diamond geezer

 Friday, March 31, 2023

31 unblogged things I did in March

Wed 1: Less than a mile into a 100 mile journey I spotted a massive wodge of birdshit on the lapel of my jacket, freshly delivered. An inch to the left and it would have wrecked my shirt, an inch further back and it would have smothered my hair. Thankfully my jacket was waterproof and therefore wipeable but annoyingly I had nothing to wipe it with. My thanks therefore to the kind member of TfL staff who went off to the station office and fetched some tissues, freshly dampened, allowing me to remove the offending deposit. They also let me out through the barriers to chuck the muck away, the station being bin-deficient, and cheers sir that was world-class service.
Thu 2: I was deeply saddened to hear of the death today of Christopher Fowler, the quintessential author of London noir. He was diagnosed with a tenacious form of cancer at the very start of lockdown and had been updating readers of his blog with honest candour right up to his final post in January. He leaves a legacy of extraordinary literature, most notably his 20-volume series of Bryant & May crime novels, and I'd been buying everything he wrote since Roofworld came out in 1988. A last work or two may be in the pipeline for future publication, but what a sad premature end to the sparkiest of creative minds.
Fri 3: Supermarket update: Sorry to go on about Tesco own-brand choc ices but the price of a box has gone up another 20p since January's rise. They're now 6 for £1.50 whereas 18 months ago they were 8 for £1, a perfect doubling in price (12½p → 25p), and that isn't galloping inflation that's extortion.

Sat 4: I bought some new jeans via click and collect but when I went to Westfield to pick them up the assistant took 5 minutes to find them. She only had four boxes behind the counter to rifle through and my order was right on the top, but sadly she ignored my hint that the package would be jeans-shaped, not trainers-shaped.
Sun 5: The tube replacement bus from Hammersmith to Heathrow was 10 minutes faster than the Piccadilly line normally takes, and maybe they should run it more often.
Mon 6: Glenn got in touch by email because he's trying to compile a master spreadsheet of all the Radio Times Christmas issues in time for the magazine's centenary later this year. He needed price, volume and issue numbers, number of pages and front cover captions, amongst other data, and was doing well with 1923 to 1960. With my collection I was able to fill in most of his gaps from 1980 to 2022. It's nice to be helpful, and sometimes it just pays to ask.
Tue 7: I didn't get any Eurovision tickets but that's because I didn't apply, nor indeed queue frustratingly on an extortionist's website only to have my hopes dashed. It'll be joyous enough on TV.

Wed 8: Snow in Trafalgar Square doesn't happen in most Marches.
Thu 9: I went upstairs on the 186 bus only to discover that the top deck was empty apart from a scruffy couple and a Rottweiler sprawled across the front seat. Eek! I walked tentatively past and sat further back, relieved that the beast had merely stared. It carried on staring as the woman alongside kept tight hold via a suspiciously thick chain attached to her wrist. I had to walk back past when I alighted, jowls in close proximity, at which point the angry barking started and the woman yanked her lead and I dashed a little faster to escape. I'm pleased to say my birthday day out got better after that.
Fri 10: The departure of Ken Bruce from Radio 2, taking Popmaster with him, has forced the launch of a new daily music quiz called Ten To The Top. The questions are similarly tough but the new scoring mechanism (increasing in value with each correct answer) somehow doesn't cut it. The tension isn't there, keeping track of your own score is impractical and people keep ending up with paltry totals. And then yesterday an unassuming lady sailed through the quiz winning maximum points, something I suspect the producers thought might take months, thereby taking an unassailable position on the long-term leaderboard so the whole quiz now feels somewhat flat. Good try, but genius is hard to follow.

Sat 11: I rang the TfL helpline to ask why, two weeks after I paid for an Annual Travelcard, my Gold Card still hadn't arrived in the post. It was also slow last year but previously had always arrived within a week. The lady told me that TfL had "changed their procedures" and Gold Cards now take up to 10 working days to arrive, and could I ring back on Monday if it still hadn't come. I said I'd already lost money and she just apologised and emphasised the "changed procedures".
Sun 12: OK probably not, but what if?
Mon 13: I could tell the Commonwealth Day wreath-laying ceremony had finished because I spotted black limos with numberplates 1 BAN, 1 PAK, 1 TON and KEN 1 rounding Hyde Park Corner.
Tue 14: My Gold Card arrived yesterday after 10 working days, cheers, so today I took it to a central London station to get it added to my Oyster account. They told me I needed to go to a National Rail station and I told them they were wrong and then they looked it up on their magic tablet and said sure, give it here. But they insisted on entering the expiry date one day before it actually expires so that's now 15 days I've been cheated out of.

Wed 15: I see a new community garden has opened on the strip of land between Westfield and the former Olympic Village as a 'meanwhile' use while they decide what to build here. It ought to be uplifting but it describes itself as a co-creation empowerment space, and it recently hosted an equinoctial men's retreat with ice baths and meditation, so I fear it's reflecting a community that's a bit up itself.
Thu 16: My gas bill is two-thirds standing charge.
Fri 17: I watched Comic Relief and it was good but blimey, only three hours long and the second half of the evening was repeats. The BBC's budget squeeze is really showing.
Sat 18: Hurrah, Challenge Anneka is back but on Channel 5 this time. They kept saying the dog centre was in Kent but it's comfortably inside the Greater London boundary in Biggin Hill. It was an uplifting and totally nostalgic watch (but alas C5 are going to be so unimpressed by the viewing figures they'll take the series off mid-run).
Sun 19: My family came down from Norfolk to celebrate Mothers Day in a Wetherspoons. More excitingly my Dad got to see my nephew's flat for the first time and take a ride on Crossrail for the first time, which he didn't think he'd ever do. There's now only 30p left on his Oyster card.

Mon 20: WeRoad are advertising their global group safaris all over buses and stations, and every time I see these grinning selfies of random travel companions I think "eek, I'd hate that, imagine being trapped in foreign climes with raving extroverts you didn't know", and then I remember it's not aimed at me, not even me 30 years ago, indeed I'm now way over their upper age limit.
Tue 21: I'm pleased to report that GCHQ haven't got back and asked me to take down my photo of their Doughnut HQ in Cheltenham so I think I got away with that, unless instead they put me on a secret hitlist and will be delivering vengeance later.
Wed 22: I love Race Across The World and I've missed it post-pandemic. I wasn't convinced a race across just Canada would work but the routing is genius and the couples they've picked are perfect and it totally deserves its promotion to BBC1.
Thu 23: How can interest rates now be over 4%, shafting borrowers, but banks have totally failed to reward savers apart from a paltry few products with awkward caveats? I fear the link between savings and interest rates may be permanently severed.

Fri 24: Here's an evocative photo of the colonnade at Golders Green Crematorium, taken during one of those rare hours this month when the sun was actually out.
Sat 25: I'm regularly amazed how much stuff my neighbours get delivered. Most days there's a package for them left in the hall and I bring it upstairs and leave it by their front door like a good neighbour, whilst simultaneously wondering what on earth the small thing in the big packet might be this time.
Sun 26: I had to go and buy the new Depeche Mode album to go with all my others, reassured by the lead single being excellent. I was however shocked by the price of the CD, and it wasn't even the collector's edition that costs £7 more. At least one other track is excellent but after a few plays I fear a lot of the others may prove to be unmemorable filler.
Mon 27: Myddelton House in Enfield is as delightful as ever, its gardens now blessed with roaming pensioners and full-on spring flower vibes, although the meadow that looks totally bluebelled is actually a cloud of scillas.

Tue 28: My new background music obsession is Retro Charts Radio, a streaming service playing "every single UK Top 40 hit from 1952-1999 on elimination random until they’ve all been played." Think Manic Street Preachers followed by the 1982 England World Cup Squad, or the Partridge Family followed by Stool Pigeon, or Helen Shapiro followed by Ace of Base, even Cumberland Gap followed by That's The Way I Like It. You need eclectic tastes to stomach the five decade range, but the genius moments come when a classic number 3 segues into an obscure hit that only reached number 38. Guaranteed no repeats for eight weeks.
Wed 29: Back in 2018 I succeeded in riding aboard every London bus route over the space of 20 weeks. That's at least one stop on every single route, including the dead annoying 385, 467 and X68. In 2022 I thought I'd do it again (it took 23 weeks) and this year I started again on 1st January and I'm going to have it all done in 13 weeks. It's a good winter task plus a fabulous way to reacquaint yourself with the whole of London. So far I've done 537 of the 546 routes and I only have the single-digit routes to go.
Thu 30: Trying to ride on all the single-digit bus routes as quickly as possible is an interesting challenge. The 5 is a pain because it doesn't run in central London but the others overlap quite well. My 7 was late, my 3 was empty, my 4 got stuck in traffic and I completed my All The Buses challenge by taking the 8 home.
Fri 31: Let's see how this year's annual counts are going...
• Number of London boroughs visited: all of them (at least eight times each)
• Number of London postcode areas visited: 230 (which is 95% of the total)
• Number of London bus routes ridden: all (100%)
• Number of Z1-3 stations used: 292 (74%)
• Number of Z4-6 stations used: 3 (1%)

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jack of diamonds
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