diamond geezer

 Friday, May 07, 2021

Anorak Corner (the annual update) [tube edition]

Hurrah, it's that time of year again when TfL silently updates its spreadsheet of annual passenger entry/exit totals at every tube station.

However, and it is a very big however, 2020's figures are perverse. The figures are calculated for a typical week in autumn then multiplied up to a full year, as usual, but for 2020 this means "the sample window is the period of the UK Government's second national lockdown". Overall ridership is therefore down to 35% of what it was in 2019, so absolutely none of what follows is either normal or consequential.

London's ten busiest tube stations (2020) (with changes since 2019)
  1)   ↑6    Stratford (25.1m)
  2)   ↑3    London Bridge (24.7m)
  3)   ↓1    Victoria (23.0m)
  4)   ↓3    King's Cross St Pancras (18.8m)
  5)   ↓2    Waterloo (16.6m)
  6)   --    Liverpool Street (16.3m)
  7)  ↑10   Finsbury Park (15.8m)
  8)  ↑11   Vauxhall (15.5m)
  9)   ↓5    Oxford Circus (14.6m)
10)  ↑29   Barking (14.3m)

This is eye-popping stuff. London's busiest tube station is officially Stratford, not one of the normal big-hitters in central London. During lockdown a lot of people were still using Stratford station to get around, especially those with essential non-office-based jobs. Stratford's total is only 40% of what it normally is, but Waterloo and Oxford Circus only managed 20% allowing East London to leapfrog past. Other non-central railheads performed strongly, for example Finsbury Park and Vauxhall. I confess I never ever expected to see Barking in the top 10 busiest tube stations. London Bridge is the top-performing rail terminus (it's more normally third). The biggest tumble out of the top 10 belongs to Bank/Monument which plummeted from 8th place to 47th.

The next 10: Canary Wharf, Brixton, Paddington, Canning Town, Walthamstow Central, Seven Sisters, Hammersmith (District), South Kensington, Bond Street, North Greenwich
These are mostly stations in zones 2 and 3, whereas normally they'd be stations in zone 1.

London's ten busiest tube stations outside Zone 2 (2020)
  1)   ↑1   Barking (14.3m)
  2)   ↓1   Walthamstow Central (10.4m)
  3)   --   Seven Sisters (10.0m)
  4)   ↑5   East Ham (8.5m)
  5)   ↑1   Wembley Park (8.3m)
  6)   ↑1   Tooting Broadway (8.1m)
  7)   ↓3   Ealing Broadway (7.7m)
  8)   ↑4   Leyton (7.3m)
  9)   ↓2   Tottenham Hale (7.2m)
10)   --   Wimbledon (7.0m)

It's also all change beyond zone 2, but the reshuffle isn't quite as extreme as in the centre of town. Again it's tube stations with rail connections that do particularly well, with East Ham, Wembley Park, Tooting Broadway and Leyton the exceptions. Northeast London has a particularly strong showing, which correlates well with TfL's warnings about busy stations during the pandemic. If the list were to continue then Harrow-on-the-Hill (6m) would be the highest performing station in Zone 5 and Uxbridge (4m) the busiest in Zone 6.

The smallest decreases in passenger numbers compared to last year
  1) Dagenham East ↓16%
  2) Kenton ↓17%
  3) Stonebridge Park ↓18%
  4) Harlesden ↓19%
  5) Becontree ↓20%
  6) Barking ↓21%
  7) North Wembley ↓22%
  8) Willesden Junction ↓22%
  9) Dagenham Heathway ↓22%
10) Sudbury Hill ↓24%

You'd expect passenger numbers to have decreased significantly during lockdown but two stretches of two lines have bucked the trend. One's the eastern end of the District line (i.e. Barking & Dagenham) and the other's the northern end of the Bakerloo line (i.e. Brent) where passengers just kept on travelling. Not so many home workers out here, I suspect, and rather more with jobs they needed to travel to.

