Wednesday, March 31, 2021
31 unblogged things I did in March
Mon 1: Birdwatching update: In the centre of the Olympic Park, opposite the Channelsea outfall, I suddenly spotted a kingfisher bombing low along the edge of the river... and a couple of seconds later a second kingfisher bombing low behind it. I'd always suspected there was a pair, and now I have glorious proof. [map of sightings]
Tue 2: Walking along Wick Lane, and with absolutely nobody else around, I noticed a £10 note lying on the pavement. This never normally happens. Ridiculously I decided to leave it where it was, partly because it wasn't mine but also because I've become conditioned over the last year not to touch things unnecessarily. Could've bought a ton of hand sanitiser with it.
Wed 3: I remember when Budget day felt important and the prices of alcohol and petrol would tick up by a few pence shortly afterwards, but these days the Chancellor dare not raise taxes on anything concrete and merely tweaks thresholds to snaffle your money later without you noticing. Maybe it's time to restart the fuel escalator after a decade on pause.
Thu 4: There's a phone box in Whitechapel that still has a poster advertising a Pet Shop Boys Dreamworld gig at the O2 on 28th May 2020, and I wouldn't have gone but every time I walk past it I kind of wish I could. (I see the show's currently rescheduled for 22nd May 2022, so good luck with that)
Fri 5: I got back from the supermarket to discover, again, that my cucumber had slipped out along the way. This time I took your advice ("I always had you down as someone who would have retraced their steps determined to find exactly where it was that cucumber slipped silently from your bag") and immediately retraced my steps but found nothing. Perhaps someone in E3 has a penchant for abandoned vegetables... but more likely I never picked up my cucumber from the checkout meaning it was never in my bag in the first place.
Sat 6: The 40 year-old cafe in the park at Island Gardens, the one with a teapot and cuppa bricked into the wall, is to be knocked down next month and replaced by a bigger cafe faced with timber, tiles and glass. It'll also have public toilets (but less character).
Sun 7: Amongst the 'City Walkways byelaws' posted up in the Barbican (and dating back to 1974) No Person Shall... climb or sit on any balustrade, set up any structure or erection, use or operate any radio or similar instrument, or bring or cause to be brought any horse, pony, mule, ass, goat or cattle.
Mon 8: It looks like the disused waste oil depot at the end of Cooks Road is finally being dismantled, with a digger on site and a truck taking away chunks of silo. The north side of the Bow Roundabout smells like 20 people have vomited simultaneously.
Tue 9: One lovely thing about a birthday is how many people get in touch out of the blue to send good wishes. This included three generations of my family, BestMate's OtherHalf, a former workmate, TridentScan's IT Director, a former Guinness recordholder, someone I last saw naked ten years ago and a Cambridge neuroscientist.
Wed 10: Blogpost update: At Gallions Reach I was surprised to spot another 'bus stop I' because it's not one of the six in TfL's bus stop database, a document which appears to be incomplete. Alas there's no 'bus stop O' in the vicinity otherwise a full alphabetical tour would be possible.
Thu 11: Birdwatching update: Yay, kingfisher again. That's a dozen times now. Sorry, I should probably give this feature a rest.
Fri 12: The 24 hours after being vaccinated are a nerve-wracking time as you wait to discover whether you're about to be physically walloped, mildly inconvenienced or outwardly unaffected. I was lucky, I got the latter.
Sat 13: On the Isle of Dogs I was almost blown off my feet by the wind blowing between two blocks of flats. I've stood in a proper scientific wind tunnel before with the fans on, but this was genuinely liftier. Highly unnerving.
Sun 14: Ah, the joy of lifting the tray in a box of chocolates and discovering, against expectations, that yes there is another layer underneath.
Mon 15: At the northern end of the Olympic Park I watched the sluices open and a torrent of water emerge from subterranean pipes, initially gushing white and then, ugh, brown, as a cloud of something icky started making its way downstream.
Tue 16: Headed out this morning to discover traffic queueing in both directions and the pavements swarming with people, mostly parents taking children to school, and Bow Road hasn't looked this 'normal' in over a year. (n.b. I haven't seen it like that again since)
Wed 17: Made it as far as the Ornamental Water in Wanstead Park. It was very quiet, just me and an older lady walking a dog, both of us heading in the same direction. I deliberately held back so as not to appear threatening, given everything in the news at present. I suspect I was more terrified of her dog than she was of me, but you never can tell.
Thu 18: East Ham Nature Reserve, the repurposing of one of England's largest churchyards, is gorgeous at present. Spotted butterflies, bumble bees and blackthorn blossom but not the promised lizards. Also utterly devoid of other people which was a plus.
Fri 19: Exactly a year ago, amid pre-lockdown panic shopping, I bought an emergency packet of chocolate digestives 'just in case'. I had promised myself I'd finally open them on today's anniversary, but they remain uneaten (and possibly a little stale).
Sat 20: I could tell you an anecdote about a woman buying pillows and a slanging match with a cyclist, but it's a bit convoluted and not really worth the effort.
Sun 21: Did that stupid thing where I forgot to charge my phone overnight but wanted to head out really early, so I was well impressed when it hit 50% after an hour because I'd forgotten how efficient new phones are.
Mon 22: Even after a year of intense local wandering there are still new streets to discover. Today I stumbled upon an ice cream factory in Homerton surrounded by houses, and a Tina's Ices van turning up to replenish supplies.
Tue 23: Today the Mayor visited the Olympic Park to plant the final tree in the National Trust blossom garden. Unfortunately the path is still nowhere near finished so it's likely the public won't be gaining access until all 33 trees have finished flowering. Four are at full peak right now and two have already dropped everything.
Wed 24: Beside the Eagle Pond in Snaresbrook, freshly taped to a lamppost, is a notice offering a reward for the return of a ginger cat missing from Ilford "since 2nd July 2017". That is one devoted, but optimistically misguided, former owner.
Thu 25: Spotted a Jaguar parked in Brooks Avenue, East Ham, with the registration TRSP HRI, and no way is that legit.
Fri 26: Went through the annual charade of upgrading my ISA account because the interest rate was 'maturing', and the best rate they could offer this year is a quarter of what they were offering last year.
Sat 27: Birdwatching update: For today's unexpected appearance the kingfisher flew underneath me as I crossed the footbridge by the split telephone boxes at the end of the Channelsea River. It then dodged into some overhanging plants opposite the Waterglades, so we may have a potential nesting site.
Sun 28: The blossom around Aldgate Square, a repurposed bit of gyratory, looks spectacular at present. Shame so few people will have enjoyed it.
Mon 29: The new series of Just A Minute features ten different chairs, presumably as an audition for taking over Nicholas Parsons' role permanently. Thus far Paul Merton was better as a contestant, Nish Kumar too intrusively verbose, Zoe Lyons and Lucy Porter competently cheery, Gyles Brandreth too much of a pedant and Sue Perkins a pitch perfect successor.
