diamond geezer

 Saturday, December 31, 2022

The last day of the year is an excellent time to tot up what you've been doing all year... assuming you've been counting, which obviously I have.

My most important count this year, it turns out, is this.
Days without a Travelcard: 56
Days with a Travelcard: 309
When 2022 started coronavirus still ruled the roost, but on 24th February all legal restrictions were lifted and it was worth buying an annual Travelcard again. I have been nipping around the capital ever since, which after almost two years of geographic limitation was a welcome return to almost normal.

I can quantify this because I've been counting how I travelled, specifically how many TfL journeys I took and the average number of miles walked each day. Here's this data for 2021 and for 2022.

Jan010 milesJan210 miles
Feb09½ milesFeb2410½ miles
Mar011 milesMar1688 miles
Apr012 milesApr2378½ miles
May411½ milesMay2137½ miles
Jun78 milesJun2676½ miles
Jul58½ milesJul2576 miles
Aug39 milesAug2016½ miles
Sep89½ milesSep1366½ miles
Oct69 milesOct1626 miles
Nov210½ milesNov1696½ miles
Dec312 milesDec2426 miles

Last year I averaged 10 miles walking a day whereas this year it's only 7 (because I no longer need to walk to get anywhere). My post-lockdown average is a fairly consistent six miles a day, i.e. about 15000 steps, and I'm fairly pleased with that. Also I still weigh the same at the end of 2022 as I did at the start, so walking less isn't affecting my waistline.

(If you don't count this kind of thing, look at all the fun you're missing out on)

Another thing I've been counting this year is the number of times I visited each London borough.

• Technically I counted the number of days I visited each borough.
• If I set foot in a borough on a particular day, that counted as 1.
• Standing on a station platform or riding through on a bus didn't count.

Here's the annual spread of my 2022 travels.


Last year I had eight zeroes and seven ones, so this is a huge improvement.

You can tell I live in Tower Hamlets because that scored a near-maximum total of 359 days. Newham came a very strong second, mainly because I live less than 200m from the boundary. Central London boroughs are next, plus Hackney and Waltham Forest which were artificially boosted by umpteen walks round the Olympic Park earlier in the year.

The numbers generally drop off towards the outer suburbs, but note Ealing's elevated total which is essentially because it's now so easy to get there on Crossrail. My three least visited boroughs are Hillingdon, Kingston and Havering, all of which are quite far flung when you only have a Z1-3 Travelcard. But I'm impressed to have been to every London borough at least 18 times this year - on average once every three weeks - because that's how I get to blog across the entire capital. I doubt that many Londoners spread themselves so broadly in 2022.

As for number of visits to counties outside London, this year's tally is still thin gruel.
Fifteen times: Norfolk
Ten times: Herts, Surrey
Nine times: Essex
Four times: Kent
Twice: Bucks, Oxon, West Sussex
Once: East Sussex, Hants, Northants, Suffolk, West Midlands
Never: everywhere else
Norfolk wins because I have family there. A lot of the visits to the Home Counties were just minor boundary incursions. I only visited counties other than those on nine occasions, which is pitiful.
Furthest north: Norwich  (52.7°N)
Furthest west: Wolverhampton  (2.2°W)
Furthest south: Selsey Bill  (50.7°S)
Furthest east: Deal  (1.4°E)
I did better on two of those compass point extremities last year, ffs. But have you seen the cost of rail tickets these days, not to mention how unreliable long-distance trains can be.

I've also been counting the number of London stations I've been to. And by 'been to' I mean entering or exiting the station, not just passing through.
Tube: every station in zones 1-3 (plus 14 other stations)
Overground: every station in zones 1-3
DLR: every station
Tram: every stop
Dangleway: none
Rail: every station in zones 1-3 except Mortlake
Mortlake has thwarted me because I failed to go before 17th December, and because due to industrial action SWR haven't stopped any trains there since. Mortlake's next train isn't until 8th January, unbelievably, so my commiserations if you live nearby or near any of the other ten London stations they've totally given up on.
Buses: all
Yes, I've ridden on every single TfL bus route this year (schoolbuses and mobility route excepted). It may only have been a few stops but hell yes, that's every single route from 1 to X140.

I've also checked which bus routes I rode most often (because if TfL insist on sending me a weekly spreadsheet I am darned well going to make use of it).
29 times: 108
19 times: 173
12 times: 132, 425
The 108 wins easily because a) it stops at Bus Stop M, and b) it goes to some unique places. The only other bus routes to reach double figures are the 25, 66, 194 and 607. Close behind are the 287, 488, 93, 110 and 487, should you be genuinely interested.

Please allow me to slip in my usual analysis of Archers episodes. These are the five characters to have made the most appearances in Ambridge this year.
1) Tracy (88 episodes)
2) Chelsea (69)
3) Alice (65)
4) Jazzer (62)
5) Ben (58)
40-something episodes: David, Ruth, Chris
30-something episodes: Brad, Susan, Brian, Pip, George, Alistair, Tony, Natasha, Lillian, Fallon, Kirsty
That's two families and one pregnancy storyline carrying a heck of a lot of the narrative. This year's biggest plummeter is Jennifer, from 5th place last year to just four appearances this year. 2022's most blatant absentee is Johnny who hasn't spoken at all.

Other things I've been counting this year include...
Number of photos taken: 18,600   (↓1500)
Number of photos uploaded to Flickr: 690   (↑50)
Number of visitors to the blog: 1,004,000   (↑143000)
Number of comments on the blog: 10,700   (↓200)
Wahey, that's the first time the blog's ever had a million visits in one year - a total narrowly squeaked yesterday lunchtime. I only achieved this milestone because I blogged about the History Trees in the Olympic Park in 2020, otherwise I'd have ducked just under.

If you've been counting something interesting this year do share it with the rest of us. And if not then do consider starting to count something in 2023 because I'm likely to ask you again next year.

n.b. Proper counts only, thanks. If your count is zero or one then you're not a proper counter, more a raconteur.

