Blogrolls are so dead these days. Most blogs no longer have sidebars listing other blogs, indeed most bloggers have given up blogging altogether. But for those of us who plough on a blogroll is a useful way of showcasing what we like to read, and a useful bit of support. My thanks to you if you've added me to yours.
I used to compile this list at the end of July every year. I started by taking the previous year's list and updating it, then you suggested other blogs I'd missed or failed to notice. So long as a blog had published at least one post in the last month, and linked here, it got in. But after 2016 I stopped my annual post because numbers were dropping fast.
I thought I'd give it another try in 2020, there being not much else going on, and numbers have indeed dropped a lot further since. I'm now down to 41 blogrolled bloggers whereas I once had five times that number.
This could be because of the pandemic, so I wondered what would happen if I widened eligibility to "at least one post in the last three months" rather than one. It didn't pick up a lot more. But hello and thanks anyway.
13 almost-current* blogs with diamond geezer on their blogroll
*(at least one post since May 1st, but not in July)
I hope these lists are fairly complete but I bet they're not. Let me know if I've missed you/anyone off the list, and I'll come back and add you/them later. As for the rest of my readers, maybe you'd like to click on a few of these 55 links to see what you're missing. I can't promise they're all thrilling verbal discourses, but hopefully you'll discover several that are.
What I also thought I'd do is look back and see what happened to the blogs that fell by the wayside. These old posts of mine provide a valuable snapshot of sites that happened to be around at the time, so what happens if you click on the addresses now, is anything still there?
Of those 142 blogs, 29 have vanished. Most of these simply aren't there at all, while others have had their URLs taken over by spammy sites or domain sellers. A couple have been pulled by their owners so they can focus on a different kind of personal webpage. Two blogs with covetable URLs have been taken over by different people called Nik and Rhys. Wordpress is quite brutal ("this journal has been deleted and purged") whereas Blogger merely says "the blog has been removed".
Another six blogs from 2010 have gone private, for invited readers only. They might still be posting daily or they might have given up the ghost years ago, I can't tell.
30 of the blogs are still going, if by 'still going' you mean 'have posted something this month'. That number rises to 51 if you count 'have posted something this year'. I'm quite impressed by this. Who would have guessed that 35% of blogs in 2010 would still be going concerns ten years later?
Of the remaining 56 blogs, these fell by the wayside at a rate of roughly 10% per year.
Most dead blogs just fade away, with a normal-looking final post followed by silence. Only a few deliberately end by announcing their demise, or (as in the case of The London Review Of Breakfasts) finish with a properly celebratory 'best of'. It's a shame to think that in most cases someone just gave up, tired of typing their thoughts or frustrated by a dwindling audience. But I take enormous reassurance from the fact that these 56 blogs are all still intact - their host operational and their content undeleted.
In summary, of the 142 blogs on my list 10 years ago...
• 35% have posted something this year
• 40% have stopped blogging
• 5% have gone private
• 20% have disappeared
Blogging's a lot of effort for scant reward, so if hardly anybody's reading what you write, why bother? Alternative platforms have taken hold which require far less effort to update, as well as favouring instant feedback. Self-broadcasting is no clique any more, it's a universal collective, which leaves those of us who still create long-form prose down something of a cul-de-sac. Indeed images have already overtaken text for most, as people spend their days looking at photos of their mates, watching videos of comical kittens, capturing their food on Instagram, making conversation by appending gifs from TV shows and responding via emoji. Why bother writing anything, quite frankly, when nobody has time for anything more than swiftly digestible visual nuggets?
More relevantly, new readers no longer come clicking via a long-standing blogroll in a sidebar. Instead they arrive via a one-off reference on social media, if they turn up at all, because Twitter and Facebook are very much in charge these days. A blog is now only as good as its last post, and long-term reputation counts for very little. I'm very much aware that my daily readership is now almost exclusively people who arrived here once and stayed, and all too rarely fresh blood directed in from elsewhere.
I still have a blogroll, of course. I have done since I started, even if you've never used it, over there on the right hand side of the page. I link to 20 blogs I like and admire, partly to showcase them to others but also so I have a quick means of reading them. Less than half of these blogs have a blogroll themselves, so only a fraction link back, but hey, no problem. Just rejoice that some people still write because they want to, which gives the rest of us a host of great content to read and enjoy.
Every now and again Blogger updates its blogging interface. Someone decides that a change is needed, a gang of programmers rejig all the buttons, boxes and processes, and I invariably hate the outcome.
Rest assured you won't be seeing a difference at your end, but I now have to type all my posts into a new style of white box. It's not what I'm used to, nor what I'd have chosen.
The main dashboard has been embiggened to make it more mobile-friendly. My list of published posts is no longer paginated but scrolls endlessly down. The box I type everything into is narrower so I see less of the text on screen. Several of the formatting tweaks I've got used to no longer work, or work differently. And whereas I've been used to entering text in HTML mode for eighteen years, that's suddenly become nigglingly impractical. I'm not a fan.
But I've coped before. I will cope again.
Today's post is therefore my first attempt at writing in a new way, so I thought I'd provide a running commentary on how I'm getting on.
[Gosh, I'm at the bottom of my screen already - I used to be able to see a lot more than this]
I went out for a walk yesterday and saw lots of things. Sorry, I know a lot of myrecentposts have started like this.
[Well that was different. I decided to add three different links and each time had to jump through more hoops than previously. Also the big box which popped up showed me very little of the web address I'd just pasted in. Also it's less easy to go back afterwards and check that the link is correct. Expect me to make more unintentional 'link' errors in the future, sorry]
As part of my walk I crossed the classic cylindrical footbridge at Poplar station.