Tue 30: I don't know when your Most Expensive Day Of The 21st Century was, but mine was today.
Wed 31: The best thing about River services restarting is that you can walk down the piers again.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, March 30, 2021Random City of London ward (13): Castle Baynard
I've reached the halfway point on my random ward journey and finally hit one of the big three out west. Castle Baynard ward wasn't always this large, it grew an extra prong in 2003 during the City's Bizarre Administrative Rejig by swallowing a lot of Farringdon. It's so large that I've decided to focus on the old bit, east of the River Fleet, so my apologies for skipping through the Fleet Street bulge in less detail. [pdf map] [13 photos]
The most important building in Castle Baynard, possibly in the entire City of London, is St Paul's Cathedral. Wren's masterpiece is the fifth cathedral on the site, most of the previous having been destroyed by fire, located in a prime position on Ludgate Hill. It remains a fabulously imposing sight, thanks not least to the long term policy of not building anything too tall nearby. On Sunday it reopened for public worship for the first time in months, although inbetween services the churchyard was entirely empty bar a security guard at the main door and another on the steps waiting to check in worshippers and offer a squirt of sanitiser. It felt like the ten o'clock bongs were just for me.
The cathedral is almost entirely surrounded by the ward of Bread Street, as I mentioned a fortnight ago, apart from a single row of buildings on the southwest side. One brasserie, one coffee shop and two burger restaurants - that's your lot. But step behind Condor House to discover narrow lanes most tourists never filter into, even when there are any. One city block has been swallowed by a glassy hothouse called the Leonardo Royal Hotel, but the most interesting overnight accommodation must be in the youth hostel on Carter Lane. This terracotta and brick building emblazoned with Latin used to be St Paul's Cathedral Choir School until they moved to New Change in the 1970s. It now offers 213 cheap beds... or at present just 20, because during the pandemic it's been repurposed to house the City's socially distanced homeless.
Three organisations with their fingers deep in the fabric of society have a significant presence on Queen Victoria Street. One is the College of Arms, the UK's official home of heraldry, where a staff of Kings, Heralds and Pursuivants can knock you up a coat of arms for £6700. Another is the Church of Scientology who opened their chief UK place of worship here in 2006, alongside a multimedia 'Public Information Centre' designed to encourage non-believers to wander inside. And the third is BT the telecommunications behemoth who have a considerable presence in the ward. The Faraday Building started life in 1902 as London's first telephone exchange, then in 1933 grew into the current 11-storey monster (which first triggered campaigns to protect views of St Paul's). It's especially austere around the back, reducing the exciting-sounding Knightrider Street to the role of a drab service road.
And BT's presence doesn't stop there. Across the road is Baynard House, an outburst of layered concrete that even fans of Brutalism find hard to love. It sprawls no higher than three storeys (because those protected view rules had kicked in by 1979) and covers a huge chunk of riverside alongside Blackfriars station. It was optimistically built with a pedway at first floor level, for which read a dark twisted passageway hardly anyone uses unless they work here, connecting a station entrance to a poorly-maintained pigeon-infested piazza. In pride of place here is a totem pole of seven heads inspired by Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man, with mewling infant at the bottom and sans teeth at the top. If nothing else the benches offer a decent view of St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe across the road.
Take the rear exit towards the riverside, if you dare, and the walkway eventually twists down to the embankment alongside an unexpected football pitch. This is the sports ground of the City of London School nextdoor, accessed via a staircase under White Lion Hill, and marks the former site of Baynard's Castle. [If you think that says something else, you need your eyes testing] In Tudor times this was an important royal palace, once gifted to Catherine of Aragon, and before that a Norman castle strategically located at the head of the Fleet valley. The Tower of London performed a similar defensive role to the east. Baynard's Castle alas failed to survive the Great Fire of London, its last stone tower eventually demolished to make way for warehouses (and now a telephone exchange and some astroturf).
The riverfront here was transformed in the 1960s with the motor car very much the eventual winner. A major dual carriageway was cut through to link Upper Thames Street and the Victoria Embankment, one end in tunnel and the dip beneath two bridges a full-on underpass. I made the mistake of wandering in via some obscure side road and discovered that the barriers designed to keep pedestrians out also prevent them from escaping, and that a serious lack of pavements makes this quite dangerous. I ended up walking out through the Blackfriars Underpass while dodging bikes on the cycle lane that threads this way, and I cannot recommend attempting this on foot on anything other than a lockdown Sunday.
Blackfriars station used to be as far west as the ward went, but only half of it because the former boundary divided platforms 1 and 2 from 3 and 4. The station now famously spans the Thames, but a cheaper way to get across the river is to use the 150 year-old wrought iron road bridge to one side. This is the other London bridge, other than London Bridge, that lies fully within the City of London. You can tell this because a dragon stands guard in the centre of the road on the southern side of Blackfriars Bridge, about 15 metres into what would otherwise be Southwark. Just upstream on the northern bank are substantial works for the Tideway Tunnel which will connect here to the end of the Fleet sewer. It'll also create an additional patch of land called the Bazalgette Embankment, enlarging the ward's land area by 1½ acres.
South of Fleet Street much of Castle Baynard ward is bland corporate. Unilever's neoclassical HQ is the exception, but even JP Morgan which looks a bit heritage from the waterfront turns out to have a modern office box bolted onto the back. Architectural abominations abound, like the dense Premier Inn with a rampant St George out front and dreary Salisbury Square. Tudor Street now looks anything but Tudor and Whitefriars, the medieval monastic counterpart to Blackfriars, is long gone. The Bridewell Theatre has a bit of downsized pizazz, but the true star locally is St Bride's, the church with the wedding-cake spire.
Fleet Street is no longer the mainstay of UK journalism, and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese no longer full of drunken hacks. A few mighty fine newspaper hubs linger as offices, notably the dazzling Art Deco monochrome of the Daily Express. Several very narrow alleyways lead off from the northern side of the street, each with a clever newsprint-style plaque embedded in the pavement. Today the shops have more of a lunchtime focus and if there is still a barber (demon or otherwise) I failed to find them.
