is the largest urban area in the UK not to have city status, although as a newly-minted unitary authority 'The City of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole' doesn't really trip off the tongue. Middlesbrough, Birkenhead and Reading aren't far behind, population-wise, with Luton, Medway, Blackpool, Milton Keynes and Northampton nearer the quarter of a million mark. Southend's 180,000 puts it a lot further down the urban significance list.

Note that ten years ago there were no cities in Essex and now there are two. I think it's a fair bet that Southend wouldn't have been the choice for a new city in 2022 because that would sit very badly with a levelling up agenda. Indeed I'd be willing to bet that the new city chosen for the Platinum Jubilee will be somewhere in the north, with Middlesbrough the ridiculously obvious political choice.

Whatever, Southend is about to get the honorary title it's long desired, sadly after the man who most wanted it has passed away. Next time you fancy a City Break, maybe consider the seaside resort 13 miles outside London with the muddy beach and the very long pier.

Background information
Further reading
Proper research

 Monday, October 18, 2021

There've been some cracking Turbine Hall commissions at Tate Modern over the last two decades, and some stinkers, and a fair few unmemorable middle of the roaders. It's a hard space to fill, being both very long and very high, and a lot of artists have only really bothered with enlivening floor level at one end.

So I've been looking forward to seeing the new one by Anicka Yi in which giant transparent jellyfish bob around and float above your head to demonstrate the creative potential of artificial intelligence. It's got to be an improvement on bunkbeds, sunflower seeds and empty soil trays.

I hadn't been intending to drop in yesterday until I noticed that my walk would take me past Tate Modern just as it opened for the day. When better to check out the aerial spectacle than first thing on a Sunday morning? Two minutes to ten and no sign of a queue at the Thames-side entrance, excellent!

This turned out to be because a one-way system had turned this into an exit, whereas the sole entrance was now down the slope at the very far end. Continuing round the building I found a queue about a hundred strong snaking up the ramp from the main doors. It was well-spaced and polite and looked like it'd move fast so I duly joined the end of it.

It didn't move fast, indeed it took a few minutes to grind into action. A number of people walked straight past and down to the doors, presumably in case we were the slow lane and they could just walk in, but they couldn't and seemed to come straight back. So far so normal.

As the queue crept forward I finally noticed the notice by the entrance that said "All visitors need a timed ticket". I didn't have a timed ticket because I'd turned up on spec, and I assumed several others in the queue must have done too. No, they were now all wielding QR code printouts or firing up their smartphone wallets as we approached the entrance. I considered blagging it but decided that probably wouldn't wash.

I stepped to one side to allow everyone else to enter and attempted to book a timed ticket on my phone. This ought to be easy, I thought, everyone else has managed it. I found Tate Modern's website via Google and clicked on the tab labelled 'Book a ticket'. It was here that I got stuck. All I wanted to do was go inside the building but the website seemed to want me to pick an exhibition to visit, and it took a fair amount of back and forth to spot "Hyundai Commission Anicka Yi In Love with the World" in amongst the rest... and even that wasn't enough.

What I really needed to book was an "All Tate Modern Collections' ticket, but I hadn't internalised that "Collections" was their buzzword for General Admission so ended up faffing around some more. Just take me to a page that'll let me book a ticket, I thought. I've since tried it at home on a laptop and it was quite simple, but on my smartphone I ended up going round and round in circles for several minutes.

Eventually I got to the booking portal where I picked the right date and the first available time. The next page wanted me to pick from three different sizes of donation (£5, £7.50 or £10) with the 'free' option as fourth choice at the bottom. This didn't endear me to the gallery's priorities. And by the time I'd selected all the necessary boxes I got the message TICKETS HAVE JUST SOLD OUT FOR THIS ENTRY TIME and I had to start again.

It was at this point that the queue flowing past me eventually died down and the member of staff who'd been supervising entry turned his attention to me. I told him I was trying to book a ticket but was struggling, and he told me to use the QR code stuck to a wall on the other side of the barrier, and I told him I'd eventually found the booking page thanks but was still floundering.

He pointed to the QR code again and uttered the fateful phrase "it's easy", but I'd already had five minutes experience that it wasn't easy, not even if you were starting in the right place, and our conversation went downhill from there. He was polite and I was polite but when he repeated that it was easy I blew a very quiet fuse and walked away.

These are strange times and Tate Modern are well within their rights to manage visitor numbers by insisting on timed tickets. I'd have noticed this if I'd checked the website before making a planned journey but I'd done the ridiculously 2019 thing of turning up on a whim and been caught out. What then hurt was having to jump through several digital hoops, inadequately signposted, and still having nothing to show for it at the end.

I skulked over to the QR code and it did indeed take me back to the landing page where I'd already been. I picked the earliest timeslot and skipped past the interstitial trying to upsell me Tate publications. I sighed when that slot proved to have sold out too and gave it one more try, this time for entry in one hour's time. The website needed my email address to access Guest Checkout and on the next page demanded name, country, postcode and telephone number too. Stuff this for a laugh, I thought.

I get why Tate Modern don't want everyone turning up at the same time and overwhelming their socially distanced one-way system. I appreciate that the website says "advance booking is recommended but tickets are often available on the door." What grates is the need to work my way through ten successive screens to get an email with an e-ticket, not to mention the assumption that everyone has a smartphone, rather than having actual tickets available on the door.

Imagine turning up on a wet Monday afternoon and finding no queue and a minion with a scanner who knows it's not full inside but still expects you to apply for admission via the screen in your pocket. Imagine being told "it's easy" while you hang around in the rain entering superfluous information. All the emphasis is on the visitor doing the work rather than the gallery, which is great for them and unnecessary hassle for us.

One day it'll be possible to walk up to Tate Modern again and just walk in, faced by nothing worse than a bit of security theatre and a begging notice for a donation. If that day is before 16th January 2022 I might go back and give Anicka Yi's floaty aerobes another try. In the meantime, sorry, my review of this year's Turbine Hall commission is a bit of a blank.

I enjoyed previous years more.

 Sunday, October 17, 2021

 Yorkshire quiz
Each string of three letters appears in the name of a Yorkshire town or city.
For example LES would be MiddLESbrough and LIF would be HaLIFax.
How many can you identify?

  1) DFO
  2) KEF
  3) SFI
  4) TEF
  5) UDS
  6) WSB        
  7) EFF
  8) MBW
  9) NCA
10) NSL
11) RHA
12) XBO        
13) ARB
14) EDC
15) IPO
16) ITB
17) LER
18) ROG        
19) DLI
20) EVE
21) IFF
22) OOL
23) SSL
24) ULL

n.b. Towns are from the ceremonial counties of West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, North Yorkshire and the East Riding of Yorkshire.
n.b. There are six from each.
n.b. Every town has a population over 10,000.

