diamond geezer

 Thursday, March 31, 2011

Time once again to expose the murky world of PR-to-blogger spam. So soon? Yes, sorry, but I've received some fantastically crass requests in my inbox over the last month. And the answer is still the same. Absolutely no.
I would like to take the opportunity to offer you an affiliate partnership with <daily deal website>. We have a deal platform were we advertise more then 200 daily deals per day.
Few days/weeks ago, I sent you an email regarding a possible collaboration with your blog, maybe my email end up in your spam folder. So, I decide to contact you again to ask you if you would be interested to have collaboration with our company.
We would gladly do a feature write-up about your website in Best of the Web, our bi-weekly review of the most unique, informative and intriguing Home and Garden blogs on the web.
I have recently published a book about the <London transport network>. I was wondering if it would be possible to write a blog on your website? Given that the visitors to your website will be looking for information on the <London transport network> it would be fantastic.
Absolutely no.
Hello fella,
I hope this email finds you well. I’m Tyler and I had the chance to check out your blog, noticed you recently visited my hometown of Cambridge – what else did you manage to check out beyond the campuses? Anyways, I’m contacting you on behalf of <potato-based snack food> who have launched a new range.
Impressive non-sequitur there, Tyler. I already have a bad feeling about this.
We have a few goodies that we’d love to send to you. The new product line from <food company>, <kitchen implement>® <potato-based snack food>, are packed full of flavour and are available in <four slightly poncey flavours>, they certainly deliver plenty of extra wallop. To celebrate the launch of the new range we’re holding the first ever <kitchen implement>® <potato-based snack food> Dodgem Derby fronted by ex-Stig, Ben Collins, on March 26th from Middle Wallop in Hampshire to London.
I bet "extra wallop" sounded great in the brainstorming session, Tyler, but here it comes across as sad and rather desperate. Hang on, I see you're not finished...
To keep doing what <food company> do best, we kindly ask for your help to protect the <kitchen implement>® trademark. Please may we ask that their brand name is used in this way. Also please do not use phrases such as "<kitchen implement> style" to describe the category of <potato-based snack food>. The correct name is "batch cooked" or "hand cooked”.
The temptation to describe your precious product as "<kitchen implement> style" is almost irresistible, Tyler. As is the opportunity to describe your PR agency as "paranoid control freaks".
Hi there,
I wanted to get in touch with you regarding an event I’m currently working on, the <Major Event at Earl's Court>. This year we are doing something a bit special and hosting a dedicated ‘bloggers lounge’ in which we are inviting our favourite bloggers down to the event to blog live and experience the show in a way that hasn’t be available in the past to bloggers. We will have a dedicated lounge set up just for bloggers, with computers available for use, in the Show Village and totally kitted out by <furniture company>. I really love your blog and was wondering if you’d be interested in coming down to the event as one of our official bloggers.
A bloggers lounge for bloggers? It's like 2004 all over again, isn't it Alexandra? No thanks, nor to your offer of a special <famous paint company> makeover.
Hi DG,
I'm Chris, founder of <Crapname>, a growing community of influencers which has just launched in private beta and I've created an invite code for you below. There's also a one-page PDF here which gives an overview of how <Crapname> could help you get more out of your online presence and get some unique incentives from leading brands. Your blog would be a great fit for the clients we will be running campaigns with and we'd love you to be part of it.
To be honest, Chris, as soon as your email arrived from "Influencer Relations [influencers@<crapname>.com]", I just knew it was going to be bollocks. In my opinion it's entrepreneurial ad-pushers like you who are poisoning the internet by transforming it into a shallow world of vacuous brand promotion. Some of us still like to write original unprompted comment based on our own ideas, not what you'd like us to advertise, because that has integrity.

So if you're another Tyler, Alexandra or Chris, then please stop and think before you fire off your latest PR missive in my direction. And then don't bother.

 Wednesday, March 30, 2011

At a board meeting today, TfL will be discussing their "Business Plan to 2014/15". This document sets out plans for the future across all forms of London transport, and also how they'll be paid for. On the positive side, TfL will be saving £7.6bn over the next three years whilst continuing to roll out a major programme of investment. That's quite some trick, to save over 20% of your budget whilst doing more, and will involve renegotiating deals, redefining priorities, stripping out deadwood and making the most of technology. On the negative side, this means fare rises consistently over and above inflation, job losses, the selling off of assets and the curtailment of new projects. In the current economic climate, maybe an efficiency programme plus upgrades is the best we can expect. Or maybe this is a short-sighted response, enforced by Mayoral priorities, which fails to capitalise on London's future growth.

I'll leave the debate to elsewhere. Because there's something much more interesting in today's 140-page Business Plan document. Yet another tube map.

Hell no, in fact two new tube maps. Hidden away on pages 82 and 83 are a map of TfL’s rail transport network at 2015 and then TfL’s rail transport network at 2019. It's the blueprint for how Boris sees London's rail network expanding over the next decade. And to be honest, with a few significant exceptions, it won't.

TfL’s rail transport network at 2015
So in four years time, what's new? Three things.
i) The DLR will be extended from Canning Town to Stratford International. And that's not news. In fact this line should be firmly part of the existing tube map by now, because it was originally scheduled to be operational last year. Testing's been going on for months, there are new staff trained up and ready to go, but still no public services have begun. Signalling difficulties, apparently, or maybe nicked copper wire, or maybe they're just saving money by not running services before Westfield opens. So this extension isn't really new, merely delayed.
ii) The Overground will gain another arm to Clapham Junction. This is on schedule for 2012, though not quite in time for the Olympics. Most of the line will be simply be reappropriated from Southern rail services, although there is a new kilometre or so of track south of Surrey Quays. Orbital services a-go-go.
iii) OMG, it's a cablecar! I bet you didn't expect to see this on a tube map. Here's Boris's aerial pipedream writ large, as a thin black line connecting the Greenwich Peninsula with the Royal Docks. TfL's Business Plan has little concrete to say, except that "the service will make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the Thames in east London. Crossings will take around five minutes and the cable cars will carry about two million passengers per year." The map suggests that the cable car's southern station will be adjacent to North Greenwich station, which alas it won't. The map also shows that it's already very easy to travel between North Greenwich and Royal Victoria by train (six minutes via Jubilee line and DLR), so the new link's practically irrelevant. But cyclists will welcome a bike-friendly route across the Thames, because these are in desperately short supply at the moment. And hell, this shiny bauble's real future is as a tourist attraction, not a commuter highway. If the cable car ever appears on the tubemap proper, sometime after the Olympics have been and gone, consider it a nothing more than an advert for customers.