 Friday, December 30, 2022

dg 2022 index

Crossrail: opening soon?, Trial Operations, signage, opening soon, Night Crossrail, signage, we have a date, timetables, quiz, Full Blog History, Day One [photos], walking from Liverpool Street to Farringdon, where to stand, missing validators, interchange times, tales from, lifts and levels, evil arrows, all the dates, stopping pattern, Bond Street, linking up
The Queen: 70th anniversary, Platinum Jubilee, death, tributes, The Queue, National Hiatus

Beyond London
Southampton: Very much a 'day out' rather than a 'weekend away' sort of city [photos]
West Midlands: My trip included a National Trust house in Wolverhampton and the West Midlands' highest peak [photos]
East Kent: I finally snapped the famous Ham Sandwich roadsign (and visited the Kent Mining Museum) [photos]
Blenheim Palace: The Churchills' homestead is quite the lavish pile [photos]
Felixstowe: Suffolk's port is a nicer resort than you'd imagine [photos]
Stevenage: England's first New Town merits wider sightseeing [photos]
...and also: Gerrards Cross, Corby, Kettering, Selsey, Maidstone, Oxford, Netherne-on-the-Hill, Brighton

Major series
B Roads: B116, B118, B119, B120, B121, B122, B125, B126, B127, B134, B135, B137, B138, B140, B142, conclusion
Unvisited London: where haven't I been?, Hockenden, Kevington, Dagenham, Kemnal, Broadfields Estate, Edgware Bury, Park Langley, Tylers Common, Shirley Oaks, Bentley Priory, Croham Hurst, Cockmannings, eight more, Old Lodge Lane, seven more, Nash, Layhams Farm, Bayhurst Wood, five more, Mogden Sewage Works, Hazelwood, Heathrow Airport
A Nice Walk: Hammersmith, Richmond Hill, Kew, Holland Park, Harrow-on-the-Hill, Petersham

E3: Twelvetrees gasholders, Match Girls plaque, McDonalds
Tower Hamlets: The Ferry House, neighbourhood logos, Reopening our Roads
E20: ABBA Arena, ABBA Voyage, Haugen, QEOP update, another update, 10 years on

Wider London
London: pairs, longest straight lines, Wimpy, Toby, Royal Parks knockout, farewell Time Out, eight hamlets, museum tea, London Nature Trails, Open House, BBC 100, London's pylons, London's helipads, millennium projects
Central: Oxford Street candy stores, Brewdog Waterloo, Outernet opens up, Museum of London closes
East: Museum of the Home, Greggs Outlet, Elmfield Road,the Leyton Stone, Footpath 47, Barking Riverside pier, Hainault Farm, first sold council house, Havering Stone, Wennington burned, Bedfords Park
North & west: Heinz UK, Willesden Jewish Cemetery, Betjeman Close, Merryhills Way, Peter Barber
South: My Beautiful Laundrette, bordering Wandsworth, Teddington Studios, Dulwich tollbooth, Battersea Power Station reopens, Nine Elms Sunday Market, Lonesome
Southeast: England Coast Path, Erith pier, Visit Abbey Wood, Kate Bush, Scadbury Manor, Crook Log
Rivers: Pyl Brook

TfL: costcutting, FoI, transport news
Anorak corner: tube, bus, rail
Tube: Metropolitan line extension, replacement bus to Olympia, Dial A Ride, underserved boroughs, branch ridership, Tube Week, longest platforms, most popular journeys
Tube stations: car parks, step-free, Bank's new platform, Bank's new escalators, Bank's moving walkways, Pimlico 50, Eastcote, Preston Road, Osterley
Tube map: January, May, November
Tube fares: fare rise, all the fares, Heathrow free zone
Overground: Hackney Central, Barking Riverside
Rail: longest tunnels, Waterloo is 100, closing public footpath level crossings, shuttles
Bus: turdis, southeast London bus changes, Central London review, buses and boroughs, longest gap between stops, 21st century routes, 1000 bus stops, best-served village, nightbuses 1972, Silvertown Tunnel consultation
Bus routes: 733, 56, 549, 57, 84, 404, 304, 241, A, 411, 718/719/720
Dangleway: London Cable Car, brand changeover, IFS Cloud
Tram: Roger the Crocodile
Streets: numberplates, National Street Gazetteer, pedestrian priority, A2022, Friday streets, longest unbroken street, Dickerage Road, ULEZ extension, Winter Avenue, most expensive streets
Walking: Green Person Authority

Quizzes: anniversaries, detergents, Roundle, Wordle hints, Enfield, B words, two 4s, guess where, second half, UK towns, World Cup
Time and space: Eunice, average Easter, bank holidays a month apart, longest BST, cold days
Maps & geography: county towns, coincidental norths
Stats & maths: The Count
Coronavirus: ends here, no longer counting, 2 years on

The blog: 20th anniversary, themed series, commentless, PR emails
Unblogged: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December; Feb 2002, May 2002, August 2002

And... Canine Interaction Indices, barcoded stamps, Primrose Day, Voter ID, seen in concert, not voting for Boris, typical parade, ten houses I've lived in

» My ten favourite photos of the year

 Thursday, December 29, 2022

29 unblogged things I did in December

Thu 1: I've just bought some new low energy light bulbs, so I checked the light bulb in my living room and was shocked to discover it was still a filament one, which I think I put in 'temporarily' when the last bulb blew and I didn't have any spares in the house. I hate to think how long ago that was.
Fri 2: At King's Cross tube station I found a single ticket left in the exit slot at an exit gate. It had been purchased within the last half hour at Oxford Circus and it had cost someone £6.30, this being the going rate for paper ticket these days. What a waste of money, I thought, that's £2.10 per stop, what a rip-off. And I wondered whether this was a rich traveller who didn't give a damn or paranoid passenger who didn't want to be traced or a tourist confused by how London's ticket system worked and who thought you had to buy a ticket to travel. Probably the latter, but that's no excuse for shafting the ignorant.

