Saturday, January 31, 2004
BBC Radio 4: Tuesday 31st January 2006
05:43 Prayer For The Day "Oh God, please let public service broadcasting survive."
05:45 Farming Today Including a report from Andrew Gilligan's remote sheep farm in the Outer Hebrides.
06:00 Today The cautious investigative news programme, featuring...
06:05 We ring Downing Street for permission to broadcast
06:07 Pause for Thought
06:40 Hard-hitting exposé of the Bolivian llama trade
07:15 What The Papers Say - mostly provocative lies, but the government doesn't shut them down
07:55 Commercial Break
08:25 A Party Political Broadcast on behalf of the highest bidder
08:30 Rupert Murdoch's Wholly Unbiased Editorial Half Hour
09:45 Book Of The Week Alistair Campbell reads from 'The Hutton Report' (part 37, repeat)
10:00 Woman's Hour Fern Britton brings you the latest showbiz gossip and make-up tips.
11:00 Any Questions? Apologies, but we're not allowed to answer them any more.
12:05 You And Yours Investigating the sell-off of the BBC proposed in Tessa Jowell's new BBC Charter.
12:30 I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue Still wondering where those weapons of mass destruction are.
13:00 The World At One Special report - is freedom of speech under global threat (or is it just here)?
13:30 Appeal on behalf of The Lost Licence Fee: please send your £116 to BBC TV Centre, The Office, Trading Estate, Slough.
14:00 The Archers (sponsored by McDonalds, where the beef comes from)
14:15 Afternoon Play "Auntie's Last Stand"
15:15 Desert Island Discs Greg Dyke is cast away.
16:00 Meet The Director General Tony Blair tells us how much he's enjoying his new job.
17:00 PM Gordon Brown, obviously.
18:00 Home Truths The BBC Governors apologise deeply for everything they may ever have done.
18:30 Just A Minute Because that's all the news we're allowed to broadcast these days.
18:31 Today In Parliament All those jolly good things that the Government announced this afternoon.
19:00 Shipping Forecast Tape-looped for a full hour, because it's terribly uncontroversial.
20:00 Sorry, we've run out of money for today, so time to join Talksport for an evening of phone-ins and betting updates.
posted 08:00 :
Friday, January 30, 2004Theobald's Park
I'm just back from deepest Hertfordshire, my two days of 'team-building' complete. Thankfully what we got to do was quite useful - no trying to support bricks on towers constructed from newspaper for us - although other groups of delegates on site weren't quite so lucky. I've suffered from both overeating and overheating, so it's good to have escaped the corporate hotel lifestyle and to be back home again.
The old mansion at Theobald's Park looked delightful in the snow, looking out across the glistening Lea Valley, surrounded by deer-filled woodland. The original Theobalds was the favourite hunting lodge of James I, but fell into ruins after the king died here in 1625. The main part of the present building dates from the 18th century and has since been owned by an MP (1763), a rich London brewer (1820), the Admiral of the Fleet (1910), the Metropolitan Police riding school (1939), a local secondary school (1951), and finally a conference centre (1995). The latest owners have restored some of the old house to gilt-edged wood-panelled splendour, but I don't think that flipcharts, vending machines and Sky TV were part of the original Georgian decoration.
And yes, down at the end of the drive, within sight of the 'Lady Meux restaurant', lies Temple Bar (see yesterday). Or, at least, what's left of Temple Bar, which isn't much. Just a small section of the east wall remains, surrounded by towering scaffolding that gives some idea of the scale of the original structure. A handful of workmen were hiding in the portakabins for warmth, occasionally popping out to dismantle a little more of the remaining wall. Some of the large stones that made up the arch were lying around on pallets, covered by snow, ready to be transported back to London. It won't be long before there's nothing left here but a muddy clearing in the woods, and conference delegates will have to make do with a stroll in the Italian Garden, or just another dip in the spa bath.
You'll be able to see Temple Bar reborn later this year, back in London at Paternoster Square beside St Paul's Cathedral. Latest news here. This ancient gate to the City of London certainly deserves to be seen by more than a few corporate freeloaders, squirrels and delivery lorries, but I'm sure one corner of Hertfordshire will be sad to see it go.
posted 18:00 :
Thursday, January 29, 2004Temple Bar
Work are sending me away, out of snow-splattered London, for two days. It's only for one night, but I can't say I'm delighted to be uprooted from my spiritual home merely for the sake of 'team-building'. I think that was the excuse they gave anyway. Still, things could be much worse. They're sticking us in a country-manor-cum-conference-centre within half a mile of the M25, which is barely outside London at all. And, lurking in the grounds, forgotten for decades, lies one of the City's most famous landmarks...
Temple Bar used to be located where the Strand meets Fleet Street, one of the ancient gateways into the City of London, named after the local Inns of Court. The first bar was just a chain across the road, the second a wooden structure with a prison on top, and the third (and final) a magnificent arch built from Portland stone. And yes, like everything else in this Fire-ravaged part of London it was built by Sir Christopher Wren - did this man ever rest? In the 18th century the heads of traitors were displayed on iron spikes across the top of the arch. Sorry, this is all sounding like a repeat of last week, isn't it?
By the late 19th century there was just one tiny problem - the gateways through the arch were rather narrow and therefore unsuited to ever-increasing amounts of road traffic. In 1878 the Corporation of London dismantled the arch, brick by brick, and hid it away in a yard off Farringdon Road. A pedestal with a large gold dragon was erected in its place, and the old bar was forgotten.
Salvation came from an unlikely source. Lady Meux was a banjo-playing barmaid who had married into high society but wanted desperately to prove her respectability. She had the bricks of Temple Bar shipped up to Hertfordshire on horse-drawn trolleys and reassembled in the grounds of her country house - Theobald's Park. Garden parties were held to celebrate its arrival, and such famous people as Edward VII and Winston Churchill were entertained in the arch's upper chamber. For a brief season, Temple Bar was back in the limelight. It didn't last. Before long the monument was lying fenced off and forgotten in overgrown woodland, slowly crumbling away.
Until recently, that is. Suddenly Temple Bar is on its way back to the City, not to its original location but to a new site in the shadow of St Paul's Cathedral. This is Paternoster Square (above left), a new piazza of questionable architectural merit, yet another swathe of office space and designer shops. The developers want to add a certain historical respectability to their new project, just like Lady Meux, so they're having Temple Bar shipped all the way back from Hertfordshire. Workmen started dismantling the arch at Theobalds last October and it appears I'm visiting only just in time before they take the last few bricks down for good. Meanwhile the scaffolding is going up in Paternoster Square (right) and Temple Bar should be reassembled here by the end of the year.
