diamond geezer

 Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The River Tyburn

The West End's lost river flowed from Hampstead down to Westminster.

» An approximate map of the Tyburn's course (my best Google map attempt)
» All my Tyburn posts on one page, in the right order

www.flickr.com: my Tyburn gallery
There are 60 photos altogether (click through for a flick through)

The River Tyburn
4b) Buckingham Palace → Pimlico

To fully remove the lower reaches of the river Tyburn, its waters were dropped into a brick sewer in the early 18th century. Rather than tracing the route of the river towards Westminster, the new culvert instead headed south from Buckingham Palace and made for the Thames at Pimlico. This was the King's Scholars' Pond Sewer, named after Westminster School's ablest pupils (which is perhaps not the way they'd prefer to be remembered). Soon after leaving the royal residence it today passes beneath more mundane backstreets, then past the big new shopping/office complex at Cardinal Place. I'm guessing it flows beneath Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace Theatre [photo], which is something best not considered when you're sitting in the stalls. The sewer's also causing problems with the construction of a new ticket hall for Victoria tube station at Bressenden Place, because the brown tube isn't as far below the ground as engineers would like.

Next up, an unexpectedly grim back passage. That's King's Scholars' Passage, a lengthy access road squashed between six-storey brick cliffs round the back of Vauxhall Bridge Road [photo]. If you can ever avoid visiting, do. This emerges outside the Queen Mother Sports Centre (no, she never popped by for an Age Vitality Workout, it's merely named after her). The sewer then follows the curve of Tachbrook Street, which is delightfully Georgian-terrace on one flank and depressingly postwar-block on the other [photo]. Nearly there. One final stretch beyond Pimlico station, beneath the Tachbrook Estate, and we're at the Thames.

Unusually for a lost river, the bottom of the Tyburn is really obvious. Two houses stand out beside the busy riverside dual carriageway, being rather older than the modern piles to either side [photo]. One's Rio Cottage, labelled with a plaque announcing it was built in 1832 "as part of Kingschoole Sluice". Nextdoor at number 140C is Tyburn House - similarly old looking but with an extra storey on top. Between them they guard the exit to the King's Scholars' Sewer, which disgorges (when necessary) beneath one resident's back window [photo]. They can even nip down a metal staircase at low tide to their own pebbly beach, if they're brave enough. And in case all the clues aren't obvious enough, a slab of slate affixed to the riverside path charts a rundown of the Tyburn's progress all the way from Shepherds Well to Tachbrook Street [photo]. Journey's end, job well done. [photo]

Following the Tyburn: Stafford Place, Stag Place, Bressenden Place, King's Scholar's Passage, Upper Tachbrook Street, Tachbrook Street, Buonaparte Mews, Balvaird Place, Grosvenor Road.

The River Tyburn
4a) Buckingham Palace → Westminster

The final stretch of the Tyburn, from Buck House east to the Thames, isn't especially well documented. That's a) because this was originally marshland, and b) medieval Londoners weren't especially interested in drawing accurate maps as a legacy to future generations. What is certain is that the most obvious route, along the line of the lake down the middle of St James's Park, isn't the original. This started life as a long ornamental canal, arrow-straight, created by a French landscape gardener at the behest of king Charles II. 150 years later the Prince Regent asked John Nash for a more naturalistic redesign, and he created the curving lake we still see today [photo]. So, lovely though the view is from the central bridge near the pelicans, it's definitely not rivery. [photo] [photo]

Instead the waters of the Tyburn probably followed Buckingham Gate, which is a mostly tedious road heading downhill from the southern corner of the palace [photo]. Past the Wellington Barracks, past the end of Petty France, then forking left at the Blewcoat School (now the National Trust's main London giftshop). It tracked Caxton Street before, peculiarly enough, flowing straight through the modern site of New Scotland Yard [photo]. And then across Victoria Street into Abbey Orchard Street, which was indeed where the nearby Abbey grew its fruit, but is now covered by a Peabody Estate and some ugly civil service bastions.

A millennium ago the Tyburn bifurcated approximately here. Its twin streams formed the western boundaries of Thorney Island - then a small eyot in the Thames covered by thickets. As the highest land hereabouts it was the only place capable of supporting foundations, so the nucleus of Westminster grew up on the island with the Abbey and the Palace at its heart. Expansion required drainage, so Thorney gradually merged with the mainland and lost its identity. Today the name survives only in Thorney Street, which is the service road round the back of MI5's HQ at Thames House.

Branch 1 of the lower Tyburn passed to the north of Westminster Abbey and up to the foot of Whitehall. It supposedly ran along the line of King Charles Street [photo], between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and HM Treasury [photo]. And then across the foot of Whitehall, south of the Cenotaph, to reach the Thames in the vicinity of Westminster Pier [photo]. Don't go looking for traces today, there's nothing to see. Meanwhile branch 2 continued through Dean's Yard at the back of Westminster School [photo] - an esteemed private establishment who are holding their 450th Anniversary Gala tonight. Then along Great College Street, which feels more Winchester than Greater London, and out into the Thames south of the Houses of Parliament [photo]. The mouth would have been somewhere in Victoria Tower Gardens, and a storm drain outlet is still visible at low tide close to Lambeth Bridge. [photo]

Following the Tyburn: The Mall, Buckingham Gate, Caxton Street, Victoria Street, Abbey Orchard Street, Dean's Yard, Great College Street, Victoria Tower Gardens.

 Monday, November 29, 2010

The River Tyburn
3) Oxford Street → Buckingham Palace

If you think you know Mayfair, a walk along the route of the lost river Tyburn may change your mind. This begins somewhere familiar enough - South Molton Street. The peculiar diagonal angle that this street makes to the surrounding roads is explained by the parallel Tyburn, which ran immediately behind the houses on the western side. The stream precisely defined the eastern boundary of the Grosvenor estate, one of Mayfair's most exclusive neighbourhoods, and was arched over and made into a covered sewer in the 1720s. The buried Tyburn became South Molton Lane, still a mere backstreet even today and nowhere near as aspirational as its fashionista neighbour.

Brook Street's up next, a major east-west thoroughfare named after the river it once crossed [photo]. George Frideric Handel was one of the first residents to move in when the estate was developed, in 1723, and lived for nearly 40 years a few doors up from the culverted Tyburn. And yes, if you're wondering, this is indeed the Brook Street in which the Brook Street Bureau was formed. Margery Hurst's famous secretarial employment agency started out here in 1946, and continues to be named after a lost river even though company HQ is now in St Albans.

