Monday, October 31, 2022
31 unblogged things I did in October
Sat 1: I went for a ride on a Routemaster bus from Clapham to Peckham as part of the London Bus Museum's Route 37 Running Day. It was good fun watching a cavalcade of red buses running the other way and the faces of excited South Londoners watching them pass. It took me a while to spot that the passenger in the seat opposite was Sir Peter Hendy, taking a day off from being boss of Network Rail to enjoy a ride on an Imber-branded heritage bus.
Sun 2: Today diamond geezer received its 1,111,111th visitor, so thanks if it was you. Feel free to pretend it was if you have no understanding of probability.
Mon 3: The new statue on the 4th plinth supposedly "reveals the hidden narratives of underrepresented peoples in the history of the British Empire in Africa and beyond", but only if you read what it's supposed to be about, otherwise it's just two men wearing hats.
Tue 4: For those of you still tackling Wordle, an alternative daily challenge might be Wordall. Every day they give you two starting words and you have to enter all the possible words that fit the coloured pattern. Normally there are four words to find and it gets a bit easier the more you guess. I'm dead proud that my average after 170 attempts is 2 minutes 3 seconds, having never failed (yet).
Wed 5: Sigh, my copy of Outlook has stopped working because Microsoft have decreed that their program needs to be more secure and my version is too old to cope. I can now only access my email online, and I already miss having a solid bit of ever-ready software rather than having to rely on a website to do everything.
Thu 6: You'd think by now I could find my way across Hampstead Heath without needing to check on a map but no, I still got Kenwood to Parliament Hill a bit wrong. I need more practice.
Fri 7: I'm delighted Liverpool got Eurovision, that's going to be epic. Now let's see how Ukraine-y they can make it.
Sat 8: I'd never spotted this before...
Sun 9: As I reached the bottom of the stairs at Bow Road station an elderly woman looked at me and then looked at her basket on wheels. "Sure," I said, only to discover that her basket was unexpectedly heavy, almost like it contained several bricks. I struggled to lift it and resorted to tugging it up the stairs one step at a time, made harder because I was carrying a large hardback book in my other hand which ruled out various alternative handling options. "Do you need help with that?" asked a passenger who'd just arrived at the scene of the action. "She does," I said, nodding at the elderly lady who by now was halfway up the stairs. "Do you need help with that?" asked a second passenger a short while later, and he was built like a proverbial brick outbuilding so I swallowed my pride and let him carry it. The old lady smiled as we both walked past and collected her haul with gratitude at the top. And just when I was in danger of being hugely impressed, our saviour then pushed through the ticket gates without paying, let his girlfriend through behind him and then lit up a spliff. What I learned today was never to take anything at face value.
Mon 10: My house insurance has gone down by £60 this year, as if my insurers have suddenly discovered a policy they assured me didn't exist the last three times I rang them up.
Tue 11: This amazing narrowboat chugged past me on the Grand Union Canal in Greenford. It's called the Boat Of Fame (that's Darren at the helm) and it tours the waterways as an ever-changing art exhibition. Usually it's covered with graffiti and street art but at present it looks like a tube train as part of the Mind The Gap Tour 2022. This feels to me like a project that deserves to be much better known.
Wed 12: If you've seen hundreds of acorns underfoot this month that's because this is a 'mast year', a year when trees go all out to create extra seeds to ensure animals can't eat all of them. These normally occur every 5-10 years, although the last for acorns was 2020 suggesting the trees might be over-exerting themselves. I can't find a definitive list of previous mast years, though.
Thu 13: I remembered to vote in the Bow neighbourhood plan referendum, even though they'd moved the polling station without telling anyone. The only other voter in the room looked at her ballot paper, realised she didn't understand the question she was voting on and asked the tellers if they could provide any information. They couldn't, and I left her there looking baffled, indecisive and confused.
Fri 14: Inflationwatch: 500g bag of own-brand pasta - two years ago 53p, one year ago 70p, now 90p.
Sat 15: A post I wrote four years ago has suddenly started getting a lot of visits from people searching Google for Jerry H*nr*h*n, and all because I once wrote about his incredibly OTT grave in a Hillingdon cemetery. My Flickr photo has started getting heavy traffic too (and still is a fortnight later), but I can't work out why it's happening given he died in 2011. n.b. The asterisks are a's, but I daren't use Jerry's full name in case Google starts sending searchers to this post instead.
Sun 16: Dammit, I didn't get away with it after all. And while I was asleep too.
Mon 17: The Christmas decorations are up in Oxford Street and Regent Street already. The former are underwhelming and the latter are overfamiliar.
Tue 18: As well as dozens of classic sitcom episodes on iPlayer to celebrate the BBC's 100th birthday, they're also repeating the first series of The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy and Cabin Pressure, and I'm thoroughly enjoying listening again again again again.
Wed 19: Dear TfL, it's a bit early to be slapping poppies on DLR trains, the official British Legion remembrance launch isn't for another week.
Thu 20: I went out for a birthday lunch with Dad, but in the coffee lounge rather than the restaurant because appetites fade when you're in your eighties. During the gap between main course and dessert the Prime Minister resigned, which was especially exciting because we could see her constituency on the other side of the car park. I celebrated her crumble with apple crumble and custard.
Fri 21: No, apparently I did get away with it, and that's a professional opinion.
Sat 22: I thought I'd broken the washing machine but in fact I'd accidentally set the child lock, and once I'd downloaded the instruction manual I worked out how to get it working again.
Sun 23: I enjoyed the feature length Doctor Who regeneration special, even if the plot was full of ridiculously unlikely coincidences to shoehorn in as many classic characters as possible. It was lovely to see them. And the twist at the end had been kept impressively quiet - well done Russell!
Mon 24: I walked away from Bond Street station with two souvenirs, a smart enamel badge dated 2022 and a cheap unbranded biro in the wrong shade of purple.
Tue 25: While Liz Truss was handing in her notice at Buckingham Palace I was watching a partial solar eclipse from the street outside her house. Before the last bite of the Sun had disappeared Rishi was back in Downing Street making his inaugural speech. Were I an astrologer I'd be telling you political changeovers don't get any more ominous than that.
Wed 26: My post about London's pylons got shared on a technology news website today which gave this blog its third most successful day ever (1st - history trees, 2nd - election votes). Looking at the feedback almost nobody was thrilled by the post, they just all wanted to talk about pylons.
