diamond geezer

 Wednesday, May 31, 2023

31 unblogged things I did in May

Mon 1: One of the five most gorgeous human beings on the planet has followed me on social media and I feel strangely vindicated.
Tue 2: I finally got round to watching Glass Onion, the Daniel Craig whodunnit, courtesy of someone else's Netflix account. It was very cleverly written and immensely enjoyable, but plotwise Knives Out was a tad more satisfying.
Wed 3: I went looking for a newsagent in Shepherds Bush and you wouldn't believe how hard they are to find these days, all the likely contenders just sell food and vapes, but eventually I found a sparsely stocked throwback on The Green, thank you Yogi Smurti, and now I have a Coronation edition Radio Times to go with my 1953 copy.

Thu 4: That unnerving feeling when a rising tower of scaffolding passes your window and you have no idea why.
Fri 5: We're having pipe problems on Bow Road. The cycle lane outside the Nisa supermarket has been dug up for a second time and has subsequently filled with water, while the usual corner outside the old town hall has been dug up for something considerably more serious, again, and the ironwork must be fundamentally flawed down there.
Sat 6: You wait 70 years for a coronation and it rains again, so the royal family's ability to predict the weather remains appalling, and I see this as excellent evidence that time travel doesn't exist.
Sun 7: I have rarely been as underwhelmed by a concert as I was by tonight's Coronation extravaganza at Windsor Castle. The music was unexciting, the humorous bits weren't funny and King William's had better be better.
Mon 8: I got to the end of Magpie Murders which was very good, and I guessed the importance of wordplay as early as episode two but I was only looking for clean words so somewhat missed the point.

Tue 9: As well as visiting all the stations in zones 1-3 this year, I've now also visited all the tram stops. I'm excited to discover that tram mascot Roger the Crocodile is now fronting his own promotional campaign, although I doubt it'll generate much successful feedback.
Wed 10: The Woolwich Ferry is back operating a two-boat service on weekdays, hurrah, but it was still quicker to walk through the foot tunnel instead, even with both lifts out.
Thu 11: I enjoyed Gideon Coe's last 3-hour show on Radio 6Music, but didn't enjoy that it's going to be replaced by a shorter less eclectic double act which probably won't work, but we'll see.
Fri 12: A spider has taken up residence in the corner of my bathroom, high above the tap end, and I am fine with this even to the stage of being able to lie back in the bath for half an hour with the lights off.
Sat 13: Well didn't Liverpool triumph at Eurovision? The city showcased itself perfectly for a full week, the BBC pulled out all the stops to deliver a nigh-flawless set of shows, Hannah Waddingham was a star, Finland were diddled, and we may never see any of that here in the UK again during our lifetime.
Sun 14: A woman sat down next to me on the Central line, and shortly afterwards burst into tears and dashed away to sit at the other end of the carriage where she was quietly comforted by another passenger, and I have no idea what happened there but I'm assuming I didn't cause it.

Mon 15: I gave Vernon Kay's first mid-morning Radio 2 show a try. He was chipper but possibly over-trying, and listenable but lumbered with duff features (Vernon's Vaults, what were they thinking?), and not exactly appointment-radio but also playing better music than Ken Bruce is allowed to these days
Tue 16: TfL have just updated their online portal for Oyster and contactless accounts so that access now requires a One Time Passcode to be sent to your phone. This Multi-Factor Authentication is for our own security, they tell us. But "If you do not wish to have MFA set up on your account and provide us with a phone number then unfortunately this means you will not be able to access your online account", i.e. if you don't have a mobile phone you are now permanently locked out. This is not progress, it's exclusion.
Wed 17: My tram was delayed by inspectors catching a freeloader who refused to alight, and after a few minutes the mother opposite took out her frustration on the inspectors for holding up her journey. She announced to the carriage that they should let the bloke stay aboard and allow us to continue because "it's what we're all thinking", and I really wanted to tell her that not everyone was thinking that but I kept quiet. What I was actually thinking was how some people always claim to be speaking on behalf of everyone to further their own point of view, populist politicians especially, and the faredodger eventually relented and threw his lager over the tram windows as we drove off.
Thu 18: Leytonstone is right up there in my Top 10 London suburbs I associate with tedious traffic congestion (along with Richmond, Southall, Northolt, Colindale, Ponders End and Plumstead), and these junction improvements had better be worth it because it's hellish at the moment.

Fri 19: They're dismantling the old departures board at Euston station, the new smaller perpendicular ones presumably having been deemed a success, and I suspect somebody somewhere is mighty pleased about how large an advertising screen they'll be able to replace it with.
Sat 20: I suffered two serious breakages today, one bang on the stroke of midnight (that's never happened before) and the other mid-afternoon (that happens all too often). I sorted the anxious expensive one within a week but the one that's not my responsibility alas remains unsolved.
Sun 21: I rode the first timetabled purple train from Shenfield through Paddington and then, thanks to delays due to overrunning engineering works, I was able to ride the first purple train back the other way. The trainspotter count was unexpectedly low.
Mon 22: Workmen have turned up to drill out the two disused telephone kiosks outside Bow Road station. Tomorrow the boxes will be on the back of a truck and by Wednesday there'll just an empty paved space.
Tue 23: It's amazing how much emergency planning you can do aboard a bus zipping through the backstreets of Sutton.

Wed 24: As of this week we've had a Conservative government for longer than we had the last Labour government, and maybe 13 years is genuinely unlucky.
Thu 25: Bromley Public Hall on Bow Road, which until 2021 was the Tower Hamlets Register Office, finally has a new use - it's become Bow Coroners Court. This is one of three courts in HMC Inner North London, the building where juries meet if required, and I can't work out if it's new or a replacement for somewhere else. Also the rebrand is really cheap, just a couple of bits of paper stuck by the door, so it looks like the budget also died.
Fri 26: I unexpectedly bumped into BestMate's Mum at a bus stop in Bexley. I almost didn't recognise her with her sunglasses on.
Sat 27: I went through the palaver to upgrade two of my savings accounts to new versions offering better rates of interest, and you could hear the boredom in the voice of the lady reading out the terms and conditions, and she could hear the frustration in my voice that they don't do this automatically.
Sun 28: It's the day between the 10 mile walk I do every five years and the 10 mile walk I do every two years, so I'm afraid I can't come on a long hike today sorry.

Mon 29: ...and while we're talking very old tube maps, the two on the Jubilee line platforms at Canary Wharf are both dated December 2018, and how utterly shortsighted do you need to be as a station supervisor or organisation not to have realised this?
Tue 30: I've very much enjoyed reading Mike Parker's new book All The Wide Border, a personal travelogue exploring "Wales, England and the places between". He brings the multi-layered history of the Welsh borders alive with a smart focus on places along and around the rivers Dee, Severn and Wye, much of it based on personal experience. The pandemic intrudes somewhat, although given the regulatory divide either side of the border it's always pertinent, and I'd have muted the non-geographical politics stuff. But he paints such a picture you'll likely be tempted to make a pilgrimage yourself.
Wed 31: I've been meaning to visit this event ever since it was first widely publicised in 1973, or at least since I first noticed it in 1983, and this is the first year I've ever remembered on the day but circumstances may conspire to keep me away again.

