diamond geezer

 Monday, July 31, 2023

Today is the 31st day of the month, and you don't get so many of those.

30ths occur in everything that isn't February.
29ths are slightly more popular than that.
28ths and below come up all the time.
But 31sts, not so many.

Hebrew months only ever go up to 30.
Chinese months only ever go up to 30.
Islamic months only ever go up to 30.
That's because these are lunar-based calendars and the moon goes round the earth every 29½ days.

Our Roman calendar ignores the moon and matches with the solar year instead.
365÷12=30½, so months tend to have 30 or 31 days.

Before Julius Caesar only four months had 31 days - March, May, July and October.
Julius Caesar added two days to January, Sextilis (August) and December, also making 31.
(April, June, September, and November each got one extra day, making 30).


Seven months have 31sts and five don't.
We sometimes go nearly nine weeks without a 31st.
There are two occasions when two consecutive months have 31 days: December/January and July/August.

Every year has seven 31sts, that's 1.9% of the total number of days.
In leap years it's 1.91%, in non leap-years it's 1.92%.
(overall it's 1.9165%)

You have a 1 in 52 chance of being born on the 31st.
You have a 1 in 33 chance of being born on the 30th.
You have a 1 in 32 chance of being born on the 29th.
For the other days of the month it's a 1 in 30 chance.

Less happens on the 31st than on other days of the month.

No UK Prime Minister has been born on the 31st.
No British monarch has been born on the 31st.
Only Henry V died on the 31st (in August 1422).

No US President has been born on the 31st.
The Oscars have only once been presented on the 31st (and only because they were delayed by a day by the shoooting of Ronald Reagan).

Only 6 tube stations were opened on the 31st (but 18 on the 30th and 38 on the 1st).

The five non-existent 31sts are February 31st, April 31st, June 31st, September 31st and November 31st.
Don't they look wrong?

My nephew was born on March 31st.
He's never 'something and a half' years old because there's no September 31st.

This table shows months and the month six months later.


The only 31sts with a 'something and a half' birthday are January 31st and July 31st.
If you were born on January 31st, happy 'something and a half'th birthday!

 Sunday, July 30, 2023

Thursday: We go to the village pub
I say pub, but in this part of the world that means a restaurant with decent beer. The barmaid umms and ahhs when we ask for a table for two, because even midweek the snugs and lounges book up fast. Eventually she relents and allows us to sit in the corner of the 'terrace', a large covered patio with flappy translucent walls. Pie and lasagne are selected, one of these with the house speciality of herby diced potatoes. I'm reliably informed, by eavesdropping on a nearby father and son, that a pint of Adnams here is much cheaper than it was in Woodbridge this lunchtime. Thus far the most exciting event has been a bumble bee nosing round the cut flowers on the table. Then the bikers arrive.

A dozen black-clad Harley-Davidson riders take a seat at the adjacent table and order beers. Their jackets are smothered with badges and patches, the largest proclaiming several to be members of the Fenlanders Suffolk Chapter. Not all of the bikers have beards. Some of them are female. Pretty much all of them have tattoos. Two of them have brought dogs. At least one has ridden in from Jaywick, or as he likes to call it 'South Clacton'. Collectively they debate who ordered the Hobgoblin and whether or not to order the mixed grill. It turns out today is the first day of the Harley-Davidson East of England Rally which is being held at a nearby football club, hence the large number of HOGs searching for food in the local area. The group is lively but friendly. The bumble bee does not return.

Friday: We go to the village country park
I say country park, but in this part of the world that means a couple of fields tarted up by a local entrepreneur to give campers and caravanners somewhere non-coastal to visit. The park has two lakes, neither of which existed ten years ago but which now boast ducks, dragonflies and a handful of fish. It has fewer trees than you'd hope a country park would have, but trees take more than ten years to grow. It has an increasing number of chalets and toilet blocks, each new wave paid for by last season's profits. And it has a cafe with a captive audience, now additionally somewhere locals can head for a coffee, a cheese scone or a curry (Wednesday evenings only). I order a hot chocolate with marshmallows and try not to share it with a succession of wasps.

The most astonishing sight, just above the treeline, is a freshly constructed phone mast. There's been zero signal round here ever since I bought a mobile phone in 1998, so every time I came to visit my parents was like entering communicative radio silence. Many's the time I've stayed over and not received a text message until after I left, which is still the case 25 years later, and it still makes online banking bloody difficult. According to the village Facebook page the mast was switched on for testing recently but only for a few hours, so the excitable posts soon dried up, but it'll be properly transformative when this is finally no longer a digital desert.

Saturday: We go to the village air show
I say air show, but in this part of the world that means some bloody impressive planes turn up. Hurricanes, a Lancaster bomber, two De Havillands and a Flying Fortress are all on the longlist, and that's not even the best of them. We stand in the garden and watch the RAF Falcons leaking smoke as they skydive in geometric formation above the trees, then three Spitfires approaching silently from the east. Elsewhere the village is abuzz for the arrival of the Red Arrows, who aren't merely going to fly over but will dawdle and do stunning aerobatics above the fields for 20 minutes. It should be fantastic (so long as you're not still queueing in the jam across the green when they arrive).

The lawn behind the village hall is the place to be, mainly because it's £67 cheaper than being in the compound at the airfield. A cry goes up from the picnickers when the eight jets first appear belching colour, then proceed to whoosh and loop and split and roll and swoop and barrel and spin within meticulous parameters. Their focus is the runway in front of the paying punters, but as the planes repeatedly splay out to remanoeuvre we're treated to several spectacular flypasts. In this cloudy sky the blue smoke shows up clearer than the white, but that's a minor niggle. If you're only used to seeing the Red Arrows over Buckingham Palace, their expertise here is on another level.

Some villagers are staying all afternoon, which is at least another three hours, while others start to pack up as soon as the last smoke fades away above the tree line. Everyone agrees it was amazing, a proper one-off, and if they're lucky they might even have some unblurry photos or Insta videos as evidence. By the time the Typhoon arrives we're home with a cup of tea and its roar penetrates the double glazing, and if you saw anything so amazing from your back garden yesterday I'd be amazed.

Sunday: We go to the village car boot sale
I say car boot sale, but in this part of the world that means... I don't know yet, I'm off shortly to find out.

 Saturday, July 29, 2023

I was walking through the outskirts of Chadwell Heath last weekend when I stumbled upon this very old road sign.

It's a pre-Worboys No Through Road sign, so it must be at least 58 years old. It would originally have had a red warning triangle on top but presumably that was removed at some point. I didn't see any similarly old signs on the adjacent cul-de-sacs. You don't see many pre-Worboys signs around London but obviously they do exist.

Also the road is called Whalebone Avenue, which is unusual. It's not much of an avenue, just 20 council-ish houses along a dead end leading to the back of a secondary school, but it's even less full-on whaling territory.

Whalebone Avenue bears off Whalebone Grove which itself bears off Whalebone Lane, and these are the only Whalebone-related residential streets anywhere in Greater London. Also Whalebone Avenue may only be 100m long and Whalebone Grove more like 300m, but Whalebone Lane stretches for three miles which is a significant thoroughfare, indeed it's so long it's been divided into Whalebone Lane North and Whalebone Lane South for manageability purposes. What's with all the Whalebones?


It's all to do with a pair of cetacean jawbones that once formed an arch beside the main road nearby. That road is the main road to Essex, a former Roman road, and the location was an octagonal tollhouse that existed here in the 18th century. If you wanted to ride from Ilford to Romford you'd come this way and pay the Middlesex and Essex Turnpike Trust for their efforts. The source of the jawbones is less certain but it's generally agreed they came from a whale stranded on the Thames, or washed up at Dagenham Breach, perhaps following a storm in 1658, perhaps 1685, perhaps later. Daniel Defoe wrote that the whale had been 28 feet long but he may just have been repeating an old fisherwives tale.

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The tollgate stood at what's now the crossroads at the eastern end of Chadwell Heath High Road. The fact there's a pub on the corner called The Tollgate is a massive clue, although it's not particularly old, more a mass market grill with onion rings and Sky Sports. The village of Chadwell Heath originally lay half a mile to the west. This area would have been open countryside, so a tollhouse with massive whalebones was always going to give its name to the country lane that crossed the main road here. Hence Whalebone Lane North which heads north to Mark's Gate and Whalebone Lane South which stretches south to Beacontree Heath.

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After the tollhouse was demolished the whalebones remained in the vicinity, ending up outside a house a short distance to the east where they flanked the front gate. This Jacobean property naturally became known as Whalebone House. It no longer stands because a German bomb wiped it out in April 1941, but thankfully the whalebones had moved on by then. If you know where the Full Gospel Church of God is, tucked between Albany Road and Gordon Road, that's roughly where Whalebone House was. It's very close to what used to be Whalebone Library, since renamed Robert Jeyes Library (which now contains the Whalebone Community Hub).