Thu 27: A new road has opened underneath Barking Riverside station while they continue to tweak the immediate neighbourhood into something that doesn't resemble tumbleweed. The station has four ticket machines which seems somewhat unnecessary, especially given that's one more than the new entrances at Bond Street have.
Fri 28: I'm not optimistic about Elon Musk buying Twitter, although thus far I haven't seen anything worse than a couple of people tweeting endlessly about how awful it's going to be now Elon Musk's bought Twitter.
Sat 29: It really shouldn't be 22°C at the end of October, no matter how pleasant it might feel. A special hello to the overheating idiots in scarves and zipped-up jackets who don't check weather forecasts, only dress by the season.
Sun 30: I moved five timepieces back an hour, one from 1983, one from 1990, one from 1991, one from 1997 and one from 2019. The 2003, 2015, 2016 and 2021 devices switched themselves.
Mon 31: Sigh, the london.gov.uk webpage has just updated to a new beta design in an attempt to deliver a "clear, clean, accessible and impactful design". In practice this means all things Mayoral are now in much bigger text with more white space, so I can read far less on my laptop screen in one go (e.g. the homepage now consists of three huge words and half a photo). This is not "the most effective and engaging way to feature information, resources and digital services". It is the future though, alas.
posted 07:00 :
Sunday, October 30, 2022Seaside postcard: Felixstowe
Felixstowe is a small coastal town in Suffolk and simultaneously one of the most important places in the country. Facing the sea it has a pier, a promenade, ornamental gardens and several amusement arcades, and at the mouth of the River Orwell it has Britain's biggest and busiest container port whose cranes are visible for miles. Both are worth a visit.
[Visit Felixstowe] [6 mile walk] [12 photos]
How to get there
By lorry: All the way to the end of the A14.
By car: Follow the lorries.
By train: Hourly shuttle from Ipswich
By ferry (April to October): take the foot ferry from Harwich or Bawdsey
By ferry (November to March): wait til April
I wasn't expecting Felixstowe to be a seaside resort, I was expecting it to be a dump. But no, the town centre outside the station is perfectly decent, the main street isn't overriden by pound stores and only occasionally do the shops feel like a forgotten throwback. In the Suffolk coastal league table this places Felixstowe well below Southwold but comfortably above Lowestoft, which I suspect is a good place to be. What's more the seafront was busy with families eating chips, playing in the arcades and walking up to the far end of the promenade and back, bringing a half term last hurrah for the tourist trade.
Felixfact: The station is a shadow of its former self, restricted to one end of one former platform, while the original building has been transformed into a small shopping centre with a Co-Op supermarket and a cafe/bar/nightclub called Chuffers.
The Seafront Gardens are the jewel in Felixstowe's crown and stretch for almost a kilometre along the base of the cliffs. Some sections are original Victorian, others co-opted from long-closed hotels, and most have ornamental planting beneath some kind of zigzagging stairway. Look out for the Octagonal Shelter, the Arch Cascade, the Dripping Pond, the Ivy Terrace and the Serpentine Steps. At the centre is the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe's beachfront theatre, where many a tribute act (and the genuine Peter Andre) are scheduled to play before the end of the year. Its terrace restaurant screams "updated in the 1970s" and was surprisingly full, indeed I did get the feeling that the most popular thing to do in Felixstowe is sit down and eat.
Felixfact: Wallis Simpson had to spend six weeks in Felixstowe for administrative reasons during the abdication crisis in 1936, and apparently hated the place. The house where she stayed has been demolished, so no blue plaque.
One thing Felixstowe has an abundance of is beach huts, well over a thousand of them, probably nearer two. They line the prom in every available space, occasionally stacked back on the cliffs where sometimes the only view is of the hut in front. The chain is so long that there's both a Gulls & Buoys and a Buoys & Gulls, not to mention the inevitable Salty Groyne, but also more original names like Vitamin Sea, Huttingham Palace and Perfectly Adequate. Felixstowe claims to have the oldest beach huts in the country, although 44 of these are currently under threat. Stormy winters forced them off the beach onto the prom but the council's health & safety squad say they can't stay there, and the subsequent campaign suggests the joyless naysayers have a fight on their hands.
Felixfact: The biggest building on the clifftops started out as a hotel and later became the HQ for Fisons, the fertiliser people - a quintessential Suffolk business. It's now a retirement home.
Attempts to walk the full length of the seafront are thwarted at high tide by a gap in the promenade which requires stepping down onto the beach. I risked the first bit only to discover the gap wasn't twenty metres, it was more like two hundred, so dashed back to dry land before the incoming breakers cut me off. The hiatus is because Felixstowe's richer folk need clifftop houses with beach access and so the Suffolk Coast Path nudges inland instead. On the far side is Old Felixstowe, home to the majority of the town's beach huts and also Karon's Kiosk where a cup of tea still costs a quid. Inland is 14th century St Peter and St Paul's church, adrift amid a swirl of bungalows and most probably locked. But you don't want to be going this way, you want to be going south.
Felixfact: Walton Castle (more an earthwork than a fortification) now lies under the waves off Old Felixstowe and its seaweedy remains can be glimpsed at particularly low tides.
The pier used to be a lot longer, extending far into the North Sea to serve Edwardian paddle steamers, but the end had to be lopped to make things harder for invading Germans. Today even the stump is blocked off, its timbers deemed unsafe, so visitors have to make do with a cafe bar and a cavernous amusement arcade. Evidence suggests this keeps them happy enough. Beyond the pier are the mini-rides and mini-golf, a lot more chip and ice cream merchants and yet more slots to feed, including an ugly cluster originally run by Billy Butlin. If you ignore all that and carry on you'll reach a Martello Tower, one of Felixstowe's four surviving Napoleonic defences, this one now with a National Coastwatch lookout on top.
Felixfact: The vents to the east of the tower belong to a Cold War bunker dug here in the 1960s. See adjacent information board for full apocalyptic details.
It's a bit of a hike but eventually the holiday chalets make way for a thin expanse of scruffy grassland and vegetated shingle, complete with sea kale and the occasional military leftover. This is Landguard Common, a nature reserve at the southernmost tip of Suffolk much appreciated by migrating birdlife. It's also home to all the best visitable stuff in Felixstowe. Landguard Fort was built here in 1744, upgraded in 1871 and its maze of tunnels and passageways is currently under the control of English Heritage. For £9.70 you can poke round both the fort and Felixstowe Museum nextdoor (but come today because after the end of October both go into hibernation until Easter). And they're by no means the biggest thing round here.