An excellent website charts the progress of the Temple Bar project, with daily photos of the stonemasons at work and all the latest news (they found a time capsule inside one brick a couple of weeks ago).
So, I may be out of general circulation until late tomorrow, but at least I'll have another slice of lost London to keep me company. Hopefully I'll have time to sneak out from the planned team-building activities to take a look at the team doing the unbuilding. Temple Bar, poor thing, has been trapped out of town for over a century. I'm only away for the one night, but I'm pleased we'll both be back home soon.
posted 07:00 :
Wednesday, January 28, 200410 things I can't be bothered to blog about
1) Tuition fees: Last night MPs were invited to vote for either 'a complete disaster' or 'a complete disaster'. Alas, the complete disaster won. Stilll, if 3 MPs had voted the other way, the other complete disaster would have happened instead.
2) US Presidential primaries: For heaven's sake, the election is still 40 weeks away. Whatever the outcome of these primaries, come November and US citizens will also be asked to vote for either 'a complete disaster' or 'a complete disaster', as usual. Britain's next election looks slightly further away this morning, but at least it'll all be over in a month.
3) The Hutton Inquiry: The finger of blame is about to be pointed. Someone will take the rap, probably someone with overall responsibilty rather than direct responsibility, and the feasting media vultures may then be satisfied. Me, I'd prefer to call an inquiry to find out who's responsible for the culture of blame developing in this country.
4) Leaky tabloids: So much for secrecy. The Sun (which worships the PM and despises the BBC) owned by Rupert Murdoch (who likes the PM and hates the BBC) has leaked the Hutton report (which apparently exonerates the PM and blames the BBC). One day, one day, this execrable rag might do something I don't shout back at.
5) I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here: Is Johnny Rotten selling out? Does Jordan have a three-dimensional character? Who's wearing a toupee? How do we tell which ones are the cockroaches and which aren't? And why are so many of us watching? Did you see last night's...?
6) The Mydoom email worm: I got home last night to discover my inbox filled by viral spam. I haven't opened any, but it appears that the worm has been taking my email address in vain. I'd like to apologise now to jose at cdwow, robert at amazon and anna at tesco - I didn't send those emails, honest.
7) The Oscar nominations: Some films will win. Most films won't. Everyone will argue that the films that didn't win should have done. Repeat over 460 different categories. Yawn. The only interesting thing about the 2004 Oscars is that this will be the first time they've been awarded on February 29th since 1940 (when Gone With The Wind won 8, by the way).
8) Fuel-cell buses: I finally saw one of those new pollution-free buses going past my house the other day. It looked like a normal single decker, but with clouds of non-stop steam gushing upwards into the air. I noticed they'd had to write 'no emissions' all over the bus in very big letters so that passers-by didn't get too worried.
9) Burberry scarves: Sorry, but the cold weather has brought this tasteless neckwear onto the streets in enormous numbers. Wool, as worn by sheep. However, I think I've discovered Britain's biggest Burberry fashion victim - here (from ChavScum - "a humorous guide to Britain's burgeoning peasant underclass")
10) Snow: It didn't, did it? Well, it did a bit a bit North, and a lot a lot North, but nothing of note here. If our weather forecasters cry wolf again, we're just not going to believe them next time are we? Same time next year then.
Drat... 10 things I could be bothered to blog about
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, January 27, 2004Government Snow Warning
Remember Winter? We used to have Winters once, before our industrial policies kick-started inexorable global warming. Well, our weather boffins tell us that a brief spell of proper Winter is on its way. There may even be snow. Don't be scared - many other countries survive Winter relatively unscathed each year. However, just in case you're worried by the threat of total whiteout, here are some top tips to help you through the imminent cold spell.
• Wear a woolly hat to preserve body warmth, because everybody else will be and nobody will laugh at you, honest.
• Get out that sledge you've been meaning to use since 1987. You can put it away unused later.
• Pop round and check that an elderly neighbour isn't sitting in their back garden wearing only a dressing gown.
• Make sure that, in national news coverage, six snowflakes in London are given higher priority than six-foot drifts in Northumberland.
• Hunt down that free plastic ice scraper that Reader's Digest sent you last year.
• Make the most of all the free heating available in shopping malls, cinemas, trains and your neighbour's house.
• Zip up your parka really tight, and make that furry hood stick forward like a snorkel.
• Take time out to remind yourself how negative numbers work.
• Bore your
grandchildren rigid by telling them that it always used to be like this when you were a kid.
• Add sugar to your birdbath to lower the temperature at which the water in it freezes.
• Stay indoors and wait for the entire UK transport network to suddenly grind to a halt.
• Stock up on tins of warming soup, because that means going out in the cold to buy them.
• Sleep with your windows open.
• Use the snow to make snowmen, unless you balance this by building an equivalent number of snowwomen.
• Run out of anti-freeze and end up joining the community of broken-down vehicles on the hard shoulder of your local motorway.
• Moan that you can't get to the airport to fly off on your skiing holiday.
• Wonder why that nice man who sells the Big Issue seems to have suddenly disappeared.
• Try to cross the road in the slipstream of one of our gritter lorries.
• Read tomorrow's newspapers - use them instead to protect your car's windscreen from frost.
• Go outside and lick the salt off the pavement.
• Be surprised if nothing much happens and the whole thing's a complete anti-climax.
posted 07:00 :
Monday, January 26, 2004Are you Spatially Unaware?
I firmly believe that some people have no idea quite how much space they're taking up. This has nothing to do with weight, and everything to do with thoughtlessness. These people blunder through life oblivious to everyone but themselves, getting in everybody else's way, never once aware that they might be inconveniencing those around them. We've all met them, we've all been annoyed by them... but are you one yourself? Probably without noticing? Test yourself against this handy checklist. Score 5 points for each that applies to you.
Do you ever...
• Walk around in a busy public place completely engrossed in a book or newspaper?
• Walk three-abreast down a two-abreast pavement, forcing oncoming pedestrians into the road?
• Tip your plane seat back as far as it will go, from the moment your flight is airborne until just before it lands?
• Insist on using a pushchair the size of a wheelbarrow in the middle of a crowded department store?