The diagonal line of the Tyburn continues along Avery Row - a narrow alleyway named after the bricklayer originally responsible for culverting this stretch of the river, Henry Avery. The stream never quite reached as far east as New Bond Street, instead twisting south down Bourdon Place to cross the foot of Grosvenor Hill. The hill's quite pronounced, even today, rolling down past a chain of hemmed-in mews houses [photo]. They're all backwaters it seems, the streets along which the Mayfair Tyburn flowed, and none more so than Bruton Lane. This miserable service road kicks off at the Tudorbethan Coach & Horses [photo], then enters a grim netherworld of rear frontages, monolithic office blocks and fire escapes [photo]. If the folk who invented the London version of Monopoly had seen this side of Mayfair, they'd have made it the first brown instead of the last blue. [photo]

Hay Hill's next, another proper Mayfair slope, which diverted the Tyburn westward across the corner of Berkeley Square. Back when all round here was grand mansions, the river used to divide the back gardens of Devonshire House and Lansdowne House. Now paved over, this section has become Lansdowne Row - a back passage of small shops and sandwich bars that's packed only at lunchtimes [photo]. Another curving road mimics the Tyburn's former course, namely Curzon Street [photo], which leads to the delightful off-beat enclave of Shepherd Market. From 1686 to 1764 this was the spot where London's largest May Fair was held - a fortnight of drinking and debauchery held on open land beside the brook. Wining and dining is a little more refined here now, with both river and festivities despatched elsewhere. [photo]

The Tyburn's crossing of Piccadilly is more than obvious, emerging from Mayfair via Brick Street (alongside the Japanese embassy) [photo]. The indentation continues into Green Park [photo], across the western half where fewer tourists stroll and where the trees are too dense for deckchairs [photo]. This area was originally called Upper St James's Park but split off to earn its new "Green" title in 1746. An ornamental lake once lay on the line of the river, almost precisely in the centre of the park [photo], and was named the Tyburn Pool. It might still be there had the area been better looked after, but Queen Victoria considered the pool an eyesore and had it filled in. Green Park's been pleasantly bland ever since. [photo]

And so to Buckingham Palace, built close to the point where the medieval Tyburn once drained into the Westminster marshes [photo]. Centuries of drainage lent the river a firmer course, initially east towards Westminster, later diverted underground south towards Pimlico. The current Palace therefore stands not on a river but a sewer, which reputedly passes underneath the front courtyard and beneath the south wing [photo]. If you're the illegal adventurer type it's perfectly possible to clamber down into the egg-shaped brick drain and inspect the Queen's effluent, although I'm told it's nothing special. As for the swirling ornamental lake in the Palace's back garden, the backdrop to many a royal stroll and garden party, this might appear to be Tyburn-related but it's not [photo]. Its waters are fed in from the Serpentine, half a mile yonder, which means they're actually derived from the lost river Westbourne. [photo]

Following the Tyburn: South Molton Lane, Avery Row, Bourdon Place, Bruton Place, Bruton Lane, Berkeley Street, Lansdowne Row, Curzon Street, Shepherd Market, Brick Street, Piccadilly, Green Park, Constitution Hill.

 Sunday, November 28, 2010

The River Tyburn
2) Regent's Park → Oxford Street

The River Tyburn exited Regent's Park further north than you might expect. The former stream never reached the final curl of the boating lake beyond the footbridge. Instead it slipped out of the park nearer Sussex Place, where the London Business School stands today, and fairly close to the northern end of Baker Street. This is the magnetic point that draws in tourists attempting to find 221B - a purely fictitious address, not that this stops the Sherlock Holmes Museum pretending to be based there. Inquisitive visitors ought to be suspicious that the entrance is located immediately between 237 Baker Street and 241 Baker Street, but most fail to spot the fiddle. [photo]

The Abbey National used to be based where Holmes' home should have been, but its HQ has recently been redeveloped into luxury apartments. At least they kept the tower. Here the Tyburn veered to the west of Baker Street, traversing the busy Marylebone Road across a very obvious dip in the land. It clipped Gloucester Place, somewhere in the vicinity of Algeria, Lithuania and Honduras (or at least their respective embassies). Then back to Baker Street through the middle of another former blue chip HQ - Michael House. Marks and Spencer was run from here for years, but bosses moved out in 2004 in favour of less austere offices on Paddington Basin. In its place is a vast new mixed use development, name of 55 Baker Street [photo], clad with a faceted glass lattice (best viewed from inside rather than out [photo]).

Next up, Marylebone proper. The Tyburn followed what's now Blandford Street, past the former bookseller where a young Michael Faraday spent eight years as an apprentice. Today it's an estate agents, obviously, but they've had the good grace to name themselves Faradays, and there's a proper non-blue plaque above the door [photo]. No, the Tudor Rose pub isn't Tudor, it's a 1930s pastiche. Blandford Street reaches Marylebone High Street at a pedestrian-friendly triple zebra crossing [photo]. Up the other end of the high street is St Mary's church, originally named after the river as "St Mary the Virgin, by the bourne". Bit long, that, so it was shortened to "St Mary le burn", and later to "St Marylebone". The Tyburn lives on, at least as a corrupted suffix.

On any modern map of the area, the one road which looks out of place is Marylebone Lane. Everything else is straight and griddy, and yet this backstreet meanders in errant curves. That's because it was once the country lane round here, and the Tyburn ran alongside. Today's it's a boutique-y street which Time Out likes feature all-too regularly in its "quirky shopping" features. Of note is the delicatessen/cafe owned by Paul Rothe & Son [photo], stacked with repetitive jars and still with a late Victorian sensibility. A pub halfway down used to have the very-relevant name of "The Conduit of Tybourne" [photo], but under new ownership has recently reverted to the more-original "Coach Makers". Then there's the unique Button Queen [photo], located at the precise point where the Tyburn veered right to leave the lane. This fragile blue store used to be a wildly out-of-time stockist of all things buttony, but has recently been demolished to make way for new development. The business survives across the road, you'll be glad to hear, but with regrettably less charm.

The line of the river crosses Wigmore Street to pass into St Christopher's Place - a favourite midweek haunt for shopaholic ladies who lunch. This narrows to a tiny alleyway [photo] before emerging somewhere you'll definitely recognise - the heart of Oxford Street [photo]. More specifically, the gentle dip in the road located close to Bond Street station, slightly downhill from the Disney Store on one side of the valley and Selfridges on the other. Shoppers on London's most famous retail thoroughfare probably don't realise that Oxford Street was called Tyburn Road up until the early 18th century, at which point it was renamed after the university town 50 miles straight on past Marble Arch.