Felixfact: Felixstowe has a phenomenally good provision of public toilets, especially near the seafront and in the town centre, so wherever you are you'll not get caught short.
The container ships rounding Landguard Point are enormous but even they're overshadowed by the line of 25 cranes stretching up the estuary. The Port of Felixstowe is so huge that half of Britain's containered imports pass through it, and for security reasons it's entirely out of bounds. But here at Landguard you can get right up close, indeed at the John Bradfield Viewing Area this is positively encouraged. Grab a cuppa in the cafe and sit out on the terrace - dozens do - and you can watch the comings and goings from a convenient table. Purchase of beverages is not compulsory, however, because you can just step down onto the shingle and nudge a little nearer.
Felixfact: Felixstowe lies at the end of the Colneis peninsula, which sticks out between the Shotley peninsula and the Deben peninsula adjacent to the Harwich peninsula on the Tendring peninsula, so it's a bit out on a limb whichever way you come.
I watched spellbound as the nearest crane picked up single containers from the dockside and manoeuvred them onto the eighth layer of the metal mountain on the upper deck. We think of articulated lorries as the biggest things on the road but here their cargoes are insignificant jigsaw pieces piled high on intercontinental monsters. The CSCL Atlantic Ocean pictured here had just spent a month on a voyage from China and should be unloading in Gdansk by tomorrow evening. Not many seaside resorts can offer macro- and micro-attractions on the scale that Felixstowe offers, just in case you fancy a day out with a difference.
Felixfact: The 77 bus departs Landguard Point hourly for Felixstowe town centre and ultimately Ipswich bus station. The nearest station is actually in Harwich, but you'll need the foot ferry for that.
posted 07:00 :
Saturday, October 29, 2022The longest periods of British Summer Time
1) 193 weeks (18 Feb 1968 - 31 Oct 1971)
In 1968 Harold Wilson's government decreed that Britain would shift to permament GMT+1 by not switching the clocks back an hour in October. Technically this was British Standard Time, not British Summer Time, as there was no intention to return to seasonal time adjustments. This change increased evening daylight throughout the winter months (which was popular) but also delayed sunrise (which was not, especially in Scotland). Statistics showed that road accidents decreased in the evening more than they increased in the morning, which was good, but this couldn't be pinned down solely to the time change. Ultimately permanent BST proved unpopular enough that Parliament voted to end it by 366 votes to 81, a fairly convincing rebuttal, and the annual switcheroo has continued ever since.
2) 62 weeks (25 Feb 1940 - 4 May 1941)
One great way to boost the war effort, Winston Churchill thought, would be to adjust the nation's clocks. More daylight in the evenings would improve industrial production and give workers more chance of getting home before the blackout. So a decision was taken not to move the clocks back an hour in autumn 1940, and then when spring 1941 came round they were shifted another hour onto GMT+2.
3) 34 weeks (Winter 1941 and Winter 1942)
The wartime move to Double Summer Time (GMT+2) meant that ordinary summer time (GMT+1) became the default during the winter (or, to be more exact, from mid-August to early April).
5) 33 weeks (Winter 1943 and Summer 1948)
Double Summer Time ended swiftly after VE Day in 1945, but was reintroduced in 1947 to help cope with nationwide fuel shortages after a particularly tough winter. The spring of 1947 saw the shortest ever period of British Summer Time, running for just four weeks from 16th March to 13th April. The following year things went back to normal, with a particularly early start on 14th March, and that's how 1948 got to be the longest period of summer time to coincide with a single summer.
7) 32 weeks (Summer 1967, 1972-75, 1978-80)
After the four-year Double Summer Time experiment the BST changeover dates settled down, becoming "the third weekend in March to the fourth weekend in October". That's 32 weeks in some years and 31 weeks in others, which is one week more than we get today.
15) 31 weeks (this summer and 24 others)
In 1980 the European Union issued a directive that clocks across the community would move forward an hour on the last Sunday in March and back an hour on the last Sunday in October. This is still the case, all proposals to change the status quo having come to nothing. It means we enjoy 30 weeks of summer time 3 years out of 7 and 31 weeks of summer time 4 years out of 7, with 2022 fortunately one of the latter. Just 21 weeks to go and we'll be putting our clocks forward again...
posted 14:00 :
It's time for an update from the diamond geezer indoor thermometer.
Because I now have two years of data.
As a reminder...
» This is the temperature in my living room first thing in the morning.
» First thing in the morning is the coldest time of day in my house.
» First thing in the morning is not affected by any central heating I may have had on.
» I'm not one of those people who leaves the central heating on overnight.
This is not the temperature it would be in your house first thing in the morning because you live somewhere else with different weather behind different walls. But the overall shape of the graph would probably be similar, individual wiggles notwithstanding.
What the graph shows twice over, obviously enough, is that it gets colder in the winter and warmer in the summer. But see how winter 2020/21 was noticeably colder than winter 2021/22 and also how summer 2022 was significantly warmer than summer 2021. The differences are quite marked, and not just a consequence of that record-breaking heatwave in July.
• In 2021 the indoor temperature dipped below 12°C for a fortnight in January and another week in February. The only such dip last winter was a couple of days in November 2021.
• In 2021 the temperature first thing in the morning only exceeded 22°C for three brief bursts, never longer than a fortnight. In 2022 it stayed above 22°C from the first week of July to the first week of September - a full two months.
And my reason for showing you this data is because we all have central heating costs on our mind this winter.
I don't know where your central heating threshold is, but my subconscious doesn't even think of switching it on if the temperature's over 16°C. My graph shows that the 16°C threshold tends to be breached in November and doesn't recover until surprisingly late, i.e. April or May. That's six months below and six months above, with the 'chill in the air' half-year starting soon. As for the 14°C threshold, when even an extra layer might not cut it, that's more of a December to March event.
Remember your house won't heat up or cool down like mine so the numbers on my graph are only relative. Also indoor temperatures tend to get warmer during the day, so even when it's a bit nippy first thing it could still be shorts weather by lunchtime.
But if you've already turned your heating on, don't expect to be turning it off until May. And if you intend to hold out because you're resilient or you're trying to save on fuel bills, the toughest shivery bit is likely to be from December to early March.
posted 07:00 :
Friday, October 28, 202208:00 A thing should be happening later.