 Tuesday, May 30, 2023

East Sussex quiz
Here are 24 alternative names for towns and villages in East Sussex.
How many can you identify?

1) Acclaimfake
2) Armedclash
3) Blazingabove
4) Bobsspanner
5) Brinyprovost
6) Concavity
7) Docksplaced
8) Fatweight
       9) Fiftysheep
10) Freshport
11) Grain
12) Heaved
13) Hurryups
14) Huskrinse
15) Oceancrossing
16) Orientbred
     17) Rancidrector
18) Rebeccaspeak
19) Rodbarrier
20) Rookdistrict
21) Saysteeth
22) Tranquilharbour
23) Trenchfish
24) Victoryteam

All answers now in the comments box, thanks.

Every two years I walk the best walk in southeast England, which is across the top of Beachy Head and over the Seven Sisters.

Traditionally when I get home I'm so knackered all I do is show you a few photos. The danger is they're always the same photos except with the tiny people in different places.

This year is no exception.

(if those flashed past too fast for you, here are the same ten photos but slower)

Also, because this is the ninth time I've done this walk, there isn't much more to say.

Here are a handful of things that were different this time.

• The nice lady at the London Bridge ticket office suggested splitting the train ticket at Wivelsfield, and that meant a return to Eastbourne which would normally have cost £39.90 ended up costing £13.80 + £15.60, a saving of £10.50. (Also, because I have a Gold Card the total I actually paid was just under £20, and that is a bargain)
• Yesterday's weather was sunny but breezy, so never quite warm, but that proved to be ideal walking conditions.
• It's the first time I've done the walk with two other people. I've taken BestMate before but this time we also took BestMate'sOtherHalf, without letting on fully what lay ahead. By the end they were totally impressed, but there was a ropey moment when they suddenly realised the Seven Sisters had eight summits which meant there was still one extra climb to go.
• Bank Holiday Mondays are particularly busy at Birling Gap. I think that's the busiest I've ever seen the car park. I thought it (unintentionally) tasteless that the National Trust car park now contains a 'Drop off point'.
• On the train down we were subjected to much loud anecdotage from James and his braying harem, so we were very glad when they got off at Lewes to catch the train to Seaford. Three hours later we passed them going the other way at Birling Gap, still cackling. Four hours later we passed them again on Eastbourne High Street, rather more tired by now. I hope never to pass them again.
• My phone tells me I climbed the equivalent of 190 floors, which is odd because four years ago when I walked in the opposite direction it told me I climbed about 100. Now I don't believe either number.
• The whole thing was magic, but the long grass on the chalk upland at Beachy Head rippling in the wind like a wave-tossed sea was particularly magic.
• A bit more of Beachy Head is now roped off to prevent you walking by the edge, a bit more of Belle Tout has crumbled off and you can see where small bits of the Seven Sisters are soon going to crack and fall.
• A 99 from the ice cream van at Beachy Head is now £3, and a Magnum from Belle Tout is £2.60.
• Everything else I thought I might tell you, I realise I've told you before.

Also I kept up my record of never walking the same stretch in the same direction as I did last time.

 Seaford ExceatEastbourne
2007 <<      <<<<
2009 >>>>>>      >>>>
2011 <<<<<<      <<<<
2013 <<      <<<<
2015 >>      >>>>
2017 <<<<<<      <<<<
2019 >>      >>>>
2021 <<<<<<      <<<<
2023 <<      <<<<

It looks like it's time for a west-to-east when I come back in 2025. But first, a nice long rest.

 Monday, May 29, 2023

One of London's oddest open spaces can be found on the western edge of London, almost as far west as London goes, tucked inbetween Heathrow and the M25. A stripe of species-rich grassland fills the gap between the motorway and the airport perimeter road, about a mile in length and half a mile wide. Most of the week it's quiet like any other nature reserve, but if the wind's in the right direction and the runways are appropriately flipped then every couple of minutes the sky briefly roars.

This is the Heathrow Biodiversity Site, one of several peripheral spaces watched over by the airport to boost its green credentials. There are no hangars or hotels here, nor even any buildings, just hummocks of grass and thickets of trees alive with wildflowers, birds and other wildlife. But Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited aren't acting as eco-guardians purely out of the goodness of their hearts. They need wetlands to soak up the risk of flooding around their very large expanse of tarmac, and they also prefer nobody to live in the liminal areas where planes are loudest and at greatest risk of a crash. But mainly they're looking ahead because owning most of the surrounding land helps to make any potential expansion of the airport a heck of a lot easier. Whoosh!

The easiest way to get here is probably via the number 81 bus. You need to alight at the first stop after the village of Longford which is the last stop before the Greater London boundary, that's Moor Bridge. Expect the entrance gate to be obvious but not especially encouraging - no there's no public right of way but yes you can come in, just don't allow your dog to foul. A mud track then bears off south on an undulating path between grazed meadow and locked woodland, and all you need to know is that the Heathrow flight path crosses at the foot of the first brief dip where the wooden fence begins. Pick your vantage point - I prefer the grassy summit on the left - and if planes are landing from the west on the northern runway you won't have long to wait.

A steady convoy of planes can be seen approaching above the treetops, lights ablaze. As each approaches it grows larger and louder until it's above you, perhaps directly above, a tube of brightly-painted fuselage with all of its tray tables in the upright position. You can almost sense the pilots staring straight ahead thinking what's that idiot doing down there gawping in the middle of a field. As the noise peaks the aircraft descends further towards the edge of the field, then heads across the river and the boundary road to the end of the runway barely half a mile distant. If you get lucky with the angle of the sun the plane will be closely followed by its shadow sweeping across the clover, and I am inordinately pleased with my video depicting this.

The planes in the procession range from fairly small to occasionally very large, the latter being most likely to make you go wow as they swoop by. The larger planes also instigate turbulence, not immediately but maybe ten seconds after they've flown over, which manifests as strange whistling eddies in the branches of the trees. I only noticed it down by the fenced-off meadow called Orchard Farm, directly beneath the flight path, but it was certainly eerie like the sudden manifestation of a spirit or an invisible giant stepping through the leaves.

On previous visits I've found the biodiversity zone empty but on this occasion a pair of planespotters - father and son - were perched on the central hillock watching everything fly by. They'd brought chairs and various refreshments and were keeping tabs on mobile devices to confirm what was approaching next. Then as each plane arrived in the airspace in front of them, perfectly lit, they trained their enormous lenses and followed the aircraft for a few close-up seconds of pitch-perfect landing, or perhaps turbulent wobble. It's just the kind of thing spotters do at Myrtle Avenue on the opposite side of the airport when runways are switched, but generally in far greater numbers, so these two image-grabbers were enjoying a considerable amount of exclusivity.

This grassland used to be gravel pits and before that a patch of orchards just off the Great West Road. The M25 changed all that, careering down the Colne Valley via the path of least resistance (which was the flood plain of the river where sensible humans tended not to live). Following construction the area was relandscaped and nature allowed to take its course, with separate chunks of grassland connected via a single track weaving north to south. The southern end is even more remote, emerging by the roundabout that really is the westernmost point in London and there's no good reason for going there. But the animals that live here prefer visitor numbers to be tiny, hence the cheerful birdsong from the hedgerows, the bumble bees amid the dandelions and the fox prints in the earth.