The City of London is a couple of miles away from here, but medieval residents obtained their drinking water from this particular stretch of the Tyburn. Lead pipes were laid from here to Cheapside during the reign of Henry III, and these eventually developed into a series of nine conduits that survived several centuries. Conduit Street, between New Bond Street and Regent Street, is still named after what's probably London first public utility supply system. Nowadays the only alleged appearance of sparkling Tyburn water hereabouts is in the basement of Grays Antiques [photo]. 200 dealers have stalls in this collectibles complex (which is located just around the back of Bond Street station), and those in the Mews building share floorspace with a most unusual water feature [photo]. A shallow channel, filled with golden fish, runs from one end of the basement to the other and is crossed by a small arched bridge in the centre [photo]. The owners assure visitors that this is the actual Tyburn, and absolutely not an ornamental culvert fed by water from the mains. It could, I suppose, be fed by groundwater seeping from the surrounding clay, but I fear it's nothing more than a damned good bit of marketing.

Following the Tyburn: Outer Circle, Sussex Place, Baker Street, Glentworth Street, Marylebone Road, Gloucester Place, Blandford Street, Marylebone Lane, Jason Court, St Christopher's Place, Gees Court, Oxford Street.

 Saturday, November 27, 2010

The River Tyburn
1) Hampstead → Regent's Park

Unusually for a lost river, the top of the Tyburn is really obvious. On the corner of Fitzjohn's Avenue and Akenside Road in Hampstead, a short trek south of the tube station, are the remains of a commemorative drinking fountain [photo]. Nothing gushes forth here today, but this was once the site of the "Shepherd's Well" which supplied the villagefolk of Hampstead with drinking water [photo]. Other local wells may have left a nasty mineral taste in the mouth, but water from the Shepherd's Conduit tasted clean and pure and so was much in demand. A penny a pailful, for those who couldn't be bothered to fetch it themselves. The track back to town survives as "Spring Path" [photo], and the Gothic pile on the corner is still known as Old Conduit House [photo]. Like I said, really obvious, all the clues are there.

The Tyburn ran down towards Swiss Cottage, past a statue of Sigmund Freud, centuries before either of those were ever there [photo]. About a foot in width, this was once a sparkling stream whose waters very rarely dried up. It passed through the western fringes of Belsize Park, crossing what are now leafy residential avenues, and slipping between the local leisure centre and a glassy mega-hotel. A second tributary rose further to the east, with its source in the grounds of Belsize Manor. In 1728, as Bellais House, this was a "beautifully situated" place of public amusement for the more genteel members of Georgian society. No trace of that house remains today, merely the townhouses that now cover the old estate, although there's still a clear ripple in the contours leading down from Belsize Park Gardens.

Both branches of the Tyburn curled round the western flank of Primrose Hill, which kept them apart from the larger River Fleet on the opposite side. The two tributaries met up on Avenue Road before edging into the borough of Westminster and following the line of Townshend Road. Houses are big round here, with gated driveways and swivelling cameras, but still somehow on the pleasant side of aspirational. Meanwhile the remains of the river trickle beneath the streets through the Kings Scholar's Pond Sewer, constructed circa 1825 with a quirky brickiness that Jon can tell you lots more about.

And then, Regent's Park. The river headed in beneath the Thirties apartments on the northern flank, before reaching an artificial valley carved across its course. This belongs to the Regent's Canal, which architect John Nash was forced to drop into a cutting so that it's perceived ugliness couldn't tarnish the rest of his great park. So the Tyburn has to cross over the canal [photo], and its pipes form the basis of the Charlbert footbridge. Most people walk over the top without even guessing [photo], but the folks at SilentUK have been for a crouch through the underworld...
"The pipe shifted into a smaller egg shape, before long reaching the Regents Canal. The pipe split into two rather unfavourable 4ft pipes, carrying the flow over the canal via a bridge, fun, but the show must go on. Slowly striding through the black, chunky liquid, dangerously close to catching some splash in the face, bags catching at every possible opportunity, thank god it was only 40 metres."
The pipe continues underground, but a separate Tyburn legacy is ever-so visible on the surface of Regent's Park. It's the boating lake [photo]. Don't think small and round. This lake's more bunch-of-bananas shaped, and curves almost all the way down the western side of the park. One finger starts close to the American ambassador's back garden [photo] and is therefore under permanent Secret Service scrutiny. Another starts nearer to the Zoo, this representing a very minor tributary which could never originally have been deep enough to support a pedalo [photo]. But the lake curls too much to precisely match the original Tyburn. Don't be fooled - this entire ornamental lagoon was artificially created by excavation when the park was first landscaped. It was originally fed by the Tyburn's piped-in waters, at least until January 1867 when the ice broke killing 40 men and boys skating on its surface. The water level was immediately lowered, and ice skating's been banned here ever since [icy photo]. Rest assured that the sewer's long been diverted to bypass the lake altogether, so all that floats here now are hireboats and waterfowl. [photo]

Following the Tyburn: Shepherd's Path, Akenside Road, Fitzjohn's Avenue, Belsize Park, Winchester Road, Harley Road, Wadham Gardens, Elsworthy Road, Avenue Road, Acacia Road, Townshend Road, Shannon Place, Eamont Street, Prince Albert Road, Charlbert Street, Charlbert Bridge, Outer Circle, Winfield House, Regent's Park Boating Lake.

 Friday, November 26, 2010

The River Tyburn

And finally in this series, the West End's lost river. That'll be the Tyburn, a long-departed stream which used to run through some of the most tourist-friendly spots on the planet. The Queen lives on it, Big Ben overshadows it, and shoppers on Oxford Street regularly wade across it. Even better, its valley remains readily visible most of the way down, even through Marylebone and Mayfair, should you ever fancy tracking it down. I've had a go.

The River Tyburn started its journey from the uplands of Hampstead, as did its streamy neighbours the Fleet and the Westbourne. All three ran sort-of parallel down to the Thames, with the Tyburn sandwiched inbetween the other two. It trickled south through St John's Wood, keeping to the west of the heights of Primrose Hill, and then into what is now Regent's Park. The boating lake here is the river's most obvious legacy, but one of the bridges over the Regent's Canal hides a similar secret. The Tyburn slipped out of the park past Baker Street station and on into Marylebone, where meandering Marylebone Lane still mimics the river's former course. Oxford Street is crossed close to Bond Street station (look for the very obvious dip in the road when you're out Christmas shopping). Then on into the heart of Mayfair (via Brook Street, obviously), curving around Berkeley Square to cross Piccadilly and into Green Park. The original stream crossed the front of Buckingham Palace before swinging east through St James's Park (home to another no-coincidence water feature) and splitting in two. These final rivulets once surrounded Thorney Island, a dry-spot in the marsh upon which Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster were built. Drainage hereabouts later forced the diversion of the river south, with a fresh course running down to Pimlico. One river, three possible endings, all now long gone.

