diamond geezer

 Tuesday, January 31, 2023

31 unblogged things I did in January

Sun 1: Getting off the train at Alexandra Palace I was surrounded by a large crowd of sea captains, bright yellow bananas, red and white striped Wallys and a few passengers not in fancy dress. It's a darts thing apparently. Everyone was trying to tap out on the obsolete card readers because nobody's covered them over.



Mon 2: It took a fortnight for my walking boots to dry off after wading through what should have been a tiny stride-able stream just north of Tonbridge. Thankfully nobody mentioned the mud in the tearoom, they must be used to it.
Tue 3: That's the first time I've ever been accosted for cash by an alcoholic while tying my shoelaces outside a Michelin-starred restaurant. He was not successful.
Wed 4: Battersea Power Station, supposedly "London’s most exciting new shopping and leisure destination", is as dead on a weekday in January as you'd expect it to be. (Weekends though, blimey)
Thu 5: I would be totally honoured if you used my photo of Gracie Fields for the cover of your debut album, Nick, thanks for asking. (It won't be out until June though because sourcing vinyl is really difficult these days)
Fri 6: I watched the first 10 minutes of Our Flag Means Death but it didn't make me laugh so I stopped, and now every time I log into iPlayer it suggests I might want to 'Continue watching', and I wish there was a button to say 'I am seriously not interested never suggest this again.'
Sat 7: Maybe I left it too late to go to the sales, or maybe there was nothing worth having, or maybe I have all the pillowcases and tableware I need.
Sun 8: Secrets of blogging: I do a lot of my on-the-spot research by scribbling notes on the back of a folded-up envelope.
Mon 9: I renewed all my library books using the Tower Hamlets app but totally missed that one of them hadn't gone through because someone had reserved it. Thankfully I checked again later, just in time to dash it back to the Idea Store and avoid a fine. Thus far all my borrowing has been free and long may it stay that way.



Tue 10: I was at Baker Street for the tube's 160th anniversary celebrations on platform 5. I'm not sure the Mayor unveiling a heart-shaped roundel really deserved a big cheer, and by the sound of it the rest of the assembled crowd agreed.
Wed 11: The volunteer at Richmond Museum told me the Poppy Factory exhibition was very good, and on the way out I had to agree with her, the Poppy Factory exhibition had indeed been very good.
Thu 12: Dear Elon, nobody wants a sticky 'For you' tab, they want an uncurated chronological feed of just the users they're following. You already know this, so damn you for going ahead and doing it anyway.
Fri 13: I was riding a bus through Merton when the driver received a phone call, nipped off the bus to answer it, then told all the passengers about the serious electricity supply problems he was having back at his house. Admittedly he did this on a Hail & Ride section and I did have a lot of sympathy for the guy, but I suspect that's a disciplinary offence.
Sat 14: I waited for almost half an hour outside Bromley-by-Bow station before realising that no, there weren't any replacement buses despite the line being closed all weekend. I think that's a first.
Sun 15: One day I will get the Woolwich Foot Tunnel entirely to myself (and I've nearly managed it several times) but today was not that day. At least the cyclist passed through quickly (but he shouldn't have been doing that).
Mon 16: For no particular reason, here's a photo of a ginger cat padding past a modernist church in Yeading.



Tue 17: While getting off the train I suddenly realised the bloke alighting behind me was BBC transport correspondent Tom Edwards, so I was totally expecting a report from Barnes on the local news that evening but it never happened.
Wed 18: I've finally got that new psychogeographical London book out of the library. I was chuffed to discover that this blog is referenced in chapter 6, but less chuffed to be called out for something I wrote that was plainly wrong.
Thu 19: I got to the platform at Bromley-by-Bow just as the doors were closing and with an 8 minute gap until the next train, so I sarcastically saluted the driver. They then opened the doors for me so I saluted again with considerable thanks, and I fear the two distinct meanings may not have been readily apparent.
Fri 20: I unexpectedly bumped into Tim Dunn and Siddy Holloway standing in the middle of a ticket hall so stopped to say hello, and only then spotted two camera crews down a passageway preparing to film them from a distance. I am therefore able to exclusively reveal one of the stations that'll be featuring in the next series of Secrets of The Underground.
Sat 21: It's been a while since my landlord raised my rent so I've been steeling myself for an unpleasant email, but when the news actually arrived it was a text message at 8am on a Saturday morning and that jolted me awake somewhat. Could have been a lot worse, thankfully.
Sun 22: The boss of Tesco told Laura Kuenssberg that "some food manufacturers might be using inflation as an excuse to hike prices", and I yelled back at the TV that 18 months ago Tesco own-brand choc ices were ten for £1 and now they're eight for £1.30 and that's a 62% price increase which is a totally unjustified price hike, but I fear he never heard me.
Mon 23: I got as far as Hounslow before realising I wasn't wearing my watch, and I feared it'd fallen off like it nearly did at King's Cross at Christmas, which'd be a bummer because it's going to be 30 years old next month. I then spent an agonising three hours before I got home where I confirmed no, I just hadn't put it on that morning.
Tue 24: My Chiltern train journey started out under heavy cloud which lingered over London all day. The frost started at Denham, the clouds cleared by High Wycombe, the fog descended through Princes Risborough and hurrah, Banbury had crystal clear blue skies all day. So that was a win.



Wed 25: While researching lists for the blog I came across this very very long list of Unusual Wikipedia Articles, and if you're ever bored I recommend it as the perfect time-sink.
Thu 26: BestMate loves planes, indeed we've been on a day trip to Duxford together and been for a walk following the Heathrow flightpath, so I was gobsmacked when he said he'd never been to the RAF museum in Colindale. Maybe it was just somewhere cub packs to the northwest of London went. It's now very much on our to-do list.
Fri 27: That is unexpectedly tempting and I would totally get a kick out of it but I'd better not. If only you'd asked five years ago.
Sat 28: The day started with the flat downstairs holding a banging party, and ended with them holding another banging party with pulsing bass that went on until 5am. They'd better not try that again next weekend. I did however get more sleep than I was expecting.
Sun 29: Outside New Eltham Library I came across a rather large lady sitting uncomfortably on the pavement. She asked if I could help her stand back up again, except she was holding a frisky alsatian on a lead in one hand and that was quite the moral dilemma I can tell you.
Mon 30: In 2021 my local Tesco stopped stocking Becks, other than the pointless non-alcoholic version, so I was amazed to spot a single box all by itself in the wrong location with no price on it. It's now all mine, hurrah, effectively at 65p a bottle and just in time with February coming up!
Tue 31: Yesterday's tales of your experiences with natural hazards were fascinating, thanks, and well worth a read. I have lived a very cushy life phenomenon-wise. The highest score came from MartinG (who's lived in China and Japan) with 7 out of 10 (E2 V2 H2 T1). Mary and a nameless person scored 6. As of 7am this morning earthquakes are by far the most commonly experienced hazard, with volcanic activity in second place and hurricanes and tornadoes some way behind.

 Monday, January 30, 2023

Some natural events are so rare that we may experience them only once in a lifetime (or, depending on where we live, frequently or never).