North of Fleet Street, amid a maze of back alleys, you may find lexicographer Dr Johnson's House. A statue of one of his cats, Hodge, stares across Gough Square from an oyster-topped plinth. Fractionally beyond is New Street Square, the dullest of 21st century piazzas, whose parade of non-essential shops has had all its shelves stripped. Shoe Lane still has a public library because the City Corporation has bottomless pockets. Thavie's Inn has an impressive legal backstory and zero modern character. And that excessively glassy office block facing High Holborn is Sainsbury's corporate HQ, or as they prefer to call it their Store Support Centre.
posted 07:00 :
Monday, March 29, 2021Five lists
The 10 nearest National Parks to London
1) South Downs (22 miles)
2) New Forest (58 miles)
3) The Broads (76 miles)
4) Brecon Beacons (107 miles)
5) Peak District (111 miles)
6) Exmoor (123 miles)
7) Dartmoor (147 miles)
8) Snowdonia (151 miles)
9) Yorkshire Dales (171 miles)
10) Pembrokeshire Coast (177 miles)
The last 10 step-free tube stations
2017: Bond Street
2018: Bromley-by-Bow, Buckhurst Hill, Victoria, Newbury Park
2019: Finsbury Park, South Woodford
2020: Mill Hill East, Cockfosters
2021: Amersham (number 81)
and the next six: Debden, Harrow-on-the-Hill, Ickenham, Osterley, Sudbury Hill, Wimbledon Park
The first appearance of all the 5 minute children's programmes shown just before the BBC1 early evening news
1965: The Magic Roundabout
1968: Hector's House
1970: The Adventures of Parsley, Abbott and Costello
1972: Sir Prancelot, Crystal Tipps and Alistair
1973: The Wombles
1974: Captain Pugwash, Roobarb
1976: Paddington, Ivor The Engine, Noah and Nelly
1977: Fred Bassett, Ludwig
1979: The Perishers
1980: The Amazing Adventures of Morph
1981: Willo the Wisp
1983: Henry's Cat
The 10 London boroughs where the most shopping journeys are made on foot (pre-pandemic)
City of London (88%), Islington (66%), Camden (65%), Westminster (63%), Hackney (60%), Kensington & Chelsea (59%), Hammersmith & Fulham (58%), Lambeth (56%), Tower Hamlets (52%), Wandsworth (52%)
and the lowest five: Bexley (30%), Hillingdon (31%), Bromley (32%), Sutton (33%), Havering (36%)
The X longest Roman Numerals since Roman times
I) MDCCCLXXXVIII (1888)
II) MDCCCLXXXVII (1887), MDCCCLXXXIII (1883), MDCCCLXXVIII (1878), MDCCCXXXVIII (1838), MDCCLXXXVIII (1788), MCCCLXXXVIII (1388), DCCCLXXXVIII (888)
IX) MDCCCLXXXIX (1889), MDCCCLXXXVI (1886), MDCCCLXXXIV (1884), MDCCCLXXXII (1882), MDCCCLXXVII (1877), MDCCCLXXIII (1873), MDCCCLXVIII (1868), MDCCCXXXVII (1837), MDCCCXXXIII (1833), MDCCCXXVIII (1828), MDCCLXXXVII (1787), MDCCLXXXIII (1783), MDCCLXXVIII (1778), MDCCXXXVIII (1738), MDCLXXXVIII (1688), MCCCLXXXVII (1387), MCCCLXXXIII (1383), MCCCLXXVIII (1378), MCCCXXXVIII (1338), MCCLXXXVIII (1288), DCCCLXXXVII (887), DCCCLXXXIII (883), DCCCLXXVIII (878), DCCCXXXVIII (838), DCCLXXXVIII (788)
posted 09:00 :
A statue has appeared on Newington Green since I was last there, which isn't difficult given I hadn't been to that particular part of Stoke Newington for over a year. It's in the northeast corner, not the bit nearest the cafe, and was in fact unveiled in November. It's quite unusual, in part because of how it looks, but also because it depicts a female and there really aren't enough statues of females in London or indeed anywhere.
It commemorates Mary Wollstonecraft, an early feminist philosopher, author and campaigner who promoted equal rights for women in the late 18th century. She was born in Spitalfields, opened a school off Newington Green, worked in Bath, Ireland and revolutionary Paris, lived for a while in Southwark and moved to Somers Town shortly before dying at the age of 38 as a result of complications following childbirth. That child grew up to be Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, but it's for her own forward-looking achievements that Mary Wollstonecraft is rightly remembered.
The campaign to install a memorial on Newington Green began in 2010 but it was only in 2018 that the artist Maggi Hambling was commissioned to design and cast a statue, and given full artistic freedom to do so. It's no ordinary statue, indeed it's not of Mary but depicts "the spirit of women" as a small naked silver figure perched on top of a amorphous bronze blob. To say it's split opinion would be an understatement.
Some hate it - how dare the artist represent feminism with a nude - and at one point a special mini t-shirt appeared on the figure to cover up her body. Others adore it - so very much the embodiment of all she stood for - and have relished the debate and conversation the statue has provoked. I found flowers on the plinth but also a misspelt placard underneath reflecting on the importance of female safety. It's a gorgeous piece which appears to have invoked "I don't get it" in many and unnecessary anger in others, as radical as Mary's ideas would have been in their day, very much A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.
posted 07:00 :
Sunday, March 28, 2021When is the average sunrise?
When is the average sunset?
These are excellent questions to ask on the day the clocks go forward.
You might expect the average sunrise to be at 6am but this is not the case.
You might expect the average sunset to be at 6pm but this is not the case.
You might expect both to occur at the equinoxes but this is not the case.
n.b. For 'average' I'm using the arithmetical mean.
n.b. I'm using data for London in 2021.
n.b. In other places times may be earlier or later.
n.b. In other years dates might be a day or so out.
The simplest way to start is to pretend that we don't put the clocks forward.
A graph of sunset times would then be a simple sine curve.
Here's a sunset graph assuming Greenwich Mean Time all year round.
If you calculate the average sunset
(by adding up all the times and dividing by 365)
you get 6.10pm. That's the red line on the graph.
n.b. The average sunset time is a bit later than 6pm because...
...the sun takes a finite time to set (about four minutes)
...the Earth's orbit isn't quite circular
...solar noon isn't actual noon
n.b. The time of sunset varies from 3.52pm in December to 8.23pm in June.
Halfway between these is 6.07pm, which is pretty close to 6.10pm.
Sunset was at 6.10pm on 18th March, two days before the spring equinox.
Sunset would be at 6.10pm on 18th September, four days before the autumn equinox.
On the graph, note how sunset isn't close to the average for much of the year.
Sunset is within 1 hour of the average time for just 120 days a year.
This is because the graph is steepest in March and September.
If we didn't have British Summer Time I could end my post here.
But we do, and that hourly shift makes things rather more complicated.
Here's a sunset graph including British Summer Time.
The graph shoots up at the end of March (today!) from 6.25pm to 7.27pm.
The graph falls back at the end of October from 5.39pm to 4.37pm.
n.b. British Summer time lasts for seven months, or approximately 210 days.
This adds an extra hour for 210/365 of the year.
210/365 of an hour is about 35 minutes.
Hence the BST average is 35 minutes later than the GMT-only average.
If you calculate the average sunset you get 6.45pm.
