diamond geezer

 Saturday, November 30, 2019

30 unblogged things I did in November

Fri 1: Washing up pans and dirty crockery still takes two kettlefuls.
Sat 2: Blackheath's fireworks very nearly don't take place, but the day's stormy weather abates just in time and a depleted crowd turns up. The bangs and flashes are as good as ever. Several people spend the entire display filming it on their phone - those under 30 portrait and those over 30 landscape.
Sun 3: I enjoy a day out at Chartwell, Winston Churchill's Kentish pad (it being the last day of the year the house is open and the last Sunday of the year the 246 bus is extended past Westerham). It may be my fourth visit but I hadn't previously explored the wilder extremities of the estate or been in the Studio to see his paintings. The audio trails are very new and rather good. During an election campaign, a timely visit.
Mon 4: The latest exhibition round The Curve at the Barbican is clever, but not clever enough to sustain lengthy interest.
Tue 5: My thanks to the special people who waited until actual Fireworks Night to set off a pointless volley of bangers in the park.
Wed 6: Red Leicester Mini Cheddars are the best Mini Cheddars.
Thu 7: I didn't find the Dockside Shopping Outlet in Chatham an especially enticing attraction, but the local population appeared to rate it and it does offer considerably better savings than that crap luxury desert round the Millennium Dome.
Fri 8: Finally, after over 50 days without hot water, I receive an email confirming that a new boiler will be fitted sometime next week. However it will no longer be in the kitchen, because gas safety regulations have evolved since the flat was built, so it's got to go somewhere frustratingly awkward instead.
Sat 9: I'm enjoying the new series of The Demon Headmaster, because sometimes the best drama is on CBBC rather than Netflix.
Sun 10: The Two Minute Silence, broadcast live via digital television, is (checks watch) ten seconds late.
Mon 11: Beside the banks of the Serpentine is the closest I have ever got to a heron. Both of us stood motionless for three minutes, and then off they flapped.
Tue 12: The gas engineer is due on Thursday, finally, so I get busy emptying the kitchen cupboards and clearing space along the walls he says he'll need access to.
Wed 13: Only a month to go until Jeremy Corbyn ought to resign, but won't.
Thu 14: The gas engineer arrives with his plumber mate. I have to clear an extra bookcase at the last minute, because the precise location of my new boiler was not previously specified. By mid-afternoon it's in position, and looks a lot more intrusive than I was expecting.
Fri 15: I think dustsheets would have been a good idea guys, every surface in the room is now coated with finely-powdered wall.
Sat 16: The new housing development in Trent Park (near Cockfosters on the former Middlesex University campus) is depressingly upmarket, pointlessly adding to London's total of entirely unaffordable housing. Of course Daffodil Crescent is a private road, of course it is.
Sun 17: I receive an unexpected invitation to visit Nephew's New London Flat, around dusk, and it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that his view is staggeringly better than mine.
Mon 18: The plumber's blowtorch sets off my smoke alarm four times.
Tue 19: Every time I think the new boiler might now be complete, I discover a new pipe with another safety gizmo has been attached underneath it.
Wed 20: The workmen need a day off, which is annoying because they've only got one day's work to go.
Thu 21: Hurrah, after 67 days I finally have a functioning boiler, heating that works and hot water on tap. I celebrate with a long warm bath. I'd almost forgotten what it was like to walk around the flat in a t-shirt.
Fri 22: The newsagent kiosk outside Stonebridge Park station has closed. Former customers have stuck signs to the shutters reading Raju Come Back! and Raju We Need You!
Sat 23: I need a lottery ticket for next week, so I ask for a Lucky Dip and get handed 11 12 13 14 26 28. Drawing four consecutive numbers seems ridiculously unlikely, but has actually happened four times since 1994 (the odds are 1 in 583).
Sun 24: Sadly I couldn't complete this weekend's prize crossword, otherwise that'd've been four consecutive too.
Mon 25: 99% of this decade is complete. I fear the final 1%.
Tue 26: I need to use a cash machine before I go to the pub, but the terminal outside the Post Office is out of service so I have to use the machine on the corner, the one I haven't dared use since someone stole my card from it last year. Notes emerge without incident, but that doesn't mean I'll be back.
Wed 27: The landlord pops round to see the new boiler and the hole where the old boiler used to be. The landlord almost never pops round. I am at least getting something out of it.
Thu 28: BestMate and I always go out on a day trip for Thanksgiving. This year, Surrey. We walked into Brooklands Museum via what was signposted as the pedestrian entrance and the gates swung open, but there was nobody there checking tickets so we could have walked around the site all day for nothing. Fortunately this is what our Lottery tickets allowed us to do anyway.
Fri 29: It's great to know that Arsenal's poor run of form is now at an end because sacking the manager always solves the problem.
Sat 30: Ha, my quarterly gas bill has arrived. By chance it covers the period from one day before my gas was turned off to four days after it was turned back on. It is a very small gas bill.

 Friday, November 29, 2019

Brooklands Museum, in Weybridge, is an excellent day out. [blogged 2015]

As home to Britain's first Grand Prix circuit it has some amazing tales to tell, and vintage vehicles to showcase. As the site of the Vickers aircraft factory it has sheds brimming with decades of aeronautical technology. As home to the London Bus Museum it boasts RT1, GS34 and T23. But what it also has which really marks the place out is a Concorde, and yes you can go on board, and even take a 'flight'.



The Concorde Experience is a bolt-on extra purchased on top of your admission ticket. It means forking out an extra fiver, but that's cheap compared to a former transatlantic fare of more like £5000. Booking online in advance might be necessary in high summer when the place is packed, but on a grey November weekday you'll not be turned away. For your trouble you get a date-stamped 'boarding card', in British Airways blue, and a time to rendezvous in the airport bus alongside. Don't be late.



30% of every Concorde, be it English or French, was manufactured here at Brooklands. That includes both ends of the fuselage, the tail fin and the famous drooping nose (which lowered to give pilots a view of the runway as they came in to land). Brooklands was thus an excellent place for the British development Concorde to end up, the one they used for testing and training rather than passenger service, and later cannibalising for spares. Better still this is Concorde Delta Golf, or DG, so I absolutely had to get on board.



After the intro aboard the bus you're led out to stand underneath the body of the speedbird. Any Brooklands visitor can stand here, but they won't get the expert spiel pointing out how high the plane is off the ground, why there are tiny wheels at the end of the tail and what the emergency propeller is for. Then you're off up the steps onto an actual Concorde, but through the hold at the back because (unusually) the aircraft wasn't designed with space for luggage underneath.



The rear of the fuselage has been stripped of seating to host a mini exhibition. It's packed with facts and memorabilia, and a Concorde timeline with particular reference to G-BBDG. Discover which dozen airlines promised to buy a Concorde but never did. See test manuals and ripped-out cable, and discover when and why the Queen Mother took a flight. One ring of cladding has been removed so you can see the metal fuselage with its teeny tiny windows, because at rarefied heights these couldn't be any larger. Try and explore as much as you can before the mini-film starts and you have to stop and watch.



