diamond geezer

 Saturday, July 31, 2021

10 things that happened this week #coronavirus

• we should no longer 'cower' from the virus (Javid)
• cost of UK govt measures approaching £400bn
• first wave (finally) hits Alderney
• daily case numbers consistently falling
• 'selfish' to turn down vaccination (Gove)
• mask-wearing advised indoors in US surge states
• UK sends 9m vaccines to developing countries
• no quarantine for fully-jabbed US-EU arrivals
• δ variant fuelling surge in Japan
• Wales to end self-isolation exemption early

Worldwide deaths: 4,140,000 → 4,210,000
Worldwide cases: 193,000,000 → 198,000,000
UK deaths: 129,130 → 129,654
UK cases: 5,669,260 → 5,856,528
1st vaccinations: 46,519,998 → 46,811,298
2nd vaccinations: 36,953,691 → 38,126,702
FTSE: up 5 (7027 → 7032)

35 current* blogs with diamond geezer on their blogroll**
*(at least one post since July 1st)   **(blogroll must appear on blog's main page)

Autolycus, Blue Witch, CabbieBlog, Cameron Counts, CDL Creative, The Charlton Champion, Chicago Addick, Days on the Claise, Dom.Blog, 853, English Buildings, FolkestoneJack's Tracks, ganching, The Ham and Egger Files, High Riser, Independent travel planning, Jane's London, The Knowledge, LinkMachineGo, McFilter, Planarchy for the Yookay, Plenty of Taste, rashbre central, Razor-blade of Life, Round the Island, Scoakat's blog, The Silent Hunter, Silent Words Speak Loudest, 6000 miles from civilisation, swisslet, things magazine, Town Mouse, Transblawg, Wibbo's Words, Zen Mischief

This is my annual attempt to discover who's still blogging and still has a blogroll which still has me on it. Numbers contunue to plummet. In 2006 there were 168, in 2011 113, in 2016 72 and in 2021 I can only find 35. #sadfaceemoji

That'll be because blogrolls are nigh dead these days. Most blogs no longer have sidebars, let alone sidebars listing other blogs, indeed most bloggers have given up blogging altogether. But for those of us who plough on a blogroll is a useful way of showcasing what we like to read, and a useful bit of support. My thanks if you've added me to yours.

As usual I hope the list's fairly complete but I bet it's not. Let me know if I've missed you/anyone off the list and I'll come back and add you/them later. As for the rest of my readers, maybe you'd like to click on a few of these 35 links to see what you're missing. I can't promise they're all thrilling verbal discourses, but hopefully you'll discover several that are.... while stocks last.

A new road bridge opened yesterday in the Olympic Park, linking Fish Island to the unbuilt neighbourhood of Sweetwater.

It's controversial Bridge H14, the road bridge that replaced a five year-old footbridge. Brilliantly vehicles can't yet use it, only pedestrians and cyclists.

It launches from the end of Monier Road and lands in sight of the Olympic Stadium, close to the newly-tweaked road network which opened three months ago. Alas it doesn't quite join up because nobody's yet finished (or indeed started) building the last few metres of road. So, no vehicles yet.

Also just opened are a couple of landscaped areas connecting the eastern side of the bridge to the Lea towpath. One's a meadowy zigzag with a bench halfway, the other has steps and some lush floral planting. It's already looking good.

As yet the segregated pavements are sealed off so it's not possible to look over the edge or sit on the long arcs of seating either side.

I wrote a long post on the history of Bridge H14 in 2019 so I won't go through it all again, but here's a summary.
2011: There are no bridges between Old Ford Lock and White Post Lane.
2012: Footbridge H14 is built but not opened.
2014: Footbridge H14 opens.
2018: Victorian warehouse knocked down to make way for new footbridge.
2019: Footbridge H16 opens, 150m to the south.
   5 days later: Footbridge H14 closes.
2020: Old footbridge H14 is removed and new road bridge H14 winched in.
2021: Road bridge H14 opens (for pedestrians and cyclists only).
2022: Road bridge H14 opens to buses.
2024: Road bridge H14 might open to vehicles.
A bright bold bus stop space awaits the arrival of route 339 which is due to be diverted this way next year - there's already been a consultation. But no other vehicles will be allowed over the bridge until the suburb of Sweetwater has at least 200 homes, and currently none are even under construction.

So a footbridge has been replaced by a much wider bridge that's currently a footbridge and from next year will see just eight vehicles an hour. One day it could be a very useful road connection (or alternatively an inadequate rat run causing Monier Road to seize up) but for now it's very much a pristine waste of money.

 Friday, July 30, 2021

If you head for the Dangleway this summer, which increasingly more people are doing, you'll find two queues.

That's to say you'll find two roped-off queueing slaloms, which might or might not have people in them, but one of the slaloms is quite long so I guess the queues get quite long sometimes.

One is the Boarding Queue and one is the Ticketing Queue.

I actually saw five different groups of people converging on Dangleway North yesterday, which is five more than I'd normally expect to see on a weekday morning, but that's the school summer holidays for you.

And the signs for each queue are somewhat misleading.

It's all about boarding passes.
If you have one join the Boarding Queue, if not join the Ticketing Queue.



If you have onsite or online
boarding passes please

If you would like to purchase a boarding pass or receive more information please

Otherwise please

If you booked your journey
online or if you have the boarding
passes already please

It's not explained what a boarding pass is but it sounds like a ticket you need to buy before you travel. Many people riding the Dangleway will be here for the first time, because it's that kind of tourist attraction, so won't know any different.

You can of course board the Dangleway with an Oyster or contactless card, indeed that's the best way to pay the cheapest price, simply by walking up to the barriers and tapping in. But Oyster and contactless are not mentioned in the instructions on display, merely 'boarding passes', so you're more than likely to end up at the ticket window unnecessarily.

The Dangleway fares page on the TfL website only mentions Oyster and contactless - £4 for adults and £2 for children. But consult the price list displayed at the terminal and mysteriously Oyster and contactless are not mentioned. It does say a One-Way Boarding Pass costs £5, and there's something called a 'Discount Adult' for £4, but nowhere does it say this might apply to a card you already have in your pocket.