The largest decreases in passenger numbers compared to last year
  1) Heathrow Terminal 4 ↓100%
  2) Covent Garden ↓90%
  3) Piccadilly Circus ↓89%
  4) Bank/Monument ↓89%
  5) Leicester Square ↓89%
  6) Tottenham Court Road ↓86%
  7) Temple ↓85%
  8) Mansion House ↓84%
  9) Charing Cross ↓83%
10) Blackfriars ↓81%

Blimey, this is savage. Heathrow Terminal 4's big fat zero is because it's been closed to passengers since last May (and the data is based on autumn travel). All the rest of the top 10 decreases are in zone 1, with passenger numbers in the West End utterly diminished compared to normal. Lack of tourists and lack of shoppers have contributed to killing off traffic, not just people staying away from the office. Astonishingly zone 1 and Heathrow account for the entire Top 50 biggest decreases, a sequence eventually broken by Richmond (↓73%) in 52nd place.

Let's see what all this has done to my favourite list of the year...

London's 10 least busy tube stations (2020)
  1)         Kensington (Olympia) (35000)
  2)         Roding Valley (190000)
  3)         Chigwell (247000)
  4)         Grange Hill (297000)
  5)   ↑1   Theydon Bois (493000)
  6)   ↓1   North Ealing (507000)
  7)   ↑4   Croxley (515000)
  8)         Ruislip Gardens (549000)
  9)   ↑1   Ickenham (555000)
10)   ↓3   Moor Park (593000)

Discounting Heathrow T4, the least used station on the Underground remains poor old Kensington (Olympia), because that's what weekend-only trains (and a tiny handful of weekday-ers) does for you. It has a pitiful total... less than a fifth of the passengers at the second least used station, which continues to be Roding Valley. The Essex end of the Central line has a very strong showing including all three stops on the Hainault shuttle, as per usual. Passenger numbers may have tumbled here, as everywhere else, but a lesser used station will always be a lesser used station.

The next ten least busy stations: Chesham, West Finchley, Fairlop, West Harrow, West Ruislip, Chorleywood, Upminster Bridge, Mill Hill East, Chalfont & Latimer, West Acton

And while we're here...

DLR Top 5: Canning Town (11m), Stratford, Bank, Woolwich Arsenal, Lewisham
DLR Bottom 5: Beckton Park (166000), West India Quay, Pudding Mill Lane, Royal Albert, Custom House

Overground Top 5: Stratford (11m), Clapham Junction, Canada Water, Highbury & Islington, Willesden Junction
Overground Bottom 5: Emerson Park (120000), Cheshunt, Upminster, Bushey, South Kenton

TfL Rail Top 5: Liverpool Street (9m), Stratford, Paddington, Romford, Ilford
TfL Rail Bottom 5: Heathrow Terminal 4 (0), Twyford (13000), Taplow, Iver, Langley

 Thursday, May 06, 2021

As well as voting for London's next Mayor and members of the Greater London Authority today, we here in Tower Hamlets are also voting in a referendum on how the council is run. I doubt that many residents have noticed, let alone taken all the issues on board, so will likely be surprised later today when faced by a voting slip with a question they've not previously considered.

It's not a catchy question because the wording is fixed by legislation and can't be tweaked. But essentially it's do you want a Mayor or do you want a leader? Quick, make your mind up based on zero background knowledge and put a cross in a box.

The vast majority of local councils are run by a leader elected by the other elected councillors. The role of Mayor exists but is mostly ceremonial, often taken in turns according to party and longevity. Day-to-day control rests with a single person voted for by councillors and not directly by the public.

This was how things used to be in Tower Hamlets until 2010 when a campaign to switch from leader to Mayor was unexpectedly successful. It was driven by former council leader Lutfur Rahman, now disgraced, who managed to cobble together enough signatures to trigger a previous referendum and then persuade enough of the electorate they wanted a Mayoral system. The subsequent election saw Rahman elevated to the Mayoralty as an independent, bypassing Labour's 63% share of councillors, and he then proceeded to bleed our coffers dry. 2021 is the first legal opportunity to switch the system back.

What's concerning is the almost complete lack of referendum debate and discussion that's permeated through to the wider community. I've had nothing through my door presenting arguments one way or the other, nor seen any posters in windows... whereas in neighbouring Newham who are having a similar debate I've seen loads.