When Terminal 5 was built a new spur of motorway was needed and this was built straight across the centre of the Heathrow Biodiversity Site. It stalks across the valley on concrete stilts leaving space for the Colne and the spine path to pass gloomily underneath, emerging into blinking artificial landscapes on either side. It's a reminder that even one of London's great rivers isn't immune to tampering when engineering demands, in this case because it had the misfortune to flow past an even greater airport.

Heathrow's most recent plans for a third runway would see the permanent diversion of the Colne via a new artificial channel further to the west, and the total eradication of this slice of grassland to make way for a pair of taxiways linking the old runways to the new. The Bath Road would be swallowed, the M25 sunk into a tunnel and the wildlife I saw would have to find somewhere else to be biodiverse, having all been sacrificed to the gods of international travel. But these expansion plans are so destructive across such a wide area that they'll only ever go ahead if political intent outweighs environmental pressures, which currently looks unlikely, so I expect the Heathrow Biodiversity Site will continue to be buzzed by low-flying aircraft for many years to come.

Maybe come one day and be wowed, but make sure that flights are landing in the right direction otherwise all you'll find is a quiet swathe of bees in clover.

 Sunday, May 28, 2023

The Chess Valley Walk is a fabulous 10 mile hike following a chalk stream through the lower ripples of the Chilterns.

It links Rickmansworth and Chesham so is easily accessible from London. It's well signposted throughout. It toys with the backside of Metroland but spends most of its time amid fields and meadows with one stunning panoramic ascent. It can get muddy but that's not a problem right now, plus the wildflowers are at their best as spring turns to summer. I first walked it in 2013 so that's where you'll find my proper bloggage, and then again in 2018 and 2023 so I guess it's become a periodic treat. I also had a particularly good reason to go back this year - thanks for asking Amanda - but we'll get to that when my reportage reaches the Herts/Bucks border.

Mile 1
Potential ramblers taking a photo of the CVW map on the wall outside Rickmansworth tube station, Coventry supporter with sky blue beard exiting the multi-storey and heading for Wembley, thank you for shopping at Waitrose, cyclist doing leg stretches in the park, cricket practice in the nets beyond the outfield, sparrow dangling a worm from its beak, Visitors 142 for 8, dogwalker dangling a green bag of terrier poo, chalk stream meandering lazily beside a grassy path, bright yellow water irises, occasional damselflies, notionally clear water, possibly as good as the Chess's chalk stream experience gets.

Mile 2
The rippling shallows where I used to come tiddler-fishing as a child, spotty dalmatian splashing in the stream by the wooden footbridge, little egret taking off, beardy father with pushchair discussing football with his neckbraced dad, wire fence because most of the upcoming stream is private, heron flapping low across a nettly meadow and landing in a tree by the bee hives, Glen Chess, Loudwater Lane, the upmarketest estate in Metroland, Timberdene Private Property, long narrow path between enormous detached back gardens, young couple with stray blossom in their hair.

Mile 3
Troutstream Way, houses with names instead of numbers, sculpted giraffe peering over the back fence beside some child's mega-treehouse, buttercuppy paddocks, masked horse wearing zebra print with only its legs and tail showing, tennis balls on the posts of an electric fence, small blue butterfly, fingerpost, long tedious passageway along the side of a motorway embankment, 'get in lane' sign for M25 J18, the Tropical Marine Centre (formerly Solesbridge Mill Water Gardens), bridge across eight-lane orbital, traction engine on a trailer, we haven't seen the river for a very long time.

Mile 4
Chorleywood House Estate Local Nature Reserve, you are now entering the Chilterns AONB, lively meadow, reappearance of the dogwalkers, stately pines, the whiff of freshly-applied suncream, reappearance of the Chess - broad and languid and pebble-bottomed, large dog launching repeatedly into the shallows to retrieve a thick stick, wooden footbridge (the sole crossing of the Chess before mile nine), low boardwalk, sudden gasp of contoured countryside, rising field with yellow flowers at the bottom and white flowers at the top, break here for Sarratt's Cock Inn.

Mile 5
The meadow with the cattle in, 9th century lynchets, baby in sling on its first Chess Valley Walk, dead end lane populated by a handful of intermittent cottages, first dalliance with the Buckinghamshire border, narrow slab bridge across the stream, Campbell's Meadow (private, locked), a spider scuttling across the lane from one hedgerow to the other, display of wisteria, roadsign for Sarratt Bottom, finally we turn west, Valley Farm, sometimes-marshy field, first sighting of a red kite, lone alpaca, horses hiding in the shade, watercress delivery van, ford, oh hang on...

Last September Amanda got in touch because she was compiling new information boards for the Chess Valley Walk and needed historical images and wildlife photos. And I had a photo on Flickr she wanted to use because when I walked past ten years ago the last surviving watercress beds on the Chess were still operational, indeed I could have bought a bag of leaves for £1.50. Alas "an issue with the river" has since halted production and Crestyl is now a gated private home where the only nod to the past is the information board outside. And yay, just as Amanda promised there's my image bottom left alongside the Did you know? box, along with a credit to @diamondgeezer/Flickr, keeping the flame of Hertfordshire heritage alive.

Mile 6
Field scattered with round black-plastic-covered bales, Frogmore Meadows (a rare lowland meadow), projecting wooden viewpoint, little box with a ready supply of CVW leaflets, brief spell of woodland, shrivelled bluebells, emerging into Buckinghamshire, opened-out valley bottom, pause to slap on more Factor 50, parallel-channelled 19th century water meadows, Range Rover emerging from prime residential barn, break here for Chenies, waterside path alongside Dodd's Mill relief channel, little egret and red kite, The Couple I Appear To Be Walking At The Same Speed As, Liberty's tomb, vibrant colourful meadows, well this is just lovely.

Mile 7
Dogs Seen Worrying Livestock Are Likely To Be Shot, Flaunden Bottom, break here for Chalfont, break here for Latimer, cluster of footpath discs, slow steady climb, skirting the Latimer Estate, luxury hotel in former mansion with thin brick chimneys and dormitory outbuildings, students photographing hawthorn blossom and themselves, fabulous view across the valley, a rich Georgian lady dammed and landscaped the Chess to create a long water here, that lake looks unnaturally blue, orange tip butterfly, a single poppy growing amid the long grass and dandelions, did I mention how excellent the view is?

Mile 8
Cyclist taking a rest on a bench with a book, path skirting between the top of a field and the edge of thick woods, group of Ricky-bound ramblers unsure whether to fork left or right, final panoramic wow, empty bench for a glug of water, steepest bit of the walk (thankfully down), brief glimpse of river, sighting of tube train climbing the far side of the valley, I remember this bit being seriously muddy but it's bone dry today, rectangular black-plastic-covered bales, waiting for tractor boy and tractor girl to drive past, lane, cluster of cottages, intrusive path through back garden.