• Stand on the left on an escalator or, even worse, stand in the middle carrying a lot of shopping?
• Pull your wheelie suitcase along behind you at an angle greater than 20 degrees to the vertical?
• Speed down the empty outside lane before some roadworks, then try to nudge your way back into the front of the queue?
• Allow your elbows to take up more than half of an armrest, digging into the ribs of the person beside you?
• Park your car in a space so small that nobody around you will ever get into their car afterwards?
• Use the middle urinal when there are three to choose from?
• Hold hands with your partner in public? (sweet, but you're completely blocking the pavement for us single people)
• Jump every red light because you refuse to believe that the Highway Code applies to cyclists?
• Fail to hold open a door because you didn't look behind you to see if anyone else was following?
• Take up more than two-thirds of a double bed, squeezing your partner into a small strip down the edge?
• Drive 20mph below the speed limit down a long winding single carriageway road, with or without a caravan?
• Leave your supermarket trolley blocking a whole aisle while you're busy hunting for something else?
• Insist on walking up an escalator but really slowly, gathering a seething queue behind you?
• Stop suddenly in the middle of a narrow passageway to take a call on your mobile?
• Barge into a train carriage to grab a seat before the rest of us have even started getting off?
• Wear particularly strong aftershave or perfume which lingers for minutes after you've passed by?
How did you score?
0: You must be insufferable to live with.
5-15: You are spatially aware, and the world is a happier place as a result.
20-35: Look around you a bit more, and see if you can't think of others a bit more often.
40-55: I meet people like you every day. You meet people like me every day. The difference is, I notice.
56-59: It's impossible to score 56-59. You might want to learn to add up first.
60-95: You are one of the great un-overtakeable, and the rest of us hate you.
100: You are ideally suited to a career in politics, and the world is in big trouble.
I couldn't be bothered to do the test because I knew it wouldn't apply to me: I think you've just proved my point.
posted 07:00 :
Sunday, January 25, 2004Oranges and lemons
can be read all on one page, here.
posted 19:00 :
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head
Just to the northwest of Marble Arch, where the Edgware Road meets the end of Oxford Street, stands a cobbled triangular traffic island. It's all barriered off, and pretty difficult to reach without getting yourself mown down by passing vehicles. Nobody gives it a second look, but for centuries this was the site of the most watched entertainment in town. This is Tyburn, for six centuries home to London's public executions.
The River Tyburn ran (indeed still runs, somewhere underground) from Hampstead to the Thames, and the first public hangings took place from tree branches along its banks. In 1220 the first gallows was built, and in 1571 the infamous Tyburn Tree was constructed. This was a huge wooden tripod, 18 feet high with crossbeams 9 feet long. Prisoners suffered a slow agonising death from asphyxiation, which gave the waiting crowds a real spectacle to watch. If you liked that sort of thing, which tens of thousands of did.
Condemned prisoners started their last day at Newgate Prison, two miles away from Tyburn, just outside the old city walls. At noon they set off on a horse-drawn cart through the prison gates, with the bells of neighbouring St Sepulchre's church ringing out to mourn their passing. That's the bells of Old Bailey from the nursery rhyme - you knew there'd be a connection eventually. The procession stopped outside the church, where the prisoners received a nosegay of flowers, and stopped at a tavern or two later along the route so they could enjoy a final pint of ale. The phrase 'on the wagon' is reputed to derive from these pub stops - when the prisoners climbed back on the cart they would definitely never drink again.
Huge crowds lined Holborn and what-would-be Oxford Street, cheering and jeering the condemned. You can read more about the journey here, or perhaps relive most of the experience on board a modern number 8 bus. At Tyburn itself a grandstand was built and there was a real festival atmosphere - for all but a few present, that is. The prisoners' last speeches were drowned by the roar of the mob, then they were finally blindfolded and strung up. The cart beneath the prisoners was pulled away, and they were left to die. This could take nearly an hour. The crowd listened for their screams, and watched for the tell tale dribble of urine dripping from one leg that meant death had finally arrived.
The last public hanging at Tyburn took place in 1783, Executions then moved to a site immediately outside Newgate Prison, where crowd control was easier, with the last public hanging in the UK held here as late as 1868. The closure of Tyburn finally allowed respectable London to grow rapidly to the northwest. A convent (with flash webpage) was founded close by the site of the old gallows, and a small group of snooker-playing nuns still pray for the souls of the dead. Most Londoners may drive past Tyburn without noticing, but the capital's punishment has not been forgotten by everyone.
posted 09:00 :
Saturday, January 24, 2004Here comes a candle to light you to bed
[Oranges and Lemons trivia: The City of London is divided into 25 wards for electoral and ceremonial purposes (map here). Both St Clements and St Martins lie inside the tiny ward of Candlewick (old map here, new map here, number of residents on the electoral roll - two). The ward is named after Candlewick Street, now much better known as Cannon Street.]
It's hard to imagine modern life without electric light. Flick a switch or walk out onto the street nowadays and the sun never sets. Go back just 200 years, however, and London was still lit only by candles and oil lamps. Richer folk lit their homes with candles made from beeswax or whale oil, whilst poorer folk had to make do with smelly, smoky tallow candles made from animal fat. In 1807 Pall Mall became the first street in the capital to be lit by gas, spreading to 213 streets by 1823, but indoors candlesticks and candelabra still ruled. In 1859 the Houses of Parliament were lit by gas for the first time and only then did gas lighting start to become fashionable inside the homes of London's wealthy. Electric light arrived on the streets in 1878, starting on Holborn Viaduct, but its use was not widespread indoors until after the First World War.
Today, London belches light out into the night sky. Street lamps, spotlights, illuminations, adverts, security lighting and three million houses, all contribute to the most severe light pollution in the UK, beaming light upwards where it isn't needed. This satellite photo (hi-res version here) taken from the International Space Station shows London lit up like a giant, luminous amoeba, with a dazzling central nucleus. The night sky over the capital has a dull orange glow and only a few of the brightest stars are ever visible - in fact the only star some London children will ever have seen is the Sun. And it's getting worse across the rest of the country too (check your region here) where sight of the Milky Way has become merely a distant memory. Join the campaign for better-designed street lighting and darker skies here. Maybe there was a lot to be said for candle-power after all.
posted 09:00 :
Friday, January 23, 2004...says the great bell at Bow
To be a true Cockney you have to be born within the sound of Bow Bells. And, despite what most people think, Bow Bells aren't in Bow. They are in fact the bells of the church of St. Mary-Le-Bow, Cheapside, in the City of London. Recent research has suggested that, given the right atmospheric conditions and an absence of traffic noise, the sound of St. Mary-Le-Bow's bells could have been heard up to five miles away, even out as far as Bow itself. But no longer. Presumably there were a lot more genuine Cockneys around hundreds of years ago than there are now.