Sat 3: Somebody doesn't like my Post-Its.
Sun 4: No I didn't blog about the gravestone outside the church door because I have before, ditto the plaque down the road, but thank you for going to the effort of sending me an email to tell me you would have included them.
Mon 5: This year I'm using up all my old definitive stamps to send my Christmas cards before they force us to use barcoded monstrosities from February. Although if you read the FAQ ("mail posted with non-barcoded Definitive will for the first 6 month be delivered as normal, no surcharge will be raised") it's actually August, so no rush.
Tue 6: I forgot to walk down the cheesecake aisle in Tesco, which was such an oversight I walked all the way back later with a pound coin and bought myself one.
Wed 7: I showed BestMate the cutting of me in the local paper published 50 years ago today and he didn't laugh at what I'd said about public transport, he just mocked my haircut, and I had to point out I had no say because I was only seven.

Thu 8: Walking up Herne Hill I spotted this plaque to John Ruskin on a post in the garden of number 26, seemingly an ordinary suburban home but built on the site of a Georgian semi where the great writer lived as a child. It used to have laburnums out front, a 200ft-long back garden and an attic with views of "the Norwood hills on one side, and the winter sunrise over them; and the valley of the Thames on the other, with Windsor telescopically clear in the distance, and Harrow, conspicuous always in fine weather to open vision against the summer sunset." Alas Ruskin's house was demolished in 1925, taking the LCC plaque on the front with it, hence the replacement post.
Fri 9: OK, I submit, the heating's going on.
Sat 10: What always baffles me about football, the national team in particular, is the blind faith many supporters have that their team will triumph in the next game despite ample past evidence that they don't always. And didn't this time.
Sun 11: Battersea Power Station station usually looks underwhelmingly underused, but this afternoon it was packed with streams of people queueing to get out via two sets of escalators. It looks like the shopping-mall-cum-hospitality-experience has finally found a willing audience of MAFFDIs (Mainstream Aspirational Families and Friends with Disposable Income).

Mon 12: I see you can now only take A4 sized-bags into an event at the O2. They used to allow 35cm × 40cm × 19cm, indeed there's still a sign by the car park with these outdated measurements, but now even small stuff requires a trip to the Bag Drop. Their prerogative, but my god that's miserably cautious.
Tue 13: By visiting a different Tower Hamlets library to usual I have finally found the book I've been waiting to read since 2020, and now I'm wondering what goodies I've been missing elsewhere.
Wed 14: There is a reason why I asked for half a pint because look, we're all ready to move on and I'm just going to leave the leftover half of this full pint on the table as we head off.
Thu 15: I've now finished watching series 5 of The Crown, courtesy of BestMate'sOtherHalf'sBrother's Netflix subscription, and it's not been as interesting as the previous four. This is either because embellishing recent history feels somewhat false or because Princess Di never was that interesting.
Fri 16: The new Dangleway 'Experience' features a Teddy Workshop, Virtual Reality, an Engineer Workshop and Selfie Factory, and from what I saw before they covered the windows with vinyl you probably won't want to waste your money on it.

Sat 17: Today's the first time this month I've received any post! (and it was only a bank statement and a Sky advert). As yet I still haven't received any Christmas cards, which is unheard of.
Sun 18: South Bermondsey may be the bleakest station in London, but I'd only know that for sure if I wrote a post called The Bleakest Station in London and nobody suggested a bleaker one. If not it's quite possibly the most exposed.
Mon 19: My insurance company, who used to be based in a small independent shop in Croxley but got taken over by a company in Berkhamsted which got taken over by a company on the Isle of Wight who recently got taken over by a national company based in the City, have just sent me a letter saying my account will now be run from Irvine in Scotland.
Tue 20: The Traitors has been cracking good TV - a pot of human foibles that essentially stirred itself. It was particularly astute of the producers to pick 22 ordinary citizens rather than following the lead of the Dutch original and casting a group of celebrities. Bad luck Amanda, good luck Wilf.
Wed 21: BestMate lives just over a mile away and posted my Christmas card on 1st December. It was postmarked 8th December and finally reached me today along with the majority of my other Christmas cards, vastly delayed. That is one hell of an impact for a few days of strikes, and ridiculously poor value from an extortionate stamp.
Thu 22: The empty retail unit under Pudding Mill Lane station, vacant since 2013, is now home to the ABBA Voyage official merchandise store. It's open for a couple of hours before performances and an hour after, should you want to pop in and buy some expensive colourful knitwear.

Fri 23: A new 'corner shop' has opened at the west end of Stratford High Street. It means the optimistic retail unit under the 34-storey Capital Towers finally has a tenant. It sells all the usual grocery stuff for the benefit of people who can't be bothered to walk eight minutes further to buy them cheaper at Tesco. It appears to be called "Vegetarian Nature Product Organic", but they also stock pork scratchings so that can't be the real name. The gold and black balloons on opening day were a nice touch. Outside on the pavement they've set up an immaculate display of fruit and veg, but given the particulates expelled by exhaust pipes around the Bow Flyover I can't say I'd want to eat any.
Sat 24: The important question every Christmas Eve is "how difficult will the jumbo prize crossword be". This year's can't have been too bad because I've managed to complete two-thirds of it, but I'm stumped by 41 across which appears to be clueless.
Sun 25: Things I'd never previously done on Christmas Day: had a shower, detoured to a recycling bin, sung along to Wombling Merry Christmas on a dual carriageway, been sniffed by a quadruped, opened three presents, watched the King's Speech, played Newmarket.
Mon 26: The conversation turned to house prices so we ended up checking the current value of all the houses we'd ever lived in, which is a lot, and Zoopla reckons a 3-bed Metroland semi tops the lot just ahead of a two-up two-down Metroland terrace and a Norfolk 5-bedder.
Tue 27: In words I never expected to type, I have spent Christmas in the same house as an enormous German shepherd with bone-crushing fangs. I checked back to my blogpost on Canine Interaction Indices to work out how this was possible and can confirm that, although indices 4, 7 and 8 were at maximum red level, indices 1, 2 and 5 were right down at the pink end.