Mile 9
Horse chestnut with candles, electrified paddocks, the last field before the far edge of Chesham, a final grassy slope, jolted awake by traffic, Chesham Sewage Works (sometimes leaky), awkwardly pavementless lane, strand of chalkstream beside road, Watercress Cottage, shady backways, gushing outlet, forklift crossing point, borders of nettles and dock, another Ford (but this one sells cars), vandalproof green metal benches, rope swing above the weir at Cannon Mill being used by excitable group of young adventurers, thick trailing roots, child in yellow wellies with actual tiddler-dipping net.

Mile 10
Path between watery braids, the Mayor's memorial bench, toddler on a trail looking for laminated birds, the beer garden at the back of The Pheasant, River Chess Discovery Day at Chesham Moor, a crowd of kids river-dipping, stalls for Chiltern Rangers and Chiltern Streams, blown-up photos from Matt Writtle's photo project, flinty church, railway bridge, two ducks on a wall, shallow crystal waters, dash across the busy Amersham Road, last glorious burst of marshy irises, Bow Cottage at Town Bridge, clocktower, Chesham High Street (Mad Squirrel, Pearce's, Darvell's, Cox The Saddler, Gerry Martins), direct train to Aldgate.

I'll be back in 2028, and here's that leaflet if you want to walk it sooner.

 Saturday, May 27, 2023

Visit It: Fulham Palace
Location: Bishop's Avenue, Fulham SW6 6EA [map]
Open: 10.30am-5pm
Admission: free
Website: fulhampalace.org
Socials: [Facebook] [Twitter] [Instagram] [YouTube]
Five word summary: historic bishop's base
Time to allow: maybe an hour

Tucked away by the Thames near Putney Bridge, shrouded by trees, is the longstanding home of the Bishop of London. It was once used as his country retreat, somewhere to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, which just goes to show how longstanding it is. But 50 years ago the new Bishop decided to live elsewhere and now it's owned by a trust who oversee management of the estate and allow the public in for a general lookaround. There's quite a lot to see.

It's an impressive-looking building, as befits a Tudor shell. Step through the arch into the main courtyard to enjoy one of the best views of what it might have looked like to Reformation bishops, complete with wiggly brickwork and an off-centre fountain. What you're supposed to do is enter on the left past the information desk into the museum, but I was beguiled by the door under the clocktower and found myself in a less coherent set of corridors instead.

The Great Hall promises much, indeed royalty once feasted here, but most of its historic ambience has been lost in subsequent upgrades by domestic owners. Bishop's Howley's Room was blank bar some unannounced audio-visual presentation. Bishop Sherlock's Room was hosting a slightly forced presentation on diversity. Bishop Terrick's Rooms were empty and looked like spaces for hiring out, which I suspect they often are. At least the chapel impressed.

It's the fourth on the site and originally Victorian, although the current aesthetic owes more to postwar rejuvenation following bomb damage. The murals are especially Fifties, including blond-haired stone-hurlers and a kneeling couple who might be Liz and Philip. I also liked Bishop Porteus's Library, well stocked with diverse if not always ecclesiastical books, where the guide broke off her historical chat to reveal a secret panel and a hidden trapdoor.

The museum is more a collection of corridors than a sequence of galleries. It focuses primarily on archaeology carried out on site, so I was inordinately excited that one of the displays contained three iconic crisp packets - sausage & tomato Golden Wonder, pickled onion Outer Spacers and cheese & onion Smiths. For real food you want the cafe out back in Bishop Howley's dining room, a popular local choice, although a bacon roll will set you back six quid.

For many the finest part of the palace is its extensive garden, including a 500 year-old oak tree, multiple labelled beds and a recently restored walled garden. Alas this is temporarily sealed off for the setting-up of stages, indeed the whole palace is closed this weekend so that Groove Armada and Ministry of Sound can host a demure dance festival. So best ignore today's recommendation to visit until they've taken it all down, but don't forget Fulham Palace is here.

Way back in 2017 when everyone thought Crossrail was imminent, TfL launched a massive consultation on bus changes to support the new service. Many of those changes occurred long before any purple through-trains ran, but two are only happening today.

Here's what the TfL bus changes webpage has to say.
Changes will be made to the route taken by buses on routes 95 and E5 in the Dormer's Wells area from Saturday 27 May. This is to improve reliability and provide more direct journeys into Southall Town Centre and station.

Route 95 will be rerouted from Somerset Road direct to Lady Margaret Road in both directions. It will no longer serve Cornwall Avenue, Allenby Road, Dormer's Wells Lane, Burns Avenue and Carlyle Avenue. Route 105 will continue to provide a 24-hour service over this section of route no longer served by the 95.

Route E5 will be rerouted from Telford Road via Burns Avenue and Carlyle Avenue to Lady Margaret Road in both directions. It will no longer serve stops on Dormer's Wells Lane or the hail and ride section on North Road, Thurston Road, Allendale Avenue, Dormer's Avenue or Denbigh Road. Passengers should use routes 95 or 120 from Lady Margaret Road, route 105 from Dormer's Wells Lane or routes 105 or E5 from Burns Avenue or Carlyle Avenue which are a short walk away.
But there's no map to explain the changes because of course there isn't. A map would make this splurge of words much easier to understand but maps remain outside TfL's level of competence, or at least beyond the limit of business cases and management priorities.

n.b. maps were produced for the consultation in 2017, but everything pre-2019 was deleted when TfL upgraded their consultation platform in 2021, which has proved particularly short-sighted given how long it's taken this particular change to come to fruition.

So I thought I'd knock up my own before and after map (based on the quadrant maps TfL used to produce). I hope this makes things clearer.

The 95 is being sent on a much more direct route.
The 105 is continuing to follow the wigglier route through Dormer's Wells.
The E5 is being diverted to follow some of the 95's previous meander, leaving the existing Hail and Ride section unserved.

The streamlined 95 will speed passengers to and from Southall much quicker, but will still terminate two stops short of the Crossrail station. This seems somewhat perverse amid a set of changes designed to improve purple interchange, but that's because another change to the 95 has yet to be introduced. Eventually it'll be extended to serve the massive regenerated Southall Gasworks site but the roads aren't ready yet, nor indeed the flats, so only the Dormer's Wells tweak has been introduced so far.

Crossrail may now be complete, but implementing its bus changes has taken even longer.

 Friday, May 26, 2023

40 years ago today...

 Thursday, May 26, 1983

6.45 Bedside radio switches on.
7.00 It's Mike Read with the Radio 1 breakfast show.
7.10 Crawl out of bed and stumble into the bathroom. It still smelt of cigarette smoke even though our French lutist had left on Monday.
7.30 Breakfast in the kitchen. Mmm, Coco Pops. I'd opened a new packet of Coco Pops earlier in the week and moaned in my diary that the new offer on the back of the packet was really dull. You had to cut out four tokens and send them off to get a card-based memory game by return, and I wrote "Why aren't there any nice plastic figures in there any more, eh?". Those were the days, I still have my chunky blue Dougal from the Magic Roundabout, my Munch Bunch pencil toppers and my Weetabix Dr Who cards, but even 40 years ago those days were sadly gone.

