diamond geezer

 Tuesday, December 31, 2019

As the decade turns, let's see what I was up to the last times that happened...

Wednesday 31st December 1969
Thursday 1st January 1970

No idea. I was only four, and not yet capable of keeping a diary.

Monday 31st December 1979
Get up after 10am, after the trauma of having to sing the Once in Royal David's City solo at last night's carol service. Simon Bates is already deep into Radio 1's day-long countdown of the Top 100 singles and albums of the decade. It gets hard to listen when Mum starts hoovering. Soup for lunch. Phone call from Ormskirk, confirming plans for my solo jaunt to Merseyside in two days time. TV includes the Blue Peter review of the year (with Simon, Tina and Chris), the small screen premiere of Murder On The Orient Express and Penelope Keith's 90 minute look back at the best BBC programmes of the 70s. By watching that I get to stay up until midnight. Unduly excited by the prospect of an extra leap second.
Tuesday 1st January 1980
Straight up to bed after the delayed bongs. Get up after 10am again. Time for some New Year socialising with the family whose Dad died unexpectedly young, so no longer own the big house up the road. They've laid out a lot to eat and drink, and noticeably hoicked up the heating. Back home I finally manage to record Captain Beaky off the radio without missing the start. Settle down for the Royal Institution Christmas lectures - this year it's atomic chemistry. My godfather pops round, not for long, but long enough to pop several balloons. A brand new sitcom, Hi-De-Hi, starts at half past seven, sowing the seeds for several catchphrases to come. Tomorrow I'll be taking my first ride on the Mersey Ferry and being unimpressed by Birkenhead, so tonight I need to turn in early.

Sunday 31st December 1989
Start the last day of the Eighties by walking home from a night out playing Trivial Pursuit, listening to Dire Straits and grazing on nibbles. Get up at 10am, surprised to have beaten everybody else in the house, even my parents. Bring them hot drinks, and later get repaid with a bacon roll. The newspapers are packed with end of year reviews. My brother's friend from university is staying over and has spent the night in a sleeping bag on the sofa. I disappear back upstairs when they start watching American football. It should have been roast beef for dinner but we defrosted lamb by mistake. No problem, it's delicious. After a slice of chocolate cake I get to do the washing up, while my brother fires up the BBC Micro to play Chuckie Egg. Show off a bit by scoring 235860. It's Top 40 day, so hover over the record button on my radiocassette... to grab Deacon Blue and De La Soul. Band Aid 2 are still number 1. My brother and his friend head up to London by tube to see in the New Year in Trafalgar Square, but I decide against joining them in case I can't get back. My parents head up the road to see in the New Year with the beekeeping narrowboaters, but I decide against joining them because that's something people in their fifties do. Instead I get to stay home alone with a supply of cider, a bowl of nuts and ownership of the remote control. Flick repeatedly between Clive James, Cilla Black, three hours of 80s music videos and Sticky Moments with Julian Clary. My diary does not record which of the four I was watching at the crucial moment.
Monday 1st January 1990
Following Auld Lang Syne, Clive James introduces surprise guest Kylie Minogue. Mum and Dad return at 1, having endured ITV's Scottish offering. Brother and friend return at 2, having walked from the next-but-one tube station (and having not actually heard Big Ben). Up at 9, because work starts again tomorrow and I have to be elsewhere by noon. There's just time for another bacon roll and some packing. Annoyingly there isn't time to watch the last ever episode of The Interceptor, which for some reason Channel 4 have held back until New Year's morning (and will never repeat). My luggage and I are driven 20 miles to the room I rent, where I stash Mum's frozen food parcels into my corner of the freezer. Thanks Dad. Spend the afternoon listening to yet another chart rundown, the official Top 80 of the 80s. Blue Monday somehow makes 13, while Don't You Want Me is at number 5. The evening is all Channel 4's, first Brookside, then three hours of archive treats in The A-Z of TV. "These 90s had better be good," I write.