09:00 The thing is happening soon.
10:00 The thing may now have happened.
11:00 The thing has happened.
12:00 I have experienced the thing.
13:00 Here is the thing.
These are the new moving walkways at Bank station which opened this morning. They're numbered 3 and 4 because Bank already has two travolators leading to the Waterloo & City line. This new pair connect the Northern line to the Central line, and follow on from a new DLR connection added just two weeks ago. The Bank/Monument station complex has suddenly become a streamlined interchange, not a clogged labyrinthine timewaster.
They're very long. If you step on and allow the travolator to glide you along it takes 2 minutes and 7 seconds to reach the other end. But the idea is that you walk and obviously that's a lot quicker, taking just 45 seconds to whisk you all the way. It's like stepping into a shiny silver future.
From the Central line you first slip into a bright new concourse between the platforms, then ride a short bank of escalators down to travolator level. Turn left at the bottom, pass through a blue slot and voila - the moving walkways stretch out ahead of you. And at the far end if you carry straight on you reach the new escalators down to the DLR, so there's no need to take the old screechy ones via the existing route. It's a massive capacity upgrade which gifts Bank a new subterranean spine.
But where's the evil deceptive signage, you may be asking. Well it's not the arrows this time, it's the Next Train Indicator at the Northern end of the moving walkway. This displays the times of the next services on the Central line... or at least it pretends to, because only trains that are 4 or more minutes away are shown. As soon as the time reaches 3 minutes the display refreshes and the train disappears, even though it's still perfectly possible to catch it. I timed the walk to the Central line platform and was stepping onto a train 1 minute 30 seconds later, so the 3 minute cut-off is ludicrous. But TfL don't want you spotting an Epping train, thinking you'll never get there in time and running to catch it, and so they invoke this deceitful censorship which renders the function of the Next Train Indicator meaningless.
There's one last project to be completed at Bank, a new step-free exit onto Cannon Street which is due to be opened before the end of the year. It's been an astonishingly impressive transformation all told, shifting Bank/Monument from an interchange best avoided to an efficient modern station. The 40% addition in capacity would be even more beneficial if financial workers were still pouring into the City rather than working from home, but they'll really notice the difference next time they're here. Blimey, Bond Street on Monday and Bank on Friday, it's been quite the infrastructural week.
posted 08:00 :
Thursday, October 27, 2022Let's return to the October 1972 edition of London Transport Magazine and see what some of the employees were getting up to. Nothing interesting. [scan]
• Sylvan Agard has been top bakery student at a leading London college for the past three years - thanks to the English climate.
• London Transport railway instructors came through a gruelling six-hour test with flying colours.
• The first full-time secretary of the National Federation of Sea Anglers is former Bromley bus driver Bob Page.
• When Holloway bus driver George Paul and his family moved into an Islington block of flats in 1968 he lost no time in organising a soccer team from the local youngsters.
• Hackney council alderman Sam Springer has been appointed a member of the conciliation committee of the North Metropolitan branch of the Race Relations Board.
• The stupendous feats of strength displayed by weightlifters in action at the Munich Olympic Games stirred the memories of at least one member of our staff.
• The towns of Ayr, Bath and Truro were just three of fifteen visited in a hectic eight-day spell by Mr Bertrand Moran, former London Transport gardening superintendent.
• Tram enthusiast Geoffrey Baddeley of the muniments office devotes his off-duty time to more than the restoration of London trams.
• The modern red London bus has been a feature of several Department of Trade Industry sponsored overseas exhibitions to boost sales of British goods.
• A leading member of the East Anglian Transport Museum at Lowestoft is James Malster, a central London bus inspector for 43 years.
If any of those 'first lines' pique your interest you can click on the scan and read the article in full (but I suspect they won't, and recommend you don't). Note that all of them are about men - the only woman on the double page is Anita Harris promoting an all-over ad on a Red Arrow bus.
How about sports and hobbies? [scan]
• The numbers attending London Transport rugby club's training sessions and trials has been very encouraging.
• Writer and television personality Kenneth Hudson gave an illustrated introductory talk at the first meeting of the London Transport industrial archaeology group.
• District line cricket club defeated a combined Acton works XI by seven wickets.
• There is a programme change for Central line camera club's practical night on October 10 - the subject will now be mounting and spotting.
• Stamps of Denmark were featured at a recent meeting of the London Transport philatelic society.
• District line football section are looking for experienced players who can turn out regularly.
• Meetings of the chief signal engineer's department technical society during the coming months include talks on such diverse subjects as hovercraft, glass manufacture and North Sea oil.
• Whitechapel ticket machine fitter Albert McLean took first place in the 100 metres at an international veterans' athletic meeting at Crystal Palace.
• Here are the main winners of the railway employees' horticultural society annual show held at Hammersmith.
• The next meeting of the LER dog club will be held at the Camden Town committee rooms at 7.30pm on October 12.
• Members are reminded that the annual presentation dance will be held in Acton pavilion on November 3.
It's still a very male preserve, although we do learn the name of the District women's tennis tournament champion and it is possible some of the horticultural show winners were female.
The letters page kicks off with an angry conductor moaning about the generosity of concessionary bus passes. [scan]
The scheme is badly costed and the qualifications absurd. To put the whole system straight should be a priority. We must call a halt to wealthy and independent people joy-riding all over London every day at the expense of the ratepayers because they have reached a certain age. The concession should be FREE and only available to the aged and needy. The sole qualification should be that the applicant be 65 and he or she should be in receipt of some sort of social security payment.
These joyless miseryguts still exist - it's just much easier for them to be heard these days. And this one hasn't finished lambasting old folk yet. Bloody freeloading pensioners.
The timing, anyway, should be adjusted. Folk are getting on a bus just before 4pm for a long run and during the 5pm peak they are occupying full fare space that the all-day workers should have. All journeys by the concession holders should be terminated by 4pm.
Which brings us to the Woman's Page. Everything else in the magazine is about transport and what transport employees have been doing, but the Woman's Page is very different. The main article is about buying blankets. [scan]
Black blankets for those winter nights
The approach of winter calls for bright gay colours in the bedroom. And this includes blankets. This year they come in more than fifty colours ranging from bitter chocolate and aubergine to mango, purple and even black. More people are using blankets instead of a bed cover to highlight a colour scheme in patterned wallpaper or carpet.