Then it's time to progress through the galley, where a couple of tables have been laid out with Concorde-standard dining options. I walked through too fast to scrutinise the menu options because the big movie was about to start in the main cabin so there was no time to linger. Here finally I got the chance to sit in a genuine Concorde seat, as enjoyed by celebs and other moneyed travellers, although G-BBDG was never used for scheduled passenger services so David Frost never plonked his backside here.



Watch the screen up front and a former pilot will lead you through take off and the climb to Mach 2, along with mild underseat vibration to add a frisson of credibility. Don't look out of the window, it ruins the illusion. Once the flythrough's finished a montage of Concorde's finest moments plays, backed by a totally appropriate Queen song, ending up with the sad day in 2003 when they were removed from service. I remember it well, watching from a London rooftop as three old ladies made a final descent towards Heathrow. At the end some of our 'passengers' even applauded... more likely out of a deep love for the plane than quality of the audio-visual.



Yay, you get a certificate on the way out, as well as a quick glimpse into the toilet and the cockpit. And then you're cast out into a less privileged reality, descending past the delta wing back to ground level. I wonder what the class of schoolchildren who trooped through Concorde after us thought of the small, somewhat dated plane, having no memory of quite how significant it once was. The future of air travel has been cast aside on a patch of Surrey tarmac never to fly again, a mere museum piece... but much loved still.

» It's free to visit Brooklands Museum with a lottery ticket today, tomorrow and Sunday

Where to find the 18 surviving Concordes
Prototypes/Development (UK): Yeovilton, Duxford, Brooklands
Prototypes/Development (Fr): Le Bourget, Orly, Toulouse
Passenger service (UK): Manchester, North Berwick, Heathrow, New York, Barbados, Seattle, Filton
Passenger service (Fr): Washington, Sinsheim, Toulouse, Le Bourget, Charles de Gaulle (1 scrapped, 1 crashed)

 Thursday, November 28, 2019

The latest exhibition at the London Transport Museum is called Hidden London. It's in the same two-floor gallery at the back where special exhibitions are usually held, but dressed up rather better than most. Wander up close to what looks like a boarded up station entrance and the automatic doors magically open, and in you go.



First up, impressively, is Aldwych station. It even looks like it might be Aldwych station, with an original ticket window, what might be tiles and a poster announcing the termination of service. Robert Elms is busy interviewing one of the last members of staff, or at least his disembodied voice is, and plans for station construction are displayed in the corner. It sets a high bar. My favourite factoid is that London Underground went to the expense of installing electronic gates and a new ticket office in the late 1980s, only to close the station permanently a few years later.



Step through to discover King William Street, one of the first deep level tube stations and one of the very first to become disused. A solitary glass insulator block on the wall is a reminder that what's left of the station, platforms and all, has recently been sacrificed as part of the Bank upgrade (19th century passageways repurposed for 21st century commuters). Where else can we head? Ongar, with its zero point and "tidiness" certificate. Highgate, with its never-used waiting rooms and bat boxes. South Kentish Town, whose ticket hall is now a Cash Converters. And Down Street, where a commercial development opportunity alas led to "no viable applications".



The Underground was first used for filming in the 1920s, and by the 1960s Aldwych (closed weekends) was the premier shooting location. Take a seat and you can watch clips from a medley of movies filmed underground, including the chirpy wartime kneesup Gert and Daisy's Weekend, the gruesome Death Line and the frankly astonishing The Boy Who Turned Yellow (rarely has the Children's Film Foundation been so jaundiced).



The spiral staircase between floors has been cunningly integrated into the exhibition so it almost feels like you're descending into the depths. Down below you'll find Down Street proper, or at least a military telephone that won't shut up and a room set out like an austere canteen watched over by a virtual waiter. The ground floor is almost all wartime related, following up with the Plessey factory on the as-yet-unopened Central line and everything you ever needed to know about floodgates under the Thames. A significant chunk of space is given over to wartime shelters, like those at Clapham South, and there's even mention of how unopened North End station beneath Hampstead Heath was set aside to be used as a civil defence location in case of nuclear war.



In case you hadn't twigged, the Hidden London exhibition is actually a huge unspoken plug for the museum's Hidden London tours, now available in several locations... at a price. Descent into Clapham South will set you back £35, trips round the lesser known passages of Euston and Piccadilly Circus £41.50, and the grand prize of Down Street a massive £85. Aldwych is sold out, sorry. You do get half price admission to the London Transport Museum for your trouble, where you can enjoy the Hidden London exhibition for nothing, but I remain unconvinced the package is worth the dosh. A lottery ticket gets you inside the exhibition for free today and tomorrow, or come explore any time before February 2021.





I hadn't been to the London Transport Museum in ages because the high cost of entry (£18 on the door) always puts me off. Wandering round I was reminded how really very good it is, jam packed with interesting stuff and backed up with fascinating in depth information on the walls. But I also noticed that little had changed since my last visit in 2011, other than a fresh Thameslink subsection, a careers guide aimed at kids and a Crossrail 2 display on the way out. All the rest I'd read before, indeed some of the text dating back to the museum's 2007 refresh was already out of date (cough, "Ninety percent of bus journeys are made in suburban areas so Transport for London produces a large number of local guides", cough).

Which begs the question, what is the optimum period for returning to a museum with a steep entrance price? Eight years for the LTM felt about right, plus there was the Hidden London exhibition as a bonus. My trip to Kew Gardens this week came seven years after my last in 2012, which in turn was seven years since 2005. How long does it take to 'forget' enough about a place to be able to enjoy it enough on a next visit... or is it only favourite museums we happily return to again and again? Whatever, I'll probably pencil in another visit around 2026 (or the next time there's a very special offer and admission's unexpectedly free).

 Wednesday, November 27, 2019

What's new in the world of TfL FoI? How about a "file which provides the daily, monthly and yearly ridership (number of passenger journeys) broken down by London underground line." The data is for 2018. So that'll be interesting to have a look at. [FoI] [data]

n.b. Passengers travelling on more than one line count more than once.
n.b. The busiest line doesn't necessarily have the busiest trains.


To start with, I can confirm that this is indeed the correct order for the busiest tube lines, Northern first, Waterloo & City last.

 

          

The official data bundles the Circle line and Hammersmith & City line together, but it is an established fact that more use the former than the latter.

In numbers...

Annual ridership (2018)
Northern 363 million [17%]
Central 321 million [15%]
Jubilee 309 million [14%]
Victoria 300 million [14%]
District 267 million [12%]
Piccadilly 228 million [10%]
H&C and Circle 154 million [7%]
Bakerloo 126 million [6%]
Metropolitan 103 million [5%]
Waterloo & City 17 million [0.8%]

I've rounded off the figures, because 363,419,546 for the Northern line felt a tad too accurate. You can see where the crowds are. You can also see why it's thought the Bakerloo line has scope for an extension.