It's only while researching this post that I've discovered the current Mayor, John Biggs, is keen to abandon the Mayoral system and so remove his direct route to power. I've also spotted that Lutfur Rahman really wants to keep it, and both of these seem excellent reasons to put a cross in the second box. I suspect this makes me better informed than 90% of Tower Hamlets residents who are essentially going to pick an outcome at random (or pick Mayor - no change - because it sounds more familiar than the alternative).

It's also why I think referendums on anything other than major national issues are dangerous. An ill-informed public selecting options on a whim - essentially a coin toss - risks accidentally introducing appalling policies which then affect thousands. It also encourages those who can spend the most money on promotion ("Vote Yes on Proposition 46!") to get their opinions rubberstamped in law, and that rarely ends well.

If today's referendum confirms a switch then next year's Tower Hamlets council elections will be run on the old model and we won't be asked to vote for a Mayor again. It makes a lot of sense, but I fear not enough Tower Hamlets residents understand what's at stake and will sleepwalk into retaining the status quo.

When in Elephant & Castle you should obviously go and look at the famous shopping centre, which is alas now the famous ex-shopping centre. It closed in September after 55 years, to the dismay of those who frequented its eclectic and cosmopolitan collection of shops across three austere levels. Vacated and fenced off, the building's days are very much numbered. I only took this photo on Sunday and by Tuesday a giant excavator had smashed the blue wall into rubble.

Walking around the perimeter, where the subways used to be and the roundabout no longer is, the stacked boxes all look somewhat forlorn. I particularly missed the elephant-with-a-castle-on-its-back statue, removed from its podium in January. Apparently it's off being 'pampered' and is due to reappear in Castle Square later in the year, in an attempt to placemake the pop-up units at Elephant Park (as mentioned yesterday). This is also where many of the traders evicted from the shopping centre have ended up, although only a minority and with much lower footfall and basically good luck to them.

What's coming when it's gone is towers and 461 flats, a quarter for social rent. What's coming when it's gone is smarter shops, restaurants and leisure facilities. What's coming when it's gone is a fresh hub for the London College of Communications. What's coming when it's gone is a new station entrance with step-free access to the Underground and Thameslink. What's not coming back is a diverse inexpensive shopping centre housed in a 60s wormhole, because you don't gentrify a neighbourhood by catering to those who already live here.

 Wednesday, May 05, 2021

(something new has happened somewhere I haven't been recently, so it may not be particularly new but it's new to me)

Welcome to Elephant Park.

Alas it's not a safari park, it's a new enormous housing estate at Elephant & Castle. And yes, it looks exactly how you'd expect a new enormous housing estate to look.

It's big, around 25 acres in size, and will have around 3000 homes when it's complete, which it isn't yet. Several apartment blocks are finished and occupied, a few plots are still building sites and many areas remain empty. But ten years ago it used to look like this.

This was the Heygate Estate, one of Southwark's largest, built in Brutalist style in the early 1970s. Long slab blocks faced off towards Walworth Road and New Kent Road with a scattering of smaller flats inbetween, all linked by raised concrete walkways. Fifty years ago it was desirable and visionary, but before long bleak and uninviting, and eventually shady and shunned. It was an evocative place to walk through but perhaps not to live.

The council plumped for regeneration in conjunction with a major developer and agreed a financially disadvantageous deal, spending more on planning and demolition than the paltry £50m they received. Tenants were decanted before alternative accommodation was available, with no intention of them ever coming back, although a few held on amid boarded-up desolation. And then in 2013 the site was sealed off, a few mature trees preserved in the centre and all the rest sequentially knocked down. Cue Elephant Park.

The flats look very different now, less monolithic and with stairwells instead of communal balconies. Whereas ground level was previously given over to endless rows of garages they now host commercial units, or will do if they ever rent them all out, and the obligatory car parking is concealed underneath. Previous residents got a concrete community centre and a rundown parade of essential shops and services. The new lot get a cinema room, gym, co-working space and roof terrace, because the new lot very much aren't council tenants.