Those colours sound very 1972. And what else are women supposedly interested in?
• A new hand-held hairdryer in a streamlined design and attractive colour combination of lilac and white, peach and white or lilac and mauve sells for £3.95 at Boots. If you prefer roller sets to the blow-dry hairstyles, there's a colour-matched hood available with hose and stand at an extra £1.
• A new potato chipper from Woolworth has a high quality, long life plating, stainless steel cutters and a plastic pusher designed to ensure the chips pop out when pressure is applied to the handle.
I think we had one of those chippers at home, livening up our teatimes, but even so I doubt my Mum would have been interested in reading this patronising slop. Neither did she need tips on keeping her skin healthy (don't eat a lot of fatty foods, do eat lots of citrus fruit, don't leave make up on overnight, do get lots of fresh air). And as for the model in the swirly dress...
Silhouette have introduced this attractive long Polyester bra dress in their autumn leisurewear range. In sizes 12-18, it comes in tan/green and blue, selling at approximately £8.65. The name? Natasha.
London Transport Magazine morphed into LT News in 1973, which is probably just as well, and I never saw a copy on sale at Croxley station again. Whatever TfL serves up for its employees these days is a lot more private, undoubtedly a lot less sexist, much more agenda-driven and quite possibly a lot less interesting. Times change.
posted 07:00 :
Wednesday, October 26, 202210 Things To Do in West Greenwich
(if you've just lost your job and suddenly have a lot of free time on your hands)
Life after a high powered job can be difficult, especially if your workmates have abruptly rejected you. But if you're fortunate enough to have a home amid the well-heeled streets of West Greenwich it's easy to fill your empty days. Here's how best to stay busy within five minutes of your front door.
1) Buy British cheese on Royal Hill
The local shopping parade is a former Trade Minister's dream because West Greenwich's population is well up for paying over the odds for deli-style produce. Top of the shop is an artisan emporium called The Cheeseboard where the wide selection of milky delights includes Cornish Yarg, Whin Yeats Wensleydale and Isle of Mull Cheddar. But the display behind the counter also features Beaufort d'été, Stärnächäs, Brie de Meaux, Mimolette, Comté and Pecorino Romano because they import two thirds of their cheese, and that is a disgrace.
2) Take a trip to the pork market
Nextdoor to The Cheeseboard are Drings, the family butchers, who bring a proper 'blue stripy apron' vibe to Royal Hill. Those lovely loin chops in the window are sourced from Blythburgh in Suffolk where new pork markets have opened up, whereas the minted lamb chops are fresh from the West Country. And because this is the posh side of Greenwich you can also take your pick from partridge, mallard and wood pigeon, and none of that halal stuff.
3) Indulge in proper apples and pears
When it comes to purchasing fruit, do you want value for money or do you want plump polished specimens piled high in wicker baskets? Reassuringly it's the latter at The Creaky Shed, the greengrocers nextdoor to Drings, as this artisan shopping parade ticks all the boxes. Independent local provenance keeps the food miles low, although the bucketfuls of tulips wrapped in brown paper aren't perhaps quite as planet-friendly. The shop also sells lettuce, although you may not want reminding of that.
4) Take a Decision To Leave
If you've recently faced an embarrassing climbdown in public, why not hide away in the dark for a couple of hours? The Greenwich Picturehouse has comfier seats than most, and a selection of arty films that helps to keep the plebs out. Screening tonight is Decision To Leave, a seductive thriller in which a geeky Europhile embraces Brexit to further her career, then swiftly finds herself out of her depth and is forced to resign. Picturehouse members also get £3 off at the Fan Museum, which is dead useful if you've not seen many fans recently.
5) Pick a potboiler from Greenwich Book Time
Browsing the shelves of a good bookshop can be almost as much fun as reading your prized purchases afterwards. At Greenwich Book Time they veer towards the remaindered end of the market, but if you don't mind non-fiction or a slew of underperforming overpublicised authors there are bargains to be had. Wait a few months and you may even find your own biography on the shelves, out of the blue, so at least it's guaranteed one buyer.
6) Browse bric a brac at The Junk Shop
Lose yourself in the compartmentalised basement of an antiques shop that's not as classy as it looks, amid shelves packed with all sorts of stuff people chucked out because they didn't want it any more. Sound familiar? The Junk Shop has faced off against Greenwich station since the 1950s, and today a cutesy coffee kiosk fills half its front window. They do house clearance too, should you have a vanful of furniture recently removed from a prime central London location.
7) Get branded at Gilt Moth Tattoo
Greenwich residents who no longer care what the public think of them can always throw caution to the wind and plaster their flesh with ink. Mel and her team at Gilt Moth Tattoo will be happy to transform your artistic desires into multicoloured reality, whether what you want is Britannia Unchained or a full-on blue sleeve. It won't be cheap, this is no fiscal giveaway, but after the first prick the only way ahead is growth, growth, growth.
8) Get merry at The Guildford Arms
Sometimes after the day from hell all you really want is to hunker down with a stiff drink and try to forget how much everyone hates you. Thankfully West Greenwich is blessed with numerous watering holes, many bedecked in flowers to try to attract smart wine drinkers rather than the drab and beery. You'll know The Guildford Arms, it's only round the corner, which with its supper club and artisan cocktails is a better bet than the George and Dragon's drag-based cabaret. But best avoid the Prince of Greenwich and other pubs with royal connections in case they remind you of that time you saw off the monarch and read the lesson at her funeral really badly.
9) Eat Out To Help Out
You can't stay hidden at home ordering in takeaways forever. Instead get out there and enjoy some of the finest fine dining eateries this corner of SE10 has to offer. The Hill used to be a Whitbread pub but is now a Mediterranean restaurant with a Latin American twist, Pho City offers lobster in one chamber and Vietnamese in the other, and the Novotel has a Gourmet Bar that'll do as a last resort. But should the cost of living ever bite, never forget that the G Bless Jerk Centre does a lunchtime chicken curry special for under a fiver.
No 10) What's The Point?