TfL’s rail transport network at 2019
So in four more years time, what's new? Only one thing. But it's a biggie.
i) Crossrail. It's that new purple line slicing through the capital from west to east, and making a bit of a mess of the tube map along the way. You can see it here meandering through the City, adding several more big blue accessibility blobs, and trying desperately to find a clear space between all the other lines and stations. The double station at Farringdon and Barbican has to be one of the ugliest features ever to appear on a tube map, notional or otherwise. Those chunky blue lines must be a new feature indicating step-free passage, as apparently befits a Crossrail station so long that there's one Circle line station at one end and another at the other. The double-headed Moorgate/Liverpool Street monster is perhaps even more confusing, and I can imagine tourists scratching their heads trying to work out what the hell their next Crossrail station is called and what it interchanges with. But let's not gripe too much. Crossrail has been on the drawing board so long that some feared it might never be completed. The completion date keeps slipping back, once 2012, more recently 2017, and now 2018 if we're lucky. Crossrail's taking considerably longer to build than the entire Olympic Park, such is its cost and complexity. And that'll be why it's the only new rail project planned for completion in the second half of this decade. Everything else has fallen by the wayside, sacrificed to ensure the survival of the one project deemed to have the greatest impact on transport in the capital.

TfL’s rail transport network at 2016 (published 2004)
So let's just check what's been lost. Back in 2004 TfL published a similar map showing what the rail network might look like by 2016. Seemed impossibly far away at the time, and the future looked glittering. Mayor Ken had an overflowing shopping basket of pet transport projects, and the map provides a snapshot of his pipedreams. Some were wholly aspirational, others entirely impractical, but others were costed, planned and scheduled before Boris and the recession pulled the plug. So I've scoured the map, thankfully saved from digital oblivion by London Reconnections, to remind us what extras the tube map of 2019 won't include. Here's what we've lost.

Proposed By Ken for 2016, won't be delivered by 2019
» Crossrail branch to Kingston (since switched to Maidenhead)
» Overground station at Surrey Canal Road (still unfunded)
» DLR extension to Dagenham Dock (a mistake cutting that, I think)
» Tramlink extensions (to Tooting, Sutton, Streatham, Purley and Crystal Palace)
» Croxley Rail Link (only running 50 years late)
» West London Transit (impractical tram to Uxbridge)
» Cross River Transit (from Camden to Brixton and Peckham)
» Greenwich Waterfront Transit (including new Thames Crossing)
» East London Transit (to Barkingside, Romford and Rainham)

Not proposed for 2016, will be delivered by Boris by 2019
» that cablecar

 Tuesday, March 29, 2011

London 2012  Olympic update
  Venue restriction zone

If you live or work near an Olympic venue, as some of us do, Games time may force additional restrictions on your life. Plans are afoot to set up exclusion zones around each venue, be that the Olympic Park, the coastline of Weymouth or the entire Marathon route. But these aren't security zones or police cordons, these are proposed areas of commercial quarantine. There'll be no street trading and no unofficial outdoor advertising in these areas come 2012, at least on event days, if these proposals go through. Which of course they will.
Street trading
Selling goods or services on the street, in any public space or from a private property (such as a driveway) won't be possible without approval. We'll contact licensed street traders to see if we can give approval or help relocate trading temporarily.
Want to sell pink cowboy hats and whistles in Trafalgar Square during the beach volleyball? Think again. Planning a garage sale overlooking the Royal Victoria Dock in August 2012. Not allowed. Want to sell coffee on the plaza outside Stratford station? Not during the Olympics you don't. For a start you'd be getting in the way of spectators and tourists, obstructing the pavement and creating congestion. And for another, you'd not be selling products from official authorised sponsors. Would never do, so will not happen.
Outdoor advertising
Outdoor advertising will not be allowed unless specifically exempt or authorised. Exemptions include ordinary shop signs and related advertising.
The most serious clampdown will be on advertising within the restricted zones. No problem if you're an existing shop - you won't be asked to cover your name or whitewash your windows. No problem if there's a brandname written into the brickwork on your wall - that can stay. And nothing to stop announcements for church jumble sales, adverts on the sides of buses or posters promoting council services. But don't think of flyposting a club night on a lamppost, or hanging a charity banner across your street, or flying an airship over central London saying "Burger King rule". Every poster site or billboard within the restricted zone will be reserved for use by official Olympic sponsors, so it'll be McDonalds, Toyota, Panasonic and friends all the way. To be honest that's very similar to the current restricted selection of companies you'll find paraded in and around the O2, but these 2012 regulations will be covering a much wider area.

The Department for Culture Media and Sport have kindly produces a series of maps detailing precisely where they'd like these exclusion zones to go. Most of the tip of the North Greenwich Peninsula is covered, for example, but also a strip of land on the opposite bank of the Thames to stop residents in Blackwall spelling out "We love Pepsi" in their windows. Several of the streets around St James's Park are included, from Pall Mall to Whitehall plus the areas outside the three nearest tube stations. Residential streets around Lord's cricket ground, ten miles of Dorset coastline, most of downtown Greenwich, they're all restricted too. Could this affect you?

The area where these restrictions will apply the longest - 35 days in total - is the zone around the perimeter of the Olympic Park. In some places the Event Zone is very narrow, for example with much of the southern side of Stratford High Street being exempt. But in other places the Event Zone stretches out unexpectedly far, trapping unsuspecting residential backstreets within its grasp. That's most of Hackney Wick, the entire eastern edge of Bow, the superstores at Leyton, even a finger sticking out beyond West Ham tube station. This → advertising sign for "Coffee Corner" by the Bow flyover will have to go, concealing the independent cafe from passing Olympic footfall. Every poster across the new Westfield shopping mall will have to be taken by approved (but not-necessarily resident) businesses. And if I try flogging cupcakes from my front doorstep, I could face prosecution. Best not, then.