All answers now in the comments box.

Sorry, this is yet another variation on the "where have I been?" post.

At the front of my diary is a black and white map of Great Britain showing major roads, motorways and principal towns and cities. Every time I visit one of these towns or cities I highlight it to build up an annual map of where I've been. If the town's not on the map I can't colour it in, so trips to places like Bedford, Grantham and Bradford go unrecorded. Also the cartographers over-prioritised coastal towns because their names are easier to slot in, so for example Felixstowe makes the cut but Colchester is omitted.

I mention this because Scarborough was one of the few English towns on the map I'd never visited, and now I have, which means I've only got two more English towns to go. I might even have subconsciously chosen to go to Scarborough just so that I could tick it off, because I am a bit of a geographical completist like that.

Here's a list of all 53 English towns and cities on my diary map and the decade in which I first visited them.
1960s: London
1970s: Bournemouth, Nottingham, Portsmouth, Brighton, Sheffield, York, Oxford, Folkestone, Salisbury
1980s: Liverpool, Dover, Chester, Manchester, Cambridge, Birmingham, Coventry, Gloucester, Hull, King's Lynn, Penzance, Reading, Norwich, Great Yarmouth
1990s: Northampton, Ipswich, Leicester, Plymouth, Torquay, Lincoln
2000s: Felixstowe, Leeds, Bath, Eastbourne, Ramsgate, Blackpool
2010s: Shrewsbury, Newhaven, Newcastle upon Tyne, Stoke-on-Trent, Bristol, Southampton, Harwich, Wolverhampton, Middlesbrough, Exeter, Derby, Hereford
2020s: Swindon, Grimsby, Scarborough
never been: Carlisle, Barrow-in-Furness
I can't remember where I was taken in the 1960s, other than London, because I was under 5. I'm quite impressed by how far I travelled with family and friends in the 1970s and 1980s during my trajectory from school to first job. By contrast the 1990s and 2000s were somewhat underwhelming travelwise, but blogging inspired me to explore more widely in the 2010s. Ticking off another three in the pandemic-blasted 2020s feels like a win. And this leaves only Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness unvisited, both of which are a long way from home so not necessarily easily done in a day.

My diary map's snapshot of Wales is all coastal (yes to Caernarfon, Aberystwyth, Swansea and Cardiff, no to Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke). As for Scotland many of its 19 mapped towns are quite remote (seriously, Uig?) and I've only been to Glasgow and Edinburgh. I don't feel tempted to tick off the whole of Ryman's Scotland, but I'm quite pleased at completing 96% of England.

Notably, many of the visits I've made in the last 10 years have been because a rail operator made a special offer on tickets. Last week's trip to Scarborough, for example, only happened because LNER offered autumn tickets to York for £10 (which is also why I've been to Peterborough, Grantham and Newark recently). Ditto Grimsby relied on a £7 ticket to Lincoln, Swindon was a GWR offer for a fiver, Exeter set me back only £15 and Middlesbrough was because I could get to Darlington for £10. Rail operators occasionally do these flat fare offers to shift seats, but not very often and invariably at non-touristy times of year when the weather can be a proper lottery.

So what I now need is a West Coast special offer which allows me to get to Lancashire or Cumbria for next to nothing. The normal minimum for a return fare booked two months in advance is more like £80, and could be a washout, so I'm more than happy to wait. It'll be lovely to have visited everywhere on my diary map but there's no need to rush.

10 things that happened this week #coronavirus

• Sydney ends 107-day lockdown
• NHS Covid Pass now compulsory in Wales
• job vacancies at record high
• March 2020 'one of worst ever public health failings'
• London's NYE fireworks cancelled (again)
• NHS Covid app suffers outage
• cheaper travel tests from 24th October
• contactless limit rises to £100
• UK lab wrongly reported 43,000 +ve tests
• US to lift travel ban

Worldwide deaths: 4,850,000 → 4,890,000
Worldwide cases: 237,000,000 → 240,000,000
UK deaths: 137,697 → 138,527
UK cases: 8,120,713 → 8,404,469
1st vaccinations: 49,132,678 → 49,374,505
2nd vaccinations: 45,135,589 → 45,325,489
FTSE: up 2% (7095 → 7234)

 Saturday, October 16, 2021

More postcards from Scarborough

The railway arrived in Scarborough in 1845 and enabled daytrippers and holidaymakers to reach the spa town from far afield. By 1883 two additional platforms were needed to accommodate much longer trains, now numbered 1 and 2, and on one of these they built a 139m-long bench. No other railway station anywhere else in the world can beat it. If the bench looks in good nick that's because it's recently been given a £14,500 restoration which involved replacing all the nuts and bolts, the seat and the backrest (if nothing else the repainted cast iron supports are original). The bench is long enough to seat over 200 passengers, and would have done in its heyday as revellers waited to travel home, but these days is generally used by absolutely nobody at all. That's because modern trains don't usually use platform 1, and even if they did they'd pull in much further up the platform whereas the bench languishes at the far end. I made a special effort to go out of my way to take a look, and take a seat, and even unscrewed my thermos to enjoy a cup of record-breakingly long tea. The photo above is my arty bench shot but if you'd prefer to enjoy a wider perspective, try here.

The first building you see outside the station is the Stephen Joseph Theatre, a converted Odeon cinema with art deco flourishes. It's unusual for being a theatre in the round - Scarborough had England's first - and famous because its Creative Director used to be Alan Ayckbourn. Most of the prolific playwright's dramas were premiered in Scarborough, including Absurd Person Singular, The Norman Conquests and Bedroom Farce, and his oeuvre remains particularly popular with professional and amdram performers. Sir Alan is unusual in being born in London but making his name in the provinces and still chooses to base himself in Scarborough. I walked along Longwestgate in search of his home address and thought it can't be down here, it's much too common, but at the far end the Old Town kicked in and the properties got nicer and Alan's hideaway is a smart and worthy townhouse. I suspect it's been extended a couple of times because Georgians wouldn't have needed a double garage. I hope it has a hallway with several slammable doors leading off of it.

