As a reader of this blog there's a good chance you enjoy counting things. You might even have a spreadsheet somewhere to help you. I have a few including one called Countz, one called Outgoings, one called Travelcard and one called Blogstats. And because it's New Year's Eve I can now tot up all sorts of things that happened this year, as perhaps can you, to bring you my definitive Counts of 2021.
When it comes to where I've been, I counted how many days I've set foot in various administrative areas. Here are my top 5 London boroughs...
361: Tower Hamlets 244: Newham 178: Hackney 112: Waltham Forest 57: City of London
....which is basically the Olympic Park plus the City of London. Only four days this year have I spent entirely away from home. On average I've been to Newham two days out of three, Hackney every other day, Waltham Forest twice a week and the City once a week. But over half of London's boroughs appear on the following list, which is shamefully poor.
Twice: Havering, Lewisham, Wandsworth Once: Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow, Kensington and Chelsea Never: Barnet, Croydon, Harrow, Hillingdon, Kingston, Merton, Richmond, Sutton
Even though I pumped out over 400 posts this year, I'm sort-of-hoping you didn't realise quite how geographically restricted they were.
As for counties outside London, this year's tally is thin gruel.
Nine days: Norfolk Twice: Essex, Lincs Once: Cambs, E Sussex, Northants, Rutland, Notts, N Yorks Never: everywhere else
Worse, three of those were for less than an hour on a day trip to Stamford, and one of the Essexes was only half an hour too. Thankfully two trips to stay with my Dad in Norfolk upped the numbers slightly. I'm mildly astonished that I've been to Lincolnshire more often than Ealing this year, and to Rutland more often than Croydon.
I've also been counting how I travelled, specifically how many TfL journeys I took and the average number of miles walked each day. Let me show you this data for 2020 and for 2021.
It's easy to see how I've switched from riding to walking during the pandemic. I used to make over 100 TfL journeys a month - nipping on buses, tubes and trains here, there and everywhere - but since March 2020 I've never topped 10 rides a month. Shockingly I made 41 TfL journeys in the month we locked down but still haven't made that many during the 21 months since.
As for walking, back in normal times I used to walk about 4-6 miles a day and now it's more like 8-12. I've discovered I can get a long way in four hours, there and back, be that to Elephant & Castle, Islington, Wanstead or Gallions Wharf. April and December have been my walkiest months - I've averaged 12 miles a day - whereas June's total was held back by having to stay in for builders to do their stuff.
As things stand this morning my iPhone tells me that I've walked a total of 3638 miles this year. This is roughly the distance from here to Washington DC. The numerate amongst you may have spotted that 3638 is very close to 3650 which would make an average of exactly ten miles a day, and I am absolutely intent on hitting that total by the end of the day. It'd be a phenomenal achievement to average ten miles walking every day for a year, indeed I doubt I'll ever manage it again, so here's a box for me to tick later today when I finally attain that goal.
In related counting, my weight is still the same as it was this time last year, and a stone less than New Year's Eve 2019. You can't beat a lot of long walks.
Also, because I keep a tally of what I spend, I can tell you the cost of all my travel this year, which was £224. In a more typical year, say 2019, my travelling total was £2498 so that's a massive drop. I also know which transport operators got my money, at least notionally speaking.
What I've been spending my money on instead is rent, bills and replacement items. Altogether those three categories accounted for 94% of my spending this year. Food and drink and travel fit into the remaining 6%, as do all the nice-to-have non-essential items I've treated myself to during 2021. My most expensive luxury purchase was a ten quid bread bin. I'm sure you keep tabs on your finances to a similar degree.
Please allow me to slip in my usual analysis of Archers episodes. These are the five characters to have made the most appearances in Ambridge this year.
Other things I've been counting this year include...
Number of photos taken: 20,100 (↑2300) Number of photos uploaded to Flickr: 630 (↑150) Number of visitors to the blog: 857,000 (↓4000) Number of comments on the blog: 10,900 (↓1300) Number of bottles of Beck's drunk: 11 Number of Creme Eggs consumed: 10
If you've been counting something interesting this year do share it with the rest of us. And if not then do consider starting to count something in 2022 because I'm likely to ask you again next year.
n.b. Proper counts only, thanks. If your count is zero or one then you're not a proper counter, more a raconteur.
