diamond geezer

 Wednesday, August 31, 2022

31 unblogged things I did in August

Mon 1: I no longer shop at Waitrose but I have two of their bags for life which I've used over 100 times during the last five years. Both bags are now pretty tatty with minor holes, and today one of those holes grew to catastrophic proportions during my journey home (as several passers-by kindly pointed out). No groceries were lost to the traffic on the A11, but it's finally time to get this one swapped.
Tue 2: Back in 2018 I succeeded in riding aboard every London bus route over the space of 20 weeks. This year I thought I'd do that again and this time it took me 23 weeks because I wasn't taking it quite so seriously. That's at least one stop on every single route, including the dead annoying 385, 467 and X68. My first bus was a 191 back in February and my last was a 327 today, with 556 others inbetween. I fear the task might be harder soon.
Wed 3: I took my Waitrose bag for life back to Waitrose. "We don't do bags for life any more," said the lady at the information desk. I pointed out where it said 'Recyclable bag, replaced free'. "We don't do bags for life any more," she said. I pointed out where it said 'The cashier will replace it when it is worn out'. "We don't do bags for life any more," she said. It turns out they stopped last September so I missed my chance. And it turns out what she should have done is offer me a 10p refund, but instead I left feeling about an inch high.
Thu 4: I hate it when I visit a location and only while doing my research afterwards do I discover I narrowly missed seeing something unexpectedly famous a couple of minutes walk away.
Fri 5: For the record, a 99 from one of the ice cream vans on Westminster Bridge costs £3.50. It's not exactly good value but I confess I was expecting it to be higher.



Sat 6: I told somebody I'd never met before what the Mystery Count is, and they were totally shocked because they weren't expecting that.
Sun 7: A group of festival-going teens in my tube carriage were drinking from purple cans of beer and holding suspicious looking balloons, so I was mighty impressed when the driver left his cab and turfed them off at Whitechapel. "Are you telling us drinking alcohol is banned?" said the ringleader, unaware it'd been illegal since she was a toddler, and ended up getting a lecture about nitrous oxide instead. The group tried sneaking on again at the other end of the train but station staff weren't having that either.
Mon 8: I took my Waitrose bag for life into Tesco in case the cashier there would replace it. "We don't do other people's bags," she said. So much for bags for life.
Tue 9: I'd like to apologise to the two authors I know whose books I just borrowed from the library, rather than buying a proper hardback copy.
Wed 10: The rose bush on my balcony has suddenly excelled itself by bringing forth ten ruby red blooms, all on a single new branch confirming that pruning really works.
Thu 11: I spotted an advert for classified ads mag Loot outside a shop on the South Bank claiming "On sale here" and "it's the way you sell 'em", even though Loot folded in 2014.
Fri 12: For this month's 'Programmes you might enjoy on BBC Sounds' I offer In Suburbia, a three part documentary in which Ian Hislop muses on the cultural significance of the outskirts (yes there's Betjeman, but also Hanif Kureishi and JC Carroll from The Members) and also a one-off documentary on the unfortunate history of public transport in Leeds.



Sat 13: I was waiting for a bus outside Romford station and this double-decker 375 turned up, which seemed a ridiculous luxury for what's officially one of London's 12 least used bus routes.
Sun 14: The great John Rogers makes videos about walks, particularly East London walks, so I was delighted when this week's walk along the Mayes Brook was based on a post I wrote in 2016. The responsibility for getting the route right felt immense.
Mon 15: I bit into a Kit-Kat and it was entirely waferless - all chocolate - and it was like discovering the four leaved clover of confectionery.
Tue 16: I should probably restart my laptop a bit more often rather than endlessly putting it into Sleep mode.
Wed 17: In an unexpected development, the Dangleway is now plastered with Pokemon vinyls as part of a brand synergy opportunity related to an event at ExCel this weekend. Catch 'em while you can.



Thu 18: The front of the old bit of the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel now says Tower Hamlets Town Hall on the front in gold letters, so that project's finally getting serious.
Fri 19: This morning diamond geezer received its eleven millionth visitor, and in the past I've done a celebratory post every million visitors but this time I thought I'd give it a miss because eleven isn't so special. Maybe I'll make a fuss of twelve next year.
Sat 20: At a set of traffic lights in Gunnersbury a driver pulled out of a sideroad, blocked the bus lane ahead of us and refused to reverse. A honking/swearing match ensued, which ended with a one-finger salute as the car eventually drove off. Some people think they rule the road.
Sun 21: Yes she should have been looking where she was riding that bike, but no it's not true that "everyone who gets on a bicycle loses their brain", and no wonder public discourse in this country is in serious trouble.
Mon 22: Supermarket update: My local big Tesco has permanently sealed the automatic doors closest to the street so now you have to walk all the way down to car park end to gain access. Apparently it's because of a knife incident, but this also comes on top of ripping out the tills at the street end and extending the self-service zone, as if management can't be bothered to pay for a staff presence any more.
Tue 23: If you like tracking down identical-but-decorated larger-than-life models of animals, head to Bromley town centre where the Owl Prowl is underway. n.b. if you saw the Big Hoot in Hemel Hempstead back in March don't bother coming because these are the same dozen.



Wed 24: I walked through the grounds of Mount Vernon Hospital and was struck by how varied/cheap/ugly/unloved the assortment of buildings looked, because the NHS doesn't waste what little money it has on nice buildings.
Thu 25: I rang my bank to see if they'd increased their interest rates and was pleasantly surprised to end the call with a new account paying 1.5%. It's been 13 years since I last got over 1%! "We can't send you an email when we put our rates up," said Alan, "and perhaps you could upgrade online next time rather than contacting us".
Fri 26: Ellen from MyLondon has written a particularly vacuous 'news story' about Brewdog Waterloo based entirely on my recent blogpost and the subsequent Twitter furore. Her reportage focused on the high price of a pint ("One shocked social media user, Adam Becket, couldn’t believe it after he’d discovered a regular pint of the brand’s beer would exceed £7") and highlighted the fact I'd managed to discover how much a bowl of chips cost. Ellen is occasionally allowed out of the office to write stories based on first-hand evidence (‘I went to London's best Ecuadorian restaurant and it's the city's ultimate hidden gem’) but this clickbait shitpostery is increasingly what counts as local London news these days.
Sat 27: Made a good start filling in the double alphabetical jigsaw prize crossword (and on Sunday hit 85% complete, including that ridiculous praying mantis, and finally polished off the lot on Tuesday).
Sun 28: In the last week I've been ten metres into Kent (by entering a garden centre), 30m into Herts (by crossing a car park), 100m into Essex (by getting off a bus) and today 400m into Bucks (by following a towpath).