There are several theories as to the derivation of the name Tyburn. The 'burn' bit is fairly straightforward, being derived from 'bourne' which means stream. But the first part of the name is probably linked to that split in the lower river. It could therefore come from 'Teo' (meaning 'two') or 'Tie' (meaning 'enclosing'). The first of these is given credence by King Edgar's royal charter, dated 951AD, which names the stream Teo-burna. Alternatively the entire name may mean 'boundary stream', or else might be a contraction of 'the Aye bourne', whoever or whatever 'Aye' was. Take your pick.

Other places named after the Tyburn:
Oxford Street: Until the 1780s, known as Tyburn Road
Tyburn: A small medieval village at the western end of Tyburn Road (population in 1086, eight families)
Tyburn Tree: Site of London's most notorious place of execution, in Tyburn, close to where Marble Arch now stands.
Tyburn Brook: A completely different lost river, a tributary of the Westbourne, which flowed from the gallows southwest into Hyde Park
Marylebone: Parish whose was church originally known as 'St Mary's church by the bourne'.

The river Tyburn's fate was decreed by its location. Early settlers were drawn to its delta, at Westminster, to form London's second nucleus. Its lower marshes were drained in Tudor times to create fertile land for farming and hunting. Then, as the city started to extend into Mayfair and Marylebone, the river had to be driven underground to provide sanitary living conditions for new residential quarters. Full burial came in the mid 19th century with the construction of an underground conduit, the King's Scholars' Pond Sewer (named after a pool used by Westminster School's top pupils for fishing and bathing). It's straighter and wider than the old river - for much of its length an elliptical brick tunnel - and still in use for foul-smelling run-off to this day.

Businessman James Bowdidge recently proposed that the Tyburn be restored to the surface, forcibly if necessary, by knocking down all the buildings in its path north of Piccadilly. An most peculiar motive for a property developer, it has to be said, but James is also the honorary secretary of the Tyburn Angling Society so claimed his priories were mostly fish-related. Assuming his plans to be tongue-in-cheek, or at best impractical, your best chance of spotting the Tyburn continues to be searching for clues on the surface.

» An approximate map of the Tyburn's course (my best Google map attempt)

» Londonist walks the Tyburn (in three parts)
» Exploring the Tyburn sewer (blimey) (ooh) (golly) (ah)
» James Bowdidge's presentation on behalf of the Tyburn Angling Society

» Previous rivers in this series: Fleet, Westbourne, Falcon Brook, Counters Creek, Neckinger, Hackney Brook, Effra, Walbrook, Pudding Mill, Stamford Brook, Peck, Earl's Sluice.

 Thursday, November 25, 2010

London 2012  Olympic update
  Travel nightmare imminent

While you were looking elsewhere yesterday, the 2012 planners sneaked out some bad news. Some very bad news, about travelling around London during the Olympics. They'd rather you didn't. It's going to be hell out there, what with hundreds of thousands of tourists blundering around the capital's transport network. The message to Londoners is clear - you should make life easier for global spectators by staying away. Work from home, get on your bike, leave the country for a fortnight.... but whatever you do don't try to get on a train.

A whole suite of documents has been released, well over a year ahead, to support UK businesses in their contingency planning. The advice hints strongly that public transport will be stuffed, that roads may become impassable, and that bosses probably ought to start planning now in order to minimise the Games' impact on day-to-day operations. There are action plans to download, strategies on flexible working to consider, and precise geographical predictions on how bad things could get round your way. It's these location-specific details which will worry the hell out of many Londoners. Fortunate, then, that almost nobody's noticed yet.
There will be a number of very busy areas, junctions and routes across London during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, known as ‘travel hotspots’. In particular, these will include areas around major interchange stations, such as King’s Cross St. Pancras, London Bridge and Bank, and routes that link central London with venues.
A set of 22 maps has been provided, allowing businesses and residents to download detailed information on how the games will impact on surrounding roads and the local public transport network. It's your first chance to pinpoint just how bad it's going to be where you live, or where you work. And be warned, it's not just places round the corner from an arena that are liable to be gridlocked.

Take the map named "Bow", for example, which covers the area between Bow Road and Canary Wharf. Three "road junction hotspots" are marked, two on the East India Dock Road and one on Poplar High Street. Unbelievably the Bow flyover roundabout is not marked as a road junction hotspot, which I can only assume is an oversight, or because police will be guarding it so carefully that public vehicles won't be allowed near. Then there are two "public transport hotspots". These may just scare you...
Canary Wharf (Jubilee): There could be significant additional delays of over an hour in accessing train services at this station. Busiest dates: 30 July and 31 August.
Canary Wharf (DLR): There could be significant additional delays of over an hour in accessing train services at this station. Most affected on weekdays 8am–8pm. Busiest dates: 30 July and 4 August.
Mile End: There could be significant additional delays of over an hour in accessing train services at this station. Most affected on weekdays noon–3pm, 4–7pm and 10pm–midnight. Busiest dates: 29 July and 1 August. Avoid interchange at this station.
"Significant additional delays of over an hour" suggests a crowding/queueing nightmare, and not just at venue-chucking-out time. Seriously, over an hour to get on a train? It'll be quicker to walk, even as far as central London. And this is at two stations more than a mile away from any Olympic venue. The same document also warns of "overcrowding expected at All Saints, Bow Road, Bromley-by-Bow, Bow Church, Devons Road, West India Quay, Westferry, Poplar, Blackwall and Langdon Park stations, due to lines being busy." Normal service this is not.
Stations to avoid during the Olympics
Closed: Pudding Mill Lane
No boarding: West Silvertown, Pontoon Dock, Woolwich Arsenal
Significant additional delays of over an hour: Stratford Regional, West Ham, North Greenwich, Charlton, Mile End, Canary Wharf, Bank, West Brompton
Significant additional delays of up to an hour: Stratford International, Earl's Court, Green Park, Victoria, Baker Street, Bond Street, Marble Arch, Waterloo, St Pancras International, Liverpool Street, Maze Hill, Westcombe Park, King George V, Woolwich Dockyard

Railway lines to avoid during the Olympics
Significant additional delays of over an hour: Central, DLR, Jubilee
Significant additional delays of up to an hour: North Kent line, Northern (Bank), Waterloo & City, Overground
Additional delays of over 30 minutes: Hammersmith & City, Northern (Charing Cross), Piccadilly
Additional delays of up to 15 minutes: Bakerloo, Circle, District, Metropolitan, Victoria, Tramlink
This is a significant release of bad news, right down to warning Londoners precisely where not to be at, say, two o'clock in the afternoon on 1st August 2012. It's so dire that it reminds me of the nerve gas spill in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (a fictitious disaster designed to displace all local residents while the government moved in and organised something massive). Or maybe this is nothing more than a list of worst case scenarios - an example of what'll happen if London 2012 can't persuade businesses and workers to change their habits. Whatever, Olympic planners must be absolutely petrified of public transport gridlock if they feel we all need 20 months advance warning. Unfortunate, then, that almost nobody's noticed yet.

 Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Your 2011 diary was undoubtedly printed too early, so here's a useful print-and-stick guide to the ridiculous number of bank holidays piled up at the end of April...

Mon 18 Aprweekdaynormal Monday
Tue 19 Aprweekday 
Wed 20 Aprweekday 
Thu 21 AprweekdayThe Queen's 85th birthday (Maundy Thursday)
Fri 22 Apr bank holiday Good Friday
Sat 23 AprweekendSt George's Day (not a bank holiday)
Sun 24 AprweekendEaster Sunday (the latest Easter since 1943)
Mon 25 Aprbank holidayEaster Monday
Tue 26 Aprweekday(most schools go back)
Wed 27 Aprweekday 
Thu 28 Aprweekday(three day week!)
Fri 29 Aprbank holidayRoyal Wedding! (Wills and Kate)
Sat 30 Aprweekend(blimey, another four day weekend, hurrah!)
Sun 1 MayweekendMay Day
Mon 2 Maybank holidayMay Day holiday
Tue 3 Mayweekday(back to work)
Wed 4 Mayweekday 
Thu 5 Mayweekdayreferendum on electoral reform (if anyone cares)
Fri 6 Mayweekdaynormal Friday

(and hey, there's another bank holiday less than four weeks later)

Full list of London's council libraries (November 2010) (for future reference)

Barking & Dagenham (10):
Barking, Dagenham, Marks Gate, Robert Jeyes, Rush Green, Wantz, Castle Green Library, Markyate, Thames View, Valence.
Barnet (16): Burnt Oak, Childs Hill, Chipping Barnet, Church End, East Barnet, East Finchley, Edgware, Friern Barnet, Golders Green, Grahame Park, Hampstead Garden Suburb, Hendon, Mill Hill, North Finchley, Osidge, South Friern.
Bexley (12): Bexley Village, Blackfen, Bostall, Central, Crayford, Erith, North Heath, Sidcup, Slade Green, Thamesmead, Upper Belvedere, Welling.
Brent (12): Barham Park, Cricklewood, Ealing Road, Harlesden, Kensal Rise, Kilburn, Kingsbury, Neasden, Preston, Tokyngton, Town Hall, Willesden Green.
Bromley (15): Bromley Central; Beckenham, Orpington; Biggin Hill, Chislehurst, Petts Wood, West Wickham; Anerley, Burnt Ash, Hayes, Mottingham, Penge, Shortlands, Southborough, St Paul's Cray.
Peckham LibraryCamden (13): Belsize, Camden Town, Chalk Farm, Heath, Highgate, Holborn, Kentish Town, Kilburn, Queens Crescent, Regent's Park, St Pancras, Swiss Cottage, West Hamsptead.
City (5): Barbican, Camomile Street, City Business, Guildhall, Shoe Lane.
Croydon (14): Central, Ashburton, Bradmore Green, Broad Green, Coulsdon, New Addington, Norbury, Purley, Sanderstead, Selsdon, Shirley, South Norwood, Thornton Heath, Upper Norwood.
Ealing (14): Acton, Ealing Central, Greenford, Hanwell, Jubilee Gardens, Northfields, Northolt Leisure Centre, Northolt, Perivale, Pitshanger, Southall, St Bernard's Hospital, West Ealing, Wood End.
Enfield (16): Angel Raynham, Bowes Road, Bullsmoor, Edmonton Green, Enfield Highway, Enfield Island Village, Enfield Town, Fore Street, John Jackson, Oakwood, Ordnance Road, Palmers Green, Ponders End, Ridge Avenue, Southgate Circus, Winchmore Hill.
Greenwich (13): Abbey Wood, Blackheath, Charlton, Claude Ramsey, Coldharbour, East Greenwich, Eltham Centre, Ferrier, New Eltham, Plumstead, Slade, West Greenwich, Woolwich.
Hackney (8): Clapton, Clr James, Hackney Central, Homerton, Shoreditch, Stamford Hill, Stoke Newington, Woodberry Down.
Hammersmith & Fulham (6): Askew Road, Barons Court, Hammersmith, Fulham, Sands End, Shepherds Bush.
Haringey (9): Wood Green; Alexandra Park, Coombes Croft, Highgate, Hornsey, Marcus Garvey, Muswell Hill, St Ann's, Stroud Green.
Harrow (11): Civic Centre; Gayton Central; Bob Lawrence, Hatch End, Kenton, North Harrow, Pinner, Rayners Lane, Roxeth, Stanmore, Wealdstone.
Havering (10): Central, Collier Row, Elm Park, Gidea Park, Harold Hill, Harold Wood, Hornchurch, Rainham, South Hornchurch, Upminster.
Hillingdon (17): Botwell Green, Charville, Eastcote, Harefield, Harlington, Hayes End, Ickenham, Manor Farm, Northwood Hills, Northwood, Oak Farm, Ruislip Manor, South Ruislip, Uxbridge, West Drayton, Yeading, Yiewsley.
Hounslow (11): Beavers, Bedfont, Brentford, Chiswick, Cranford, Feltham, Hanworth, Heston, Hounslow, Isleworth, Osterley.
Islington (10): Archway, Central, Finsbury, John Barnes, Lewis Carroll, Mildmay, N4, North, South, West.
Kensington & Chelsea (6): Chelsea, Kensington Central, North Kensington, Brompton, Notting Hill Gate, Kensal Green.
Kingston (7): Hook and Chessington, Kingston, New Malden, Old Malden, Surbiton, Tolworth, Tudor Drive.
Lambeth (9): Brixton, Carnegie, Clapham, Durning, Minet, South Lambeth, Streatham, Waterloo, West Norwood.
Roehampton LibraryLewisham (13): Lewisham; Blackheath Village, Catford, Crofton Park, Deptford, Downham, Forest Hill, Grove Park, Manor House, New Cross, Sydenham, Torridon Road, Wavelengths.
Merton (8): Aragon, Donald Hope, Mitcham, Morden, Pollards Hill, Raynes Park, West Barnes, Wimbledon.
Newham (10): Beckton, Canning Town, Custom House, East Ham, The Gate, Green Street, Manor Park, North Woolwich, Plaistow, Stratford.
Redbridge (13): Aldersbrook, Clayhall, Fulwell Cross, Gants Hill, Goodmayes, Hainault, Ilford, Keith Axon, Seven Kings, South Woodford, Uphall, Wanstead, Woodford Green.
Richmond (12): Castelnau, East Sheen, Hampton, Ham, Heathfield, Hampton Hill, Hampton Wick, Kew, Richmond, Teddington, Twickenham, Whitton.
Southwark (12): Blue Anchor, Brandon, Camberwell, Dulwich, East Street, Grove Vale, John Harvard, Kingswood, Newington, Nunhead, Peckham, Rotherhithe.
Sutton (9): Beddington, Carshalton, Cheam, Phoenix Centre, Sutton Central, The Circle, The Life Centre, Wallington, Worcester Park.
Tower Hamlets (8): Bow, Bethnal Green, Canary Wharf, Chrisp Street, Cubitt Town, Dorset, Watney Market, Whitechapel.
Waltham Forest (10): Hale End, Harrow Green, Higham Hill, Lea Bridge, Leyton, Leytonstone, North Chingford, South Chingford, Walthamstow, Wood Street.
Wandsworth (11): Balham, Battersea, Battersea Park, Earlsfield, Northcote, Putney, Roehampton, Southfields, Tooting, Wandsworth Town, York Gardens.
Westminster (13): Charing Cross, Church Street, Little Venice Sports Centre, Maida Vale, Marylebone, Mayfair, Paddington, Pimlico, Reference, Queen's Park, St James's, St John's Wood, Victoria.