Finally you can always climb the back alleys to The Point, one of London's protected views. This grassy swathe offers a panoramic vista across not just Greenwich but also the whole of central London. Look, there's the City of London whose anti-growth coalition so comprehensively trashed your economic policies. Look, there are the North London townhouses populated by the moaning wokerati. And look, there's the Palace of Westminster where yesterday you were top of the pile and today you're nothing, skulking around SE10 in abject disgrace. Luckily there's plenty to do here to keep you occupied.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, October 25, 2022Bond Street Crossrail station
Opened: 24th October 2022
Status: The final Crossrail station
Delay: Five months late
Actual delay: Almost four years late
Brief summary: Bond Street is perhaps the purest Crossrail station of all. A pair of long straight platforms, several crosspassages with curvaceous walls, an exit at each end, escalators leading up and out.
Change here for: Central line, Jubilee line, Oxford Street West.
Main entrance: Davies Street (just behind the shopping centre containing the tube station entrance)
Building on top of entrance: Architecturally undistinguished, not yet complete.
Ticket hall: A long ribbed box to funnel passengers to the gateline at the far end, three ticket machines.
Upper concourse: huge space (mostly empty), somewhere to double back to the top of the escalators, access to lift, temporary giant glowing purple roundel.
Artworks above escalators (by Darren Almond)
Top of top escalator: 'Horizon Line' - a large grid of fragmented numbers cast in aluminium made up of 144 individual hand-polished tiles. Artiest of the three.
Bottom of top escalator: 'Time Line' - four words on separate nameplates (FROM UNDER THE GLACIER) intended to remind us 'how our journey through this network of tunnels has literally cut through geological time itself'.
Top of bottom escalator: 'Shadow Line' - four words on one nameplate (REFLECT FROM YOUR SHADOW) intended to 'evoke a sense of departure and leaving something in your wake'.
Bottom of bottom escalator: No. Darren only created three artworks.
Other entrance: Hanover Square (not as close to Oxford Circus as you'd like)
Building on top of entrance: Architecturally undistinguished, complete.
Ticket hall: A functional slot, three ticket machines, a shorter walk to the gateline.
Leading directly to: The longest Crossrail escalators (60m long).
Artwork? Hell no. Captive audience for well over a minute, so twin ribbons of digital adverts.
The platforms: Two. Parallel. Very long.
How long? So long that the trains stop in the middle of the platform with a carriage-length gap at each end.
Blimey that's long: Yup, 255m each. I counted 165 light panels along the length of the westbound platform.
Where are the platform exits? Yet again, front and back. For a fast exit you need to be either at the front of the train or the back of the train.
Do the exit arrows lie? Only slightly. If you arrive in the front or back carriage, exit via the passageway closest to you. If you arrive in any other carriage, follow the arrows.
Davies Street Hanover Square Abbey Wood → 9 1 1 9 ← Paddington
Platform level layout: Very symmetrical. Each platform has crosspassages adjacent to carriage 1, carriage 2, carriage 5, carriage 8 and carriage 9. The central passage links only to the other platform, while the others lead to a concourse at the foot of the escalators. Walk to the far end of each platform behind the escalators to find another passage with access to the lifts.
Anything novel? Nah. If you've been to any other central London Crossrail station, you'll recognise how Bond Street looks. It looks good though.
What about signage? On the eastbound platform the line diagrams show you may have to change at Liverpool Street. This is true for the next two weeks. But on the westbound platform the line diagrams show you don't have to change at Paddington. This is not yet the case. The line diagrams facing the lifts already show the final configuration.
And the tube maps? Unique, I think. The tube map posters show the new station interchange at Bond Street but no connections yet at Paddington and Liverpool Street. They'll be out of date in a fortnight but they're correct right now. They also show the new name for the cable car (which is still red, not IFS purple).
Did you get your stopwatch out? Hell yes.
Platform to street level (Davies Street): 2½ mins
Platform to street level (Hanover Square): 2 mins
Full walk-through (Davies Street → Hanover Square): 6 mins
Oxford Circus crossroads to Hanover Square entrance: 3 mins
Oxford Circus crossroads to Crossrail platform: 5 mins
How about changing to the Underground? Simple. But long.
Explain: Whether you're changing to the Central line or Jubilee line, aim for the Davies Street exit. After the first escalator a passageway bears off the right. It's bright, bendy and goes on a bit. It took me almost two minutes. A bench has been provided halfway along in case you get tired. The passage leads to the original Bond Street tube station, landing on the concourse between the escalators. Follow the winding corridor to the Central line or head down the escalators for the extended hike to the Jubilee line.
Crossrail → Central line: 3 minutes 15 seconds.
Crossrail → Jubilee line: 3 minutes 45 seconds.
The important thing to know: It's not a quick interchange. But it's quicker than changing at Tottenham Court Road.
And by lift? Step-free access to the Jubilee line takes two lifts. Step-free access to the Central line takes three lifts.
Finally: let's answer the big questions.
Liverpool Street to Bond Street (Central line): 11 mins
Liverpool Street to Bond Street (Crossrail): 7 mins
Canary Wharf to Bond Street (Jubilee line): 16 mins
Canary Wharf to Bond Street (Crossrail): 14 mins
So: Crossrail is the quickest route to Bond Street
But: Don't change specially, because changing takes longer than the time you'd save.
Sixteen photos: here.
posted 07:00 :
Monday, October 24, 2022What was the big news in London Transport 50 years ago?
The place to find out was London Transport Magazine, the monthly staff journal packed with features and articles about operations, services and members of staff.
What's more I have a copy of the October 1972 edition, cover price two pence, so we can delve back and see exactly what was going on. I'm not sure why it was on sale to the public, but I remember seeing it in the ticket window at Croxley station and managing to persuade my parents to buy a copy. "This'll keep the precocious kid busy for a while," they probably thought, little thinking I'd still have my hands on it fifty years later. My thanks to Dad for helping me scan several of the pages.
The cover story was about the introduction of minibuses to the streets of Enfield. [scan]
First mini-bus service runs like clockwork
London Transport's first mini-bus service between Southgate and Enfield came into service as "smooth as clockwork" last month. And the passenger loadings on the 16-seater buses in the first few days were well up to expectation. "We could not have wished for a better start," said deputy area traffic manager Mr Bert Wood. The mini-bus route, known as W9, runs from Southgate Underground station to Enfield, serving two hospitals and two railway stations. It was due to be joined last week by the second of four experimental routes - the P4 which links Dulwich and Brockley Rise with Brixton (Victoria line) station.