Wed 1: There were only 10 other people on Hackney Marshes, but between them they had at least 40 dogs. Thu 2: A man with a Yorkshire accent stopped me by Bus Stop M and asked "Excuse me mate, is that Bow Bells church?" and I had to disappoint him by saying no. It's an easy mistake to make given there's a Bow Bells pub down the road. My response seemed to satisfy him and off he went, alas before I could add that there's a direct bus from here to the real one. Fri 3: A poster outside London Fields station alerts passengers that a new timetable begins on Sunday 12th December, but then says "There are no changes to train times". I downloaded it to check and they're right, the only difference is the date at the bottom of every page.
Sat 4: I've not been in the West End on a Saturday evening for aaaaages and blimey the streets were busy. I'm told the woman who sat behind me in Pizza Express was really famous but I spent two hours looking the other way so have no idea who she was. Sun 5:Doctor Who: Flux was fun but dense and complex but over-threaded and enthralling but inconsequential, plus I kept saying to myself "but the Williamson Tunnels don't look like that". I hope next year's three specials wrap up Jodie's arc satisfactorily. Mon 6: On Lea Bridge Road I saw a very large dog on a lead walking the other way so stepped into the cycle lane to avoid it, but it jumped up at me anyway and I did not enjoy the experience. Its owner did look a bit sheepish afterwards, but that was too late mate. Tue 7: This year's double issue Christmas Radio Times is out (and purchased). It costs 25p more than last year and £3.60 more than 20 years ago. I can do you a graph of that...
Wed 8: It's fascinating watching the government implode, or at least the PM unable to explain away a party that never happened, or at least the wider public waking up to the fact he's a slippery liar, and today's leaked video/PMQs/press conference combo might prove to be a turning point. Thu 9: My two iPlayer recommendations this month are Winter Walks and Walking with..., in which celebrities take a stroll through gorgeous landscapes while filming themselves with a 360° camera (but not Take A Hike, which is just Come Dine With Me with scenery). Fri 10: I stupidly assumed it would be easy to buy a woolly hat in Stratford, given it has two large shopping centres, but it took five attempts before the friend who needed one finally tracked down a decent purchase, and only then were we allowed to start our windswept walk. I did not wear a hat throughout. Sat 11: Hawksmoor have opened a double decker floating pavilion at Wood Wharf with a restaurant on the top floor and a bar underneath. They claim it has the glamour of a high-end ocean liner, but from the outside it looks like an island prison with sunloungers.
Sun 12: In the Olympic Park the first daffodil of the season has opened. It's very much in line with first daffodils in 2018 and 2019 but a couple of weeks later than 2020. It does look very lonely though. Mon 13: In Spitalfields I saw historian and campaigner Dan Cruickshank walk up to a front door, unlock it and step inside. I'm pleased to report he lives in a pitch perfect period property in a pitch perfect period street. Tue 14: While I was picking my Christmas cards in WH Smiths, a man walked over and asked the assistant "Do you have any Christian Christmas cards?" She pointed out a box with a manger design in the centre of the display. "Shame I can't use the 3 for 2 offer," he said. She pointed out two further boxes on a lower shelf. I couldn't decide whether he was whingeing snidely to an Asian employee (who got the better of him) or just short-sighted. Wed 15: "Can you come over for dinner tonight rather than tomorrow?" said BestMate with four hours' notice, and somehow I still managed to churn out 1000 words of blogging reportage before walking over and knocking a glass of red wine across his sofa. Thu 16: It may just be a London thing at present, but it does feel like an inordinately high number of friends/acquaintances are testing positive this week. Fri 17: Today the Abba Arena by Pudding Mill Lane station is getting its ABBA added to the front.