That's the red line on the graph.
6.45pm is London's average sunset.
Interestingly there's only one day in the year with an average sunset.
Today's clock change leapfrogged past 6.45pm, so there isn't an average day in March.
The only day with an average sunset is September 29th.
On the graph, note how sunset isn't close to the average for much of the year.
Sunset is within 1 hour of the average for only three months a year.
Sunset is more than 2 hours from the average for 5½ months a year!
That's 13 weeks before 4.45pm and 12 weeks after 8.45pm.
And sunset's the easy one.
Sunrise is nudged in the opposite direction.
Here's a sunrise graph including British Summer Time.
The graph reverses at the end of March (today!) from 5.48am to 6.46am.
The graph reverses again at the end of October from 7.51am to 6.53am.
This creates some rather different outcomes.
If you calculate the average sunrise you get 6.30am.
That's the red line on the graph.
6.30am is London's average sunrise.
Intriguingly there are three days in the year with an average sunrise.
One was three weeks ago (on my birthday).
Putting the clocks forward creates another in a week's time.
September has one but October doesn't because the clocks go back much later.
The three days with an average sunrise are March 9th, April 4th and September 10th.
On the graph, note how sunrise is often quite close to the average.
Sunrise is within 1 hour of the average for six months a year.
Sunrise is never more than 2 hours from the average!
So... sunrise occurs within a range of 3½ hours (and has a standard deviation of 1 hour)
But... sunset occurs within a range of 5½ hours (and has a standard deviation of 2 hours)
And this is why, when we think of daylight saving, we think of evenings more than mornings.
Not only are we more likely to be awake,
but sunset times vary a lot more than sunrise times.
Hang on in there and sunset will eventually be two hours later than it is today.
But it's already 40 minutes better than average.
posted 06:30 :
Saturday, March 27, 2021
12 things that happened this week #coronavirus
• masks and distancing "could last years"
• US trial confirms safety of Oxford jab
• third wave "will wash up on our shores" (PM)
• candlelit vigils mark 1st lockdown anniversary
• 'greed' helped UK vaccine success (PM)
• EU/UK end row over vaccine supply
• Germany reverses plans for Easter lockdown
• double mutant variant found in India
• no vaccine passports until all offered jab
• MPs vote to extend Covid powers until Sept
• UK death rate falling but cases rising slightly
• Wales ends stay at home order
Worldwide deaths: 2,700,000 → 2,770,000
Worldwide cases: 123,000,000 → 126,000,000
UK deaths: 126,122 → 126,573
UK cases: 4,291,271 → 4,329,180
Vaccinations: 26,853,407 → 29,727,435
FTSE: down ½% (6708 → 6740)
posted 22:00 :
Hello and welcome to another tale of the hidden secrets of old London.
You may never have noticed this hidden secret, indeed you may never have walked down this street, but Carting Lane is a street with a secret hidden in plain sight. But what is this hidden secret, I hear you ask? Well, settle back and I'll tell you all about it.
It looks like any other street lamp. Indeed if you were to look from the top of the street it would look like any other street lamp that was quite a long way away. But this is no ordinary street lamp, as you would be able to tell if you were standing a lot closer to it, so it's fortunate that I have been able to do just that.
What can I tell you about this street lamp? Well, it's on Carting Lane, which you may know better as one of the secret connections between the Strand and the River Thames, of which there are several. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that the streetlamp isn't better known.
At the top of Carting Lane is a pub called The Coal Hole which has never been used for the storage of coal. A plaque just outside the entrance tells the fascinating back story. Alongside is a splendid street lamp that looks like it might be the special street lamp but no, do not be fooled, this is not it.
The Strand is much higher than the Thames so the first part of Carting Lane is all steps. Descend these and the building on your left is the Savoy Theatre, or at least it's the rear entrance and stage door. A historic-looking lamp is attached to the wall, but this is not the special lamp we seek either.
Beyond the Savoy Theatre is the Savoy Hotel itself, a building with many hidden secrets of its own. But visitors to this great hotel never emerge from the basement driveway so are unlikely ever to realise quite how close they came to a street lamp with a most unexpected claim to fame.
Instead consider the large office block on the opposite side of the lane. This is the former Shell Mex House, famously home to the UK's biggest clock face, but you can't see that from Carting Lane. What you can see is the service entrance, and immediately outside that is the street lamp we seek.
It's not in an unblemished state, alas, because it was substantially mangled by a reversing lorry in the 1970s. It's not clear whether the lorry was reversing out of Shell Mex House or out of the Savoy, neither does it matter, but the street lamp was subsequently lovingly restored all the same.
During daylight hours you may be surprised to see that the lamp is fully lit. This is because its fuel source is permanently available, even if it's not the same fuel source originally used by Joseph Webb in the 1890s. A plaque attached to the railings underneath explains all.
It is amazing to think that no other street lamp of this type remains in working order anywhere else in London. Indeed you could easily walk straight past this one-off survivor without noticing it, as I expect many hundreds of thousands have, because this street lamp remains very much a hidden secret.
I hope you enjoyed my tale of one of the hidden secrets of old London. If you didn't then I have to wonder what you were expecting. It wouldn't be hidden if it was fully revealed, and it wouldn't be a secret if everyone knew about it. Let's do hidden secrets properly, or not at all.
posted 07:00 :
Friday, March 26, 2021🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧
In these troubled times nothing is more important showing your allegiance to our proud nation by displaying a Union flag. I have already displayed more Union flags than your website because this matters and because I am more proud than you.
I am therefore delighted that the government has decided to increase our shared sense of civic pride by imposing additional flag protocols on public buildings. The Union flag🇬🇧 unites us as a nation and people rightly expect it to be flown daily. I tut and sigh every time I walk past a council office that fails to fly the Union flag🇬🇧 from its roof, because I know how important it is to display a symbol of national identity at every possibly opportunity.
🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧
The battle to restore the Union flag🇬🇧 to its rightful place at the heart of our society is a long one. It began in 1606 when the flags of England and Scotland were first combined and continued in 1801 with the addition of St Patrick's saltire. Wales has never been represented on the Union flag🇬🇧 because national unity does not stretch to four colours.
🇬🇧 The Union flag has a correct way up, which is to have the white of St Andrew above the red of St Patrick in the quarter nearest to the top of the flagpole.
🇬🇧 Only a nation characterised by pedantry would design a flag with a barely discernible lack of symmetry, then take pleasure in ridiculing those who fail to notice the difference.
🇬🇧 The width of the central red stripes should always be one fifth of the flag's height.
🇬🇧 The white stripes to either side should always be one fifteenth of the flag's height.
🇬🇧 The three diagonal stripes should always be in the ratio 3:2:1, with the central red stripe one fifteenth of the flag's height.