Friday 31st December 1999
It's Millennium Eve, and life is not good. I've been single for two months and am somewhat directionless, afloat in a job I wouldn't otherwise have been doing in a county I wouldn't otherwise have been living in, attempting to make the best of it. Start the day with a bath, the newspaper and a trip to the postbox. On BBC1 David Dimbleby introduces 2000 Today, a day-long outside broadcast following the new millennium around the world starting in Kiribati. The New Zealand link is well dodgy. Ring parents, then lock up and head off on a Great London Excursion, the initial leg by car. The train up to town is very busy. My first point of call is Greenwich, obviously, where I can see lights dancing around the tips of the Dome. The park is locked, dammit. Then it's time to try out the Jubilee line extension for the first time (very nice), destination Green Park. Piccadilly is busy, Trafalgar Square is busier and Whitehall is stuffed. Manage to get to the London Eye for the big switch on, although the lasers aren't great, the fireworks are obscured and Concorde is merely a noise in the sky. Manage to get to the Tower of London in time to not see the Queen light the first beacon, because too many people are in the way. My ultimate destination is the Embankment opposite the Eye, but I only get as far as Temple which'll have to do. Stand on the kerb, watching the clock projected onto the LWT building count down from 100 minutes, as those around me chatter and put their brollies up. An entire millennium ends here.
Saturday 1st January 2000
It is the midnight to end all midnights. Big Ben bongs, fireworks flash, '2000' appears on the building opposite and several groups around me open bottles of champagne. I wonder if that TV camera over there is filming us. The fireworks continue for quarter an hour, cloaking Westminster in smoke, but of the much-heralded River of Fire there is no sign. An Australian stranger is the only person to wish me a Happy New Year. Now all I have to do is beat the crush and get home. Climb a barrier near Blackfriars Bridge to escape into the general millennial melee, then strike out for Liverpool Street. It's still raining. Missed the half past one train so have to wait for the ten past two, but at least they're running some else I wouldn't be here. A delayed text message from Mum and Dad finally makes it through to my Nokia. The final drive home is easy, and I'm in bed by 4. Up at 9, impressively. Damn, the paper shop isn't delivering today. Sit down and watch four hours of 2000 Today, videoed while I was away, including the excruciating Blair/Queen Auld Lang Syne at the Dome. Then write a letter to the Ex, to accompany the soft furnishing bills I'll be sending, and get on the phone to confirm tomorrow's rebound shag. I'm determined that the 2000s are going to be an improvement on the 1990s (and, thankfully, so it proves).

Thursday 31st December 2009
My Mum's funeral has just been set for a fortnight's time. This means I don't have to cancel my New Year plans, which are considerably more elaborate than usual and involve a 300 mile flight. At 1pm I turn up at City Airport with a suitcase packed with fleecy layers, because the weather forecast is unseasonably chilly. I won't buy a £5 sandwich, thanks. Pile aboard the flight to Edinburgh, accompanied by BestMate and BestMate'sOtherHalf, and enjoy window seat views of Barking, pink fluffy clouds and snowy Lowland fields. It's already dusk up here. Jump into a taxi and ride through post-blizzard streets to our hotel. Nip out to Princes Street before they seal it off for this evening's shenanigans. Ahhh, it's been too long since I was last here. Hit Pizza Express on the Royal Mile for dinner, then go exploring alone. The North Bridge is slippery, Calton Hill is iced up, and a partial lunar eclipse is playing out above the castle. Back at the hotel we await BestMate'sAmericanFriends, who are late, then return with our Hogmanay tickets to Princes Street. Whose idea was it to sell ice cold beers, my hands are frozen. Some revellers are in kilts and fancy dress, but this year it's -6°C and woolly hats have triumphed. Because we're a group we stay put rather than wandering up and down, so get even colder and see very little. I think that's Madness playing on the big screen, but it's a long way away and there's no sound.
Friday 1st January 2010
As the new decade begins I'm standing outside Marks and Spencer in Princes Street, watching fireworks erupt above the castle and texting Twitter. I'm also wishing I'd worn more than four layers and had brought gloves. The group of lads beside us burst into a very poor rendition of Auld Lang Syne. No official entertainment is audible. As the crowds head off to buy burgers and beers, BestMate'sAmericanFriends announce they want to go back to the hotel, which pisses me off because we've paid £10 for Hogmanay tickets and barely seen any of it. The hotel bar is at least warm. Our plan is to end the evening at a local pub, but it's at the bottom of an icy hill, negotiating which would have been tricky even if I was sober. I am not, so fail to finish my first bottle of Becks of the decade. Negotiating our way back up the slippery hill is much harder. Flake out in my hotel room somewhere around half past three. In the morning discover how difficult it is to find a cafe open on New Year's Day, and Arthur's Seat proves too snowy to attempt a climb, and an eight foot high kilted puppet walks past us up the Royal Mile, and a lot of the rest of our stay in Edinburgh is just filling time. It still beats standing opposite the London Eye though.

Tuesday 31st December 2019
Wednesday 1st January 2020

Dull in comparison.