Back in the 14th century the bells of St Mary-le-Bow rang out a curfew across central London at 9 o'clock to warn the locals that it was time for bed. These are the bells that Dick Whittington heard in 1392 that made him 'turn again' (he was real, by the way). The bells were (you won't be surprised to hear) amongst the many destroyed in the Great Fire, but were also (you will be surprised to hear) silenced for two years in 1856 by an eccentric local woman who believed that the noise of their clanging might otherwise kill her. The BBC used the peal of Bow Bells at the start of every one of their broadcasts to occupied Europe during World War II, but that didn't stop the bells being destroyed yet again in the Blitz of 1941. A new peal of 12 bells was installed in 1956, each inscribed with a verse from a psalm, and the initial letters of those 12 psalms spell out the name 'D WHITTINGTON'. Ahhh, sweet.
As for the church, it's yet another of Sir Christopher Wren's, and one of his very finest. The classical steeple is topped by a golden ball on which sits a nine foot dragon, turning with the wind. The arched crypt dates from Norman times and is occupied in part now by a renowned vegetarian café. The church adjoins narrow cobbled alleyways to the south, but hideous seventies offices to east and west. And those bells they still ring out - every quarter hour, for the Lord Mayor's Show, and for four-hour peals several times a year.
posted 19:00 :
I do not know
1) Where is the 'Golf Sale'?
2) Why doesn't the tube run throughout the night at weekends?
3) Where is the true centre of London?
4) Has anyone ever seen a Pearly King (or Queen)?
5) Why doesn't London have a (paid-for) local morning newspaper?
6) From where is the best view in London?
7a) Why would anybody want to live here?
7b) Why would anybody want to live anywhere else?
Answers in the comments box, or read most of them listed here.
posted 07:00 :
Thursday, January 22, 2004...say the bells of Stepney
This is St Dunstan's church, Stepney, one of of only a handful of medieval buildings remaining in the East End of London. Looks gorgeous doesn't it, and it is. An ancient church set on a village green at the heart of its community - this photo could have been taken in deepest Suffolk. Except what you can't see in the picture are the faceless council estates all around, and you can't smell the pigs grunting on the city farm over the road. Somehow this church has survived a millennium of change, while the surrounding neighbourhood has risen and fallen. Especially fallen, lately.
There can't be many churches in the UK named after the saint who built them, but St Dunstan built this one in 952, just before he was made Archbishop of Canterbury. Stepney was the seat of the Bishop of London during medieval times, being the richest village to the east of the City at the time. By the 16th century this was a popular rural retreat for London's wealthy, but also increasingly attractive to ordinary people seeking work at the local docks. Stepney trebled in population in just 40 years as London expanded to the East. Some fine 17th century houses still exist on Stepney Green, an unfeasibly quiet thoroughfare close to the church, but prosperity in the area was soon replaced by poverty. The Blitz helped clear away the worst of the slums, but nothing very inspiring was built in their place. Stepney today is a mere shadow of its former self - poor, bland and forgotten. Only the church hints that it was ever otherwise.
posted 21:00 :
When will that be?
2004: Election for London Mayor
2005: DLR extension to City Airport
2006: Wembley Stadium reopens; M25 widened near Heathrow; Tour de France (maybe)
2007: Channel Tunnel Rail Link; East London Transit (Ilford to Dagenham)
2008: Heathrow Terminal 5; London Bridge Tower (217m); DLR extension to Woolwich; Greenwich Waterfront Transit (Greenwich to Abbey Wood)
2009: East London Line extension
2010: Thames Gateway Bridge (Beckton to Thamesmead)
2011: West London Tram scheme (Uxbridge to Shepherds Bush); Cross River Transit (Camden & Kings Cross to Brixton & Peckham)
2012: Crossrail (optimistic view); London Olympics (maybe)
2013: Crossrail (pessimistic view)
2014: nothing planned
2015: Third runway at Heathrow (earliest date)
2016: London's population reaches 8 million
(Most dates subject to delay, cancellation or repeated postponement)
posted 07:00 :
Wednesday, January 21, 2004... say the bells of Shoreditch
1st century: The Romans build Ermine Street from London to Lincoln, passing through what will one day be Shoreditch.
12th century: The area is still mostly fields. St Leonard's church is founded.
16th century: A prosperous village. Richard Burbage opens "The Theatre" in Shoreditch (because playhouses have been banned inside the City). One of the actors in his company is a young William Shakespeare, and Romeo and Juliet is first performed here.
17th century: Burbage is buried in St Leonard's, known as "the actors' church".
18th century: St Leonard's church is rebuilt (see photo). The spire is an imitation of Wren's steeple on St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside.
19th century: Shoreditch descends into poverty, crime and prostitution.
1900: A huge area of slums to the east of the High Street is reborn as the magnificent Boundary Estate.
1940s: The area is heavily bombed in the Blitz, and later heavily redeveloped.
1990s: Artists move into Shoreditch seeking cheap studio space. The White Cube gallery opens in Hoxton Square, trendy bars, clubs and restaurants follow, and Shoreditch is suddenly the hip arty place to be and to be seen.
21st century. It's all a bit passé now, darling.
posted 19:00 :
When I grow rich
The City of London must be the richest square mile on the planet. There's the Stock Exchange (home to thousands of sharp-suited gamblers), Lloyd's of London (home to thousands of sharp-suited gamblers), various non-high-street banks (ditto) and hordes of other esteemed financial institutions. Get the right job here and, providing you can stand the pace, you could soon be very rich indeed. Like the girl living in the room next to mine in my last year at university. She got a job in the City and, 18 months ago, received a £1.4 million payout through the courts because her company dared to insult her with a piddling £25000 bonus. Most Londoners would be thankful for a £25000 salary. There again, her male colleagues were getting bonuses of up to £650,000, so I can see her point. Different world, the City.