[Well that was different too. Blogger uploaded my photo OK but positioned it centrally and made it too small. I had to go back and tweak things to make it 500 pixels wide on the left, not 320 in the middle]
[Also, I didn't ask for a link to the photo, how do I get rid of that?]
[Also, I now appear to be writing text down the side of my photo. This is not what I want to do. Why is this the default? Why is there no way to change it? Previously I would have added the HTML tag <br clear=all> and the next paragraph would have started underneath. But I can't edit HTML in Compose mode, and I can't add photos in HTML mode, so this is not ideal]
[I need to switch back to HTML mode by flicking the toggle in the corner, hang on...] What a photogenic footbridge this is.
[That's better. But oh god, what on earth's been happening under the surface? While I've been typing text in the Compose window, Blogger has been adding all sorts of superfluous extra code to the HTML. In particular it's managed to add 34 <div></div> pairings, entirely unnecessarily, making it very hard to read back what I've been typing. I would never have written something so wildly inefficient but Blogger's splashed them around with grim abandon. There's even one occurrence of a "</div><div></div><div></div><div>" which is madness]
[It reminds me of the programs that used to create websites for us in the early 2000s, sleek to the reader but wilfully inefficient underneath the bonnet, like some kind of formatting sewage. I now feel the need to go back and delete all the divs because they're 100% unnecessary. I doubt I'll still be doing that in a year's time]
[Also, the HTML version of my post is now a string of text whereas previously it would have had line breaks in it because that was an option. Also the code is now full of <span>s, whereas I've spent the last 18 years using <font>s. Also my spellchecker has given up because the text is overflowing with code it doesn't understand. I'm not enjoying this. Blogger's HTML entry window has become pretty much unusable overnight, dammit]
The footbridge is currently undergoing 'pedestrian enhancement works'. At one end the staircase is closed so you have to walk up through the station. At the other end a temporary staircase and temporary lift shaft have been added.
[Ah, New Blogger only adds a proper line break if the photo is centred, not if it's nudged over to one side. That's not great]
And yet the sign on the footbridge says "we anticipate that these works will be completed by the end of 2019". It's now the second half of 2020 and they are not.
[Sigh, that's another 20 superfluous <div>s since the last time I looked, plus a bundle of unnecessary <span>s. Battling against this redundant code is going to be a pointless task]
Why are we so bad at predicting completion dates for projects? Why do people always seem to underestimate, at least in public, how long building something will take? Is it an unwillingness to give bad news, is it unexpected delays or is it over-optimistic project management? Consider the opening date of the neighbouring Crossrail station, for example.
[That was OK because it was just plain text. Plain text is easy. It's the fiddly bits that mess things up]
[That was not fun. I wanted to copy a table I'd posted previously, but when I opened up the post my original code had been translated into what New Blogger thought it should have been. This was more technically correct, but also messier and therefore much harder to edit. I fear this means you're going to get a lot less 'clever' HTML in future posts and a lot more 'words and photos only']
Eventually Poplar's footbridge will be extended through a new development to link up with Canary Wharf Crossrail station. In the meantime I hope the current works will be completed soon.
[I have a steep learning curve ahead of me before writing posts comes as easily as it used to. It will, but forgive me if I can't bothered to add all the fun twiddly bits I used to. In the meantime I see Blogger has a button which allows me to postpone all these changes until August 24th so I'm pressing that and going back to the Legacy Version]
[Ah, that's better... for as long as it lasts. But there is one thing to rejoice about, which is that Google have invested time and effort into updating Blogger rather than just pulling the plug. A publishing site I first used in 2002 is somehow still going strong in 2020, and should be around for a few more years yet!]
This is the tale of two Hackney hubs, both at different stages of empty.
Hackney Walk has its roots in the riots of 2011, after which funds were made available to affected boroughs for regeneration projects. Hackney sank most of its £2m into 12 railway arches on Morning Lane, supported by Network Rail and a private investment company, with the intention of creating a fashion retail destination. This wasn't quite such a bonkers project as it might seem, given that Burberry has long had its outlet shop in neighbouring Chatham Place, but the idea of luring fashionistas to a gold-plated parade in E9 always seemed optimistic.
Soon after opening in 2016 just nine of Hackney Walk's arches were occupied. Brands taking the plunge included Colombo, Ugg, Gieves & Hawkes and Nicole Farhi, while Nike agreed to become the anchor tenant in the larger freestanding unit at one end. Customers proved harder to source. Locals weren't generally interested in fluffy boots and designer cashmere, while international tourists were hard to prise away from Bicester Village. Nike seemed to do OK because pristine trainers are a must have across the economic divide, but most of the other tenants quietly cut their losses and moved out.
Unsurprisingly Hackney Walk is even deader today. Just one business remains within the railway arches, a store called Joseph, although they've cut their hours by two-thirds and now only open Friday to Sunday. Turn up midweek and all you'll see are two mannequins in an unlit window, one of whom appears to be dressed in a plastic net, behind a sign announcing a Sale with Up To 70% Off. Nextdoor at Matches Fashion only the shop fittings remain, sparse and unhung, because all the stock was moved back to Mayfair when the pandemic started. All the other arches are empty, some with a name on the window identifying a previous tenant, others pristine white boxes awaiting their first sniff of business interest.
Nike is still trading and has punters, even on a Tuesday morning, although there's zero danger of the maximum capacity of 40 customers being reached. Across the road the long-standing outlet stores for Pringle and Aquascutum remain shuttered, although the Burberry outlet is back open, its window stocked with dubious accessories and its cavernous interior entirely unfrequented. Hackney's fashion quarter was always reliant on brand-conscious jetsetters for its success and they may not be coming back, if indeed they ever came in the first place. Meanwhile Overground passengers rattle over empty arches they never knew were full, and Hackney council can but watch their investment being frittered away.