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Other Whalebones in the area included a Whalebone Farm (long since suburbanised) and a Whalebone Bridge (which Crossrail still ducks under). Then of course there's the Moby Dick pub, now a Toby Carvery, which was built to serve passing traffic where the A12 arterial crosses Whalebone Lane North. Opposite that is Moby Golf, a themed 18 hole minigolf course set around a lagoon with a whaling ship and an 8 foot waterfall, where one of the holes invites you to putt your ball into the mouth of a huge fibreglass whale. The nearest bus stop, naturally, is Whalebone Lane North.

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You can see the whalebones today, or what's left of them, at Valence House Museum in Dagenham where a special gallery was named after them. And all of this outburst of blubbery nomenclature - Lane, Grove, Avenue, House, Farm, Bridge, Library, Hub, Gallery and double Moby Dick - is because a whale washed up somewhere on the Thames some time ago and ended up with its jaws on a tollhouse.

 Friday, July 28, 2023

Which tube station is furthest from a non-tube station?

This would be a good question to ask on the day of a tube strike, indeed I had this post all lined up for such a day, but the unions then cruelly called off this week's action.

Nevertheless it's a great way to shine a spotlight on which parts of London would suffer most from a complete shutdown of the tube service because their nearest non-tube station is so far away.

I'd be fine here in Bow. Even if Bow Road and Bromley-by-Bow were trainless it'd only be a short walk to the DLR at Bow Church and only a mile to 'real' trains at Stratford or West Ham. I could get still get around, even without resorting to buses. But who'd suffer most?

Only one tube station in zone 1 is more than a mile from a non-tube station and that's South Kensington (1.1 miles). If you fancy a trip to the Museums during a tube strike, Victoria's the closest a non-tube train will get you. Mainline railways don't trouble the southern half of Kensington and Chelsea, nor stop in the northern half of the borough, the closest being the Overground which follows the western boundary. Notting Hill Gate is the second placed zone 1 station being just under a mile from Paddington.

Even in zone 2 only three tube stations are more than a mile from a non-tube station, that's how good inner London's railways are. On the District line Stamford Brook is 1.2 miles from South Acton and Ravenscourt Park is a tad over a mile from Shepherd's Bush. The third is North Greenwich which, although it's technically close-ish to the DLR across the river, in reality the nearest non-tube station is Westcombe Park 1.3 miles to the south.

Heading further out, there are six areas where tube stations are over 1½ miles from a non-tube station. In increasing order of remoteness, these are they.

District: Elm Park (1.6 miles)

Metropolitan: Northwood (2.3 miles), Chesham (2.2), Moor Park (1.9), Northwood Hills (1.8)

Jubilee: Stanmore (2.3 miles), Canons Park (2.0), Queensbury (1.6)

Northern: Finchley Central (2.3 miles), East Finchley (2.1), West Finchley (2.0), Woodside Park (1.8), Mill Hill East (1.7)

Metropolitan/Piccadilly: Uxbridge (2.4 miles)

Central: Epping (6.1 miles), Theydon Bois (4.8), Grange Hill (3.4), Debden (3.3), Hainault (2.8), Chigwell (2.8), Fairlop (2.2), Loughton (2.0), Roding Valley (1.8), Buckhurst Hill (1.7), Barkingside (1.6), Redbridge (1.6).

And here are those stations on a tube map.

grey is 'over 1 mile from a non-tube station'
yellow is 'over 1½ miles'
orange is 'over 2 miles'
red is 'over 2½ miles'
purple is 'over 4 miles'

Bad places to live during a tube strike include Northwood, Stanmore, Finchley and Uxbridge where the tube monopoly is strong. But by far the worst place is the eastern end of the Central line. No railways compete with the tube in the slice of Outer London between the Chingford line and Crossrail, the Central line having swallowed up the only railway that ever did. Five tube stations here find themselves more than 2½ miles from a rail station, although of these only Hainault is in London and the other four are in Essex. And the really bad places to be are Theydon Bois and Epping because TfL don't run any buses here, only trains, so with only an Oyster card you're completely cut off.

But there isn't a tube strike today, so thankfully these issues don't arise.