London may have wealth, but it's also a ridiculously expensive place to live. An average wage goes nowhere, unless you're willing to flatshare the best years of your life in a tumbledown apartment on the outskirts of some godforsaken borough. If you own property you're laughing - if you don't you're doomed. 40 years ago my parents bought a tiny terraced house in Watford (2 up, 2 down, outside toilet) for the princely sum of £3000. They've since climbed the property ladder far enough to reach a detached house in Norfolk, but that's 100 miles from town and the market in London has moved on. This month that old house in Watford is up for sale at 100 times the price my parents paid for it, and they could never afford to move back, not even to the bottom of the heap.
If the City were a nation state, it would be amongst the top 20 richest nation states in the world (just ahead of Belgium). However, London is also home to 13 of the poorest 20 local authorities in the UK. When those City workers go home at night, back to their overpriced terraced houses, an underclass of invisible workers move in from rundown council estates and clean for peanuts. Sure there's plenty of money to be made in the City but, it appears, there's not enough to share.
They say the streets of London are paved with gold. They're wrong. The streets of London are paved with cardboard boxes, inhabited by provincial dreamers lured to the capital to seek a fortune that isn't here. That's rich.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, January 20, 2004...say the bells of Old Bailey
Except that the Old Bailey is a court building, not a church, and has no bells. The church referred to in the nursery rhyme is the one just across the road, the oddly-named St Sepulchre without Newgate (don't worry, it's a Crusades thing). You wouldn't guess from looking but this is the largest parish church in the City of London, described by Sir John Betjeman as "high, wide and handsome", and the tower contains a peal of twelve bells. Henry Wood, founder of the Promenade concerts, learnt to play the organ here and his ashes now lie in the Musicians' Chapel. The church is also the last resting place of Captain John Smith, unpaid star of the Disney cartoon Pocohontas, and one-time Governor of Virginia.
A glass case inside the church contains the handbell which used to be rung to wake condemned prisoners at Newgate Prison on execution mornings. This prison held those awaiting trial at the neighbouring Old Bailey, which has been London's most important criminal court since medieval times. In 1834 the court's jurisdiction spread to cover the most serious cases from the whole of the South East, including Oscar Wilde's infamous sodomy trial. One hundred years ago Newgate Prison and the old Old Bailey were demolished to make way for the current Central Criminal Court, judging the fate of evildoers including Dr Crippen, the Kray twins and Jeffrey Archer.
An absolutely brilliant website charts the history of the Old Bailey, including full details of all the trials there between 1714 and 1799. For example, 250 years ago this month there were 62 trials, mostly for theft, with many of the convicted subsequently transported to America. I wonder if any of your forefathers appear in the records.
posted 19:00 :
When will you pay me?
The 'Old Lady' in the photograph is the Bank of England, sited close to the first two churches mentioned in the Oranges and Lemons rhyme. The bank was established in 1694, moving to its current site in Threadneedle Street in 1734. The present building is an austere fortress, as you might expect, with sheer windowless walls at ground level and just a couple of enormous wooden doors leading inside. There are no cashpoints, no big adverts for mortgages, and no long queues of punters standing around waiting and looking miserable every lunchtime. It's not that sort of bank, you see.
The Bank of England prints millions of banknotes each year, just out of town in Essex. Each of these banknotes is, essentially, a worthless scrap of paper, apart from the inscription "I promise to pay the bearer on demand..." which gives the note its value. This promise used to be backed up by gold reserves, so that for every banknote issued there was an equivalent amount of gold in the vaults. Not any more though, not since 1931, and now the Bank merely issues notional money. However, we're all still entitled to pop down and demand that they exchange our notes for the equivalent value in gold bullion, should we so wish. Current rates indicate that a £10 note would be exchanged for just under 1g of gold, £160 for 1cm³ and the average UK house for 20kg. Admittedly it would be difficult to buy our weekly groceries by paying with a gold ingot, but the principle is sound. Just so long as we don't all turn up at the Bank of England at the same time to ask for our money back, because it isn't all there. See you all down there tomorrow at noon then?
posted 07:00 :
Monday, January 19, 2004...say the bells of St Martins
Not St Martin-in-the-Fields, which is that huge Baroque church overlooking the eastern side of Trafalgar Square. No, the church in the nursery rhyme is St Martin Orgar, another tiny church in the City of London, just down the hill from Starbucks and round the corner from Monument station. Except that this particular church has all but vanished. Just a tower remains, now occupied by a firm of solicitors, next to a surprisingly large overgrown garden that used to be the nave. St Martin's is one of London's abandoned churches.
Pudding Lane is only a couple of streets away, so it's not surprising that this church was burnt to the ground in 1666. There were 111 churches in the City before the Great Fire, 80 of which were destroyed. St Martins was one of the unlucky 28 not to get rebuilt, being rather too close to St Clements over the road, and so the two parishes were combined. A group of Huguenots (that's old French Protestants to you and me) took over what was left of St Martins, did it up a bit and held services there until 1820. The tower was converted to become St Clements rectory in 1851, at which time St Martin's old bell was rehung in a new clock projecting out over the street. It's all a bit lost and forlorn now, but I bet redevelopment of the site would net any property developer considerably more than five farthings.
posted 19:00 :
You owe me five farthings
Quick history lesson for those under the age of 35 or living outside the UK: There didn't used to be 100 pence in a pound. Before 1971 there were 240 pennies in a pound, 12 pennies in a shilling, and maths lessons were a lot more difficult. Then there was the small change, which wasn't all small - the silver sixpence, the chunky brass threepenny bit with twelve sides and the giant copper penny with a picture of Britannia on the reverse. And then, worth less but by no means worthless, the halfpenny and (go back far enough) the quarter penny too, commonly known as the farthing. Here's a picture of the full set. And I remember all of them, just, except the farthing.
Quick history lesson number two: Farthings were first minted in the 13th century, originally in silver, although in very small quantities because even then they cost more to make than they were worth. Later copper was used, then tin, and finally bronze. In the time of Samuel Pepys one farthing was worth roughly the same as a 10p coin would be today (you can compare monetary values since 1264 here). From the reign of George VI onwards this tiny coin depicted Britain's tiniest bird - the wren - right up until the farthing left circulation in 1960. Quarter of a penny just wasn't worth anything any more.