 Monday, December 30, 2019

dg 2019 index

Destination London

Places to visit: Jewel Tower, The Garden at 120, Pitzhanger Manor, Hampstead houses, Crossness, Tower Bridge, Rainham Hall, Science Museum, Kew Gardens, Peers Dining Room, security checks
Art Pass: membership, Handel & Hendrix, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Charles Dickens Museum, Foundling Museum, Cartoon Museum, Jewish Museum, Leighton House Museum
Location: Beam Park, Yeading, Surrey Canal, Pollards Hill, Shrewsbury Tumulus, Ruxley, Clapham Common, Welbeck Street car park, Richmond Park, Royal Docks, North Cricklewood, Mortlake Crematorium, The Tide, Sydenham Wells Park, Page High, Bickley, Sutton, Wimbledon Common, Uxbridge Trail of Discovery, Postmans Park, Leinster Gardens
Locations: outer/inner London, semaphore telegraph, Sackler sponsorship, largest lakes, XZYJQ, royal statues, Green Belt, best parks, pubs, triple points, trig pillars, milestones, just above sea level, borough names, nursery rhymes, outlying embassies, Jack the Ripper
Events: Borough of Culture, People's Vote march, Extinction Rebellion, Victoria 200, Knollys Rose, National Park City, Doggett's Coat and Badge, Open House, Christmas lights, Year 3, East Village lights
Bow: spring tide flooding, local news, Three Mills History Walk, Liveable Streets, St Leonard's, Addington Road, The Bow Bells, blue plaques, street directory, Leaway
E20: fifth birthday, bridge H16, streetsigns, reopening the Greenway, seven years on, driverless pod, Westfield Wander
Postcodes: SW20/19, BR3
Streets: Major Road, White Hart Lane, boundary-crossers, ULEZ, Europe Road, 'tube map' of roads, Harrow Road
Unlost rivers: Shuttle, Mimmshall Brook, Bourne, Seven Kings Water, Loxford Water
Miles from central London: four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, epilogue

London transport

TfL: station chains, promotional leaflet, FoI, journey planner, scheduled tweets, mindfulness, Street Care
Tube stations: Bromley-by-Bow, announcements, Victoria line 50, Stratford, Jubilee extension development, without ticket barriers, Bakerloo extension, best connected, colours, Hidden London, pangram
Tube journeys: service status criteria, Four Lines Modernisation, Jubilee 40, OSIs, replacement buses, ridership
Tube map: jigsaw, continued maplessness, May 2019, Getting around Central London, December 2019
Tube fares: entry/exit threshold, season tickets, PAYG zones, capping increases
DLR: Beckton Park, Beckton extension
Overground: White Hart Lane, class 710
Crossrail: progress report, delayed again, didn't happen, delayed again again, reached Reading
Rail: class 717, Heathrow Express, Angel Road, Meridian Water, Norwich in 90
Bus: Low Emission Bus Zones, Central London changes, GoSutton, spider maps, rear boarding, ten buses
Bus routes: 389, 327, 507, 379, 15H, W7, R9, 209, 346, 129, 322, 183, 54, 533, 301, 378, 142, 410, 335, 224, X140, 278, 218, 306, 718
Bus stops: incorrect tiles, zebrafication, most average
Streets: pre-Worboys signs, A4380, Charville Lane, random walk, concrete flyovers, Wapping bus gate, Christmas streets
River: Woolwich Ferry, Nine Elms bridge, Doubletree Ferry, Hampton Ferry, Royal Wharf
Anorak corner: DLR, trams, bus, tube, rail (canals, Paris Metro)

Four foreign jaunts

Paris: Least used Metro stations, l'axe historique and the Pompidou Centre, on a gorgeous spring day [photos]
Copenhagen: This year's summer holiday was an eye-opening Danish whistlestop, blogged in 13 parts [photos]
Malmo: Four hours in Sweden, across the Øresund Bridge [photos]
Antwerp: This historic port and artsy hub is now my favourite Belgian city [photos]

Seventeen out-of-London day trips

Jan) Watercress Line: a New Year's Day excursion to steamy Hampshire [photos]
Feb) Cambridge South: in Grantchester I bumped into the actual Jeffrey Archer [photos]
Mar) Bracknell: from Weather Way to Harry Potter's home in Privet Drive [photos]
Mar) Ipswich: proof that you can live somewhere without visiting it [photos]
Mar) West Midlands: conclusion - Walsall's more interesting then Solihull [photos]
Mar) Chertsey: I'd never walked alongside Thorpe Park before [photos]
Apr) Norwich: this being Norfolk, I climbed several of the city's hills
May) Margate: specifically Quex Park and the Powell Cotton Museum
Jun) Great Malvern: I was particularly blown away by the hills [photos]
Jun) Cromford and Crich: peak Peak District mills and trams [photos]
Jun) Haslemere: for a spin round the Devil's Punchbowl (ex A3) [photos]
Jul) Severn Valley Railway: featuring Kidderminster, Bewdley and Bridgnorth
Aug) Seven Sisters: if it's an odd-numbered year then I have to walk this [photos]
Sep) Maldon: estuarine Essex packed a Heritage punch [photos]
Oct) Dunstable: the town has its moments, but the Downs win out [photos]
Oct) Ironbridge: industrial genesis, and then some, all in one day [photos]
Nov) Chatham: a late season trip to an empty Historic Dockyard
Dec) (nah)