Wed 28: Today I went axe throwing. It's a bit like archery but with axes instead of arrows, and you do it indoors at a hospitality venue near a bar, but you mustn't drink alcohol before you hurl anything, they make you sign a waiver beforehand. I made up a fake telephone number on the waiver which proved awkward when they asked us to identify ourselves via our mobile numbers. After the safety briefing we had a few practice throws and then got stuck into scoring for points. It's harder than it looks. Hitting the board is easy but making the axe stick is much trickier, you have to get the angle and the force right and usually it just bounces back. I turned out to be rubbish at axe throwing, I had 24 throws and I never scored any points whatsoever. I will not be selecting axe throwing as an activity for my next milestone birthday.
Thu 29: A few weeks ago the @Crossrail Twitter account announced it would be closing, which it just has in the most dramatic manner... by deleting itself. This has wiped over 3000 tweets posted over the course of 12 years, an entire projectsworth, including more than 6000 images and videos. TfL don't believe in having more than one Twitter account - it keeps all their brand puff and customer response in one place - which is also why they deleted @elizabethline in September 2020. Pointless cultural vandalism.

 Wednesday, December 28, 2022

As the year draws to an end, I note that I haven't always answered all your questions this year. So let me answer 50 of them now. Just in case it wasn't obvious at the time.

One Becks too many?
Is it on the dangleway?
Have you been hacked?
Is your return key broken?
Am I allowed another go yet?
I think you mean White Lodge?
Or is that your post for tomorrow?
Maybe there'll be a special 0p stamp?
No mention of Whitechapel or Canary Wharf?
Is this the first time you have used this term?
At Custom House did you tell staff "Do you know who I am"?
So did you have a ham sandwich from the Sandwich Shop in Sandwich?
Is this a regular DG thing that I have missed over the years reading these blogs?
Maybe we need to demolish Kensington Palace Gardens and put in some social housing?
Is this the precursor to a new series wherein you visit all the pylons of London?
Did you need to tick off the recently built Platform 5 at Stevenage?
Have you thought of pitching a series like this to London Live TV?
Perhaps it's an 'old stock' link you have mistakenly added?
Is "Stratford Original" a rival to Werthur's Original?
Checking out the Angerstein Foot Crossing?
Could this finally be the Mystery Count?
15 comments by 8:00, is that a record?
Were you doing an impression of Boris?
Did you make the cake yourself?
Any pictures of the ginger cat?
Is it the grimmest McDonalds?
Will it be time to move away?
You're to be the next Bond?
Running out of ideas?
What is this, 1992?
Happy Birthday?

Are you feeling OK?
Anyone else remember that?
Do you know something we don’t?
Are you sure you're not Grace Dent?
Did you blog about that at the time?
But would you have wanted five fewer comments?
Will I ever be able to eat it again without thinking of Liz Truss?
Is there a more provincial nightclub name than Chuffers anywhere in the UK?
You know the tiny stub off Burdett Road with the Afghani restaurant in the park?
I'm left wondering if there is anything left working properly in your flat?
As for that "map" - can even the designers follow it?
Is there any organisation left capable of honesty?
Was there really a train going to Olympia?
Are you sure you didn't make this up?
Oh they've finally launched this?
Did you take them on the bus?
Am I missing something here?
Can this be true?

the dg weather review of the year

I used to do this with big colourful monthly tables but that's too much effort for too little reward so here's a breezier summary. All data is for Hampstead, as per usual.

Janwintryextremely drysunny
Febunseasonably mildwet
Marmilddryvery sunny
Aprspringlikevery dry
Maywarmstill dry
Junwarmerstill dry
Julrecord-breakingly hotexceptionally dry
Aug1st half hotdeluge ends droughtsunny
Octconsistently mildwet
Novmildexceptionally wetdull
Dectwo week freezelying snow
2022unusually warma bit too dryaverage

If climate change were a thing, which it is, then 2022 ticked all the warning boxes.

 Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Christmas Fare

Christmas Eve

Breakfast: Multigrain hoops with milk and a sprinkling of sultanas
Tea (from my special childhood Hornsea Pottery dragon mug that I only get to drink out of these days when I'm at my Dad's house where it gets heavy use, I drank from it four more times during the day)
(please take it as read that tea is drunk regularly throughout the following)

Midmorning: Two Rich Tea biscuits

Lunch: Corned beef and beetroot sandwiches (and did the key on the tin open properly, no it did not. It got almost all the way round and then lost traction despite multiple swivellings, and in the end we had to get the pliers out)
Chocolate mousse

Midafternoon: White Creme egg (I saw them on the front shelf in the village shop with the Jacob's Crackers and the last minute wine and thought "I've got to have one of those". But it wasn't priced and when I took it to the counter the postmistress charged me 99p! Sheesh, I'm not sure if that's galloping inflation or rural prices. What's more it was a White chocolate Creme Egg! They're new for 2023 and I can confirm they're very nice - maybe it's the novelty value - it tasted a bit Kinder-Surprisy but without the gift in the middle. I can see me buying more of these, just not in a village shop)

Dinner: Chicken pieces, potatoes from the garden, carrots and peas not from the garden, out of date gravy
Apple pie and vanilla ice cream (from Lidl, which you'd think might be called Vanilidla ice cream but it had a much duller generic brand name than that)
Small glass of rumpot (from a home-made bottle labelled "Rumpot 1996" which my Dad found at the back of the cupboard. It tasted nothing like rum, more a heavy sweet sherry, and we weren't sure if it was meant to taste like that or if that's the unfortunate effect of quarter of a century of chemical reactions in a dark unloved place)

Supper: Three squares of dark chocolate

Christmas Day

Breakfast: as yesterday

[here be a 20 mile drive]

pre-Dinner: Bacon off the back of the turkey, home-made sausage roll (I was not involved in the manufacture this year, only the consumption)

Dinner: Turkey, gammon, as many roast potatoes as I could get away with, pigs in blankets, mashed potato (ordinary plus swede), stuffing of a slightly exotic variety, two Yorkshire puddings, carrots, several spoonfuls of peas, more than the average number of brussels sprouts, gravy, apple sauce (and then a plateful of seconds including most of the above, except that the roast potatoes had run out so I risked the lucky dip bowl of mixed roast potatoes/roast parsnips, and I'm still not sure if any of them were potatoes)
Christmas pudding (almost entirely submerged in custard)
Bucks Fizz

post-Dinner: Savoury snacks from the repeatedly-replenished six-part-bowl selection (featuring the near-classic combo of i) Twiglets, ii) crisps (I think salt and vinegar), iii) nachos, iv) mini Cheddars, v) pretzels, vi) those small ones in the shape of triangles, hearts, ovals, etc)
Two Quality Street (strawberry cremes, obv)
One more sausage roll
Slice of Christmas cake
Can of Beck's (because bottles are really hard to source these days)