Union flags🇬🇧 are normally twice as wide as they are high, a ratio of 2:1. However there is no official specification, and the army generally uses a 5:3 version instead. In 2008 the flag-obsessed MP for Romford, Andrew Rosindell, put forward a Private Members Bill which would have standardised the ratio at 5:3. This never became law, but would have fixed the flag's proportions as follows.
Flag facts 🇬🇧
🇬🇧 In the 2:1 version, the horizontal 50 becomes 60 and the two 20s become 25s.
🇬🇧 In the 2:1 version, 37.4% of the Union flag is red, 34.2% is white and 28.4% is blue.
No permission is needed to fly the Union flag🇬🇧. This means there is absolutely no reason not to have one flapping proudly above your back garden, other than living in a flat which automatically makes you an unpatriotic traitor. However there are several planning regulations relating to buildings and flagpoles and these must be strictly adhered to.
Flagpole rules for non-government buildings 🇬🇧
🇬🇧 The maximum number of flagpoles is two, one on the building and one in the grounds.
🇬🇧 Flagpoles in the grounds of a building must not exceed 4.6m in height.
🇬🇧 Flags on flagpoles projecting from the side of a building must not exceed an area of two square metres.
🇬🇧 Additional planning consent may be required in a National Park, area of outstanding natural beauty or conservation area.
There are already several designated days when the Union flag🇬🇧 must be flown on UK government buildings by command of Her Majesty the Queen. This year they are...
🇬🇧 Royal birthdays: 9th Jan, 20th Jan, 19th Feb, 10th Mar, 21st Apr, 10th Jun, 21st Jun, 17th Jul, 15th Aug, 14th Nov
🇬🇧 Saint's Days of the home nations: 1st Mar, 17th Mar, 23rd Apr, 30th Nov
🇬🇧 Her Majesty’s Accession, Coronation, Official Birthday and Wedding: 6th Feb, 2nd Jun, 12th Jun, 20th Nov
🇬🇧 Commonwealth Day: 8th Mar
🇬🇧 Remembrance Day: 14th Nov
But Whitehall is now encouraging UK Government buildings to fly the Union flag🇬🇧 all year round. They're not forcing the issue, it's only guidance, but let's make sure that when this ends up in the papers it sounds like mandatory full time Union flaggery.
One downside of this proposal is that the special designated days for royal events and saints days will become redundant. No longer will we look up at the roof of a government building and wonder which minor birthday it is today (20th Jan... Prince Edward's wife?) because the Union flag🇬🇧 will always be there, condemning saints and royals to irrelevant obsolescence.
The other winner in this new guidance is dual flagging. The government is updating the existing regulations to allow for two flags, including at least one national flag, to be flown from the same flagpole. The more flags the better, always more and more flags, because true civic pride can only be displayed through coloured rectangles.
The second flag could be a saint's flag, Commonwealth flag, Armed Forces flag, regional flag or civil ensign. We must thank Eric Pickles for introducing legislation in 2012 permitting the flying of historic county flags like Middlesex, Glamorgan and Cumberland because nothing says flag fanatic like an obsession with defunct administrative areas. This week's updated guidance also revokes planning permission for flying the EU flag, as introduced by the last Labour government, but the NHS flag can now be flown instead so that's clearly excellent.
Flag facts 🇬🇧
🇬🇧 The Flag Institute, founded in 1971, keeps a full directory of county and regional flags.
🇬🇧 Separate Union flag regulations apply in Northern Ireland because the UK isn't a proper union.
🇬🇧 Nobody has yet decided what the Union flag would look like after Scottish independence and/or Irish reunification.
As yet there are no vexillological regulations on the minimum size of Union flags🇬🇧 in Zoom backgrounds, the enforced wearing of enamel Union flag🇬🇧 badges, the saluting of Union flags🇬🇧 on entering a government building, the Pledge of Allegiance as the first act of the school day or coercing the unemployed to wave Union flags🇬🇧 at significant road junctions, but let's hope all these are coming soon.
Most importantly, as every right-thinking Briton knows, the more Union flags🇬🇧 you have the better.
🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧
My website is prouder than your website.
posted 07:00 :
Thursday, March 25, 2021If you remember going to Covent Garden you probably remember it was busy. I went on Sunday morning and it was very much not busy, it was at best dormant and at worst dead.
The market hall where London's fruit and vegetables were sold, originally in 1654, undercover since 1830, relocated to Nine Elms in 1974, was empty. Normally you'd expect to see tourists milling around on the steps down to the candle shop, but this year London has no tourists and the candle shop is closed, in fact it closed years ago which just shows how long it is since you last visited.
The central passageway, lined with shops which cannot be described as essential because they sell Moomins and macaroons, was empty. Normally you'd expect to be jostled by foreign visitors who think Covent Garden is historic, rather than an over-priced retail opportunity, but there were no foreign visitors because nobody is going to risk a fortnight's quarantine just to buy chocolate and sunglasses.
The piazza in front of St Paul's Church, the so-called Actors' Church, outside which Samuel Pepys recorded the first known Punch and Judy show, was empty. Normally you'd expect a crowd of boggled spectators surrounding a juggling unicyclist whipping up a frenzy, but there were no acrobats because there are no spectators and it's pointless performing if nobody can leave banknotes afterwards.
The Apple Market, part of a landmark which the GLC once planned to demolish in order to build an international conference centre, was empty. Normally you'd expect it to be lined by artworks of dubious quality incorporating red telephone boxes, maybe even Union Jack jewellery, but it's a tough time to be a purveyor of handmade goods targeted at an undiscerning demographic holed up hundreds of miles away.
The North Hall, originally designed by Charles Fowler, its iron and glass roof supported on granite pillars quarried in Aberdeenshire, was empty. Normally you'd expect some busker to be kicking up a racket for an audience who appreciate inoffensive guitar, but all was silent apart from two workmen in full protective gear disinfecting the counter of Buns and Buns in readiness for so-called outdoor dining.
The Great Piazza, as the splendid space facing the Royal Opera House was once known, this flank substantially rebuilt in the 1990s, was empty. Normally it'd be impossible to move for the swirling miasma of humanity here on the recommendation of Tripadvisor, and actually three people did jog past, but it wasn't hard to wait until they were out of sight and take a photo with no human intervention whatsoever.
James Street, leading up from the Apple Store, once the world's largest, to the tube station, notoriously close to Leicester Square, was empty. Normally you'd expect to have to manoeuvre round a succession of men with metallic faces pretending to be levitating and occasionally winking at small baffled children, but they weren't eligible for furlough and hopefully the pandemic has bankrupted them for good.
Floral Street, the narrow thoroughfare formerly known as Hart Street, the one with the twisted skybridge representing the fluid grace of dance, was empty. Normally it'd be the shopping destination of choice for fashionistas hunting out Paul Smith and Ted Baker, not to mention anyone seeking the back of what used to be Stanfords, but everything was shut and not a soul was present and this felt wrong on many levels.