...and ten more: Brighton, Eurotunnel Folkestone, St John's Jerusalem, UEA, Jane Austen's House, Henry Moore Studios, Berkhamsted, Epping Forest, Concorde Experience

Quizzes: add to twelve, Scottish towns, station letters, shipping forecast, tube lines
Time and space: super blood wolf moon, early/late Easter, new year in March, changing Summer Time, Easter weather, total solar eclipses, autumn equinox
Brexit: outcomes, ticky boxes, didn't happen, fake news, next PM, populist policies, update, cry wolf
Election: safe seats, Protect Our Democracy, lessons learned, Election 2019
Unblogged: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Ten other favourite posts from 2019: works of literature, badges from the 1970s, syllogisms, AGM, counting flights, blogstats, The Adventures of Squeezy Pig, ExSites, ethno-graphics, I remember

Half of my ten favourite photos of the year:
(or all ten here)

 Sunday, December 29, 2019

As the year draws to a close, let's look back at what the weather's been like. Not because it's something we all want to reminisce over, but because it's interesting to see what a full year's weather looks like.

The tables below show the weather for each day in 2019, grouped into categories and totted up by month. Yes, there are still three days to go, so I've used the forecast to predict the rest, and I'll come back later to update speculation with fact. I've blanked out the background of every empty cell to make the pattern of the coloured data stand out more. I've also emboldened any tally that enters double figures, making the general trend a bit easier to follow.

This is data from a weather station in Hampstead, so won't perfectly reflect your experience, nor the national picture. But it does present an intriguing picture of the year gone by, and 2019's weather really wasn't that bad.

Maximum daily temperature, Hampstead, 2019

35-40°C       1     
30-35°C      123    
25-30°C      3851   
20-25°C    6810192010   
15-20°C  4361614131913  
10-15°C 616251372   17108
5-10°C 17635     12023
0-5°C 82          

This is what the rise and fall of the year's maximum temperatures looks like. What stands out here is that one day in July when the mercury touched thirty-seven degrees - Hampstead's hottest temperature of the last decade - while Cambridge endured the UK's hottest day on record. Overall the summer couldn't match 2018, when there were twice as many days when the temperature in London topped 25 degrees, but 2019 still had a lot of short-sleeve weather to go round. The real outlier was February, which was much milder than usual, its final week record-breakingly so. Autumn's been unremarkable in comparison. Only ten days all year failed to reach 5°C, while there's not a single occurrence of temperatures remaining below freezing all day, but that's the joys of the inner London heat island effect for you.

Hottest day of the decade: 25 July 2019 (37°C)
Chilliest day of the decade: 28 February 2018 (-2°C max)

Minimum daily temperature, Hampstead, 2019

15-20°C      417102   
10-15°C    2722142121111 
5-10°C 7141617194  7151114
0-5°C 151315105    51517
-5-0°C 91 1      3 

Minimum temperatures show a similar rise and fall through the course of a year, but within a narrower range. Thirty-three days this year had nights with temperatures exceeding 15°C - ideal for sitting outside - and the temperature in summer pretty much never went below 10°C. This year's cold snap was in the second half of January, a month which had most of the nights when the temperature dropped below freezing - fourteen in total. Anywhere outside central London will likely have had rather more.

Mildest night of the decade: 18 August 2012 (20°C)
Coldest night of the decade: 11 February 2012 (-8°C)

Hours of sunshine, Hampstead, 2019

12-15hr    575631   
8-11hr 17562568103  
5-7hr 7743776123633
2-4hr 5489125968101012
0-1hr 1048435316462
0hr 8663 311281114

We're not used to seeing actual sunshine data, more usually simplifying the weather to "gosh it's sunny" or "oh it's dull". This year we've enjoyed twenty-seven days with over twelve hours of sunshine, all of them in the middle of the year because the sun's not above the horizon long enough at other times. January and February were abnormally sunny, for the time of year, whereas October and November were notably duller than they normally are. Overall sixty days had no sunshine at all, with the last three months of the year responsible for half that total.