Scarborough's main street runs from the station to the harbour, with chainstore shopping at the upper end and takeaways and independents further down. Tucked off where the big names stop is the town's chapel-like Victorian Market Hall. Its exterior suggests something old and tired, but the interior has recently had a £2.7m upgrade and looks modern, clean and spacious. A lot of this is because there are hardly any stalls at ground level, the majority of which is taken up by two well groomed greengrocers and a lot of cafe tables, while a lot of dinky boutiques have been elevated around a horseshoe mezzanine. A Yorkshire-baked cinnamon swirl came with a pricetag of only £1.20 so I approved, but nowhere smelt of fish so it didn't feel proper. What's more when I got home and did some research I discovered that the Market Hall is most famous for its basement vaults, whose entrance I never even spotted, and I consider that a criminal signage disaster.

Not all of Scarborough's famous residents have proved welcome. Jimmy Savile had a spacious flat in Wessex Court on the Esplanade just south of the Cliff Bridge - very much a prime location - where he lived for many years with his ageing mother. After his death the council installed a gold memorial plaque on the building and named a nearby footpath Savile's View, but both lasted barely a fortnight before increasing concern about his predatory behaviour saw them quickly removed. For many years you could still see the holes where the plaque was screwed in but I'm pleased to say even those have now been plastered over and you'd never know it'd ever been there. Savile's second floor view was about as good as it gets for Scarborough, his flat perfectly poised at the southern end of the bay, which alas is where being a much-admired eccentric serial abuser gets you.

Half a mile south of the town is an astronomical one-off, the Scarborough Star Disk. It was laid down on the site of an outdoor Bathing Pool in 2006 and consists 42 fibre optic terminals representing the brightest circumpolar stars. Up close it's a disappointment - a few metal strips which form the shapes of Ursa Minor, the Plough and Cassiopeia sprawled across a concrete void. It must look a lot better at dusk or after dark, especially when seen from the gardens above, indeed a special Star Disk viewpoint has been created alongside the putting green. Let's hope it lasts, because the ravine where I clambered back up to the clifftop is the location of Scarborough's notorious hotel-destroying landslide in 1993. A few illuminated constellations would be no match for a million tonnes of glacial till.

Switching to the North Bay from the South, this arresting sculpture can be found opposite the lone cafe on the promenade at Royal Albert Drive. Made from weathering steel it depicts an elderly Yorkshireman in a flat cap portrayed at twice life-size while sitting on a similarly over-proportioned bench. He's actually a former soldier who participated in the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp, hence the sculpture's title is Freddie Gilroy and the Belsen Stragglers. Freddie wasn't local and was chosen to represent ordinary people who participated in extraordinary events, and what's more the sculpture was initially only meant to be here for four weeks. But a local pensioner stumped up £50,000 to buy it so it could stay where it was, and now it's like this giant veteran has been looking out across the waves forever.

Peasholm Park is Scarborough's finest recreational space, an oriental themed pleasure park with smart gardens and a boating lake at its heart. It was created in 1911 by Harry Smith, Scarborough's Borough Engineer, and later augmented by a chain of cascades up Peasholm Glen. The lake's central island with its lanterns and Japanese pagoda can only be accessed via a single footbridge, which is sadly locked out of season, ditto the jetty with the dragon pedalos. But Peasholm's true summer spectacle is the astonishing half hour Historic Naval Battle which takes place on the lake up to three times a week and has done since 1927. A fleet of replica boats, each 20 foot long and with a human crew, takes to the water and fires pyrotechnic potshots in an attempt to recreate the ferocious Battle of The River Plate. I suspect the floating bandstand only gets in the way, but the substantial bank of benches and terraced seating in front of the cafe is the ideal spot to watch it all.

» 20 Scarborough photos on Flickr

 Friday, October 15, 2021

The North Yorkshire town of Scarborough is right up there on the list of the UK's best seaside resorts. This photo shows one reason why.

The town sits peripherally on the east coast, 200 miles north of London and just south of the Yorkshire Moors. It has broad sweeping bays, plural, being divided in two by a high limestone headland. Its harbour provides refuge from the North Sea, its castle has seen better days, it successfully balances culture and candy floss, its cliff lifts provide a valuable service and there are more than enough places to dine on fish and chips. If only it had a proper pier it'd be the quintessential seaside resort. I very much liked Scarborough and would like to summarise it via a series of mini postcards. [map]

For all your usual seaside experiences the harbourfront suffices. Here are the cafes, bars and gift shops, the penny arcades and the seagulls eagerly hoping you'll spill a chip. The harbour is used less for fishing and more for pleasurecraft these days, although I did watch one trawler returning to port and the lobster pots looked well used. If catching mackerel is your thing several boats offer lengthy sea-angling sessions. The obligatory walk is out to the tip of Vincent Pier - a stone mooring arm within the breakwaters rather than a boardwalk of pleasure. Dodge round the rebuilt lighthouse and you can sit on a bench to take in the full panorama round the bay, or just walk straight back again depending.

Time the tide right and South Bay beach is a good one with acres of sloping sand. At present it feels like the exclusive province of Scarborough's dog owners, what with most of the tourists having gone home and seasonal canine restrictions having been lifted until May. Walk too far and it gets a lot rockpoolier.

Fish and chips is served in a multiplicity of sit down restaurants, invariably with bread and butter. At Caravel the advertised alternative is burger with peas and garnish. At Wackers the formica tables stretch back almost as far as a windowshopper can squint. Punters choosing to dine at Winking Willy's are perhaps prioritising branding over reputation. Takeaway fish and chips is alas less common, perhaps because the seafront is underblessed with outdoor seating.

The building which dominates the town, unexpectedly, is a hotel. The Grand attaches precipitously to St Nicholas Cliff and at time of completion in 1867 was the largest brick building in the world. It was designed to accommodate sophisticated spa-goers and boasted 365 bedrooms, 52 chimneys, 12 floors and 4 towers - you can probably see what the architects did there. The exterior looks spectacular from every angle but the interior hasn't fared so well, indeed the hotel's former chic reputation has declined through multiple changes of ownership. BestMate's parents checked in last weekend for a special anniversary getaway and within hours were checking out, having confronted mucky floors, smashed sockets and dubiously grimy porcelain, not to mention a discarded receipt showing the previous occupants had booked the room for just one hour. Rarely was a hotel so badly named.

The heart of Scarborough is the Old Town on the lumpy limestone ridge that sticks out into the sea. It's where the Normans built their castle although there's not much left, chiefly a curtain wall and half a keep. Reviews suggest the best thing about the castle is the view from the headland, but when I clambered up to the gatehouse everything was misty grey so I gave it a miss. Neighbouring St Mary's church was founded soon after and flaunts that most Yorkshire of attractions, the grave of a Brontë Sister. Here lies Anne, author of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, along with an engraved apology from The Brontë Society that someone got her age wrong on the tombstone.