Mon 29: Spotted in Pagham just off the A23/A27... He-Van, Movers of the Universe.
Tue 30: If you rely on my RSS feed to tell you I've written a new post, my apologies because it's been increasingly lethargic in noticing recently. It used to take a few minutes but recently it's been taking up to two hours and today it took a record 3 hours 15 minutes. This also affects updates to my Twitter account @diamondgzrblog, so my apologies if you've started wondering where on earth the latest post is.
Wed 31: Since I got my z1-3 Travelcard six months ago I've been all over zones 4, 5 and 6, as you've probably noticed, but still managed to spend less than £10 on Pay As You Go. If you're patient you can get almost anywhere by bus rather than splashing out on trains.

 Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Hourly snapshots from a bank holiday trip to the seaside (and a hike inland)



9am Brighton Seafront
This'll be rammed later when the bank holiday crowds sweep down, but for now the seafront is the preserve of delivery drivers, exercise regimes and dogs on leads. The Ben & Jerry's van has arrived to unload two dozen boxes of assorted Marshfield Farm flavours. The lady at the cafe - presumably not Mama Brum herself - is shuffling through yesterday's stock in the freezer cabinet to remove the empty tubs. The van from Fish Galore is next, interrupting the cleaning of the condiments at the chippy in the arch nextdoor by depositing a stack of boxes of freeze-dried chunky chips. Elsewhere on the promenade tables and benches are being shuffled from where they were left last night to where they need to be this morning. Six empty waste bins await the day's empties. All three beach tennis courts are in full play and already with an adoring audience. A few early birds have made a dash for the pebbles and are reclining in the sun, if not the heat. A tattooed vaper walks past with a box of Frosties under his arm. The calmest man on the beach is sitting on Scallywag's upturned hull with a cup of coffee by his side. The skeleton of the West Pier is covered with seagulls because isn't it always? The i360 has yet to emerge from its launchpad. A line of wind turbines stretches out offshore in the general direction of the Isle of Wight. Wish you were here?

along the promenade, past the beach huts and up next year's post



10am Hove Park
It's all about the boulder. This is the Goldstone, a 20 ton lump of rock said to have been chucked by the Devil and also said to have been used as a Druidic altar, because that's legends for you. In the 1830s the farmer whose land it stood on got so tired of tourists that he buried it, and then 70 years later a councillor dug it out and plonked it here in the corner of newly-opened Hove Park. This shallow valley has long been known as Goldstone Bottom, and the retail park opposite (the Goldstone Retail Park, obv) was built on the footprint of the Goldstone Ground where Brighton and Hove Albion used to play until 1997. Rarely has a rock left such a diverse legacy. This morning the chalet cafe is already open for caffeinated beverages and the municipal football pitches are louder than the tennis courts. The ball skills session kicks off with crosslegged high fives and the keep fit class ends with a muted round of applause. The council are very proud of Fingermaze, a lime mortar labyrinth on the upper slopes, but not proud enough to properly maintain it. The miniature railway doesn't open until 2pm but a group of gentleman volunteers has already turned up to sit around and drink tea, open Brian's Shed and perhaps escape from their wives. And in case you've been worrying, a separate fibreglass rock has been provided for clambering over so these days the Goldstone merely watches on.

up Three Cornered Copse



11am Coney Hill
The northern edge of Brighton is startlingly abrupt, with the belt of the A27 dual carriageway dividing precipitous suburbia from rolling downland. A thin strip of grassland called the Green Ridge provides an additional barrier above Westdene, barely 100m wide but long enough to walk your dog up and down and occasionally enjoy the view. It starts at the Hill Top Cafe, a bikers' haunt and curves round past Patcham Mill to the summit of Coney Hill. You can only hear the main road not see it, unless you know to zigzag down through the trees to a lone footbridge. Three things you don't necessarily need to know are that the windmill is a private residence, the dew pond is a lush habitat with bursting yellow pods and the dogmess bin ("Poo bags only please") additionally contains cans of Fanta and Diet Coke. The number 27 bus occasionally spins by. From the hilltop the centre of Brighton is decipherable on the horizon above the roofs of the uppermost bungalows, and the rest of the city follows the contours on multiple levels inbetween.

across the bypass and blast out across the Downs



12 noon Chattri Memorial
The South Downs, when they properly take hold, envelop you in a spectacular undulating upland patchwork. To make progress head through the gate and up the field and keep on climbing. Coming the other way yesterday were a lady with a teeny dog, a couple of orienteers and two men freewheeling on chunky bikes. It's all paths and fields up here plus the very occasional dead end lane and a lot of cattle. Expect to have to walk past a fair few of these cows but it's fine, they're only interested in chewing what's left of the grass and not in you. And keep climbing, and don't forget to look behind you as the city, the i360 and the wind farms in the Channel inexorably reappear. In a cleft below the first summit, a properly long way from anywhere, sits a bright white dome atop three stepped marble slabs. This is the Chattri Memorial and marks the spot where hundreds of Hindu and Sikh soldiers were cremated during WW1, after being injured on the Western Front and hospitalised in Brighton. It's a lovely spot too, you can see why they chose it, with the peace of the Downs all around and the whole of the town tumbling down to the sea in the distance.

up harvested fields, and more up, then along the chalky South Downs Way



1pm Jack and Jill
These landmark windmills are a proper tourist attraction, mainly because they have a car park alongside which saves all that pesky hill climbing. A walk along the ridge is much easier if you start here and not six miles away and 200m lower down. Yesterday afternoon a mapless charity worker was trying to walk his collie, two long-haired boys were checking for blackberries and a tattooed couple were regretting bringing their toddler on a tricycle. One lucky girl was being led up the path on ponyback and seemingly hating every second, while two hoodied teenagers hid in the back of their parents' car watching screens because why on earth would they get out? An enterprising caterer was selling slices of vegan sponge and cans of gin and tonic from the back of a horsebox, advertised by signs pasted up all over. An earnest couple puffed up the hill from Clayton clutching a copy of the Time Out Book of Country Walks, because apparently that's still a thing. And Brighton may no longer be visible but from the rim of the scarp a low flat sweep comprising much of Sussex is laid out beneath you, and expect to be down there and part of it in not very many minutes time.

down and out and alongside the railway

2pm Hassocks station

and home

 Monday, August 29, 2022

UNTRODDEN LONDON

My attempt to set foot in every 1km×1km grid square in Greater London continues. Blogwise I've placed most emphasis on the squares I'd genuinely never been to before, but others I'd only ever passed through on public transport also need ticking off. Here are five more previously untrodden squares, the acquisition of which has boosted my 'visited' total to 99.5%. They're not a particularly thrilling quintet but hey it's a bank holiday so you should have better things to do than read about off-piste London.