Sunniest month of the decade: July 2018 (263 hours)
Dullest month of the decade: December 2010 (29 hours)

Daily rainfall, Hampstead, 2019

>20mm     1  1   
10-20mm 1  1111 2 2
5-10mm312 1 313446
0-1mm514785 735122

It doesn't rain that often in London, with over 50% of days this year (the bottom row) completely dry. Even most of the wet days weren't that wet - fewer than forty days exceeded 5mm. As for relentlessly wet days, only eleven times did Hampstead's rain gauge top 10mm, and only one cloudburst of a day exceeded 30mm. April was by far the driest month (followed by January and May), while every month since September has been wetter than average (December especially so). But rainfall is a notoriously erratic statistic, often varying wildly geographically, and one torrential outburst can outrank weeks of lighter precipitation.

Wettest month of the decade: January 2014 (142mm)
Driest month of the decade: June 2018 (0.8mm)

Extreme weather, Hampstead, 2019

Fog  2          
 Thunder       42 1  
Frost 91 1      3 
Snow 31          

Finally, still based on observations in Hampstead, a look at some of the more unusual meteorological conditions. Fog only afflicted us briefly in February, whereas hail has been entirely absent this year. As for thunder, most of this year's total rumbled during a single week in July. Air frost was particularly prevalent in January, with one horticulturally-annoying outlier in mid-April. January had the most snowy days, but most of the year's snow fell on the first of February.

Foggiest month of the decade: December 2016 (7 days)
Hailiest month of the decade: March 2012 (6 days)
Thunderiest month of the decade: June 2016 (7 days)
Frostiest month of the decade: December 2010 (287 hours)
Snowiest month of the decade: January 2010 (18cm)

All in all, summer's brief scorcher aside, 2019's weather has been fairly ordinary. Here's to more typically atypical weather in 2020.

 Saturday, December 28, 2019

28 unblogged things I did in December

Sun 1: Damn, the Christmas lights aren't working after eleven months in storage, so I've had to resort to my spare string instead.
Mon 2: I enjoyed Knives Out at the cinema, a proper whodunnit, carefully crafted, but perhaps not enough twisty turns to be fully satisfying to a UK audience.
Tue 3: Reading Elton John's soul-baring autobiography, extremely surprised in an early chapter to discover that he once lived in Croxley Green ("in a horrible flat with peeling wallpaper and damp"). He's risen a long way since 1960.
Wed 4: Dear Surrey Quays, it is Christmas even if you haven't visited the Wishmas Owl.
Thu 5: Went to Hyde Park. Entered Winter Wonderland. Walked Through Winter Winterland. Exited Winter Wonderland. That'll do me for 2019.
Fri 6: The new link road connecting the north and south sides of the Olympic Park looks like it'll be opening early in the New Year, and then they can close Clarnico Road (and build flats on it).
Sat 7: Greggs don't have a branch in Pinner, otherwise I would have succumbed and bought my first festive bake of the season.

Sun 8: Several of the Tesco carrier bags I stashed ten years ago, hoping to reuse and recycle later, have disintegrated into a white confetti mulch. I fear thousands of microplastic flakes are environmentally far less friendly than a single bag ever was.
Mon 9: This year's double issue Radio Times (mumble) costs £4.95 (grumble) which OK is only 5p more than last year (sigh) but also now comes with a spine rather than staples (grrr) so you can't rip the holiday supplement out of the middle any more and bin it.
Tue 10: Some years a flash of Christmas inspiration strikes. This year it flashed on a wet walk across the Olympic Park, somewhere near the fountains, and I was well pleased. If I sent you a Christmas card this year, I hope it lived up to expectations.
Wed 11: Walked out of the Palace of Westminster just as the policeman on duty was walking away from the turnstile carrying all of Wednesday's security pass lanyards. "No, you keep yours as a souvenir," he said, so I have, as a reminder of a long lost era.
Thu 12: The utter sheer tension of waiting for the announcement of General Election exit poll, very much the tipping point from benign stalemate to fearful future.
Fri 13: Apparently the artwork on the front of the new tube map "is an apt metaphor signalling the end of the Northern line and a nation on edge individually, collectively, politically and socially", and I wish I got paid for writing bollocks.
Sat 14: Hurrah, both series of Nighty Night are back on iPlayer, and I'd forgotten what a glorious beast Jill was.