So today I'm asking you to consider how many of the big natural events you've experienced and award yourself a score out of 10.
Score 2 if you've properly experienced one of these...
earthquake
volcanic activity
hurricane/typhoon
tornado
(or 1 if you sort-of have)

...then add 1 if you've experienced one of these...

tsunami
avalanche/landslide

...to get a score out of 10.
If you're not sure whether your experience counts as 2 or 1, give it a 1.
If you're not sure whether your experience counts as 1 or 0, give it a 0.

Here's a special comments box for your scores.  your scores

Please read the rest of the post before you commit to a total.
And please keep it brief - there are separate comments boxes further down the post for your memorable experiences.

My score is 3.
That's E1 V1 H0 T1 (t0 a0) =3

And here's how I calculated it.


EARTHQUAKE: 1
I have experienced an earthquake and what's more I was at home in London when it happened. It was 12.56am on 27th February 2008, I was in bed and most importantly I was wide awake with the light on. All was quiet when suddenly a metal rail at the foot of the bed started to vibrate. I watched the coathangers on the rail start to sway, I felt my bed shake a little and I heard the walls of my building creak. It only lasted for a few seconds. These events could have occurred for all sorts of reasons but I had a hunch it might have been an earthquake. Twitter was already a thing back then so it was possible to get wider confirmation pretty quickly rather than being left wondering, and I had indeed experienced my first earthquake.



This was the Market Rasen earthquake of 2008 which at 5.2 on the Richter scale was the strongest earthquake in the UK since 1984. Only four other earthquakes have exceeded 5.0 in the last 100 years, that's Dogger Bank 1931 (6.1), Derby 1957 (5.3), Llŷn Peninsula 1984 (5.4) and Bishop's Castle 1990 (5.1). London last saw earthquake damage in 1580 and before that 1382 because being distant from plate boundaries has its benefits. Other countries face far more serious risks and experience much larger quakes, indeed you'll almost certainly have to have been outside the UK to score a 2 in today's challenge. My coathanger-shaking experience was piddly by comparison but I have experienced an earthquake and for that I score 1.

n.b. I was lucky to be awake at 1am. I'd had a very long day at work because others weren't pulling their weight and major deadlines were approaching so I was late home, and then with stuff to do I was still up writing my diary at the end of the shipping forecast. Had the earthquake happened one day later I'd have been fast asleep and scored 0. As it happened my annoying work overload scored me 1.
n.b. I was in San Francisco exactly 100 years after the Big One standing by Lotta's Fountain for the big centenary commemoration at 5:12am, but that (thankfully) scores 0.
n.b. I can't tell you precisely where the dividing line between a 2 and a 1 is, but if you thought "eek, it's an earthquake" it might be a 2 and if you thought "oh, it's an earthquake" it's probably a 1.

VOLCANO: 1
I've never been up to the crater of a big volcano and I have never seen a volcano erupting so I can't have a 2. I'm awarding myself a 1 because I went part of the way up Eyjafjallajökull shortly after it erupted and stood on a thick layer of ash that had previously been a meltwater lake. It was 2010 when Eyjafjallajökull brought European air traffic to a halt and 2011 when I went on holiday to Iceland and plumped for the volcanic jeep tour option. We zipped up the Markarfljot valley to the snout of the glacier which used to be sparkling and white but was now grey and impregnated with ash. It was quite a sight.



"Don't go too far away," said our tour guide. "This grey volcanic landscape is highly unstable as you can see from those deep pits over there, which before long are going to grow and coalesce. Hopefully that won't happen while we're standing nearby but driving a jeep onto the ash layer can't have helped, indeed maybe we shouldn't be up here at all." It was a cracking experience, though thankfully not catastrophically so. I keep a chunk of ash from Eyjafjallajökull on a table in my hallway.

n.b. If I'd only seen Eyjafjallajökull from a distance that would have been a 0.
n.b. Going up Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh is also a 0 - extinct volcanoes are too easy.
n.b. If you've seen glowing magma fresh from the bowels of the earth that's got to be a 2.

HURRICANE: 0
I have never been in, under or near a hurricane. The only time I went to Florida the weather was mercifully calm, although we were asked to descend the LC-39 Observation Gantry at the Kennedy Space Center because a thunderstorm was approaching. The only designated hurricane at the time, Alberto, was busy pootling around the mid-Atlantic and Debby wasn't due to hit until a week later. I dodged a bullet there because a nasty windstorm would have totally messed up my Disney World plans, and that's why I'm still a 0 on the hurricane front.

n.b. The Great Storm of 1987 was not a hurricane so that scores 0.
n.b. hurricanes, typhoons... the only difference is the ocean so they both count.
n.b. I can't tell you precisely where the dividing line between a 2 and a 1 is, but if you thought "blimey it's wet and windy" it might be a 1 and if you thought "sheesh this is frightening" it's probably a 2.

TORNADO: 1
I spotted my first and only tornado in June 2021 while walking along the Greenway near West Ham station, because a raised path across a flat landscape is a good place to get a great view of the sky. Storms had been forecast but I hoped I'd dodge the nearest and get to my destination before getting soaked. But that cloud looks odd, I thought, I swear I can see it changing shape in a bubbly swelling manner and maybe poking down a bit. You don't normally see clouds changing that fast so something must be up. I still regret not taking a photo.

I didn't see a funnel of cloud reach the ground and I was three miles away so experienced no ill effects other than it looking weird. Only later did I discover that a tornado touched down around the same time in Barking's backstreets so I had in fact been watching the evolution of a tornado. I watched all sorts of shaky phone footage with interest (that would have been a 2), but my observation of explosive convection only scores me 1.

n.b. If you judge by density of phenomena the UK is supposedly the tornado capital of the world with an average of 30 tornadoes recorded each year, but most are pretty weak.
n.b. The continental USA suffers the strongest tornadoes so that's where you'll find the most 2s.

TSUNAMI: 0
Very few people, thankfully, experience a proper tsunami and I am not one of them. A few measly ripples on a beach probably doesn't count. If you have seen one though then it's a maximum of 1 point (unless it was Boxing Day 2004 in which case sure, have a 2).
AVALANCHE/LANDSLIDE: 0
There's only 1 point available here too and it's for actually seeing an avalanche or landslide, not for coming upon a pile of debris afterwards. I've seen plenty of crumbled cliffs but I have never seen it happen.
And that's how I score a total of 3.
3 out of 10 is a bit poor, or perhaps unlucky, or arguably lucky because nobody wants to experience too many of these natural hazards.

If you've worked out your own total please add it to the first comments box several screens further up the page.
Phenomenon-specific anecdotes in the relevant boxes lower down, thanks.
And any general comments below. Let's see who's the most disaster prone of all.

 Sunday, January 29, 2023

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Do you live in the popular London street named after an unexpected creature where houses built by a murder victim sell for £3m?
By Aleecia McVitie, News Reporter



Not many London streets are named after reptiles - we can only think of Snakes Lane and Lizard Street. But nestling in the heart of Balham is a street with a properly surprising reptilian name and that's Terrapin Road. None of the adjacent streets have even vaguely animalistic names, let alone a direct connection to small aquatic turtles, so Terrapin Road really stands out.