The developers have made a big thing of the site's central park, even conscripting it into the site's new name. It takes advantage of a few retained mature trees but is otherwise is mostly lawn (sorry, "newly laid biodiverse grass") and roped-off playground. The park's smaller than it was due to be in the initial plans and isn't yet fully shadowed by residential towers. Marketing collateral makes a big thing of the fact it'll have a nature trail, which is about as cheap as environmental greenwash gets. Most of the flats in Park Central West and Park Central East either aren't adjacent to the park or look the wrong way.

One thing that's already up and running is Elephant Park's foodie destination, which is Sayer Street. One side is all cafes and restaurants, sequentially 'small plates & grill', Italian, Japanese, Ecuador/Spanish, Lebanese, Caribbean, Taiwanese and 'vacant'. A fried breakfast at the first of these will set you back £11 because this is no longer an impoverished estate, more somewhere to graze and brunch. On the opposite side of the street are three Insta-friendly sheds, or rather 'maker spaces', to temporarily boost the cultural credentials of the site. A garden centre, an art exchange and a podcast studio are the current lucky incumbents.

The marketing team at Elephant Park have gone big on elephants, assembling a cluster of glittery silver and gold-trunked sculptures in the piazza to the west of the park. I wasn't sure if the private security guard standing nearby was watching them or watching the rest of us - I suspect the latter. The marketing team also love their ampersands, dotting around various slogans like 'Live & Breathe', 'Green & Active' and 'Flavour & Energy'. They've not gone quite so overboard on Castles but there is a Castle Square, which thus far resembles a Boxpark but in ribbed timber.

Its two storeys are given over to micro retail units housing such delights as beauty salons, sweet shops and mobile phone emporia. One nice touch is the view over the park from the upper deck, although you have to be careful not to block the entrance to the lift in the process. Another nice touch is the provision of free public toilets, because these days developers have the wherewithal and the money in a way that councils have long since abandoned. And as a bonus the whole structure looks to be just temporary enough that it could be removed at a later date to provide a proper gateway to the estate from Elephant & Castle station.

It is essentially all change, but then it's all change all around Elephant & Castle at the moment. Some might call it much-needed redevelopment, others characterless gentrification, but the end result continues to be wholesale displacement. Elephant Park is certainly an attractive hotspot for incomers seeking convenience and lifestyle but the people I saw living in the Heygate a decade ago are long gone, maybe even to somewhere with a chippie.

 Tuesday, May 04, 2021

It being a bank holiday yesterday I fancied a bit of bluebelling. I've seen a fair few this year beside roads, in the odd corner of the Olympic Park and scattered across Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. But what I'd thus far missed was a proper carpet of blue, the kind of thing I'd normally head to the North Downs or the Chilterns for, or perhaps make do with Highgate or Bexley. So I walked to Wanstead and that did me just fine.

Wanstead Park is always a delight, blessed with a leftover landscape from a Georgian mansion and carefully tended by the City of London. But it's particularly delightful at this time of year so long as you leave the lakeside, step off the grass and walk into the woodland.

The place to be is Chalet Wood, a leafy triangle to the north of The Temple. You could easily miss it if you didn't know it contained a springtime treasure, but the steady flow of people ought to be a hint that something special lies within. I made sure I got there early before the throng of bank holiday bluebellers descended.

The clearing was larger than I was expecting although still with very tightly defined horizons. A five-minutes-to-walk-around floral showpiece, although with dawdling to admire the spectacle expect to take rather longer. And with a proper shimmer of blue from proper bluebells, that's Hyacinthoides non-scripta, it delivers the full-on carpet experience.

Originally it was good enough to look at them, or maybe point your lens across the clearing for a dazzling shot. Now the key thing is to take a selfie with the bluebells in the background or plonk your family in front and upload the best image. Prepare to wait your turn.

The springtime onslaught used to result in thoughtless trampling, so for protection's sake the park wardens have laid down logs to define the edges of paths. Nothing's really stopping anyone stepping over, but they seem to do the trick. So too do signs pinned up advising folk not to walk on the bluebells, and allegedly the one-way arrows help too.

I found myself in the middle of the wood before I found my first arrow, having walked what turned out to be the wrong way down a narrow path. A nearby mother promptly turned to her two toddlers and read out the notice ("Please follow the one way arrows so that everyone can enjoy the bluebells safely"). Initially I thought she was educating them, but I swiftly deduced she was passive-aggressively lambasting me.