Sun 15: One single daffodil has opened up in the Olympic Park, genuinely just one, on the grassy slopes facing the City Mill River. It'll be dozens by next weekend. And (checks diary) fractionally later than last year.
Mon 16: I cannot believe an ink cartridge for my printer now costs £42, although admittedly it is now twenty years old and I should probably invest the money in a new machine, not a tiny reservoir.
Tue 17: Attempted to buy a birthday card for BestMate, and one year I'll remember to do this before December while there's still a genuine selection.
Wed 18: The waitress told us their supplier had run out of pigs in blankets, so we walked out, then went to the other branch in town who had plenty, and they were scrumptious.
Thu 19: I have started swearing at Newsnight. This is not a good sign.
Fri 20: I bought some souvenir chocolates in Amsterdam in 2003. Tonight I finally finished them off. (and no, they're just chocolate)
Sat 21: A guitar shop in the East Village invites you to ring them on 02031 434 809, and I don't think a telephone number has ever niggled me more.

Sun 22: I've completed the entire Guardian prize Christmas mega-crossword apart from the Cornish hamlet, dammit.
Mon 23: Returned. Remembered.
Tue 24: Went round to inspect/admire my niece's first house. Inside it already looks cosy and homely. Outside will look lovely once the builders have eventually finished, although I fear the rabbit droppings all over her front lawn may be a permanent fixture.
Wed 25: It's the first Christmas Day since 1993 that everyone's been over 20... so we slept in a bit.
Thu 26: At no other time of year does the tray of crispy nibbly snacks endlessly refill itself. For the sake of the health of the nation, this is probably just as well.
Fri 27: Never underestimate the complexity of trying to operate someone else's television by using two or more unfamiliar remote control boxes. I generally end up turning the set off, or trapped in some infernal subroutine, or accidentally switching to Mrs Brown's Boys, before finally ending up on the intended channel.
Sat 28: Successfully endured the rail replacement coach, followed by the rail replacement tube.

 Friday, December 27, 2019

Time for my annual check on which bits of the TfL network I've travelled on this year. I get around the capital a lot, as you'll have gathered, so 2019's coverage is comprehensive.
Bakerloo: all
Central: all
Circle: all
District: all
Hammersmith & City: all
Jubilee: all
Metropolitan: all (except Moor Park - Amersham/Chesham)
Northern: all (except Hendon Central - Edgware)
Piccadilly: all
Victoria: all
Waterloo & City: all
I may be obsessive but I am not a hardwired completist.
DLR: all (and got on or off at every station)
I have in fact visited every station on the tube map within zones 1, 2 and 3, as in the proper definition of arriving/departing by train and entering/exiting at street level. I have a Z1-3 Travelcard so such shenanigans are technically free, so hell why not. I visited most of these 280 stations during the course of my blogging travels during the year, then mopped up the final fifty over the last few weeks.
Overground: all (except Edmonton Green-Enfield Town and Turkey Street-Cheshunt)
Trams: all
The Overground is a sprawling beast, so visiting 95% of it is damned good. Also, trams are easy.
TfL Rail: West Ealing-Paddington, Liverpool Street-Harold Wood (but not the rest)
I've not been as enamoured of TfL Rail, sorry, and despite what you may have read I have not been out to Reading recently.
Buses: 226 different routes
Last year I rode all 593 of them. 226 is what a normal year looks like.
National Rail: dunno (not been counting)
Finally, more predictably, this.
Dangleway: none
Just know that on January 1st I'll reset my list, clear the decks and start counting again. London is always waiting to be explored.

Christmas by numbers

Cards sent: 28
Cards received: 21
Time to wrap presents: 5 minutes
Time to open presents: 180 minutes
Gifts received: 14
Percentage of non-edible gifts: 57%
Gifts which were Toblerones: 21%
Time spent in supermarket: 25 minutes
Guests at the Xmas dinner table: 10
Duration of Xmas dinner: 65 minutes
Choice of vegetables: 8
Pigs in blankets eaten: 11
Sausage rolls swallowed: 8
Mince pies consumed: 13
Mini-chocolates unwrapped: 11
Bottles of Becks downed: 2
Glasses smashed: 1
Christmas afternoon quiz score: 116
Feature films watched: 1+1+0.8+0.5+0.2
Beds slept in: 2
Miles walked (24th): 0.25
Miles walked (25th): 0.1
Miles walked (26th): 0.25
Total miles driven: 82

 Thursday, December 26, 2019

 Wednesday, December 25, 2019

 Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Street SE1

There had to be a Christmas Street somewhere in London, and there was, but alas it's disappeared. So I've been to where it used to be, which is alongside the Bricklayers Arms roundabout. Don't get your festive hopes high.