Sat 18: The big prize Christmas crossword is really early this year, and although I've pencilled in two dozen clues I still have no idea what the theme is. [Don't worry, it'll all fall into place on Christmas Eve - tick] Sun 19: The rainbow waistcoat that's been in the shopwindow at Alberts gentlemen's outfitters in Whitechapel for the last two years has finally disappeared, so I guess someone with a lurid dress sense finally stumped up £19.99. However the Millennium NYE braces remain unsold for £9.99. Mon 20: I still haven't decided whether to go to Norfolk for Christmas or whether that would be too risky for those concerned, and the government aren't helping by not deciding anything one way or the other. Tue 21: City Hall (by Tower Bridge) looks rattlingly empty now it's been vacated. Meanwhile the new City Hall (by the Royal Docks) clearly isn't ready yet. The How To Find City Hall page on the Mayoral website is currently an unhelpful mishmash of the two locations. Wed 22: In Plaistow I crossed a quiet street immediately in front of a small independent bakery, outside which was a small stall of handmade gift-wrapped candy cane hearts overseen by two young children. They looked incredibly excited when they thought I was coming over to buy one, and incredibly downhearted as soon as they worked out I wasn't. I fear they had no chance of selling out.
Thu 23: The six houses at Mulberry School Shoreditch have great names, but simultaneously the most vacuously random set of buzzword house mottos I have ever seen. Fri 24: I managed to get a 7 point question correct in the PopMaster Champions League Final, but would otherwise have been soundly thrashed (indeed long before getting anywhere near this stage). Sat 25: On my Christmas Day walkabout I passed through Spitalfields, the Barbican, Smithfield, Lincoln's Inn Fields, Soho, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden. It wasn't as quiet as last year, nor alas as dry, but the experience was just as memorable. I then managed to get home in time to put the turkey joint in the oven and have dinner ready for the Queen, before following that up with a Christmas pudding 9 years past its Best Before date. I missed out on laughter, presents and pigs in blankets, but on the positive side I did have the box of Black Magic all to myself. Sun 26: These Egyptian geese kindly posed on a wall with a misty Millennium Dome behind them, and that turned out to be my Instagram photo of the year.
Mon 27: While compiling my annual 'blog index' I discovered I've accidentally written the same rail-related post twice this year. It was a bit more detailed the second time around, thankfully, but none of you noticed either. Tue 28: I opened a bag of peanuts three days ago and I am seriously impressed that I haven't finished them yet. Wed 29: A highlight this morning has been trying to direct a delivery driver with a washing machine, a sat nav and no geographical understanding to the front gate of a block of flats I haven't lived in for 22 years. Thu 30: I'm enjoying Wordle, a daily guess-the-5-letter-word game which is a bit like Mastermind but with letters. So far I've got every word right in four guesses... (OK, both words right in four guesses). Fri 31: If you thought 19 years of daily blogging was obsessive, tonight I'm filling in the last page of my 2021 diary which means I've now completed 45 uninterrupted volumes, and that is an achievement worth raising a glass to.
Board game quiz
Here are clues to the names of 30 board games. (n.b. they don't all have boards)
How many can you name?
definition 1) tornado 2) breezes 3) eloquent 4) statecraft 5) Myrie's quiz 6) green signal 7) petty chase 8) pizza delivery 9) reptiles & rungs 10) deck versus mankind
anagram 11) irks 12) raise toil 13) huge sows 14) rainy topic 15) off mileage 16) map routes 17) for naturist 18) spittle bash 19) dastardly con 20) stolen artefacts
cryptic 21) mah 22) F+O+U+R 23) toilet smashes limb 24) joe and gray, oddly 25) some branches sag 26) South Central riffraff 27) always in muscle pain 28) not a stereo university 29) historical period in choice 30) board game minus C and E
It's that time again when media services pad out their sites with recycled content masquerading as a review of the year, and this blog is no different. That said I've only blogged about one of these bus journeys before so that's a bonus, plus I'll do you a non-bus quiz this afternoon to diversify a bit.
1)456 Crews Hill → North Middlesex Hospital (10 miles; June)
I waited three months to ride London's newest bus route because non-essential journeys were frowned upon when the 456 came into being in March. It was actually an extension of the undertimetabled W10 which was boosted across Enfield to better connect residents to the North Middlesex Hospital and might be one of the last nice-to-have bus services that cash-strapped TfL ever launches. What I did in June was walk the 10 mile route in one direction, taking photos of half-hourly buses for blogging purposes, then ride the bus all the way back again. If I'm honest I enjoyed the walk more than the bus ride because it meant exploring a swathe of suburbia, uncovering the cemetery gates used in ITV sitcom On The Buses and reacquainting myself with the Turkey Brook. But it was good to be riding a route end-to-end again and viewing unfamiliar territory from my wheel-arch perch, accompanied by a dozen other passengers who'd add colour to the reportage. Highlights included revisiting Crews Hill's garden centres, discovering how Edmonton in Canada got its name and waiting needlessly at a bus stop to even out the gaps in the service. I have my doubts that anyone's gone back and installed proper bus stops with proper timetables along the new sections, because if they hadn't after three months why should they after nine, but that was a very pleasant summer jaunt.
2)347 Upminster → North Ockendon (5 miles; June)
When reacquainting yourself with public transport after a prolonged break, what better than riding the less busy end of London's least frequent bus route, the notoriously liminal 347. I picked it up outside Upminster station, remembered how to tap my Oyster card and joined five masked pensioners on a ride down the High Street. Before long we were whipping shoppers along St Mary's Lane and out into the rural outposts only the 347 serves... including two pubs, a golf course and the odd row of cottages. The driver sped up once we'd crossed the M25 and even more so once he'd dropped off the last other passenger in the anomalous village of North Ockendon. We weaved between hedges and lacklustre fields, which nevertheless delighted me because I hadn't seen any for a while, and slipped quietly over the Greater London boundary into Thurrock. I think the driver was surprised to have anyone aboard for the last spin down to Ockendon station, which is only where the bus terminates because there isn't anywhere for it to turn back any earlier. It would have been much quicker to take the train but also £1.25 dearer than my tube/bus split and probably less fun. I then set off on a summertime safari to visit Havering's five public footpath level crossings, but I told you all about that in June so at least recounting the bus journey has been a bonus.
3)rail replacement bus Bow Road → Barking (8 miles; May, Jul, Aug, Oct)
The first bus I caught after a 63 week hiatus was a rail replacement freebie during bank holiday District line engineering works. First thing in the morning'll be fine, I thought, hardly anyone'll be wanting to travel, but I still skipped the first bus east and waved down the second. I grabbed the prized front seat on the top deck and finally saw my home street from above again, plus several other major roads that'd grown familiar from endless walking. Following the District line by road is very difficult so after Bromley-by-Bow the next stop was way down south at Canning Town where our driver departed sooner than he should and barely picked up anyone. The best part of the ride was zooming along the A13, very much not in the inside lane, before finally turning off into the centre of Barking. I used this rail replacement bus in May as a springboard to explore Barking Riverside, then returned three more times to assist me in blogging about a) Roding crossings, b) Loxford, c) the ULEZ extension. Sometimes a rail replacement bus is more fun than taking the train - not often, but sometimes.
4)205 King's Cross → Bow Church (6 miles; Sep)
At the end of September, after an Inter City day out ticking off Newark and Grantham, I decided to get the bus home from King's Cross rather than the tube. It'd been a while since I'd seen central London after dark, plus it was half the fare, plus the 205 only ever gets emptier as it heads east. I knew it'd be a lot slower than the tube given the interminable number of traffic lights along the way and so it proved. It also took a while for me to nudge up to the front seat where the view improved immeasurably, if what you enjoy is headlights, endless rows of shops and people massing for takeaways.
...and there isn't a fifth favourite bus route because I've only ridden four all year. I rather hoped you hadn't noticed. I caught seven buses because I rode the rail replacement four times but that is still a phenomenally miserable total for someone who used to ride way more than seven in a week. Most of the reason is the pandemic, but it's also that I've discovered quite how far I can walk across London during the last year and hopping unnecessarily on a bus seems a waste. Also I used to have a magic plastic card in my pocket which allowed me to catch a bus for free, admittedly after a whopping downpayment, and now I don't. Instead I spent less than a fiver on bus journeys during 2021, which is not something I'm proud of nor something I ever thought would happen. Here's hoping for a less egregious 2022, especially if you're one of TfL's increasingly desperate accountants.
But how did the weather forecast do at predicting what the Christmas Day weather would be? I've been checking the BBC's online weather forecast for London every day for the last two weeks to see how good a 14-day forecast actually is. And it's not.
Saturday 25th December first appeared at the end of the forecast ribbon back on Sunday 12th. The forecast was overcast and dry with a maximum of 6°C and a minimum of 3°C (which was much the same as the forecast was predicting for every day in the week before Christmas). No hint of sunshine, which proved correct, but colder and drier than it would turn out to be.
Predicted temperatures remained similarly cold over the next four forecasts. The first hint of a Christmas Day raindrop came on Wednesday 15th, i.e. with 10 days to go. The first incorrect dabble with sunshine came on Saturday 18th, one week in advance, but fairly soon faded away. The forecast shifted significantly on Monday 20th with a leap in temperature suggesting a mild Christmas. The meteorological model that powers the calculations had come to a new conclusion regarding the advance of a tropical air mass and the location of a cold front, but that turned out to be too optimistic.
It was only on Wednesday 22nd that the forecast finally settled down around the correct values. It was still too overconfident about the amount of rain but got that right the next day, and was absolutely spot on by Christmas Eve.
Christmas Day's light rainfall turned out to be particularly difficult to predict because it was sandwiched between a very wet Christmas Eve evening and a very wet Boxing Day morning. The long-term meteorological model didn't have a chance of getting that right with a week to go, let alone two, and instead just churned out a suggestion of best guess average conditions that turned out to be off-whack. Britain's weather is all about battling air masses and not even supercomputers can reliably determine the outcome several days in advance.
I don't know why the BBC's meteorological service insists on putting out a 14 day forecast when it's invariably incorrect. Their previous provider, the Met Office, only risks 7 and even that's usually wrong to start with. It's all too easy to place far more faith in these figures than they deserve, forgetting that two weeks out they're much more fiction than science.
This Christmas it turned out the Christmas Day forecast wasn't worth checking until the big day was three days away. A maximum of 9°C, a minimum of 3°C, a smattering of drizzle and a total lack of sun. Which, incidentally, is the same weather they're predicting for two weeks' time so best ignore that too.
the dg weather review of the year
I normally do this with big colourful monthly tables but that's too much effort for too little reward so here's a breezier summary. All data is for Hampstead, as per usual.
one v chilly week
3 snowy days
ended very mild
1st half hot
one heatwave week
one cold week
Apparently the sun's only come out for two hours at Hampstead during the last three weeks, and not at all for the last 17 days. But then it's not been a vintage year sunshinewise with only April managing more blue skies than average. Roll on 2022, or whenever the big yellow globe deigns to return.
• new restrictions if travelling from UK to Germany
• footfall in UK high streets decreases
• photo of No. 10 garden 'work meeting' emerges
• hospital admissions could reach 3000 a day (SAGE)
• Cabinet decides not to impose further restrictions
• "we won't hesitate to take further action" (PM)
• £1bn from Chancellor to support hospitality/culture
• "event cancelled better than a life cancelled" (WHO)
• "go ahead with your Christmas plans" (PM)
• self-isolation cut from 10 days to 7
• Wales to introduce tighter indoor restrictions
• omicron 30-70% milder than previous variants
• ...and 50-70% less likely to need hospital care
• NHS absenteeism up 50% since last week
• "half of colds could be Covid"
• mask compulsory outdoors again in Italy & Spain
• "glimmer of Christmas hope on omicron" (Dr Harries)
• record number of daily cases, again
• South Africa shifts from containment to mitigation
• Christmas Day - guidance trumps regulations
Worldwide deaths: 5,350,000 → 5,400,000 Worldwide cases: 274,000,000 → 279,000,000 UK deaths: 147,143 → 147,857 UK cases: 11,279,428 → 12,004,920 1st/2nd/3rd vaccinations: 51.6m/47.3m/32.3m FTSE: up 1% (7269 → 7372)
The Cabinet Office has just revealed the 39 places which have applied for city status as part of the 2022 Platinum Jubilee Civic Honours Competition. It's not known how many will becomecities because that's never specified, but normally no more than one per home nation is awarded the honour. The decision will made by government ministers (advised for the first time by an expert panel). Expect an announcement in advance of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations next summer.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said:
"Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee is an exciting chance for local areas to become cities and level up opportunities for all. As well as fostering local pride and potential, this competition is a great way to mark Her Majesty’s 70 year reign."
I've taken the longlist of 39 and shuffled it into geographical categories (and also added approximate populations to give some idea of scale).
South East England
South West England
Colchester, Essex (140,000)
Crawley, West Sussex (110,000)
Guildford, Surrey (80,000)
Medway, Kent (280,000)
Milton Keynes, Bucks (230,000)
Reading, Berks (160,000)
All the towns in the southeast column are strong contenders, being both large and locally important. Surrey, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire are the most populous English counties that don't yet contain a city. Medway is hoping to right an administrative bungle which saw Rochester lose city status when it was upgraded to a unitary borough in 1998.
Bournemouth is part of the largest English urban area not to be a city (although the bid is only on behalf the town itself so does not include Poole and Christchurch). The other bidders in the southwest column are quite frankly having a laugh. Newport on the Isle of Wight points to Carisbrooke Castle to support its futile bid. Marazion is a lovely but insignificant town adjacent to St Michael's Mount and is one of several bids to have been organised by a delusional councillor.
Alas southern towns don't stand much of a chance because a) the last two English towns to gain city status were both in Essex b) the award is in the control of ministers keen to promote a levelling-up agenda. Medway might just get a reprieve (as a bonus extra) if someone's feeling charitable, but don't expect any of these ten to be successful.
Blackburn, Lancs (120,000)
Crewe, Cheshire (75,000)
Doncaster, S Yorks (110,000)
Goole, E Yorks (20,000)
Middlesbrough, N Yorks (140,000)
Warrington, Cheshire (160,000)
The successful English town will almost certainly be one of these twelve, and quite likely from the last election's 'red wall'. Dudley is the largest of all the contenders, but neighbouring Wolverhampton got the nod in 2000 so it's probably too soon. This is the fifth time Northampton's had a go, and were it successful it'd plug a large cityless gap in the East Midlands.
Warrington's had two previous attempts and Doncaster's had three. Bolsover and Goole are just trying to be noticed. Crewe has ideas above its station. Blackburn is the largest English cathedral town never to have been a city. It first tried and failed in 1972, and is right to keep on trying. Middlesbrough is the other prime English contender for city status because its elevation would tick several political boxes so is my top tip as a jubilee winner.
St Andrews (17,000)
South Ayrshire (110,000)
It's harder to pick a Scottish winner given that all the most likely candidates have already been awarded city status. Livingston is the largest of the eight (Paisley and East Kilbride are larger, but they aren't bidding). St Andrews' royal connections might serve it well. Thus far no town south of the central belt has become a city which should be good news for Dumfries, although probably not for Ayr (which is embedded in a bid for South Ayrshire). If outlying Oban wins the title all bets are off.
Wrexham is the only Welsh town to put in a bid so should win city status by default. It lost out to lowly St Asaph (population 3300) in the 2012 contest, which just goes to show how unpredictable the awarding of city status is. It just has to hope the government doesn't decide to give Wales a rest this jubilee round.
Northern Ireland earned two new cities in 2002 and none in 2012 so should be up for another. Bangor is the largest of the three (and would join Bangor in North Wales were it successful). Coleraine is the only one with a university campus and would be the furthest from an existing city. None of the three has a cathedral.
Two towns on the Isle of Man have put in a bid, and not even the largest two. The Channel Islands decided to give it a miss. Douglas might therefore have been in with a chance were it not for the second column.
The City of Gibraltar is just the kind of honour I can imagine this government bestowing. George Town might be a better bet, given the offshore contribution the Cayman Islands make to many a politician's back pocket, plus it's the most populous settlement in the British Overseas Territories. Patriotic logic however suggests that Stanley in the Falklands might have the best chance, given how much it would delight some voters and antagonise others.
Ministers have a few months to sit on the decision before launching the good news into the Platinum Jubilee celebrations. But my money's on Middlesbrough and Wrexham, and maybe St Andrews and Bangor, and quite possibly the City of Gibraltar to crown the lot.
Jubilee update: the lucky eight (eight!) Jubilee cities are Colchester, Milton Keynes, Doncaster, Dunfermline, Bangor, Wrexham, Stanley and Douglas. I've coloured them red in the tables above.
There is alas just time for a final B Road before Christmas. It joins Hackney to Hackney Wick and 200 years ago would first have followed a country lane, then a babbling brook. The lane's still recognisable but the brook is long gone and its meadows despoiled... by precisely what, we're about to find out.
The B113 starts in the heart of Hackney on Mare Street, quite near the Town Hall and almost opposite the Hackney Empire. It bears off between Foxtons and the Citizens Advice Bureau at a major set of traffic lights and heads east along what has always been Morning Lane. Once there'd have been watercress beds on one side and orchards on the other but the modern reality is a supermarket car park and flats, with a stream of vehicles queueing inbetween. Some of that queueing is to enter Valette Street, a gloomy shortcut round the back of the Hackney Picturehouse, because the B113 turns out to be a messy creature with more than one additional one-way arm.
The first parade of shops is blessed with a lot of pavement, which means patrons of Dilara's cafe can sit out front nursing hot drinks even in December. The Globe has been under the same management for 30 years and prominently advertises the peculiar claim that it's Considered by many as "A Proper Hackney pub". Mama's Jerk isn't afraid to disgorge a Deliveroo rider before ten in the morning. Dry cleaning and halal butchery are also available but nobody bothers selling groceries because the enormous Tesco opposite has the monopoly. Naturally plans now exist to demolish it and build 450 insufficiently-affordable homes instead, but only once a smaller store has been built on the western half of the car park.
Coming up next is Hackney's disastrous designer outlet village, Hackney Walk. Five years ago, in an attempt to piggyback on the success of the Burberry factory shop across the road, a dozen arches in the railway viaduct were given a blingy gold makeover and made available to top fashion brands. Today every single one of these units has beenvacated due to (pre-pandemic) lack of interest and only the flagship Nike store nearer the road still trades. Aquascutum's separate outlet sold out last year, the Pringle store is currently being refitted as a furniture warehouse and this utter waste of public money is what happens when councillors and Network Rail totally misjudge how willing sassy shoppers are to travel to E9.
Imagine the Hackney Brook flowing where the Overground now runs and Morning Lane curving to one side, although it's hard when the modern replacement is flats, billboards, the odd shuttered takeaway and a four lane road. Steel yourself for a lot of substantial blocks of flats in what follows. Oddly-named premises beside the Homerton turn-off include The Glove That Fits (formerly a pub, now a nightclub) and Cardinal Pole (very much a Catholic secondary school). Eventually the wall of municipal properties makes way for a crescent parade at the top of Well Street, where you can tell the Quality Cafe is old school because it still advertises Sandwiches, Salads and Jacket Potatoes across its windows. And then the B113 branches again.
The next stretch along Wick Road used to be one-way (in the opposite direction) so traffic heading east was sent via Kenton Road instead. This therefore earned a B Road classification which it may still have or which may now have been whipped away for being superfluous, it's nigh impossible to tell. Kenton Road is lovely, especially now it's quieter, lined by exactly the kind of early Victorian terraces the road has thus far lacked. One house is currently over-decorated for Christmas with an inflatable arch and illuminated snowmen out front while another has a slew of vinyl albums nailed to its shed. But the pride of the road is The Kenton, a mustard-coloured multiple winner of Time Out's London Pub Of The Year, which also boasts a moose's head on the wall and a chirpy Norwegian landlord.
Wick Road, by contrast, is full-on postwar council estate. It starts with four genuine tower blocks and continues with barrier flats and multiple slab blocks for a good half mile. A couple of street-corner Victorian boozers provide brief architectural respite, although only one remains open and the other awaits resuscitation by having nine new apartments bolted onto the back. If you fancy karaoke with Costas, keep your fingers crossed for Thursdays after Christmas. The road's two cycle lanes occasionally peter out and merge with the pavement. For those who like to know which bus route we're following it's the 30 all the way. For those who like to know which river we're following it's still the Hackney Brook, its water meadows entirely transformed into this mundane residential corridor.
And so to Hackney Wick and what's plainly The Tiger pub, as has been self-evident since its exterior was aerosoled with stripes in 2017. This overlooks a fiveway junction where the A102 and A106 meet, hence there's considerable traffic and the only quiet arm veers off to the right up Brookfield Road. This used to be the one-way A106 and is now the other-way B113 thanks to a gyratory removal scheme, a downgrade which must have delighted the residents of its gorgeous villas. I'm not even sure why it's still a B road, given not a single car drove past as I walked down to the edge of Victoria Park, but it must be the nicest segment of the B113 to live on.
The B113 originally continued through Hackney Wick and onwards down White Post Lane into what's now the Olympic Park, then followed Carpenters Road as far as Stratford High Street. This eastern end spent only ten years as a B Road before being upgraded to become the A115, and in 2010 was totally declassified when Olympic roadworks made it redundant. As this is probably the area of London I've most overblogged during the last 20 years I don't think you're really missing out.
In good news there's no longer a B114, B115, B116 or B117, so that's four further posts avoided.
» The B114 ran through very similar territory to the B113. It started on Kenworthy Road (which is now the A102), passed through Hackney Wick, ran down the eastern side of Victoria Park (along Cadogan Terrace, inner London's only single track road with passing places), then followed Wick Lane to Old Ford. It was 1 mile long.
» The B115 is today's A106. It ran from Hackney (north of Victoria Park) to Hackney Wick, then across the Lea at Temple Mills through Leyton and onwards (via Grove Green Road) to Leytonstone. It earned its A road classification in the 1920s when Eastern Avenue opened to carry the A12. It was 4 miles long.
» The B116 was a piddly short connector joining the B113 to the B114 to the east of Victoria Park. Not only was it only 125 yards long but almost all of it was destroyed when the A102(M) carved straight through. All that's left is Cadogan Close, the stumpy cul-de-sac opposite the park's Cadogan Gate. Today's footbridge across the A12 marks pretty much the full extent.
» The B117 was the original classification given to the road through the centre of Victoria Park. It started to the north (along Lauriston Road) and continued south across the canal to Mile End (along Grove Road). It was renumbered in the 1970s to become part of the A1205. It was 1 mile long.
• In bad news all of those are really local to me so would have been dead easy to research (and in the case of the B116 incredibly quick to write).
• In good news the B118 is even closer to home and, given I've just mentioned B roads to the north, east and west of Victoria Park, you can probably guess where it's going to be.
The most popular expectation was a normal Christmas, but the majority of you thought some restrictions would be in place. We'd been living with restrictions on gatherings and travel for so long that some reinstatement might have seemed natural.
Here are a few astute comments you made, as things turned out.
• I'll gamble on science and that vaccinations are effective enough to allow a normal Christmas. (Andrew)
• Maybe false optimism, but I think the vaccine will continue to limit hospitalisations and deaths. (Mike)
• I think the rules will be for a 'normal' Christmas whether it's the right decision or not. (Peter)
• No restrictions in force. Whether it's actually advisable to gather in large groups is another matter. (Chris)
• The only reason to impose any other restrictions is if some vaccine-resistant mutation comes out. (Moritz)
• Normal, but by January some restrictions (if not another lockdown) will be necessary. (Toni)
• I don't know whether it will be safe or not, but that doesn't seem to be a consideration. (Andyrew)
It's taken until almost the last minute to get an answer, but the Prime Minister has finally confirmed that...
You weren't so prescient back in January guessing when unlimited household gatherings might be permitted again. Your collective average for full unlocking was October 2021, although the real date was three months earlier (and 40% of you suggested it wouldn't happen until 2022). But your July predictions proved more accurate with 41% predicting this would be a Normal Christmas, even if that did rely on a collective combination of faith, hope and downright cynicism.
It also suggests that 2022 remains beyond the realm of sensible prediction. Not many of us would have guessed at the start of the pandemic that it'd still be steering our lives almost two years later. Who's to say how much further this tale has yet to run?
What I can now do is update my summary of pandemic restrictions 2020-2021... a brief monthly snapshot of fluctuating curbs on freedom.
→ Step 1
→ Step 2
→ Step 3
RULE OF 6
One big red peak last spring.
One smaller red peak last autumn.
One longer red peak last winter easing through the spring.
Relative normality from late summer until omicron suddenly reared its head.
The 2022 column remains a mystery, although I bet it starts with something red.
Another thing that's hard to guess, over and above emerging variants, is how public acceptance of rules might have changed following all the recent revelations about ministers ignoring them.
Those parties make me sick. Rules are there to be kept.
Those parties make me sick. I won't be keeping the rules now.
Those parties aren't important. Rules shouldn't tie you down.
It'd be ironic if the government's collective rule-breaking ended up making the general public less likely to follow the rules themselves.
But those incidents may also have started a countdown on Boris's premiership, not because an election is imminent but because the Conservative party is ruthless in placing someone electable at the helm. So the question I'd like to ask this time is...
Who do you think will be Prime Minister this time next year?