At first sight Terrapin Road looks like a perfectly normal terraced street, indeed you could scoot up and down it on Google Streetview and not find anything to say. But look more closely and you'll see the houses are extremely wide with staggeringly decorative front doors inlaid with stained glass in full-on Queen Anne style, often with chequerboard-tiled paths out front. The word 'desirable' doesn't even begin to cut it.

Terrapin Road is part of the Heaver estate laid out by Alfred Heaver in the 1890s. According to Wikipedia he was a shady developer responsible for over 4000 houses across south London, mainly subcontracted out to other builders. But in 1888 he married Fanny Tutt and in 1901 her brother David shot him twice while walking to church near Dorking and that was the end of Alfred Heaver.

The terraced houses in Terrapin Road are so wide that, according to Zoopla, they contain no fewer than seven bedrooms. This helps to explain the £3.1m pricetag on one recent purchase, with several other undivided properties thought to be worth a similar amount. It must look amazing if you're allowed to go there in real life, but one thing's for sure, house prices in Terrapin Road are something snappy!

Do you live in a street named after an unusual animal or have you been shot by your brother? Tell us in the comments.



Revealed - the affordable commuter town less than five minutes from London where the bacon rolls only have one rasher
By Verdana Trench, Crime Reporter



Housing may be incredibly expensive but millennials are finding more bang for their buck by living outside the capital in towns previously described on Tripadvisor as 'rank'. Top of the heap in a definitive survey compiled by a Kuwaiti finance company is Dartford in Kent, which is literally one millimetre away from Greater London because the boundary crosses the main street.

"Dartford is home to 4.68 things to do per 10,000 people," according to text literally copied from their press release, "including visiting Saint Edmund's Pleasance Park and watching shows at the Orchard Theatre." The Saturday market also brings the crowds flocking and is the place to come if you want orange rugs, omelettes or diabetic wide-topped socks, otherwise you can always hop on the bus to Bluewater.

According to Rightmove house prices are incredibly affordable. Properties in Dartford sold for an average price of £426,856 over the last year with flats fetching a rock bottom £241,346. But Dartford may not be the place for you if haute cuisine is a dealbreaker. At Esquires Coffee in the High Street, according to Tripadvisor critic Matt361, "one dish had poached eggs that were solid, another had a hash brown that was still frozen."

ChrisDW70 agreed, saying "We ordered a smashed avocado sandwich which arrived with chilli flakes on it. I took it back saying it I can't eat spicy." And JanMc60 won't be back any time soon, saying "coffee is OK but bacon roll had 1 rasher of bacon - at £3 I think this is a rip off." If you can stomach buying your pork-based breakfast snacks from Gregg's, Dartford may still be the affordable town for you.

Have you ever eaten in Dartford? Tell us all about it in the comments so we can harvest your email address.



I visited London's only bright red signpost hiding in plain sight and the free biscuits were amazing
By Henrietta Dipole, Entertainment Reporter



You could live in London for years and never spot the signpost at the top of Herne Hill, despite it being bright red, which would be a shame because it's London's only entirely red signpost. Also it's not positioned beside the road, it's set back within the grounds of a church and this conceals it somewhat if approaching from Denmark Hill.

A red painted signpost is known to have existed here in 1768 but may have been even older. It was such an important landmark that in 1834 the name of Ashpole Hill, which also starts here, was changed to Red Post Hill. A few red signposts still exist in the West Country but there are none anywhere else in the southeast. Conveniently all these facts can be freely copied off a plaque erected here by The Dulwich Society - no time-consuming research is required.

The red post has a sign on top saying The Red Post. The place names listed on the sign are CAMBERWELL 1 LONDON 4 to the northeast, DULWICH VILLAGE 1 SYDENHAM 3 to the southeast, HERNE HILL ½ TULSE HILL 1½ to the southwest and BRIXTON 1 to the northwest. It would be even more amazing if it were the original red post but this incarnation only dates back to 2010.

As a bonus, if you visit on Fridays between 10am and 1pm then the doors to Herne Hill United Church are open and you can go inside for a warm space out of the cold, plus free tea, coffee and biscuits. This generous offer is only for the duration of the energy crisis but wow, you turn up for a red post and end up with a free digestive, now that's amazing.

What's your favourite free biscuit? Please get stuck in and kick off the conversation.



Kate Middleton's reaction to a sudden change in how London's bus timetables are printed may surprise you
By Lenticula Claude, Transport Reporter



Shocked Londoners have taken to Twitter to express surprise at a change to London's bus timetables none of them had previously noticed. "I literally couldn't speak," said anonymous user @grilledpanda, "they are almost unrecognisable."

The new style bus timetables have a red stripe across the top saying 'London Buses' and copious use of blue ink below where previously there was none. "It looks so different," said south London influencer @thebigfridge, "and I'm unconvinced the colour contrast in the headings is suitable for passengers with a range of visual impairments."

But the biggest change is to the route diagram which now only shows the route ahead rather than the entire route as was the case before. "This will inconvenience me every time I want to know where a bus has come from," said mum-to-be @lickmytoblerone, "which really matters if I'm accidentally standing on the wrong side of the road."

The transformation is believed to have come into effect in June 2022 which just goes to show how unobservant everyone is. Kate Middleton has so far maintained a discreet silence regarding the change.

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 Saturday, January 28, 2023

TfL's annual fare rise was announced last week.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said “My hands have been tied since the pandemic by the strict conditions set by the Government in the recent emergency funding agreement for TfL, which means fares have to be increased in London by the same amount as national rail fares – 5.9 per cent.”
But unusually only the headline increases were given. It's taken another eight days for the full list of new fares to be issued... silently, without any kind of press release, as part of a Mayoral decision paper. You can read the full details here, download the signed version here or see tables of all the new train fares here. As far as I know no major news providers have noticed yet, or thought it worth reporting.

What follows is my annual summary of TfL's fare rises, with highlighted text for bad news Sadiq hadn't announced before. It's particularly grim if you travel within Zone 1, avoid central London off-peak or plan to ride the cablecar.

Sadiq froze fares for four years before the pandemic but has since been forced to raise them by government-approved amounts. That's 1% above inflation in 2021 (2.6%) and 2022 (4.8%), and a thankfully much-lower-than-inflation rise in 2023 (5.9%). To put that in context, fares rose 7% in 2011, 7% in 2012, 3% in 2014, 2.5% in 2015 and 1% in 2016, because Boris Johnson wasn't afraid of an above-inflation hike.

Here are some of the new fares in historical perspective, with Boris's years in blue and Sadiq's in red.

Cost of a single central London tube journey
 20132014201520162017201820192020202120222023
Peak£2.10£2.20£2.30£2.40£2.40£2.40£2.40£2.40£2.40£2.50£2.80
Off peak£2.10£2.20£2.30£2.40£2.40£2.40£2.40£2.40£2.40£2.50£2.70

After six years at £2.40 and two years at £2.50 the Zone 1 PAYG tube fare suddenly takes a hike. In 2021 it was deliberately left unchanged "to support the wider economic recovery of London" but in 2023 it's leaping 12% because "journeys solely within Zone 1 are more likely to be made for tourism or leisure". Contradictory reasons bring contradictory outcomes.