We're back in the Olympic Park, this time the western fringe between the Copper Box and Hackney Wick. One substantial waterfront plot isn't required for housing until 2026 - that's Development Parcel 5.3A - so the plan is to construct temporary buildings for a multiplicity of non-residential purposes. Originally the project name was Clarnico Quay, a reference to the huge confectionery factory that used to exist hereabouts, but some branding dullard has instead decided to rename it Hackney Bridge.
The site's five new buildings are substantially complete, and look a tad more permanent than their five year lifespan might suggest. They have that jagged roofline that architects currently favour, and wouldn't look out of place around a Scandinavian lake. Between them they're due to contain workshops, studios, 'maker space', event space, retail, community meeting rooms and a food hall. The idea is to provide a temporary springboard for budding creatives, as well as a meeting point for those who like to sit at big tables grazing on noodles and churros sourced from different sides of the room.
If you're interested in moving in, expressions of interest are still being taken. I think I saw somebody being shown around yesterday behind a ring of barriers. But we live in challenging times, so I suspect the smaller studios and workshops will fly better than larger co-working spaces and multiple refreshment opportunities. I also hope someone tidies up the scrappy waterfront and scrubs the graffiti off the gabions, because it's not an especially alluring spot at present. Does graffiti get your goat? Tell us all about it.comments
The project is, of course, well behind schedule. Originally the first section was due to open in April 2019, a date which soon slipped to September, then to May this year. That predictably never happened either and the latest promise is "late in 2020", by which point the lucrative summer market will have slipped away. Whatever happens the ultimate termination date of 30th September 2025 can't be extended, with the whole cluster having to be taken down by Christmas so that people can live here instead. Hackney Bridge is indeed just a bridge to an inevitably residential future.
As the summer holiday season hits its peak, where to visit? I've decided to take inspiration from the tourist leaflet rack just inside the door of my local supermarket, which the vast majority of Bow's shoppers entirely ignore. It's not a great selection of leaflets, mainly because it's provided by a private company, and hasn't been updated since the pandemic started so is wildly out of date. Here then are the dozen tourist attractions flaunting their existence, comparing what they said then to what they're saying now.
London Eye(£24.50) What does the leaflet say? Very little, it's mostly photos because the London Eye essentially sells itself. No times, no prices (which was probably for the best). Is it open yet? No, it reopens on 1st August with "significantly reduced capacity per pod." Despite this, the opening 11am slot still hasn't sold out. What's changed? Since the leaflet was published the London Eye's sponsor has changed from Coca-Cola to lastminute.com. That's ironic because you can't turn up at the last minute any more, you have to pre-book. You should also expect a temperature check, a "new way" of conducting security searches before boarding your pod and the opportunity to buy a themed London Eye facemask for £5.
Sea-Life London(£24) What does the leaflet say? Come to London's flagship aquarium and "Meet Boris" (who's a giant turtle). Also the Polar Adventure is "new for 2019", should an augmented reality predator float your boat. Is it open yet? No. Like the London Eye, also owned by Merlin, it opens on Saturday. What's changed? Pre-booking is essential, saving 20% on the price of an impossible-to-purchase turn-up-on-the-day ticket. Be warned that "some experiences and facilities may be suspended to ensure social distancing", which must mean interactive feeding time is cancelled and the touch pools are out of action.
Bekonscot Model Village & Railway(£12.50) What does the leaflet say? 2020's times and prices are included, along with a rather splendid map which shows clearly how the miniature railway loops through Evenlode, Splashyng, Southpool and Greenhaily. Is it open yet? Yes, it opened three weeks ago after the government added model villages to its list of acceptable tourist attractions. What's changed? Pre-booking is essential, the play area and coin-operated attractions are closed, picnics aren't allowed and the Tearoom isn't able to sell hot meals. But all the important outdoor stuff is fully accessible, and as excellent as ever, so it'd be well worth a return visit.
Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker(£7.50) What does the leaflet say? It does a decent job of showcasing the underground estate, but entirely fails to get across the utter weirdness of the set-up. If you've been you'll know. The fiery mushroom cloud on the cover is a jarring image, particularly at time of global crisis. Is it open yet? Good question. According to the website "It is our intention to fully open on the 4th July", but there's no indication of whether they actually did. This does at least echo the "Secret" in the attraction's title, but I'd think twice before travelling a long distance to visit. What's changed? The admission price has gone up £1.
Old MacDonald's Farm(£16) What does the leaflet say? It strongly suggests a toddler's idyll, complete with animals, soft play and rides (including the Doggy Dog Roller Coaster). Marshall and Skye from Paw Patrol were due to appear last weekend. Fraught parents will find OMF just off M25 J28. Is it open yet? Yes. Wiggle the otter was very pleased to see visitors again a fortnight ago. Peppa Pig alas had to cancel in June, What's changed? The farm is paying the price for forcing entry and exit through its gift shop. This means visitors have to wear face coverings to get in, which can then be removed within the main body of the farm but have to be donned again to get out. Grumpy punters aside, they still sold out on Sunday. Animal petting and soft play remain off limits. Paw Patrol return in August.
Santa Pod Raceway What does the leaflet say? I hold in my hand a full calendar of this year's 70 planned events, plus the option to bring your own car and drive it round the track, plus advice on why believing your satnav may be unwise if arriving via the A6. It's not somewhere your average Bromley-by-Bow Tesco shopper is going to visit. Is it open yet? Yes, a limited programme of events has just kicked off, with a postponed Nostalgia Drag scheduled this weekend. The raceway's accountants must be very pleased. What's changed? Pre-booking and social distancing are the new normal, but if you use the campsite be warned there are no showers.