The other two experimental minibus routes were the B1 (New Eltham → Bickley → Bromley North) and the C11 (Archway → Cricklewood). The W9 was intended to be a hospital service, the B1 and P4 explored the market for public transport in areas of high car ownership and the C11 served low demand inner suburban streets. These minibuses could be flagged down on demand - the precursor of today's Hail and Ride services. A flat fare of 10p was charged, to be dropped into a perspex box (as modelled in the magazine by passenger Ann Quest). LT weren't expecting the services to run a profit, but a measure of the success of the experiment is that all four routes still operate today (the B1 tweaked to become the 314).
The big news on the tube was the opening of Pimlico Underground station. [scan]
A line or two about 'passports' to Pimlico
The travelling public can now buy London Transport's version of a 'passport' to Pimlico from any one of the 278 stations on the Underground system. And business from the capital's newest station was extremely brisk in the first few days. "We have sold quite a lot of season tickets, and many people who used to get off the train at Victoria are now coming through to Pimlico," said acting chief clerk Cyril Sexton. Pimlico, last station on the Victoria line in the foreseeable future, was opened by Councillor John Guest, Lord Mayor of Westminster... who said he hoped the people who used the station would appreciate the design and cleanliness and would not scatter litter about.
Other guests at the opening ceremony included the leader of the GLC, representatives from the Department of the Environment, contractors and trade unions. Everyone photographed across the double page spread is male apart from Janet Herbert, described as 'pretty as a picture' as she poses in front of the tiled station motif in mini skirt and heels. Rather more progressively, the black man pictured being introduced to the Mayor is station inspector Reginald Arthur. We'll come back to what the editorial staff thought about women later in the magazine.
The other tube news, appropriately enough, was a major engineering project at Bond Street station. [scan]
600-ton jigsaw is put together by numbers - in Oxford Street.
There's nothing unusual about a 300-piece jigsaw, but when it's made of steel and weighs something in the region of 600 tons it becomes something really special. The mammoth task of assembling this massive steel deck in Oxford Street over the summer Bank Holiday was achieved without any delays and needless to say, there were no missing pieces to the jigsaw. The deck now carries Oxford Street traffic over the site while Bond Street station ticket hall is enlarged to handle the eight million extra passengers expected to use the station when the Fleet line opens. The "umbrella", completed twelve hours ahead of schedule, will allow the work to go ahead without seriously affecting the flow of traffic and access to premises.
When you think how long the Crossrail debacle at Bond Street has gone on, it's amazing that fifty years ago engineers managed to raise the height of Oxford Street in 56 hours flat. The photographs show a pesky leaking gas pipe (the only problem that held things up), a team of steel erectors (wearing no health and safety gear whatsoever) and a Routemaster crossing the steel deck at 6.30am on Monday morning (back in the days when route 15 went to Ladbroke Grove). The text in the article manages to be upbeat and congratulatory without resorting to the backslapping hyperbole common to press releases written 50 years later, so not everything's changed for the better.
And in other news (from page 3)... [scan]
• A Red Arrow bus with a difference is MBA 588. It has been chosen for a three-month trial in a new livery which, if successful, could be adopted by all Red Arrow buses in central London.
• The biggest single-span concrete bridge on the Underground was slid into place last month between Chigwell and Roding Valley stations. The 152-feet span carries the Central line tracks over the London to Cambridge M11 motorway which is now being built.
• Two more bus lanes have been approved by the Greater London Council, who plan to have nearly forty open by the end of the year. The latest pair of bus-ways to help our services are planned for Kensington Gore and Kensington Road/Kensington High Street.
• London Transport has played a part in the creation of San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART), which opened its first section to passenger traffic last month.
• Colour postcard views of London Transport buses and trains are now available to members of the public from our travel enquiry offices. The 24 cards can be purchased individually at 5p each or six for 25p.
• Once there was one... now there are ten (or nearly!). These are the all-over advertisement buses. Two more have entered service in recent weeks, and a third is planned to make its debut on service 15 this week.
I'll delve further into the October 1972 edition of London Transport Magazine later in the week, when we'll discover more about doughmaking, prize-winning chrysanthemums, concessionary fares and polyester bra dresses.
posted 08:00 :
Sunday, October 23, 2022THE UNLOST RIVERS OF LONDON
Sutton → North Cheam → Lower Morden → West Barnes (3½ miles)
[Pyl Brook → Beverley Brook → Thames]
The Pyl Brook flows mostly unnoticed between the boroughs of Sutton and Merton, at one point forming the boundary between the two. It has a twin, the East Pyl Brook, which rises in much the same place but takes two miles to join up. It's not clear what they're named after, all I know is it can't be pylons, although hurrah we will be seeing a few of those along the way. [Google map] [1898 OS map]
Once upon a time the Pyl Brook was a rural stream rising in fields near Sutton, not far from the smithy by the pond on the green. Today the Green is still there (at the northern end of the town centre), but the Pyl is at best hemmed in, at worst buried, between and beneath streets and trading estates. At least one of the very first streets is called Pylbrook Road which gives you a hope of locating it. First sight of water is from a pipe emerging through the railway embankment near Sutton Common station, best spotted from a footpath off Stayton Road. The brook is also fed by a long woody pool, securely fenced off, where I disturbed a heron unused to humans actually walking by.
The first decent view of the brook is up the side of a self-storage warehouse, enlivened at present by a splurge of autumn foliage. Alas the water then ducks under Oldfields Road (a sadly elegiac name) and promptly disappears under the car park of the Sutton Cheam Tesco Extra. There used to be filter beds here, which is one reason it was so easy to culvert the river and shoehorn in a massive supermarket. My map suggests the next open air section along Willow Walk should be pleasant but no, the woody wiggle turned out to be hidden behind further fencing, and I'm not even convinced the trees were willows.
The Pyl Brook's finest half mile, indeed the only half mile worth celebrating, begins at Hamilton Avenue Recreation Ground. You can tell it's going to be decent because Sutton council have designated it Public Right Of Way Number 2. The river emerges beside a grafittied wall and suddenly meanders off across the park rather than following its original ditch beside the path. It was diverted into this looping tongue in 2010 in an attempt to reduce flood risk to the local area, a pleasant byproduct being that it suddenly looks like a proper rippling stream rather than a stark artificial drain.