For the first time ever, a Zone 1 fare will cost more at peak times than off-peak. The peak fare will be £2.80, a 30p increase, while the off-peak fare will be £2.70. These are increases of 12% and 8% respectively, well above the 5.9% headline figure.

n.b. These are PAYG fares for Oyster or contactless users. Those who insist on paying cash will now pay £6.70 rather than £6.30.

Cost of a tube journey from Green Park to Heathrow
 20132014201520162017201820192020202120222023
Peak£5.00£5.00£5.10£5.10£5.10£5.10£5.10£5.10£5.30£5.50£5.60
Off peak£3.00£3.00£3.10£3.10£3.10£3.10£3.10£3.10£3.30£3.50£5.60

Ouch. A Z1-6 fare rises only 10p this year, one of the very lowest increases, but fares to Heathrow are now a special case. In September last year the Mayor announced that travel from Z1 to Heathrow would always be charged at peak rates, hiking prices on the Piccadilly line by £2 overnight. The new tube fare from central London to Heathrow will be £5.60 at all times. This is £2.10 more than it was twelve months ago and a higher fare than any other off-peak journey, even Amersham to Upminster.

But it's still a bargain compared to Crossrail, indeed less than half the purple fare. That's currently £11.50 and will be going even higher in March, although the Mayoral papers don't explicitly state what the new fare will be. What they do say is "The TfL-set additional fare supplements to the Heathrow fares will increase by 40p" and "The Elizabeth line Heathrow supplements for travel via Zone 1 are set at £7.70", so I suspect it'll be breaking the £12 barrier for the first time. If you choose to take Crossrail to the airport you are being milked for the convenience.

For many years all off-peak tube journeys in Z2-6 cost £1.50. In 2021 the Mayor disrupted that by making longer journeys cost more, and this year he distorts the scale again.

Tube (off-peak), journey does not include Z1
1 zone  was £1.60, will be £1.80
2 zones  was £1.70, will be £1.90
3 zones  was £1.80, will be £1.90
4 zones  was £1.90, will be £2.00
5 zones  was £1.90, will be £2.10

Most off-peak outer London journeys are seeing significant hikes. The increases to 1-zone journeys (e.g. Kennington → Brixton), 2-zone journeys (e.g. Finchley Road → Wembley Park) and 5-zone journeys (e.g. Whitechapel → Upminster) are all over 10%. What's more if you consider 2020→2023 the increases are 20% for 1 zone, 27% for 2 or 3 zones, 33% for 4 zones and a massive 40% for 5 zones. Posters across the network used to delight in saying 'Travel off-peak within zones 2-6 for just £1.50', but that's currently £1.90 and I suspect £2.10 isn't going to look as good.

Daily caps for journeys in London are all increasing by the requisite 6%, but you have to be going some across zones 2-6 to ever hit one.

Cost of a single central London bus journey
20132014201520162017201820192020202120222023
£1.35£1.40£1.45£1.50£1.50£1.50£1.50£1.50£1.55£1.65£1.75

TfL are often kinder to bus passengers because they include the poorest amongst the electorate, but not this year which sees another 10p rise. This takes the daily cap for bus journeys over £5 for the first time, specifically £5.25. The anomaly whereby a one zone tube ride (e.g Whitechapel to Stratford) was 5p cheaper than taking the bus will no longer apply.

Cost of an annual Z1-3 Travelcard
20132014201520162017201820192020202120222023
£1424£1472£1508£1520£1548£1600£1648£1696£1740£1808£1916

No matter what the Mayor decides, Travelcards rise in price in line with National Rail fares which are set by the government. That's also 5.9% which is much lower than inflation but still a fair whack. It also means the price of an annual Z1-3 Travelcard is going to increase by over £100 for the first time.

Finally to the means of transport seeing the sharpest fare increase.

Cost of a single Dangle
 20132014201520162017201820192020202120222023
PAYG£3.20£3.30£3.40£3.50£3.50£3.50£3.50£3.50£4.00£5.00£6.00
Walk-up£4.30£4.00£4.40£4.50£4.50£4.50£4.50£4.50£5.00£6.00£6.00

Cablecar fares will now be the same however you pay at £6 per crossing. It's already £6 if you rock up at the terminal and buy a boarding pass, like foolish tourists do, but previously Oyster and contactless users got a £1 discount and now they won't. The key phrase hidden away in the Mayoral Decision is "Discounted fares will no longer be available." They're also removing return tickets "to simplify the ticket offering".

This shunts the Dangleway even further into sightseeing territory, assuming it was ever anything but. It also means that if you just want to cross the river then a Thames Clipper ride should be £2 cheaper. Regular Dangleway users should however be delighted that a carnet of 10 tickets remains at the rockbottom price of £17 - a mere £1.70 per crossing - the same as it was ten years ago. Don't expect to see this advertised anywhere, you have to ask at the ticket window, but it is the best bargain in the 2023 fares package.

So brace yourself because all these daily increases soon add up, especially if you're one of those people who just taps their way round the capital and blindly lets TfL charge the going rate. Balancing the books when fewer people are travelling is a tough ask, and if the government won't help foot the bill then you and I are going to have to.

 Friday, January 27, 2023

A Nice Walk: West Heath (1 mile)

Sometimes you just want to go for a nice walk, nothing too taxing, a bit of a stroll, lots to see, pretty views, close to public transport, no distractions, potentially muddy, occasional wallabies, won't take long. So here's an off-piste mile across the western flank of Hampstead Heath, nowhere near enough to make a day of it but a nice walk all the same.

Let's start in Golders Hill Park. You can't just materialise here, you might have to catch a bus or walk up from Golders Green station but rest assured it's not far. The park's lovely, a large landscaped space sloping down from North End Road to a pair of woody ponds. It has a walled garden with exotic plants, an isolated bandstand and a footpath across a lake into a stumpery. It also has a cafe on the site of a big Victorian house, although the food offer was much better before the City of London allowed Benugo to take it over. And best of all it has wallabies.



The zoo at Golders Hill Park evolved out of donations from the rich and famous in Edwardian times. Have some deer, said Sir Samuel Scott. Do you fancy two emus, two kangaroos and two rheas, asked Lionel Walter Rothschild MP. I've got a black bear you can borrow for a couple of years, said Captain RW Templeton. The wallabies are a postwar addition arriving in 1949 along with a white stag and some rabbits. Today a long chain of double-fenced enclosures ascends from the wallaby enclosure, nothing enormous but enough to entrance a toddler for a decent while. I failed to spot the ring-tailed lemurs or the Scottish wildcats because they were wisely tucked away, but the donkeys were out being fed, Bubo the eagle owl gave me a good stare and the kookaburras reminded me of Orville the duck.



The signs on the fence are chattily informative, so for example I now know which animals have a tendency not to eat all their vegetables. A separate enclosure includes fallow deer, although I only spotted one yesterday and that was inert so best pick your time. But the best bit was definitely the wallabies, especially when they started hopping en masse down the hill because you don't see that every day, and that was my Australia Day experience.

Step through the gate beyond the deer enclosure and not only are you crossing from Barnet into Camden but also passing onto Hampstead Heath. This is the lesser known West Heath, a sprawling triangle of thick woodland crisscrossed by muddy paths and populated by many a labrador and their owners. The trick is to keep climbing, and at this time of year to wear stout footwear, and also to aim for the gate in the fence else you won't get into the next bit. This is the Hill Garden and Pergola, formerly the backyard of soap magnate Lord Leverhulme and exactly the kind of grand statement you can afford to make when you've made a fortune from detergent. In his day the pond used to be a tennis court so that's an improvement, but the surrounding raised paths and shelter are original.