 Tuesday, November 23, 2010

There comes a day, usually around November, when handkerchiefs become a necessity. The sort of day when, even if you start off with a clean handkerchief in your pocket, it soon becomes evident to anyone watching that you urgently need a fresh one. It's at such times that the question has to be asked - where do handkerchiefs hide?

I had sudden need of handkerchiefs over the weekend. A proper handkerchief, that is, not a flimsy paper one-blow disposable. First I used the handkerchief in my pocket. Then I rifled through the pocket of another pair of trousers, and found a second. Then I extracted the handkerchief from my work trousers, and used that. And then I ran out.

I must have more handkerchiefs than that, I thought. There was that Christmas when someone gave me a really dull, yet surprisingly practical, set of six - they must be somewhere. And the rest, my historical accumulation, where had they gone? Still tucked into old pockets, I assumed, hidden deep in various pairs of trousers I never wear any more. But no, not there either. Nor in some cupboard drawer. Not anywhere. I appeared to have survived until now on only three handkerchiefs, repeatedly re-laundered, and now I'd been caught short.

So I thought I'd go shopping after work for handkerchiefs. There being no shops in my part of Bow which might sell any, I headed instead to Stratford, the major retail centre hereabouts. And I hunted, and I hunted. Most major shopping centres have a department store or BHS or M&S (or the like) where handkerchiefs are definitely sold. Not Stratford. Or perhaps a market, with nasal-friendly cotton goods on a stall. Not Stratford. Erm, surely somewhere here sells proper handkerchiefs.

I would obviously have gone to Woolworths, had this been more than two years ago, but alas that option no longer exists. I tried Wilkinson, purveyors of cheap bulk goods. No, they only had stacks of Kleenex. I tried Poundstretcher, which is like Woolworths but for less affluent people. No, their assistant simply smiled at me when I asked. Surely somewhere in this godforsaken town must sell something as simple as handkerchiefs? My dribbly nose couldn't wait until Westfield arrives.

Eventually I ventured into Peacocks, the "value fashion retailer", and hunted through the racks of gents winterwear. I spotted some eventually at the back of the store, a pack of five, in amongst an unlikely display of shiny hats and pointy shoes. This section purveyed the sort of merchandise that aspiring JLS wannabes would snap up, and had the none-too inspiring brand name of 'Urban Spirit'. But hey, needs must. Four quid.

Two of my new handkerchiefs are plain, and I'm going to use those first. The other three have a jaunty geometric pattern, a bit like someone chopped up a tablecloth into small squares (because presumably that's what hip X Factor rejects sport these days). I'll use those only when I get desperate... which should be around three o'clock this afternoon. Then I bet they go missing too, soon enough, lost in some bottomless pocket or dark corner of the linen basket. Or wherever handkerchiefs hide.

 Monday, November 22, 2010

It's been three months since I last moaned about the emails that pluggers and marketing types send me, invariably suggesting that I mention something specific on this blog. I must have left it too long, because they've started contacting me more often recently. Sorry folks, it still ain't happening. So below are some of their latest desperate requests for publicity, but with all the brand names heartlessly deleted. I do hope it's damned frustrating for all those concerned.
I hope you are well and ready for the weekend? I just wanted to drop you a quick email to invite you to a launch party we have on next week at <posh hotel> which I thought you may like to come too? It's for the launch of <Wii game with £80 pricetag> which is the home fitness programme that <world famous footballer> has just signed his name to as global ambassador.
But <world famous footballer> isn't coming to your party, is he? You could only get <ancient Page 3 model> and <ITV microceleb>. So that's a no, Noel.
Hello from <collective discount website offering daily deals on fluff you wouldn't buy otherwise>!
My name is Bill and I’m the marketing executive here at <collective discount website etc>. I am interested in speaking to someone at your company about advertising on your website. I think there is a lot of potential for a successful partnership between our companies and I would like to be able to discuss this further with you.
I ought to be flattered that you think this blog's run by a company, whereas instead this admission simply makes you look pig-ignorant. Go on...
We have a range of high performance API sourced banners, which I think would go brilliantly with your site.
You think wrong, Bill. I have taste, so I won't be corrupting my sidebar with your evil slow-loading Flash adverts.
Hello Diamond Geezer,
Do you have an iPhone or a friend with an iPhone? I recently launched an iPhone app called <iCatchyname>, which is for when you’re in the pub, it’s closing time and you don’t want to go home.
Not only do I not have an iPhone, I don't have a 24 hour social life either. Badly mistargeted, Emma.
I am a link analyst working for <search engine optimisation company> on behalf of <minor London university>. I have noticed that <minor London university> is referred to on this post. I would like to make a change to this if possible and add the word London after <minor London university> and link the 3 anchor words to the homepage. Please contact me to discuss further.
No Anecia, I will not be re-editing my archive to suit your selfish greedy ends, obviously.
Hi London Geezer,
I came about your blog in the last few weeks and love it. What on earth is happening with the already high London transport prices. Well done for pointing that out - I have not heard about it on any of the news and it's amazing how everyone is keeping quite about it. I wanted to tell you about a new service which we just launched...
Don't push the personal approach too hard, Zabetta, it only makes you sound stupid.
Please see below story on the flashmob at <London location> organised by <multinational organisation> today. If you'd like high res images, please give me a shout. We also have video from the day here if you want to stream.
I let out a little sob every time I see another blogger shamelessly recycling this crud.
Please find attached the images from today’s photocall. They are also up on the PA picture wire.
A very special hello to four of the account executives at <spamming PR agency>, who between them managed to send me ten emails over the space of a fortnight despite the fact I kept writing back asking them to stop. It'd be good not to hear from you, folks.