7.55 Grab briefcase and set off on the walk to school.
8.20 Arrive at school, just like normal. But it's not normal. It's the day before A Level study leave. The last day of timetabled learning. The very last day of lessons at school.

8.25 Hello classmates. Well this is strange isn't it? Shall we pick our pieces for the board game at lunchtime? What we should have been talking about this morning was the premiere of Return of the Jedi which had taken place last night. We'd all seen the first two films. But entertainment news didn't flash across the world in those days, plus the film wasn't out in the UK until next week, so conversation was usually rather insular instead. That said, Phil had come in on Monday and told us all about the plot of Friday 13th 3 in full gory detail; "This machete, right...".
8.35 No assembly this morning because our last one was yesterday. Instead our form teacher settles us down and hands out our very last school report. All it says in my diary is that mine was "a goody", and I fear that was an understatement.

9.00 Double free period. Our very last opportunity to learn something from a teacher but instead the timetable delivers us a free. Phil uses the opportunity to hassle the librarian by talking and whistling, because it's the last day so what can they do? Then he walks out early. I probably read the paper and the school's copy of Punch, or at least flicked through the cartoons.
10.10 A general election is imminent and almost all of us in the class can vote. I've made a Tory manifesto, a satirical one, and this is my chance to hand it round and try and get some laughs. I had tried making three manifestos, one for each party, but only the Conservative one was funny. With no computers in those days I drew it all out on a sheet of folded A4 paper and traced an image of Maggie onto the front. I even get a smile from the classmate whose councillor dad is about to become Tory Mayor of Watford this afternoon. Sadly I don't still have it because Bill took it home with him and I never saw it again.
10.30 My very last lesson in <Subject 1>. We go through a short answer paper and Mr K gives us some helpful exam tips. That was it for me and <Subject 1>, and probably good riddance.
11.45 My last lesson in <Subject 2>. Mr F is also leaving and he unexpectedly spends the first period telling us about his life. I think he's trying to be inspirational. Then the headteacher pops in to say good luck (which was a relief, because on Tuesday he was supposed to be teaching us in the chemistry lab but instead we all hid in the cloakroom and he assumed he'd come to the wrong room and walked off and we got a free period instead)

1.00 A quick last trip to the sixth form common room while I still can. If it had been Tuesday I'd have hung on every word of the new Top 40, but it was Thursday.
1.10 Back to our form room to spend the very last lunchtime playing board games. Our favourite board game at the time was called Cosmic Encounter. It was a bit strategy, a bit sci-fi, a bit geeky. But hell, we were geeky sixth formers so we never noticed that we should have been talking about football and breasts instead. We play two games. Dave wins the first with a particularly good combination of powers, and I'm doing well in the second when the bell goes. And that was pretty much it for me and communal board games, there never was a spare hour and a ready audience again.
2.15 Final registration. Yes we're all here.
2.25 My very last lesson is my very last lesson in <Subject 3>. We do some actual revision of an important topic and then Mr G tosses us a potential essay question ("Discuss") and gets us to debate it. My pair debates it best. I could have done <Subject 3> at university but I was better at <Subject 2> so there was never any question I'd be doing that instead. But you get a lot more of <Subject 3> than <Subject 2> in this blog, so I'm glad it turned out to be useful in the end.

3.40 The bell rings and school's out. The class victim whoops. Sometimes I feel ashamed that we still had a class victim. This was the sixth form for heaven's sake, and you'd think we'd have matured past that. Other times I'm mighty glad that somebody else was there to be class victim instead of me. That's it, I thought, nobody at school's ever going to try and teach me anything again.
3.41 Collect all my textbooks from my locker so I can lug them home and use them for revision. But not tonight, I'm having tonight off, my first exam isn't until after the General Election for heaven's sake.
3.45 Walk round to Station Approach so Mum can drive me home. Normally on a Thursday there was an orchestra rehearsal after school but we'd had a big concert the previous evening and that was it for the rest of the year. I don't think I ever played that instrument again.

4.15 Uniform in the wash already.
4.45 Cup of squash and Countdown on Channel 4. Still new, still fresh.
5.40 News. There's been a big earthquake off the coast of Japan.
6.00 Roast pork for tea.

6.55 Tonight's Top of the Pops is hosted by Peter Powell and Pat Sharp and features Big Country, The Style Council, Hot Chocolate and The Police, plus New Edition as the new Number One. But it's only 20 minutes long because of...
7.15 The FA Cup Replay between Manchester United v Brighton and Hove Albion. A bit of a thrashing for the Seagulls, it turned out. I probably slunk off to my bedroom to listen to David Jensen on Radio 1 instead.
9.00 The Young Ones S1 E3 - Boring (repeat) "Although there are all sorts of interesting things going on around them, the gang are feeling incredibly bored so they decide to go to the pub."
11.30 To bed to write my diary (you never know, it might be useful later)

I still had eight more days at school, seven of which were to sit exams and the eighth was to hand everything back in and say goodbye. I've already blogged about that final day back in 2008 (when the title was "25 years ago today" because time moves on relentlessly). But 26th May 1983 was the last day of normality - lessons and classmates and teachers and lunchtimes - all extinguished with a few turns of the clock. I see none of those classmates any more, indeed I couldn't tell you what more than a handful of them are doing, but they were once essential companions day after day. You don't know what you've lost until it's gone.

 Thursday, May 25, 2023

Peripheral Postcodes: SM7

SM is the postcode for Sutton, specifically Sutton and Morden. I don't know why they didn't go with the more obvious SU but I do know ST, SO and SN were already taken. Six of its seven postcode districts are entirely (or almost entirely) in London but the seventh is virtually all in Surrey. My task was to visit the non-Surrey bits as part of my quest to visit every postcode district in Greater London this year. There are two distinct chunks so I did both for good measure, aided and abetted this time by London Loop section 6. I've blogged about these outlying spots several times before, sorry, so my task today is to try and say something different. [map]

Woodmansterne is a commuter village sprawled across chalk downland on the northern edge of Surrey. It has some seriously hilly avenues, a church that would have been medieval if only the Victorians hadn't rebuilt it, a couple of shops and a village sign carved into a fallen tree trunk. But if you walk up Carshalton Road past the village hall, the scout hut and the primary school, then just a tad past the sports ground, Woodmansterne's last two cottages are accidentally in London. They have pointy gabled roofs, carriage lamps and trees bursting with pink blossom, plus the locally-unusual opportunity to vote in next year's Mayoral election. Just opposite is a stile into a hayfield alive with wildflowers where a couple of horses have an unexpectedly good view of the Shard above the treeline. And crossing two more stiles in quick succession brings you to somewhere that might just be familiar...

This is Mayfield Lavender Farm, the purple people pleaser, which is about to be lauded across excitable media as the best selfie-backdrop in the capital. Right now we're still slightly too early in the season for any colour to be apparent, peak season being July and August, indeed the farm doesn't open to the public until Saturday 10th June. But it's still possible to get up close and see row upon row of low spiky bushes thanks to a longstanding public footpath which cuts across the middle of the site. Mayfield Lavender must hate that it exists, given they charge for entry at the main gate, hence the sign by the stile which they urge ramblers to read. They could have been passive aggressive but in fact they've been more than polite - don't stray off the path, no picnics, no drones, no commercial photography and absolutely no picking the purple stuff.