Scarborough's first attraction was a spa based around springs discovered at the foot of South Cliff. The spa's initial Gothic Saloon has been considerably augmented over the years to include a Grand Hall, a Theatre and a Promenade Lounge - a combination of facilities deemed worthy of the occasional Party Conference. Its most iconic bauble, the outdoor Sun Court, is blessed with chequerboard tiling arrayed with tables if tea is served or deckchairs if genteel orchestral entertainment is underway in the bandstand. After the summer season's over, alas, peering in through the windows is the best you'll manage.

Scarborough is very much a town on two levels - clifftop and beach - so not necessarily an ideal retirement spot. Only in the Old Town is getting from up to down relatively straightforward. Elsewhere it's long steep stairs or that veritable seaside staple, the cliff lift. Only one of these is currently in operation, namely the Victorian Tramway which connects the gardens alongside the Grand down to Foreshore Road. Its fare is £1.20 single, whereas the cliff lift at Scarborough Spa is cannier and charges £1.50 up and £1 down. This is closed at present, however, while the South Cliff Gardens get a makeover, which makes this the first time I have ever seen the timetable for a cliff lift replacement bus service.

The southern seafront is separated from the main town by a deep valley. This sharp dip threatened to diminish footfall to the Spa so in 1827 the cast iron Cliff Bridge was built to provide level access across the divide. It's pedestrians only. It originally had a toll booth (scrapped by the council in 1951). It's both practical and elegant. And yet another cliff lift descends at the northern end, this time disused and repurposed as a cafe where punters can sit and eat cake inside the two original cars.

The best value tourist offer in town is the £3 annual pass to the two municipal museums. The Rotunda Museum is a cylindrical repository of fossils and geological treats purpose-built in 1829 to house the relics of the Scarborough Philosophical Society. Its first floor is a fairly standard display of rocks and dinosaur skeletons, but the second is a stunning domed gallery surrounded by wooden display cabinets stuffed with eclectic exhibits. Think pots, ammonites, busts and cellos to get some idea of the mix. A hand-drawn geological cross section of the Yorkshire coast encircles the upper balcony, alas now inaccessible because have you seen how narrow the staircase is? For the rest of your threequidsworth you need to climb the cliff to the Art Gallery on The Crescent to enjoy a selection of seascapes, portraits and much more modern temporary exhibitions. The big name displayed in pride of place up the staircase is Scarborough-born Lord Leighton, easily one of the most successful painters of the Victorian era but judged to have been overrated ever since. His former birthplace is now lost beneath the Brunswick Shopping Centre, specifically Poundland, so that's him told.

A completely separate Scarborough exists on the other side of the headland, focused around a second sweeping bay of similar size. It boasts better surf when the wind's up and a Blue Flag so can get busy with boarders. North Bay is generally much less developed and is overlooked by a sloping linear park and an arc of big houses including hotels like The Kimberley, The Kenton, The Ramleh and The Paragon. It would have been harder to reach before 1908 when the Marine Parade was opened around the sea-lashed foot of the headland, but now you can hitch a ride on an open-topped bus or join the kagouled retirees stoically trooping round from the harbour for a change of scene.

Keep going to the point where the cliffs eventually fade to nothing and you'll find a cluster of refreshment opportunities and rows of brightly-coloured beach huts. Behind them is Scarborough's famous Open Air Theatre, restored in 2010 after a lengthy mothballing. It's more a bank of seating opposite a removable stage and probably looked more impressive before they covered the lake, but you could have seen Snow Patrol here last month and Lionel Richie is due next summer. October options are limited, but the miniature North Bay Railway will happily whisk you a mile to Scalby Mills until the end of half term.

I've at least another half dozen postcards to write which I'll deliver tomorrow. In the meantime you might spot a few of the extras in my album of 20 Scarborough photos on Flickr.

 Thursday, October 14, 2021

York has long been a chocolate city.

Most tourists experience this by visiting a themed attraction, dropping in on a chocolatier or buying a KitKat. But you can also dig deeper into the history of the Rowntree dynasty by following one of five excellent Rowntree Walks published by the Rowntree Society. These impressively detailed resources are available separately online or in a 48-page booklet (which I had the foresight to pick up from the Tourist Information Centre four years ago). The walks sprawl extensively across the city so aren't do-able in one go, but are also flexibly dip-innable so when I had two hours spare I decided to give them a try. Do the Minster, the Castle and the museums first, obviously.

The Rowntree story starts above a grocer's shop, which is familiar territory, but in 1830s York rather than 1920s Grantham. Joseph Rowntree was born in lodgings above the family business in a street with the unlikely name of Pavement. It's only short but you've probably been because this is the street that iconic shopping alley the Shambles opens out into. The north side is now mostly Marks and Spencer, specifically the Food Hall, but the south side has retained a number of listed buildings including the one we seek. It'd be great if it was the saggy half-timbered beauty at number 12, now occupied by York Gin, but that's the 17th century Sir Thomas Herbert's House. Instead it's the less ostentatious building nextdoor where today we find Pizza Hut, so it still sells food except these days the cocoa options are Triple Chocolate Cookie Dough or a Hot Chocolate Brownie.

In the mid 19th century chocolate was more about drinking than biting off a chunk with a satisfying snap, so early products sold in the Rowntree's grocery shop included Iceland Moss Cocoa and Improved Homeopathic Cocoa. To get some idea of how the area once looked try slipping down the side passage into Lady Pecketts Yard. This narrow alleyway twists and descends toward the river, very much ticking the lamplit and characterful boxes even if it doesn't really go anywhere much. The flats above Pizza Hut are now known as Rowntree House, although its brass knocker has long been superseded by a push-button intercom. My guide booklet tells me that in the early days a dozen chocolate-making apprentices lodged upstairs, and these once included a certain George Cadbury from Birmingham.

It wasn't Joseph who built the first Rowntree's factory but his brother Henry who in 1864 bought up an old foundry ten minutes walk away at Tanners Moat. The business would have folded had Henry stayed in charge because he was more interested in publishing newspapers, but fortuitously after five years he took on Joseph as a partner and the company never looked back. Fruit Pastilles and Fruit Gums were first developed here in the 1880s and are still going strong. Again you've likely walked past the site because it's on the direct route between the station and the city centre - down on the right as you start to cross the River Ouse via Lendal Bridge. There's nothing to see today, the latest building on the site being a postmodern fortress for Aviva's many office minions. A supplementary factory just along the riverbank has become a much more pleasant garden... and includes a handle-free memorial to cholera-busting epidemiologist John Snow who was born across the street.

While we're in town, Walk One also suggests seeking out Rowntree Wharf. It doesn't take long to step behind York's tourist facade (round the back of a multi-storey car park is sufficient) to a secluded spot overlooking the river Foss. The substantial building rising above the cut started out as Leetham's Flour Mill, one of the largest in Europe, and resembles a thin fortification made of brick. In 1935 Rowntree's bought the empty mill to be their Navigation Warehouse, a place where bargefuls of cocoa beans and gum arabic could be unloaded after being shipped direct from Hull Docks. But road transport inexorably took precedence, taking over completely by the 1960s, and in 1989 the building's shell became an early conversion into flats and offices. Current residents can nip out over the private footbridge and be perusing the menu in Pizza Hut in five minutes flat.

But Joseph had moved his factory out of the city centre long before this. In the 1890s he bought up 60 acres on the Haxby Road, a mile north of the Minster, with the intention of creating a state-of-the-art industrial complex. It came with ornamental clocks at the entrances, a library and a gymnasium because Joseph's Quaker roots made him philanthropic towards his employees. Later additions included an open air swimming pool and a theatre... which is still there and putting on family-friendly dance shows and Disney-based offerings. The company even provided a halt on the adjacent railway line to enable long-distance commuting, but that's just a cycleway these days. And look, one of the original manufacturing blocks is still there.

Locals called it the skyscraper when it was built, being all of seven storeys high, but due to its nut-processing function it was officially the Almond Block. Behind it is the Cream Block, this time of 1936 vintage, and behind that the Cream Block Extension. This trio have been empty for many years but are now, as you may have guessed, in the early stages of redevelopment as luxury flats. The development's called The Cocoa Works (because The Chocolate Works was already taken) and two bedroom apartments on the top floor will be selling for £400,000+. Meanwhile the real work of mass-producing confectionery continues behind, since 1988 overseen not by Rowntree's but by Nestlé. Their cluster of labs, offices and factory buildings churns out whatever chocolates and fruit sweets the multinational owners still deign to manufacture in Britain, which probably includes Polos, maybe Aeros but no longer Smarties. We do know that 4½ million KitKats are made here every day, rising to five million once they've automated another stage of the process and laid off 98 workers.

I didn't quite get that far north on my brief visit because I had a train to catch, and the current factory's not much of a looker anyway. I also didn't have time to explore Joseph's retirement home in Clifton [Walk 2], York's first Rowntree-funded public park [Walk 3] or the Garden Village of New Earswick [Walk 5]. But as I started my hike back into town either the wind turned or the factory shift changed and the sweet smell of chocolate entered my nostrils, and it was heaven to be here, and all thanks to the foresight of Joseph Rowntree.

 Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Have you considered going sightseeing on the Hammersmith & City line?

Because now there's a map to help you do it.

Indeed there's one for every line except the Waterloo & City, and more besides.
To help families plan activities during half term, TfL has produced 18 culture maps, each with a unique design, highlighting places along Tube lines, London Overground and Docklands Light Railway for people of all ages to visit. The maps feature attractions such as the Olympic Park by Stratford station, Portobello Road market near Notting Hill Gate station and the famous 'Abbey Road' crossing close to Kilburn High Road. The maps can be downloaded by visiting londonblog.tfl.gov.uk/category/sightseeing.
They're new and yet not new, based on a virtually identical project three years ago but with slightly revamped maps. As well as tube, DLR and Overground there are also five maps based around 'leisure' bus routes, again really an old project repackaged, in this case with fresh illustrations containing less information than in 2018.

But today let's enjoy the treats the Hammersmith & City line has to offer. It's not all the treats, because there are far too many. It's not all the best ones, because several have been hived off to other maps (for example Madame Tussauds is on the Bakerloo and Petticoat Lane Market is on the Metropolitan). It's also not the selection you or I would have picked, but try not to get hung up on that. Instead let's focus on the ten TfL have actually selected.
Heading out on the Hammersmith & City line? Why not take a quick look at all the sights and attractions you can enjoy when using the line. From floating parks to zoology museums, there’s so much to see and do!
Technically there's only one floating park and one zoology museum, but let's not split hairs. Instead let's head off to the first tourist trap... in Bow.
📍 The Art Pavilion, Mile End Park (Bow Road)
Set within the leafy tranquillity of Mile End Park, The Art Pavilion is the perfect place to enjoy some local art.
Two problems. Firstly the nearest station to the Art Pavilion is Mile End, also on the H&C line, so they should have used that. Bow Road is three times further away. Secondly (and more importantly) the Art Pavilion is currently artless having been repurposed as a Tower Hamlets vaccination centre for the last six months. Sorry, this one's very closed.
📍 Whitechapel Gallery (Aldgate East)
With plenty of pop up exhibitions, this gallery is perfect for art lovers.
Sheesh that's a bland description - who would have guessed an art gallery would be enjoyed by art lovers? More awkwardly I've had to lift the description from the District line sightseeing page because the Whitechapel Gallery appears on both the District & H&C maps but is only described on the former.
📍 Barbican Cinema (Barbican)
Located in the Barbican Centre, the Barbican Cinema shows the best international new releases, talks with filmmakers and major curated seasons.
Not the Barbican, because that's on the Metropolitan line map, but the very excellent cinema. No Time To Die is the big film at the moment, which I guess counts as a international film release. Before you whinge about the word curated, that's how the Barbican describes its themed seasons.
📍 Charles Dickens Museum (King’s Cross St Pancras)
Take a step back in time and discover Charles Dickens’ former home in London.
A lovely little museum, often overlooked, but King's Cross isn't the closest station. Russell Square is nearer so you'd be better off taking the Piccadilly, indeed KXSP is twice as far away.
📍 Grant Museum of Zoology (Euston Square)
The Grant Museum is the only remaining university zoological museum in London. It houses around 67,000 specimens, covering the whole of the Animal Kingdom.
It is perhaps not unexpected that only one university zoological museum remains in London. I would however like to take issue with the idea that 67,000 specimens could possibly cover "the whole of the Animal Kingdom", but that's the kind of hyperbole you get when marketing folk write stuff instead of experts.
📍 The Regent’s Park (Great Portland Street)
With a stunning rose garden, an open air theatre, ZSL London Zoo and dedicated sports areas, there’s something for everyone at Regent’s Park!
'Something for everyone' is another lazy phrase marketingfolk slip in when they've nothing better to add. More importantly the rose garden peaked some months back, the curtain came down on the open air theatre's summer season three weeks ago and it's over a mile's walk to the entrance to London Zoo.
📍 Floating Pocket Park (Paddington)
Buoy Your Spirits At Paddington’s Fabulous Floating Park, perfect on a sunny day!
We're barrel-scraping here because the floating park in Paddington Basin is quite small, basically three pontoons with benches, astroturf and a bar on top. Also it's at the far end of the basin relative to Paddington station's H&C exit so you'd have been better off getting out at Edgware Road.
📍 Paddington Library (Royal Oak)
With a separate building dedicated to children’s books, it’s the perfect place to take the kids!
This is the fourth time the copywriters have resorted to using the word 'perfect', and I for one am tempted to dock their pay. The children's library is really close to Royal Oak station, so that's a win, but inside a newbuild underneath a Baptist church so probably not what you're expecting.
📍 Museum of Brands (Ladbroke Grove)
Take a nostalgic journey through 200 years of branding and consumer culture at the Museum of Brands.
Marvellous museum. Faultless choice.
📍 Shepherd's Bush Market (Goldhawk Road)
This is another attraction which appears on the H&C map but not in the H&C listings so there is no blurb to attract you. It's a fascinating place though, a classic London market with many longstanding Afro-Caribbean stalls... but recently bought up by venture capitalists keen to redevelop the wider site, so watch this space.