Boxing Day

Breakfast: Slice of raspberry swiss roll, slice of Christmas cake

Midmorning: Two sausage rolls, one strawberry Quality Street

Lunch: Christmassy rolls (yesterday's leftovers placed between cheesy baps, plus a few slices of cucumber so it's at least vaguely healthy)
Another slice of Christmas cake (because somebody has to help finish it off)

Midafternoon: Return of the six-fold snack selection bowl (now depleted of mini Cheddars and crisps)
Can of Beck's

Dinner: The Boxing Day Cold Buffet of Dreams (all the leftovers, plus new potatoes, plus an impressively wide selection of cheeses and crackers, plus a selection of pickled veg, plus cocktail sausages to replace the pigs in blankets)
Belgian Chocolate Orange Bombe/Lemon Cheesecake

Supper: Inevitable reappearance of the six-fold snack selection bowl (now with additional Chipsticks and ginger oatcakes)
Two strawberry Quality Street

step count
Dec 24th: 6906
Dec 25th: 1347
Dec 26th: 609

 Monday, December 26, 2022

 Sunday, December 25, 2022

 Saturday, December 24, 2022

By Christmas Eve most of us have manoeuvred ourselves into the location where we intend to spend Christmas. It might be our own home, the parental home, the home of other friends or relatives, or a hotel room somewhere on a much-deserved festive break. For some it's always the same place, for others a moveable feast, with the acquisition of in-laws often the trigger for finding yourself somewhere new.

So I thought I'd count up all the different locations I've slept on Christmas night - all the places Santa needed to know where to find me - to see how many it's been. Turns out it's eight, which may or may not be more than average.

1) A house in Hertfordshire (1965-1973)  [9 Christmases]

All my formative Christmas night experiences were here in a small Victorian two-up two-down - the bed I hung a stocking from, the chimney I firmly believed Father Christmas came down and the tree the presents magically appeared under. We had a proper chimney too, so it wasn't a complete stretch of the imagination that a man in a red suit might make his way down from the roof overnight. My Christmas stocking, which may in fact have been a fabric bag, was particularly important because it was always stuffed with little treasures like chocolates, games and quite likely one of those tiny Wade Whimsies animal figurines. My brother would have been in the bed opposite so we'd compare our hauls, which had of course been balanced by unseen parental hands, before dashing downstairs to rip thin wrapping paper off our respective boxes of delights. And then we moved house and I never spent another Christmas night here again.

2) Another house in Hertfordshire (1974-1990)  [17 Christmases]

The Christmases I best remember were here in a nearby Metroland semi-detached. I was past the "thinking Santa came down the chimney" stage by now, or imminently about to be, but that didn't stop me wanting a present to appear at the foot of the bed. Later my parents switched the tradition so that we were allowed to open one 'big present' before going to bed, which conveniently avoided the need for them to sneak into my room when I might still have been awake. Most memorable of these was the opening of the transistor radios at Christmas 1977, an event my brother still prefers to forget. We had a special corner of the front room where the tree always went, with a mountain of parcels stacked behind, and then pulled out the big table to spread for Christmas lunch, perhaps with an elderly relative as guest of honour. It was at some point during this period that I first allowed sprouts onto my plate. And Christmas night during this period always involved attending Midnight Mass, of which we choristers were an integral part, until my parents upped sticks and moved to Norfolk and I never attended another overnight service again.

3) A house in Norfolk (1991-94)  [4 Christmases]

Christmas was very different in a newly-bought village bungalow. Nobody in the house was under 20 so there was no need to pretend Santa visited down the non-existent chimney, plus we had a diminishing pile of presents to open. Also there was no rush to get up in the morning so the day often started suitably late, at least unless you were the one charged with getting the turkey in the oven. All the traditional baubles still hung from the tree, gently unwrapped from fascinating scraps of old newspaper. Before lunch the best cutlery came out of the bottom drawer, plus the special tablecloth, and everything was timed to perfection to make sure we were done in time for either Top of the Pops or The Queen. But things started changing in 1992 when my brother spent Christmas night with his future in-laws, then in 1993 we all had lunch over there and in 1994 the arrival of a baby shifted the centre of Christmas gravity forever and I never spent another Christmas night here again.

4) Another house in Norfolk (1995)  [1 Christmas]

Here's where I jumped ship and spent my first Christmas night at my brother's house, not with my parents. It was important to share the occasion with my one year-old nephew, even if he had a streaming cold and was still too young to work out what on earth was going on. During the evening we followed the instructions to build his Little Tikes Party Cafe because he was never going to manage it himself, then missed the smile on his face in the morning when he walked into the 'wrong' room and spotted it. This was the first time in years that opening our presents had taken as long as 40 minutes, my diary records, and then yet more gifts had to be opened when both sets of grandparents drove over. This might have been the location for many a Yuletide memory had not the urgent need for an extra bedroom caused my brother and his pregnant wife to find a larger house, and so I never spent another Christmas night here again.

5) Another house in Norfolk (1996-2000)  [4 Christmases]

By now Christmas had become an event I parachuted into rather than being an integral part of. The focus was firmly the generation beneath me, who soon numbered three, and they were just as excitable about the countdown to the big day as I'd been thirty years previously. The camcorder became a key Christmas tradition, charged up to record expressions of delight or indifference as the present-opening marathon continued. We had a year when a power cut hit at 5am and the turkey had to be mercy-dashed to an in-law's oven, and a year when everyone had accidentally bought Wallace and Gromit mugs for each other, and best not mention the year dominated by Barney the purple dinosaur. And then I met someone...