So my message remains the same. If you're a social marketing guru who hasn't taken the hint yet, please stop sending me sycophantic promotional emails. It only makes you look desperate. Many thanks.

 Sunday, November 21, 2010

Last night I decided to clear out my kitchen cupboard. This meant poking around at the very back, behind the tins of baked beans, jars of jam and packets of cup-a-soup. And here I discovered a netherworld of previous purchases, a comestible archive, a stack of stuff well past its best-before-date. And I thought, I should chuck this lot out. But I didn't, apart from a couple of squeezy bottles it would have been inadvisable to keep. I'm sure that most of it's perfectly edible, whatever the official deadline says. Here's a list of the worst offenders...

The oldest foodstuff in my freezer
Young's Admiral's Pie (340g) [July 2007] - Mmm, fishy slush under a layer of mashed potato, lightly frozen, beneath a coating of ice crystals. Purchased in readiness for that day when I'd get home hungry, find the fridge bare and want a meal I could microwave in ten minutes. That day has never arrived.
There's also a rather chemical-looking lemon sponge pudding, whose sell-by-date is "18 May", but that could be any 21st century year.

The oldest foodstuffs in my fridge
Bernard Massard - Brut [2000 vintage] - Given to me by my letting agent as a housewarming gift the day I moved into my flat. I'm still waiting for an excuse to open it, and/or company to share it with.
Limited edition 'Believe' Mars bar [18 02 07] - Issued in that heady summer of 2006 when England were absolutely definitely going to walk away with the World Cup, honest. I keep it as a totemic keepsake of misplaced optimism.
Creme Eggs × 2 [July 2010] - Because new season Creme Eggs are still five weeks away, and a man's got to survive until Christmas somehow.

The ten oldest foodstuffs in my kitchen cupboard
Microwaveable Apple and Cinnamon Sponge Pudding (320g) [Nov 2002] - From the days when 'microwaveable' was a) still novel b) a selling point.
Typhoo 'Millennium Blend' [Feb 2003] - A pack of 20 silver-wrapped teabags, issued to ride the millennial bandwagon, with a disappointingly ordinary taste so I still have four left.
Fray Bentos Steak and Mushroom Pie (425g) [May 2003] - I can't face slicing the big tin open, because the contents never quite look edible, even after cooking.
Mixed herbs (58g) [June 2003] - Bought for me by a friend in the misguided belief that I might use it to 'season' my food. They'll learn (but only if they ever come to dinner again).
Cadbury's Original Drinking Chocolate (250g) [Oct 2003] - Mmm, milky chocciness. Now that I've remembered this exists, I give it two weeks before I've gulped down the lot.
Sliced carrots in water (no added sugar) (180g) [Jan 2005] - If nothing else, old tins show just how far graphic design's moved on in the last decade.
Jif Lemon [Sep 05] [Oct 00] - OK, I've chucked the old lemon away, on the basis it must be nasty, cloudy and acidic inside that yellow plastic by now. But the newer one survives until next Pancake Day.
Nescafé Gold Blend (50g) [June 2006] - I keep this tiny jar for when builders/workmen/visitors come round and ask for a coffee, because it would be socially gauche not to have any. Still 90% full.
Heinz Tomato Ketchup (855g) [July 2006] - Don't worry, this one's empty, but I've kept it as a reminded of the glory days when ketchup still used to come in proper bottles and not cheapskate thin squeezy bottles.
Evian Natural Mineral Water (2l) [31 03 2007] - I never drink the stuff, it's a complete waste of money. But I've got this bottle stashed away for the day my taps run dry. Or Armageddon, whichever comes sooner.

Lessons learned
1) I must remember to stop buying new food when I already have perfectly serviceable old food.
2) Tinned food's not big and it's not clever, but one day you'll be damned glad you've got some.
3) If you're an old school blogger looking for an idea to write about, go look in your kitchen cupboards.

 Saturday, November 20, 2010

  Thames Path (extension)

  Woolwich to Erith (6½ miles)


Converted barracks, gates swing shut, apartments still available. Museum café, a squaddie pops out, moves a chair. Fog is lifting. Metal sculpturefolk stand around, no Clipper in sight. Riverwall curves downstream, the Thames laps. Apartments become more remote, less desirable, more affordable. Passing by: ladies weighed down by carrier bags; two pushchairs; a dogwalker in purple curlers. City Airport roars, business class screams overhead, planestupid sticker on lamppost.

Tripcock Point
The river bends at Margaret Ness. Willow, buddleia, mud. A bright red tower, lamp on top, guiding non-existent boats. Damp grassy footpath, cobbled banks, Willy's Wall. Fenced off mounds, "Danger No Admittance", awaiting the Thames Gateway Bridge that will never come. Diggers rumble, gulls forage. Toothless cyclist grins, policeman skulks on the upper path. Views of Beckton sewage works, Barking flood barrier, estuarine greyness.

Flats loom, the shopping centre's tower pokes higher. Wholly unexpected viewing platform, what's to see? Piles of containers and Creekmouth cranes. Too many seats, leafy puddles, splintered benches. Three upright lances, defunct wind chimes, 70s street art? Pumping station, concrete culvert emerges, plastic bags afloat. Solo angler, flask and jacket, woolly hat. Thamesmead's balconies go on and on: kiddie trikes in storage; hibernating barbecues; empty deckchairs.