It sometimes feels like TfL's social-media-facing content is written by people who don't really get transport, or indeed geography. Every time you read TfL content that's sprinkled with emojis like confetti, best take it with a pinch of salt and check before you travel.

 Tuesday, October 12, 2021

What Britain needs is a National Delivery Database.

An inventory of specific instructions for every address in the country.
Something for delivery companies to refer to before they arrive.
A simple solution to make sure they deliver it right.

We could all have our own entry.

You need to park in the layby around the corner in Elder Street.
The entrance to the block is through the gate on the right.
19A is the top flat but the lower doorbell.
If we're not in the old lady nextdoor at number 17 usually is.
Only leave parcels in the porch as a last resort.

It could avoid all sorts of delays, misunderstandings and missed deliveries.

We live at the end of a long muddy drive - do not attempt in a large van.

Whatever you do, don't leave the parcel with the neighbours at number 43.

Under no circumstances leave a package in my bin on a Wednesday.

Imagine how much time could be saved if Parcelforce, DPD, Hermes, etc checked these bespoke instructions before they turned up.

Don't walk all the way down the driveway, just leave it behind the shed.

Satnavs always get it wrong, you need to take the third turning off the ring road.

The intercom is on the wall along the left hand side of the building.

You can't park outside, sorry, not since they put a cycle lane in. Also if you try parking on the pavement the traffic wardens will get you because they're based just down the road so they're always walking past - YOU WILL GET A TICKET. There is a parking space 100m down the road but it's only operational between 10 and 4 so do not try delivering outside these times. Sometimes it's already full because lots of other people are getting deliveries in which case there are no legal options but you could try squeezing in front of the church gates - they don't usually penalise you there especially if you're quick. If the package is thicker than a video tape it will not fit in the letterbox. Don't blame me, I didn't choose the design. The intercom system is a bit ropey and you might need to shout to be heard above the sound of passing traffic. Please note I normally only answer the doorbell if I'm expecting a delivery. This is because so many delivery drivers just stand there pressing all the buttons in a desperate attempt to be buzzed in and I've grown very tired of being expected to admit a package that isn't mine. Do not leave packages in the entrance lobby, we've had problems with them going missing. The address is on the tenth floor. Sorry the lift isn't working at the moment. Please knock loudly.

It'd probably prove necessary to restrict each entry to, say, 100 characters.

Parking is available in a designated bay between 10am and 4pm only.

It might be helpful if the database included a personalised location map more accurate than just a general postcode.

There are 12 houses in the street, we're the third one on the left.

The bungalow is two down from the corner of the lane inbetween 'Oak View' and 'Trevelyan'.

But it might all end up getting a bit passive aggressive.

If turning up outside the designated hours a phone call would be appreciated.

Do not fold means DO NOT FOLD.

If leaving a card, please try to scribble legibly.

Why not just throw it over the hedge?!!

From my sofa I can see you coming down the path, so don't try leaving a note saying I wasn't in.

There's also a risk the information could end up being out of date.

We're out this morning so Jackie at number 6 has said she'll take it.

There are roadworks in the High Street so best come via the big roundabout.

Hurry up with the pizzas, we're starving!

And if the database had widespread public access it might make crime a lot easier.

Best buzz flat number 12, they always let anyone in.

We're normally out on the school run between 8.30 and 9.

The lady nextdoor is hard of hearing but she normally has her door on the latch.

Also there could be significant privacy issues.

Please call 5 minutes before arriving. My mobile phone number is 07700 900364.

Don't park in front of Mrs Lewis at number 22, she's a curtain-twitching miseryguts.

We do not take packages for Daniel Smith, he moved out last month to 158 York Street, NW7.

And you'd probably be wasting your time because drivers are always under serious pressure from management to make deliveries as fast as possible so they'd never have the time to read what you'd so carefully written anyway.

But a National Delivery Database is exactly what Britain needs.

Even though it would never work.

 Monday, October 11, 2021

Where in London is furthest from a bus route?

Very few places are very far away. This is because TfL have a commitment to a 'comprehensive' bus network, ensuring that at least one route runs within 400m of the vast majority of homes. This is why so many bus routes twiddle round housing estates and the suburban periphery - a deliberate attempt to keep as many people as possible within five minutes walk of a bus route.

But there are parts of the capital where the distance is 500m, 600m or even further, and unsurprisingly they tend to be places where hardly anyone lives.

To try to work out where these places are we need a map of London bus routes. TfL abdicated their responsibility on this five years ago, but they do have a private skeleton map which the Deputy Mayor for Transport once kindly tweeted so I'm going to use that.

Most of the capital is (very) well covered by bus routes, but there are a few gaps here and there, notably around big parks and in more rural corners. Having measured the largest voids I've come to the impressive conclusion that only one row of cottages in Greater London is more than one mile (1600m) from a bus route. It's on the outer edge of Havering not far from the M25, and here it is.