6) A house in Essex (1998)  [1 Christmas]

The Other Half had big plans for spending Christmas abroad, but when those came to nothing my brother's house became a grudging default option. On Christmas night bedtime was delayed while I got to listen to all sorts of maudlin tales of miserable Christmases past which had clearly been nothing like mine. In the morning deliberate reticence led to a very long lie-in, followed by the opening of four miserable gifts (to me) and one unappreciated expensive gift (from me). An unnecessary bath delayed things longer, necessitating a call to my brother to apologise that we were going to be very late, so they started eating without us and we arrived just before the pudding. It's quite the most awkward and fractious Christmas I ever endured, not that we tried to let on in front of the children, and my only comfort is that we broke up the following November so I never had to spend another Christmas night with the devil again.

7) Another house in Norfolk (2001-2019)  [19 Christmases]

My brother then moved again, setting up the default location for two decades of Christmas night tradition. I now get to catch the train up to Norfolk a day or two before, perhaps help with last-minute shopping at Sainsburys and attempt to help with the creation of the homemade sausage rolls. I graze on whichever tubs of sweets have been opened before the big day and try to get out of playing Monopoly if humanly possible. I remind everyone when the Snowman's on, plus Carols at Kings, and assist with the assembly of any major presents. That Playmobil castle took absolutely ages. Before midnight I bed down on the floor of the office, or any other better surface that may have become available that year, and am woken at a time that's varied from stupid o'clock to semi-reasonable as the children have got older. There's crackling to be snaffled and more gifts to open as two waves of grandparents arrive, and eventually comes the big meal at the long table with its sadly decreasing number of seats. It's totally where I spend my Christmas night now, or was until the year it didn't happen.

8) My flat in London (2020-2021)  [2 Christmases]

I never thought I'd get to spend Christmas in my own home, the day's too much of a family occasion for that, but in 2020 a global pandemic conspired to keep us all apart. It did it again in 2021, advisedly, last minute, gifting me two Christmases on my tod. It was strange going into Christmas night alone, and strange not seeing anyone opening anything, and particularly strange that cooking Christmas dinner became entirely my responsibility. I managed an overflowing plate with turkey and sprouts, if not the full complement of trimmings, plus microwaved pudding and custard for afters. One luxury of spending Christmas by yourself is that the TV remote is under your sole control meaning you can watch anything and everything you like, so I did, rather than getting home several days later and catching up on what I'd videoed. It was interesting as a one-off, and OK as a two-off, but I suspect I'll never spend another Christmas night here again.

This year I'm spending Christmas night in Norfolk again, but just for a change in house number 3 rather than house number 7. I've decided to kick off the day with my Dad not my brother, indeed I'm there already, although we're driving over to his for lunch and hopefully arriving before the crackling runs out. So it's still just the eight locations for Christmas night for me, and no sign that anyone's yet planning on branching out and buying a ninth. Wherever you're staying, and however many it's been, may you wake to a joyful and memorable Christmas.

 Friday, December 23, 2022

A well-known building society has published its annual press release claiming it knows what the most expensive streets in England are. Given that most properties don't change hands very often so nobody knows precisely what they're worth, a lot of best guess modelling must have been required. But let's treat the list as truth and go visit some of the country's most expensive streets, the first five of which are all within quarter of a mile of Hyde Park or Holland Park.

1st Phillimore Gardens, W8
(average house price 2017-2022: £23,802,000)

It doesn't look table-topping. The houses are big and it looks posh, but Phillimore Gardens is no exclusive enclave and nothing obviously marks out this street from its neighbours. One big plus is that the gardens on the western side look out over Holland Park, although only the bit that's mostly a sports pitch, and the houses numbered below 25 actually look out onto the Design Museum instead. It gains a little panache for being on a hill, and loses some for its oddly inconsistent architecture. Most of the houses are massive Georgian piles nudging four storeys tall so there's plenty of room for a billiard room if you want one. The majority are bedecked in white stucco, some have gorgeous tiled steps and one has a Christmas tree in the window which exceeds any Hallmark movie. Very few appear to be subdivided into flats, which may be what helps to keep the average price up. But down at the lower end numbers 1 to 5 are merely minor postwar infill, and one or two of the other houses feel like if they were elsewhere in the country they'd probably only contain a doctor's surgery or be sliced into a dozen student rooms.

One way you can tell Phillimore Gardens is wealthy is that six of the 48 houses are currently boarded up while their owners enact major internal transformation. A team of scaffolders from Watford were piling into number 47, the neighbouring property had appointed traffic marshals to oversee deliveries and the ambience in the centre of the street suffered somewhat from numbers 23, 24 and 25 being simultaneously hoardinged. At the top of the street you're only fifty paces from a Dog Toilet, or the entrance to Holland Park if you prefer. And at the bottom, oddly, the houses fade out to be replaced a Bone Daddies ramen restaurant and the delights of Cafe Phillies, should you desire a sprinkly drink on its pavement terrace. If nothing else Phillimore Gardens is really convenient for the Nando's and the Rymans on Kensington High Street, although that only explains a small proportion of their inflated house prices. Meanwhile on the bench outside the Post Office on the corner I spotted a headscarfed women trying to sell passers-by a copy of the Big Issue, and a tiny fraction of number 39's kitchen refurbishment budget would have done her nicely.

2nd Grosvenor Square, W1
(average house price 2017-2022: £23,549,000)

Oh come on Well Known Building Society, that's not a street, that's a square in Mayfair where the American embassy used to be. That iconic building is currently being transformed into an uber-luxury hotel, and a couple of slightly lesser hotels exist on the northern and southern flanks. But if you look around the rest of the square it is very much still a residential address with a number of ostentatious doors spaced out amid the more austere brickwork. Some have individual buttons, but others are just anonymous portals watched over by discreet security cameras with who knows what behind. I'd like to imagine a throwback lobby leading to one of those rickety elevators in a trellised shaft, but given the astronomical service charges it's undoubtedly a lot swisher than that. Indeed over at the newly refurbished 1 Grosvenor Square one of the flats sold in March for £24,500,000 and another in April for £26,250,000, because a team of thirty concierges, a swimming pool and a ballet room don't come cheap, and that's how the average house price here has hit phenomenal heights.

3rd Ilchester Place, W14
(average house price 2017-2022: £17,678,000)

This is only a short walk away from Phillimore Gardens, literally on the other side of Holland Park and with its own convenient adjacent Dog Toilet. But Ilchester Place is part of a completely different estate and has a completely different aesthetic, indeed the set-up is considerably more coherent all round. It's lined by 24 Neo-Georgian houses, twelve on each side, in a space where an East End slum builder would easily have been able to cram 100. All are quite similar without being utterly identical, generally three storeys high plus steps down into the most pristine of basements. Everyone has steps up to their front door, most have gone big on wreaths this Christmas and so many of the front gardens had similar flowers I assumed the same landscape gardener had been payrolled. With its 1920s architecture it could be easily be somewhere in Hampstead or Highgate but instead it's just a short walk to the station at Kensington Olympia (or more likely a taxi direct because why slum it?). For a top class street it's actually quite pleasant and not too snobby, with none of the security gates you see in front of many jumped-up suburban fortresses.

Again you can tell the owners are rich because three of the houses are boarded up pending internal upgrade. Each hoarding is labelled prominently with the name of the architects doing the work, and number 23 even has a newsletter out front to inform neighbours when a crane might be visiting. I understand several houses only look uniform from the front because everything behind the facade was replaced the last time the builders came in. We are in fact in prime 'basement wars' territory, as repeatedly reported by the Evening Standard, indeed Robbie Williams and Jimmy Page are often reported to be battling it out in the street nextdoor. Three separate vans were delivering parcels during my visit, plus Ocado (not Fortnum and Mason) had turned up to offload the Christmas feast for one of the houses in the high twenties. I see Ilchester Place officially held the title of the UK's most expensive street in 2019 and has been marginally leapfrogged since rather than fading away. But again you'd never guess from standing here that this brief street was somehow the luxury bolthole of choice for so many deep-pocketed homeowners.

4th Grosvenor Crescent, SW1
(average house price 2017-2022: £15,440,000)

You're a bit more likely to know this one because it connects to Hyde Park Corner - a short curving link to the diplomatic oasis of Belgravia Square. At the top end are megaprojects like the Lanesborough Hotel and 1 Knightsbridge, which I assume don't count towards Grosvenor Crescent's average house price. What must count are the fifteen stucco mansions which follow the outside of the bend and the two, just two, detached beauties across the road. Also numbers 1 and 16 are embassies, those of the UAE and Belgium respectively, and they can't count either. We're on the Grosvenor Estate here, Thomas Cubitt's late Georgian architectural playground, and much more the kind of place where you'd expect a table-topping street to be. This is a street where the house numbers are painted onto the pillars out front, where even stepping up to the porch inspires a feeling of unworthiness and where the landlord ensures that five neighbouring houses all have identical ornamental shrubs on their first floor balcony.

And yet this isn't an especially nice place to be, indeed nothing about Grosvenor Crescent marked it out as a pleasant place to live. The street is busy with two-way traffic because with Hyde Park Corner at one end of course it is. Also anywhere with money invariably has the builders in and at the moment they're dismantling multi-storey scaffolding outside the whole of numbers 5 to 10. I don't think they wanted me walking past their tins of Dulux, stacks of planks and cans of Red Bull, so they pulled out a plastic barrier behind me and the next family had to step out into the road across a pile of discarded plywood. The pavement is also restricted at the top end of the road to facilitate the construction of a luxury hotel topped off with money-spinning penthouses, and here the exterior compound was rammed with a ridiculous number of workmen taking a break for a snack or a phone-fiddle. Residents can't be paying for the delightful ambience, only the prestige of a Belgravia slot, so I guess it must look a lot more appealing behind those blank facades.

5th Clarendon Road, W11 (£14,950,000)
6th Ashburton Place, W1 (£14,732,000)
7th Lansdowne Road, W11 (£14,621,000)
8th The Vale, SW3 (£14,020,000)
9th Knightsbridge, SW1 (£14,009,000)
10th Chelsea Square, SW3 (£13,231,000)

It's obscene really isn't it? These are averages for heaven's sake, not top prices, and £14m would be enough to buy entire estates elsewhere in the country. Best not stop to think how far down the list your humble street might come, assuming you're lucky enough to own the house you live in, because all London property is property porn these days.

 Thursday, December 22, 2022

On 22nd December last year I asked my readers this question.

Who do you think will be Prime Minister this time next year?


comments (22)


comments (9)


comments (11)


comments (14)

In September I made the ghastly error of jumping the gun and assuming it'd be Liz Truss, because she'd just moved into Number 10 and it was inconceivable she'd be Britain's shortest serving Prime Minister. But Liz proved so ill-suited to the job that she was out of the door within 50 days having left the country's finances in turmoil, and good riddance.

So the actual winner is the man who knifed Boris and came second to Liz, the billionaire Rishi Sunak. Congratulations, second time around, to the 9 people who guessed correctly.
• Tory members will want a air of competence and confidence after Boris. [Dan]
• The public school and wealth confidence of Boris, plus an air of competence and the impression of having some intelligence, plus a shrewd political operator. [Sarah]
• If the Tory party can handle a serial shagger with an unkown number of kids by multiple partners, they can handle a black guy...can't they? [mark addy]
• Who I think, not who I want. [Ambienf]
• I'd love to say "anyone else" but I guess it'll be Sunak [Gunnersaurus]
• :( [NB]
• Sunak- the least worst option. [Richard]
• Yes [normla]
• Not that I'm happy about it! [TomH]
It's not a terribly prophetic set of reasons, indeed those who voted for Liz gave a much better account of why she'd win, but in the end the default candidate won out. Also note that there were 47 plausible but false predictions in the non-Rishi comments boxes, which just goes to show how bad we are at foretelling the future even twelve months ahead.

I'd like to think we can do better than a 16% success rate.
So today would be a good day to ask you to look into the future again.

What do you think will be the outcome of the next General Election?


comments (38)

No Majority
Labour PM

comments (38)

No Majority
Tory PM

comments (6)


comments (6)

Pick the outcome you expect, not the outcome you want.
Keep any accompanying text short.
Any other comments in the box below, thanks.

We don't yet know when the next General Election will be.
It could be (just) over two years away!
But after it happens I'll come back and see if we guessed any better this time.