It was lovely to be amidst the spectacle, indeed I was chuffed just to be walking through woodland again because there's precious little of that near me. And then I headed off north towards Warren Road past an increasing stream of people walking the other way. They clutched children and cups, they chatted to friends and partners, and they converged inexorably on the springtime delights in the shadowy clearing. If you can't get your bluebell fix in the countryside this year, there's always Chalet Wood.

 Monday, May 03, 2021

There's a new long distance walking network in town... and in the city and in villages and snaking across the countryside. Wherever you are in Britain it ought to be somewhere near you.

It's called Slow Ways - an initiative to connect the nation via a web of interconnected walking routes. It was originally proposed by Daniel Raven-Ellison, perhaps better known as the man who dreamt up the dubious concept of National Park Cities (and, more impressively, convinced Sadiq Khan that London was one).

For the Slow Ways project hundreds of nodes were selected marking centres of population, usually at accessible locations like railway or bus stations. These were then connected by straight lines to create a lattice of routes across the country - approximately 7500 connections altogether. The idea was to find a decent walking route for each of these connections, not necessarily direct but pleasant and broadly accessible, via a major crowdsourcing challenge.

Over the last year thousands of people have explored their localities to suggest possible routes and these are now available on the Slow Ways website (free of charge, no logging in required). The next stage of the project is to review each route and provide some background information to provide confidence that the routes selected are appropriate. What's the geography like, are the paths of a reasonable quality, is there a better way to go, that kind of thing.

Each Slow Ways node has about half a dozen connections depending on local topography. Here's the node for Rochdale which links to seven towns and villages up to six miles distant. Longer walks can be created by chaining together individual routes, so for example Manchester is two links away (via Middleton). To review each section and confirm it's better than potential alternatives will require a lot of additional input, but it only requires a few Rochdale residents to take an interest and hey presto, a verified interconnected pedestrian highway.

Some Slow Ways cross fields, others traverse hills, some follow the coast and a lot wend through suburbs. But I don't have that luxury of landscape here in East London, so for my trial run I've chosen to follow a Slow Way that's rather more mundane.

This is Dalbet, so called because it runs between Dalston and Bethnal Green. It's just two miles long, very much at the short end of the Slow Ways oeuvre, and involves only 12 metres of ascent so is hardly tiring. But it's still a good choice for me to investigate because there isn't an obvious direct route, indeed I bet most Londoners would plump for private or public transport every time rather than try to negotiate the intermediate area on foot.

I started at Bethnal Green tube station and headed north. I immediately wanted to take a shortcut through Museum Gardens, which was considerably more verdant and blossomtastic than the 'official' route up busy Cambridge Heath Road and would also have cut the corner off. I suspect this is the kind of feedback the Slow Ways team wants to hear because at present Dalbet is simply one person's submission with no reviews as yet.

I had a lot more trouble when it came to taking the turning off Old Ford Road, because there wasn't one. The line drawn alluringly on the map instead passed through some railings leaving me to take a diversion round the foot of a tower block. I suspect this is the kind of feedback the Slow Ways team not only wants but needs. Things got better after that, following quiet backstreets and with a zebra crossing in just the right place to traverse one burst of traffic. It wasn't especially picturesque, nudging into a light industrial zone past taxi repair yards, but I wasn't complaining.

Next a problem of scale. It wasn't clear from the line on the map whether I was supposed to follow the Regent's Canal towpath or the parallel (quiet) street. This was partly because I couldn't zoom in close enough to distinguish between the two but mainly because someone had drawn the line much too approximately. This shouldn't be a big problem in urban Bethnal Green but a badly-drawn line could leave you badly adrift in a Bedfordshire field or the Brecon Beacons. The canal was lovely whicheverway.

The next section involved walking the full length of Broadway Market with its artisan cafes and bijou shops - precisely the kind of jewel you might have missed if you'd chosen the route yourself. Then came the full length of London Fields, zigzagging across the grass in a Way that was definitely Slow, and all the more pleasant for it. I was impressed that this Slow Way had now managed to be off-road for nigh on one mile (canal/pedestrianised street/park) which is quite an achievement for inner London.