Percentagewise, 60% of tube journeys are on the Northern, Central, Jubilee or Victoria lines. Only a quarter of journeys are on the sub-surface railway.

Altogether that's 180 million journeys a month, or 2.2 billion a year.

The data also contains figures for other TfL modes.

Annual ridership (2018)
Overground 198 million
DLR 134 million
TfL Rail 56 million
Trams 29 million

The Overground is about as busy as the Piccadilly line. The DLR is about as busy as the Bakerloo. TfL Rail carries half as many passengers as the Metropolitan. Even the trams are busier than the Waterloo & City.

In order...

 

     OD    XT 

Better still, the Overground data is split into its six separate lines.

Annual ridership (2018)
East London 73 million [37%]
North London 69 million [35%]
West Anglia 36 million [18%]
Watford-Euston 11 million [6%]
Gospel Oak-Barking 7½ million [4%]
Romford–Upminster ½ million [0.3%]

n.b.Those are the line names in the spreadsheet, which I note are not the cumbersome titles foisted on the public.

The East London line is slightly busier than the North London line. Three quarters of Overground journeys are on one of these two lines. Each is about as busy as the Circle line. Meanwhile three of the six Overground lines are less busy than the Waterloo & City. The Romford-Upminster line attracts fewer than 2000 passengers a day.

The data also breaks down passenger numbers by day of the week. For example, these are the daily numbers of passengers on the District line.

On a weekday 830,000
On a Saturday 600,000
On a Sunday 420,000

The Waterloo & City lines is five times busier on a weekday than on a Saturday. Other tube lines show similar patterns to the District. This is why engineering works take place at the weekend.

The data also breaks down passenger numbers by time of day. For example, this is a typical Friday on the Central line.

'Early' 42,000 passengers [4%]
AM peak 221,000 passengers [21%]
'Midday' 281,000 passengers [27%]
PM peak 270,000 passengers [26%]
'Evening' 132,000 passengers [13%]
'Late' 86,000 passengers [8%]

Roughly half of all Central line journeys are made in the peaks, and about a quarter inbetween. This also holds for the other tube lines, all except the Waterloo & City where two-thirds of journeys are made in the peak.

But the FoI doesn't stop there, it also breaks down passengers numbers on into fifteen minutes slots. For example, 23000 passengers board the Jubilee line between 8.15am and 8.30am on a Friday morning, and 2300 passengers board the Central line between 11.15pm and 11.30pm on a Sunday evening.

These are the busiest fifteen minutes on each line (on a typical weekday).

0800-0815: Trams
0815-0830: Gospel Oak-Barking, Watford-Euston, TfL Rail
0830-0845: District, W&City, DLR, East London, North London, Romford-Upminster, West Anglia

1730-1745: Central, Circle, H&C, Metropolitan
1745-1800: Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria

DLR, trams and the Overground all peak in the morning. Most tube lines peak in the evening, except for the District and Waterloo & City (which nearly do). Sub-surface lines peak slightly earlier in the evening than deep tubes.

The busiest hour on the tube is 5-6pm, followed by 8-9am, then 6-7pm, then 4-5pm, then 7-8am.

On Saturdays and Sundays the busiest five hours are consecutive, from 1-6pm.

Finally, here are the busiest Night Tube lines.

Number of passengers between 1am and 5am on a Sunday morning
Northern 22000 [24%]
Central 19,000 [21%]
Jubilee 15,000 [17%]
Victoria 15,000 [17%]
Piccadilly 15,000 [17%]
East London 3,000 [4%]

The Northern line is the busiest overnight, and the Overground by far the least busy. Sunday mornings are generally 10% busier than Saturday mornings (except on the Northern line and Overground where they're 20% busier). Passengers numbers drop as the night progresses. By 2-3am they're only three-quarters of what they were at 1-2am, and by 4-5am only a third.

 Tuesday, November 26, 2019

An A-Z of Q



Arboretum - Most of Kew Gardens is about trees. There are 14000 in total, spread across the majority of the site, and grouped by family. The redwoods are lofty. The oaks are enormous. Stepping beneath the Pinaceae, tread carefully in case what you're stepping on isn't a cone but came out of the back of a goose.
Botanical art - The Shirley Sherwood Gallery is the world's first public gallery dedicated to botanical art, and its contemporary stylings would be well at home mid-Mayfair.
Conservatory - Officially the Princess of Wales Conservatory, and opened by Diana in 1987, this twelve-zone multi-level labyrinth is a fabulous building to explore. It has giant cacti that put yours to shame, plate-like Amazonian water lilies and tropical ferns to brush through, not to mention a roomful of slippery orchids. School parties naturally gravitate to the carnivorous plants, some of which look like killer rhubarb.



Davies Alpine Garden - The glass building nextdoor, much thinner and smaller, essentially a rockery walkthrough.
Evolution Garden - This one's newly branded for 2019, an extensive grid of flowerbeds grouped into 'plant rooms' to demonstrate evolutionary connectivity. It's quite science-based with a lot of information boards about DNA sequencing. It's also conveniently located beside the School of Horticulture, so you might spot several apprentices on their knees keeping the place under control.
Food and drink - If you must, there are several locations around the gardens which'll serve you a tea, some sponge, a hot meal or a glass of botanical infused gin. Their serving staff look a trifle bored on drizzly November days, especially those furthest from the main entrance.
Great Pagoda - Kew's most famous landmark dates back to 1762 and was erected as a birthday gift for Princess Augusta. Last year the pagoda's dragons were replaced and they look dazzling. If you want to climb to the top you can, but not until next spring, for an additional fee.



Hive - This metallic honeycomb lattice is one of the newest additions to the gardens. Underneath you're invited to hold a stick in your teeth to hear the sound of bees, honest, while up top you can walk inside to take the obligatory upward swirling photograph.
Illuminations - Every Christmas Kew puts on a special after-dark lightfest trail, and every year it sells out. That's not bad going for a seven week season at £18 a head. It looks a lot less dazzling in daylight, but you can walk the entire route passing gold baubles, dangling silver foil and empty light tunnels along the way. The circuit also includes seven opportunities to pause for food and drink, plus one mini-fairground, so if you succumb to mulled wine, toasted marshmallows, spiced cider, 'seasonal sourdough wood-fired pizza', the helter skelter and a 'festive fizz selfie' it could get well expensive.
Japanese Garden - This garden's centrepiece is a four-fifths replica of a temple gate left over from the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition. Signs urge visitors not to walk on top of 17 tonnes of raked gravel, so it retains its ridges, but nobody's told the peacocks.



Kew Palace - Not much is left of the original Stuart palace by the river, just the Dutch House and some kitchens, and these too close for the winter. One day I'll get inside. Instead I walked the knot garden and the kitchen garden, avoiding the member of staff with the giant leafblower.
Light vehicles - Watch out for tractors and tiny vans making their way round the paths, carrying supplies to a restaurant or carting off cuttings. It's just over a mile from one end of the Gardens to the other, so staff rely on their miniature transport to keep the place ticking over efficiently.
Marianne North - Long before colour photography, circa 1871, Marianne eschewed marriage in favour of a worldwide journey painting exotic botany. Then she paid for a gallery at Kew to host it, and covered every space on the walls, and it looks amazing. It also recently had a National Lottery funded upgrade, and this may explain why I got into Kew for free yesterday.