TQ0686: Ickenham (Hillingdon)



Where's the square? West of Ickenham where the road to Harefield bears off. (click on the map reference and have a look if you're really interested)
Are you sure you'd never set foot here before? I thought I recognised the bus stop at the end of Breakspear Road South, so maybe I had been here in 2018 while trying to get from Swakeleys House to Uxbridge Lido for Open House, but this whole quest is about being certain so I went back anyway.
What's here? Outer suburbia, as in the point where double garages and conservatories melt into farmland. A private drive called The Drive Private Road. Uxbridge Golf Course (rarely have I followed a public footpath which crossed quite so many fairways in full-on mass-thwack mode). Harvil Farm and Copthall Farm. A dozen bouquets of red and white flowers at the foot of a lamppost.
What's not quite here? HS2. The Copthall Tunnel is being dug just to the north, a 550m cut and cover construction (and currently very much in 'cut' mode). It's massive, as is obvious by looking across any field hereabouts, and will displace 1.2 million cubic metres of Excavated Material. A third of this is due to be dumped in TQ0686 and spread across the triangle of land between Harvil Road and Breakspear Road South, indeed may already have been, topping up the undulating agricultural landscape to form an uplifted wedge called the Southern Sustainable Placement Area. The rest of London has no idea what's going on out here.
What's the stupidest thing you did while you were here? I walked along Harvil Road, which was fine while there was a pavement but that gave out beyond the last house and I was forced to totter along a thin scrappy verge as traffic rushed by along a straight road with "hidden summits". I was relieved to discover public footpaths U49 and U50 were still open, although U49 had been diverted round a spoil heap alongside a sign giving the freephone number of the HS2 Footpath Diversion Helpline.

TQ0690: Harefield (Hillingdon)

Where's the square? To the east of Harefield, just beyond the academy.
How had you never set foot here before? I'd been through on the 331 bus but there isn't a bus stop in the square, merely a scrap of a bend on the Northwood Road and a single public footpath which only leads to another public footpath.
What's here? The last few detached houses in Harefield, a bend, Shepherds Hill House, fields.
What's the stupidest thing you did while you were here? The next bus wasn't for ages so I carried on walking as far as Mount Vernon Hospital, and that (eventually) proved much more dangerous than walking alongside Harvil Road.
Why isn't there a photo? Wasn't worth it.

TQ0990: Northwood (Hillingdon)



Where's the square? Between Northwood and Northwood Hills, technically in the former.
How had you never set foot here before? I've been through on the Metropolitan line hundreds of times, and also a few times on the 282 and H11 buses, but never had need to explore.
Are you sure you'd never set foot here before? I have photographic evidence from 2013 that I walked across the golf course from Ruislip Lido to Northwood but I can't be sure whether I stayed within TQ0890 or strayed into TQ0990, and it's important that I get this right which is why I went back and did it for sure.
What's here? The A404. A massive girder bridge crossing Rickmansworth Road on the skew. A dozen public footpaths. Cul-de-sacs of bungalows. A lacklustre High Street that's been totally sidelined by the shops around the station. Northwood Rec, Northwood Cemetery and Northwood FC. The majority of Northwood Golf Course.
What's the stupidest thing you did while you were here? Walked across yet another golf course (although to be fair they had put up massive great screens to protect ramblers from life-changing projectile injury).

TQ4358: Biggin Hill (Bromley)



Where's the square? Diametrically opposite the previous three squares, London-wise, i.e. beyond Biggin Hill (just before the Aperfield Inn) on the road down to Westerham.
How had you never set foot here before? I'd been through on the 246 bus but there's bugger all reason to alight here unless you want to walk Tatsfield Path.
What's here? 200m of Main Road. Chartwell Home Solutions Ltd. A freshly harvested field with uniform golden stalks. A bridleway dotted with piles of horse manure. A lonely tree-in-a-field. Foal Farm Animal Rescue Centre. Remote paths. Something long that the owner of Park Farm really doesn't want you getting access to. The secluded end of Berry's Green. A country lane of minimal width. And of course Cherry Lodge Golf Course because it seems all these untrodden squares are full of golf courses.
What's the stupidest thing you did while you were here? Hid in a field because I spotted a dog which seemed to be out for a walk by itself.

TQ4458: Cudham (Bromley)



Where's the square? Immediately to the east of to the previous square. It's a bit more Cudham than Biggin Hill.
How had you never set foot here before? The real question is how the hell had I ever been here before (the answer being that bus routes R5 and R10 clip the northeast corner of the square). When the next bus could be an hour and a half away, one does not alight here without good cause.
What's here? I'm not really sure, I was only in the square for five minutes walking in down one lane and out down another. I did spot a mobile phone mast, an honesty box for chicken and duck eggs (kindly return egg boxes if possible), some stables and a big farmhouse that could have been properly old or could have been a too-perfect reconstruction.
What's the best thing you did last time you were nearly here? Persuaded a friend that we should divert our walk along the North Downs Way so I could go and see the only place in London that's over four miles from a station, a ridiculous detour which meant yay, I had already been to TQ4457 so could turn round and go home instead.

Nearly there now.

🟨=1455, 🟩=5, 🟦=0, 🟥=3

 Sunday, August 28, 2022

Transport news in brief: On Monday 5th September Thames Clippers are introducing a cut-price Cross River fare of £3.80. The fare applies to passengers travelling between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf or Barking Riverside and Woolwich.



Transport news in a bit more specific: The Cross River fare applies when using pay as you go or using the Thames Clippers app on the following crossings:
    Barking Riverside Pier ↔ Woolwich (Royal Arsenal) Pier
    Greenland (Surrey Quays) Pier ↔ Canary Wharf Pier
    Doubletree Docklands Pier ↔ Canary Wharf Pier

Transport news in context: The current fare for these cross-river journeys is £4.80 so you'll be saving £1.

Transport news in broader context: At present Thames Clipper Fares depend on which of three zones you pass through. Just the Central zone is £7.70, just the East or West zone is £4.80, two zones is £8.70 and three zones is £13.50.

Transport news in graphic form
   West   Central   East   
£4.80£7.70£4.80
£8.70(£3.80)
 £8.70
£13.50

Transport news in commentary: And about time too. It's long been a scandal that a short crossing from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf costs almost five quid.

Transport news in minority interest: If you have a Travelcard these journeys already cost £3.50, so the new Cross River fare saves you nothing.

Transport news in time: These three cut-price crossings are timetabled to take three minutes (Rotherhithe → Canary Wharf) or nine minutes (Barking Riverside → Woolwich).