My stroll was alas visually premature with only a few stalks poking up from the resolutely green rows of bushes. But I still got to savour the unmistakeable smell of lavender throughout, a low sweet note like opening up your nan's wardrobe and taking a sniff. A man on mini-tractor zigzagged up and down the field keeping the edges of the rows in check, slowing down briefly as he passed through the pergola. Over in the newer-planted sections two staff stooped over the smaller bushes doing proper horticulture by hand. In the lower field the lone red telephone box awaited its purple cloak and the hordes with their cameras that'll surely follow. Down by the gate the temporary tents that'll house the shop and cafe have yet to be erected. And if you want to explore further that'll be £5, up from £4.50 last summer and £2 five years ago because the cost of living crisis also affects blooming lovely fields. [SM7 3JA]

Across the road is one of Sutton's nicest parks, which is a shame because hardly anyone in Sutton lives anywhere near it. Oaks Park is on the site of The Oaks, a large 18th century country house once owned by the 12th Earl of Derby. It was while he was living here that the two most famous races at nearby Epsom got their name, 'The Oaks' in honour of his villa and 'The Derby' allegedly on the toss of a coin. Carshalton Council bought the estate in 1933 and fully intended to turn most of it into a golf course and housing but WW2 intervened, after which the Green Belt won out and the once grand house was in such a poor state it had to be demolished. Standing in Oaks Park today you can still see that its trees are a bit too good for a municipal project (and if you pick up a copy of the Oaks Park Tree Trail in the cafe you can discover what many of them are).

The formal garden is recognisably lordly too, focused on a grotto that was once the centrepiece of an ornamental glasshouse. At present the wisteria is wonderful, but even after that fades the palm trees still exude an air of exclusivity. Much of the lower end of the park is chalk grassland and is almost entirely frequented by dog walkers, as far as I could tell, delighted to have somewhere this large to exercise their rumbustious charges. The free car parks are extremely important in this respect because otherwise I suspect the place'd be nigh empty. The other key attraction is the aforementioned cafe, which must be doing well because a single storey extension and a veranda are currently being added. Amongst its customers this week were a lot of retired couples, several very patient hounds and a group of four police officers on a break enjoying an al fresco beverage. [SM7 3BA]

The other slice of SM7 within Sutton is a good 45 minute walk away... 'good' in that you can walk to it by following London Loop section 6. This perhaps-familiar route takes you into the Earl of Derby's woods, round the back of some livery stables, up an ancient rutted lane, along the side of a closed category women's prison, across the chalky delights of Banstead Common, over a single track railway line and through the middle of a golf course. Crossing the subsequent dual carriageway is the low point and is followed closely by Banstead station, a gloomy bunker unhelpfully located on the outskirts of town. But it's brilliantly located if you live in Cuddington, an isolated anomaly of 300 homes adrift within a golf course and connected to the rest of Greater London only via a private road.

I wrote about Cuddington in 2020 so I won't rake over the details again. But it's got the right postcode so here we are, plus I think one of its three roads meets the criterion we explored last November - it could be London's longest unbroken street. Let's check it out.

This is Higher Drive, a sweeping crescent of prime detached houses that's three quarters of a mile in length. It bears off by the clubhouse, curves along the Surrey border and joins back onto Banstead Road by the five-bar gates. Normally you'd expect a connecting road in the middle, or even a footpath, but here that's impossible because three of the holes at Cuddington Golf Course get in the way. This means that if you want to walk round the block - and I saw a resident dogwalker doing exactly that - you face a circuit that's a minimum of a mile and a half. Recognising this the Post Office have kindly installed a pillar box halfway down, but otherwise London suburbia doesn't get any more cut-off than SM7 1PW.

Every house is different because the estate's architects recognised the appeal of individuality. Every house is detached because next-door neighbours are for losers. Every plot is broad, indeed there are only just over 100 houses along the entire street. And yet it's not snobby, despite the million-pound price-tags, thanks to the cosy interwar design and the openness of the front gardens. Nobody down Higher Drive has installed security gates and an entryphone, for example, whereas plenty of cheaper streets elsewhere include a paranoid empire builder or two. But plenty of homeowners here have the builders in at present, judging by the amount of vans and scaffolding in evidence, collectively occupied in extending upwards and outwards as planning permission permits.

All that stops Higher Drive (1200m) definitely being the longest unbroken street in London is a short cul-de-sac at the western end. It doesn't have a separate name because the half dozen houses round the loop are still part of Higher Drive, but a perfectionist might deem this T-junction to be unacceptable. If that's the case then the unbroken crown perhaps still rests with Wickham Chase in West Wickham (1100m) or, if intermediate footpaths also disqualify, with Elgin Road in Seven Kings (710m). Whatever, if you lived in the middle of Higher Drive you'd certainly know it was a long way out, indeed anywhere in London feels a long way away from this disjoint patch of SM7.

 Wednesday, May 24, 2023

 Tuesday, May 23, 2023

100 things you need to know about Betstyle Circus

1) It's not a circus.
2) It's not a gambling company.
3) It's a roundabout.

4) It's in north London.
5) It's due north of Buckingham Palace.
6) Its nearest station is New Southgate.
7) Its second-nearest station is Arnos Grove.
8) It's in zone 4.
9) It's in N11.

10) It's in the London Borough of Enfield.
11) It's on the very edge of the London borough of Enfield.
12) It's also on the very edge of the London borough of Barnet.
13) It's always been a boundary-type place.
14) It used to be where Friern Barnet Urban District met East Barnet Urban District met the Municipal Borough of Southgate.
15) Until 1965 it was the southeasternmost point in the county of Hertfordshire, which blows my mind, but the boundary between Middlesex and Hertfordshire was always a bit wacky in these parts.
16) The precise point was marked by a boundary post round the back of the BP garage.

17) Betstyle Circus has a BP Garage.
18) The garage has an M&S Simply Food and a Wild Bean Cafe.

19) The roundabout used to be a six-way road junction.
20) Technically it used to be a crossroads adjacent to two T-junctions.
21) This is why the roundabout has a funny shape.
22) The roundabout is mostly round but also has a sticky-out loop where one of the T-junctions used to be.
23) The main circular part of the roundabout contains trees and shrubbery.
24) The small tearshape part of the roundabout is all grass.
25) The main part of the roundabout is sponsored by Demetriou & English, a funeral directors from Bowes Park.
26) The small part of the roundabout is sponsored by Schmidt Kitchen and Interior Solutions of Palmers Green.
27) Enfield Council planted a raingarden around the northern rim of the main roundabout in 2018.

28) The roundabout used to be a hamlet.
29) It was a hamlet where several roads met.
30) The hamlet was called Betstile.
31) Now it all starts to make sense.

32) One of the first buildings by the crossroads was called Betstile Lodge.
33) Later came Betstile House.
34) Later still Betstile Lodge became Betstile Farm.
35) Two of the arms of the crossroads were called Betstile Road.
36) Another was called Betstile Lane.