Quick history lesson number three: Five farthings made a penny farthing, one very big coin and one very small one. Two wheels on a bicycle, one very big and one very small, also made a penny farthing. In the late 19th century these were a popular means of transport, more comfortable than the old boneshakers but still very difficult to ride. The big wheel could be anything up to 60 inches in diameter, and if you leant too far over whilst riding you could take a nasty tumble. Nevertheless, these ridiculous-looking bicycles could reach a top speed of about 20mph.
posted 07:00 :
Sunday, January 18, 2004...say the bells of St Clements
Two churches in London claim to be the St Clements named in the nursery rhyme. St Clement's church in Eastcheap is generally thought to be the correct one, not least because the second church in the rhyme is only 100 yards away. There's been a church on this site in the City since the 11th century, originally named after the patron saint of seamen. It's not far from here down to the Thames, and the river was even closer in days gone by. Legend has it that merchants used to unload citrus fruits at the nearby wharves and that the bells of St Clements rang out whenever a new shipment was delivered.
St Clement's is a small church down a very narrow lane close to Monument station, crammed into an unfeasibly tiny gap between office buildings. It's one of 50-odd City churches rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London. I was expecting something rather more impressive, but the building is disappointingly plain and seriously overshadowed. There's a claustrophic courtyard round the back complete with a handful of well-tended gravestones, but not much else. The church has only one service a week, on a Wednesday not a Sunday, which sounds odd until you realise that most of the City is a ghost town at the weekend.
The other church with a claim to be the St Clements in the nursery rhyme is the much larger (and much more impressive) St Clement Danes, one mile to the west in the Strand. This is an even older church, established in the 10th century and reputedly frequented by William the Conqueror. St Clement Danes later became the only Wren-built church outside the City of London, but was mostly destroyed during the Blitz. The church was then rebuilt yet again, dedicated to the Royal Air Force in 1958, and now sits on a giant traffic island close to Aldwych.
St Clement Danes may not actually be the church featured in the rhyme but its carillion bells still play out the familiar tune four times a day. Also every year, somewhere around Easter, the church holds an 'Oranges and Lemons' service in which fruit is handed out to local schoolchildren. And, mistaken or not, it's an old engraving of St Clement Danes church in the book 1984 that brings Winston Smith's long-buried memories of London past back to life.
"The half-remembered rhyme kept running through Winston's head. It was curious, but when you said it to yourself you had the illusion of actually hearing bells, the bells of a lost London that still existed somewhere or other, disguised and forgotten... yet so far as he could remember he had never in real life heard church bells ringing."
posted 19:00 :
Oranges and Lemons
The nursery rhyme "Oranges and lemons" has been sung by children in London for hundreds of years, probably since the 17th century. Several London churches are mentioned in the rhyme, and the original tune mimicked the peals of their bells. There have been many different versions of the rhyme over the years, including different words and a number of different churches, but the most common version features just six. I've been out and about in the City and the East End tracking down these six churches and some of the background to the rhyme, and now I'm ready to report back over the course of the next week. Here goes - chop chop.
In medieval times, before the advent of industry and traffic noise, the sound of London's church bells would have carried long distances, calling the population to prayer or warning them of curfew. Many of the famous bells mentioned in the rhyme Oranges and Lemons were struck at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, Britain's oldest surviving manufacturing company dating back to 1420. The foundry is a small brick-built workshop on the busy Whitechapel Road, responsible for the production of both Big Ben and the Liberty Bell. The foundry was fortunate not to be bombed during the Second World War, although St Mary's Church nextdoor (the 'white chapel' after which the area was named) took a direct hit and was destroyed. You can still visit the foundry and tour the workshops, and they have a quaint little shop too.
posted 07:00 :
Oranges and Lemons
Oranges and lemons
say the bells of St Clements
You owe me five farthings
say the bells of St Martins
When will you pay me?
say the bells of Old Bailey
When I grow rich
say the bells of Shoreditch
When will that be?
say the bells of Stepney
I do not know
says the great bell at Bow
Here comes a candle to light you to bed
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head
posted 01:00 :
Saturday, January 17, 2004Leap for London
London's bid for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games has been launched. As expected, 500 acres of industrial wasteland in the Lower Lea Valley in East London are at the heart of the proposals. An Olympic stadium, village, aquatic centre and velodrome will be appearing on my run-down inner-city doorstep, fingers crossed. The Olympic bid, however, was launched five miles away at the Royal Opera House in the heart of swanky Covent Garden. A few local multi-ethnic schoolchildren were transplanted to wave ribbons and play judo in an inspirational manner, but the bid launch emphasised London's historic and cultural heritage instead. A wide range of additional tourist-friendly locations are being proposed for the Games, presumably so that visiting IOC members don't have to spend all their time standing on bleak building sites in hard hats and wellies.
So, if the Olympics come to London, where will the other events be held?
Beach Volleyball (Horse Guards Parade): Hordes of topless women shivering in light July drizzle, ogled by nearby civil servants.
Gymnastics (Millennium Dome): After 12 years of expensive nothingness, this white elephant will finally find a use. For a week.
Equestrian (Greenwich Park): Lots of horses and horsey women churning up the lawns beneath the Royal Observatory.
Triathlon (Hyde Park): The only safe place in London to go cycling, because there are no passing buses to fall underneath.
Archery (Lord's): Because cricket isn't an Olympic sport. Just as well, we've probably got better medal chances in archery.
Fencing (Alexandra Palace): Hopefully that's fencing the sport, not the sort of fencing that signifies unfinished building works.
Rowing (Eton College): This posh school is about as far away from East London as you can get, both in distance and in wealth.
Baseball (Regent's Park): Nobody over here will go watch, but at least all the American visitors' hotels will be right nextdoor.
Indoor Sports (ExCel Centre): International Boxing, Weightlifting and Taekwondo Exhibition opens July 2012.
Football (Wembley Stadium): Assuming they've finished rebuilding it by then. The one event we invented but never bother entering.
Tennis (Wimbledon): Another event we invented but should never bother entering. We're only good at selling the strawberries.
Sailing (Weymouth): Racing yachts down the Thames would be silly, and Southend just isn't glamorous, so ScaryDuckland it is.
Shooting (Bisley): Not East London? That's odd, because I'd have thought the streets of Hackney were already ideal for shooting.
Marathon (Champs Elysée): Alas, the 2012 Olympics will probably go to Paris or somewhere else instead. Pity, it won't be quite the same watching everything on television.
posted 10:00 :
Friday, January 16, 2004Newspaper quiz
Can you identify 16 UK national newspapers from the following clues?
Answers in the comments box.