Transport news in ah but hang on: Four other short cross-river journeys are not having their fares cut (Greenland Dock → Masthouse Terrace, Masthouse Terrace → Greenwich, North Greenwich → Royal Wharf and Royal Wharf → Woolwich).

Transport news in reflective mood: This looks like a way to try to boost travel to and from Barking Riverside, the pier nobody yet lives within 10 minutes walk of. It'd be good if this encouraged more cross-river journeys between Greenwich and Barking & Dagenham, two boroughs previously entirely disconnected, but even with an Overground connection it's still not terribly convenient for onward journeys.

Transport news in value: Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf is currently £1.60 by tube, or £3.25 if you also catch a bus to the station, so the new £3.80 Cross River fare isn't competing on price, only time.

Transport news in cost benefit analysis: Even with the new Cross River fare, Thames Clippers remains the second most expensive way to cross the Thames in London downstream of Tower Bridge...
» by Dangleway: £5.00
» by Thames Clippers: £3.80
» by Crossrail: £1.70 (off-peak)
» by bus: £1.65 (by route 108)
» by tube, DLR or Overground: £1.60
» by car: £0.00 (Rotherhithe Tunnel, Blackwall Tunnel or Woolwich Ferry)
» on foot: £0.00 (Greenwich Foot Tunnel, Woolwich Foot Tunnel or Woolwich Ferry)
Transport news in summary: It still ain't cheap.

Transport news in social commentary: In these volatile economic times, perhaps give it a miss.

If you use social media it's down to you who you follow, so if you keep seeing people spouting rubbish it's generally your own fault. Equally it's not healthy to live in an echo chamber, which is why I like to keep tabs on people whose opinions I don't necessarily share. Indeed there are several people I'm tracking on Twitter who plainly have a chip on their shoulder and whose output is relentlessly focused. Here's a summary of what 30 of them keep tweeting on and on about...

@Person1: Oh America!
@Person2: Tired, send cookies
@Person3: I just can't be bothered
@Person4: This'd be illegal in real life
@Person5: I'm out with the ducks again
@Person6: Will you just look at my dog?
@Person7: You'd enjoy seeing me naked
@Person8: This old object is really lovely
@Person9: That's not what a woman is!?!
@Person10: What is wrong with the world?
@Person11: I'm retweeting this for the LOLs
@Person12: Please interact with my website
@Person13: ...and yet another photo of me...
@Person14: Tories are scum, and here's proof
@Person15: My life used to be so much better
@Person16: I have Eurovision-related thoughts
@Person17: Other people are really strange, eh?
@Person18: Arsenal should be doing better than this
@Person19: Here's a pertinent 15-part thread for you
@Person20: This biased news story's shockingly biased
@Person21: I wrote something this week, please read it
@Person22: See how I have been inconvenienced again!
@Person23: All this, and the water companies do nothing
@Person24: You won't believe what my child has just done
@Person25: It's not really a job, I'm just having a jolly time
@Person26: Let me tell you about something I just watched
@Person27: Look, I'm out spending money somewhere exotic
@Person28: I see my old employer's been writing rubbish again
@Person29: The opposition's no better than the evil government
@Person30: Surprise surprise, more appalling cycle infrastructure

 Saturday, August 27, 2022

This week has seen the launch of four London Nature Trails, a quartet of official walking routes co-ordinated by Footways and the London Wildlife Trust, and supported by the Mayor and TfL.
Uncover a whole world of urban nature on four new walking routes in London. Follow the routes via maps on your phone, via the Go Jauntly app, or pick up a free printed map from locations listed below. Use London Wildlife Trust’s spotter guide to discover animals and plants as you walk.
It's always good to add to the capital's collection of carefully thought-through walks, which these very much are, and the long weekend is an ideal time for a lively launch.

These are the four - (click for a map)
Central - Swiss Cottage to King’s Cross: 1 hour 30 minutes | 4.5 miles | 7.5 km | 10,000 steps
North - Burnt Oak to Wembley Park: Two hours | 6 miles | 10 km | 14,000 steps
South - Bermondsey to Brockley: Two hours | 6 miles | 10 km | 14,000 steps
East - Wanstead to Royal Docks: Three hours | 9 miles | 15 km | 21,000 steps
To try to do them justice:
i) I've been online to scrutinise the routes
ii) I've been out to try to collect all four leaflets
iii) I've walked one of the four routes from end to end

i) Route scrutiny

Swiss Cottage to King’s Cross: This is essentially a walk across Primrose Hill and along the Regent's Canal, so a tried and tested favourite. What's odd is they've bolted on a 'there and back' section at the start to take in the Alexandra Estate, which is a proper modernist architectural dazzler with a bit of park, but you're not going to see much nature for the first thirty minutes.
Burnt Oak to Wembley Park: This is a walk down the Silk Stream through Colindale, followed by a shady stretch along the Welsh Harp Reservoir (shadowing Capital Ring section 10), followed by a walk near-ish to the River Brent, ending with a gratuitous extension through the increasingly unnatural towerscape of Wembley Park. It has its moments.
Bermondsey to Brockley: This is essentially a walk along the Thames Path from Bermondsey to Deptford, with a very sensible diversion midway to climb Stave Hill for views over Rotherhithe, then bending back inland to New Cross where it should have stopped rather than dribbling on for 20 minutes to tick off two small gardens.
Wanstead to Royal Docks: This starts with an apologetic glimpse of Wanstead Flats, then crosses to the Olympic Park via 40 minutes of unavoidably tedious backstreets, and what I'm saying is skip that and start in Stratford. Then it's a walk down the River Lea for a mix of creeky wildlife and post-industrial edgery ("if you don't fancy the gritty surroundings, take the DLR"), then a meander across Canning Town to the obligatory Royal Docks. I'm over-familiar with all this, but the central riverside section's well worth doing once if only to go "golly".



ii) Leaflet collecting

Hurrah for handy pocket-sized leaflets, especially when they're colourful, double-sided, detailed and free. Boxfuls have been printed but you have to go to a limited number of collection points to pick one up "while stocks last". The South London map was dead easy to grab from a pile just inside the entrance to Canada Water Library, and the Central London map almost as quick at a desk upstairs in Swiss Cottage Library. But the East and North London maps proved a bit more of a challenge.

"We've never heard of it" said the lady at Custom House & Canning Town Community Neighbourhood Centre, even when I showed her the website on which they were listed. I could then have diverted to pick one up from Forest Gate station, but instead headed to City Hall because I'd not been inside since it became a seat of local government and that sounded fun. I had to endure a full pocket-emptying belt-loosening bag-conveyoring security check just to reach main reception, but the bloke there knew exactly what I wanted. "How many do you want?" he asked, and looked terribly disappointed when I only wanted one as if he were desperate to clear the brimming cardboard box from his desk.