37) Everything changed when the railways came in 1850. Cottages were built for railway workers. A huge asylum opened on the far side of the station - this was Colney Hatch Pauper Lunatic Asylum. A shabby genteel suburb grew up on this side of the station.
38) The station was initially called Colney Hatch & Southgate, then Southgate and Colney Hatch (1855), then New Southgate and Colney Hatch (1876), then New Southgate for Colney Hatch (1883), then New Southgate and Friern Barnet (1923) and finally New Southgate (1971).
39) Victorian developers tried to call the new suburb Colney Hatch Park but the asylum had a very bad press so an alternative name won out.
40) With all of this growth the name Betstile was totally lost and the area became known as New Southgate instead.

41) In the 1860s other buildings in sight of the crossroads included a waterworks, a Baptist Church, a school, railwaymen's cottages and the Clock and Watchmakers Asylum.
42) In the 1880s Betstile House was replaced by a row of cottages.
43) By 1900 the Middlesex side was substantially developed but the Hertfordshire side was still fields.
44) By 1910 the yard of A K Lander, Monumental Mason, was located on the western side of the crossroads.
45) Around this time the area became known locally as Lander's Corner.
46) In the early 1930s suburbia exploded across the Arnos Grove estate and the road junction became more significant.
47) In the mid 1970s the road junction became a large roundabout.
48) Planners named it Betstyle Circus as a nod to the past.
49) That was the really important fact, in case you hadn't noticed.

50) Betstyle Circus is still a key local road junction.
51) Friern Barnet Road leads to Friern Barnet. It's the A1003.
52) Oakleigh Road South leads to Oakleigh Park. It's the A109.
53) Brunswick Park Road leads to Brunswick Park. It's unclassified.
54) Waterfall Road leads to Southgate. It's the A1003.
55) Bowes Road leads to Bowes Park. It's the A1110.
56) High Road no longer leads anywhere. It used to be the A109.

57) Oakleigh Road South, Brunswick Park Road and the BP garage are in Barnet.
58) Everything else around the roundabout is in Enfield.
59) The Enfield side is in a Drinking Control Area where a police constable can require you not to consume alcohol in the area else face confiscation or a fine.

60) The North Circular is a short distance to the south.
61) Betstyle Circus is therefore just outside the ULEZ.
62) But not for long.

63) There are four bus stops called Betstyle Circus. Their letters are D, E, G and P.
64) You can catch seven buses here - 34, 184, 232, 251, 298, 382 and N91.
65) You can catch a bus to Edgware, Potters Bar, Walthamstow or (at night) Trafalgar Square.
66) There are also two bus stops named Betstyle Road (a local residential street).
67) Last month Jack made a video of buses at Betstyle Circus.

68) The roundabout doesn't have traffic signals.
69) Each arm of the roundabout has a pair of zebra crossings.
70) Walking round the roundabout once involves crossing eight zebra crossings.
71) Betstyle Circus therefore has 16 belisha beacons...
72) ...and a heck of a lot of zig-zag road markings.

73) Between Bowes Road and Friern Barnet Road is a council estate.
74) Between Friern Barnet Road and Oakleigh Road South is a curved modern five-storey block of flats.
75) Between Oakleigh Road South and Brunswick Park Road is the BP garage and Boundary Court.
76) Between Brunswick Park Road and Waterfall Road are three blocks of flats.
77) Between Waterfall Road and Bowes Road is a shopping parade and that's where all the interest is.

78) The parade starts with the Penridge Suite, a 300 seater wedding venue that looks like three shops.
79) Nextdoor is Arnos Grove post office, who also do Oyster top-ups and ID-approved photos.
80) Nextdoor is Firstline Motorcycles, primarily Honda, who buy bikes for cash.
81) Nextdoor is the International Food Centre, a very typical local grocery shop.
82) Nextdoor is Despina's Food Store, a Greek-Cypriot-run delicatessen, adjoined to Despina's Barbecue Supplies.
83) Originally these would have been 11 shops but there's been a lot of knock-through.

84) The shopping parade has free parking outside because this is outer London.
85) You can park for up to an hour.
86) The noticeboard at the Post Office contains ads for tai chi, a mobile locksmith, St Paul's Church Food Bank and a Real Men Empowerment Conference this Saturday at Shield of Faith Ministries.
87) Despina's sell Caprice Crispy Wafer Sticks.

88) Security cameras look down on Betstyle Circus.
89) The MPs for Betstyle Circus are Theresa Villiers (Con) and Bambos Charalambous (Lab).
90) Traffic circulates clockwise round Betstyle Circus.
91) You can buy Percy Pigs at Betstyle Circus.
92) Betstyle Circus has a pillarbox but no litter bins.
93) Betstyle Circus is built on London Clay.
94) Boris Johnson has been to a party at Betstyle Circus.
95) Daisies are the predominant flower at Betstyle Circus.
96) The Olympic torch passed through Betstyle Circus on 25 July 2012.
97) Betstyle Circus is an anagram of Secretly Cubist.
98) Betstyle Circus is 58m above sea level.
99) Technically you didn't need to know any of these things, but you've probably worked that out by now.

100) To summarise, Betstyle Circus is a roundabout on the site of the hamlet of Betstile.

 Monday, May 22, 2023

Visit It: Hunterian Museum
Location: Lincoln's Inn Fields, WC2A 3PE [map]
Open: 10am-5pm (closed Sunday and Monday)
Admission: free
Website: hunterianmuseum.org
Socials: [Facebook] [Twitter] [Instagram]
Five word summary: surgical stuff and pickle jars
Time to allow: a good hour

London's had a Hunterian Museum for over 200 years, initially (and mainly) for the benefit of medical professionals. It grew out of the enormous collection of John Hunter, a Scottish surgeon who ran an anatomy school in Leicester Square during the second half of the 18th century. He believed medicine worked best when based on empirical observation, i.e. think before you hack, and over his career amassed more than 10,000 specimens of humans and other animals. After his death these were acquired by the Royal College of Surgeons as the basis of a museum within their classical HQ off Lincoln's Inn fields. It's been revamped many times, closing most recently in 2017 for a major refit and reopening just last week in a smaller, smarter format. If you're not squeamish prepare to come face to face with a lot of flesh in jars.

The building is so imposing you could easily think you're not allowed in, despite the poster on the front wall saying 'free entry'. The lobby looks every inch the home of an age-old professional body but trust your instincts, follow proffered directions and you'll find the entrance to the museum just behind reception. If you've been before you'll soon spot that the museum space is a lot smaller (and darker) than it used to be, indeed the entire upper level must now be offices, but when most of your exhibits are bodypart-sized there's still plenty of room to cram thousands in.

We start off in the world of early medicine with primitive implements including a Roman rectal speculum and a dental clamp from Pompeii. On the wall are 17th century wooden boards depicting (lifesize) blood circulation, and plenty of reminders that surgery was once dangerous, painful and liable only to make matters worse. A colourful interactive projection table takes centre stage, and I would love to have found out more about 14th century dentistry but no matter how much I jiggled my hand over and around the sensor ("Are you still there?") nothing happened.