Nash Conservatory - They moved this capacious glasshouse from the grounds of Buckingham Palace in 1836, and now it's used to host weddings, conferences and product launches. You won't get inside otherwise. A lot of the newer buildings at Kew also double up as event spaces, indeed you can often see where the architects prioritised standing room over flowerbeds.
One Penny - The first time I went to Kew Gardens, in the 1970s, admission cost a penny. Yesterday, thanks to a National Lottery special offer, it cost less than that. Normally it's more like £18 (but reduced in the winter).



Palm House - This is Kew's crowdpleaser, a long glass hothouse packed with tropical plants, please close the door behind you. Water occasionally drops from the ceiling. Occasional splashes of red are provided by flowers from distant shores. The most fun thing to do is of course to climb the spiral staircase and walk round the narrow gallery admiring the jungle canopy. Also, look out for the robins.
Queen Charlotte's Cottage - If you find this rustic royal bolthole in the woods, well done, you've ventured further off the beaten track than most visitors manage.
Rose Garden - Another late autumn non-event. See also 'Rhododendron Walk'.



Sackler Crossing - Opioids helped pay for this low sinuous bridge across The Lake (which is not to be mistaken for The Pond). It's where all the photographers assemble, casual and serious, each hoping that everyone else will go away and allow them to capture the optimum snap. I got an intrusive swan in one of mine, which may have helped.



Temperate House - This is the world's largest surviving Victorian glasshouse, designed by Decimus Burton, with specimens grouped by continent and less strict rules on closing doors. Again there's a spiral staircase up to the balcony, but this time it's only 45 steps rather than 52, plus there's a better view because a forest of leaves doesn't get in the way. In the octagons either side of the main hall the gardeners are growing narcissi, fuchsias and pelargoniums, and it was a real tonic for the soul to see flowers in November.
Underground - A whole passagewayful of classic 'Kew Gardens' tube posters can be found in the Kew Gardens Gallery, a building I've never seen anybody else in, at the northern tip of the site.
Victoria Gate - If you arrive from the tube station this is where you pay up and enter. There are no queues on wet Mondays. Kew Gardens' largest gift shop is alongside, and I'm pleased to say I've now finished my Christmas shopping.
Woodland Walk - Another recent addition, though nothing wow, just a 300m boardwalk that wends through some previously inaccessible woodland. Simple, but effective, are the panels which show the difference between oak, lime, hazel, rowan, elm, sweet chestnut and beech leaves, in front of a genuine example of each, and I think I may actually have learned something useful. (n.b. this probably won't work so well in January)
Xstrata Treetop Walkway - If your head for heights can take it, and mine could, hike up over 100 steps to this elevated walkway amid the treetops. Normally you can do a complete circuit, but the majority is sealed off at the moment to cater for nocturnal festive artworks, viewed only from below.



Yellow - Nothing says autumn like a sharp-edged carpet of yellow leaves immediately surrounding a tree. Kew has several of these at the moment, because staff leave them undisturbed and most visitors don't go kicking through.
Zero waste - Kew are proud of their compostable cups and recyclable cans of drinking water, and how nothing in their litter bins ends up in landfill. Sorry, I'd like to have ended with something more interesting than banning single-use plastic, but Sir David Attenborough would be proud. [15 photos]

 Monday, November 25, 2019

I'm a firm believer that if you walk around London enough, you'll eventually stumble upon something bloggable. Here's what I stumbled upon yesterday while walking the backstreets between Willesden Green and Brondesbury Park stations.

The Cambodian Embassy.



The flags outside number 64 were the first clue, that and a royal emblem on a blue plaque above the front door. I also noticed that the brick wall around this corner plot was higher than most, and yes, access was only through a gate with a push-button intercom. Here a burnished plaque confirmed that this was the Royal Embassy of Cambodia, and a separate plaque announced their official opening hours (the embassy closes for lunch between twelve thirty and two). Alongside was a very faded poster of Angkor Wat, which might once have tempted passers-by, but that's about all you can see. [photo]

If it looks like a big house, that's because it once was. There are a lot of big houses down Brondesbury Park, including one that's a convent, one that's a college and one with a large statue of an elephant outside, which I suspect is the residence of someone at the embassy. Perhaps it's even Her Excellency Dr Soeung Rathchavy, Cambodia's Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary (who's been in the job since 22 May 2017).

The Cambodians weren't always here in Willesden, they moved here from St John's Wood about ten years ago. I'm not sure why they moved this way, indeed South Sudan, who they used to share a building with, moved in entirely the opposite direction down to Marylebone. So I wondered if any other countries had their London embassies in strange locations...

It's possible to answer this question with the aid of the London Diplomatic List, a regularly-updated 150 page document which helps keep international diplomacy on track. As well as addresses there are also phone numbers, fax numbers, email addresses and full staff roll calls, so if you've ever wanted to know who Mozambique's Financial & Administrative Attaché is, here's your answer. I bashed their postcodes.
The four London postcode districts with the most embassies/high commissions
SW1 (54)
W1 (36)
W8 (22)
SW7 (19)
By far the most embassies are in SW1, i.e. around Westminster and Victoria. Over half of these are in SW1X, which is Belgravia, and a full dozen have an address in Belgrave Square, the very epicentre of diplomatic London. The second-placed postcode is W1, there being a lot of embassies in the West End, and particularly in Mayfair. Next up is W8, namely Kensington, with a considerable cluster immediately to the west of Kensington Gardens. The final big hitter is SW7, around the museums in South Ken, including four apiece in Princes Gate and Queens Gate. 80% of London's embassies lie within one of these four postcode districts.
The postcode runners-up
WC2: Australia, Burundi, India, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe
WC1: Barbados, Cuba, Haiti, Kosovo, Malawi, Sierra Leone
W11: Cameroon, Greece, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan
W2: Guatemala, Guyana, Laos, Sri Lanka
W14: Paraguay, Grenada
NW1: El Salvador, Guinea
SW5: Dominica, Saint Lucia
And then there are the loners, seven embassies which share their postcode districts with no other country. Cambodia is one, up in NW6. Here are the other six.