My real problems began with the three collection points in northwest London...
• Burnt Oak underground ticket office
• Burnt Oak Library from the main desk
• Wembley Library from the main desk

Burnt Oak station no longer has a ticket office, just an enquiries window, which was firmly closed yesterday with a faded message securely taped to the window apologising for staff shortages. Just down the road Burnt Oak library was alas in self-service mode, because that's Barnet council's way of scrimping money, with no maps anywhere on view. Thankfully Wembley Library was staffed but the lady in the booth looked at me as if I was a bit weird because she'd never heard of these maps either. Alas it seems the North London leaflet isn't yet available anywhere.

You can probably guess which of the four routes I'd decided to walk...

iii) Burnt Oak to Wembley Park: 6 miles

I'm glad I chose this one, even if I was forced to follow it using a map on the website which kept reloading every time I unlocked my phone. It led me along three sections I was familiar with and two sections I'd never followed before, so that was a win, helping me to stitch together my mental map of northwest London. It started well with a lot of green, interrupted by the vernacular towers of Colindale. It flirted with a few bits of river. It spent slightly too long alongside the A5. It serendipitously delivered me into the midst of a colourful crowd emerging from Friday prayers. It didn't have too much street-bashing. It confirmed how Wembley Park no longer looks like Wembley Park any more. And I only once took completely the wrong path (across West Hendon Playing Fields), otherwise it all worked out quite well.



Because these are supposed to be nature trails I made a special effort to look for nature along the way. We're a bit late in the season for flowers, and suburban trees are much of a muchness, but here are some of the wildlife specimens I recorded...
Silkstream Park: butterflies, floating weed, spliffers
Montrose Playing Fields: pigeons, grass, wolfhound
Colindale Park: saplings, daisies, sunflowers
Rushgrove Park: blimey what was that it was quite big it looked like a woodpecker or maybe a jay but it disappeared off into the shady bits by the river rather quickly you don't normally see one of those
West Hendon Playing Fields: dragonfly, gulls, swan
Welsh Harp Reservoir: great big rat, magpies, goose
Quainton Street Open Space: tabby cat, housefly, nettles
Chalkhill Park: pigeons, squirrel, dachshund
Union Park: sanitised lawn, playspace, fountain
It's hardly a classic list of natural wonders. The real disappointment was Union Park, "a new green space for Wembley Park on the site of a former car park", because it isn't yet finished and looked like the developers had assembled it from a placemaking catalogue. Admittedly it was being well used, mainly because everything nearby was either residential towers or a construction site, but it struck a false note and not really somewhere to celebrate at the end of a so-called nature trail.

Whatever, if you see one of these four leaflets do grab one and file it away for a walk one day, and if you choose to go this weekend look out for some of the celebratory launch events along the way.

 Friday, August 26, 2022

UNVISITED LONDON
TQ0689: Bayhurst Wood
(Hillingdon)
The northwest tip of London is substantially undeveloped and remote from major transport links - two facts intrinsically intertwined. A few buses thread along rural lanes but there are multiple 1km×1km grid squares most Londoners will never see, let alone set foot in. Over the years I've ticked off a few by circumnavigating Ruislip Lido, walking the London Loop and exploring Newyears Green, but I'd never before ventured into the hinterland between Harefield and Ruislip.

It'd all be different if I'd ever taken the plunge and walked the Hillingdon Trail, a 20 mile waymarked route from almost-Heathrow to nearly-Rickmansworth. I've seen the brown signs several times but never taken up the challenge of walking the lot, let alone risked subjecting you to a week's worth of peripheral rambling reportage. So I've put that partly right by walking section 5, which used to be section 4, between Ruislip Lido and Harefield parish church. And it was lovely, and it was remote, and it was very woody, and in what follows I'll let you know which bit finally ticked off TQ0689 for me.


Hillingdon Trail section 5
Ruislip LidoSt Mary's Harefield (4 miles, 1½-2 hours)



Section 5 begins beside Ruislip Lido, or rather just behind the Water's Edge restaurant which means you might never see the water at all. It costs £5.49 to fill yourself with a fried breakfast or a roast dinner before you go, departure time depending. Instead of following the usual daytripper circuit the Hillingdon Trail heads off through a gate into Poor's Field, a heathland remnant where cattle graze in summer, so expect cowpats on the path and half a dozen chewing heads watching your initial progress. It's not long before the path bears off up to another gate into the first of what's going to be a heck of a lot of woods, indeed the first half of the walk is almost entirely shady. Here it's mostly beech with very little groundcover, but later expect substantial oak and coppiced hornbeam too.

These are Ruislip Woods, a four-part forest with an acreage larger than the City of London, and also the capital's first National Nature Reserve. We're currently in Copse Wood, which I can confirm from broader exploration prior to starting this walk is worthy of broader exploration. At this time of year the rhododendrons are mute, the pebbles underfoot are dry and the tiny objects falling from the trees are probably premature acorns. This is not the year to come brambling, the berries looked uncharacteristically shrivelled. Also I can confirm that the Hillingdon Trail is very well signed - not 100% so that you'd never get lost but with a very commendable volley of brown signs, orange discs and arrowed stumps.



Duck's Hill Road is the first of just two roads that need crossing on this walk because this is a seriously off-grid section, but Hillingdon council have provided a pegasus crossing so that's easy. Ahead lies Mad Bess Wood, a nominal mystery so ignore those legends about the ghost of a headless horsewoman. Several dogwalking tracks diverge from the car park so try to pick the right one as you aim for the brackeny path straight down the centre of the wood. It's long and undulating and dappled and increasingly far from anywhere, so I was surprised to pass a retired couple who looked like they were walking the Hillingdon Trail in the opposite direction. Mostly it was just me and the squirrels, though.



I was also following the trail via the instructions in a pdf, and was occasionally confused when it suggested taking a different route to the obviously-signed path I could see in front of me. Not to worry, they soon ended up in the same place, in this case a beechy glade with a mud-banked channel weaving through. Alas earlier this week that channel was entirely dry, just a pebble-bottomed ditch topped with yellow leaves that'd normally have fallen in two months later. The pipe-masquerading-as-bridge which directs the trail out of the woods is currently entirely unnecessary, although I imagine in winter many of these tracks are an absolute quagmire.

Breakspear Road North is the walk's second and final road, and briefly crossed, although the hike up the drive to Bayhurst Wood Country Park is considerably longer. It says a lot about the expected clientele that a sign at the entrance says "this park opens at 9am" by which they means the car park opens at 9am, but the odd pedestrian is welcome any time. Bayhurst Wood is an approximate circle half a mile in diameter and the obvious way to cross it would be to follow the track along the northern perimeter. Instead the Hillingdon Trail goes all out to divert to the far side before returning over the central summit, because experience beats practicality, so expect to spend half an hour here.