Just over one mile from a bus route (purple blobs)

Aveley Road, Havering
The Greater London boundary meanders wildly around the gravel pits, sparse lanes and young forest south of Upminster. This desolate landscape (which I once described as the Hacton Void) is spurned by TfL and also by Thurrock's Ensignbus, I suspect rightly so given how very few people live here. Much of the area is just within a mile of route 370 on Ockendon Road but one short stretch of Aveley Road misses out, south of the crossroads on the way to Belhus Woods Country Park. A couple of so-called farms are actually hotbeds of lowkey commercial activity, where Karen's Wedding Studio hires out prom dresses, The Coffee Shop serves drinks with cake and Plant Perfection caters for all your garden and pet needs. But a single row of six longstanding cottages abuts one bend in the road, which along with a detached neighbour are the only homes in Greater London to be more than a mile from a bus route. It's fine, everybody here drives, and probably has a penchant for engine-tinkering if the adjacent yards are anything to go by. These houses really should be in Thurrock, and very very nearly are, but their anomalous presence makes them London's sole bus outlier.

Aveley Marshes, Havering
There's no point sending buses to the Rainham landfill site beyond the silt lagoons south of the A13, as you'll know if you've ever walked the final stage of the London Loop. Not only are there no bus routes within a mile but there are no houses either, plus the landfill site isn't publicly accessible anyway, so this bus 'cold spot' isn't technically relevant. For anyone who works at the riverside industrial estate at Coldharbour Point the nearest bus route turns out to be across the Thames in Erith, but today's post is only about straight line distances otherwise this estuarine spot would take the crown by miles.

Almost one mile from a bus route (orange blobs)

Skeet Hill Lane, Orpington
In deep countryside between Orpington and the M25 are a couple of country lanes and a few isolated farms. One's even called Lone Barn Farm to ram the point home. Crown Wood rubs up against the Kent boundary and is almost a mile from route R9 rounding the Ramsden Estate, although nobody quite lives this far down the lane. The junction with Gorse Road may just scrape one mile from a bus route if TfL withdraws route R7 from Maypole, as a current consultation intends.

Richmond Park
The only way to get almost a mile from a bus route without going to the edge of London is to head to the middle of Richmond Park. I'm ignoring the Wednesdays-only minibus, obviously. The open space north of the Pen Ponds is equidistant from buses in Richmond, Roehampton and Kingston Vale... and all the lovelier for it.

Honourable mentions should be given to the easternmost and northwesternmost points in the capital. Fen Lane in Bulphan is over a mile from the nearest TfL route but closer to an infrequent Essex service, so doesn't count. Meanwhile Springwell Lane by Stockers Lake is a mile and a half from Harefield but ridiculously close to built-up Rickmansworth and a slew of Hertfordshire bus services, so doesn't count either.

Over three quarters of a mile from a bus route (yellow blobs)
(and not on, or very close to, the Greater London boundary)

Trent Park, Enfield (to the north of the big house)
Breakspear Road North (between Harefield and Ruislip)
RAF Northolt (and the A40 dual carriageway)
Osterley Park and Windmill Lane (sheikhs don't catch buses)
Whitewebbs Lane (east of Crews Hill, by the King & Tinker)
Crossness Sewage Works (specifically the Thames Path)
Layhams Road (between New Addington and Keston)
Heathrow Airport (between T5 and T2&3, so entirely irrelevant)
New Years Green, Hillingdon (a miserable hamlet west of Ruislip)
Wimbledon Common (round the golf course)
Darland's Lake (between Totteridge and Mill Hill)

The only place in Inner London to be over half a mile from a bus route is the middle of Hampstead Heath, somewhere near the tumulus.

Yes, there is a serious flaw in measuring distances in a straight line which is that geography isn't that simple, so rivers, railways, roads and all sorts of other obstructions get in the way. And yes, practically speaking the important thing is the nearest bus stop, not the nearest bus route, so everything above is a hideous simplification. But it is desperately impressive that (virtually) every Londoner lives within a mile of a bus route and every Inner Londoner within half a mile... and almost all of us within 400m.

 Sunday, October 10, 2021

The repurposed tube map has been a staple ever since artist Simon Patterson took a 1992 copy and replaced station names with famous people. The latest version is the Black History Tube Map, an official collaboration between TfL and the Black Cultural Archives to celebrate Black History Month.

The aim is to celebrate the rich and varied contribution Black people have made to London and the UK from Roman times to the present day. Each line represents a different category from Sports (Bakerloo) to Literary (Victoria) and Trailblazer (District) to LGBTQ+ (Jubilee). Categories do not overlap at interchange stations, so for example Darcus Howe at Moorgate is not a Campaigning Georgian Medic.

The map doesn't mean much without a list of biographies (or a lot of Googling), but TfL accidentally released a few of these last week in a blogpost they've since deleted.
Princess Ademola (Rickmansworth station)
Princess Omo-Oba Adenrele Ademola was a Nigerian princess and nurse. She trained as a nurse in London in the 1930s living in Africa Hostel in Camden Town – an important social and political scene for West Africans in Britain. Her nursing career spanned 30 years, including through World War II. She was the subject of a film, Nurse Ademola, made by the Colonial Film Unity. The film was screened across West Africa and said to have inspired many African viewers for the imperial war effort.
The map isn't yet generally available (because everything has to wait for the official sharing of the press release) but can currently be downloaded via a convenient Wordpress link. It looks to be a great way to highlight historic cultural diversity, and you will no doubt read more about it later in the week.

Also note that an additional black spur has appeared on the Northern line. It connects at Nana Bonsu showing that some trains on the Arthur Wharton branch divert off the John Archer extension and terminate at Sam King instead. It may only be present because this is art, but keep your eyes peeled for further information.

Just inside the entrance to Westfield you can pick up issue 2 of the E20 Journal. This is a big glossy publication with bright orange card covers, bespoke cover art and full colour printing across 48 pages. It claimed to be a celebration of 10 years in Stratford, because yes it's that old now, so I carted a copy home.

Naturally it's vacuous brand-obsessed marketing fodder. Over half the content is fashion focused, including eight pages of zoomed-in accessories, and the remainder barely ticks the anniversary box. One double page focuses on sweet treats to graze on, another on "iconic beauty brands and their must-try hero products" and another on how to assemble the perfect cocktail bar at home. It is of course very much not aimed at me, but interestingly I took a copy home whereas the target audience shopper behind me picked up a copy, flicked through and put it straight back.

Which got me thinking. I see Westfield as an extremely convenient shopping mall where I can buy socks, paperbacks and 59p birthday cards. Westfield however sees itself as an upmarket flagship lifestyle destination packed with retail, hospitality and entertaiment opportunities, because for many people these days that's a default day out. And whilst high streets and shopping malls have always partly served this purpose, the 21st century has seen the inexorable rise of commercial enclaves specifically designed to harvest the cream of London's disposable income. I've decided to call them dearstinations.