Finally it was time to head west along Forest Road, a long residential backstreet which was appropriately quiet and required no additional navigation for the next ten minutes. I only had to remember to turn right just before the end into a long pedestrianised piazza and I'd reached my destination at Dalston Junction station. It felt like forty-five minutes that someone had thoughtfully curated rather than simply thrown together, so I'd chalk that up as a Slow Ways win.

I don't really need a Slow Ways network to find my way around East London but I imagine it could be very useful elsewhere in the country where I'm less familiar with the landscape. It could also encourage me, or you, to take an interesting route from A to B rather than hopping onto some less sustainable form of transport. But it all relies on input and accuracy, so there's a lot of work to be done before I could be sure that a Slow Way wouldn't leave me adrift and unable to continue.

Imagine if this really took off and a detailed network of Slow Ways crisscrossed the entire country. In the meantime the beta website is well worth an explore, and if you dipped in and offered some feedback it might be even better.

 Sunday, May 02, 2021

A lot more people are out and about now that non-essential shops and outdoor hospitality are open. Roads are busier, public transport fuller and pavements generally bustlier. But do you know what the government's official travel guidance says? It still says this.

This guidance is unchanged since the Stay At Home order was withdrawn at the end of March. We are still advised to minimise travel and avoid making unnecesary trips. And yet simultaneously pub terraces are open, dining in the street is legal and shopping for any old tat is fine, despite not being in any way essential. If you only pop down to your local high street fine, no conflict. But what about travelling several miles for a beer with friends, shopping in a neighbouring county, going for a long walk in the countryside or taking a daytrip to the seaside?

It makes sense that travel within the UK is opening up again now that cases are so low. It makes sense that the government would prefer us to go out and boost the economy rather than confine us to our locality. But it hasn't put this into words by updating its travel guidance and is instead relying on us to follow unspoken rules, as has been the case throughout most of the pandemic. It seems our boundaries are now defined by what's open, not how far away it is and how we get there, despite official advice to the contrary.

The May bank holiday weekend is usually an excellent time to go travelling, say to the seaside. It's not such a good time to go to the seaside this year because there's a pandemic and also the weather forecast is poor. But I wondered anyway how much a trip to the seaside costs, mainly for future reference, and in case it's useful for anyone else.

I've assumed...
a) a return
b) day trip
c) from London
d) by train
e) travelling on Bank Holiday Monday, i.e. off peak
f) without a railcard

I've picked twelve coastal resorts and rounded fares to the nearest £.

   Off-peak  Cheaper tweak 
Gt Yarmouth  2¾h£61£40 (split at Colchester)
Clacton1½h£36£30 (advance ticket)
Bognor Regis1¾h£33-
Southsea2h£33£20 (advance ticket)
 Bournemouth 2h£53£46 (advance ticket)

Forget Great Yarmouth, both for reasons of time and cost. Bournemouth's also a long and expensive journey so probably not there either. A return ticket to most of the resorts inbetween costs about £30 (and would be more like £20 if you had a railcard). Portsmouth & Southsea's surprisingly good value so long as you take the right train. But there are two much cheaper ways to get to the seaside and they are Southend (£15) and Brighton (£13). Southend's cheap because c2c fares have always been excellent value, and Brighton's astonishingly cheap so long as you travel by Thameslink at the weekend (or on a bank holiday). The catch with both is a lack of sand, but the beach isn't always the main reason people go to the seaside.

The May bank holiday weekend is also an excellent time to go bluebelling.

Here are four places you might go for a splash of blue.

Tring  35m£21
Box Hill45m£10
 Sevenoaks 40m£14

It's cheaper to get to the hills around London than to get to the seaside. A tenner (or just over) should cover it. Box Hill's cheaper than Sevenoaks despite being the same distance from central London. The outlier is Tring, which is barely four miles from Wendover but costs a lot more to get to because it's on a completely different line. Pick your bluebelling target carefully.