A ramshackle lockup with bolted windows turned out to be a proper municipal throwback, a set of long-disused public conveniences, although I'm not sure how many visitors would ever have risked it. Opposite was a retro-style board with pinned tiles illustrating five Birds To Be Found In The Country Park, including jay, nuthatch and treecreeper, not that I found any here. Instead I listened to the birdsong and the low hum of something I assumed was distant traffic until I got to the far side of the wood and spotted a feverish HS2 worksite across a field. My assault on the central hillock was eased by a mossy bench, and interrupted by a dour dogwalker with a border collie and a superfluous umbrella. [→TQ0689] My descent of the northern slope was comparatively gentle.

Here for the first time I caught a glimpse of rolling countryside, in this case featuring a tractor flattening crops around the base of a pylon and a very wide mansion on a farflung hill. A pleasingly thorough information board celebrates the heritage and wildlife along this stretch of the Hillingdon Trail, erected back when it was still numbered section 4. And yes that was a segregated cycle path on the other side of the fence, part of a 2km circuit called the David Brough Cycle Trail, because sometimes it's ramblers and horseriders that bikes need protecting from. My map told me to look out for Tarleton's Lake Nature Reserve, but where that supposed feature rubbed up against the path all I saw was a parched marshy hollow.



Ok, that's the woodland (mostly) done, it's a lot more footpathy from here on. I was surprised to get stuck behind a horserider mounting her steed via a set of steps provided for just such a purpose, and even more surprised when a man emerged through a gap in the hedge in light sportswear, mid-conversation on his phone. I'd assumed this was the middle of nowhere but it's actually the fiefdom of Breakspear House, the 17th century mansion I'd spotted earlier, since subdivided into multiple luxury hideaways. The footpath keeps a necessary distance round the back of some stables, emerging to climb the edge of a field with an ever-improving view, [←TQ0689] which is best from the very top.



I couldn't work out what the distant towers to the right of Bayhurst Wood's green hump might be, maybe RAF Northolt, but the micro-thin blur beyond could only be the central Thames basin. Planes were visible landing at Heathrow, and taking off the other side before veering round and passing almost overhead. And in the near distance was the brown scar of HS2, its workforce messily transforming large tracts of farmland most Londoners will never miss. It wasn't a classic panorama but it was extensive and unfamiliar. The stile into the next field proved to have a wobbly step, which thankfully was more disconcerting than disastrous. And then followed possibly the prettiest bit of the walk, the path hugging a hedgerow around a single field with a lone tree marooned in the middle.

The final descent was through another strip of woodland, across soil that shouldn't yet be covered in leaves past damp depressions that should be ponds. The walk's first nettles, thistles and crabapples intruded at the foot of the path. Here it's best to divert into the pristine churchyard of St Mary's, Harefield's oldest building, which apparently contains "a spectacular collection of fine old monuments" except it was locked. Instead I made do with the differently spectacular sight of a bank of war graves in the Australian Military Cemetery, the last resting place of 111 ANZAC soldiers who died in a temporary hospital up at at Harefield Park. The Hillingdon Trail is full of surprises, and a heck of a lot of trees.



🟨=1454, 🟩=6, 🟦=0, 🟥=3

 Thursday, August 25, 2022

One of our most famous pieces of weather lore, right up there with "red sky at night...", is this rhyme related to St Swithin's Day.
St Swithin's day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithin's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mare
It's superstitious nonsense, obviously, because the atmosphere doesn't realise the date is July 15th and because an English summer is always somewhat changeable. A dead bishop interred in Winchester cannot affect our weather.

But there can be a nugget of truth in the saying. Some summers the jet stream settles to our north displacing all the wet weather and some years it settles over us bringing in an endless sweep of rain-bearing depressions.

I mention this because August 24th marks exactly 40 days after St Swithin's Day, which means today is the ideal day to look back and tot up this summer's weather to test St Swithin's hypothesis.
July 15th: dry
St Swithin's Day 2022, it may not surprise you to hear, was dry.
July 16th - August 24th: dry, dry, wet, wet, wet, dry, wet, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, wet, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, wet, wet, wet, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, wet, dry
And it's only rained on nine of the subsequent 40 days, the other 31 being bone dry, which is exactly what you might expect in a drought-ridden summer.

n.b. my count is a personal count based on where I am. If it rains where I am, even slightly, then this counts as a wet day. If it doesn't rain where I am, not even a drop, then this counts as a dry day. It's an appallingly self-centred way of measuring rainfall, so meteorologically very suspect, but it does have the advantage of being consistent over time.

 July 15thwet daysdry days
2022dry931

Well done St Swithin... not spot on, but pretty close.
"'Twill rain nae mare" is a pretty much perfect summary of the last six weeks.

But one year tells us nothing. What we need is a lengthier series of data over several years and then we might be able to see some patterns. Fortunately I've been recording St Swithin's Day weather in my diary since 1980, because of course I have, and also counting how many of the subsequent 40 days were wet or dry.

 July 15thwet daysdry days
1980wet1327
1981dry1129
1982wet1525
1983dry931
1984wet1228
1985wet328
1986dry1624
1987wet2911
1987dry1921
1989dry733

In 1980 St Swithin was very wrong - July 15th was wet but most of the subsequent days were dry. 1982 and 1984 were similarly off-key, with a slew of dry days following a wet July 15th. But there are three stonking successes here, namely 1983 and 1989 which were forecast to be dry and it hardly rained afterwards, and 1985 which was forecast to be wet and it carried on chucking it down. So maybe there is something in all this after all.

Let's continue.

 July 15thwet daysdry days
1990dry733
1991wet1327
1992dry2119
1993wet2218
1994wet1426
1995wet634
1996dry1624
1997dry1228
1998dry1822

1990 was a proper success, a full-on sunny summer following a prediction of fair weather. But 1995 was a disaster, almost exactly the same split as 1990 but predicted to be wet throughout. Most of the other years were a bit more balanced. If you're counting, St Swithin has only swung the wrong way here seven years out of nineteen.

Sadly I stopped recording the summer's weather in my diary in 1999 because I was too focused on other events. It took until 2004 for me to pick up the baton again, and I've recorded it diligently ever since.

 July 15thwet daysdry days
2004wet2416
2005dry2020
2006dry2020
2007wet2119
2008dry2416
2009wet2020
2010wet1624
2011wet2119
2012dry1822

These are much closer totals, with the number of wet and dry days never dropping below 16 or rising above 24. We also have the first three dead heats - 2005, 2006 and 2009 - making St Swithin's original prediction irrelevant. If you're counting, July 15th has been a dry day just as often as it's been wet.