London's 21st century dearstinations

1) Westfield London: That's the Shepherd's Bush one, the ultimate honey trap, carefully zoned to keep the luxury cluster separate from the plebs. You could walk round in circles for hours, which is entirely the idea. It even includes a capitalist theme park for kids at £30+ a time because they very much saw you coming.
2) The O2: Everything inside the former Millennium Dome costs, unless it's a sponsored attraction by a big name brand hoping you'll like them more after you've been inside. Essentially it's a crescent of restaurants and an underwhelming outlet mall surrounding a big-ticket arena, plus the opportunity to walk over the roof for an additional charge. Hen parties welcomed. Return trip on the Dangleway optional.
3) Westfield Stratford City: As previously discussed.
4) King's Cross: The redeveloped area north of the canal lures you in with its fountains, then nudges you into the screaming void of Coal Drops Yard ("This is boutique shopping at its best") and hopes to retain you in its bars, brasseries and unnecesarily bijou cinema. Not as amazing as it thinks it is.
5) Wembley Park: A latecomer to the party, but they'd really like you to visit their outlet mall (which actually has bargains, unlike North Greenwich), their Boxpark canteen and all the other supposed attractions the developer's marketing team regularly screech about.

Less mercenary days out are always available.

10 things that happened this week #coronavirus

• amber list scrapped
• £20 Universal Credit top-up ends
• Wales to introduce vaccine passport
• fiscal meteorite cannot be ignored (PM)
• travel advice eased for 32 countries
• vaccine arrives in Antarctica
• Wales can expect "a more usual Christmas"
• 1 in 14 secondary schoolchildren have virus
• vaccination begins in South Sudan
• 2 million booster jabs given

Worldwide deaths: 4,800,000 → 4,850,000
Worldwide cases: 235,000,000 → 237,000,000
UK deaths: 136,910 → 137,697
UK cases: 7,871,014 → 8,120,713
1st vaccinations: 48,863,490 → 49,132,678 (85.4%)
2nd vaccinations: 44,901,832 → 45,135,589 (78.5%)
FTSE: up 1% (7027 → 7095)

 Saturday, October 09, 2021

I'm a firm believer that if you go out for a long enough walk you will always see something interesting. I managed this yesterday in Leyton while walking down Crawley Road, I think for the first time, where I spotted this blue plaque on the side of a building.

Blimey, I thought, Essex County Cricket Club used to be based here... in somewhere that's no longer Essex.

Leyton Cricket Ground is a picturesque spot, or at least it is for Leyton where the scenic bar is not high. Most of the surrounding area is a mesh of Victorian terraces but a large green sporting space has been retained facing the High Road, opening up a brief sylvan vista as you pass by. Across the outfield is an elaborate and enticing cricket pavilion with a first floor verandah and three half-timbered gables topped with a domed cupola. It is precisely the kind of building in which one could laze away a summer's afternoon watching not very much happening not very often whilst within easy walking distance of a bar. And if you wander in from Crawley Road you can see it up close.

Essex County Cricket Club was established in 1876, initially playing in Brentwood, but attendances proved disappointing so ten years later they switched to a new home in Leyton. Essex's first first-class cricket match took place here in May 1894 (a loss to Leicestershire by 68 runs), and the following summer they joined the County Championship. Leyton's finest cricketing summer was in 1897 when Essex were runners-up to Surrey. In 1933 they sold the lease and started playing elsewhere, returning to Leyton between 1957 and 1977 for a week each summer. Chelmsford's County Ground has been the established home ground ever since.

A remarkable fact is that Essex CCC have played more first class cricket matches in Leyton than anywhere else.
» County Ground (Leyton) 407
» County Ground (Chelmsford) 391
» Southchurch Park (Southend) 130
» Castle Park (Colchester) 123
» Valentines Park (Ilford) 116
» Chalkwell Park (Westcliff-on-Sea) 69
» Vista Road Recreation Ground (Clacton) 60
» Old County Ground (Brentwood) 58
» Gidea Park Sports Ground (Romford) 34
» Garrison A Cricket Ground (Colchester) 25
» Garon Park (Southend) 7
» Hoffmann's Sports and Social (Chelmsford) 3
» Harlow Sportcentre (Harlow) 2
Chelmsford is due to take the crown within a couple of years, but as things stand at the end of the 2021 season Leyton remains triumphant. Throw in all the matches played in Ilford and Romford and it turns out that 39% of Essex's first class matches have been played in what's now Greater London, and if you strip out all the Southends a minority have been played within what's currently administratively called Essex.

Retrospectively it looks weird but it made perfect sense at the time. For the first 89 years of the club's existence Greater London hadn't been created and Essex stretched all the way to the River Lea. What's more, and it's easy to forget this, the majority of Essex's population used to be in the Metropolitan boroughs that were taken away in 1965.

In 1921 the dark green area on this map had a population of 925,000 and the rest of Essex only 545,000. The split between urban and rural was already stark. This also helps to explain why Essex holding its first cricket matches in Brentwood didn't pull the crowds whereas Leyton was a lot easier to fill, despite being less than a mile from the county boundary. The pre-eminent district at the time was West Ham (i.e. half of current Newham) whose population was an astonishing 20% of the entire county of Essex. The balance has shifted somewhat in the intervening hundred years, with 'proper' Essex now in the majority, so playing in Chelmsford makes a lot more sense.

Which got me wondering about London's other first class cricket grounds.
Middlesex CCC was founded in 1864 in the county of Middlesex. They've hosted well over 90% of their first class matches at Lord's, even though it's been in the County of London since 1889.
Kent CCC have been playing first class cricket since 1842. They've played at several grounds, almost all beyond the Greater London boundary, but since 1965 have played a handful of matches in Blackheath and Beckenham.
Surrey CCC was established in 1845 when the county stretched all the way to Southwark. They're very much an Oval-based team with over 2000 matches in Kennington, about 100 in Guildford and fewer than 20 elsewhere.
So that's one county which no longer exists but still plays within it, one county that comfortably ignores London and another that hardly ever plays in the county it's named after. Throw in Essex, whose most-played venue is no longer in the county, and Leyton Cricket Ground no longer looks like quite such an outlier. As with so much of cricket, it's all about a boundary.

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my special London features
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capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
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unlost rivers
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Herbert Dip
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ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
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war of the worlds
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top of the pops
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