And now, because this is my blog, this is how much it would cost me to go to these four places.

  before  now 
Box Hill£7£15
 Sevenoaks £6£12

The first column is how much I would have paid when I had an annual Z1-3 Travelcard with a Gold Card offering 1/3 discount on rail fares. The second column is how much I'd have to pay now that I don't have one. Journeys are from Bow rather than from central London.

The price is now much higher because I no longer have my 1/3 discount and I'd have to pay for the tube journey to and from the railway terminus. Overall it's about twice as much as the previous fare, which is an interesting financial deterrent compared to what I'm used to. Obviously my annual Travelcard was a substantial investment up front so these figures aren't entirely comparable, but it's going to take me some time to get used to how expensive fares really are.

This May bank holiday I intend to go see some bluebells on foot instead, hopefully dodging any heavy showers. The seaside will have to wait.

12 things that happened this week #coronavirus

• oxygen amongst aid sent to India
• shops and pubs finally reopen in Scotland
• PM preferred "bodies piled high" to 3rd lockdown
• US will export 60m unused Oxford doses
• 1st jab halves transmission of virus
• 60m Pfizer jabs ordered for winter booster
• Turkey goes into first lockdown
• vaccine age limit lowered to 40
• Brazil passes 400,000 deaths
• UK infections 20 times lower than January
• 1 in 7 high street shops empty
• 3000 clubbers attend test event in Liverpool

Worldwide deaths: 3,090,000 → 3,180,000
Worldwide cases: 146,000,000 → 152,000,000
UK deaths: 127,417 → 127,524
UK cases: 4,403,170 → 4,418,530
Vaccinations: 33,508,590 → 34,346,273
FTSE: up ½% (6938 → 6969)

 Saturday, May 01, 2021

30 unblogged things I did in April

Thu 1: Walked past the fenced-off area on Wanstead Flats and listened to the skylarks singing, confirming that the fenced-off area works.
Fri 2: The sick-looking history tree in Temple Mills Lane has been cut down and replaced by a new mature specimen (which as yet doesn't have a large steel ring attached).

Sat 3: I hoped the special prize cryptic crossword would keep me occupied for a substantial portion of the weekend but instead I had it polished off by 6pm, an hour earlier than last Easter. This never normally happens.
Sun 4: The Gentle Author has written a history of St Mary's Church in Bow (and the surrounding locality) that's so good, and so detailed, that nobody else need ever bother.
Mon 5: Today's highlight was crossing Walthamstow Marshes in the snow, which was highly unusual for Easter Monday (not the weather, which happens more often than you'd think, but the fact I hadn't gone on a big long trip somewhere outside London).
Tue 6: Used my last three recycling bags to dispose of monthsworth of boxes, bottles and paper (and am now waiting for libraries to reopen so I can collect more bags, because Tower Hamlets council don't like to make recycling easy).
Wed 7: Celebrated 20 years of knowing BestMate by doing the same walk we first made in April 2001, spotting herons and opening two bags of Mini Cheddars.

Thu 8: Things you find up a random street in Canonbury - a brick substation for the former Islington Electricity Department.
Fri 9: I would tell you about the unexpected but uplifting out-of-comfort-zone morning I had, but Prince Philip's death was announced a few minutes afterwards so all normal exposition is on pause as a mark of respect.
Sat 10: There's been a lot of fuss about the history wall fronting the Crossrail tracks in North Woolwich, which has led to the panel casually referencing local murders to be removed, so it's reassuring to see the panels about diphtheria, mugging and bodies being flung out of tower blocks after gas explosions are still in situ.

Sun 11: Randomly bumped into a former date (and their subsequent partner) outside Borough Market and stopped for a nice catch-up chat. Discovered they'd lost their job and are no longer local, so unless something equally random happens in the future I doubt I'll ever see them again.
Mon 12: Impressed by the number of people sat at small tables outside Westfield in temperatures below ten degrees grimly sipping an alcoholic drink, purely because they now can.
Tue 13: Work is finally underway to turn The Crystal into London's new City Hall, which thus far seems to stretch to removing the Royal Docks exhibition, obscuring the windows with sheeting and setting up a works compound outside.
Wed 14: busatlas.uk is a wonderful attempt at mapping the UK's principal inter-urban and rural bus services, such as they still are. Thus far the project has ticked off most of the counties along the south and east coast of England plus some of the Midlands. Here are Sussex and Suffolk, for example.