The price list starts a variety of River Roamer packages (£17.60 single, £25.80 return, £27.80 unlimited), then continues with a Discovery Experience (£11.70) which allows you to sample the aviation 'exhibition'. Also prominently displayed are the champagne & private cabin options, although with no prices listed. If all you want to do is cross the river, the £5/£4 option, that's right at the bottom.

It's possible the ambiguity on the queueing posters is an oversight. But I suspect it's entirely deliberate, a means to nudge punters to the ticket window where they can be upsold more expensive options rather than swiping straight through and paying the minimum.

It reminds me of the booths placed at the entrances to several of London's free museums where smiling staff encourage you to donate money before you go in. Engage and upsell, you might significantly boost your bottom line.

If you're ever in Queen's Mead Recreation Ground in Bromley you can't miss the gothic chimney beyond the trees. But have you ever wondered what it might be? It can't be as old as it looks because Shortlands was all fields until the station opened in 1858. The answer can be found by crossing the footbridge over the railway and going to have a look. The first big clue is Pump House Close where a few lucky people get to live in a converted pump house. But a proper Thames Water pumping station still pumps away nextdoor, opened by the Kent Water Works Company in 1873, and that's where the Kentish ragstone chimney is.

Just inside the gates is part of the original 70 horsepower Cornish Bull steam engine once used to pump 1¾m gallons a day from a well near the Ravensbourne up to Eltham Reservoir. The steam was supplied by four boilers still in use on site as oil tanks. The cylinder was 50 inches in diameter. It's quite the most exciting thing in Shortlands, unless you count the blue plaque for the man who was the wireless operator aboard the Titanic. Just look for the chimney. #ashorthistoryofthesuburbs

 Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Roding is one of London's longest rivers and a significant barrier to travel. The M11 and the North Circular both run alongside, shamelessly exploiting the valley, but only a handful of roads cross from west to east. For today's post I'll be exploring the six lowest crossing points on the Roding (including a footbridge, a tidal barrage and a full-on arterial) via a 2½ mile hike from Barking to Ilford.

Only Environment Agency employees can cross the river at the Barking Flood Barrier, so I'm not counting that. No further structures span the river for the first mile upstream.

Roding Crossing 1 - Alfred's Way (A13)
Before 1928 ago there was no bridge here, nor any need, just a huge expanse of marshland between Barking and the Thames. The motor car changed that thanks to the East Ham and Barking Bypass, a major road which leapt the Roding in one of its creekier sections. Today it's part of the A13, a thunderous dual carriageway delivering lorries to Tilbury and all points east. Walking across is perfectly acceptable although not really on the way to anywhere, nor especially recommended after a late night screening at the Showcase Cinema. The 173 bus provides a grandstand view.

For a better sense of context an unlikely footpath bears off from the westbound carriageway and descends to the creekside past some mighty big metal sheds. The river's still tidal here, hence proper reedy and a good place to watch out for waterfowl wading in the mud. On the far bank is Cuckold's Haven Nature Reserve and an inlet called Hands Trough Creek, whereas on the eastern side we're rapidly approaching the developmental limits of Barking making this peripheral dogwalking territory.

Roding Crossing 2 - Barking Barrage
The second crossing is 25 years old and for pedestrians and cyclists only. The Barking Barrage halts the upstream progress of tidal flow and was added in a long term bid to stimulate waterfront redevelopment closer to the town centre. One half is a navigational channel guarded by two curved sector gates powered by hydraulic rams, allowing boats to pass through either side of high tide. The other half is a gushing weir to stabilise water levels, and includes a concrete fish ladder to allow the Roding's ecosystem to keep functioning. Eels get their own separate pipe. If you fancy watching an earnest 15 minute promotional video made by the council in 1998, this'll explain all.

The barrage has certainly paid dividends for housebuilders, starting with the emergence of a neighbourhood called Roding Riverside on the east bank. A few wharves and warehouses were thankfully retained, so throw in a few houseboats and the upstream view retains a flash of character. But step further back, as you have to because there isn't a riverside path, and walls of newbuilds form an ever-growing microsuburb that could one day hit 5000 homes.

Roding Crossing 3 - Town Quay
For centuries this was the lowest crossing of the Roding, adjoining the mill pool where the fishing fleet tied up. In the 1850s Barking was one of the busiest fishing ports in the country, boosted by having central London on the doorstep, but railways allowed East Anglia to grab that trade and the last smacks sailed off in 1899. The only surviving building is the mill's former granary, a four-storey affair evocative of creekside Essex. Around this bends Highbridge Road, a minor crossing with a protruding viewpoint on its small central island.

I still rated the view a decade back when boats and warehouses hinted at Barking's maritime past, but since then more flats have arrived and the vibe has gone. The latest is taller and bulkier than ever, namely Fresh Wharf, a 10 acre sprawl with just enough starter residents to support a coffee shop. An even larger trading estate between the Abbey ruins and the river is transforming into a separate waterside district, and even the far end of Tesco's car park has been sealed off because that's succumbing next. It's like the Lea on steroids, attracting those for whom zone 3 waterfront is no longer affordable enough.

Roding Crossing 4 - London Road (A124)
This is the chief western entrance to Barking town centre, the bridge you eventually cross if you follow Barking Road across Newham, but only after negotiating a major junction on the North Circular. The river's easily spannable here so this was long the Roding's lowest practical bridging point. The present cast iron bridge dates back to 1904 and has a smart quatrefoil design along its parapets, plus an Essex coat of arms in the centre. It also marks the (current) northern limit of proposed explosive development.

Continue north and you get to follow a riverside path installed with hope in the 1990s but subsequently unloved. Beyond Wickes' car park the paving become intermittently erratic with unplanned ridges, and the supposed cycle lane runs repeatedly through unhacked overhanging vegetation. But there's a charm to the Roding here as reeds and grasses reappear, the river languidly double bending inbetween, even if it's not exactly pastoral.

Roding Crossing 5 - Harts Lane estate footbridge
Here we discover what 1970s development looked like - two 17-storey towers and a warren of lowrise apartment blocks, safely tucked back from the waterfront to avoid flooding rather than provocatively rising alongside. The Harts Lane estate's always been a downbeat dead end, hemmed in between the river and the District line, with this metal footbridge the sole escape to the west. Keep going and you'd reach another footbridge over the North Circular, a lone gasholder and (eventually) East Ham High Street, but I suspect more residents use it as a shortcut to nip to Tesco.