Leeds Castle(£27) What does the leaflet say? It's essentially an events guide, as if the management find it hard to imagine anyone would turn up just to see a castle. Pride of place goes to The Golden Joust, pencilled in for 23rd to 25th May, which intended to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Alas, all was summarily cancelled. The leaflet is printed on proper lovely paper though. Is it open yet? Yes, for a month now, but only the Adventure Playgrounds, Bird of Prey Centre, Adventure Golf and Gardens. What's changed? The Castle, Maze, Falconry Arena, Punting, Gatehouse Exhibition, Black Swan Ferry, Castle Train and Dog Collar Museum remain closed for now. Ticket prices remain the same, but you can come back as many times as you like for 15 months. I'd wait.
Hever Castle(£18.80) What does the leaflet say? Come to Anne Boleyn's childhood home and enjoy our new multi-lingual multimedia self-guided tours. I don't know why Kent castles have undue prominence in this leaflet rack, but this is the better one. Is it open yet? Yes, both the castle and the gardens, so Hever's doing better than Leeds. The gardens opened as early as 1st June, but the whole shebang's only been up and running since Thursday. What's changed? The Head of Visitor Services now encourages you to watch her 3 minute YouTube video about what to expect before you arrive. Also "toilet facilities will be available but we urge you to go before you leave home."
Wildwood(£13.45) What does the leaflet say? It says we're a conservation charity and if you visit our animal park in Herne Bay you'll be helping to preserve British wildlife. Enclosures include a Red Squirrel Walk Through, a Rat Barn and a Bear Bridge. Is it open yet? Yes, since mid-June. That's a fortnight later than they hoped, but just in time to prevent the trust running out of cash. What's changed? Timed arrival slots, additional evening opening and a one way system. In good news, the Rat Barn has recently been able to reopen.
Sissinghurst Castle Garden(£8) What does the leaflet say? This is the lowliest leaflet and also the most obviously out of date, listing events "this Autumn and Winter" all of which had already happened when lockdown began. It's also yet another attraction in far-flung Kent, so odd to be promoting this in Tower Hamlets. Is it open yet? The garden, yes, since early June. Vita Sackville-West's historic abode, however, no plans. What's changed? Pre-booking is essential, as at many other National Trust properties, with tickets released every Friday (and staff who'll send you packing if you just turn up). The next available slot is on Thursday, but only after 3pm.
Drusillas Park(£19.50) What does the leaflet say? It looks like another zoo with rides, this time with penguins, meerkats and Europe's first Hello Kitty-themed attraction. Tesco shoppers would also have to drive almost all the way to Eastbourne to pay a visit. In appalling timing the new Jurassic Jungle walk-through was due to open at Easter but couldn't. Is it open yet? Yes, since 26th June (after 97 days of incomeless shutdown). Jurassic Jungle has finally seen the light. What's changed? All the usual (which now looks normal but would have been unthinkably restrictive last summer).
Faulty Towers Dining Experience(£70-£90) What does the leaflet say? "The Original Show Entertaining Audiences For Over 21 Years"... in which case this must be entirely to blame for the proliferation of themed immersive middlebrow dining experiences across the country. An Only Fools And Horses option appears on the other side of the leaflet but that only got a four star review whereas Basil got five. Is it open yet? No. A socially distanced roomful of diners encircled in slapstick is currently neither practical nor cost-efficient. They "aim to re-open performances from around August 2020", which if you try booking turns out to be the first Thursday in September. What's changed? No clues, as yet. Most years it's more profitable to be running a staged meal than a children's zoo, but 2020 has very much turned the tables.
It's been in existence for over 900 years. The original Roman road to Colchester shifted slightly south when the first bridge was built at Bow around 1110. The new alignment earned the name Aldgatestrete and was initially a track between open fields. By Victorian times different stretches of the road had different names... sequentially Aldgate High Street, then Whitechapel High Street, Whitechapel Road, Mile End Road and Bow Road. Mile End Road is the longest of these. It begins at the junction by the Blind Beggar pub (which is, not uncoincidentally, one mile from Aldgate) and heads east beyond Mile End station. The precise end point looks peculiar today, at a minor T-junction with Coborn Road, but this was for many years the dividing line between the boroughs of Stepney and Poplar. [end of potted history]
Mile End Road is only a mile and a quarter long, but its house numbers still somehow manage to exceed 600. The highest numbered building is this chemist alongside the former St Clements Hospital, the Forward Pharmacy, which clocks in at a mighty 648. You'll have to take my word for it, alas, because I managed to turn up while some workmen were busy assembling scaffolding in front of the key digits. Beyond this the numbering starts again from scratch because that's Bow Road, which will eventually reach the 220s down by the Bow Roundabout. But 648 Mile End Road is an impressively highly-numbered address, indeed few roads in London can beat it.
I wondered how many roads in London could beat it, so I've been scouring maps (and Google) to try to locate all the roads in the capital numbered above six hundred. Here's my attempted list.