Thu 15: Bethnal Green's independent natural history gift and concept lifestyle store has reopened, or at least its door is open should anyone consider walking inside, and if that isn't a sign of creeping gentrification I don't know what is.
Fri 16: Shot five seconds of a top-performing YouTube video.
Sat 17: The years showcased on Pick of the Pops have been nudging later recently and are now generally from the range 1976-1996. Years before 1976 have only featured twice in the last six months, whereas the 21st century has popped up five times (usually with a fairly lacklustre musical selection).
Sun 18: Other things I saw in Bermondsey - a blue plaque on a closed pub because Paul McCartney once filmed a video inside, a bronze cat on a river wall and six pigtails for £9.

Mon 19: Birdwatching update: I spotted the allegedly elusive kingfisher skimming low over the Lea at the end of Channelsea Creek, which does seem to be a hotspot. And then two hours later I spotted another, or possibly the same bird, beyond the Park limits in the much quieter waters just upstream of Eastway and the A12. Twice in one day is ridiculously brilliant. [map of sightings]
Tue 20: A few weeks late, but they've finally refilled the Hertford Union Canal. Dozens of narrowboats have already dashed back to grab a coveted mooring space.
Wed 21: It's a shame Count Binface didn't use his page in the London Mayoral booklet to promote his manifesto because some of his policies are rather good (No shop to be allowed to sell a croissant for more than £1) (The hand dryer in the gents toilet at the Crown & Treaty, Uxbridge, to be moved to a more sensible position) (Ceefax to be brought back for all households within the M25)
Thu 22: I'm using lockdown to catch up on classic films I really should have watched before. Today Evil Under The Sun, yesterday Death On The Nile and the day before Westworld.
Fri 23: Radio 1 has launched another streaming-only Sounds-exclusive variant called Radio 1 relax, which is refreshingly pop-free and quite good as background music so long as you avoid the wellness hours.

Sat 24: A swish new poster has gone up at Dangleway North promoting the Private Cabin Experience, cost £90, despite the fact that every group of travellers gets its own cabin at the moment for social distancing reasons.
Sun 25: Londonist continues to have a very muted pandemic. Over the last week it's only published five posts, one of which was 'The Best of Londonist' (which simply listed the other four). Meanwhile Time Out managed 13, mostly promoting venues coming out of lockdown, and marketing cannon Secret London spaffed 30.
Mon 26: The new series of Just A Minute featured ten different chairs, presumably as an audition for taking over Nicholas Parsons' role permanently. Of the final four Jo Brand wasn't strict enough, Julian Clary's natural waspishness was wasted, Tom Allen felt unfamiliarly modern and Stephen Fry was effortlessly excellent (but I suspect wouldn't always be available as a regular host).
Tue 27: Found a plaque in Central Park, East Ham, commemorating the miniature railway that operated here for "3 glorious years". A 1940s Pathé newsreel answered all my questions.

Wed 28: The Blossom Garden in the Olympic Park is nearly complete, now with a proper walkway, tidied lawn and several benches. Many of the 33 trees are in full fruity blossom at the moment, but I fear the garden can't be officially opened until after the Mayoral election and all the white and pink will have dropped by then.
Thu 29: For those of you wanting an update on my numberplate-spotting, in the last fortnight my second attempt at Full Reverse Chronological has sped through 21 to 51, then prefix Y to prefix A, then suffix Y to suffix S, so only 15 more to go. Meanwhile my attempt to spot all 420 personalised registrations from A1 to Y20 is going really well and after two months I only have seventeen more to tick off. The sole missing single-digit pair is P3. The only other absence below the teens is L10. Y is proving the most elusive letter (I still need Y13, Y14, Y16 and Y17).
Fri 30: For those of you not wanting an update on my numberplate-spotting, I can instead offer you five items from today's Tesco receipt: gammon joint, whole cucumber, raspberry cheesecake, low quality scones, reduced-salt ketchup.

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