The best part is up the steps at the rear and that's the pergola. It was started in 1905 as somewhere impressive for dinner guests to stroll, and is supported by tons of earth excavated during the digging of the Northern line extension to Golders Green. In 1911 it was extended above a pesky public right of way as a high level solution to provide access to the Hill Garden, and further extended in the years leading up to Leverhulme's death until it was over 250m long. These days it just goes on and on with endless rustic wiggles, and if you come in spring the wisteria is something magnificent.



It's not so colourful in January but still an extraordinarily attractive structure and best of all devoid of other people. Usually if you come up here it's thronging with folk lining up Insta-zingers, more folk waiting for the first lot to get out of the way so they can line-up their Insta-zingers, Asian couples posing for interminable wedding shots, YouTubers pretending they discovered the place and assorted tourists just hanging out. If you're ever considering starting your own London-based social media channel it's de rigeur to kick off with a report from The Amazing Secret Pergola, even though the crowds suggest it can't be that secret after all.



Once you've had enough pergolaing you should descend the spiral staircase and yomp your way up to the top of the Heath. Here we find Jack Straw's Castle, a former hostelry admired by Dickens and Betjeman, now luxury flats. Here we find Whitestone Pond, a bullrushed gyratory and the highest point in inner London, which is currently semi-iced. Here we find Heath Brow, a cul-de-sac that's only one letter away from Heathrow Airport. Here we find the stone obelisk that's been Hampstead's war memorial since 1922, shifted from its original position to make way for more traffic. And here we find several paths down muddy slopes leading to Hampstead's exclusive hamlet.



This is the Vale of Health, an inappropriately upbeat name for what was originally a boggy bottom near the start of the River Fleet. It started out in 1720 as a single workshop for a harness-maker and grew inexorably into a few cottages, then a cluster of terraces and today a compact enclave of desirable homes. Those who've lived here include DH Lawrence, Stella Gibbons, Anthony Minghella and Liam Gallagher, although only DH has a blue plaque. Even newspaper baron Lord Northcliffe, founder of the Daily Mail, lived here in the 1870s and I particularly like that his childhood home now has a 'No Junk Mail' sign below the letterbox.



Wandering round the Vale of Health always feels a bit like trespassing, but feel free to follow the lamplit alleys, explore the quaint dead ends or head out to the caravan park where fairground owners overwinter their rides. I ended my nice walk by half-slipping down the muddy track to Vale of Health Pond for a reflective pause by the outflow drain. It makes sense to continue across the Heath and revel in the delights this has to offer but so many subsequent paths are possible that it would be presumptuous to label any such route the optimum nice walk to follow, just go your own way.

 Thursday, January 26, 2023



This is Grange Hill station. I remember walking past it before when I was several years younger, so I probably had some mints in my pocket. I remember they used to sell mints called Pacers which were square and chewy and came in stripy white and green wrappers. I remember another minty green food, a pack of meringues they used to sell in Marks and Spencer, I think they were chocolate coated, my Mum sometimes let us buy them as a treat. I remember getting them from the back of the old store in Queens Road Watford, although that's all a great big shopping centre now. I remember we went to the Harlequin just after it opened and a pane of glass fell from the roof, thankfully nobody was hurt. I remember a pigeon once dumped on me under a bridge but it was OK because I had a handkerchief. I remember hankies often used to come with initials embroidered in the corner although we don't do that so much these days.

This is Grange Hill station. I remember before they installed barriers at stations when you could just walk straight through although there was always someone checking the tickets back then. I remember they used to punch a hole in your ticket to show it'd been used whereas these days they often just scribble on it in pen. I remember when hole punches were an essential part of every stationery cupboard, back in the days when everything needed printing and filing away in ring binders. I remember almost injuring myself when closing a really thick ring binder because those metal prongs could do real damage. I remember my bank used to send me special folders to keep my statements in and they all came with ready-punched holes, those were different times. I remember queueing at the bank to get money out, it was funny but I always seemed to choose the slowest queue... that at least never changes.

This is Grange Hill station. I remember being surprised when I first heard the station was in Essex, but it's only just inside because one platform's right up against the Greater London boundary. I remember another borderline trip to Essex when I was very little, we had family in Nazeing and I don't think the house had mains electricity back then. I remember when plugs used to have red, black and green wires, now it's brown, blue and stripy which is much safer for colour blind people. I remember when appliances came with bare wires and you had buy the plugs separately and fit them yourself. I remember when every high street had a hardware shop, usually overseen by a man in brown overalls with a pencil behind his ear. I remember how important it was to have a well-sharpened pencil, nowadays people just type stuff and handwriting has gone completely downhill, I got through a lot of Quink ink back then.

This is Grange Hill station. I remember the first time I passed through the station which was in January 1980 with three schoolfriends, my Mum was really upset because we got home late and on the return journey we found a bottle of whisky on the train. I remember when you could drink on the tube, I even remember when you could smoke on it too, they had special carriages. I remember everyone just used to take for granted that their clothes would stink of other people's smoke when they went out, it's just the way things were back then. I remember a white polo neck jumper I had in the 1970s and I hated it but you can't go against parental clothes choices when you're nine. I remember on my ninth birthday we went to see Captain Pugwash at Watford Palace Theatre, not the cartoon but a swashbuckling stage version. I remember being sceptical there was ever a character called Master Bates and indeed there wasn't.

This is Grange Hill station. I remember going to another station called Grange something but that was Grange Park which is in Enfield. I remember the planters and flowerboxes outside looked very pretty, they won Enfield in Bloom in 2018. I remember when communities took real pride in their surroundings, that's everywhere and not just Grange Park. I remember the parade of shops nearby had a proper family butchers, those were the days when you queued daily for your meat and a man in a stripy blue apron chopped it up for you and you went home with a bag of bleeding flesh. I remember the excitement of buying lamb because that meant there was going to be mint sauce, it was always a great Sunday roast when we had mint sauce. I remember listening to Family Favourites over Sunday lunch, maybe even being allowed a glass of Blue Nun, but they never read out a request for anyone I knew.

This is Grange Hill station. I remember getting the bus past it, that would have been the 462 probably when they extended it past Fairlop. I remember another bus route ending in 62, that would be the 162 which you used to be able to ride with a Red Rover ticket and they were only 50p a day. I remember 50p went a long way in those days, you could buy ten ice creams from a van, you can't even get the Flake for that these days. I remember that woman relaxing in her bath with her chocolate as the water sploshed out, they don't make ads like that any more. I remember the Smash robots and the Cresta bear, whatever happened to Cresta, although the artificial colourings probably made you hyper and the sugar rotted your teeth. I remember when going to the dentist used to be a lot more traumatic but I try not to remember that.

This is Grange Hill station. I remember seeing it on the tube map when I was very little, it was a separate shuttle back then like it is now. I remember the day the Space Shuttle blew up, I found out on the way back from a university lecture as the news spread by word of mouth and everyone was so shocked. I remember when University Challenge was on ITV, I think it used to go out on Sundays, it may even have been in black and white. I remember watching snooker in colour for the first time which was quite an eye opener. I remember playing pool in a Youth Hostel in Derbyshire when I was 16 but I'm pretty sure I lost. I remember when a packed lunch with a bag of crisps was the most exciting thing ever, although salt and vinegar was still blue back then. I remember the little blue bag with the salt, although obviously they were only bringing it back for nostalgic reasons and my Dad remembers it for real.

This is Grange Hill station. I remember taking photos with a wind-on camera and having to wait a week to get twelve blurry shots back from the chemist. I remember winters used to be snowier, Wagon Wheels used to be thicker and rice pudding used to be served up with a dollop of jam in the middle. I remember when people bought evening newspapers, most women wore hats and coal was delivered by horse and cart. I remember writing letters to penpals, living without central heating and thinking garibaldi biscuits contained squashed flies. I remember power cuts, sexual inequality, leaded petrol and casual racial slurs. I remember when people looked to the future rather than endlessly harking back to the past. I remember when I was 12 making time to watch the first episode of a new children's series set in a comprehensive school because if you weren't in front of your TV at the time you never saw it, but I can't remember what it was called.

 Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Gadabout: BANBURY

For my first long distance jaunt of 2023 I've been to north Oxfordshire to the market town of Banbury. To help you get your bearings, Banbury sits about halfway between Oxford and Coventry and is the only major town for miles. It also sits astride four important north-south connections - the River Cherwell, the Oxford Canal, the railway and the M40. It's best known for a nursery rhyme but it's not all cock horses, the town has many other fine features. I set myself a quest to find seven of them. [Visit Banbury] [6 photos]

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse,
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
She shall have music wherever she goes
Quest 1 - find Banbury Cross



Banbury once had three crosses - the High Cross (in West Bar), the Bread Cross (on the High Street) and the Market Cross (in Cornhill). It's not known which of these was being referred to in the nursery rhyme. More awkwardly all three crosses were destroyed by puritans in the early 1600s, the local population being a joylessly religious bunch several decades before the rest of the country got to live under Cromwell's rule. It took until 1859 for the town to build a replacement cross, a 16m spire to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria's eldest daughter. Just don't expect to get up close because it sits in the middle of a small roundabout at the top of the High Street.



Check the neighbouring street corner, however, and you'll find a rather nice statue of a woman on horseback. It's official name is The Fine Lady Upon A White Horse Statue and it was unveiled in 2005 by... who else?... the Princess Royal. Visually the horse is very much black because the statue's in bronze, but if you read the nursery rhyme inscribed around the sides of the plinth the correct colour should be evident. Rings and bells are present in the appropriate anatomical locations. Look out too for a beaming solar face on the side of a nearby metal planter, the Sun being the centrepiece of Banbury's coat of arms.

Quest 2 - find Banbury's Grade I listed building



That'd be St Mary's church which you can't miss because its classical domed tower soars above most rooftops. It would have been the oldest building in town except parishioners knocked down the original in the 1790s and built this extraordinary confection instead. A ring of decorated pillars supports a central dome above a huge open space with excellent lines of sight ("a circle within an octagon within a square"), all beautifully painted and lit with sparkling chandeliers. Behind the altar is a gilded apse and round the walls are gorgeous stained glass windows depicting parables and the life of Christ which look modern but are actually Victorian. No other 18th century English parish church is larger.



I had trouble getting in thanks to a set of automatic doors triggered by movement sensors, one of which doesn't currently work. I had to be rescued by one of the volunteers on duty who led me inside and proceeded to enthuse about his very favourite building. I don't think they get that many visitors, indeed on a frosty Tuesday in January I was likely Banbury's sole tourist, so I was treated almost like royalty as I made positive noises about the place. It was a socially awkward but utterly charming encounter, and I left with an undeserved free gift and no chance to say a proper thankyou.

Quest 3 - find a Banbury Cake

The town's culinary speciality is the Banbury cake, a sweet pastry first recorded in the Tudor times. Some would argue it's very very much like an Eccles cake, being filled with currants, mixed peel and sugar, but it's usually more oval in shape and tends to contain a dash of rum. For over three centuries you could buy a batch at The Original Cake Shop in Parsons Street but postwar redevelopment thoughtlessly demolished that, thereby making my quest much harder. I assumed Banbury would have at least one independent bakery somewhere and set out to explore the central streets and back alleys. I found a lot of tasteful shops dotted round what was clearly a historic street pattern - yes, very nice - but only found cafes and a Greggs (and a heck of a lot of barbers shops), so absolutely zero luck on the Banbury cake front, dammit.



Quest 4 - find Banbury Castle

No chance. Banbury's concentric pentagonal castle led a fairly quiet life until it found itself in the thick of the English Civil War. The Battle of Edgehill was fought a few miles away in 1642 and the castle duly found itself under siege from Royalist forces. A couple of years later sides had switched and it was the Parliamentarians trying to get in, which they eventually managed when they came back two years later. After the war the castle was deliberately demolished to prevent it becoming a flashpoint ever again, and its stone was used to help rebuild the town centre which had suffered somewhat. So it's all gone.



Head to Castle Street today and you'll find a lacklustre landscape of car parks and access roads plus the backside of the Castle Quay shopping centre. This was the town's attempt to modernise itself in the 1970s, a triangular mall retaining one dramatic historic facade which now conceals multiple generic high street brands behind. Unfortunately the lead tenant was Debenhams and they shut up shop in 2021, then last year H&M pulled out and the eastern end now has a tumbleweed quality. The rest's doing alright though, including Lock 29 which is Banbury's first attempt at streetfood/craftbeer relevance.

Quest 5 - find Banbury Museum



Often town museums are housed in historic buildings, of which Banbury has plenty, but this one's in a grey box erected by the canal in 2002. You can enter direct from Spiceball Park Road (yes, the town's largest park has a really odd name) but better to enter from the shopping centre (via what counts as a tourist information centre but is really a gift shop), then up onto a bridge that doubles as an observation gallery (telling the story of the waterway below). That's a lift bridge down there (which passing narrowboaters still need to shift) and alongside is Tooley's Boatyard (which is much older than its ridged glasshouse structure suggests).



If you want to see the museum's current Star Wars exhibition that's £7.50 and if you just want the town's history that's upstairs and free. Banbury has quite a backstory from agricultural centre to Civil War hotspot to cloth-making hub. In the 18th century the town was known for plush, a shaggy worsted fabric, several examples of which are on display. Banbury's post-agricultural recession was lifted in the 20th century by the arrival of the Northern Aluminium Company, later Alcan, and in the 1960s Bird's Custard shifted down from Birmingham. Today it's the convenience of the M40 bringing prosperity, mostly thanks to logistics hubs fed by articulated lorries, and a circuit of the museum won't take long but it's nicely done.

Quest 6 - find a nice cup of coffee



Hands up, I don't drink coffee but I do adore the smell. Hurrah then that Banbury contains the world's largest coffee-processing facility, or at least it did in 1964 when the Bird's move took place. Today it's owned by Jacobs Douwe Egberts and continues to belch a lot of steam into the air over Ruscote Avenue. I got fairly close and can confirm that the delights of ground beans reached my nostrils, although it wasn't as strong as I'd hoped and I was more impressed to be gazing at the epicurean temple that once churned out Angel Delight.

Quest 7 - find western Europe's largest cattle market

Again no chance, sorry. The megasized market by the station opened in the 1920s and continued to thrive thanks to Banbury's extensive arable hinterland until 1998 when mad cow disease made it uneconomic. Today the site's covered by modern housing, a primary school and a mosque, of which only the latter has any architectural interest. Officially the cattle market was in Grimsbury, not Banbury, along with everywhere else to the east of the Cherwell. I walked too many of Grimsbury's streets all the way out to the border with Northamptonshire because I had time to waste before my train left, and then I thought I'd give my Banbury cake quest one last try.

Quest 3 again - find a Banbury Cake



I had ten spare minutes so I nipped back into the Tourist Information Centre and asked whether Banbury still had any independent bakeries. Well there's erm well no, said the nice lady, I don't think we do. But if it's Banbury cakes you want then we sell them here, look, in packets of three, as manufactured by a descendent of the original bakery dynasty. So I handed over £3.50 for a trio of properly homemade fruity parcels and gobbled one down before I got back to the station. I can see where the Eccles cake reference comes from but this was a bit lighter and a bit sweeter, and hell yes I am very much looking forward to eating my two remaining souvenirs of a spicy little gadabout.

 Tuesday, January 24, 2023

50 dull lists

Prime-numbered bus routes in Sutton: 127, 151, 157, 293, 463 (and arguably S3)
Cities in the Republic of Ireland: Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Waterford
Bridges across the Thames in Oxford: Isis, Donnington, Folly, Grandpont, Gasworks, Osney Rail, Osney, Medley, Godstow, Thames
Bones you have more than five of: cervical vertebrae, thoracic vertebrae, ribs, metacarpals, metatarsals, phalanges
Famous Ians: Botham, Curtis, Dury, Fleming, Hislop, Janis, Lavender, McCaskill, McKellen, Messiter, Paisley, Rankin, Rush, Smith, Woosnam

Oxo Cube flavours: Beef, Chicken, Lamb, Vegetable
Pubs on the A1200: The Three Crowns, The Beehive, The North Pole, The Myddleton Arms
Recent Mayors of South Woodham Ferrers: Donna Eley, Murrough O'Brien, Alan Shearring, Bob Massey, Peter Wyatt, Sam Coley
Offshore Munros: Sgurr Alasdair, Sgurr Dearg, Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh, Ben More, Sgurr na Banachdaich, Sgurr nan Gillean, Bruach na Frithe, Sgurr Mhicchoinnich, Sgurr Dubh Mor, Am Bastier, Blabheinn, Sgurr nan Eag, Sgurr a’ Mhadaidh
Greek letters not ending in 'a': εμνξοπρτυφχψ

The four lowest scoring teams in University Challenge: Sussex 10, Exeter 15, St John's (Oxford) 30, Lincoln (Oxford) 30
Seasons in which Arsenal FC lost more than 20 games: 1912–13, 1923–24, 1924–25
Creme Egg slogans: "How Do You Eat Yours?", "Licky, Sticky, Happy", "Eat It Your Way", "Here Today, Goo Tomorrow", "You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone", "Goo Dares Wins", "Gooing For Gold", "Have a fling with a Creme Egg", "It's Hunting Season", "Creme Egg Eatertainment", "Creme Egg Golden Goobilee", "How do you NOT eat yours?"
Banished Faithful: Nicky, Imran, Ivan, Tom, Rayan, Theo, Madelyn
Kings and Queens who died aged 67: Henry I, James II, George I, George IV

Constituencies Bow has been in: Tower Hamlets, Bow and Bromley, Bow and Poplar, Bethnal Green and Bow, (will be Stratford and Bow)
English islands larger than Canvey: Portsea, Foulness, Hayling, Sheppey, Wight
Words beginning with K used in Batman Batfights: Kapow!, Kayo!, Ker-Sploosh!, Kerplop!, Klonk!, Klunk!, Krunch!
Palindromic square numbers: 121, 484, 676, 10201, 12321, 14641, 40804, 44944, 69696, 94249, 698896, 1002001, 1234321, 4008004, 5221225, 6948496
Tube stations that went step-free in 2021: Amersham, Debden, Ealing Broadway, Ickenham, Wimbledon Park, Whitechapel, Nine Elms, Battersea Power Station, Osterley, Sudbury Hill

Most profitable UK companies in 1990: BT, BP, Shell, British Gas, Hanson, BAT, Grand Metropolitan, ICI, Glaxo, BTR
Corners of the Rhubarb Triangle: Wakefield, Morley, Rothwell
Top 10 singles by The Stranglers: Peaches, Something Better Change, No More Heroes, Golden Brown, Strange Little Girl, European Female, All Day and All of the Night
Parties standing in two constituencies in the 2019 General Election: Christian Party, Communities United Party, North East Party, Peace Party, People Before Profit, Scottish Family Party, Socialist Equality Party, Socialist Party of Great Britain, Veterans and People's Party
Kings and Queens whose reigns began in a year ending in 3: Henry V, Edward V, Richard III, Mary I, James I

Shipping Forecast areas adjacent to the Scottish mainland: Irish Sea, Malin, Hebrides, Fair Isle, Cromarty, Forth
One-off 19th century FA Cup Winners: Blackburn Olympic, Clapham Rovers, Notts County, Old Carthusians, Oxford University, Royal Engineers
Tram stops that start and end with the same letter: Dundonald Road, Mitcham, Sandilands, Arena, New Addington
Full moons in 1976: Jan 17th, Feb 15th, Mar 16th, Apr 14th, May 13th, Jun 12th, Jul 11th, Aug 9th, Sep 8th, Oct 8th, Nov 6th, Dec 6th
Munchkins: Bini Aru, Boq-one, Dr. Pipt, King Cheeriobed, Isomere, Jinjur, Kiki Aru, Ku-Klip, Margolotte, Mooj, Mopsi Aru, Nimmie Amee, Ojo the Lucky, Omby Amby, Realbad, Sister Six, Unc Nunkie

The first ten Roman Numerals in alphabetical order: C, CC, CCC, CCCI, CCCII, CCCIII, CCCIV, CCCIX, CCCL, CCCLI
Counties Treasure Hunt went to more than once: Buckinghamshire, Clwyd, Cornwall, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Devon, Gwynedd, Kent, Gloucestershire, Greater London, North Yorkshire, Shropshire, Somerset, Suffolk, West Sussex, Wiltshire
The four types of carrot: Chantenay, Danvers, Imperator, Nantes
Organic compounds with an even number of each constituent atom: benzene, butane, ethane, hexane, naphthalene, octane
Postcode areas adjacent to NW10: NW9, NW2, NW6, W10, W12, W3, W5, HA0, HA9

Independent radio stations that went on air in 1981: Radio West, Radio Aire, Chiltern Radio, Essex Radio
Farrow & Ball brown paint colours: Dead Salmon, Jitney, Light Gray, London Clay, London Stone, Mouse's Back, Oxford Stone, Stony Ground, Tanner's Brown
Single-syllable chocolate bars: Boost, Flake, Fudge, Mars, Twirl, Twix
South coast towns with piers: Bognor Regis, Bournemouth, Brighton, Eastbourne, Falmouth, Hastings, Hythe, Paignton, Southsea, Swanage, Teignmouth, Torquay, Worthing
Dogs in EastEnders: Willy, Roly, Wellard, Gumbo, Bronson, Lady Di

European countries without a McDonalds: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Russia, San Marino, Vatican City
Ten nameless Bible characters: Noah's wife, Lot's wife, Potiphar's wife, Pharaoh's daughter, the Queen of Sheba, the three wise men, two thieves crucified with Jesus
Clouds spelt backwards: subminolumuc, sulumuc, sulumucorric, sulumucotarts, sulumucotla, surric, sutartsobmin, sutartsorric, sutartsotla
Letters worth more in English Scrabble than French Scrabble: MQ
Letters worth more in French Scrabble than English Scrabble: KWXY

Names of the ravens at the Tower of London: Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Erin, Poppy, Georgie, Edgar, Branwen
Chemical elements named after places in Sweden: Yttrium, Terbium, Holmium, Erbium, Ytterbium
Heinz Cup-a-Soup flavours: Cream of Chicken, Cream of Mushroom, Cream of Tomato, Cream of Tomato with a kick of Chilli, Cream of Tomato with a hint of Basil, Minestrone, Oxtail, Vegetable
Countries including the letter J: Azerbaijan, Djibouti, Fiji, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Tajikistan
The Latin names of the five types of pedestrian crossing: Equus quagga, Pelecanus onocrotalus, Fratercula arctica, Ramphastos tucanus, Pegasus

 Monday, January 23, 2023

Yesterday you could walk down Black Boy Lane in Tottenham, indeed I did just that, but today you can't because Haringey council have renamed it. Today it's called La Rose Lane instead, much to the annoyance of several residents and the relief of others. I visited yesterday to experience a road in transition.



What I didn't manage to do is take a photograph of a street sign because they're all missing. The sign at the southern end of the road has been missing for at least a year according to Google Streetview but the two at the northern end are more recent removals. It's possible the council intend to add new street signs overnight and unveil them specially today, or perhaps they'll wait awhile until any fuss dies down.

Black Boy Lane has been in existence for at least 400 years and has been called Black Boy Lane for the majority of that time. It was almost certainly named after the Black Boy pub in the hamlet of West Green at the northern end of the lane, a hostelry first recorded in the late 17th century. What not certain is how the pub got its name, but that hasn't stopped a lot of the angriest people being certain of the derivation.

The impetus to change the name came from a borough-wide consultation following the death of George Floyd in 2020. One resident raised the issue and further engagement with the community "found that many other residents shared the concerns about the racial connotations of the name and the impact its continued use has on Black people in Haringey." That was the nettle grasped, or the can of worms opened, depending.



Black Boy Lane also used to be the name of two bus stops on West Green Lane and they've both had to change too. The Men Who Change Signs came early so the stops already had their new stickers in advance of the renaming of the road. Onboard announcements lagged behind, so for example the 41 was still announcing the next stop as Black Boy Lane yesterday, and it'd be nice to imagine that'll change overnight but I suspect not.

Black Boy Lane, or La Rose Lane as it's become, is a sinuous street almost half a mile in length to the west of Seven Sisters. It has one school, one shop and about 100 houses, mostly Victorian. If you like your house to have a recessed porch with decorative tiling you'd like it here. Jewel of the street is Chestnuts Park at the southern end, once a field where flowed the Stonebridge Brook, which is long buried.

The council played it cautious by running a three-stage consultation, kicking off with "if we renamed this road what should we call it?" They offered a choice between Jocelyn Barrow Lane and La Rose Lane, each named after previously unrecognised black Haringey residents, and unsurprisingly the less mouthfully one won. Further stages then focused on whether to change the name, because best tackle one thorny issue at a time.



No council-owned properties have yet made the switch to the new name. Chestnuts Primary School still gives its address as Black Boy Lane Tottenham N15 on the cheery yellow sign above the front gate. Meanwhile the postwar terrace opposite the corner shop is still labelled 90-100 Blackboy Lane, a two word name which wasn't correct even yesterday so I wouldn't hold out much hope of this being updated any time soon.

Lengthy research by residents and staff at Bruce Castle Museum has failed to come up with a definitive answer to how the Black Boy pub got its name. Some say it's a reference to swarthy Charles II, others that it's plainly not a reference to anyone of African heritage. What is known, however, is that in the 1970s a stereotypical 'picaninny' featured on the inn sign so the connotation was once there, even if long ago removed.

The council's consultation process showed that a large majority of respondents were against the change, although this may have been a result of whipped-up campaigns on both sides. More significantly three-quarters of Black Boy Lane's residents said no, please don't do this to us, but the council said we're doing it anyway because it's offensive, indeed it's important to remember that consultations aren't referendums.



What's striking if you visit is that the old name definitely hasn't disappeared. Several houses now display prominent 'Black Boy Lane N15' signs in their windows, on their walls, on their doors or even on their sheds - I counted well over a dozen. These mark out the houses of the angriest residents, each keen to show they disagree with this imposed decision and keep the name alive. This manufactured seethingness is most evident at the northern end of the street.

John La Rose, after whom the road is now named, was a publisher, essayist, poet and former Haringey resident. In 1966 he founded New Beacon Books, the UK's first specialist Caribbean publishers, and later founded schools to support the education of West Indian children. He didn't live locally to Black Boy Lane but he did leave an outstanding legacy of social cohesion, and now all the street's energy bills will bear his name.

Having your address changed overnight induces considerable hassle, including needing to inform doctors, delivery companies, employers, insurers, mortgage companies and the DVLA. Haringey council are gifting £300 to all households on Black Boy Lane as a sweetener to help them make the switch, whilst recognising this is almost certainly an overpayment. Postcodes and house numbers will not change.



Halfway down the street is another recent council imposition, a clump of planters acting as a Low Traffic Neighbourhood filter. Only buses and a small number of exempt vehicles are allowed through with no favours for local traffic. You can imagine how ultra-furious this must have made some residents of Black Boy Lane - their road severed and renamed for seemingly senseless reasons by a council they never voted for.

It won't surprise you to hear that Black Boy Lane has cropped up in both the Daily Mail and Daily Express in recent days, although they didn't quite go so far as calling it London's wokest street. Discourse on Twitter has also been abrasive - why are they wasting money on this I'm not offended why is anyone offended it's pompous virtue signalling you're rewriting history FFS! Those in favour are conspicuous by their general absence.

The council are holding drop-ins at the local community centre all this week to assist residents affected by the change. I'm glad I'm not the one hosting as I imagine it's more likely be a touchstone for local friction than a source of useful advice. For a flavour of the arguments check out the message boards of the Harringay Online forum, although you may lose the will to live before reaching the bottom of page 77.



The Black Boy pub shut in 2012 having already been renamed before it closed, and now it's taking a local street name with it. You'd never call a street Black Boy Lane today, which is perhaps the best argument for renaming it but by no means a conclusive one. Whether you're celebrating today or screaming into the abyss, La Rose Lane is London's newest street name and a reminder that nothing's ever black and white.


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