2) arts review
4) global stories
5) homo sapiens
6) in loco parentis
7) former journalist
8) reflects the news
9) sort of leather GP
10) tenpin ended reframed
11) what could be verboser?
12) born, played football, died
13) sounds like it's not for women
14) market opens 08:00, closes 16:30
15) where's this seen rising? horizon usually
16) this is only delivered just before Christmas
posted 07:00 :
Thursday, January 15, 2004LUNAR GOVERNMENT ASTRO-IMMIGRATION CONTROL
Dear President Bush
Thank you for your interest in our homeworld. We in the Lunar Government are delighted to hear that you and your countrymen plan to visit our Moon in the near future. However, we would like to make you aware of our new LUNAR-VISIT immigration protocol. LUNAR-VISIT helps to secure our borders and expedite the entry/exit process while enhancing the integrity of our immigration system and respecting the privacy of our visitors. We will require that your astronauts comply with these updated security procedures on all future visits to our interplanetary moonspace.
All astronauts travelling visa-free to the Moon after 26 October 2004 must present a new macro-biological cellular passport on arrival at Lunar border controls. These passports contain biometric data including DNA samples, iris scans, tentacle prints and braincell holograms. We are aware that macro-biological passports are not yet available on your home world. To be honest, they're not available on ours yet either. However, agreed standards for biometric travel documents are universal and all appropriate documentation has been readily available on the sub-etherweb for the last 4.3 solar years.
Those travellers who use ordinary passports issued after 26 October 2004 that do not contain a biometric identifier will be required to obtain a Lunar visa. These visas cost ©25 (6 billion of your Earth dollars) and can only be obtained in person from a Lunar Embassy, such as that located conveniently on nearby Alpha Centauri. On arrival at the embassy your astronauts should expect to queue for up to three days, to be grilled in a decontamination cavern and to be ritually humiliated by our administrative staff.
When your next lunar mission is finally ready to embark, please ensure that no sharp implements are packed in your astronauts' hand luggage. We also ask that astronauts refrain from queueing by the anti-grav lavatories while in transit, no matter how desperate they might be after 72 hours in space. On arrival at 'Sea of Tranquility Interplanetary Spaceport' our admissibility personnel will check individual surnames against a list of known terrorists. Our most wanted list is headed by the notorious Apollo moonrock thieves 'Armstrong' and 'Aldrin'. Never doubt our unflinching resolve to avenge the unprovoked geological attacks of 1969.
The Lunar Government looks forward to greeting your future ambassadors, assuming that this latest announcement of yours isn't merely a cynical election year pipedream. However, we regret to inform you that Lunar citizens are no longer making plans to visit your nation. America's latest paranoid security arrangements have been the last straw for potential alien tourists, and we can't be bothered to come visiting any more. Shame, because we used to enjoy buzzing flying saucers over the more remote parts of your Arizona desert. Your ridiculous new border controls border on madness, and we refuse to demean ourselves by submitting to your arrogant, petty-minded demands. So George, sorry, but that's the way it is. It's lunar, see.
posted 07:00 :
Wednesday, January 14, 2004Know your Freeview channels (an extremely-clickable guide)
 BBC1;  BBC2;  ITV1;  Channel 4;  five: All the usual terrestrial channels (but with rubbish teletext).
 ITV2: Kate Thornton goes behind the scenes of several dull non-events on ITV1.
 BBC3: Three almost-hit comedy shows on endless rotation.
 BBC4: Intelligent programmes they daren't put on BBC2 any more.
 Sky Travel;  TV Travel Shop: Package holidays you can share with (shudder) other common viewers.
 UK History;  UK Bright Ideas: UK Warfare and UK Gardening. But why can't I have UK Gold instead?
 QVC;  bid-up.tv;  price-drop.tv: Crap items nobody needs but that bored housewives buy.
 The Hits;  TMF: Safe and unchallenging pop videos repeated every hour.
 f tn: Cheap fillers lifted from Living TV, Bravo, Trouble and Challenge.
 CBBC;  CBeebies: Two advert-free primary-coloured babysitting services.
 News 24;  ITV News;  Sky News: The same news stories stretched out in three different orders.
 Sky Sports News: No actual sport, just pundits and scrolling football results.
 BBC Parliament: Well, you voted for them, now you're stuck watching them.
 Community Channel: Broadcasts to an audience of zero between 2:45am and 5:45am.
 Teletext;  Four text;  BBCi: As we established yesterday, under-interactive disappointment.
 F2P Games: Relive the thrills of 1979 technology by playing Solitaire and Tetris on your telly.
[70-91] 21 digital radio stations: Almost worth buying a box for BBC6 and BBC7 alone. Almost.
[701-703] Occasional interactive extra stuff: Or endless Fame Academy.
posted 07:00 :
Local transport news (update)
Buses: The UK’s first fuel cell zero-emission buses go into service today on Route 25. Three new hydrogen-powered vehicles are on trial, steaming their way down Oxford Street, past my house and on to Ilford. Details here and here.
Tube: Has anyone started work on renovating Bow Road station yet? No, not a sign. The very first PPP-funded station upgrade appears to be behind schedule already. I shall be back there to stare at the puddles and peeling paint later.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, January 13, 2004Why I still hate BBCi but now some other things are niggling me too
A number of you responded to yesterday's Ceefax/BBCi rant, and now I feel even worse. Here's why.
Andrew writes: "On the basis of your results, I presume you're using satellite for your timings, because on DTT (also known by the marketing term Freeview), BBCi is far far far faster on a recent box (ie not one from the ITV Digital era), and would probably give you close results to Ceefax even with the menu navigating."
No Andrew, I don't have satellite (I can't get satellite or cable where I live) so I'm watching on Freeview. And I do have one of those old ITV Digital boxes (grrr, I bought it during the six weeks when they weren't giving away a free Monkey) which probably explains why my BBCi takes forever to load. So, if I want faster BBCi I need to buy a new box - in which case it's hardly Free-view is it?
Vaughan adds: "For one year, not so long ago, I spent one working day of every week writing pages for it (the Learning pages on BBC2, since you ask - no, you'll never have seen them, because nobody ever visited them). And it drove me up the wall. That sodding great clunking antiquated system - it's even worse to write content for than it is to use. I still haven't recovered from the trauma and mental scarring. Oh God. Help. The pixels. The PIXELS!!!"