Some intriguingly specific advertising opportunities are barred.
• Displaying, projecting or exhibiting any kind of advertisement, whether it is of a commercial or non-commercial nature
• Carrying or holding an advertisement or something on which an advertisement is displayed
• Displaying an advertisement on an animal
• Wearing a costume that is an advertisement or clothing on which an advertisement is displayed as part of an ambush marketing campaign
• Distributing or providing a document or article for the purposes of promotion, advertisement, announcement or direction

Ambush marketing is a particular worry for the Olympic organisers. They've gone to great pains to woo major sponsors and bring in hundreds of millions of pounds of much needed cash, so the last thing they want to see is a competitor hijacking media attention by projecting a promotional video onto the back of a goat, or whatever. These Games will be on-message at all times, or else. There'll even be a ‘Look and Feel’ programme consisting of building wraps, lighting, flags and banners, to ensure the creation of "a backdrop fit for celebration on a truly global scale". That clock in Trafalgar Square is only the start.

As I say, these zones and restrictions are merely proposals at the moment, with public consultation lasting until the end of May. And rest assured that the restricted zones are smaller than were seen in Sydney or Beijing, or in South Africa for the World Cup last year. But they'll be introduced anyway, whatever the outcome of the consultation. And if there's something you don't like, or if your home or business might be affected, don't say you weren't warned.

Olympic update: As of this afternoon, the Olympic Stadium is structurally complete. You can flick through 3½ years of construction here.

 Monday, March 28, 2011

Just passed Holly Johnson on Piccadilly (Frankie Say Get Angry) #26march
It was impossible to judge the scale of Saturday's March For The Alternative by being in it. A sea of banners and placards and people, both ahead and behind, twisting around far too many street corners to be seen [photo]. All the usual left-wing suspects were here - the Marxists, the communists, the RMT - but outnumbered by a wider coalition of more ordinary folk representing organisations and services under threat nationwide. The unions had a massive presence, unsurprisingly, with flags and tabards and inflatables suggesting a substantial amount of pre-planned branding. Several slogans raised a smile, others a cringe, but the default option was the simple "No Cuts" street sign. The atmosphere was peaceful - I'd describe the crowd as cheerfully livid - with only the occasional group of fired-up students chanting heartfelt anger. Marchers passed Fortnum and Mason without blinking, and The Ritz without casting a second glance. Passers-by had nothing to fear, and several American tourists wandering out of their Mayfair hotels looked more confused than agitated.

Citizen Ed saying all the right words but not quite igniting the crowd #26march
The rally in Hyde Park peaked too early. By the time the Labour leader emerged onto the stage, the great majority of protesters were still somewhere back on Piccadilly, or Whitehall, or even passing the official start on the Embankment. Those present listened as Ed gave a lengthy speech praising the day's action and damning the cuts [photo]. Applause filled his pauses as planned, and most at least nodded in response, yet his politically-correct rhetoric somehow failed to inspire. Master of ceremonies Tony Robinson had a much better idea of how to work a large crowd, introducing a succession of union leaders and sympathetic commentators. Each lambasted the government's state-shrinking agenda, most demanding absolutely no cuts rather than fewer. The crowd will have been galvanised by their words, with much to think about and to act upon, but this was preaching to the converted, and the Government won't be shifting an inch as a result.

The queue for fish and chips is longer than the queue for baguettes #26march (and still they come)
As with any major event in Hyde Park, a small army of catering vans had turned up to feed the crowd. Not as many as I'd have expected, and a little more mainstream than any vegan or noodle-friendly marchers would have liked, but they did a brisk trade. Those vans to the left of the stage did best, because most of the crowd stopped marching a few hundred metres early rather than trooping round to the far right of the stage where there was hugely more space. Families and nationwide contingents settled on the grass out of earshot of the PA system, some with picnics they'd bought themselves, others with fivequidsworth of French loaf. A family of four marched on tiptoe between the groundsheets, with youngest son leading the procession on the vuvuzela. A group of health workers from Bolton paused and posed so that a Unison steward could take their photo to prove they were here. And still the crowds poured in from Hyde Park Corner, come to join the party, and oblivious to any action that might have been going on elsewhere. [photo]

Riot police in helmets and balaclavas are lined up on guard outside Claire's Accessories, Vodafone and River Island on Oxford St #26march
Every December, Oxford Street is pedestrianised to allow for easier Christmas shopping. UK Uncut achieved a similar level of segregation on Saturday, simply by targeting protests on several retailers they accused of tax avoidance. Most had moved on by the time I walked down the street, but there was still ample evidence that this was no normal afternoon. The line of riot police outside a shop selling accessories to teenagers - that was highly unusual, unless dark blue headgear and hi-vis jackets had become suddenly fashionable. These footsoldiers were probably protecting the 'evil' mobile phone outfit nextdoor, just as they were lined up outside Boots and BHS and another Vodafone further down. You'll have heard that several protesters were masked, but so were the police. Two eyes and a nose were all that peered out through the hole in the balaclava, although that was still sufficient to offer help to various non-threatening members of the public who stopped to ask for directions [photo]. Impending menace and unspoken threat, sure, but with traffic stopped and most stores trading as normal, an excellent shopping opportunity.

UK Uncut have mobilised a hessian warhorse and a band of angry students at Top Shop Oxford Circus, to the sound of carnival drums #26march
Half past three, and the planned flashpoint for further protest was Oxford Circus. Its X-shaped pedestrian crossing had completely disappeared, covered by an army of mostly-students and a throng of intrigued onlookers. Right at the centre stood the Trojan Horse of the Apocalypse, a symbolic cloth creation owned by the "Armed Wing" of the TUC [photo]. On a given signal the protesters stood up and roared, and a sequence of drums rang out down the tarmac outside Top Shop. Its façade bore the paint-splattered scars of a previous skirmish, but by this point a protective cladding of riot police prevented anything more than than an audio attack [photo]. Flags were waved and slogans hurled, but the worst civil disobedience I saw was nothing more than a red t-shirted bloke armed with a loudhailer shinned up a traffic light. Indeed I'd seen no violence of any kind anywhere, as I'm sure was the case for the great majority of West End visitors on Saturday.

Meanwhile a very different (and better dressed) breed of students pours off the tube at Putney Bridge. Beer anyone? #boatrace
Five miles west, the 157th Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race drew large crowds to the banks of the Thames. Whereas events in the centre of London had been mostly dry, out here alcohol was very much the order of the day. Bright young things stood on the promenade at Putney with a bottle in hand, watching not very much happening on the river during several hours of pre-race build-up. Those on the Embankment were closest to the coin-tossing action, whereas the Fulham bank boasted beer tents and a miniature fairground in Bishops Park. There was no political activity here, bar a well-mobilised campaign by the 'YES' referendum lobby addressing spectators politely with enamel badges, leaflets, and ad-man smiles. A trade union tabard here would have looked as out of place as a rugby shirt in Hyde Park. Different clientèle, different priorities.