NW London 606 High Road 644 Rayners Lane 661 Uxbridge Road 666 Kingsbury Road 707 Pinner Road 736 Whitton Avenue West 738 Kenton Road 753 Field End Road 871 Victoria Road 886 Kenton Lane 915 Honeypot Lane 1027 Harrow Road 1108 Harrow Road 1390 Uxbridge Road 1564 Greenford Road
N London 748 Lordship Lane 796 Holloway Road 818 Seven Sisters Road 900 High Road 949 Green Lanes 966 Hertford Road 1000 North Circular Road 1287 Finchley Road 1541 High Road 1798 Great Cambridge Road
NE London 608 South End Road 630 Upper Brentwood Road 640 Ripple Road 675 Heathway 777 Becontree Avenue 778 Barking Road 848 Dagenham Road 861 Cranbrook Road 910 Rainham Road South 955 Longbridge Road 1043 Romford Road 1051 Forest Road 1148 Green Lane 1221 High Road 1228 Eastern Avenue
W London 628 Western Avenue 648 King's Road 654 Chiswick High Road 735 Staines Road 768 Hanworth Road 797 London Road 802 Fulham Road 844 Bath Road 1053 Great West Road
E London 608 Old Ford Road 613 Manchester Road 648 Mile End Road 654 Roman Road 720 Wick Lane 768 High Road Leytonstone 821 Commercial Road 844 High Road Leyton 900 Lea Bridge Road
SW London 633 Upper Richmond Road 641 Kingston Road 692 Mitcham Road 832 London Road 837 Wandsworth Road 1085 Garratt Lane
S London 668 Streatham High Road 960 Brighton Road 1597 London Road
SE London 650 Downham Way 689 Rochester Way 700 Rotherhithe Street 835 Woolwich Road 899 Sidcup Road 915 Old Kent Road 985 East Rochester Way
I know I've missed some, probably plenty.
If you can help out, here's a comments box: comments
Actually, this has proved a lot more research-intensive than I was expecting.
All I can say at the moment is that these roads go up at least as far as that particular number, hopefully.
I've been using Google and also Michelin's online maps which, if you zoom in far enough, are excellent for showing house numbers. But they don't include all house numbers, only a small-ish sample, so I may not have found the highest numbers in each of the above streets.
What I think I've confirmed is that North London has more high-numbered roads than South London. Also old main roads tend to score most highly, partly because they're long, but also because their houses were originally built closer together than on fresh suburban avenues.
I believe London's highest numbered street is Great Cambridge Road which runs north through Enfield. The highest numbered property is 1798 Great Cambridge Road, which is almost at the Hertfordshire border just before the M25. The runners up are 1597 London Road in Croydon, 1564 Greenford Road in Sudbury Hill, 1541 High Road in Whetstone, 1390 Uxbridge Road in Hillingdon, 1287 Finchley Road in Golders Green, 1228 Eastern Avenue in Redbridge, 1221 High Road in Chadwell Heath and 1146 Green Lane in Barking & Dagenham.
There are even longer roads in the rest of the country. The UK record is taken by 2679 Stratford Road, a 4-bed detached house in Hockley Heath on the outskirts of Solihull. The national runners up are 2599 Coventry Road (near Birmingham Airport), 2111 Warwick Road (also in peripheral Solihull) and 2063 Hessle Road (in Hull). I uncovered these on Paul Plowman's blog in a post called UK Address Oddities, which quite frankly is massively more interesting than my offering today.
Meanwhile, back on Mile End Road, this is the highest odd-numbered property.
A modern block of flats covers the range 457-527, which is peculiar because 527 is a lot lower than 648 across the road. Before the flats were built, following wartime bomb damage, the highest odd-numbered terrace was in fact only 485. Somehow Mile End Road has contrived to have a lot more house numbers on one side than the other, which ultimately results in a difference of well over 100.
It's hard to follow why this has happened because a lot of the original properties on both sides of the road have been demolished since the road was originally numbered. For example number 1 Mile End Road still exists but the lowest numbered property on the opposite side of the road is a hairdressers at 82, all the intervening houses having been replaced by flats. Even by this stage the even numbers are 40 ahead of the odd numbers, and the discrepancy only widens the further you go, peaking with a difference of 200 by the Regents Canal before pulling back to 121 at the end of the street.
I have a historical hunch why this might have happened, which is that properties on the odd side were south-facing so more prestigious so likely to be bigger. Conversely properties on the even side were north-facing so likely to be narrower so more got squeezed in.
I wondered whether 121 was the greatest odd/even discrepancy in London... and patently it isn't. Great Cambridge Road manages to contrive a difference of 231, London Road in Hounslow exceeds 360 and Finchley Road tops 400. I believe the winner may be Uxbridge Road in Hillingdon which reaches 1390 on the even side but doesn't quite make four-figures on the odd, creating an odd/even gap of 445. The longer a road gets, the more chance its two sides will get wildly out of sync.
Update: Thanks everyone, a great group effort! It seems London has 16 different roads whose house numbers exceed 1000. Only two of these are south of the Thames. And Mile End Road isn't even in the top 50...
This post is about where you have to wear a face covering. If you feel the need to discuss whether people are or should be wearing them, here's a diversionary comments box for your personal opinions.comments
In England we all know that face coverings should be worn...
• on public transport (from 15th June)
• in shops (from 24th July)
But that's just the high-level public-friendly description.
Legislation exists which more precisely defines what is and isn't allowed. Whether it's precise enough is a very good question.
A face covering is defined as "a covering of any type which covers a person’s nose and mouth", which is both very specific and fantastically vague. A list of "reasonable excuses" is duly provided. But the key thing here is the definition of "relevant place".
Part 1 of the Schedule lists categories of business premises deemed to be "relevant places" (including shops, enclosed shopping centres, banks, building societies and post offices) and also lists legal exceptions (including restaurants with table service, public houses, libraries, cinemas, bingo halls and massage parlours). An enclosed shopping centre is further defined as "a building containing shops having frontages to an arcade or mall or other covered circulation area" because legislation is often little more than a branching tree of clarification.
It's clear that stations, airport terminals and ferry terminals count as transport hubs. It's not explicitly stated that bus stations or cable car terminals count, but public transport services are defined as "any service for the carriage of passengers from place to place which is available to the general public" so I guess they do. As for station platforms, tram stops and bus shelters... well, let's dig further.
An essential feature of transport hubs is that the legislation only applies to "any enclosed part". A further sub-definition is required, and this piggybacks on existing legislation.
This covers a lot of stations, especially tube stations and mainline termini. Once you walk through the entrance into the enclosed building, it's masks on. But you can no doubt think of several stations, perhaps in the suburbs or rural areas, where you don't need to walk inside anything to access the platforms, in which case your mask only needs to go on when you step aboard the train.
In short, if it has a roof and at least half the perimeter is wall then you have to put your mask on.
A waiting shelter on a railway platform probably counts. An open platform probably doesn't, even if it has a canopy across the top. A bus station might or might not count, depending on the design. The more walls your bus shelter has, the more likely that it's substantially enclosed.
These definitions are all based on legislation introduced when smoking was banned in public places, so you might assume that mask-wearing simply boils down to whether smoking would be legal or not. Not so. Back in 2007 National Rail chose to ban smoking across the entirety of their estate, not just the enclosed and substantially enclosed bits.
In 2020 TfL have again chosen to apply the rules on face coverings to all their stations and platforms, open or otherwise, as part of their conditions of travel. Stickers at every entrance make this clear, as do printed notices signed off by the Commissioner. TfL have additionally insisted that face coverings attach behind the ears or tie behind the head, which is noticeably stronger than the national legislation. Their byelaws, their prerogative.
National Rail are a little less presumptive, and only refer to "enclosed areas".
If I've understood this correctly, at fully enclosed stations like St Pancras or City Thameslink you need to wear a face covering at all times. At stations like Clapham Junction you need to wear your face covering in the ticket halls, on the footbridges and down the stairs but not on the platforms because they're not "substantially enclosed". At fully outdoor stations like Berney Arms, Castle Bar Park and Haydons Road, however, you don't need to cover your face at all. Obviously if you're about to get on a train you're going to have to wear a mask for that, but legally speaking there's no need beforehand.
I'm less certain what the situation is if you want to walk through a station without travelling anywhere. I walked across Star Lane DLR station on the day the legislation came in, using it as a footbridge to avoid a five minute detour. The walkway is open to the sky, so not enclosed and not legally restricted, but I still passed TfL warning stickers at both ends.
In short the legal position is that face coverings must be worn in "relevant places", and the more you drill down into what a relevant place actually is the more uncertain it becomes. But if you stick to the headlines about always wearing them on public transport and in shops, you won't go far wrong. Don't start measuring the walls and arguing that you know better.
• "we will not need another national lockdown" (PM)
• outbreak at Test and Trace centre in Lanark
• Govt signs deal for 90m vaccine doses
• France: masks compulsory in confined public spaces
• Oxford Uni vaccine trial results promising
• EU signs off on €750bn recovery plan
• it won't be over by Christmas, experts warn
• 25% of Delhi's population have had the virus
• Trump predicts pandemic will get worse
• masks compulsory in public in Melbourne
• handshakes are “probably out forever”
• visits to care homes allowed again
• shielding ends in Scotland
• first coronavirus death in Uganda
• 30m will be offered a flu vaccine this winter
• face coverings now compulsory in shops
• retail sales bounced back in June
• "We could have done things differently" (PM)
• indoor gyms, pools and leisure centres reopen
• Spain suddenly added to UK quarantine list
Worldwide deaths: 600,000 → 640,000 Worldwide cases: 14,100,000 → 15,800,000 UK deaths: 45,233 → 45,738 UK cases: 294,066 → 298,681 FTSE: down 3% (6290 → 6123)
North Greenwich, Royal Wharf, North Woolwich, Woolwich, Woolwich Arsenal
Pedantry note: The precise dividing line between the Western and Eastern Hemispheres depends on which Greenwich Meridian you choose.
The original 1884 meridian passes through the AiryTransit Circle at the Royal Greenwich Observatory.
The current IERS Reference Meridian, as used by astronomers and GPS, runs slightly further east.
Across the London area this creates a strip 102m wide which is in the Eastern Hemisphere according to the first meridian but in the Western Hemisphere according to the current meridian.
Locations in this ambiguous zone include the Blackheath tea hut, the Cutty Sark pub and the Sainsbury's inside the Stratford Centre.
* Stratford, East India and Wood Street stations lie on the original meridian, so would be in the Western Hemisphere if you choose the current meridian.
† Stratford High Street and Highams Park stations lie on the current meridian, so would be in the Eastern Hemisphere if you choose the original meridian. Hither Green is the only London station to straddle both hemispheres no matter which meridian you choose.
Postcards from Stratford/Maryland/Forest Gate/Leytonstone/Leyton
I've been out for a walk and seen things again, this time on the Newham/Waltham Forest fringe.
✉ Although I've walked round the Stratford one-way (now two-way) system on numerous occasions, I'd never previously registered this old sign attached to the railings on Great Eastern Road. I know where the Theatre is, but wasn't previously aware that Stratford had had a Civic Centre. More disconcerting is mention of a 'Museum' because Stratford definitely doesn't have one of those, indeed Newham is one of London's 14 boroughs without a council-funded museum. But it turns out there used to be one, a major institution, and it nearly lasted a century.
The Passmore Edwards Museum opened on Romford Road in 1900, half-funded by the Victorian philanthropist John Passmore Edwards (who's perhaps better known for funding 24 libraries). It was founded to serve as a local museum covering the geographical County of Essex, in which Stratford lay at the time, and initially showcased the Natural History collection of the Essex Field Club. Its permanent displays focused on biology and geology, plus (from 1970) archaeology, galleried off a central space with a top-lit dome. In 1978 the museum supported 18 staff, mostly in educational roles.
The Passmore Edwards Museum closed in 1994. Its building was needed as a student union for the Stratford Campus of the University of East London, previously the Polytechnic of East London, originally West Ham Technical Institute, which lay nextdoor. Much of the collection is now under the care of Newham Heritage Services, stashed outside the borough, and certain artefacts can be seen (by appointment) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Perhaps it's no surprise that a borough which ditched its museum more than 25 years ago, before ditching museums was in vogue, has also forgotten to update a sign pointing towards it.