American Embassy, 33 Nine Elms Lane, SW11 7US

No other country has yet followed the USA from Mayfair to Vauxhall. A lot of highrise flats have erupted instead, on all sides, but the fortified cube with a moat stands alone. [photo]

Apostolic Nunciature, 54 Parkside, SW19 5NE
Facing Wimbledon Common is where you'll find the diplomatic office of the Holy See, or the Vatican's official UK bolthole. The Pope stays here when he's in town. Along with the American Embassy, it's one of only two diplomatic missions south of the Thames. [photo]

Embassy of the Republic of Moldova, 5 Dolphin Square, Edensor Road, W4 2ST
No, that's not Dolphin Square in Pimlico, that's Dolphin Square in Chiswick. Here, for some reason, the Moldovan embassy is a sturdy box built on the site of a former outdoor swimming pool. [photo]

Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, 73 Gunnersbury Avenue, W5 4LP

North Korea's embassy, incongruously, is a seven bedroomed detached house on the North Circular in Gunnersbury. It opened its doors briefly for an art exhibition five years ago, but is normally unapproachable. Sorry for the poor photo, but I had to crop the Queen's Birthday Flypast out of the sky overhead. [photo]

Embassy of the State of Eritrea, 96 White Lion Street, N1 9PF
This one's in Islington, along a terrace around the back of Chapel Market, not very far from Angel station. I think it's also London's easternmost embassy, there being no embassies in the City or anywhere in East London. I wonder who'll move first. [photo]

Embassy of the Republic of Togo, Unit 3, 7 & 8 Lysander Mews, N19 3QP
Our last reclusive embassy is in Archway, up a sideroad, then up an alleyway into a business development of eight modern office units. Togo's taken Unit 3, with its open plan interior and loft-style upper floor, in a building that's more trading estate than international hub. Diplomacy on the cheap... or perhaps the sensible practical approach. [website]

And finally, here are the countries without a diplomatic presence in London.
Embassy in Paris: Benin, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Suriname
Embassy in Brussels: Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Chad, Mali, Samoa, São Tomé & Principe, Vanuatu
Embassy in home nation: Andorra, San Marino
London Honorary Consulate: Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu
No official Embassy address at present time: Somalia

 Sunday, November 24, 2019

This seems somewhat premature.



At the upcoming general election, one of the following will happen.

CONSERVATIVE
MAJORITY
HUNG
PARLIAMENT

HARD BREXIT

SOMETHING ELSE, MAYBE

However you vote, wherever you are, this is the binary choice the nation faces.

Two very different potential futures begin in three weeks time.

Oxford Street's Christmas lights were switched on last Thursday. Gone are the floating globes, and in their place are 27 LED 'light curtains'.



Each dangly curtain consists of about ten thousand individual lights. This is to allow for the display of 'curated, dynamic content'. At present that's a three minute loop of what I think are meant to be dancing snowflakes, interspersed with the words OXFORD STREET and the official event hashtag.



Thus far the hashtag #FestiveFeelings has been shared nine times on Twitter, so that's going well.

As yet there's no sign of any paid-for marketing messages in the mix, but maybe that's next year's plan.



It's quite effective, but not worth going out of your way to see.

The National Lottery was 25 years old last week, and to celebrate they're throwing a nationwide event called Thanks To You. All you need is a lottery ticket or scratchcard, new or used, and you can get into all sorts of attractions this week for nothing. Whether you're a regular player or a hoarder with a single ticket from 1994, some of these deals are an absolute steal. Here are ten freebies in and around London.

The British Museum - Inspired by the east: how the Islamic world influenced Western art (23 Nov - 1 Dec) [save £14]
National Portrait Gallery - Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2019 (23 Nov - 1 Dec) [save £6]
RHS Garden Wisley (23 Nov - 1 Dec) [save £14.50]
Brooklands Museum (23 Nov - 1 Dec) [save £14.50]
RSPB Rainham Marshes (23 Nov - 1 Dec) [save £6]
Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery (23, 24 Nov) [save £7]
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (25-28 Nov, entry before noon) [save £13.50]
London Transport Museum (& Hidden London exhibition) (25-29 Nov) [save £18]
Heath Robinson Museum (30 Nov) [save £6]
Charles Dickens Museum (1 Dec) [save £9.50]

I'll see you at at least three of them.

 Saturday, November 23, 2019

Route 224: St Raphael's to Wembley Stadium
Location: London northwest
Length of journey: 8 miles, 70 minutes


Some bus routes head straight for their destination, while others go all round the houses. A few 'circular' routes deliberately return to where they started. But only a handful of buses are almost-circular, taking a wilfully all-round-the-houses route to almost back where they started. Two stand out - the H13 round Ruislip Lido (which I've blogged before) and the 224 in Wembley, which is so ridiculously twiddly that it doubles back on itself no less than four times. In a fortnight's time TfL are taking action to lop off the last two miles of the route and chop out one of the twiddly bits, so it'll no longer be one of London's most sinuous buses. I've ridden the full whack while I still can.



St Raphael's is a 1970s council estate slotted in between the River Brent and the North Circular, with lowly streets named after social activists. Raheem Sterling grew up here, as did George The Poet, at least one of whom has since escaped to more exclusive climes. No buses run through the estate, they all start within and weave their way out. The 224 begins its circuitous journey at one end, beside a steel lavatory block for drivers' relief which residents in primmer parts of the capital would have complained about. I'm in luck, a bus is just about to depart, else it'd have been a tedious twenty minute wait.



We set off past a big wigwam within the St Raphael's edible garden, and a moribund shopping parade where the Desire Beauty Home Salon is on its last legs. Across a grassy mound Wembley Stadium appears, our ultimate destination, but although it's less than a mile away we're going all round the houses to reach it.
Twiddle Number One is a loop of IKEA and a double loop of Tesco. The Brent Park site has been selling flatpacks and tealights since 1988, marooned on a traffic island beside the North Circular with only three car parks to support it. Technically the bus is aiming for the supermarket, indeed that's where all the passengers who've boarded so far get out. But to get there requires following a gruelling one-way system and doing one section of perimeter road twice, which enables me to doublecheck that yes, the AA really have erected a sign pointing towards the Middlesex Meat Factory Shop. To escape we duck under the North Circular before finally joining it, past railway lands, distribution depots and pebbledash homes in need of triple glazing. Eventually we reach a point 100 metres away from where we were eight minutes ago, but on the opposite side of the central reservation. [Twiddle One: 8 mins]
Here comes the straight bit. Brentfield Road is best known as the home of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, popularly known as Neasden Temple, a dazzling confection of marble domes and spires. It also has a massive car park across the road, because most worshippers don't come by bus. Ahead is the Stonebridge estate, the most deprived on our journey, where a mother wheels aboard a double-decker buggy after rescuing a chucked milk bottle from the pavement. We skirt Harlesden proper and head straight for the station, where a pair of decrepit 'Welcome To Harlesden' noticeboards manage to convey entirely the opposite meaning. The railway bridge offers a brief view up and down the mainline, including the fabled McVities factory (which alas isn't belching out the whiff of digestives as we go by). And then our journey goes full-on industrial.