Two boats just rowed past with either Oxford or Cambridge in the lead, and a flotilla of small craft behind. The party's over #boatrace
I made my way upstream where the foreshore was quieter, settling eventually beneath riverside flats opposite the Harrods Depository. Various residents had gathered on the balconies to watch the race go by, many hosting parties to celebrate the great event. Their shouts provided the first hint that the race was approaching (thank you BBC1), soon confirmed by a rush of white on the water as the two boats approached. Maybe it was possible to distinguish one university from the other, but I certainly couldn't, not even as the eights passed by almost but not quite simultaneously. "Oxford! Oxford!" went the cry from somewhere above, in an accent more City than estate, rising to a crescendo which suggested that the result of the race somehow mattered. The race moved swiftly by, pursued by an unexpectedly large number of motor launches, until all that was left was a rough echo of backwash [photo]. Time to disperse, and to drop the plastic beakers and wine bottles in the recycling on the way home.

This afternoon has thrown up convincing evidence that Britain is divided into losers and winners #26march #boatrace
Two crowds of approximately a quarter of a million people, both rammed with students but with all ages represented. At one gathering, a concern for society and a fear for the future. At the other, cheers of celebration and a long standing sense of tradition. The protesters in town didn't care which boat of Blues had rowed fastest, and the revellers by the river weren't especially worried by cuts to the public sector. I genuinely hadn't been expecting the contrast to be so sharp, but the polarity of the two events was inescapable. While some are about to lose, it seems others have already won.

 Sunday, March 27, 2011

Please complete your census questionnaire on 27 March 2011. Taking part in the census is very important and it is also compulsory. It is used to help plan and fund services for your community - services like transport, education and health. So help tomorrow take shape and be part of the 2011 Census.

Your personal internet access code is

C1: Who usually lives here?
The rest of the family
We have an illegal immigrant hiding in the shed

C2: Who else is staying overnight on 27 March 2011?
Auntie Brenda, if she drinks too much sherry tonight
Some random bloke I met on Grindr
We have an illegal immigrant hiding in the shed

C3: What type of accommodation is this?
mansion (semi-detached or otherwise)
pebbledash and crazy-paving
under the arches by Waterloo station → Go to C5

C4: In total, how many cars are owned by members of this household?
(include any cars you can no longer afford to run because the price of petrol is extortionate)

C5: What is your name, Person 1?
C6: What is your sex? Male  Female  Other
C7: What is your date of birth?

C8: On 27 March 2011, what is your legal marital or same-sex civil partnership status?

C9: If you were not born in the United Kingdom, how quickly can we convince you to leave?

C10: How is your health, in general?

C11: How would you describe your national identity? British  Foreign
C12: How well can you speak English? Well  I speak good  Que?

C13: What is your favourite colour?

C14: Have you ever worked? Yes → Go to C15  No → Go to C16
C15: What is (was) your specific job title? eg ARMS DEALER
C16: What is your dream job title? Banker  Pop megastar  Big Society Librarian  Any job would do

C17: This question is intentionally left blank → Go to C18

C18: Which of these qualifications do you have?
Degree plus £50K in debt
GCSE Woodwork
Cub scout or Brownie badge

C19: What is your religion? God  Allah  Yoda  Dawkins

C20: Census information is usually kept confidential for 100 years. Please tick here if you are willing to share your personal data sooner than that.
in 2071, to aid family tree research
in 2021, when personal privacy is outlawed
in 2014, sold off to corporate marketing lists

Untick this box unless you do not want to not fail to receive promotional information from carefully selected media partners

Declaration: This questionnaire has been completed to the best of my knowledge and belief. I have not told outright lies nor attempted to complete it while drunk.

 Saturday, March 26, 2011

The toilets were closed. The toilets at the offices I visited this week, that is. They'd always been open before, but this time there was a sign on the door saying 'closed'. Must have been maintenance, or blockages, or some operative inside replenishing the paper towels and mopping the floors. Whatever the reason, closed and inaccessible. And I really needed to go.

We can't let you use the toilets upstairs, they said, because of security. Your pass won't allow you up the stairs to use the gents on the next floor. So follow us please, there are some alternative facilities on the opposite side of the building. Along the passageway, across the atrium, down the side of the meeting rooms and through another door. There.

Except there were only disabled toilets out the back. A small cluster of them - no ladies, no gents - for the general availability of all staff. I didn't need the multitude of accessible features provided therein, but in I went.

And went.

And then pulled the chain.

A piercing alarm filled the air. I winced.

It took only a split second to deduce that the alarm must be my fault, and another split second to decide why. The cord I'd pulled was red, with plastic hooks, and toilet chains aren't usually red. I should have tugged the metal lever on the other side of the cistern, the one with the extra-large paddle. But I hadn't spotted that, I'd been transfixed by the long red cord.

I grew up in an era when toilets had chains, because elevated cisterns needed vertical flushing. We didn't all have low ceramic tanks with metal handles in those days. So I reached out without thinking, based on some hardwired historic reflex. My mind was elsewhere so I didn't notice the lever, I pulled the chain. And there was no way of unpulling it.

In my defence, the entire set-up was unlabelled. There were no instructions, no pictorial clues, no word "alarm" written anywhere in big bold letters. The designer had relied on an unspoken assumption that red meant SOS - a conclusion I'd missed. Anybody who uses disabled toilets on a regular basis would have realised what the red string was, but I don't, so I didn't.

Hands swiftly washed, I made my way back out into the vestibule. The noise was louder out here, a pulsing electronic scream announcing my error to the world. A flashing red light above the door compounded my shame, identifying which of the disabled toilets contained the occupant in distress. But nobody had rushed to offer assistance, so the racket continued.

I wandered back through the door, down the side of the meeting rooms, across the atrium and along the passageway, past a selection of staff wondering where the noise was coming from. On returning to the front desk I apologised profusely to the staff on duty. I was expecting them to dash off across the building or press a button or something, but instead they just smiled and sat there like some moron did this every day.

Off I went to my meeting room, explaining to the organisers my part in the unexpected audio disruption. Easy mistake to make, they said, with a sly grin which suggested they didn't believe this at all. I apologised, in probably too much detail, and the meeting commenced. To my shame the blaring siren in the background continued for at least ten minutes, before somebody somewhere finally got around to switching it off.

Thankfully the main toilets were open again by the time our first tea break began. I held off on the tea, just in case.

 Friday, March 25, 2011

  Walk London
[section 4]
  Crystal Palace to Streatham Common (4 miles)

Half as long as the last section, but at least twice as good. And much more hilly. Follow the ups and downs below.

The Capital Ring exits Crystal Palace Park down the road outside the station,
then heads straight back up the other side. Follow the official sign and you'd walk straight into a newsagents, whereas instead you should be taking the next street on the left. The hillside's covered with houses, one of which (nicknamed 'Fossil Villa') has a blue plaque commemorating the man who designed the nearby Park's famous dinosaurs. Thank you Benjamin - they may be anatomically incompetent but Crystal Palace wouldn't be Crystal Palace without them. The only greenery on this first stretch is a small playground with a dogmess bin. It gets better.

Westow Park is a tumbling grassy slope, kicking off with a bench and a sort-of view round the back of the local Sainsburys. The park marks the source of the River Effra (which I've investigated in some detail before, so I won't here). There's no sign of its former path until you descend as far as the Upper Norwood Recreation Ground [photo], where one patch of marshy grass never quite seems to dry out. The granite drinking fountain overlooking the football pitch is unconnected to the subterranean stream, although my feet got wet on the footpath by the pavilion thanks to an unseen leaky pipe. Bursting spring flowers, canoodling dogs on heat and acres of rolling turf - it was all unexpectedly pleasant.

The Ring escapes the Effra Valley up suburban Hermitage Road. At the top, on Beulah Hill, I came a cropper waiting in vain at a zebra crossing. Some four-way temporary traffic lights had been installed, and not one single stream of traffic was willing to pause during their allotted seconds to let me cross. Houses up here on the ridgetop are larger than usual, presumably because elevation commands a residential premium. One such home once belonged to Joan and Alan Warwick, founders of the Norwood Society, whose grateful members have since erected a plaque in their memory.

The next descent is via Biggin Hill - not the famous south London airfield but its barely-known SE19 namesake. Halfway down there's a fine view over the allotments towards the plains of Croydon, with the twin chimneys of IKEA Ampere Way an instantly recognisable sight. Deep breath along the next alleyway if you like inhaling pot-smoke, or deep breath beforehand if you don't. The treat at the end, past the tennis courts, is Biggin Hill Wood. The Ring merely skims through along a tarmac contour, but I enjoyed the chirping solitude of the first decent bit of woodland since ten miles back.

Back to roadwalking through the outskirts of Norbury, before another climb to the highlight of the walk, which is Norwood Grove [photo]. This early Victorian mansion occupies high ground over Norbury, and was once owned by shipping magnate Arthur Anderson. He made his fortune with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, now P&O, but chose to live landlocked in South London. The house and its estate passed to the Nettlefold family, still remembered on a commemorative plaque, and was then snapped up by the council just in time to prevent the entire hilltop being covered by suburbia. Instead the surrounding slopes are a delightful oasis of formal gardens and tumbling parkland, and an ideal spot to sit and stare across miles and miles of rooftops [photo]. Dog-walkers aren't allowed inside the fenced-off enclave around the house, so at this time of year can approach no nearer than the mudbath around the perimeter. We humans can enjoy an ornamental fountain, the orangery and the promise of summer glories. [photo]

At the end of the drive, past the old lodge, are the headwaters of the River Graveney. Unless its been raining you'll not spot these at all, although recent precipitation creates a zigzag trickle across the path.
↑ Having crossed the boundary into Lambeth, it's upward onto Streatham Common. That's very pleasant, but what's really special is The Rookery alongside, behind the hedge. This hidden garden used to be part of Streatham Spa, and now boasts a selection of formal beds, herbaceous borders and general loveliness. Later in the season the White Garden is well named, and a magnet for bridal shoots, but it was the rockeries and their trickling water features which drew the photographers on my visit. Several elderly couples sat smiling on benches on the upper terrace, gazing down at the giant cedar tree and beyond, while a much younger pair flirted around the lower sundial. Must return. [photo]

Where the main path turns, close to the daff-filled cattle trough [photo], is the Rookery Cafe. I decided to pop in for a takeaway roll, but my bacon bap took so long to prepare that I ended staying for half an hour. No complaints. This is a proper park eaterie, officially the San Remo Cafe, with one counter for independent ice cream and another for cooked breakfasts and other snacks. Two dear ladies did their best to cope with the late lunch rush, not helped by the panini machine being on the blink and a long queue of families with bubbly children. The room's got a retro-crèche feel to it, with Barney the Dinosaur and the Rugrats painted on the wall, and everyone sat at green formica tables on wooden chairs just like I had at primary school. I sat quietly in the corner with a mug of tea and raised a toast for the cafe's longevity.

Streatham Common goes on a bit, with a fast-track path known as the Horse Ride down one side. Don't rush, the view doesn't get any better. The High Road crosses at the bottom of the hill, which seems perverse, except the descent continues more gently beyond the church. Turn left just before the ice rink, assuming it's still not been closed and Tesco-fied, for the final section down Lewin Road. Ring 4 terminates beside a railway footbridge and some traffic humps, which is a bit of a let down to be honest after earlier heights. I fear Ring 5 may be mostly similar.

» Capital Ring section 4: official map and directions
» Who else has walked it? Mark, Stephen, Darryl, Paul, Tim, Richard
» On to section 5 (or back to section 3)

 Thursday, March 24, 2011

London 2012  Olympic update
  10 travel tips for ticket-buyers

1) Travelling to the Olympics might be a lot easier than you think.
If you're not fortunate enough to live nextdoor to the Olympic Park, then the hassle of travelling to the Games might be putting you off buying a ticket. Fret not, because London 2012 really want you to buy a ticket, so they've gone out of their way to provide lots of travel options to get you there. Long distance coaches, park and rides, even pre-bookable train tickets. It's just that you probably haven't realised these options exist yet. Let me advise you.

2) Your Games ticket comes with a free one-day travelcard.
And not just any travelcard, but the top-whack zones 1-9 travelcard. That means free travel from Heathrow to Stratford, or Amersham to Woolwich, or Epping to Wimbledon, or whatever. The Games Travelcard even entitles you to free travel on Javelin services between St Pancras and Stratford International, for that special seven-minute cross-town whizz. The only services you won't be able to use are the Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick Expresses. Olympic folk have even gone to the effort of providing a map to show the Games Travelcard zone, 16 months in advance, so you can see for yourself what good value it is.

3) Some Games events outside London also come with a free one-day travelcard.
Some events are only just outside London, like the rowing at Eton Dorney, canoeing at the Lee Valley White Water Centre and mountain biking at Hadleigh Farm. Good news. Tickets for these events will include a free London Travelcard and free travel by National Rail out of London to the nearest stations. For events at Eton and Hadleigh, there'll even be shuttle buses laid on to take you the last couple of miles from the station to the venue. Good news, that is, unless you live further out of London (like Reading or Southend), in which case you'll have to pay for all your travel yourself.

4) Rail tickets to the Games can be booked over 12 months in advance.
Normally you can't book a long-distance UK rail ticket any more than three months in advance. But some very special arrangements have been made to ensure that rail tickets for Games journeys can be made this summer once ticket allocations are known. If the train you want has non-reservable seats then you don't need to book a specific-timed train, any will do, plus you can travel back up to midday on the following day. If the train you want needs a reservation then you can travel back up to three hours later than the train you booked. Peace of mind, one year early. Unheard of.

5) If you find travel difficult, you can plan an accessible journey to the Games.
London already has a step-free travel map, but London 2012 have generated a new one and it goes one step further. Yes, there are blue blobs denoting step-free access from street to platform, but this map also has pink blobs. These denote step-free access from street to train, and are only to be found at a few stations like Stratford or Green Park which have been constructed or revamped recently. The pink blobs are terribly distracting, so I hope they're not the future for London's day-to-day tube map, but if you're in a wheelchair they're also terribly useful.
There's also an accessible map for rail travel outside London showing stations in southeast England with "step-free station from entrance to platform, and between platforms, staff assistance available." Not seen that before.

6) There'll also be special coach services from far outside London to the Games.
It's not all about trains. For those on a budget, arriving by coach may be ideal. 2012 Games coach services will run to East London from an impressive variety of places - as far afield as Norwich, Leeds, Shrewsbury and Swansea. There'll be special coaches to the sailing in Weymouth too, from towns and cities nearby. Here's a map showing all the many departure points. You'll be able to book seats starting this summer, once ticket allocations are known. But be aware that coaches will be scheduled to arrive at the venue for the start of sessions, so this might mean getting up ridiculously early in the morning.

7) Arriving by bike will be encouraged.
All London 2012 venues will have free, secure, managed cycle parking. That's an admirable commitment, and to be applauded. But there'll be nowhere to dock Borisbikes, so you'll have to leave your hired Barclaycycle elsewhere and walk the last bit.

8) For motorists, park-and-ride services will be available.
And there was everyone thinking that 2012 would be a public-transport-only Games. Not so. Park and ride facilities for motorists will be available for several venues, often nearby, but in some cases outside the M25 with coach transfer. You'll have to book a car parking space in advance, once you know you've got tickets, but we're promised that these will be "reasonably priced". And this is for one day only, there'll be no long-term overnight parking permitted.

9) Before you book tickets in two places on the same day, check how long it'll take to travel from one to the other.
It's no good planning to see gymnastics at Wembley in the morning and shooting at Woolwich in the early afternoon because you'll never get across London in time. For non-residents, a very simple map is available so you can get a sense of what's close and what's not. But for a better guide, the London 2012 website has an interactive "Journey Time Finder" which advises on estimated journey times between the recommended stations at each venue. Wembley to Woolwich might take 1-2 hours, it advises, whereas Coventry to Weymouth is more like 3-4. But in some cases the timings are highly pessimistic, or indicative of major congestion (Stratford to North Greenwich 1-2 hours, seriously? ouch!)

10) Travelling to the Olympics might be a lot harder than you think.
Depsite all of the arrangements above, it's highly likely that travelling around London will be hellish during Games fortnight. Trains will be packed, stations will have long queues, roads will be segregated, and it won't take much for the entire city to grind to a halt. This isn't hype, it's all laid out in documentation for London businesses who need to plan ahead to ensure continuity and resilience. The Jubilee and Central lines could have "significant additional delays of over an hour in accessing train services". Hotspots like Westminster Bridge "will be subject to significant additional delays, leading to traffic build-up". For several bus routes, "delays could be experienced as a result of higher traffic levels". Check out the full 22-part details on the Olympic website, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, and prepare for the worst.

For those who might appreciate it, I've now stuck all my Olympic tickets posts on a single page, here.

 Wednesday, March 23, 2011

As I discovered at the weekend, it's expensive taking the train when you don't want to return from the same station you first arrived at. If only I'd known there was a special Rail Rover ticket before I set out, I could have saved pounds. So I've done some research into special rail deals that provide a bargain price for unlimited journeys over a certain area over a certain period. What follows is incomplete, but might be useful to you one day.
(Be warned that most of the tickets are valid off-peak only, i.e. from 09:30-ish on weekdays)
(For a proper job check out National Rail's full list, or the much friendlier RailRover website detailing 88 UK-wide possibilities)

» All Line Rover: for true rail addicts, allows unlimited travel on most National Rail services at any time for 7 or 14 consecutive days (7 days £430) (14 days £650)

» Central Scotland Rover: As many off-peak trains as you like between Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling and thereabouts (3 days out of 7, £33)
» Highland Rover: Ride the romantic lines to Mallaig, Kyle of Lochalsh, Wick, Inverness, Aberdeen (4 days out of 7, £74)
» Freedom of Scotland Rover: Pretty much the whole of Scotland (4 days out of 8, £121.80) (8 days out of 15, £163.40)

» Eight Day All Wales Explorer: Covers all trains in Wales for eight days, obviously, but also buses [leaflet] (8 days £84)
» South Wales Explorer/North & Mid Wales Explorer: Similar, but geographically restricted (8 days £57)
» Various Welsh 1-day rovers are also available (here's Ian on a North Wales Rover)

» Northern Rail Rover: There are three of these, between them covering the whole of Northern England. Choose between North West, North Country and North East. As an example of what you can do with one, here's Ian's in-depth account of four days using the North West Rover (4 days out of 8, from £74-£79)
» Coasts and Peaks Rover: From Holyhead to Sheffield, Liverpool to Derby and Manchester to Shrewsbury, this covers a vast area (4 days out of 8, £60)
» Day Ranger: There are tons of these, usually restricted to a compact geographical area or a single line. Ride from Settle to Carlisle to your heart's content for £26, for example, if you're a viaduct fan. One of the most expensive is the Cumbria Day Ranger at £36, while the freedom of East Lancashire is only a tenner.

» Anglia Plus: Spend a day (or three) travelling wherever you like within an area bounded approximately by Cambridge, Ely, Ipswich and the Norfolk Coast [map] (1 day £15) (3 days out of 7, £30) (children £2)
» East Midlands Rover: If you've ever felt the need to ride between Bedford, Cleethorpes and Stoke for a week, this one's for you (7 days, £87.40) (or 1 day, £29, over a smaller area)

» Freedom of Devon & Cornwall: [map] (3 days out of 7, £40)
» Freedom of South West: [map] (3 days out of 7, £70)
» Freedom of Severn and Solent: [map] (3 days out of 7, £40)
» Freedom of Heart of England: Birmingham and miles (and miles) around [map] (3 days out of 7, £67.20)
» Ride Cornwall Ranger: Now this is a bargain (although actually getting to Cornwall may break the bank) (1 day, £10)
» West Midlands Ranger: Crewe, Hereford, Rugby, Brum Brum [map] (1 day, £20)

» Kent Rover: The whole of Kent, should you fancy three days sampling the whole of Kent [map] (3 days, £35)
» All Network Downlander: Allows one day's unlimited off-peak travel on any of Southern's services (right up to London) plus unlimited bus travel within the South Downs area. You have to book online, at least two days in advance (1 day, £12.50)
» Oxfordshire Day Ranger: Compass points from Oxford [map] (1 day, £13)
» Thames Rover: Banbury to Basingstoke and London Paddington [map] (7 days, £70)
» Zone 1-6 Travelcard: All of London, its trains, trams and buses, in a single plastic rectangle [map] (1 off-peak day, £8) (1 day, £15) (7 days, £50.40)

 Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Seaside postcard: Newhaven to Brighton
I do love a good walk along the south coast's clifftops. I've done Dover to South Foreland, Eastbourne to Dover and the magnificent Seaford to Eastbourne. So rather than catching the train home from Newhaven, I decided to walk to Brighton and catch the train home from there. Ten miles altogether, and clifftops virtually all the way.

www.flickr.com: my Newhaven → Brighton gallery
(there are 44 photos altogether) (the photos of the walk start here)
(did I mention what a gloriously sunny day it was) (lovely)

Newhaven (Harbour Heights): My westward walk kicked off from the car park at Newhaven Fort, where a path heads up into gorse-covered heathland. There was a fantastic view from the summit of Castle Hill - across to Seaford, out into the Channel and down to the pebbly beach below - and the perfect spot too for a coastguard tower. A temporary sign warned ramblers off a short strip of coast path for fear of landslip, although there were no such warnings for the next couple of miles. The footpath hugged the clifftop with no barriers whatsoever, just a sudden precipice a few grassy metres (or feet) to my left [photo]. At one point I became totally absorbed in a map, wandering forwards oblivious to the precipice alongside, before suddenly remembering where I was and snapping back to reality with a jolt. This was the best stretch of the entire ten mile walk, striding between elevated fields and the sea, with only the occasional pause to peer over the rim at the stupendous chalk cliffs below. [photo] [photo] [photo]

Peacehaven: And then, suddenly, civilisation [photo]. The fields gave way to a line of houses, almost entirely bungalows, with residents out tending their gardens in the first flush of spring. Peacehaven started out 100 years ago under the auspices of founder Charles Neville. He planned a garden city by the sea, based on a regular grid of roads and avenues, although the end result is more hundreds of acres of residential sprawl. One thing Charles got right was to keep all commercial activity away from the shoreline. A grassy promenade follows the clifftop, undulating past successive south-facing bungalows, and with only the occasional flinty track to carry residents' cars into the town proper [photo]. The promenade's a popular dog-walking spot, mostly small yappy dogs of the kind favoured by retired Daily Express readers. At the foot of Horsham Avenue is the point where the Greenwich Meridian passes out to sea, and the spot is marked by a Meridian Monument. Up top is a symbolic green globe, while a plaque on the northern face informs readers that the spherical distance to Greenwich is 58 statute miles. The monument was erected in 1936, and also commemorates the death of 'beloved sovereign' King George V [photo]. Apparently the memorial's twice had to be shifted slightly inland during its lifetime, thanks to coastal erosion, but if it shifts too much further it'll first block the road and then make a mess of the nearest bungalow's garden. [photo] [photo] [photo]

Telscombe Cliffs: My attempt to walk solely along the clifftops foundered immediately after the Badgers Watch pub. The local water company have carved a ramp down through the chalk to give access to a new pumping station, part of a coastal sewage system currently being bored out by tunnelling machines. A much smaller path leads down the cliff to Brighton's second nudist beach - this far more secluded than the one near the centre of town. Telscombe Beach has an alien landscape of strewn white boulders, not welcoming sand, and its naturist credentials are entirely unofficial. Defiant strippers have scrubbed out the word "not" to create a "Nudism allowed" sign at the beach's entrance, so maybe the imposition of an adjacent sewage pumping station is the local councillors' way of getting their own back. [photo]

Saltdean: At the heart of Saltdean, in a natural dip facing the coast road [photo], lies Oval Park. And at the front of Oval Park is one of the finest Art Deco buildings on the south coast - Saltdean Lido. I may be compromised by seeing it in bright sunny weather, but ooh it's gorgeous. A gently curving façade, creamy walls, elegant terrace and two sparkling blue pools. And empty. According to the current owner the lido makes a large annual loss because repair bills are too high and the outdoor bathing season is too short. So he has plans for flats, an indoor pool, an extended library, and all sorts of things which aren't a simple 1930s lido. Locals are up in arms, or at least they were until last week when the government conferred Grade 2* listed status on the structure. This may protect the building for the future, allowing families to come splash their summers away, yet still may not be enough to make the place viable. But for the time being, as lidos so often are, it's gorgeous. [photo] [photo] [photo] [photo]

Rottingdean: A little further along the coast and Saltdean rolls almost imperceptibly into Rottingdean. Less of a suburban estate, this is a proper historic village with bijou high street and big black windmill on the hill [photo]. A short distance inland is the village green, with village pond, and local village celebrity [photo]. Rudyard Kipling used to live in the house opposite St Margaret's Church, circa 1900, and upstairs at The Elms is where he wrote his famous Just So Stories. Alas sightseers would deliberately ride the horsedrawn bus from Brighton in an attempt to peer over the wall and catch a glimpse of the great man from the top deck, so he soon moved on to a quieter village elsewhere. Kipling's story is told in a free museum across the road at The Grange, which doubles as an art gallery and the local library [photo]. Meanwhile his former backyard is now open as a municipal garden, in March not yet at its best, but evidently a summer jewel.

Roedean: The cliffs go on and on and on and on, as does the grassy promenade alongside. If you get too tired, these fields have one of the best bus services you'll ever find on a clifftop, so hop aboard and skip the final trek into Brighton. But oh look, that's the famous girls' boarding school facing out across the Channel like a grand stately home. [photo]

Brighton: Brighton goes on a bit too. At its easternmost extreme is the Marina Village, an extreme hybrid of berthing platforms and luxury living [photo] [photo]. Thousands of well-off folk choose to live in high-rise apartments at the foot of the cliffs, protected behind a sturdy breakwater and conveniently close to their yachts and a giant Asda. Sooner them than me. From here I could have taken the pioneering Volks Electric Railway along the beach (except it wasn't running). Or I could have taken a stroll along Madeira Drive past the crazy golf and a gathering of souped-up boy racers (except I was determined to continue at clifftop level for as long as possible). So I continued for another mile and a half along Marine Parade [photo], the crowds slowly building to a tourist crescendo, until finally reaching the legendary Palace Pier [photo]. And I would have nipped to the fairground at the end, honest, if only my legs hadn't decided that walking four hours from Newhaven was quite far enough thankyou.

If you fancy a walk round the Brighton area, check here.
For the wider South Downs area, click here.
And to get down here from London for a good ramble, why not buy a special "All Network Downlander" rail ticket. This allows one day's unlimited off-peak travel on any of Southern's services (including via Crawley, Horsham, Redhill, East Croydon and London Victoria) plus unlimited bus travel within the South Downs area. You have to book online, at least two days in advance, but at £12.50 for adults (and £2.50 for children) I think that's an absolute bargain.

 Monday, March 21, 2011

Seaside postcard: Newhaven
Unless you count a glorified garden centre, or a few nice information posts along the quayside, Newhaven has only one decent tourist attraction. On the top of the cliffs overlooking the mouth of the river. A Victorian fort.

Newhaven Fort: Most ancient monuments are more than 140 years old. But this defensive structure was completed only in 1871, at the behest of Lord Palmerston, in readiness for a French invasion that never came. It's well placed for a gun battery. Sheer chalk faces the water on two sides, while deep trenches defend against invasion from inland. But its timing was poor, built only a few years before the deployment of metal-hulled warships, and made entirely redundant by the advent of aerial bombardment in World War One. The Army kept it on as a training barracks until the 1960s when it was sold off to the local council. They passed it on to a private developer with plans for a holiday village, who promptly demolished most of the interior and went bust. A few years later the council tried again, teaming up to create an ambitious leisure destination called Fort Newhaven, but that collapsed too. So now it's run as a military heritage attraction - understated but realistically pitched. And, more than I initially expected, well worth seeing.

Head south out of Newhaven, past the "last public toilets before France", and the fort's up the top of a hill. Entrance is via the main drawbridge (it'd have to be via a rope otherwise), then past the nice lady at the turnstile in the gift shop. Rest assured that the interior's far more than a shell - the last round of private renovations saw to that. Along one side are fifteen 'casemates', which may look like railway arches but were where the officers used to sleep. Each has an exhibit or display inside, ranging from how the place was constructed to the failed WW2 invasion of Dieppe. I've heard the D-Day story many times before, but it hit home much better with a local connection. A filmshow explains the history of the fort, less amateurishly than usual, while another contains eerie Cold War memorabilia from a nuclear watch station. There's even an air raid simulation on the hour, every hour, which is exactly like the real thing except shorter, 100% safe and you don't emerge to find your house destroyed.

Along the eastern perimeter is a similar multi-room display based on World War I. The presentation's not especially modern, no touchscreens or interactive videos, but there are buttons to press throughout for a variety of well chosen soundscapes. The right side of educational, I thought. Round the back, dug into the cliffs, is the Eastern Magazine where explosives and shells were stored. There are plenty of whitewashed rooms to explore, lit and unlit, as well as a terribly narrow 'lighting passage' descending all the way along the back. For fitter visitors a 70-step staircase leads down to the ground level Caponier - that's a brick-built protrusion on the foreshore with several small windows for firing at passing ships. The lower tunnel's a little spooky, and yet somehow Yvette never brought the Most Haunted team here.

But it's more fun to climb the ramparts. A series of steep grassy banks lead up from the parade ground, first to a series of tunnels and chambers carved into the hillside. Even though you're not the first explorer around these parts there's still a feeling of discovery as you poke along each passageway, ascend crumbling staircases and emerge back into daylight somewhere else. 'Children must be supervised by an adult at all times', say the signs, but only because of a healthy lack of safety barriers around the edge of a variety of slippery slopes and gun emplacements.

The best views are up on the clifftop where the largest guns are/were sited. To the east is the shingly arc of Seaford Bay, ending with a majestic chalkface (though blotting out the Seven Sisters beyond). To the west a huge breakwater curves protectively against the prevailing winds, ending at the distant Newhaven Lighthouse. Whizzing inbetween come various motorboats, yachts, dinghies, whatever, making best use of the best harbour facilities for miles. And down below, temporarily moored up for the winter, are two massive (and I mean massive) salvage platforms. They're Karlissa-A and Karlissa-B, both 'jack-up barges' used in the Americas as temporary bases for recovery work. Each has six metal feet which can be extended down into deep water, but which currently stick up into the sky and are visible right across Newhaven. They'll not be around for much longer, but their presence sealed a most interesting visit. [photo] [photo] [photo] [photo]

Open: daily 10:30am - 6pm (1st March - 31st October)
Admission: £6
Brief summary: coastal fortification & military museum
Website: www.newhavenfort.org.uk
Time to set aside: half a day

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the diamond geezer index
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2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
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