✉ The Railway Tavern on Angel Lane has been serving pints since the 19th century, initially to workers at Great Eastern's locomotive-building works across the road. In 2011 it started offering overnight accommodation in nine upstairs rooms, and now the plan is to add hundreds more. The pub's been purchased for redevelopment along with a considerable vacant site nextdoor, and planning permission was submitted last month for "a 432 room hotel in a building up to 3, 6 and 14 storeys with ancillary bar and dining facilities". The developers already have consent for a 298 room hotel, so this is them getting greedy by building six storeys higher. [20/01004/FUL]
The Railway Tavern is destined to survive but would become the hotel's bar, attached via "structural glass link" to a reception area and ground floor restaurant. Bolted on alongside would be the usual stack of big-windowed brick cuboids with rooms available at £100+ a night. Immediately across the road is the site where the huge MSG Sphere concert venue is intended to be built, a testicular aberration with illuminated adverts across its surface. The old pub looks very out of place in the artist's impressions, adrift on its street corner, as modern highrise Stratford inexorably eats into its residential surrounds.
✉ They're digging up the road outside Maryland station again, again, this time for "Crossrail complementary measures, public realm and interchange improvements". When they're finished yet another pseudo-roundabout will have been replaced by a T junction, with the Time Spiral artwork no longer adrift in the centre but embedded in a swoosh of modern cobbles.
✉ A row of modern houses in Well Street, Maryland, features one of London's dullest plaques. Dairy Crest is a post-1981 company, so to be told that this was The Site Of The Former DairyCrest Depot (on a brown background) sparks no heritage joy whatsoever.
✉ Vera Lynn was born in East Ham, so I was scratching my head trying to work out why Newham council have commemorated her with a street name two miles away in Forest Gate. Then I noticed that the cul-de-sac nextdoor was Anna Neagle Close, and she at least grew up locally. Then I noticed that both cul-de-sacs lead off of Dames Road, and then I applauded.
✉ Another unusual name can be found in Cathall Road, Leytonstone, where the local community centre has been called The Epicentre. It was opened in 1996 and resembles a suburban ASDA. It does not look like anywhere that would incite an earthquake, social or otherwise.
✉ Coronation Gardens in Leyton has its own hedge maze, which I thought I'd whizz round while it was unoccupied. The box hedges are a little worse for wear these days, with numerous gaps where people have stepped across to take a shortcut, but the paved surface continues to show where the true paths are. I was chuffed to get all the way to the centre without once heading up one of the eight dead ends, especially because I hadn't sneaked a look at the solution displayed on the information board near the entrance. I managed to get out just in time before a small child in a superhero costume arrived for his turn, and then his gran turned up wondering where he'd run off to, and I left before the labyrinth became a minefield.
It's now been four months since the UK entered lockdown...
...and during that time I haven't ventured more than three miles from home.
I'm aware there's nothing stopping me. Travel's never been restricted, and last week the PM gave the nod to everyone moving around more freely. But I haven't needed to go anywhere, so have chosen not to, and have instead focused on exploring the area within easy walking distance of home.
I wondered whether any of you are still staying in, around or close to home.
Here's a special comments box. comments
» Only use it if you've ventured less than five miles from home since lockdown started
» Don't use it if your comment is "almost, but there was this one time when..."
» All other comments in the main box below, thanks.
When I asked in mid-May, approximately half of you said you'd travelled less than 5 miles from home since mid-March. I suspect there are rather fewer micro-travellers today.
This isn't meant to be a saintliness competition. Some people have had no choice but to stay at home for four months, while others have been travelling long distances for a wide variety of reasons, chief of which has been "because we can".
In case you were wondering, yes, the size of my quarantine box has increased.
After 50 days of lockdown it was two and a half miles deep and one mile wide.
It's now five miles deep and three and a half miles wide.
That's a sevenfold increase in area... River Thames permitting.
↑ The furthest north I've been is the top of Hackney Marshes.
That's up by the pylons, close to Friends Bridge and the Middlesex Filter beds. Hackney Marshes are a grand place for a walk, or a jog, or the walking of multiple dogs, and blessed with plenty of space for keeping well away from other people. It was glorious yesterday (and indeed the day before).
← The furthest west I've been is the western end of Victoria Park.
I walk round Victoria Park a lot, it being an excellent traffic-free greenspace and because one circuit takes the best part of an hour. Of all my compass points, west is the one I've been to the most. But west is also the compass direction I've ventured least far in, specifically no more than 1½ miles from home (which is not even as far as Bethnal Green).
↓ The furthest south I've been is Millwall Dock on the Isle of Dogs.
Last month I walked all the way round Millwall Dock, so the far end of the strange inlet with the berthing posts nobody uses is the furthest south I've been. If only the wooden arched footbridge across the entrance was sturdy and accessible I'd have crossed that, but it's impractically ornamental so I had to divert all the way round.
→ The furthest east I've been is Thames Barrier Park.
The hedgerow swooshes across the centre of the park are looking particularly splendid at the moment. It helps that the builders have finally removed their compound from the fountains, having finished erecting four blocks of flats on the former station car park. This is also the furthest I've been from home in four weeks, at 2.98 miles (I didn't walk across to the barrier because that would have been 3.02).
This map confirms that I haven't properly circumnavigated all of my lockdown box, but I have nudged up against a substantial part of it. The jagged grey zone has an area of 30 square kilometres, or 12 square miles, which has been plenty good enough to keep me occupied for the last four months. In total I've walked more than 600 miles since lockdown started, all of it within this tightly constrained area, so I've actually been keeping myself fitter than usual.
As for the three-miles-from-home limit, which is the red circle, I've barely brushed up against that yet. I should probably break out of my existing box and explore the inside of the circle instead, which would get me as far as East Ham, Lea Bridge and (more importantly) the City of London. This'd open up a more extensive chunk of London, all of it easily reachable on foot from home, and all without the need to swipe any Oysters.
I recognise that these are ridiculous restrictions to enforce on my movements when I could just get on a train and go to Margate. I recognise that you'd likely do things differently, and probably already have. But at this extraordinary time I find I'm enjoying living in a small but fascinating corner of London and learning even more about it. Even within three miles of home there is still absolutely bloody loads to write about.
Bakery chain Percy Ingle has been an East London staple for decades, with branches from Holloway to Brentwood and Waltham Cross to Woolwich. Coronavirus has finished it off.
Percy Ingle Factbox
• Percy's parents Joseph and Kathleen owned a bakery in Hackney in 1910
• They were German, and changed their surname after WW1 from Engel to Ingle
• Percy started out with one shop in Clarence Road in Clapton in 1954
• In 2000 Percy's son Derek took over, followed in 2010 by sons Paul and Michael
• By the 1990s the family business had grown to 40 bakeries, and in 2020 to 49
In Bow the Percy Ingle bakery is at 633 Roman Road, which is the corner shop at the far eastern end of the market. In the 1970s this used to be Scotts Bakeries, but Percy was very much the entrepreneur and snapped it up for his growing portfolio.
• Percy Ingle shopfronts are green with orange lettering - an unmissable combination
• A number of styles have been employed over the years, with little rationalisation
• The Upton Park branch still isn't green
• Last year a consultancy was brought in to update the brand
• They dropped the Percy and decided to rename the chain Ingles
In Bow the shopfront was rebranded earlier this year. Out went the orange lettering and in came a subtly darker green. Out went the Percy and in came a newly-shortened name in capital letters. Out went the graphic of a teapot and in came a line drawing of a baker with a hot loaf.
• Percy Ingle bakeries closed their doors on Friday 27th March
• That was the last time the firm's Twitter account tweeted anything
• Percy Ingle bakeries reopened on Wednesday 13th May
• That was the last time the firm's Facebook and Instagram accounts posted anything
On 22nd June the local press reported that Percy Ingle would be closing all its branches before the end of the financial year. On 25th June a spokesperson blamed high rents, high labour costs, a competitive market and the impossibility of making any return on recent investments. The recent rebrand also turns out to have been a pointless waste of money. In its most recent published accounts, the company made an annual loss of £165,000 on a turnover of £13.1m.
No stores closed immediately. Bow's Percy Ingle bakery was still serving customers last week. However yesterday I walked past and the shop was shuttered. Twitter users confirm that stores in Canning Town, Chingford, Brentwood (and elsewhere) have also closed in the last few days. The website has yet to reflect these closures.
Bow's shoppers won't go without baked goods. A Greggs exists almost directly opposite, which may actually have been part of the problem. Gone are the days when every shopping parade needed its own bakery and high streets could support several. Supermarkets started the squeeze, and vegan sausage rolls and coffee shops have finished them off.
Percy Ingle specialities
• Bread: Large White Bloomer, Tiger Loaf, Coburg, Multiseed Cob, Ancient Grain Sourdough
• Hot Savoury: Cheese & Onion Lattice, Steak Bite, Vegetable Pasty, Bacon & Cheese Wrap
• Snacks: Bacon Roll, Cheese & Tomato Croissant, Roasted Vegetable Foccacia
• Filled Rolls: Egg & Tomato, Tuna Mayo, Corned Beef, Mortadella Ham & Cream Cheese
• Sweet Treats: Apple & Sultana Strudel, Mini Flake Fancies, Tottenham Cake, Danish Ring
• Cream Cakes: Apple & Blackcurrant Danish, Cream Swiss Finger, Custard Cream Doughnut
• Also: Black Forest Cupcake, Mandarin Orange Gateaux, Custard Danish, Gingerbread Man
This mass closure provides a rare opportunity to compare shop rental costs across East London. Percy Ingle have handed their property portfolio to Strettons to dispose of, so I've scoured their listings to dig out the going price for two-thirds of the vacated stores.
ex-Percy Ingle stores, annual rental
£12,000 Lea Bridge Road
£14,360 Canning Town
£14,500 Leytonstone High Rd
£16,500 Bakers Arms
£16,750 Harold Hill
£17,000 Upton Park
£18,000 Wood Street
£19,500 Collier Row
Plaistow's bakery shell is by far the cheapest, with Leyton and Leytonstone also making a strong showing in the affordability stakes. My local Roman Road store is up for grabs at £22K per annum (plus business rates of £16,750, should you be thinking of making a go of it). Hackney's Broadway Market store is already 'Under Offer'. The most expensive Ingles are in busy high streets, with the very highest rent for a unit in the Stratford Centre.
Percy Ingle also owned at least two stores outright. The store on Well Street in Homerton is now on the market for £250,000, while the East Ham bakery has a whopping £695,000 pricetag. These sales may help the dying business to get some of its money back, but its total rental costs previously exceeded £1m a year which must have been hard to claw back by selling loaves and cakes.
It's all too easy to get lost in nostalgia for iced buns and to mourn a high street store you no longer frequent. Many folk get all their baked goods from the supermarket these days, or prefer to pick up a mass produced treat alongside their coffee rather than bringing home a nice bit of cake to have with their tea. But the sudden loss of an entire bakery chain is a sad symptom of irreconcilable instability in the economy as all sorts of previously borderline businesses begin to go under. If you still have an affordable non-artisanal food option nearby best give it all the love you can muster.