Cross Ness
Path turns to gravel, another red lighthouse. South London, the northern tip of. Patch of dewy grass. Across the Thames: a field of paintpot-white tanks; Ford Dagenham; a wind turbine with upper blade part-vanished in the mist. Edge of Thamesmead, its estates peter out, the binmen are calling. Golf course, probably not for the locals, nobody on the driving range. Metal arch, end of the Ridgeway, sewertop walk to Plumstead. Blue above, grey below, the horizon so narrow.

Victorian brick, temple to sewage, all hail Bazalgette. Somewhere within: beam engines; painted ironwork; steam! No access, tall fence. CCTV sentinels loom. Pair of rat-faced fisherboys, R&B blaring. Vats of human waste, stink-free, best not thought about. Sci-fi-tastic building alongside, tall and silvery, the Crossness Sludge Incinerator. Chimney with a bulging neck, swooshing switchback roof, puffs of steam emerge. Sliver of nature reserve, seabirds speckle the river.

Crossness Beam Engines House

Power station under construction, another silver swoosh, another tall chimney. London's waste arriving soon for burning, 72 megawatts. Workmen making finishing touches, do NOT touch the live cables. Refurbished pier, awaiting tugs and barges, bright orange cranes at the ready. Industrial riverside continues: warehouses; lock-up units; blaring radios. Pier, pier, wharf, pier, slipway, oil works. Nobody lives here, many (still) work here. Segregation, isolation, hanging on.

Civilisation approaches, but slowly. Overhead conveyors, grass-topped jetties, chemical silos. Spiderwebs cling to unwary ramblers, silvery threads across the path like tripwires. Retired couple lunching on the river wall, thermos of soup, cheery "hi". Across the river Coldharbour Point, undeveloped wasteheaps, JCBs the only sign of life. Back to town, flats, more flats, a downbeat path. Blonde harridans sip cider, staffie at heel. William Cory Promenade, Erith pier, nip back through the flood wall.

» Walk this way? Walk London has full details.
» Eight photos from the walk

 Friday, November 19, 2010

I wrote a long post about Crossrail last night. Sorry, it's not here.

The designs for eight new Central London Crossrail stations were launched yesterday at an exhibition off Tottenham Court Road. Boris went along to the Building Centre and stood in front of a series of illustrations, and the media dutifully reported what he said. So I thought I'd write a post about it. It took me ages, several hours, and I was nearly at the end when I accidentally pressed some mysterious combination of keys and deleted the lot. Blogger always saves drafts of posts as you type, so it ought to be impossible to lose everything, but apparently I discovered the magic keypress which kills it all. I hunted around, I clicked 'back' on my browser, I tried everything, but the entire 1000 words or so had completely disappeared. Bloody bastard Blogger shortcuts.

I'd researched this post specially. In particular I'd been along to the exhibition after work yesterday to take a look. The display wasn't as big as I was expecting, merely a wall full of sketchy artists impressions (which somehow managed to be both informative and unhelpful at the same time). I wrote some particularly illuminating sentences about the exhibition, including how totally uninspiring Farringdon station will look, but my crafted words have disappeared and I can't quite remember how I phrased everything.

I took some photos too, like this shot of the Centre's scale model of London, now with Crossrail threading though the skyscrapers. There was a cutaway of a station too, with a long descending escalator and a plastic platform in a tube, but that photo didn't come out so well. I seamlessly linked those photos into the text I was writing, while I still had some text that is, which now I don't.

There was one particular sentence about how all the stations look like airport terminals buried underground, which isn't necessarily a good thing. I had a particular laugh at the verbose drivel some of the architects had written about their beloved designs. Bond Street, for example, "will use the concept of a colonnaded pavilion which enables internal spaces to be perceived from various parts of the station and which will provide framing for the movement of people while assisting passenger flows and intuitive way-finding." I'm not the only one writing inadequate rubbish today.

And I'd composed an entire paragraph about how incredibly long Crossrail stations will be, often with two entrances linked to adjacent underground stations. The platforms are going to be 260m long, that was the crux of it, which explains how Bond Street Crossrail station will have an exit as far away as Oxford Circus. Get your walking shoes on, people of London. Except I phrased it better than that, and there were better examples.

I bemoaned the fact that, despite having been to the exhibition, I still couldn't picture how the most of the new stations will actually look because the drawings were too woolly. I had a whinge about the newly-revamped Crossrail website, which has lots of textual detail about the eight new central stations but very few useful illustrations and hardly any useful maps or plans. And I linked everything together in a hopefully interesting and informative way. All gone, lost, wiped.

Hell, I even popped in to the official Crossrail Visitor Information Centre at Centre Point too. It's only open Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I have to say it's not exactly buzzing with visitors even then. The staff summarily ignored me all the time I was looking round, which suggests the three of them don't exactly have the most difficult job in the world. They can count themselves lucky my original post has disappeared, because I wasn't quite so polite about them in that.

So look, I spent my evening walking the streets of London doing some original on-the-spot research, then coming home later than usual and pouring my thoughts out into this web browser. I thought you might appreciate the effort, and I was quite proud of what I'd almost churned out. And then at ten to midnight, whilst polishing the last few sentences for added nuance, I managed to delete an entire evening's work. I was not best pleased.

I stared at the blank rectangle for a while and considered trying to recreate my extinct masterpiece. If I stayed up until 2am, maybe 3, I could probably reassemble something which read sort-of similarly. I was sorely tempted. Except it wouldn't have been quite as good, I realised that, so I decided against. Instead, sorry, you've got this incoherent moan written in a fraction of the time, conveying only a flavour of the information I meant to bring to you today.

So that's six hours of my life I'll never get back, and with nothing decent to show for my troubles. Maybe I'll learn one day that there are better ways to spend an evening than waffling at length online. But, more likely, Crossrail'll be along first.

London Reconnections has proper details and photos of the eight newly-launched Crossrail station designs.
» Paddington (just what Paddington needs, another underground station)
» Bond Street (with an eastern exit in Hanover Square, which will suddenly get a lot busier)
» Tottenham Court Road (the entire Olympic Park will be completed in less time than will TCR)
» Farringdon (did I mention how uninspiringly dull I thought this station looked?)
» Liverpool Street (meanwhile the other end of the train will be at Moorgate station)
» Whitechapel (they're building some fancy pedestrian concourse above the Overground platforms)
» Canary Wharf (this one's well underway already, and should look impressively shiplike)
» Custom House (the only one of these eight stations with platforms above ground)

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harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

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diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards