diamond geezer

 Sunday, October 02, 2022

This was going to be my post on 9th September, the day after this blog's 20th anniversary, but the Queen put paid to that. Better late than never.

20 years of blogging takes a lot of filling. Since 2002 I've published 9496 different posts, which is at least one a day for over 1000 weeks (bar a few Christmas breaks in the early days). That's acres of screenspace to pack with maybe six million words, several thousand photos and a ridiculously high number of weblinks. It's fortunate I live in London which is possibly the world's most interesting city, but filling the blog has required an eclectic spread of content, indeed a non-stop torrent of inspiration because an empty template doesn't fill itself.

Here then are 20 of my biggest content-fillers over the last 20 years, i.e. themed series that went on for ages or came back time after time, presented as a clickable index. Maybe bookmark it for a future rainy day.

1) Open House (2002-2022)
London's finest architectural showcase has appeared on this blog every September since 2002 because it's the ideal opportunity to look at, and more importantly inside, hundreds of fascinating buildings. I usually get several posts out of it - the total must be approaching 100 by now - although I've been less enamoured with it of late. The absence of a detailed printed guide and a revamped website with a search facility resembling a brantub has made it much harder to spot this year's bighitters and one-offs, not to mention trickier to knock up an itinerary, plus I've been to a lot of the good ones already and blimey they were great.
» 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022

2) Single Life (2002-2019)
This was my first 'hit', a paean to the pros and cons of being coupled up. I wrote it three years after jettisoning from a long-term relationship, and came back and posted a slightly longer version (with added misbehaviour) every year thereafter. I paused after 10 years, having healed a bit, and I post it a lot less often these days. But unless one of you finally gets it on with me in the near future expect to read it again in 2024 for my (sob) 25th anniversary.

3) Quizzes and puzzles (2003-2022)
A recurring theme on this blog is that I like to throw in a quiz or a puzzle every now and then, usually when you're least expecting it. I enjoy how my readership come together to generate a full solution, one guess at a time, sometimes in minutes and occasionally over several hours. There are far too many of these one-off posts to catalogue here, but you can always track them down by going to my annual index post (see sidebar →) where I list all those from each year.

4) The Count (2003-2022)
This was just me counting things, nothing interesting, although by describing the final tally as 'The Mystery Count' I unintentionally unleashed a beast which continues to bemuse and baffle. It also elevated the humble bottle of Becks to cultural significance, and basically everyone should try counting things for a month every year otherwise how on earth do you discover how your life is evolving?

5) Local History Month (2003-2019)
This is possibly the longstanding series I'm most proud of. A new theme every summer in multiple parts involving a relentless focus on somewhere local, and all without trying to scare the audience away. I particularly enjoyed the long walks following boundaries or lines of latitude and the really long walks following certain rivers. One series which might have helped cement this blog's reputation was my travelogue along the River Fleet, especially because this was back in 2005 when historic internet content was hard to source so it was tricky to be definitive, but I still got a monthsworth out of it. Go local, go deep.
» August 2003: Where I live (famous places within 15 minutes of my house)
» August 2004: Piccadilly (a walk down Mayfair's most famous street)
» August 2005: the River Fleet (tracking the subterranean river) [photos]
» August 2006: Betjeman's Metro-land (Baker Street to Verney Junction) [photos]
» August 2007: Walk London (following bits of London's six strategic walks) [photos]
» August 2008: High Street 2012 (the Olympic highway from Aldgate to Stratford) [photos]
» August 2009: Walking the Lea Valley (50 miles from Luton to Leamouth) [photos]
» August 2010: Not-London 2012 (Exploring Olympic venues outside the capital) [photos]
» July/August 2012: The Olympic Games (at the end of my street) [photos]
» September 2013: Walking the New River (a 400th birthday stroll) [photos]
» August 2014: London Borough Tops (the highest point in 33 boroughs) [photos]
» August 2015: Round Tower (a walk round the edge of Tower Hamlets) [photos]
» August 2018: 51½°N (crossing London on a line of latitude) [photos]
» August 2019: Ten false starts (a clutch of single-post series)

6) Tube Week (2003-2012)
Here's where I started letting my nerdy side run riot. A whole week of tube-related content including reportage, facts and a daily quiz, and then somehow the same again for nine more years. I threw in an Overground Week in 2017 but haven't been back to this feature since, and maybe I should given that some of you would simply salivate at the thought. There must be more alphabetical challenges, quirky gatelines and Next Train Indicators installed by cretins out there by now.
» 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012

7) Riding a bus route (2003-2022)
I spotted early that a great way to blog about London was to describe what you could see from a bus (and the characters aboard it too). I started with a week of Cube Routes (1, 8, 27, 64, 125, 216, N343), followed that up with Square Routes and Prime Movers, then tackled chains of buses across and around the capital. I've also featured an alphabet of buses, London's ten shortest routes, even a trek along the North Circular, but the really fun one is my 'birthday bus ride' which I started at 42 and most recently reached the 57 to Kingston. London's bus routes offer an endless stream of potential content that's nowhere near exhausted.

8) Random Borough (2004-2012)
This classic series was inspired by Luke Rhinehart's The Dice Man, and saw me folding up the names of every borough in London and picking one from a jamjar. The ridiculous part was that I only picked the name on the morning of travel, and then had to rush-research six places to visit and get round them all in a few hours and then head home and write the first two up. Those were 33 fairly manic Saturdays. But I still credit this feature with opening up my understanding of the suburbs, and maybe yours too, even if it did sometimes feel like the jamjar got more love than the content. It's still one of my finest London achievements.
» 2004: Merton, Islington, Enfield
» 2005: Sutton, Lewisham, Southwark, Kensington & Chelsea
» 2006: Hackney, Hillingdon, the City, Bromley
» 2007: Lambeth, Tower Hamlets, Haringey, Hounslow
» 2008: Brent, Redbridge, Ealing, Harrow
» 2009: Croydon, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth, Greenwich
» 2010: Richmond, Kingston, Westminster, Newham
» 2011: Camden, Bexley, Havering, Hammersmith & Fulham
» 2012: Barnet, Barking and Dagenham

9) Bow Road Update (2004-2005)
When Metronet arrived to upgrade my local tube station I got somewhat obsessive in recording what they were doing. This soon turned into recording what they weren't doing, because Bow Road was a guinea pig station and Metronet proved to be an entirely incompetent infraco. So slow and substandard was their transformation that I blogged about if relentlessly and eventually Evening Standard journalist Andrew Gilligan rang me up to get the full story. His subsequent expose was dismissed by the Chairman of Metronet thus: "Articles which refer to an unnamed passenger's account having travelled through a station quite frankly are not worthy of any detailed examination", so that told me. But Metronet went bust shortly afterwards so I'm claiming the last laugh there.

10) My new Z470xi mobile (2007)
Oh this was fun. I suddenly accelerated my blogposts by a week, claiming I had a mysterious new phone, and then unfolded an increasingly-desperate tale of impending apocalypse on and under the streets of London. I never told you what I was doing, just left you to work out I'd gone full-on fictional, and at the very end of the month went totally silent as if the worst had come to pass. I'm not sure I could get away with anything like this again, but it was very enjoyable to write.

11) London Loop (2007-2017)/Capital Ring (2011)
I walked both of these walks in short bursts, not necessarily in order, and spread my rambles over a number of years. My reports on each section are therefore all over the place, and the older ones are also much less detailed than the newer ones because I've ramped up the amount I write over the years. What's been useful is that a lot of you have walked these paths too so mentioning 'London Loop section X' provides a useful hook on which to hang many blogposts from the suburbs. Hurry up Ramblers, I'm ready to walk your new routes.

12) Anorak Corner (2007-2022)
I first started taking an interest in Underground and National Rail passenger numbers in 2007, knocking up lists of most- and (more excitingly) least-used stations on each network. Back then these statistics often went unnoticed for days, even weeks, whereas now the release of the annual National Rail passenger count is a full-on bandwagon-rolling press jamboree. I'd like to think that interest in "the least used station in administrative area X" might have started here, but I may just be deluding myself. Latest versions are here (each with links back to all the older versions): [rail] [tube] [bus]

13) PR emails I have received (2009-2022)
Even though I don't reprocess press releases or pump out sponsored posts, marketing minions still send me emails hoping that I might. I then delight in summarising their weasel phrases, with all brand names withdrawn, and totally ripping the piss. I don't receive as many as I did, thank god, but even last week I received a missive from Gene which ended "Reply something if you're interested. We're humans and love to help each other, don't we?". No Gene, not when they're as lickspittly mercenary as you.

14) Lost Rivers (2010)/Unlost Rivers (2015-2019)
After I totally failed to write a book on lost rivers for Penguin Random House I went ahead and wrote it anyway, but published it in monthly chunks on this blog instead. "Look," I said to myself, "I could have researched and catalogued the Tyburn, Neckinger and Bollo Brook with full pictorial evidence after all." Since then I've also gone on to walk many an unlost unculverted river, from the Dollis Brook to the River Shuttle, and in good news I still have several more to go. London blogging doesn't get much more quintessentially psychogeographical than this.

15) Beyond London (2014-2017)
After I'd emptied my jamjar I went on to explore the 17 local authority areas immediately outside Greater London. I started in Dartford and ended in Thurrock, heading out on a Saturday to visit four sites of interest and then forcing myself to write about them. Travelling was sometimes hard because transport's less good beyond London, but my explorations really helped in knitting together a mental picture of what the inner Home Counties look like. Also I don't think I'd ever have thought to go to Lowewood Museum, Stoke Poges and Titsey Hall otherwise.
2014: Dartford, Sevenoaks, Tandridge, Reigate & Banstead, Epsom & Ewell
2015: Mole Valley, Elmbridge, Spelthorne, Slough, South Bucks
2016: Three Rivers, Hertsmere, Welwyn Hatfield, Broxbourne, Epping Forest
2017: Brentwood, Thurrock

16) Bus Stop M (2015-2017)
My local bus stop should never have reached legendary status, but a chain of muck-ups during the installation of a segregated cycle superhighway lane brought it to unexpected prominence. If only they hadn't closed a bus stop by moving its pole 200m up the road and then forgetting to update all the electronic data that went along with it, maybe 20% of the debacle could have been avoided. I'm pleased to say Bus Stop M's a lot more stable now - it even has its own Countdown display - although nobody's ever replaced the spider map someone removed in 2020, and I'd be much obliged if someone at TfL could print one out and slap it back up.

17) Gadabout (2018-2022)
Over the years I've been to many a town and city outside London and tried to condense its cultural essence into one or two travelogue posts. And not just the big hitters like Leeds and Manchester but also lesser regional treasures like Hereford and Stamford. In 2018 I compiled a single post with links to all my wider British reportage - a clickable portal to some of my favourite far-flung posts. One day I should get round to updating it with all my more recent gadabouts, i.e. these...
» Bracknell, Chertsey, Chester, Cleethorpes, Corby, Cowes, Crich, Cromford, Crowborough, Dunstable, Eye, Gerrards Cross, Grantham, Great Malvern, Grimsby, Haslemere, Hereford, Ipswich, Ironbridge, Kettering, Lincoln, Maidstone, Maldon, Newark, Peterborough, Plymouth, Scarborough, Sheffield, Sheringham, Southampton, Stamford, Swindon, Telford, Walsall, Worcester

18) Other lengthy themed series
2003/2008: Capital Numbers (London from 1 to 30)
2004/2009/2020: Marking the Meridian (my favourite imaginary line)
2005-7: Silver discs (my favourite 25-year-old singles, month by month)
2009: An A-Z of London museums (from Arsenal to Zoology)
2013: 150 years of the Underground (blogging one line per month for the duration of the anniversary year)
2017: Herbert Dip (one eclectic post from every borough proposed by the Herbert Commission in 1960)
2020-2022: #coronavirus
2020-2021: Random City Ward (the ideal lockdown challenge)
2021-2022: Walking Every B Road (or at least the first 26)

19) Unblogged (2018-2022)
I've now brought you four years of these snippety summary posts, one per month, listing one thing per day I never told you about at the time. Sometimes it's quite trivial, sometimes it's something that would never have deserved a post of its own and sometimes it's deliberately obtuse because I have no intention of telling you what it really is. A special hello to the misguided optimists who, having read the phrase "questions will not be answered", go ahead and ask one anyway. One day I will learn to write these unblogged posts as the month progresses, but I always seem to end up rushing it all at the end.

20) The Olympics (2002-2022)
I can't finish without mentioning the Olympics, an ultra-local project which tentatively emerged at the start of my blog, peaked in the middle with the Games themselves and is still reverberating through the Lower Lea Valley today. The 2012 Olympics has undoubtedly generated more column inches on this blog than any other single topic, thanks to the simple accident of me unintentionally living nextdoor, so brace yourself for a lot more. The five-ring circus never goes away.

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