I used to be a dab hand on the BBC Microcomputer, which had its own special 'Mode 7' teletext graphics just like Ceefax. I even tried writing an interactive teletext program once, although that's now lying somewhere on an obsolete floppy disc deep in a packing crate in my spare room. And yes, the pixels were an absolute nightmare. I'd also like to apologise for not reading your BBC2 Ceefax pages, but that's because my terrestrial reception's isn't good enough to get decent BBC2 reception (for which I blame Canary Wharf). On my TV the BBC Learning Index features such incomplete textual gems as "W RKSKIL S vice for starting wo k". Sigh, sorry.
Dr D asks: "Picking up on my campaign for dot matrix based media on this blog - have you considered a Geezerfax service?"
No, it would never work.
Scaryduck comments: "BBCi may be crap, but have you tried ITV's digital-text content? What little there is is a thinly veiled attempt to extract money from the punter. Crap."
He's right. ITV's digital text service Teletext also takes forever to load, plus there are annoying adverts tucked in all over the place (Press '0' for annoying pop-up spam). Looks like an online platform for selling home loans, horse racing and holidays, plus a very few useful bits tagged on as an afterthought. No Bamber Boozler, sadly. ITV/C4 teletext used not to be crap. It used to be called Oracle, and at the time (pre-1993) had much more interesting content than Ceefax. Reminisce here.
Annipink concludes: "My mother was addicted to teletext - it was the only way I managed to convince her to try the internet - like teletext, only faster, and more information."
I think you could have something there. Teletext is undoubtedly a medium of the past compared to the internet. Even flashy new BBCi has its roots firmly in the last century. See the screen shot on page 20 of this five-year-old BBC report as evidence. And BBC boffins confess to the heinous crime of "mapping Ceefax pages, accessed using a three digit number, into a menu-driven navigable hierarchy" as long ago as 1998 in this project initiation document. I fear the battle is lost. Maybe we should all stick to finding our information online and leave the red button alone. But I do wish there was something worth reading while I was sitting watching the television.
posted 07:00 :
Monday, January 12, 2004Why I hate... BBCi
Remember Ceefax? All the latest news and TV listings in 13 lines of text with over-chunky graphics, all rendered using only 7 colours. It looks so old and out-of-date now, but this was state-of-the-art technology back in 1974. It was slow but simple, like a pixellated tortoise, and often you had time to make a cup of tea waiting for the subpage you wanted to come round. You can remind yourself just how BBC basic it all used to be by clicking here to view all 100 pages that were available one particular evening in 1983. And you can remind yourself how little has changed now by pressing the text button on your TV remote. Or, alas, maybe you can't.
With the advent of digital television, Ceefax is slowly being replaced. It's still available on terrestrial television, but most of us aren't watching that any more. We've switched to the clarity of cable, the choice of satellite and the convenience of Freeview, and thereby to BBCi - the new digital text service. BBCi lurks behind the red button on your remote, it's menu-driven, and I hate it. In fact if I see that TV ad in which Jenson Button tells me that BBCi "handles like a dream" one more time I may scream. Because BBCi handles like a Formula 1 car limping into the pits with four burst tyres.
Ceefax may have been slow, but all you had to do was type in a three-digit number and the page of your choice eventually appeared. Go on, try it. BBCi has replaced numbered pages by a series of sub-menus, a bit like using a website but without the ability to bookmark any of the pages you use regularly. You have to start at the top of a main menu every time and work your way down, often several levels deep, and each sub-menu seems to take an age to load. Instant access to information is a thing of the past.
So, I thought I'd carry out my own diamond geezer test drive to compare Ceefax with BBCi and see which was quicker at finding information. Each experiment started from a normal text-free television picture. All the BBCi times are fastest-possibles whereas the Ceefax times are averages (because sometimes the page you want comes up immediately, while other times you have to wait for the very last subpage). Here are the results:
Latest news headlines: Ceefax p101 - 8 seconds; BBCi - 21 seconds
Local news headlines: Ceefax p160 - 8 seconds; BBCi - 44 seconds
Ceefax thrashes BBCi here, and you can read more headlines on the page too. To find local London news on BBCi takes 14 different key presses, requires manoeuvring through four different menus, and the final page has no headlines and isn't even labelled 'London'. New news is bad news.
Current programme on Channel 4: Ceefax p606 - 8 seconds; BBCi - 30 seconds
Radio 4's evening schedule: Ceefax p644 - 40 seconds; BBCi - 50 seconds
Want to find out what's on the other side? Ceefax wins again. If you're stuck with BBCi, by far the quickest option is to switch channels, and that can't be good for BBC viewing figures.
Who's top of the Premiership?: Ceefax p324 - 16 seconds; BBCi - 35 seconds
Latest Lotto numbers: Ceefax p555 - 17 seconds; BBCi - 22 seconds
On Ceefax both of these are 2-subpage pages, but they still manage to arrive before BBCi. Football league tables are buried so far down the sport menu that the team at the top will probably have changed by the time you get there.
5-day weather forecast for Edinburgh: Ceefax p406 - 95 seconds; BBCi - 45 seconds
Latest Underground travel problems: Ceefax p436 - 78 seconds; BBCi - 45 seconds
Where Ceefax really falls down are screens with an awful lot of subpages. You might have to wait over 3 minutes for the Edinburgh forecast to come round, whereas with BBCi all the information loads at the same time. And BBCi always gives you page 1 first, which is probably the one you want to read. And the BBCi weather graphics are far far more impressive than Ceefax's basic service.
Digital transmitter information: Ceefax p698 - 130 seconds; BBCi - not available
Index: Ceefax p199 - 8 seconds; BBCi - not available
Information about digital TV reception is only available on terrestrial Ceefax and not on BBCi. Unbelievable. In fact BBCi has far less breadth than Ceefax. No recipes, no flight arrival times, no chess, no TV reviews, just a handful of tabloid-friendly categories. This is digital dumbing-down, and there isn't even an index to check what they've left out.
So, after all that, it's a thumping victory for good old Ceefax. BBCi looks a lot more impressive, and you can watch TV at the same time which is great, but it fails dismally on the easy-to-use test. On Ceefax all I have to do is memorise a simple 3-digit number and I can find anything. On BBCi I'm forced into a hellish tree of sub-menus and, to be honest, I just can't be bothered to look. Dear BBC - when 30-year-old technology beats your latest cutting-edge information service, it's time to rethink. Please.
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