 July 15thwet daysdry days
2013dry1921
2014dry1624
2015wet1921
2016dry337
2017dry2317
2018dry1426
2019dry1822
2020wet1426
2021dry2020
2022dry931

Again most of these years have fairly equal totals for wet and dry days, but there are two glaring outliers. 2016 was ridiculously wet, but followed a dry July 15th so St Swithin was wrong. And this year has been ridiculously sunny, and followed a dry July 15th so St Swithin was right. It's interesting that over the last decade July 15th has been dry a lot more often than it's been wet, whereas beforehand my data was running fifty-fifty.

Like I said a single year tells us nothing, but maybe we can draw some overall conclusions from the period 1980-2022.

• St Swithin's Day was dry 58% of the time and wet 42% of the time.
• The subsequent 40 days were mostly dry 63% of the time and mostly wet 29% of the time.
• St Swithin correctly predicted the general gist of the subsequent 40 days 55% of the time.

That's not much better than flipping a coin. It'd be more accurate if the rhyme just said...
Whatever St Swithin sees in the sky
For forty days 'twill likely be dry
• Only 5 summers out of 38 have been more than 75% dry (including this year).
• Only 2 summers out of 38 have been more than 75% wet (1985 and 2016).
• St Swithin only predicted five of these correctly.

More usefully...

• On average, the 40 days after St Swithin's Day include 18 days when rain falls and 22 dry days.
• i.e. an English summer is mostly dry.

And most importantly...

• The St Swithin's Day rhyme has never been true.

 Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Yesterday TfL announced that through-running on Crossrail will begin on Sunday 6th November.



This is excellent news (insomuch as something scheduled for May 2019 happening in November 2022 is excellent) and will transform east/west travel across London.

And it's only the first of of four excellent pieces of news trumpeted in bulletpoints at the start of yesterday's upbeat press release.
New direct links through Berkshire and Essex through central London
Increased operating hours and Sunday services will see the Elizabeth line run seven days a week
More frequent train services between Whitechapel and Paddington
Bond Street station to open ahead of next phase in November
You'll be able to get a through train without having to change at Paddington or Liverpool Street, hurrah! Services will start earlier (5.30am) and finish later (11pm) as soon as Monday 5th September, hurrah! Trains will finally run on Sundays, hurrah! Passengers in central London will be getting more frequent trains, hurrah! And Bond Street will be opening before November, so just five months after the rest of the railway, hurrah!

But it's also instructive to dig out what TfL aren't telling us, indeed a nugget of information that's very deliberately not been included amongst 1500 words of text.

Because although half of the central section is about to get a more frequent service, the other half is about to see longer gaps between trains. Bad luck everyone southeast of Whitechapel.



Since May trains have been running between Paddington and Abbey Wood every 5 minutes. It's a simple consistent timetable which delivers 12 trains an hour in each direction.

From November the off-peak frequency in the central core will increase to 16 trains per hour, as advertised, which'll be a train every 4 minutes, hurrah.
"The frequency of services in the central section between Paddington and Whitechapel will increase from 12 trains per hour to up to 22 trains per hour in peak times and 16 trains per hour during off-peak."
But those 16 off-peak trains have to serve both the Shenfield and the Abbey Wood branches, whereas currently it's only the latter, which means Abbey Wood is going to be sent fewer trains.

Just how that split'll be managed has not been officially announced, indeed it's information that deliberately can't be deduced from the press release. You'd think it'd be 8 trains an hour each, and this is indeed almost certainly the case, which'd be a train only every 7½ minutes. Bankers, Royal Dockers, Woolwichers and Abbey Wooders can expect to wait 50% longer.

 Canary Wharf platform B
 1 Paddington due 
 2 Paddington 5 mins 
 3 Paddington 10 mins 
 4 Paddington 15 mins 
 May - November 2022
    
 Canary Wharf platform B
 1 Paddington due 
 2 Heathrow T4 7 mins 
 3 Paddington 15 mins 
 4 Reading 22 mins 
 Nov 2022 - May 2023

The best evidence for an 8/8 split comes from the existing Shenfield timetable. At present eight purple trains an hour depart Shenfield for Liverpool Street. Send all of these into the tunnels beyond Stratford and that's half of the 16 trains heading through the central core... leaving only 8 slots for trains from Abbey Wood.

n.b. They can't change the Shenfield timetable in November because National Rail timetables only change in May and December.
n.b. Officially "A small number of services will not run directly through into the Elizabeth line tunnels and some customers may need to change at Paddington or Liverpool Street mainline stations.", so yes, some Shenfield trains will still be terminating at Liverpool Street above ground, but that's not going to be an off-peak thing.


Passengers west of Paddington and east of Stratford won't initially see any uplift in the frequency of trains, they'll just get the fabulous convenience of those trains continuing into central London. Passengers between Paddington and Whitechapel will see an uplift to a train every 4 minutes rather than every 5, but they'll also have to start paying a lot more attention to where that train is going which could make their waiting time longer. It's only passengers between Whitechapel and Abbey Wood that lose out, frequency-wise, indeed it'll never be as good off-peak as it is now.

Let's summarise what's going on with some schematics.

These are the numbers of off-peak trains per hour until November 2022.

      Pa  LS8Sh
Re2 12       
   4 6←12       
   He      AW  

These are off-peak trains per hour in November 2022 when the tunnels link up.

      Pa  LS    
       8Sh
Re4   
   4 8←16   8   
   He     AW  

And these are off-peak trains per hour in May 2023 when the project is complete.

      Pa  LS    
Re4  10Sh
   6 10←20   10   
   He     AW  

I won't muddy the waters further by looking at peak services because they're a lot more complicated, save to say that Canary Wharf will be getting its "every 5 minutes" service back at peak times next May. Indeed it's worth remembering that next May is the really big bang when the ultimate service kicks in, and everything up to that point is only a step on the journey. But Canary Wharf, Custom House, Woolwich and Abbey Wood will never again get a service more frequent than they have now, and off-peak, sorry, it only gets worse.

 Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Ten houses I've lived in
(listed in chronological order of construction)



Property 1: 1880s 2 bed terrace
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the oldest. It was a proper two up two down with a titchy kitchen added onto the rear at a later date. These days I like to tell people I lived in a house with an outside toilet - a chilly cubicle round the back of the shed with its fair share of spiders - but a previous owner also added a bathroom on top of the kitchen so I didn't need to use it. The front door opened straight into the front room because the house didn't have anything as grand as a hall. The stairs were a precipitous flight squeezed between the front and back bedrooms with a patch of wall to hang coats at the bottom. The back garden was also the longest of any house I've ever lived in - first lawn, then rows of vegetables and ultimately a compost heap and an unkempt apple tree. Last time I went back the house'd been significantly extended with a third bedroom in the loft and a fourth on the way, because character always has potential. It's now way out of my league, but it'll always be my oldest house.