The Park Royal trading estate is vast, a rare houseless zone one mile across and employing over thirty thousand people, all of whom need to get to work, and a lot of whom come by bus. Brent's largest hospital also just happens to have been plonked in the middle, so that's a transport magnet too. We divert round the backway to enter the realm of the Central Middlesex, past maternity, the chest clinic and lorries delivering medical supplies. Stopping outside the main entrance requires one and a quarter revolutions of the roundabout, so technically that's Twiddle Two, but let's not count that. Whoever designed the roundabout's exit lane laid too wide a pavement and forced an awkward turn single decker drivers don't enjoy, but ours struggles through.
Twiddle Number Two, proper, appears to be a courtesy trip for Park Royal Asda's shoppers. Rather than escaping immediately up Abbey Road the 224 does a full circuit of the supermarket, stopping once each on its northern, southern and eastern flanks. South is quite bleak. Buses in both directions complete this loop anti-clockwise, so one old lady waiting with her bagsful has to be told this isn't the 224 she wants, and all she can do is screech "so when is it coming?" at our extremely patient driver. Others climb aboard appropriately laden and thankfully mute. Slipping through two sets of traffic lights proves slow work. [Twiddle Two: 6 mins]
Here's where we start to head north again, because whoever designed the route in the first place thought why not. It's time to detour round further sheds, warehouses, factories and distribution depots, occasionally interspersed with hideaways where local workers can grab food and enjoy shisha-related entertainment. Cafe Royal looks like nowhere even Prince Andrew would frequent. The Abbey Point Cafe/B&B by the canal is currently adding an extension in an attempt to metamorphose into a hotel.
Twiddle Number Three is a double run up Twyford Abbey Road, introduced in 2006 to give a few residential streets hereabouts a direct bus service. The end of Iveagh Avenue is firmly blocked off so buses have to reverse around a narrow crescent where one badly parked vehicle could halt everything (and one nearly does). On the positive side, three passengers have taken advantage of our diversion and leapt aboard. [Twiddle Three: 5 mins]
A few final trading estates follow, because DHL and minor paint shops have to be based somewhere. What looks like a hill behind the Esso garage can only be an overgrown hump of landfill. And joy, we're back at the North Circular again, this time crossing its ten lane canyon from south to north. A hoarding declares that the development zone ahead, which used to be the Northfield Industrial Estate, will be A Place To Live, Work and Connect. Artist's impressions show shiny towers overshadowing the canal, in an attempt to lure 3000 incomers to the bleak badlands of Zone 3. That said, the excellent Ace Cafe is nextdoor, if under-motorcycled on a weekday lunchtime - every single black plastic chair facing the bike park is empty.

As we veer left just before Stonebridge Park station I note that the bus journey has so far lasted forty-five minutes but I could have walked here in less than fifteen, such is the warped contortion of the 224's route. The Tudorbethan homes on Beresford Avenue look very much the worse for wear, but Alperton's housing stock finally picks up along Mount Pleasant, and quite frankly it's about time. The journey thus far has rarely stepped higher than down-at-heel.
Twiddle Number Four is another double run, much longer this time, all the way down to Alperton Sainsbury's. We're going this way to pass the tube station as well as service the supermarket, with roughly the same number of passengers pouring off at each. Shops in the high street have an international flavour, but are all too easily ignored. The only two pubs we pass, The Boat and The Plough, are very closed. Some futuristic towers have already shot up by the canal, utterly incongruous but that's the way Alperton's heading these days. In two weeks' time the 224 will terminate here on the stand outside Sainsbury's, because a consultation has decided the last leg to Wembley is superfluous, and this double run will never happen again. But for now a fourth twiddle returns us past the station, and my meandering experience suggests TfL's planners have got it right. [Twiddle Four: 8 mins]
The last leg takes us north to Wembley, along a shopping street thickly lined by bazaars, cash and carries, Indian confectioners and jewellers. The number of jewellers is quite astonishing, each specialising in gold, their windows loaded with bangles, necklaces and other wearable bling. At one point our bus gets stuck behind a naan bread delivery van. Ealing Road's not entirely monocultural - at one point a Gospel Hall and a Methodist church survive to cater to other faiths - but its clear which economy is helping this street to thrive.

Footfall is higher once we turn onto the High Road, bringing betting shops and Polish supermarkets into the mix, as well as piri piri, Poundland and Primark. This is Wembley Central, another nexus of increasingly highrise living, though not yet on the same soulless scale as the boxy neighbourhood around the stadium. Our final stop is near the White Horse Bridge, opposite the Chiltern station, where the last three of us on board finally alight. We could have completed the last leg from Alperton aboard an 83 or a 483, so the 224 surely won't be missed. And then, to prove a point, I walk back to the first bus stop in St Raphael's and it takes less than 20 minutes, because that's how twisted and contrived the 224 is. Good riddance. [Total twiddles: 27 minutes]



Route 224: route map
Route 224: live route map
Route 224: route history
Route 224: timetable
Route 224: The Ladies Who Bus

 Friday, November 22, 2019

Leighton House Museum
Location: Holland Park Road, Kensington W14 8LZ [map]
Open: 10am - 5.30pm (closed Tuesdays)
Admission: £9 (free for Art Pass holders)
Five word summary: a Victorian artist's studio/house
Website: rbkc.gov.uk/subsites/museums/leightonhousemuseum
Time to set aside: about an hour

Most London boroughs have neither the opportunity nor the funds to open up a historic house to the public. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea supports two, both in well-to-do streets off Kensington High Street, and both intrinsically Victorian. One is 18 Stafford Terrace, the home of Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne, and the other's a leading artist's showhome. I've been back to the latter.

Frederic Leighton was born in Scarborough in 1830, and by mingling with all the right pre-Raphaelites rose to prominence as a painter and sculptor. Much of his work had a romantic or classical slant, and so great was his reputation that he became President of the Royal Academy for eighteen years. With fame came wealth, so he asked a friendly architect to build him a combined home and studio in Kensington grand enough to dazzle prospective clients. Leighton House is the result, its interior very much a reflection of his artistic character.



First of all you'll notice they've got the builders in. A stack of scaffolding covers much of the frontage, all part of Hidden Gem To National Treasure, an £8m project designed to restore and open underused parts of the building. This also means the garden's closed at present (which is no great loss), and is why the museum will only open at weekends throughout 2020.



As was Frederic's intention, stepping inside is liable to make you gasp. The main hall is ostentatiously tiled and mosaic-floored, with marble columns to the left and an open staircase whirling to the right. The blues are rich and deep, offset with flashes of gold, courtesy of tiles by William De Morgan. A chandelier blazes at the far end, and if you venture up to the Arab Hall the wow factor increases. Every surface is smothered with genuine Persian, Syrian and Turkish tiles, shipped in for authenticity. A fountain burbles in a central pool, discreetly roped off for health and safety reasons. High above is an ornate bulbous dome, whose silhouette gives the exterior some additional oomph. This is the spectacle you'll be drawn back to revisit before you leave.



Three further ground floor rooms are accessible, if less dressed up. The study boasts books and letters, the drawing room spoonback chairs and the dining room ebony dressers. You can read about these on the full colour information sheets propped up in the corner of each room, some a little ripped through regular use. This is how you learn that much of what you're seeing are modern recreations, beautifully hand-crafted, for example the collections of botanical ceramics and the red flock wallpaper. Reading through may also be the moment you spot how unusual it is to have a fireplace beneath a window (Frederic had the flue diverted up the left-hand wall to optimise his garden view).