The cobbles outside the London Transport Museum, formerly in Brentford, previously in Clapham, were not empty because a trio of blokes in Covent Garden branded hi-vis were lugging decorated carts into place to create a floral barrier to enhance social distancing, should any people turn up later in the day, which presumably they did because otherwise there wouldn't have been any point.
I did eventually find actual people at Seven Dials, the seven-branched road junction, sitting at the foot of a column bearing six sundials. They'd found a coffee shop which was open and needed somewhere to sit to sip their morning beverage, so presumably lived nearby because some people do, but not nearly enough to support the West End economy. Pray that other Londoners and ultimately international tourists eventually come back because otherwise Covent Garden is doomed to remain photogenically empty.
posted 07:00 :
Wednesday, March 24, 2021One year on, an update about my lockdown boundary.
When restrictions were first imposed I restricted my horizons to a narrow strip containing the Olympic Park. By May I still hadn't ventured more than two miles from home inside a rectangle two and a half miles long and one mile wide. By July I'd extended my reach to three miles from home inside a rectangle five miles deep and three and a half miles wide. By late summer I was still keeping within the three mile limit but now treating it more like a circle than a rectangle. During the autumn I nudged up to four miles, in places, and during the winter I've been filling in the gaps. It now looks like this.
It's like a big circle but with the Thames chopping off the bottom part, and the radius of that circle is pretty much exactly four miles. This is a distance that I can comfortably walk, there and back, in three or so hours. The boundary bulges out as far as five miles to the west, because I've made it to the West End a few times, but mostly we're talking four. Peripheral locations include Islington, Stoke Newington, Walthamstow and Wanstead. That annoyingly large indentation on the northeast edge is the City of London Cemetery which only has one unlocked gate.
I'm aware there's nothing stopping me going further, indeed this isn't meant to be a saintliness competition. Travel for exercise has never been legally restricted, and for much of the last year use of public transport has been entirely acceptable. But I haven't needed to go anywhere, so have chosen not to, and have instead focused on exploring the area within walking distance of home.
My current lockdown boundary in fact covers 37 square miles and is home to at least a million people. It's only 6% of the area of Greater London but it does contain a lot of the more interesting bits. It's not a bad place to have been confined, as evidenced by the fact I've walked over 3000 miles since last March while exploring it.
I'd also like to praise my accidental strategy of starting the year within a very small area and gradually broadening out. Had I taken on the whole 37 square miles from day 1 I'd be bored by now, but instead I've always had a boundary to push, a new frontier to explore, which has helped keep things interesting. Last summer Dalston and Forest Gate seemed impossibly exotic but now they're commonplace and my eye's on Holloway and South Woodford instead. I might even try pushing on to Barking, Tottenham Hale and King's Cross, just to be able to bring you somewhere new.
In the meantime, have a bit of boundary.
You might even recognise some of it.
posted 09:00 :
What I wondered was, has a year of lockdown saved me any money?
I keep track of what I spend, so I have a list for the year immediately preceding 23rd March 2020 and also for the year immediately following. I split my outgoings into 10 categories and compared them before and after.
increased unchanged decreased fallen to zero stuff rent
The only category I've spent more on over the last year is 'stuff', that's physical objects like socks, headphones, books, draught excluder and birthday cards. But I've only spent more because I had to replace a big ticket item, namely my phone, otherwise I'd have spent 90% less rather than 50% more. Ignoring replacement items, 'stuff' is actually a big fall.
Rent and bills are the things I spend the vast majority of my money on, and they've barely been affected. My supermarket tally is also almost identical this year compared to last. It turns out the basics are still costing me the same... all the falls are in the optional extras.
Travel costs are my biggest pandemic plummet. In the year before lockdown I spent well over £2000 on getting around, a goodly proportion of which was my annual Travelcard. In the year since lockdown I spent less than £100, most of it gushed on three trips to the seaside. Not travelling has significantly constrained my horizons but saved me two grand.
'Hospitality' means pubs, cafes and restaurants, where I've dropped from spending £400 in a year to nothing. 'Visits' is specifically admission prices to museums and the like, one year £150, the next year nothing. 'Culture' means cinemas, theatres and exhibitions where I've saved £100. And by not taking a holiday this last year, because I couldn't, that's several hundred more pounds unspent.
Overall I reckon I've spent about £4000 less since last March than I would have done had it been a normal year. I'm not sure I see this as a good thing. If nothing else it's all the more to spend over the next twelve months, hopefully, maybe.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, March 23, 2021Last spring I wrote a post bemoaning the lack of hills within walking distance of my home. Bow is depressingly far from any significant contours, which is one of the downsides of living by an estuary. But I wasn't going to let a full year go by without climbing something, so yesterday I hiked up the Lea to the nearest point I'd identified as a significant slope. That's Springfield Park, a Hackney jewel with a decent gradient squished inbetween Stamford Hill and Walthamstow Marshes. It was barely a two minute climb between top and bottom but it proved seriously welcome after a year of mostly flat living, and boy it was good to finally have a view looking down over something again. I paused and soaked everything in from 20 metres up.
A row of budding trees shielded the river at the foot of the slope. The boats in the marina huddled beneath me. Tiny dogs gambolled across the marshes. The broad Lea Valley stretched off behind, packed with houses, reservoirs and the occasional crane. Here and there a cluster of newbuild towers warped the skyline. I got to observe the Lea's chain of pylons from the side, not from below. Little trains scuttled across the landscape like a model layout. In the distance it was easy to make out a ridge of low hills, maybe Chingford, maybe Woodford... and heavens I guess that must be Essex. It's the first time I've seen beyond Greater London in months, to unreachable horizons that suddenly no longer seemed unimaginable. I hope I've conveyed something of just how unfamiliar it all felt. I missed hills.
posted 09:00 :
It's St Lockdown's Day, the first anniversary of the Prime Minister telling us all to stay at home. Little did we realise quite how disruptive it was going to be and for quite how long.
Here are a few of the things I haven't done since.
(not an exhaustive list, just some utterly abnormal highlights)
In the last 12 months I have not...
• seen my Dad
• been in a car
• been on a bus
• been to a museum
• been to the cinema
• bought clothes or shoes
• spent a night away from home
• been inside a cafe or restaurant
• been to 22 London boroughs
• been to a funeral
• used a cashpoint
• gone abroad
In the last 6 months I have not...
• left London
• been on a train
• been inside a pub
• used public transport
• gone more than 5 miles from home
In the last 3 months I have not...
• seen my family
• touched someone
• stayed indoors all day
• had a visitor to the flat
• been inside someone else's home
We all have similar (but different) lists, which one day we'll discuss endlessly when we're finally allowed to meet. If you feel the need, you could share your most pressing 'I have not...' here. comments
But I have three particularly unusual things I haven't done in the last twelve months, and these are they:
In the last 12 months I have not taken part in a Zoom meeting
...or a Microsoft Teams meeting, or any other kind of digital videoconference. I know a lot of people have spent a lot of time chatting with people in little onscreen boxes since last March, but I haven't Zoomed once. I haven't needed to join for work, nor wanted to take part in an online event, nor been invited to any kind of group chat whatsoever. My Dad's been involved in dozens of Zooms, be that the local parish council meeting or the fortnightly creative writing group, but we still do all of our inter-personal communication via an old-fashioned telephone. I'm fortunate that my sense of personal wellbeing isn't tied to talking with someone face to face in lieu of social contact, and that other non-visual means of communication are readily available. This may not be how you roll, indeed videoconferencing may have been the saviour that's got you through the pandemic, but I can live without.
In the last 12 months I have not had any packages delivered
I did have one envelope that needed to be signed for, and there was one package that somebody else sent, but I myself have not bought anything boxed or bagged that turned up on delivery. I know my neighbours get stuff delivered all the time because I hear the postman knocking on their doors and sometimes I step out in the middle of their grocery deliveries. When shops are hard to reach or long-term closed, sometimes the only way to get hold of a product is to have it shipped. But I haven't once needed, nor more importantly wanted, to have anything whatsoever specially wrapped and zipped round to my door. I have sufficient clothes, I already have a library of books, my cupboards are sufficiently stocked and I can easily walk to the supermarket. This may not be how you roll, indeed home delivery may have been the saviour that's got you through the pandemic, but I can live without.
In the last 12 months I have not bought food anywhere except my local Tesco
I've double checked this and it's true, the only place I have bought food and and drink since March last year is my local supermarket. It is thankfully a big supermarket and generally well stocked, but it's still insane that over the last 365 days I haven't bought a scrap of nourishment anywhere else whatsoever. Every tin, every loaf, every chicken, every chocolate biscuit all came from the giant Tesco by the A12. I haven't felt the need for a speciality pastry or Deliveroo takeaway, nor once popped into a cafe for a hot drink while out and about, but to be fair this is entirely normal behaviour when you're me. I did have three meals round at BestMate's house during Tier 1 so my diet hasn't been entirely Tesco-based, but 99% of the time it very much has been. This may not be how you roll, indeed nutritional variety may have been the saviour that's got you through the pandemic, but I can live without.
posted 07:00 :
Monday, March 22, 2021Who reads diamond geezer?
Thanks for voting yesterday in my readership survey - just over 1200 of you were kind enough to take part! Now I know how my readership has changed over the last seventeen years, but also how very similar it is. One thing that hasn't changed is that the typical diamond geezer reader is still a male from the London area, although he is now rather older than he used to be. Here are this year's results in a little more detail.
n.b. In previous years the survey was on a weekday, lasted 24 hours and could be completed on the blog. This year the survey was at the weekend, lasted 36 hours and had to be completed off-site. The extra half day didn't make much difference, numbers-wise, but be aware that 2016 and 2021 totals may not be strictly comparable.
Male or female?
In the earliest surveys I had three male readers to every female but now it's eight. That's quite some divide, although at least the gender gap hasn't widened further since my last survey in 2016. I don't believe there are fewer females reading stuff on the internet, so either I've disillusioned many of my former female readers or else my choice of subject matter has proved more appealing to newly-arriving males. Sorry ladies, I'll try not to lose any more of you. Meanwhile I introduced an additional category this year and 19 of you duly declared that you were 'neither of the above'. I didn't dig deeper into which variant of non-binary you identify as, but 1.5% is certainly a non-trivial presence.
Average reader: male
I'm rapidly haemorrhaging the younger audience too. Ten years ago almost a quarter of my readers were under 30 but that's now less than 10%. I suspect blogging's become a bit old school for the younger generation, many of whom prefer video content to daily thousand word essays. As for 30-somethings they've been the largest cohort in every previous survey but this time three other decades have leapfrogged past. Totals are fairly similar once you get above 30, but the 50-somethings just pipped the 60-somethings in a photo-finish by a mere two votes. Admittedly I'm two age groups higher than when I started the survey in 2004, and many of my readers will have aged along with me, but my audience is maturing faster than that. Ten years ago only 10% of my readers were over 60 but it's now 36%, which may be why some days the comments descend into a nostalgic wallow. I suspect I'm going to need an 80+ category next time.
Average reader: 50-something (mode and median)
Where do you live? (pick one)
Half of my readership live in London, the city I write about the most (and pretty much exclusively at present), while one third are from the rest of England, most likely with a southeast bias. These proportions are surprisingly similar to those seen in previous surveys, with perhaps a slight bleed out of the capital into the Home Counties. But one in six of you are still from outside the UK, so it can't only be my reports from Beckton, Bow and Bishopsgate which keep you coming back. I guess in these travel-restricted times it doesn't really matter where you're from, so long as you don't mind reading about somewhere you're unlikely to be able to visit.
Average reader: Londoner
How often do you read diamond geezer?
Here's an ongoing change - you're getting more regular in your visits. Back in 2004 only half of you came back every day, then ten years ago two thirds of you did, but now three quarters of you do. That's comforting because I do try very hard to post something for you to read every day, a frequency which is increasingly rare across what's left of the blogosphere. Statistically speaking it's unlikely that an occasional reader would have been here on the day of the survey, which is one reason the count is so low, but that proportion has also being tailing off of late. Alas hardly anybody lands on diamond geezer for the first time any more, mainly because Google is no longer so kind to minor blogs like mine, so a special hello to the two of you who claim they did. It's a bad sign for my future... if you don't already know this blog exists you're increasingly unlikely to discover it's here.
Average reader: daily
When was your first visit to diamond geezer?
This graph celebrates the longevity of diamond geezer's readers. 12% of you claim to have been reading for at least fifteen years, and another 20% of you for more than ten (assuming your memory of that first visit is truly accurate). More and more of you have joined in as successive years have passed, with (I suspect) a significant number drawn here by the Olympics. The golden period appears to be 2010-2017, with a noticeable drop off in the four years since. That'll be my long-term existential crisis again, as hardly anyone ever gets redirected here from anywhere else any more. But thank you all for sticking around, however long it's been.
Average reader: about 10 years
How do you usually view diamond geezer?
Five years ago two thirds of you were reading on a computer of some kind, which is how the blog was originally designed to be seen, but that's now dropped to nearer half. Just under 20% enjoy the convenience of a tablet, which should be wide enough to be able to read what I've written without major inconvenience. But almost 30% of you are now reading on your phone, which is five times as many as 2014, confirming the relentless rise of this ubiquitous medium. If my template was even vaguely mobile-friendly, I wonder if it'd be more. Many viewing issues can of course be solved via RSS, but I decided not to ask that question this year because I was trying to keep it simple.
Average reader: via computer
Do you have your own blog?
The proportion of readers with their own blog drops noticeably every time I carry out this survey. Back in 2004 more than half of you claimed to be blogging, five years ago it was nearer one in seven, and now it's less than one in ten. A substantial number of you either never wrote a blog in the first place or have given up on producing original long form content in favour of merely reacting via social media to what others have written. But it's reassuring to know that blogging isn't quite dead yet, and that I still have competition from at least 100 of you.
Average reader: not a blogger
posted 07:00 :
Sunday, March 21, 2021Readership survey (8): In March 2004 I ran a readership survey to find out who was reading my blog. I then repeated that survey every two years from 2006 to 2016 to see what, if anything, had changed. I haven't run it since because the website I used stopped working, but after a five year gap I thought I'd run the survey again. It is Census weekend after all.
I've had to use Google Forms rather than embedding the questions on the blog, but hopefully that won't limit the responses too much. The seven questions I'm asking are listed below, and you need to click through to answer them. Go on, tell me about yourself...
1. Male or female?
under 20 / 20-29 / 30-39 / 40-49 / 50-59 / 60-69 / 70+
3. Where do you live? (pick one)
London / England / UK / Europe / World
4. How often do you read diamond geezer?
daily / often / occasionally / first visit
5. When was your first visit to diamond geezer?
2002-2005 / 2006-2009 / 2010-2013 / 2014-2017 / 2018-2021
6. How do you normally view diamond geezer?
computer / phone / tablet
7. Do you have your own blog?
Survey ran 8am Saturday 20th March → 8pm Sunday 21st March.
Results on Monday.
posted 08:00 :
Census Day is here, the day on which the government counts everyone to make sure it can plan for our future. It nearly didn't bother this year because of the expense, but was persuaded that a digital-first enumeration would still be enormously valuable.
This is the 22nd UK census since 1801. They take place every ten years, the sole exception being 1941 when battling Germany took precedence. They normally take place in late March or April, with the date varying to dodge Easter. 21st March is the earliest census date since 1801 (when it was held on 10th March). Scotland is delaying its count until next March (on a date yet to be confirmed).
Individual data is kept private for 100 years. This means censuses up to and including 1911 are currently available for research (so long as you pay a subscription) and 1921 is due to be released next year. Make the most of it. The 1931 census won't be released because it was destroyed by fire in 1942 and 1941 never happened, so the subsequent release will be 1951 in the 2050s.
Let's have a look at the census data for the populations of the UK and England over time. I've rounded the totals to the nearest thousand, skipped most of the 19th century and used official estimates for 1941 and 2019.
UK England 1801 10,942,000 8,331,000 1851 27,369,000 15,289,000 1901 38,237,000 30,072,000 1911 42,082,000 33,561,000 1921 44,026,000 35,230,000 1931 46,075,000 37,359,000 1941 48,216,000 38,084,000 1951 50,225,000 38,669,000 1961 52,709,000 41,159,000 1971 55,515,000 43,461,000 1981 55,100,000 45,978,000 1991 57,439,000 48,198,000 2001 59,113,000 49,139,000 2011 63,182,000 53,107,000 2019 66,797,000 56,283,000
The UK's population passed 40 million in 1911, 50 million in 1951 and 60 million in 2011. It's generally increased by about 4-6% every ten years. The greatest increase (10%) was between the 1901 and 1911 censuses. The only slight downward hiccup was in the 1970s driven by net international emigration. England makes up the lion's share of the UK and its population has been rising at a marginally faster rate. Again the steepest rises took place before the First World War.
Today's census is all about finding out what the 2021 figures will be. They might have risen higher than the 2019 estimate, but more likely they've fallen back as EU citizens emigrate after Brexit. The impact of Covid-19 is likely to be less significant given that 80,000 excess deaths equates to just 0.1% of the overall population.
Here's the corresponding data for London and my home borough of Tower Hamlets. Population figures relate to the current Greater London boundary so cover the same area throughout.
London Tower Hamlets 1801 1,097,000 144,000 1851 2,651,000 377,000 1901 6,510,000 597,000 1911 7,162,000 570,000 1921 7,387,000 529,000 1931 8,110,000 489,000 1941 8,615,000 419,000 1951 8,197,000 231,000 1961 7,997,094 205,682 1971 7,452,000 166,000 1981 6,713,165 142,841 1991 6,393,568 153,255 2001 7,172,057 196,083 2011 8,173,941 254,096 2019 8,961,989 324,745
I've used red text to show a falling population.
I've used bold text to show a population change of 10% or more.
London's population exploded in the 19th century and continued rising rapidly until the Second World War. It then fell back sharply over several decades as the crowded city no longer appealed, until the 1990s when the lure of the capital rose again. London's population overtook its previous 1939 peak in 2015 and looked to be climbing inexorably through 9 million. But Brexit and Covid are likely to affect the capital more than any other part of the country as continental residents head back overseas and ex office-workers flee for the Home Counties. If the census reveals London's population has fallen then there's every risk of cuts to investment and local services.
A graph of Tower Hamlets' population would resemble a rollercoaster ride. The East End packed out early courtesy of the docks, creating neighbourhoods densely-packed with slums. The population peaked in 1911 then fell back, accelerating sharply downwards after the Blitz. Over the next 40 years it slumped by two-thirds as the suburbs proved more attractive, reaching an abject low in the 1980s, but it's more than doubled since courtesy of Docklands and a wider inner London renaissance.
Tower Hamlets is currently Britain's fastest growing borough, mainly because so much extra housing continues to be squeezed in. The census is thus extra-important to my borough to ensure that schools, health provision and infrastructure continue to reflect the population that lives here. Completing my online form will help filter a few more pounds this way, and hopefully your way too.
posted 07:00 :
12 things that happened this week #coronavirus
• several EU countries suspend use of Oxford jab
• Thorntons to close all its shops
• surge in UK vaccine supplies this week
• "continue using Oxford vaccine" (WHO)
• lockdown to ease in Scotland in late April
• over 50s invited to be vaccinated
• significant reduction in UK vaccine supply in April
• Paris enters month-long third wave lockdown
• EU resumes Oxford rollout after clot review
• PM gets his first Oxford jab
• summer holidays abroad 'extremely unlikely'
• Olympics will have no international tourists
Worldwide deaths: 2,640,000 → 2,700,000
Worldwide cases: 119,000,000 → 123,000,000
UK deaths: 125,464 → 126,122
UK cases: 4,253,820 → 4,291,271
Vaccinations: 23,684,103 → 26,853,407
FTSE: down 1% (6761 → 6708)
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