This is where the Roding's riverside path fades out, because nobody ever thought it worthwhile to sandwich a public right of way between the river and the A406. I understand it's doable with caution and a sense of adventure - see John Rogers' excellent video safari - but I didn't want to risk it during maximum vegetation season. Instead I took the trepidatious footbridge high above the railway and continued north along residential streets in search of my sixth and final crossing. The North Circular (aka South Woodford to Barking Relief Road) forms an impenetrable barrier for the next mile, severing all contact between Newham and Redbridge, and the Roding plods on miserably alongside.

The District line, c2c and Goblin cross the Roding here (while High Speed 1 blasts underneath), but nothing accessible on foot.

Roding Crossing 6 - Ilford Bridge (A118)
This would have been where the Romans forded the Roding, along what's now the Romford Road and was once the A12. But the arrival of the North Circular in the 1980s transformed the landscape utterly, casting a six lane viaduct across the main road accessed via space-saving ramps. The Roding flows on beneath an expanse of tarmac, much as the Lea lurks below the Bow Roundabout, and the northern end of that unwelcoming footpath apologises its way out of some undergrowth. At least you can finally get across the river here, because it's been a while.

On the Redbridge side Ilford Hill climbs towards the town centre, increasingly smothered by speculative Crossrail towers. The Newham side cares less for contours so check your flood insurance if you're moving in. And the next five bridges over the Roding are for a) the railway b) the North Circular c)d)e) members of Ilford Golf Club only, so that's where I'm bailing out. If you have a kayak you can go a little further.

14 bright sunny Roding photos

 Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The most unsettling thing about no longer having an annual z1-3 Travelcard is discovering how much journeys actually cost. I used to be able go anywhere in inner London or hop on any bus 'for nothing', but now every jaunt costs in real time. Three stops to Liverpool Street, £2.50. Four stops on the bus, £1.55. Peak train to Streatham, £5.50. I know I was paying a lot up front to be able to make these journeys appear free, but suddenly paying full price (like a normal person) is quite disconcerting.

Which is why I've started taking an interest in getting around town for as little money as necessary. Usually that's meant walking, but I'm also now a connoisseur of TfL's cheapest fare, courtesy of a Mayoral anomaly introduced at the last fare increase. It used to be that bus rides and off-peak z2-6 tube journeys each cost £1.50, but in March they all got bumped up except for journeys within a single zone.
"By keeping some fares - including Tube, DLR and rail fares set by TfL within a single fare zone – at the same level it will support the wider economic recovery of London, including tourism, as those visiting the capital and travelling exclusively within zone 1 will not see any fare rises. This will also support Londoners who need to travel to high streets and town centres locally, particularly those travelling on London Overground or in outer London, and help ensure that the post-pandemic recovery is not car-led."
Stay within a single zone and you still only pay £1.50 off-peak, which is somehow 5p cheaper than the bus. And blimey, if you pick your routes right you can go a heck of a long way for the minimum possible fare.

This map shows all the stations I can get to from Bow for £1.50 - an amazing choice of 150 destinations.
(click for a larger version)

I live by the yellow dot where I have four stations within easy walking distance - Bow Road (z2), Bow Church (z2), Bromley-by-Bow (z2/3) and Pudding Mill Lane (z2/3). Living on a zone boundary is really useful because I can choose to make journeys all within zone 2 or all within zone 3. Living near Stratford is really useful because that's also in both zones and has some great connections. And living near the Overground is the key to the whole thing because the entire Stratford-Whitechapel loop is in zone 2 so I can go round either way.

For a start I can go everywhere on the DLR except Bank, Tower Gateway and Woolwich, so that's good, and even gets me across the river. I can also take the Jubilee line as far as Bermondsey, or short distances on the District and Central line (although these are also places I can reach by walking so I tend not to). What I absolutely cannot do is enter zone 1 because that bumps up the fare by £1, so for further flung destinations deft use of pink Oyster readers is required.

A single pink flash at Whitechapel or Stratford gets me a long way, confirming to TfL that I've travelled via the slow orbital route rather than nipping through the centre of town. But I've had to learn to use the Single Fare Finder webpage to confirm which routes are bargain basement and which touches are absolutely necessary. For example if heading to Clapham Common slapping pink at Whitechapel is essential... but there's no need if heading to Clapham High Street because the fares software always assumes you've taken the Overground... but sometimes it assumes you've gone direct whatever, for example Bow Road to any z2 station between Paddington and Hammersmith is always £2.50.

Some of the more contrived £1.50 z2 routes are...
Bow RoadHoxton: via Stratford and Dalston Junction
Bow RoadMornington Crescent: via Stratford and Camden Road/Camden Town (or Kentish Town/Kentish Town West)
Bow RoadNotting Hill Gate: via Stratford, Willesden Junction and Shepherd's Bush
Bow ChurchPutney Bridge: via Stratford, Willesden Junction and West Brompton
Pudding Mill LaneTurnham Green: via Stratford, Willesden Junction, West Brompton (or Kensington (Olympia)) and Earl's Court

It's not worth doing if you value time more than money. Bow Road to Hoxton takes three times longer via the cheap route, for example, and Bow Road to Notting Hill Gate about an hour extra, all to save a quid.

Most of my map shows zone-2-only journeys, but a cluster of zone-3-onlys exists top right. The trick to reaching Tottenham is to switch to the Goblin by walking between stations in Leyton or Leytonstone, ensuring the software knows you haven't ventured into zone 2. Even better is to catch a line that's not on the tube map but is charged at TfL rates, the Lea Valley line from Stratford to Tottenham Hale, and then continue from there. For completeness, the two additional National Rail stations I can reach for £1.50 are Lea Bridge and Northumberland Park.

The furthest north I can get for £1.50 is White Hart Lane, the furthest west is North Acton. the furthest south is Clapham South and the furthest east is Gallions Reach. East is the direction I can get least far in, thanks to travel zones being thin loops rather than long sausages. Meanwhile I'm reliably informed that the longest possible £1.50 journey is Canning Town to North Acton, an amazing 11½ miles entirely within zone 2.

I've calculated I can get to half the boroughs in London for £1.50, which is excellent news for exploration purposes. Another eight boroughs require an extra zone, which'd be £1.60, and four more (Croydon, Havering, Harrow and Hillingdon) require two extra which is £1.70. The only boroughs I can't get to off-peak for less than £2 are the City of London (£2.50 because it's all in z1) and Kingston and Sutton (which have no lines operating TfL fares, so £2.70).

At some point when future circumstances look more certain I'll dive in and buy a Travelcard again, eventually an annual one with Gold Card discount, and stop worrying about how much petty individual journeys cost. In the meantime I'd like to apologise to TfL for only giving them £34 in the last twelve months, whereas normally it'd've been more like £1800, and I fear this helps explain some of their current financial difficulties.

 Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Today it's nine years since the opening ceremony of London 2012. Nine years is usually an overlookable anniversary but the delayed 2020 Games are currently playing out in Tokyo, and it's the first time the Olympics have ever taken place in an odd-numbered year, so you're going to get a post about the Olympic Park anyway.

More pertinently it's ten years since the Olympic Park Legacy Company chose the names of the five future residential neighbourhoods, two of which were nominated by readers of this blog (hi Ollie, hi Dave). I've been round to see how they're developing, from the one that's almost finished to the two they still haven't started yet.

Chobham Manor
This is the big slice to the north of the Athletes Village, stretching from the Velodrome to Temple Mills Lane, and is the only neighbourhood they've almost finished. Phases 1 and 2 are already being lived in, across a grid of backstreets including all the usual flats but also several attractive three storey townhouses. This means not many people get to live down Coopers Lane, Millers Row or Keirin Road, each a low density aberration unlikely to be repeated elsewhere across the Park, but well done if you snapped one up. A central spine of parklets with pocket playgrounds breaks up the development, though seemingly little used, and a couple of corner commercial units remain very much to let ('All Uses Considered').

Phase 3 overlooking the mountain bike wilderness is nearing completion, rather flattier, and all sold out. I'm pleased to say that the dead-looking History Tree at the eastern gateway has been replaced, but less pleased to add that after one growing season its replacement already looks almost as dead. Phase 4 faces the Waterglades and is substantially complete, if architecturally less distinguished with its pastel balconies in lieu of brickwork. I note that a new 1 bed apartment here is currently selling for £470,000, that bedroom being almost 3m wide, so average Londoners need not apply.
Homes built: 550   Homes to be built: 850

East Wick
This is the neighbourhood between the Lea and the northern park, already home to Here East and a primary school, and which has finally burst forth as a residential quarter this year. The barriers are down around a small nucleus of flats crammed just north of the Copper Box, some of which are still very much under construction and others already inhabited. These backstreets are designed to be car-free, hence the blocks have considerable cycle parking underneath, and the architects take pride that no building is the same. For some reason the streets are named after famous people born in Clapton, Maryland and Forest Gate rather than properly local, one of whom is film actress Jessica Tandy and another a Victorian anti-vivisectionist.

A new corner cafe called the Clarnico Club opened earlier this year, initially echoingly empty but recently picking up trade despite the presence of two other coffee shops within a two minute walk. It faces the grassy edge of the Olympic Park that's due to be built on next, once contractors have got round to digging up most of the trees and replanting them somewhere else. East Wick still has a lot more residential expansion to go. Meanwhile a substantial chunk of Here East is being remodelled as the V&A East Storehouse, "a new immersive experience providing unprecedented public access to V&A collections", which should be a magnificent facility to live beside when it opens in 2024.
Homes built: 100   Homes to be built: 850

Still by the canal, but south of the Overground, is the district named after a long-defunct confectionery factory. So far you can go to school here but not live here, nor buy anything off plan because no attempt at residential construction has begun. Instead the priority has been building new roads not envisaged when the Olympic masterplan was drawn up, in what's probably been the biggest tweak to Park infrastructure over the last twelve months. Even then the new road bridge over to Fish Island still isn't finished, two years after the original footbridge was removed, although the latest gossip says pedestrians and cyclists should be allowed across early next month. Construction of Sweetwater's final phase isn't due to start until (blimey) 2031.
Homes built: 0   Homes to be built: 650

Marshgate Wharf
This is the odd one out, the only Olympic neighbourhood whose 2011 name appears to have been entirely dropped. Most of it is now known as Stratford Waterfront, a much more literal name and I suspect more financially prestigious. The big development here has yet another name which is East Bank, which'll become the Park's new cultural quarter when it starts opening up in 2023. From left to right the current line-up of liftshafts and unclad concrete will become...

• A new museum, V&A East (eventually resembling some kind of squatting bug)
• UAL's London College of Fashion (the tallest and most substantially complete)
• BBC Music studios (essentially the new Maida Vale, allowing that to be sold off)
• Sadler's Wells (a 550-seat theatre, dance centre and, er, hip hop academy)
(a few proper residential towers will be built too, to help pay for the above, but no sign yet)

The other arm of what used to be called Marshgate Wharf stretches from just south of the Aquatics Centre to just south of the Stadium. The last twelve months have seen two new buildings shoot up here - Marshgate and Pool Street West - forming the hub of University College London's new campus. The chunkier block will contain laboratories, research space, teaching facilities and (at ground level) accessible public spaces, while the taller 20-storey block will be predominantly student accommodation but with more communal stuff lower down. The campus is due to start opening next September, and should be fully ready for the next academic intake after that.
Homes built: 0   Homes to be built: 600

Pudding Mill
The final QEOP neighbourhood is another where, even nine years after the Games, nobody lives. Everything that London 2012 used for back of house remains as acres of hardstanding, occasionally used for car parking or for storage of stadium seats whenever athletics takes place. A preposterous temporary theatre is currently being constructed, its hexagonal ribcage now mostly in place, but as yet not a single home. The absence of infrastructure probably contributed to Sunday's unworldly flood outside the DLR station, but the only local residents inconvenienced would have been those staying in the adjacent container hotel. Only a smattering of mud remained yesterday morning, you'll be pleased to hear.
Homes built: 0   Homes to be built: 1500

It's a measure of the long game being played here that somehow nine years after London 2012 barely 500 homes have yet been built on the Park. Thousands have gone up close by, as the the Games continue to act as a massive catalyst for change, but it'll be TWENTY years before QEOP's full residential potential is realised. Housing shortage? What housing shortage?

 Monday, July 26, 2021

Last week, when the temperature was in the thirties and your chances of being struck by lightning were zero, the place to be was in a swimming pool 35 metres above the ground.

This is the Sky Pool at Embassy Gardens, part of the luxury highrise cluster at Nine Elms. It consists of 50 tons of acrylic filled with 150 tons of water, strung out between two neighbouring buildings because neither had the roofspace to support it alone. It can only be used by residents who paid full whack for their apartments, and their guests, and for safety reasons no more than 19 at a time. If your head for heights is less secure, or you'd rather not display your swimming cozzie from underneath, a parallel opaque footbridge can be used to access the rooftop bar on one side from the sunloungers on the other.

I wandered in freely round the back of the American Embassy and stood directly underneath in a deep residential canyon where the sun doesn't shine. Of the ten visible undercarriages nobody was swimming, some appeared to be treading water and the rest were simply standing there cooling off and chatting with their friends. I was reassured that they weren't looking down on me because I'd positioned myself in the one place where I couldn't be seen.

At the nearby ground floor oyster bar all the outside tables were occupied by smart diners enjoying the kind of lunchtime menu that majors on whipped feta, monkfish fillet and tonka bean gelato. But by stepping a little further into as-yet-unfinished corners of the site the streets were instead filled with sweaty workmen, dozens and dozens of them, tucking into lunches of something cheaper and more practical. One day Embassy Gardens will only be for the elite, but during its construction phase it has a much broader socio-economic mix.

What you can't yet do is slip through the railway viaduct to the brand new tube station that'll make living here worthwhile. Arch 42 isn't quite ready to connect, but Nine Elms station on the other side is coming along nicely and already presents a visually strong presence, especially the blue nameplates above the entrances to the ticket hall.

As yet Battersea Power Station station isn't as impressive, at least not from the roadside, but maybe you'll be able to come down in a couple of months and check for yourself. Just don't bother bringing a towel and your trunks.

In "a bit special" local art news, Bromley-by-Bow has gained a set of Tracey Emin sculptures.

The work's called A Moment Without You and comprises five sculpted bronze birds perched atop of a series of high poles. They're so high that the individual birds are quite hard to see but that's all part of Tracey's plan to create "something which would appear and disappear and not dominate". It's also not an original commission - the birds have already appeared in Regent's Park and Hong Kong and an identical flock is currently flying high beside the Delaware in Philadelphia - but it is quite a coup for the E3 postcode.

The feathered quintet has been positioned beside the towpath at Three Mills as part of East London art walk The Line, a project that's upped its game of late. Also new here is a juniper tree weathervane on the roof of the House Mill, deftly evoking the site's gin-distilling past, and arguably even harder to spot. If a cormorant lands on the roof while you're here, that's a bonus.

 Sunday, July 25, 2021

10000000: Sometime this evening, just before seven o'clock, diamond geezer will receive its ten millionth visitor. More accurately it'll be the ten millionth time that an archaic stats package has registered a unique visit, which very much isn't the same thing, but I think still very much worth celebrating.

Ten million visits is an astonishing total - the equivalent of everyone in Portugal reading my blog once. But viewed another way it's not much - on average two busy tube trains of readers a day (or several busy tube trains under current circumstances).

What I do know is that my audience is coming faster. The first million took five and a half years. The last million's taken thirteen months.

0Sept 2002 
      1000000    April 2008    5½ years
2000000Jan 20112¾ years
3000000Oct 20121¾ years
4000000Apr 20141½ years
5000000Aug 20151⅓ years
6000000Dec 20161¼ years
7000000Feb 20181⅕ years
8000000Apr 20191⅙ years
9000000Jun 20201⅙ years
10000000Jul 20211⅛ years

I can also do that as a graph.

For the first decade and a half the graph was a curve because my readership was (gradually) growing, with the fastest spurt in the pre-Olympic heyday of 2011/2012. But since 2016 it's become much more of a straight line because my readership's levelled out, with each successive million taking about 60 weeks.

That's good because it means I'm not haemorrhaging readers, but also bad because I'm no longer gaining a wider audience like I used to. What I seem to have is a long-standing core readership, cheers, with a few new regulars who somehow stumble here balanced by others drifting away. In a resolutely post-blog era it could be a lot lot worse.

Each time one of these millionaire milestones rolls by I like to look back and analyse which sites my readers have arrived from. In particular I like to draw up a league table of top linking blogs, ordered by volume of visitors clicking here from there. This used to be hugely important, back in the era when blogs thrived solely because other blogs linked to them, but times change.

Blogs no longer have a fraction of the traction they enjoyed a decade ago now that social media is king, because the ability to drive traffic has shifted away from those who generate their own content towards those who merely digest the content of others. But here's the latest update of my Top 10 linking blogs (2002-2021) anyway...
1) Londonist
2) Girl with a one track mind    
3) London Reconnections
4) Ian Visits
5) Random acts of reality
  6) Arseblog
  7) Scaryduck
  8) Blue Witch
  9) London Daily Photo
10) 853
What's striking is that this list hasn't changed much since five million, just shuffled around a bit.

Londonist takes the top spot thanks to a decade and a half of capital content which sometimes linked here, although not so much of late as the site's currently on a very low simmer. But they have finally dislodged the all-conquering Girl With A One Track Mind which was massive in the mid-2000s, ditto Tom's defunct Random acts of reality and Gunner-tastic Arseblog. Other blogging phenomena which faded away were London Daily Photo (2005-2013) and Alistair's award-winning Scaryduck, although that still gets the occasional update.

Ian Visits is the only blog in the ascendant of late, thanks to his weekly railway news which kindly links here every few editions. Former behemoth London Reconnections rarely posts much more than a list of recommended links these days, but I sometimes squeeze in if I've posted something particularly transport-tastic. Blue Witch is the sole surviving old-school blog in the top 10, currently documenting the ultimate house move, and 853 is Darryl's excellent citizen journalism site for north-ish Greenwich. Thank you all.

But all ten of these linkers have been seriously outgunned by three major social media platforms.
1) Twitter
2) Reddit
3) Facebook
Twitter is easily top of the heap with more than double the clickthroughs of the other two (and three times as many as Londonist). I don't tweet about my blog much, and nor do many others, but my bot account @diamondgzrblog automatically tweets each new blog post to a small daily audience and that's helped rack up the clicks. Reddit hasn't been anywhere near as excitable of late, now that most of its tube geeks have been siphoned off into a minor subreddit, so its second place is mostly a reflection of past supernovae. And I still don't understand how Facebook is sending so many people here, but that's mainly because I'm not on it.
My five most clicked-through posts since 9 million
1) London fire brigade animal rescues
2) Why is there a cluster of tall buildings in the City?
3) Why do so many flats in London have balconies?
4) Shaun Bailey campaigns in Watford
5) The Percy Ingle bakery chain has closed
Before you get the wrong idea I should say the vast majority of my last million readers didn't click in from anywhere, they rely on force of habit. I've hit ten million by being reliable rather than clickable, because there'll almost certainly be a new post to read every morning which hopefully you'll want to read. As far as I can tell at least 90% of you currently arrive off your own bat, not because something elsewhere directed you here... although that's probably how you ended up at diamond geezer in the first place.

Also I know that a lot of you read the blog without actually visiting it, courtesy of my RSS feed, which makes a mockery of attempting to count visitor numbers anyway. I probably passed ten million several months ago, maybe even years back, but just didn't realise.

So I don't mind where my ten million came from, nor that I can't count you all, I'm just well chuffed that you still bother turning up. Thanks to all of you, and here's to millions more...

12 things that happened this week #coronavirus

• PM & Chancellor won't self-isolate (ah, yes they will)
Step 4: all social distancing restrictions lifted
• Scotland moves to Level 0
• nightclub entry will require double vaccination
• USA advises against travel to the UK
• PM delayed lockdown as it was 'only' killing over-80s
• green & amber arrivals 'are not being checked'
• Keir Starmer self-isolates after child tests +ve
• 1% of population pinged by app last week
• key workers exempted from self-isolation
• Tokyo Olympics begin a year late & spectator-free
• half of Australians back in lockdown

Worldwide deaths: 4,080,000 → 4,140,000
Worldwide cases: 190,000,000 → 193,000,000
UK deaths: 128,623 → 129,130
UK cases: 5,386,340 → 5,669,260
1st vaccinations: 46,227,101 → 46,519,998 (88%)
2nd vaccinations: 35,732,297 → 36,953,691 (70%)
FTSE: up ¼% (7008 → 7027)

 Saturday, July 24, 2021


50 years ago, on Friday 23rd July 1971, the Victoria line finally extended to Brixton. Trains had been operating as far as Victoria since March 1969 but plans for an extension were only granted in 1965 so construction south of the river took a while to catch up. Pimlico station still wasn't open, which means I still have to come back and blog that next September, but in the meantime let's tick off the end of the line.


Opened: 23 July 1971
Interchange with: Commuter services to Bromley and Orpington, not that you probably would because those trains have come from Victoria anyway, and they're not very frequent, and the station's a fair walk away on a viaduct, and my word the Victoria line was a step up for this part of town.
Originally opened: 25 August 1862
Why did the line terminate here? Various early plans considered sending the Victoria line to Wimbledon, Morden or more likely Croydon, but financial constraints halted it much closer to central London. The GLC had concurrent plans to drive an urban motorway through Brixton town centre, in which case this could have been a convenient park and ride dropoff, but thankfully only the tube line got built.

Who opened the extension? Not the Queen because she'd officially opened the line down to Victoria. Instead Princess Alexandra got the job and turned up at Brixton at 11.15am in a jaunty hat. She performed the official ceremony at the foot of the main stairs, then pressed a button to start the escalators, then inspected the ticket office, then glided serenely downwards for a further ceremony in the driver's cab... where she pressed another button to start the first journey north. This terminated at Pimlico where further presentations took place, and then the royal party stepped into the rear carriage of a second train which took them back to Brixton. Here the princess inspected the station operations room, unveiled a commemorative plaque and headed off for lunch at Lambeth Town Hall. London Transport staff were instead treated to luncheon boxes delivered from the depot aboard an empty train. The extension was opened to public service at 3pm. (contemporary typewritten report)

Tile pattern: A visual pun... it's a ton of bricks, by Hans Unger.
Five things I saw outside: 1) The largest roundel on the Underground, emblazoned across the glass above the station entrance. 2) A woman attempting to hand out Bible tracts. 3) Blue tape sealing off the site of a stabbing the previous evening. 4) Lots of police officers. 5) A distinct absence of weedpushers (because of 4).
Above the steps down: The 'Brixton Header Wall' is regularly used for enormous art commissions. The current painting is Things Held Fast by Helen Johnson and depicts a group of figures at work in a community garden, with underlying echoes of local protest movements and the Mutiny on The Bounty, because art.
Ticket hall: A large grey space to trudge through, with an operations room in one corner and a rather nice tropical plant potted alongside. The 'Ticket Shop' doesn't sell tickets but does stock Private Eye and chewing gum (left), The Spectator and chocolate bars (centre), Black Beauty and mints (right) and the Beano (lowest shelf).
Descent: Unless you're taking the lift, the way down is via a bank of three escalators. These can be thronged... pre-pandemic Brixton was the tube's 20th busiest station.
Station layout: 3D diagram here.

Lower concourse: This being the end of the line, all an arriving passenger really needs to know is "Left-hand or right-hand platform?" A lightbox used to indicate this by means of an illuminated arrow, but that's been switched off in favour of a smaller generic modern display. This lists the next five departing trains (usually five Walthamstow Centrals), and how long until they leave, and from which platform, and a tiny harder-to-see arrow, and someone must've thought this information overload was a genuine improvement.
Platforms: This being the end of the line both platforms are equally used, and pretty much identical. Normally only one end is busy because regular travellers know to arrive near the front of the train for a quick exit. At the far end, directly under the station entrance, is the room where drivers hide away while waiting their turn to hop into the cab at the back of an arriving train. This speeds up turnaround times. Passengers don't normally see the far walls because a stationary train blocks line of sight, so what would have been a row of adverts is instead a gallery of empty grey tiled rectangles.

Special roundels: One per platform saying GOING OUT OUT instead of BRIXTON, as part of the Mayor's #LetsDoLondon campaign.
Factnugget: The tunnels continue to the southeast, not because of a potential extension but just far enough to leave space to stable two trains overnight ready for morning service.
All the photos: Eight, here.

Full trip along the line: Walthamstow → Highbury & Islington → Warren Street → Victoria → Brixton
(and a gallery of 118 photos here)

 Friday, July 23, 2021


50 years ago today, on Friday 23rd July 1971, the final section of the Victoria line slipped into service. The first section from Walthamstow Central to Highbury & Islington had opened in September 1968, extending to Warren Street in December and Victoria in March 1969. But it took two more years to finally reach the southern terminus at Brixton, and even then Pimlico got skipped because it wasn't ready yet.

So today I'm continuing my journey down the line, station by station, to see how this cutting-edge forward-thinking initiative is looking fifty years on. If nothing else, it'll be a useful reminder that major transport projects delivered way behind schedule are nothing new, and generally come good in the end.


Opened: 23 July 1971
Originally opened: 11 July 1848
Previously known as: Vauxhall Bridge Station (until 1868)
Interchange with: South Western Railway trains to Clapham Junction and beyond, including Windsor, Weybridge and Woking. Eight platforms are available to whisk you away, atop a viaduct entirely separate from the tube station.

Tile pattern: Every Victoria line station has its own bespoke mural in the alcoves on the platforms above the benches. Vauxhall's design is a representation of Vauxhall Gardens (London's first and most significant Pleasure Gardens, where Georgian society enjoyed arboreal promenades, outdoor culture and later a tad of debauchery) and was designed by George Smith.
Entrances: The main entrance is at the tip of the iconic forked bus station beneath the information window. Four other subways feed in, including one outside the National Rail station and another on the approach to Vauxhall Bridge. The ramp down from Wandsworth Road has two rather nice enamel nameplates embedded in the brickwork.
Architecture: Nothing above ground... the 2004-vintage bus station is doing all the heavy lifting.
Nearby development: Riverside Vauxhall shot upwards early courtesy of Saint George Wharf, and continues to suffer from a virulent plague of residential skyscrapers of assorted giddying heights, mostly to the southwest. The latest masterplan is to replace the bus station and associated triangle of waste ground with a Zaha Hadid concoction called Vauxhall Cross Island, bookended by a 42 storey tower beside the station and a 53 storey tower to the south, and to remove the gyratory, and to make the bus station less focused, and basically to squeeze every last commercial dollar out of a vastly under-realised site.

Nearest station: Is Pimlico. Will be Nine Elms, a ten minute walk down the road.
Station layout: 3D diagram here.
Ticket hall: Efficient rather than appealing. A grey-tiled concourse for funnelling down and funnelling up, plus a gaggle of barrier staff, plus a little shop for the purchase of travel comestibles. I would have taken a photo but it was swarming with transport police yesterday morning so this seemed unwise.
Lower concourse: At the foot of the escalators are two colourful mostly-blue panels called Design Work Leisure, designed by Giles Round in 2017. The passageway beyond looks a lot more 1970s, and bends a bit. Veer right for Brixton and left for central London.

Platforms: Even though these were built two years after those further up the line they look very familiar. Grey tiles with recessed benches, again, joined by interconnecting passageways should you suddenly want to switch between northbound and southbound. Some hoops of the roof covering are currently missing. The northbound platform has a pride roundel and a trans roundel. Trains arrive with impressive regularity.
Step-free access: A lift from the ticket hall to the platforms opened in 2016, emerging into a crosspassage that's much wider than anyone would have bothered to build in the 1970s. Inconveniently it's at the end of the platform but the raised hump with level access to the trains is in the centre.
Factnugget: The clock at the end of the northbound platform is working but the southbound clock is stuck at 7.24.
Some photos: Eight, here.


Opened: 23 July 1971
Originally opened: 4 November 1890
Originally terminus of: The City and South London Railway, London's first deep-level tube.
Interchange with: Northern line, at south London's most useful tube switchover.

Tile pattern: This is the one everybody likes once they've worked out (or been told) what it is. Abram Games' blue and white zigzag conceals a swan with an orange beak, in honour of The Swan public house opposite the station. There's been a Swan on this street corner for at least 400 years, and for the last 40 it's been a full-on Irish venue with late-night craic (even music pumping out on a Friday morning, to be sure).
Also nearby: a) One of eight deep-level air-raid shelters, brightly-painted (since 1942). b) The inimitable Stockwell bus garage (since 1952). c) A British Transport Police Station (since 1987).
Immediately outside: A memorial to Jean Charles de Menezes, shot by an undercover police officer on a Northern line train after being mistaken for a terrorist during an appallingly-bungled operation during the heady days of July 2005.

Architecture: Undistinguished mid 20th century brick box.
Nearby development: Mostly resistant so far.
Station layout: 3D diagram here.
Ticket hall: A bit like Vauxhall but at ground level so brighter, and part-blocked by two big pillars. Retail opportunities include a Costa, a keycutting/watchrepair hideaway and good old reliable Station News, which still sells newspapers.
Station layout: A bit complex, as befits a Northern/Victoria hybrid. From the ticket hall you take the left hand escalator to the northbound platforms and the right hand staircase to the southbound platforms (though there is an escalator back up again). A separate subterranean trek connects the two. To optimise interchange the new platforms were added alongside the old, with short interconnecting passageways southbound and a bigger intermediate concourse northbound. The downside of the arrangement is that the Victoria line had to follow an indirect S-shaped route between Vauxhall to Brixton to align properly at Stockwell, lengthening journeys.
Uniformity: The Northern line platforms were also given a grey-tiled Victoria-style makeover in 1971, but without the recessed tiled benches.

Special instructions: Those heading for the northbound Victoria line pass several signs saying 'Please pass along the platform'. This is despite most passengers one stop up the line at Brixton also boarding at the rear of the train, leaving more seats at the front. The message is somewhat rammed home, however, using extra big text on the new posters in the concourse and with the final exhortation just three adverts from the far end of the platform.
Factnugget: Until 1923 the Northern line had a single island platform, slightly to the north, accessed down a staircase where Costa Coffee is now.
Some photos: Ten, here.

Full trip along the line: Walthamstow → Highbury & Islington → Warren Street → Victoria → Brixton (finishing off tomorrow)
(and a gallery of 110 photos here)

 Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Hundred is cricket's newest competition, a bold and innovative attempt to attract people to the game who aren't currently fans. That's very much me, having had to sit stupefied through many a test match in my childhood, so I wondered if the new dynamic format might win me round.

What makes The Hundred special is that it features men and women equally (but ah, in separate matches). What makes The Hundred special is that teams only face 100 balls (so it doesn't drag on interminably like a typical match). What makes The Hundred special is that bowlers can change after five balls rather than six (because 100 wouldn't be divisible otherwise). What makes The Hundred special is that the teams have been picked from a pool of diverse global players (but more a secret tombola than rigorous selection). And what makes The Hundred especially special is that there are eight brand new teams (but with no backstory, desperate branding and a crisp logo on their shirts).

The eight teams
» Birmingham Phoenix @Edgbaston (Butterkist)
» London Spirit @Lord's (Tyrells)
» Manchester Originals @OldTrafford (McCoy's)
» Northern Superchargers @Headingley (Popchips)
» Oval Invincibles @The Oval (KP)
» Southern Brave @Southampton (Pom-Bear)
» Trent Rockets @TrentBridge (Skips)
» Welsh Fire @SophiaGardens (Hula Hoops)

The teams are geographically spread, so I think the idea is that you support your local one. Londoners have two to choose from, one north of the river and one south, although I live nearer the wrong one so I'm conflicted. You could also pick the team with the best name, or perhaps the least worst name because these are ghastly contrivances. When Rugby League did similar at least they picked fierce creatures, whereas these choices are more like personal qualities you might find on an appraisal form.

The crisps though, the crisps are cringeworthy. I know cricket needs sponsors, and at least they're not the usual betting companies, but how embarrassing must it be to walk out with Butterkist on your chest? Juxtapose it with the team name and it looks even worse - Hula Hoops fire, Skips rocket and Pom-Bears brave. Mainly this is because the target audience for The Hundred is families with hungry kids, not app-enabled gamblers, but still seriously sheesh.

I thought I'd watch the opening match, KP versus McCoy's, as cricket made a triumphant return to free-to-air telly.

6.00 The BBC's theme tune is an urban rap, because Soul Limbo is for old-timers.
6.03 What I've gathered from Greg James' intro is that "it's like cricket, but shorter"
6.05 There's been a very big emphasis on the opening match being women's cricket, not men's.
6.10 The Originals win the toss, and I've already forgotten if they're the London team or not.
6.16 The Oval does not look at all full, but let's say that's due to social distancing.
6.21 The crowd is semi-diverse - maybe a bit Clapham - with a lot of young children.
6.29 I missed the firework display because I was off chopping a carrot.

6.30 The first ball is a wide, which may not be a good omen.
6.32 The third and fourth balls are mishandled near-boundaries.
6.34 Ball 7 is a wicket after some technical appeal jiggerypokery.
6.38 At the end of the first 'ten' we get a close up on Abi the DJ.
6.45 Mild confusion because it's no free hit, or something.
6.52 The lime green/magenta colour scheme reminds me of the 2012 Olympics.
6.48 We've had a lot of 'duckballs' so far, apparently.
7.02 I have switched over to The Archers, which is not a good sign.
7.16 I've missed two wickets (although I'm not sure what the point of wickets is).
7.30 There's just been a Timeout for team talk, and the flow of the game has been lost.
7.36 10 BALLS LEFT... because this has to be a thing now.
7.42 Spotted a man in the crowd in an official £50 Hula Hoops shirt.
7.43 So the first half is just a run chase with no tension (but that's cricket for you).

7.44 This is also being shown on Sky, so BBC2 has to pad out the bit where the adverts go.
7.48 Becky Hill sings her latest single. I don't think Johnners would have approved.
7.52 Being the very first match, nobody knows if 135 is a good score or not.

7.55 The on-screen graphics have changed to "runs needed" and "balls left".
8.00 I'm quite tempted to switch to The Repair Shop, even if that's slower.
8.01 After three balls we've had two wickets, so that's all the thrills.
8.08 The graphics show a "Win Predictor", not the run rate needed.
8.19 The cameras cut to a section of the crowd staring at their phones.
8.20 South London is looking pretty tonight though.
8.30 A football match would have finished by now. Still 50 balls left.
8.34 The chief sponsor has their name written twelve times on each wicket.
8.38 The latest boundary is celebrated with a blast of dance music from the pavilion.
8.45 A fumbled catch and a failed run out have awakened the crowd.
8.49 London need 35 runs from 20 balls, so the Win Predictor's up from 7% to 35%.
8.56 It's taken 2½ hours, and targets closing, to finally install a bit of tension.
9.01 A six at just the right moment means eight runs are needed off eight balls.
9.05 Just as the sun sets on the Oval, the home team wins with two balls to spare.

9.06 The crowd erupts, the music gets louder and the teams wander off to the tunnel.
9.09 Still 20 minutes to fill with post-match analysis... "What a game it's been".
9.25 It's been refreshing to see women's cricket treated with equal respect to men's.
9.28 But enough now, I did not want to relive the last 150 minutes all over again.

So it's not for me. Despite the brouhaha and pizazz it's just artificial cricket between artificial teams playing to artificial rules, and with an excessive emphasis on totals rather than wickets. My problem is that I don't have sport empathy, the ability to pick a side, engage and urge them on, so I don't care who wins. But I suspect a lot of new fans will, given the hype and the theatre, and expect purveyors of maize-, potato-, and corn-based snacks to do well out of it too.

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old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards