I'm a firm believer that if you go out for a long enough walk you will always see something interesting. Here are five things I saw on long walks recently, and the questions they encouraged me to ask.
Thursday 18th February Hartmann Road, Silvertown
Q: What aren't you allowed to do at City Airport?
I spotted these byelaws pinned up alongside the approach road to London City Airport. They're not in a particularly conspicuous position and you'd never stop to read them unless you were on foot. They date back to 1988 when the airport opened and according to the LCA website are still in force. Numerous byelaws are listed but here are some favourites.
• No person shall without reasonable excuse place an aircraft other than in the place and position designated by LCA.
• No person shall wash down or clean out a taxi on an authorised standing.
• No person shall graze animals.
Technology has moved on in the last three decades, but I do wonder if the following technically outlaws the humble smartphone.
• No person shall be operating or causing or suffering to be operated any wireless set, gramophone, amplifier, tape recorder or similar instrument or any musical instrument make, cause or suffer to be made any noise which is so loud or so continuous or repeated as to give reasonable cause for annoyance to other persons on the airport.
• No person shall erect or use any apparatus for transmission, receipt, recording, reproduction or amplification of sound, speech or images.
Finally, just in case you thought the surveillance society was a recent thing, it's not.
• A person shall, if so requested by a constable, state his correct name and address and the purpose of his being on the airport.
Friday 19th February Forest Drive West, Leyton
Q: Which parts of London still have milk floats?
Leyton obviously does because that's where I saw this one. A lot of nimble doorstepping was going on, and the jangling of pints, but the driver still had time for a cheery chat with a customer getting into his car. Parker Dairies are based in South Woodford, are independently owned and have been going since 1989. They have at least 11,000 customers, additionally boosted when lockdown started, and will deliver milk and grocery products to your door if you live in the right area. They don't provide a map but their postcode checker confirms my address in Bow is included so their net spreads wide.
Milk floats were way ahead of their time, ideal for an eco-friendly delivery-obsessed society. I've unearthed a few other local independents delivering in other parts of London - Hampstead Premier Dairies(Hampstead), Jones Bros (East End), Morgan's Dairy(Fulham/Surbiton) - but I'm not aware that any of these still use proper milk floats. I'm happy to be updated.
Saturday 20th February East India Dock
Q: Where are the other Millennium Beacons?
On New Millennium's Eve a chain of 1400 beacons was lit across the four nations of the UK, the largest by the Queen on a barge off Tower Pier. My extensive collection of millennium ephemera confirms that the flame was due to tower 12ft above the top of the beacon, but I saw nothing at the time because most of the embankment was cordoned off. One of the smaller beacons was located, or ended up, beside the lock gates at East India Dock. Originally it had a shield underneath confirming its provenance and recognising British Gas as the sponsor, but that's vanished and the brazier's eroded somewhat. Alas 1999 was so close to the dawn of the internet that no maps or lists or the remaining beacons survive, but I occasionally stumbleuponone when touring the country. What I have managed to uncover is that the giant beacon the Queen lit was made in Great Yarmouth so went back afterwards and now stands proudly outside a business park in Gorleston.
Q: Where exactly is The NORTH?
I can answer this question courtesy of page 169 of chapter 7 of the DfT Traffic Signs Manual.
First we learn that there are only 11 official regional destinations:
• The NORTH, The NORTH WEST, The NORTH EAST
• The SOUTH, The WEST, The SOUTH WEST
• The LAKES, The MIDLANDS
• NORTH WALES, SOUTH WALES
Then comes the official definition of The NORTH:
In general, “The NORTH WEST” refers to that part of England to the west of the Pennines, and “The NORTH” to that part of England to the east of the Pennines.
And finally the reason why you don't see The NORTH EAST very often:
The compass point destination “The NORTH EAST” may be used as a substitute for “The NORTH” when the destination “The NORTH WEST” appears on the same sign and is associated with a different route leading from the junction. “The NORTH EAST” shall appear on subsequent route confirmatory signs until “The NORTH” appears on the advance direction signs in place of “The NORTH EAST”. The destination “The NORTH EAST” shall not be used in any other circumstances.
Monday 22nd February Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Q: How much does an ice cream cost these days?
I know the weather's improved but it was still a surprise to see an ice cream van parked up on the Monday after half term. I managed to walk over to read the price list without encouraging the driver to rouse himself assuming he had a sale. Apparently a vanilla cornet with flake costs £2.80 (increasing to £3.50 for a waffle cone and £4 for a choco waffle cone). No illustration was given of a cornet without a flake, which I assume is a cunning method of upselling.
The van comes from Five Star Catering Ltd in Camberwell and sometimes sets up outside the Tower of London, which perhaps helps explain the high prices. I assume £2.80 is high, rather than the going price around the country, but alas I only have this very small sample from which to judge.