Upstairs is the Silk Room, built as a picture gallery, with an opulent recess you can imagine Lawrence of Arabia reclining in. Most of the walls are hung with works by Leighton himself, with titles like Desdemona, Hercules Wrestling with Death for the Body of Alcestes and Boy Saving A Baby From The Clutches Of An Eagle. Alongside is the largest room of all, the Studio, with its tall north-facing window and plenty of room for easels. A Steinway at one end helps the museum to raise funds by hosting concerts and recitals, it's quite the entertainment space. I was particularly touched by Clytie, the oil painting Leighton left unfinished on his death. The poor bloke became Baron Leighton on 24th January 1896 and died the next day, taking his hereditary peerage with him.



And a very special hello to the miserable bloke behind the ticket desk. After I wielded my Art Pass to gain free admittance he inspected it, printed me a receipt, then looked up with a straight face and asked for £20. I assumed it must be a joke, so asked "really?", but he maintained his straight face and asked for £20 again. Yes it had indeed been a joke, but pushed that bit too far, especially when another couple paying full price and considering buying the guide book enjoyed some much more congenial repartee. It put me right off nipping round to 18 Stafford Terrace afterwards anyway. Don't let it deter you.

 Thursday, November 21, 2019

Factors influencing different types of public convenience

1.   Location
separate building    room    sealed-off space    pod

2.   Intended number of occupants
one    multiple

3.   Male and Female
separate 🚹 🚺    unisex/gender neutral 🚻

4.   'Ladies' and 'Gentlemen' signage
text    text ('comedy')    pictogram    pictogram (ambiguous/indistinct)

5.   Cost
free    fee

6.   Open
24 hours    sometimes    victim of austerity

7.   Entry from outside
no door    door (germy handle)    door (grubby pad)    door (icky knob)

8.   View from entrance
none    some    too much

9.   Division of floor area between Ladies and Gentlemen
greater for Ladies    unfairly equal    inexplicably greater for Gentlemen

10. Layout
cubicles for all    urinals and cubicles

11. Staff
unstaffed    somebody somewhere    attendant expecting tip

12. Cleaning
recent    earlier today    dubious

13. Urinals
a. sufficient    insufficient
b. single    multiple    communal
c. uniform height    some for children
d. regular flush    auto-flush    eco-friendly
e. modesty boards    mutually visible
f.  porcelain    plastic    metal    hole in ground
g. mesh over drain    cloggable
h. cake    something else to aim at    no distractions
i.  something to read while you go    plain tiled walls
j.  Grade II listed    other

14. Cubicles
a. sufficient    insufficient
b. disabled-friendly    unmodified
c. gap below door    no peeking
d. bolt    latch    electronic lock
e. coat hook    use the floor
f.  sit    squat
g. disposable seat covers    seat clean    seat damp   don't think about it
h. bowl    'shelf'
i.  toilet roll... hanging forward    ...hanging behind    ... enclosed    ...missing
j.  cistern visible    cistern hidden
k. turn handle    pull chain    push pad
l.  eco-flush option    uniform flush
m. disposal bin (foot operated)    disposal bin (manual)    binless

15. Washing facilities
a. sufficient    insufficient    none
b. within cubicles    communal
c. mirrors    no preening
d. sinks & taps    shared trough    mysterious automated hole in wall
e. manual tap    sensor-operated    will not turn on whatever you do
f.  cold water    hot water    scalding water
g. runs for a set time    manual termination
h. squirty liquid    tablet of soap    foam
i.  paper towels    roller towel    push-button blower    auto-drier
j.  fast    slow    not worth the effort

16. Additional facilities
 baby-changing    vending machine    inspection schedule    puddles    cut flowers    piped music    inexplicable whiff

Sorry, but I used the toilets in the Design Museum (1ii 2ii 3ii 4iii 5i 6ii 7iii 8ii 10i 11ii 12i 14aii/di/kiii/li 15ai/bi/ci/diii/eii/fii/gi/hiii/iiii/jii) and it got me thinking...

 Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Now that my "miles from London" blogging project is complete, it's time to ponder, summarise and expand.

My aim was to visit points equidistant from the statue of Charles I in Trafalgar Square, the point from which all "distances from London" are measured. I started one mile out, then two, and eventually blogged my way out to ten miles distant [map].

My ten posts required 40 site visits in total, each written up in approximately two paragraphs and summarised with a single photo. Total output, twelve thousand words.

For those of you who asked for each compass direction to be presented separately, I'm happy to oblige. Here's the same content arranged into four linear sequences.

MILES NORTH   MILES EAST   MILES SOUTH   MILES WEST

Initially visiting the sites was quite easy because they were all quite close together. But as I've moved outwards they've grown much further apart, making visiting the four of them quite a chore. My latest post may have concerned locations 10 miles from central London but, because of how geometry works, they were actually 14 miles apart. Sometimes I was fortunate, for example in that the Piccadilly line runs direct from Ealing to Enfield, but other transitions were a bit of a slog. Indeed it took me the entire weekend to visit all four spots for my final post, ticking off two per day, which is just one of the reasons why I won't be extending my quest any further.

But let's see where I would have ended up, as well as summarising where I've been...

MILES NORTH
  0) Trafalgar Square, SW1
  1) Russell Square, WC1
  2) St Pancras Lock, N1
  3) Hilldrop Lane, Holloway N7
  4) Fairbridge Road, N19
  5) Bedford Road, Crouch End N8
  6) Alexandra Palace, N22
  7) Bounds Green Road, N11
  8) Brycedale Crescent, N14
  9) Chase Road, Southgate, N14
10) Trent Park Equestrian Centre, N14
11) Hadley Road, EN4
12) Holly Hill Farm, EN2

My northward journey began in familiar circumstances, ticking off Russell Square and the canal at King's Cross. Beyond that it became a chain of residential stopovers, broken only by a fortuitous hit on Alexandra Palace. Ten Miles North proved to be the ideal place to stop because it is the precise spot where built-up London ends and the Green Belt begins. The northern swathe of Enfield remains undeveloped fields and valleys, all the way up to the M25 where Hertfordshire begins, indeed I'd have crossed more streams than roads had I continued.

MILES EAST
  0) Trafalgar Square, SW1
  1) Blackfriars Road. SE1
  2) Pool of London [R Thames]
  3) Park Vista Tower, Wapping, E1
  4) Limehouse Reach [R Thames]
  5) Aspen Way, E14
  6) Thames Wharf DLR, E16
  7) ExCel, eastern car park, E16
  8) Royal Albert Dock, E16
  9) Gallions Reach [R Thames]
10) Morrisons, Thamesmead, SE28
11) Fleming Way, Thamesmead, SE28
12) Erith Reach [R Thames]
13) Frog Island, Rainham, RM13
14) Rainham Marshes, RM13
15) Wennington, RM13

Heading east it's all about the Thames. Three of my mile-end stopovers were in the middle of the river, and if I'd continued to the edge of the capital there'd have been one more. It's probably not a coincidence, given that Charing Cross lies on a bend where the Thames turns east. My journey has covered a cross section of estuarine London, and would have continued to do so by crossing Erith and Rainham Marshes. Had I started out from King's Cross I could have hit Twenty Miles East and stayed within the Greater London boundary, but from Trafalgar Square the maximum is Fifteen.

MILES SOUTH
  0) Trafalgar Square, SW1
  1) John Islip Street, Millbank, SW1
  2) Thorncroft Street, SW8
  3) Cottage Grove, Clapham, SW9
  4) Saxby Road Estate, SW2
  5) Streatham High Road, SW16
  6) Streatham Common, SW16
  7) Northborough Road, SW16
  8) Mitcham Road Cemetery, CR0
  9) Beddington Industrial Area, CR0
10) The Chase, Beddington, SM6
11) Plough Lane, CR8
12) Grovelands Road, Purley, CR8
13) Coulsdon Road, CR5
14) New Hill, Tollers Lane, CR5

South is the compass direction which reached 'ordinary' residential London the quickest. Indeed there wasn't much to break the run of suburban streets, other than one corner of Streatham Common, a cemetery and an industrial park. From Eleven to Thirteen things would have stayed residential, if a bit more upmarket, then at Fourteen a narrow miss on the glories of Farthing Downs. By coincidence the line I'm following aims straight for the southernmost tip of London, so manages to cram in two or three more stopovers than you'd get starting elsewhere. But it can't quite hit Fifteen, alas, which lies tantalisingly the wrong side of a hedge off Ditches Lane near Chaldon - in Surrey.

MILES WEST
  0) Trafalgar Square, SW1
  1) Audley Square, Mayfair, W1
  2) Kensington Gardens, W2
  3) Kensington Place, Notting Hill, W8
  4) Westfield London, W12
  5) Ollgar Close, W12
  6) Cromwell Close, Acton, W3
  7) Ealing Common, W5
  8) Waldemar Avenue, W13
  9) Maunder Road, Hanwell, W7
10) Great Western Industrial Park, UB2
11) Beaconsfield Road, Southall, UB1
12) Minet Drive, Hayes, UB3
13) Warnford Industrial Estate, UB3
14) Stockley Bridge, UB7
15) Ferrers Avenue, West Drayton, UB7

Travelling west started by passing through seriously upmarket London, courtesy of Mayfair and Notting Hill, then the aspirational shoppers paradise of Westfield. Beyond that came a lot of comfortable residential suburbia, tracking close to the line of the Uxbridge Road and Crossrail West. Had I continued I'd have hit Southall proper, then a couple of canalside stops before a final visit to a West Drayton cul-de-sac. The River Colne marks the western edge of London, so Fifteen Miles is the limit.

Which means London stretches Fifteen Miles West and Fifteen Miles East from Trafalgar Square, very nearly Fifteen Miles South but only Twelve Miles North. These are not especially representative figures, but it is generally true that London spreads further east/west than north/south.

Here's a summary table, showing the borough at each of the mile points.

milesNORTHEASTSOUTHWEST
0WestminsterWestminsterWestminsterWestminster
1CamdenSouthwarkWestminsterWestminster
2CamdenTHAMESLambethWestminster
3IslingtonTower HamletsLambethKen & Chelsea
4IslingtonTHAMESLambethHam & Fulham
5HaringeyTower HamletsLambethHam & Fulham
6HaringeyNewhamLambethEaling
7HaringeyNewhamCroydonEaling
8EnfieldNewhamCroydonEaling
9EnfieldTHAMESSuttonEaling
10EnfieldGreenwichSuttonEaling
11EnfieldBexleySuttonEaling
12EnfieldTHAMESCroydonHillingdon
13(Herts)HaveringCroydonHillingdon
14(Herts)HaveringCroydonHillingdon
15(Herts)Havering(Surrey)Hillingdon
16(Herts)(Thurrock)(Surrey)(Bucks)

And what if I'd gone further? How far is it possible to travel in each compass direction on the UK mainland? Let's see.

I'll start with east, because that's the quickest. Twenty Miles East is in a field outside Grays, Twenty Five Miles East is at the entrance to London Gateway, the massive container port, and from there we enter the Thames Estuary. Thirty Miles East is fractionally off the coast of Canvey Island, where a jetty pokes out just far enough to be considered land, but after that it's open sea all the way to the Netherlands.

South takes a bit longer. The line we're interested shadows the M23 as far as Crawley, including a direct hit on M25 J7, then follows the Brighton mainline through Balcombe and Burgess Hill. Forty Two is atop the South Downs not far far from Ditchling Beacon, and the line hits the coast after Forty Seven Miles South in built-up Brighton, five minutes walk east of the pier.

But west goes on and on as far as south Wales. Twenty Miles West is bang in the middle of Slough, then the full length of rural Berkshire follows. That gets us to Just Over Sixty, then Eighty Miles West is at RAF Lyneham and One Hundred's on the outskirts of Bristol. One Hunded And Ten is in Avonmouth, barely any distance from the end of the A4, which for the Great West Road may not be a coincidence. By One Hundred And Thirty we've jumped the Bristol Channel and reached suburban Cardiff, and Wales's last hurrah is One Hundred And Fifty Five Miles West on the coast at Porthcawl.

North goes a bit further still. Twenty Miles North falls within Panshanger Park outside Hertford so is practically visitable. Fifty Miles North is near Papworth Everard in Cambridgeshire, then it's on across the Fens to Ninety in Spalding. One Hundred And Ten finds us at RAF Coningsby, One Hundred And Forty's near Grimsby, then a hop across the Humber estuary takes us past One Hundred And Fifty. The Holderness coast is crossed at One Hundred And Sixty Three, then Flamborough Head fortuitously intrudes for One Hundred And Eighty One and One Hundred And Eighty Two Miles North. But after that it's open sea all the way to the North Pole.

Here's a summary, taking a snapshot every ten miles.

milesNORTH EAST SOUTH WEST 
0WestminsterWestminsterWestminsterWestminster
10EnfieldGreenwichSuttonEaling
20HertsThurrockSurreySlough
30Herts W SussexBerks
40Cambs W SussexOxon
50CambsN Berks
60CambsOE   CBerks
70CambsRN   HWilts
80LincsTG   AWilts
90LincsHL   NWilts
100Lincs I   NS Glos
110LincsSS   NBristol
120LincsEH   E 
130LincsA     LCardiff
140Lincs  Rhondda
150E Yorks NormandyBridgend
160E YorksZeelandNormandy 

So yes, you could journey to these random points and blog about them, and if you feel the urge don't let me stop you. But I will not be going myself, because Ten was quite enough of a challenge, thanks.


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jack of diamonds
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