Property 2: 1890s 3 bed terrace
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the coldest. You entered from the street straight into a long windowless hallway, with what would have been a parlour at the front and what was still the dining room behind. A steep step led down into the kitchen, which was blessed with as few facilities as anyone could get away with, and beyond that an overgrown garden which was never for spending time in. Phone calls were taken on a party line in an alcove under the stairs. These days it's an archetypal house type, found all over London and all over the country, with three upstairs bedrooms capable of repurposing for a multitude of alternative uses. The bathroom proved inordinately chilly during frosty weather because it was the only room without a 2-bar electric fire. Last time I went back they'd replaced the front door with something a lot more uPVC, but the green tiled porch still had a bit of Victorian class.

Property 3: 1900s 2 bed flat
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the most transformed. Technically it was flats but it didn't start out as flats, it was some administrative building and none of the internal spaces were meant to be lived in. You walked into a vestibule that might once have been used for clocking in and headed up a set of stairs that might have been original or might have been added after the interior was gutted. Once past the front door a deceptively long hallway stretched out ahead, with the kitchen and bathroom appearing first and other rooms to follow. Sometimes if you tapped the wall you hit a solid pillar which must have been keeping the next storey up and sometimes it just reverberated like knocking on plasterboard, which was probably what was happening. Some curtains would have been nice but they were never provided. Last time I went back the letterboxes looked much shallower than the originals, and I still reckoned the security camera by the door was a disconnected sham.

Property 4: 1900s 3 bed flat
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the noisiest. The road outside was always busy and a nearby church with bells was prone to disturb the peace. It's the only time I've ever lived above a shop, hence you walked in round the side via a musty staircase that must once have been connected to the main business. I liked to imagine the living room as the shopkeeper's parlour, its focal point the fireplace rather than a TV set, and beyond that a kitchen that still had too much of a scullery about it. Someone with an eye for a profit had split one of the rooms in two with a disturbingly thin partition, which also made the central heating work harder, and the upper storey had a real attic feel to it. Last time I went back there was a To Let sign outside and a hint that additional subdivisions might have taken place within.

Property 5: 1920s 3 bed semi
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the most quintessentially suburban. The front gable featured five geometrically-arranged tiles and the bay window six leaded panes depicting something unidentifiably floral. You walked up to the front door past a garage that wasn't initially used for parking, and frosted glass ensured you couldn't see into the hall without being welcomed inside. One ground floor room was mainly for dining and the other for TV, but their functions increasingly overlapped as the years went by. The bedrooms were hierarchical from master round to box. The house benefitted from an extension with a utility room and a workshop, while the garden included a greenhouse, a bird table and a silver birch. Last time I went back they'd torn the trailing rose from the pebbledash, but more unexpectedly they'd finally repainted the garage.

Property 6: 1960s 2 bed apartment
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the only one with a military past. It was built as an off-base annexe for the families of American airmen, so very much out of place in its immediate setting, with a flat roof and walls that seemed to be mostly glass. You walked into a ground floor hallway which was mainly somewhere to store shoes and collect mail, then walked up a set of sleek curving stairs to the main body of the house. Every floor was wooden and every wall was white. For anything social you turned left, and for cooking right into a slim kitchen focused around an electric hob it was easy to hate. A further double flight led up to a landing any commercial builder would have turned into a third bedroom. Last time I went back they'd replaced the flat roof with something more angular and less prone to leak, indeed the builders who did that would have turfed me out had I not left of my own accord.

Property 7: 1970s 3 bed house
Of all the properties I've lived in this was somehow the most ordinary. It was the first house on the right as you turned the corner, with six paving slabs leading across a small rectangular patch of lawn to the front door, plus a mini lockup for keeping the mower in. You walked into an airy hallway that allowed you to bypass the kitchen and step straight through into a large square living room which was very much the main focus of the house now that separate dining rooms were a thing of the past. Upstairs only the master bedroom had much space, with little wriggle room in the others once you'd added a bed and some drawers. It wasn't the first house I'd had with a shower but it was the first that'd been properly fitted. Last time I went back the communal parking out front seemed to dominate more than before, and someone had placed a potted conifer by the bins.

Property 8: 1980s 3 bed bungalow
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the most extended. It had a conservatory out back to make the most of the morning sun and an extra bedroom added on the side to facilitate easier sleeping. You arrived across a sweep of gravel beside an ornamental bed, and entered through an alarmed door between a pub sign and a fuchsia. The main room was L-shaped with the TV at its apex, and the three-piece suite was often shuffled round so as not to wear out the carpet. The modcons in the kitchen were partly camouflaged behind wooden doors and the provision of a separate bathroom and toilet allowed for greater flexibility in everyday routines. It's not the doorbell I'd have chosen but it certainly made itself heard across the house. Last time I went back the daffodils had been replaced by something hardier and the tree by the telegraph pole had been hacked to a stump.

Property 9: 1980s 2 bed flat
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the only one with sash windows. It slotted symmetrically beyond a set of parking spaces, one each, with a rarely accessed garden area round the back. You entered past a wall of letterboxes that weren't as secure as they should have been and wound round a set of narrow steps past a communal meter cupboard. Once beyond the front door the hallway was as minimal as possible to leave sufficient space for rooms with a genuine function. One room contained more IKEA shelves than style guidelines would recommend, and another a double bed that could have been better used. The shower unit was always a bit shonky so should have been replaced earlier, and the view from the kitchen window was restricted by nextdoor's wall. Last time I went back the shrubbery looked frankly pathetic and my auntie's curtains were no longer on view.

Property 10: 1990s 4 bed detached
Of all the properties I've lived in this was the only one that was new the day I moved in, the only one with a double garage and the only one with a jacuzzi out back. You entered via a hall with a boastful number of doors, with all the CDs in the room to the right and the high-backed chairs round the glass-topped dining table straight ahead. The living room existed to show off the widescreen TV and the kitchen had sufficient hiding places to conceal a kitten. If it was a power shower you wanted that was upstairs, and the luxury of being able to turn two bedrooms into offices turned out to facilitate adulterous duplicity. The snagging list I sent to the builders included "Kitchen roof still has missing tiles", "Gap left under window sill in downstairs cloakroom" and "Windows not finished off with putty and sealant as in show house". I have never been back, nor do I ever intend to, but that's dream houses for you.


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my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
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diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
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
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
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