John Hunter merits a gallery or two, where we discover that he learnt his trade at his elder brother's anatomy school, kept a menagerie of exotic animals at his London home and accumulated many of his specimens by what we would now consider dubious means. One of these was the body of Charles Byrne, a 7½-footer known as the Irish Giant, despite his deathbed plea to be buried at sea instead. Byrne's skeleton remained on display in the museum right up to the latest refit, since when they've decided it'd be more moral to keep it behind the scenes.

Then comes the best bit, the room with the jars. It's not usually this empty, I just got in at the very start of the day. Within these capsules of sparkling formaldehyde are body parts aplenty, perhaps most hauntingly a set of human foetuses with a range of ages from recently conceived to almost born. Animals are well represented too, for example the oesophagus of a giant tortoise, not to mention a yearsworth of house sparrows caught by John to demonstrate that their testicles increase in size during the breeding season. One end of the gallery focuses on anatomy and physiology, i.e. normality, whereas the pathology end depicts disease and deformity in all its forms. Yes that's how bad a toe with corns can get, yes that's what syphilis can do to your nether regions and yes that's a 4kg salivary tumour successfully removed from a rigger's neck.

The museum continues beyond Hunter's collection into subsequent surgical casework and innovations. Anaesthetic transformed the profession, for example, but initially led to even more patients dying from bacterial infection. Also I would beg to claim it's not every museum that contains Winston Churchill's dentures, the Bishop of Durham's rectum and the left hemisphere of Charles Babbage's brain. The penultimate room is a jolt into the 20th century and the last features big screen footage of ankle surgery plus a selection of interviews with modern surgeons and their patients. Even if you can't get to the museum you can watch all of these in the Digital Hunterian online - I found Liz's breast surgery turnabout very affecting.

And yes after Room 10 you exit via the gift shop, although it's a very small collection including a lot of copies of not many books. Due to poor labelling I suspect the cashier spends most of their time explaining which button to press to open the final door and return to the main lobby. Expect to walk out seeing certain things differently, having learnt (just as John Hunter's students did) that our bodies are complex and fantastical things.

A new tube map launched yesterday, in stations and online.
It's hardly changed since the last one, which is all you really need to know.

Obviously there's a new cover design - we covered that last week.
It has a light pink background so it's quite easy to spot in the racks.

Some changes
• The map is no longer sponsored by IKEA (or indeed anybody) so all the blue IKEAs have disappeared from the map.
• The normal TfL roundel has been replaced by the special 160th birthday heart-shaped roundel.
• Kentish Town has a dagger because it'll be "closed from Monday 26 June 2023 until summer 2024".

Kentish Town's interesting because TfL normally cross out closed stations, rather than daggering them which is a lot less obvious. Maybe this is because the Thameslink station at Kentish Town remains open throughout, although the text fails to mention this.

Normally when a new tube map comes out there's at least one new step-free station with a changed blob, but not this time because the pipeline is nigh empty. Knightsbridge will be next, but not yet.

Also not on the map yet is Brent Cross West station, between Cricklewood and Hendon, which is now due to open in 'Autumn 2023'.

Everything else you don't like about the tube map was there last time, so there is nothing new to moan about.

 Sunday, May 21, 2023

Time was when you could wander into the gardens of Hampton Court Palace for nothing, or at least some of the gardens. Not any more.
Can I still visit The Wilderness, The Tiltyard Café, The Rose Garden and The Kitchen Garden free of charge?
All of these parts of the gardens are now within the pay boundary and a palace admission ticket must be purchased to access these areas.
But six weekends a year, essentially as a post-pandemic thankyou to the local community, the palace hosts Open Days and all the gardens are free to visit. These weekends fall in the odd-numbered months, allowing full exposure to the seasons, and one of them just happens to be this weekend. There's no need to pre-book, nor even to be local, you just walk round to the Rose Garden and a lady with a clicker counts you rather than charging you a small fortune.

And they are glorious gardens, acres and acres of them, both formal and informal. What's more they were being made good use of yesterday with all sorts of family groups and couples wandering round, some inspecting the flowerbeds, some playing hide and seek behind the urns, some whipping out their watercolours, some having an impromptu game of cricket on the formal lawns, some settling down on the grass and unwrapping cheese rolls from tinfoil, others just enjoying a gossip as they strolled round. It was great to reacquaint myself with these regal surroundings, and also to smile at all those emerging from the rear of the palace who'd paid full price to see the interior and the gardens.

Rose Garden: The only way in and out on an Open Day. It's a little early for the roses but some of the pink ones were out, and it is a lovely place for a picnic.
Kitchen Garden: Again too early for much more than leaves, but the asparagus patch had a "please do not pick" notice and a lot of contented OAPs were wandering between the plots looking appreciatively at the soil.
Magic Garden: This historical-themed children's playground was definitely not free but you could hear the shrieks of delight over the wall.
The Tiltyard: No jousting, not any more, but yes to wicker knights and the obligatory cafe.
The Wilderness: In olden days this was where courtiers would slink off for trysts in the woods, and these days it's a sylvan meadowy patch with dandelions. It also contains the best bit of the grounds...

Hampton Court Maze: The cashier's booth was closed so hell yes, I nipped in to tackle England's quintessential labyrinthine challenge. It still threw me, I still walked down all the wrong pathways even though I know how it's supposed to work because once you're inside all logic fails. I passed the odd lumbering child and a mother exhorting her offspring to keep left, twice, but most of the freeloaders hadn't realised it was open so when I finally reached the fabled centre I had it all to myself. The photo frame and the Jerome K Jerome quote have changed format since I last middled. With its pristine yew hedges and its genius design, it remains Hampton's perfect patch.

Great Fountain Garden: This is the main formal garden, an enormous semicircle on the east side of the palace with avenues of trees radiating out from a central focus. And what trees. These sculpted yews have been topiaried to within an inch of their ancient lives and resemble verdant ghosts or rippling jellies, because this is landscape gardening on a massive scale. The Long Water panning out on the far side is vast, disappearing into the Home Park where the non-paying plebs can picnic any time, whereas over here impressionable tourists are being driven around in carriages behind shaggy white horses and palace crew in black bowler hats.
Royal Tennis Court: William and Mary's indoor smash-room was being used for an actual game by two ruddy men who could have been extras from The Crown.

The Privy Garden: This long symmetrical 17th-century-style garden leads down to some seriously gilded gates beside the Thames Path (locked, obv). Please keep to the paths when taking family portraits with a fabulous backdrop.
Knot Garden/Lower Orangery Garden/Pond Gardens: ...and on, and on.
The Great Vine: And finally it's the world's largest grapevine, now 255 summers old, which produces quarter of a ton of grapes every year. They keep a separate patch of earth outside the greenhouse for the exclusive use of its roots. And on the wall alongside is The Great Wisteria, which admittedly is only great for two weeks every May but hurrah, the Open Days fell during the right fortnight.

At this point you have to backtrack and walk all the way back round to the Rose Garden to exit, but that's no hardship because it's value for money all the way. After today the next Open Days are 4-9 July, 16-17 September and 18-19 November if you too would like to save £26.10.

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jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

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