The Bricklayers Arms was once a coaching inn on the Old Kent Road, conveniently located at a key junction linking to the West End and the City. If you'd headed up Bermondsey High Road at the end of the 19th century, the street we're looking for would have been the second on the left. It was brief, no more than sixty yards long, but still long enough to crowd in dozens of families in what we'd recognise as slum conditions. On the left were Clifton Buildings, a four-storey wall of tenements accessed via open stairwells. On the right was Haddon Hall, a newly-opened Baptist chapel with seats for 700, because hope was high on the agenda hereabouts. Oh, and it wasn't called Christmas Street at the time, it was called Noel Street. [1895 map]

I haven't been able to pin down precisely when the change from Noel to Christmas occurred, only that it was before WW2, but it is possible to imagine circumstances in which a festive upgrade might have taken place. In 1946 Picture Post turned up to pen an article entitled The Story Of Christmas Street, its black and white photographs showing grimy brickwork, streetlamps on cobbles and small children playing in the street. Wrapped in dark coats they chatter, play-fight or carry baskets, and without a pair of long trousers between them. The photographer was good - he captured the sign saying Christmas St formerly Noel St perfectly between the railings. [1951 map]

In the 1960s the Bricklayers Arms squareabout was shoehorned across the road former junction, kickstarting major redevelopment on three sides. One of the areas to be swept away was the northern wedge containing Christmas Street, which became the Haddonhall Estate, a lowrise labyrinth of apartment blocks shielded from the gyratory by a barely adequate brick wall. Today various notices advise that cyclists, dogs and ball games are particularly discouraged, although what looks to be the caretaker's flat has a stone hound squatting on guard outside the back door. The line of Christmas Street is entirely unrecognisable, running approximately in front of numbers 52 to 64, which do at least look far more habitable than what was here before. [2019 map]

The Baptist chapel wasn't lost completely, it was rebuilt across Tower Bridge Road in boxy modern style, and as Haddon Hall still welcomes a sizeable congregation. Looming over the northern end of the former street is the former Hartley's jam factory, and in particular the penthouse flats plonked on top of it. As I walked past the original gates a pair of residents emerged clutching party-bound treats wrapped in aluminium foil and waited for their Uber. This soon arrived up Green Walk, the closest street untouched by redevelopment, proving that some Georgian terraces were well worth saving. But not Christmas Street, very much no great loss, except in name.

Yuletide Close NW10

Yuletide Close is a genuine London street name, and better than that it once replaced Yuletide Road. Alas both have vanished, indeed we're off to part of London where the street pattern has been entirely changed twice in the last fifty years. Shame they didn't get it right first time, otherwise I'd be able to bring you a better street sign shot than this.

This is Church End, Willesden, for centuries the focal point of this part of Middlesex, now somewhat overlooked. St Mary's is originally 12th century, and for 200 years attracted pilgrims hoping to visit the shrine of Our Lady of Willesden. Don't come to see it now, Henry VIII had it burnt. We're interested in a patch of land to the southwest between Church Road and the railway, where the first street to be built was innocuously called Holly Lane. When the time came to extend it two additional thematic roads were added, one sensibly called Berry Street, the other somehow Yuletide Road. At this time of year residents of its maisonettes must have glowed with pride. [1955 map]

Fifty years ago Brent council engaged in redevelopment number one, clearing away most of the houses to either side of Taylors Lane. In their place arose an estate using the 'Resiform' building system, a proprietary technique based on assemblage of panels, which sounded modern but was actually just cheap. Units were fitted together into long irregular blocks, which necessitated cul-de-sacs rather than streets, hence Yuletide Road twisted into Yuletide Close (on an approximately perpendicular alignment). Its neighbours were similarly commemorated in Holly Close and Berry Close, and life in Church End continued anew.

By the 2000s it became clear that Resiform construction had been a mistake, the entire estate suffering from damp and lousy insulation, so the government stepped in and invested cash on total rebuild. The replacement homes were mostly yellowbrick houses with gardens, bookended by a few flats, and are undoubtedly a much more pleasant place to live. Alas no attempt was made to recreate the previous layout, so Yuletide, Holly and Berry are no more, and London's best festive streetname vanished overnight. [2019 map]

The resulting estate is worthy but dull, which isn't necessarily a bad thing unless you have a blog to write. The two most interesting things I found were a discarded radiator cover up an alleyway and an official sign on some railings saying No Car Repairs. As for where I think Yuletide Close used to be, that'd be one end of Crome Road, a nondescript stretch that's half wooden fence and half suburban normality. Santa will still be calling tonight, but not with so broad a smile.