The escape attempt only lasts fifty metres as the crow flies, rather longer if you're a water molecule, and then the brook returns to being the constant companion to a shared use path. On one side are backs of gardens and on the other side a large industrial estate, i.e. sheds facing sheds, as we thread down a leafy green corridor between the two. The river is confined in a deep trench strengthened by brick or stone, with just the one dumped Santander hire bike at present (which is slowly accumulating a covering of leaves). And here come the pylons, a chain of power cables striding in from the north and plonking their metal feet down beside the Pyl Brook. The first pylon has serial number ZZU 37, if you're counting.
The Pyl Brook is the reason for the dip in the A24 at Stonecot Hill. Today the crossing is called Pylford Bridge but you can tell from its name that it used to be a lot wetter. There follows a solid mile of road-walking, the brook hidden away behind suburban avenues and occasionally switching sides. Best to start by following Garth Road and then escaping into Lynmouth Gardens, unless you really fancy walking through an abrupt industrial estate and grabbing a greasy snack from Burgers and Baps. The river is now a tamed straightened channel with fences and lock-up garages to either side, should you have the benefit of a house backing onto it.
The Pyl Brook cuts across the entrance to Morden Cemetery (to spot it, look behind the commemorative benches at the start of the avenue). It then runs alongside a modern estate where a footbridge leads to a nature reserve called Derwent Floodwash, a wet meadow designed to act as further overspill should the Pyl ever flood. This is also the point where the East Pyl Brook finally merges, just behind the dogmess bin on the corner, although it's almost impossible to see the confluence behind a screen of heaped-up undergrowth. The local foxes seemed friendly enough.
For the next three-quarters of a mile the combined river is either invisible or buried underground or both. It finally pokes out at the top of West Barnes Lane beside the level crossing, ducking underneath the railway tracks and the stairs to the footbridge. And then, heavens, it's the Pyl Brook's second Tesco Extra (New Malden edition), so best bring your Clubcard with you. The river dives round the back between the fish counter and the secondary school nextdoor, so yet again there's absolutely nothing rivery to see.
It's the Pyl Brook's final misfortune to pass beneath the multilevel road junction where the A298 breaks away from the A3, just north of Shannon Corner. It's a pedestrian's misfortune too, confined to a parallel subway before both emerge along the edge of World of Golf. Here you can enjoy everything except playing a proper game of golf, including a driving range, an equipment shop and a crazy golf course populated by dinosaurs. I like that the sheeting supporting the riverbank here is fastened down by dozens of golf clubs. And then the Pyl Brook suddenly ends, or rather merges with the Beverley Brook, a confluence you can see if you head round the other side into Beverley Park. But that's almost a 20 minute detour so not worth it, indeed almost none of this walk is really worth the effort, only the nice bit past the pylon.
posted 07:00 :
Saturday, October 22, 2022Sometimes the best questions come while waiting for a train.
In this case Royal Victoria station on the DLR.
I looked down the platform and I thought...
Where else in London are there pylons?
They're not common in the capital, even round the edges. Most suburban skylines are entirely pylon-free in all directions. And yet in a few places pylons are an intrinsic part of the landscape, like here along the edge of the Royal Docks. These pylons were added when this was a commercial zone and the Thames was a great place to hide unwanted infrastructure, but now they stride through housing estates. So where exactly are the rest?
So I Googled.
From the Mayor's website I learned "London’s electricity comes from the electricity grid. Power in this grid is generated in large power stations outside of London." Hence the need for pylons.
From the Metadyne website I learned "In order to get the electricity to customers the national grid (now run by National Grid plc) transmits electricity across the country in bulk at extra high voltage, the more so to the London area where there is little generation any longer. The network distribution operator (UK Power Networks in London's case) collects electricity at transfer substations and conveys it to distribution substations around the city, then local substations and finally at the standard 240 volts to the street mains and end users."
From Wikipedia I learned that London has 400kV substations at Barking, Beddington, City Road, Crayford, Hackney, Highbury, Hurst, Kensal Green, New Cross, Pudding Mill Lane, Rowdown, St John's Wood, Seven Sisters Road, West Ham, Willesden and Wimbledon (and nearly in London at Elstree, Iver and Waltham Cross). There are also 275kV substations at Brimsdown, Chessington, Ealing, Mill Hill, New Hyde, Redbridge, Tottenham and Warley. However not all of these use pylons, some feed underground cables.
From an East Anglian consultation document I found this map.
Blue and red are for overhead lines, i.e. pylons. Blue is 400kV and red is 275kV. You can see a ring of red and blue around the edge of London, like the M25 of electricity distribution. Meanwhile green is for underground cables. Almost all of the connections in inner London are green. So now we know where the pylons are, but only roughly.
And then I discovered Open Infrastructure Map. It's a version of Open Street Map but it shows where all the electrical power lines are wherever you live, be that Cheshire, Denmark, India or New Zealand. Solid lines are overhead, dashed lines are underground. This brilliant map allows me to check for overhead transmission lines in full zoomable detail, and indeed allows you too, so I could stop there, problem solved.
But the map doesn't have the Greater London boundary on it, so checking precisely what's in and what's out was tricky. So I turned to an Ordnance Survey map instead and scoured that for pylon symbols to see precisely where they go. And then I made this deliberately poor sketch map to summarise where London's pylons are.
The pylons in my original photo are part of a chain along the Thames from Tilbury to Canning Town via Barking, which then heads up the River Lea to West Ham (by Star Lane station). These pylons used to go further but remediation for the Olympics buried the section from West Ham to Hackney Marshes underground. That improved the Games no end. The rest of the Lea Valley pylons, through Tottenham, Enfield and Waltham Cross, remain above ground. A separate chain of pylons runs up the River Roding from Barking to Redbridge.
Most of the pylons looping around London lie just beyond the Greater London boundary. You can see how the ring grazes the boundary to the northwest, especially round Uxbridge and Harefield, with deliberate incursions to Harrow and Mill Hill. Out east a lot of pylons feed into Warley substation, one of the few points of interest in the small London bulge beyond the M25. But in south London the orbiting pylons nudge much closer in a long line from Chessington to Chelsfield (with a spur to Wimbledon and a brief underground gap from Beddington to New Addington). Bexley gets a bonus stripe from Falconwood to Crayford.
So that's where London's pylons are.
And, more importantly, where they aren't.
Sunday update: Russ from Open Infrastructure Map has knocked up some code which generates a precise map of Greater London's pylons. Thanks Russ!
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