If you find yourself at a mainline station over Christmas, prepare to meet Safety Santa.

He's Network Rail's figurehead for a festive campaign to keep travellers safe over the holiday period. Yes these are important messages, and yes winter does bring additional risks to stations, and yes seasonal travellers aren't necessarily familiar with how mainline termini work. But if you step back and think about the character - Safety Santa - he makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Santa is a figure of jollity, not a fingerwagger. Santa lands on your roof, which is probably on a slope, risking death atop every house. Santa manoeuvres down your chimney, a dark space with no handholds, rather than making a sensible entry via your front door. Santa sneaks into millions of bedrooms to leave presents, not public health messages. Santa may have a vested interest in you being nice not naughty, but caution is not his middle name.

So full marks for being red and getting noticed, Safety Santa, but what a baffling character to draft into our stations at Christmas.

 Wednesday, December 21, 2022

As the seasons turn, let's visit Winter Avenue.

London only has one street called Winter Something. It has streets called Winterbourne, Winterbrook, Winterfold, Wintergreen, Winterstoke, Winterton and Winterwell, but only one Winter Something. I always worry when a search turns up a singular result because it might turn out to be a tedious suburban non-entity, and nobody wants to read eight paragraphs of "ooh look they have front gardens and bins". Thankfully Winter Avenue proved much more interesting than that, its story essentially the tale of three different roads, plus I get to write about East End markets, regeneration, Paul McCartney and trampolining.

Winter Avenue is an L-shaped road in the heart of East Ham, not far from the Town Hall, one street back from the High Street and one street back from Barking Road. By date of construction it's about as late Victorian as you can get, and looks it if you walk down the unbroken terrace on the western side. This is typical Newham stock - a pair of stacked bay windows, a porch that may or may not have been extended and a small protruding gable on the roof. The front garden is barely deep enough to fit two bins, the current local requirement, and sits in most cases behind a low brick wall. Throw in a couple of pot plants and slap a 'no junk mail' sign on your letterbox and you'll fit right in.

At the top end of the street is Roxanne's Curtains and Interiors, a treasure trove of drapes and glitzy ornaments. We're still a tad too close to the high street for a corner shop to succeed, whereas those in search of made-to-measure blinds, silver picture frames and sunburst mirrors are willing to walk that little bit further. Peer in through the windows of the unassuming workshop out back and you can see piles of fabric, rolls of braid and the odd tassel awaiting relocation to a nearby living room or parlour. And there'd be little more to say about Winter Avenue had the terrace on the other side of the street, that's numbers 1 to 31, not completely disappeared.

In the early 1990s Newham council sought to improve traffic flow at the southern end of East Ham's high street. They built a new road starting halfway down and drove it through the path of least resistance which proved to be the homes of 50 families, replacing bricks and mortar with a broad strip of tarmac and concrete. Half of Holme Road got the chop and also half of Winter Avenue - all the odds - which means you've quite possibly driven a car or ridden a southbound double decker through their former front rooms. They called the new road Ron Leighton Way to commemorate the local MP who'd just died in office, and although it's unlocked the traffic it's also seriously roughed up the residential boundary.

Those homes on the eastern side of Winter Avenue once backed onto East Ham Market Hall, a large covered space with the common touch. This much loved East End staple originated in 1922 when a local family rented pitches to ex-servicemen to sell their wares from barrows. It swiftly grew to become an off-street market where almost 100 stallholders sold textiles, vegetables and cut price cookware to nans and housewives, then later more diverse fare to immigrants, and which ought to have been celebrating its centenary this year. Alas it closed it 2018 for the usual reason, it was much more valuable as flats, and those brick hutches are now built, sold and occupied.

They called the development New Market Place, and left a bit of space for a few turfed out stalls in a minor arcade below Kina House. I walked up and down last year - it barely took a minute - past squished outlets for vaping, underwear, hairdressing, cosmetics and watch repairs. I went back yesterday and even that's now closed, its tenants turfed out to cope or fail elsewhere as the final phase gets underway. Meanwhile the edge of the new development now extends even further than the old market hall because every square foot counts. If you once lived in one of those homes on the eastern side of Winter Avenue, a keypadded bin store may now occupy your kitchen and a 15 storey tower erupts from what was once your back garden.

However not only did carmageddon destroy half of Winter Avenue, it also substantially extended it. The imposition of Ron Leighton Way additionally severed St John's Road, a street running perpendicular, so Newham council decided to rename its western end Winter Avenue creating the current L-shaped hybrid. You can still walk the full length of the former St John's Road because they added a pedestrian crossing in the middle, but cars are now restricted to a one way loop on the western side, hence the decision to rename. Fortuitously none of the houses along the renamed section needed to be renumbered - they were all 36+ whereas the old Winter Avenue topped out at 35.

The St John's Road end of Winter Avenue feels a lot more like a standard 1900-ish street. It has long terraces of gabled 3-bedders, sufficient space out front for restricted parking and several pollarded trees with spindly tops. Some of the front gardens are even three bins deep, so there's a bonus. I spotted a couple of helium balloons wound round the top of the telegraph pole on the corner with Campbell Road, one emblazoned with a pink unicorn, the other in the shape of a single digit. The only inhabitants I passed were a lady in a sari sweeping her front path, a ginger cat and a man returning home with heavy bags of groceries. I did alas visit a couple of days too late to see snow on walls or ice on pavements, so the Avenue looked much less Winter than it might have done.

Oh, and the Beatles played here, twice. The rear doors to East Ham's Granada Cinema opened out onto Winter Avenue so the Fab Four may well have sneaked out this way on 9th March or 9th November 1963. On their first visit they weren't even top of the bill, on their second it took 200 policemen to disperse the crowds. Today the rear doors are grubby and unloved, as befits a cinema that opened in 1936, became a bingo club in 1976, attempted a few years as a banqueting venue and closed in 2017. The auditorium is now an adventure park called Flip Out where you can take the kids trampolining, pretend to go caving or launch yourself down a giant slide from what used to be the upper circle. The door to Laser Quest is on the left, but we're on Barking Road now and my Winter's tale is at an end.

The solstice is at 9.47pm, if you're counting.

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