 Monday, December 23, 2019

Shepherds Hill N6

There are several shepherdy streets in London, but I've plumped for the hilly one in Highgate. It's also the most upmarket, a broad sweep of affluence following a natural rise amid the capital's northern heights. I thought it must be an ancient road, given its strategic connection, but until the 1880s it was merely the footpath connecting Highgate to Crouch Hill. Property developers then perceived its potential - people pay a premium for a panorama - and threw up a few choice villas along its length. They've been infilling ever since. [1895 map] [1951 map] [2019 map]

Shepherds Hill starts on the Archway Road, near the top of the long slog up from Holloway, immediately alongside Highgate tube station. Its corner shop sells antiques, which says a lot. The initial climb crosses disused railway tunnels, after which the first building is Highgate Library, an Edwardian stronghold guaranteed more turrety than your local. A bench on the pavement offers cosy views of some allotments, and might once have offered sight of central London had not silver birch and conifers sprung up since. All credit to the allotmenteers for not giving up their plots for development, seemingly the last folk on Shepherds Hill who haven't.

The homes along the remaining half mile are intensely varied, but invariably upscale. Most of the original three-storey Victorian villas remain, with names like Highcroft, Belvedere and Holmwood, but subdivided into half a dozen flats. The northern side was initially left empty to allow those on the southern side a better view, so its homes are generally younger (and lower, as land the drops away faster over here). Postwar additions tend to be chunky blocks of flats with names like Highgate Heights or Altior Court, many appealingly modernist, the bonus of high ground being that balconies on opposite flanks boast a decent view. The most recent extras are sleek one-off townhouses, often built on the site of less profitable garages or gardens, squeezed in with house numbers like 16A. The entire street is quite the architectural showcase, if that's your thing.

But all infilling means top floor residents get to see the skyline, not you. The only enforced break comes at Shepherds Hill Gardens, a brief stretch of hillside left clear for recreational purposes. At pavement level another row of over-optimistic benches faces nothing but a wall of trees, and sightseers must wind down the slope through a stripe of woodland before finally reaching open grass. Queens Wood and Alexandra Palace are clearly seen across the valley, these being the upper reaches of the River Moselle, which is how Shepherds Hill came to be a hill in the first place. A few sheep grazing here wouldn't look entirely out of place, but any shepherds have long ago seen the light and fled.

Angel Road N18

Here's an exercise in how to utterly destroy a country lane. The next road I'm visiting once followed a quiet stream east from Edmonton past a couple of farms. It terminated beside the River Lea where a ferry, then a small bridge, carried very little traffic onwards to Chingford. What hasn't changed since the 19th century is how few bridging points there are across the Lea Valley. What has changed is how thronged they are, and Angel Road is now full-on overwhelming. [1896 map] [1966 map] [2019 map]

The Angel was an inn on the turnpike between London and Ware, built at the point where the road crossed the Pymmes Brook. The pub gave its name to the lane running alongside the river, originally Watery Lane, and the subsequent crossroads became Angel Corner. In 1924 the genesis of the North Circular Road transformed Angel Road into a busy orbital thoroughfare, and fifty years later further upgrades widened everything into full-on arterial... and erased the pub entirely. Also lost underground was the Pymmes Brook. If you stand on the footbridge above six lanes of dual carriageway and look east, that thin strip of trees on the left between the A406 and Aberdeen Road is the line of the buried river.

As the stream of traffic ploughs on, the new Angel Road rises up onto concrete pillars to leap the railway. Local traffic queues and twiddles underneath, alongside the final overshadowed terrace before the flood plain begins. A mountain of waste and scrap metal bulges out towards the roadside, barely held back by a wall of discoloured planks and boards. Looking down onto the platforms of what was once Angel Road station, every scrap of equipment and infrastructure has long been stripped away. Only when the space age suburb of Meridian Water arises alongside might this Ballardian landscape look anything less then grim.

Here come the superstores, retail sheds, warehouses units and inexplicable banqueting venues. It's also time to welcome Advent Way, the service road clinging to the northern side of the dual carriageway. Its super-seasonal name isn't deliberate - the southern service road is called Argon Way - but it is good to see Angel Road referenced on the streetsign. Watch out for traffic turning into the cash and carry, and especially for dustcarts heading for the optimistically named Edmonton EcoPark, a whopping great waste-to-energy incinerator. Somehow the elevated scar of Angel Road is still following the same country lane, and buried stream, as it was all those years ago.

The Lea Navigation comes as blessed visual relief, its waters high, its pylons higher, its swans seemingly content. This is as far as Watery Lane/Angel Road used to go, at a time when water and swans were the only constant. Nothing remains of Cooks Ferry where the river was crossed, nor indeed of this particular braid of the Lea which has been swept into other channels to either side. Instead its name lives on only as the split-level Cooks Ferry Roundabout, which gets my vote as the bleakest spot on an already bleak half hour trek. And that was Angel Road, a heavenly vision ruined.

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