 Thursday, July 27, 2023

I'm having a bit of a week off, by which I mean I'm going out a lot and won't be sitting near a computer most evenings. Think of it less as a summer break and more as a timely exhalation.

I went out for birthday drinks last night, so returned home slightly more worse for wear than if I'd stayed in with a kettle as per normal. I'm off out again this evening, but this time long distance where I'll be staying for a few days, and where whipping out a laptop to write a 1000 word illustrated essay isn't really on the cards. I won't be back home for a while, and then I'm going out again for a major day trip after which I expect to be too knackered to concoct anything much. Altogether it's a seven-day disruption to my usual routine so expect a seven-day disruption to your reading pleasure.

There will still be posts but they may not be as long as you've come to expect. It's nigh impossible to create long-form bloggage with multiple images and carefully-researched links using just a smartphone, it requires a keyboard and a mouse. There will still be some posts that are as long as you've come to expect because I've prepared them in advance, but not many. You'll cope.

Please don't send unctious "ooh it's well deserved enjoy your time off" messages because I'm not recharging my batteries, I'm just busy and a bit off-grid.

You have therefore avoided another "today is the 11th anniversary of the London Olympics" post, because that's today. You've also dodged me resuscitating Local History Month with a full-on update of my first Bow-focused splurge 20 years ago, because 1st August falls into the hiatus. If TfL try to sneak out a contentious announcement while I'm away I will attempt to react, but it may be a more lacklustre savaging than usual. Just lower your expectations for a week, that's all I'm saying.

If you get really bored you can always pick a random month from the archives and read that, or flick through one of my 268 Flickr albums, or go read one of the other blogs in the sidebar, or just go outside and look at the world for a bit.

And they were very enjoyable birthday drinks, thanks.

 Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Ten years ago today the Olympic Park started to be opened up to the public in legacy mode. On Friday 26th July the Anniversary Games were launched in the stadium, a first chance for paid spectators to get back inside. On Saturday 27th July they opened a smidgeon more, inviting the community inside the Copper Box and opening up footpath links to Hackney Wick and Westfield. [48 photos]

Then on Monday 29th July Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park opened to the public. Not much of it, just a wetland slice in the northern half of the park where the Timber Lodge cafe is, but a tasty morsel all the same. Looking back now it seems amazing that we were confined to so small an area and that digger-based landscapery was continuing all around. Flicking through the photos I took at the time it all looks so pristine - identifiably the same park we have now but as yet unsoftened by unruly plantlife and heavy public usage. [48 more photos]

It took until Easter the following year for the southern half to open up, a massive increase in roamable space and a significant knitting together for the Lower Lea Valley. Now here we are in 2023 and it all seems terribly familiar, at least for those of us fortunate enough to live round here. But QEOP still isn't finished yet, in particular many of the surrounding construction projects, which means it must be time for yet another of my "What's new in the Olympic Park?" posts. Starting at the northern end. [16 recent photos]

Tennis and Hockey Centre: Still being used for actual tennis and actual hockey. Last weekend all sorts of young stick-carrying types converged on the bright blue hockey pitch for games with actual spectators (although I suspect they were only other players waiting for their match). Also the PA was pumping out music so loud you could hear it half a mile away, and not even very good music at that.
Northwall Road: Still redundant, and now littered with concrete blocks to prevent wheeled anti-social types enjoying it too much. Unexpectedly there are plans to transform the length of the road into "a green accessible space for local people", and tenders are currently out for a consultant to "develop concept designs for a rewilding project including community event and consultation."
Velodrome: Don't forget you can go inside, use the cafe and watch the bikes.
Chobham Manor: The northeasternmost residential neighbourhood is now finished, which it wasn't this time last year, and there's already a tangible community feel. The newest bit is full of attractive pointy townhouses, so less dense than it could be, but they sell for about £900,000 so you'd be better off in one of the flats.

Here East: The big boxy technology campus is a bit quieter now BT Sport's moved out. They got taken over by Warner Brothers who relocated the surviving employees to Chiswick earlier this year before the lease ran out. Loughborough, Staffordshire and Teesside universities have not followed suit.
East Wick: The northwesternmost residential neighbourhood is part complete, specifically the nucleus of bricky flats nearer to the canal. The most recent opening is Copper Street, because every young community needs a coffee/brunch/wine/beer space selling Moretti for a fiver. Meanwhile a strip along the western edge of the actual park is now fenced off so another 400 flats can be built, and the scrappy grass beyond that will eventually be 400 more.
North Park: I haven't seen any kingfishers for over a year. I've not been looking so hard though.
London Blossom Garden: An increasingly dead squib, Covid-tribute-wise, even for the few weeks when the blossom's out. One of the 33 trees is definitely dead. Much busier with slugs than people.

Copper Box: They've finished mending the mirrored letters. During lockdown I feared the dazzling RUN would never re-emerge.
Hackney Bridge: The big sheds by the canal bridge have been ramping up the seating quotient recently, first covering over part of the inner courtyard for all weather nibbling and most recently spreading parasoled tables across the canalside wastes to boost sipping space. At weekends a retro clothes stall and a German bread stall turn up to complement the permanent coffee hole, pet shop and fancy cakery.
Sweetwater: The westernmost residential neighbourhood remains entirely unbuilt, and will remain tumbleweed for a while yet. The road connection to the Monier Road bridge ditto.
Stadium Island: As promised, a new fence by the blue bridge can be used to seal off the towpath and keep it open during major stadium events, hurrah. Intriguingly they've still had to add temporary fencing recently, suggesting the solution doesn't quite work.

East Bank: The stripe of riverbank Boris nicknamed Olympicopolis is nearing initial completion. UAL's College of Fashion is the biggest building and will open first, indeed it's just applied for an entertainments licence. The V&A's space-invader shaped Museum is now fully clad. Sadlers Wells' ridged roof is almost finished. The BBC concert space looks like it'll be last across the finishing line.
Athletics Meet: The Olympic Anniversary tends to be when the big athletics competitions return to the stadium, and last Sunday it was the final Diamond League of the season, the blandly-named London Athletics Meet. It was lovely to see families pouring towards the stadium again, much like 2012, because these days the mobbing crowds tend to be beerier Hammers types.
Orbit: The ginormous red tower failed as a must-see viewpoint, but it's possible to charge more for abseiling and corkscrew sliding so they do.
Coppermaker Square: Westfield worked out a long time back that flats were worth more than car parks, hence their southwest corner is now a buttress of apartments ideal for those who fancy squandering £2500 a month for a one-bedder in return for the chance to "seamlessly integrate wellness into your everyday life".

UCL: The really big change over the last year has been the opening of UCL's new East campus on twin sites between the Orbit and the railway. One Pool Street is the taller of the two, a stack of multidisciplinary research labs and studios topped off by 500 student flats. The Student Union shop on the ground floor opens on weekdays in termtime and appears to sell mostly soft drinks. Across the river is the shorter chunkier Marshgate building with lots more labs, a refectory, library and an 'Institute of Making'. All yours for £9250 a year (plus accommodation).
Pudding Mill Allotments: Very much thriving this summer. It took a while.
View Tube: This came first, before anything else, and amazingly still has queues out of the door if you turn up at the right moment. Just before ABBA Voyage starts seems to be one of those moments. An upstairs roof terrace is now available. Bike hire still happens. The newest opening in the yellow containers is a plant shop, though more for people with diddy flats than people with gardens.
ABBA Voyage: And still they come in their ironic dresses and retrowear, from the home counties and beyond, friends whose hen parties were 40 years ago, wafting across unfamiliar building sites to enjoy the amazing avatars in the temporary theatre. They'll relocate it one day and build flats, it's in the lease, but for now Pudding Mill is a Summer Night City all year round.

Ten years on, it's amazing that an annual report on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park still has so much to include. It's even more amazing that in ten years' time they still won't have finished building all the new flats, so lengthy are the construction schedules hereabouts, so expect these annual reports to go on and on. [16 recent photos]

 Tuesday, July 25, 2023

 Route 728: Wandsworth - Fulham Broadway
 Length of journey: 5 miles, 45 minutes

London has a brand new bus route and it's rubbish. A seriously miserable experience on multiple levels.

The 728 is a Bridge Replacement Shuttle, a temporary means of crossing the Thames while Wandsworth Bridge is closed to traffic for repairs. It's only needed until the end of September, hopefully, and commenced operation yesterday with a 20 minute frequency. It's needed because three bus services which normally cross the bridge can no longer do so and are being terminated on the Fulham side. And much like its Hammersmith counterpart, the 533, it should only be ridden by people with a lot of time on their hands because it's quicker (and a lot more reliable) to walk.

They've got a lot right. All the affected bus stops have a 728 tile and a yellow notice explaining what's going on. They've sent the bus via Battersea Bridge rather than via Putney Bridge which, because it's now sandwiched between two closed crossings, is effectively choked. And they've created a bespoke webpage with frequency information, endpoints and a map. But my god what an over-complicated map it is, littered with so much advice that the basics fail to shine, and the average passenger is highly unlikely to unravel what's going on in under a minute, if at all. See how long you take.

The route is also longer than it needs to be in order to sweep up everyone who might be waiting for a curtailed bus. No timetables have been provided, so anyone scouting round a bus stop will only discover the destination rather than the route. No tiles for the curtailed routes have been removed, so passengers may still hang around for a 28, 295 or C3 that's never coming. And perhaps most awkwardly the 728 doesn't show up on Countdown displays or in your favourite app, it somehow hasn't been integrated, which means you have absolutely no idea when (or if) the next bus is ever coming.

I waited for an hour by the Wandsworth Roundabout to get this next photo. There'll be a 728 along soon, I thought, even if Citymapper and TfL Go were only showing a steady stream of 44s. But nothing came, only four 728s on the other side of the dual carriageway, and when my 60 minutes of purgatory finally ended I was disappointed to see that two buses arrived at once. I already hate this bus route, I thought. But I still went and caught it properly at the start of the route, and that's when my day got even worse.

The northbound 728 kicks off outside Sainsbury's in Wandsworth, the same stop where the 28 normally starts. A lady hoping to ride the 28 arrives, checks the electronic display and is surprised to see no 28s are due. Eventually she checks the yellow notice, squinting on tiptoes because she's quite short, and fails to make sense of the words. "What bus are you waiting for?" she asks me, and when I say the 728 she says "oh yes it says it up there, 728 Shuttle", but it hadn't really registered. The advice on the notice is to "use route 728" or to "go to Wandsworth Bridge to walk across for buses" but she doesn't do that. Instead she ignores the 44 that'd take her straight there and takes the 270 because it says Putney Bridge on the front... and I'd love to invite the TfL team who organised all this down to Wandsworth to show them the confusion they've created.

Also there are no buses. It's supposed to be a 20 minute service but the reality was much more irregular gaps, in this case 45 minutes without a 728 followed by another 40. With the 728 additionally invisible on the display and no timetable at the stop it's like a return to the omnibus dark ages. What's particularly galling is knowing that four 728s are parked up on the stand just around the corner, that's two-thirds of the entire fleet, but none have deigned to roll out and actually pick up passengers. I know it's only Day One and these things take time to bed in, but running a regular bus service isn't supposed to be this difficult.

When the 728 finally arrives there are several potential passengers, including a mum with two kids who's been expecting a 28. "How long's the journey to Fulham?" she asks, which is a very pertinent question, but the answer she gets is "I don't know, I'm a new driver"! She stupidly takes the risk and gets on. Normally it's about 12 minutes to Fulham Broadway but today it'll be almost four times that. I sit upstairs - it's not busy - and note with a sigh that the display at the front doesn't work, no 'next stop', just a time. And so our magical mystery tour sets off, 1½ miles direct but 5 miles by bus.

We set off via Wandsworth Town station, which is no longer direct now the centre of Old York Road's been pedestrianised. The published map doesn't show the one-way detour, nor that 728s heading south aren't supposed to go this way, but I still spotted one rogue 728 driver heading the wrong way past the station and I'm still not sure how they escaped at the other end. Within just five minutes we're at the southern end of Wandsworth Bridge where any sane able-bodied passenger should have got off and walked. I send my clone to do that while I stay on board and continue my sightseeing trip.

Wandsworth Bridge is closed so that its weight bearing parts can be replaced, its deck waterproofed, its carriageway resurfaced and its kerbs aligned. But walking across is still permitted, plus cycles can be pushed, and within five minutes you can be on the other side waiting for your next bus. It's complicated because only the 295 heads north from here, the 28 is currently terminating southbound only so another change of bus is required, and you can see why some of the collateral around this closure is very hard to unpick. But part of me has already decided that the 'walking across' option is patently the best option, so much so that the 728 should have been left for dead on the drawing board.

Back on the bus of doom, I'm unnerved to see six young lads bounding aboard closely followed by three community police officers. As a cluster of black hoodies bundles towards the rear seats I steel myself for the worst. But no, the boys are in fact using the first day of the school holidays to ride the new bus, and later in their journey will be heard discussing the blinds on an N19 and ringing a mate to say "yeah we're on the 728!" It's not just Men Who Like Buses, it turns out they tend to start out as Boys Who Like Buses instead.

We've been making good time so far and are heading straight for Battersea Bridge. Time to wreck that by turning away from the Thames and heading towards Clapham Junction. This is to pick up river-crossers on the 295 and C3... however you have to stand at the stop on the opposite side of the road to catch a 728 going in the right direction, and I doubt everyone realises that. Past the station I note that the former Arding & Hobbs department store is looking beautifully scrubbed up but with a tacky gold crown in the middle of the roof terrace, so it's a redevelopment that leaves me conflicted.

And because there hasn't been enough despair in recent paragraphs, at Ingrave Street it all goes miserably wrong again. We stop at an odd angle to the pavement, someone gets on and then nothing happens. I eventually hear three loud smashes downstairs which I deduce to be the driver attempting to slam the cab door. Traffic passes. I spy a man clutching a work rota walking away across the road, who I think I recognise as the driver who let us on board. A radio bursts into action. I sigh as another 728 overtakes us and leaves us behind, which really shouldn't be possible on a route with a 20 minute frequency. The engine switches off. The eighth minute of total hiatus ticks round. What I think just happened is that we changed drivers, really slowly, but because the bus isn't set up for audio announcements nobody told us and we were simply left to stew.

Oh hurrah we're finally off, although because we're trailing behind another 728 our driver is now trying hard not to catch up. This includes dawdling up bus lanes on Battersea Bridge Road beside traffic that can only eye up our private road space with envy. The council estates of downtown Battersea pass by, but not as quickly as I'd like. Eventually we join the logjam at the junction with Westbridge Road, where traffic from all directions is converging to cross a Thames bridge that's actually open. Passing one particular set of lights without stopping in the yellow box takes three attempts. If it's this bad in the middle of a Monday I truly wouldn't risk the 728 in the rush hour, it'd be slow-moving hell.

At last we reach the Thames, a full half hour after we last grazed it at Wandsworth Bridge. We've sped up a bit now as we pass from 'being in the queue' to 'passing the queue trying to go the other way'. The next bit's almost quite exciting, bus-wise, because no other London bus route passes along Cheyne Walk. On the right are blue plaques for Hilaire Belloc, JMW Turner and Sylvia Pankhurst, on the left the ridiculously expensive houseboats bobbing off Cheyne Pier, and on neither side are there any bus stops so we gain a little time. But not enough.

The 728's penultimate hurrah is the King's Road, Chelsea's most fashionable spine road, where most of the shops at this end exist to extract surplus wealth from surrounding residents in need of an interior design upgrade. At the final turn I note that the 728 already has a Diversion As Instructed notice for use when Chelsea are playing at home. For Raheem's sake don't ride the 728 on a matchday is all I can say.

And finally we reach the last stop at Fulham Town Hall, although I'm not 100% certain it's the last stop because the electronic display doesn't work, remember. Also the yellow poster back in Wandsworth told me to "change to route 28 at Harwood Road" and that turns out to be the name of a road, not a bus stop, so who'd know that's where we are? One of the Boys Who Like Buses calls out to me "last stop" as he bounds off down the stairs, because they've been on their phones the whole way, and he might as well have added "last stop Grandad" for all the cheery condescension in his voice. I alight feeling ancient as well as pointlessly delayed, having been completely taken for a ride.

London has a brand new bus route and it's rubbish, be that in design, in delivery, in exposition or in operation. A route whose buses arrive at irregular, extended, unpredictable intervals and which goes pointlessly all round the houses. Unless you're a MWLB or a BWLB best leave the 728 well alone.

 Monday, July 24, 2023

Oh god they're going to put the Superloop on the tube map aren't they?

It's been so massively branded that they won't be able to resist.

Just what the tube map doesn't need, more coloured blobs.

That's not real, I've mocked it up, it won't look like that.

But something like that, a coloured roundel to show you could catch an express bus.

Not that you will.

This is three busesworth, the SL8, SL9 and SL10.

The last two link to Harrow while the SL8 (on this extract) only ticks off Uxbridge.

It's not exactly the most helpful way of showing a bus route.

But TfL have extensive form in adding extra stuff to the tube map.

Why not bung in another and muddy the whole thing more?

TfL are now consulting on the last three Superloop routes - SL2, SL3 and SL5.

That means we now know where the loop of express buses should go.

It also means I can identify all the tube map stations with a Superloop connection.

You get a good idea there of how good the orbital links will be across North London.

You get very little idea about South London because the tube map omits most railway lines.

Also the squish around Abbey Wood and Bromley really isn't helpful.

Including Russell Square, Holborn and Waterloo would be completist but ridiculous.

So, on balance, I think it'd be much more of a mess than genuinely useful.

But that won't stop them putting Superloop on the tube map, probably next spring.

Because they totally will.

n.b. If they don't then I'll claim today's post opened everyone's eyes to how awful it would be.

And if they do then I will sit here looking smug but miserable.

Stations which'll be linked by Superloop
: → New Southgate → Arnos Grove → Silver Street → Walthamstow Central
SL2: Walthamstow Central → Gants Hill → Ilford → Barking → Gallions Reach → King George V →
SL3: → Abbey Wood → Bexleyheath → Sidcup → Chislehurst → Bickley → Bromley North
SL4: Canary Wharf → East India → Blackheath → Lee → Grove Park
SL5: Bromley North → Bromley South → Eden Park → East Croydon
SL6: Russell Square → Holborn → Waterloo → West Norwood → West Croydon
SL7: West Croydon → East Croydon → Sutton → Worcester Park → Kingston → Hatton Cross → Heathrow Central
SL8: Shepherd's Bush → Shepherd's Bush Market → Acton Central → Ealing Common → Ealing Broadway → Uxbridge
SL9: Heathrow Central → Hayes & Harlington → Northolt → Northolt Park → South Harrow → Harrow-on-the-Hill
SL10: Harrow-on-the-Hill → Kenton → Kingsbury → Hendon → Hendon Central → Finchley Central →

n.b. some stations are debatable depending on walking distance and what is an interchange anyway?

The three newly announced routes are the SL2, SL3 and SL5.

SL2: From Walthamstow to Ilford this is a speedy version of the existing 123. From Ilford to Barking it's a (possibly not very speedy) shadow of the 169. From Barking to Gallions Reach it's a non-stop zip down the North Circular - quite the new connection. From Gallions Reach to the river it's another 474, and a chance to ponder on why this express route is terminating beside a foot tunnel and an unreliable ferry.

SL3: Thamesmead is not reachable direct from North Woolwich but we already knew it wasn't going to be a loop. Thamesmead fast to Abbey Wood will be welcomed by many. From Abbey Wood to Bexleyheath it's an express version of the single decker B11. From Bexleyheath to Bromley North it's a mirror of the 269. All the chatter is that this route should be a winner.

SL5: Bromley North to Bromley South is four of the 11 stops. Then it's a roundabout route via the Chinese Garage and Bethlem Royal Hospital mimicking the 358 and then the 356, so not currently doable on one bus. The more obvious direct route would be straight to West Wickham station but the bridge there isn't bus-friendly, hence the network round here is truly sub-optimal. From West Wickham/Shirley it's a non-stop dash to East Croydon, paralleling the 119, which should be popular. But there's a lot of unresolved potential here, and the SL5 may be the runt of the orbital litter.

The consultations run until 4th September in case you'd like to point out that any of this could be done better.

The intention is that all orbital Superloop routes "will be fully in service by spring 2024".

Coincidentally this is when the next Mayoral election is taking place.

Other rebrandings are taking place as follows:
607 → SL8 last weekend
X68 → SL6 31st July
X26 → SL7 19th August
X140 → SL9 26th August

We'll never see them on a bus map.

Alas we'll likely see them littering the tube map instead.

 Sunday, July 23, 2023

If you head down to Parliament Square this weekend you'll see an unusual array of flags on display around the central lawn. Oddly-coloured crosses, flapping chequerboards, wavy lines, golden birds, showy diagonals, several crowns, interlocking stripes and more than one stag, not to mention what looks like three pears on a shield. They're plainly not countries else you'd recognise them. What might be going on here?

That's right, 23rd July is Historic County Flag Day and these are the flags of more than 50 British counties, not all of which technically exist.

The near-luminous cross is Gloucestershire, the blue and yellow checks are Surrey, the the golden martlets are Sussex, the three crowns are Cambridgeshire, the ermine diagonal is Norfolk, the zippy stripes are Northumberland, the full-on wavy number with a stag is Hertfordshire and the three pears on a shield is Worcestershire.

If you're not familiar with the concept, "the aim of Historic County Flags Day is to have as many county flags flying across Great Britain as possible on one day, 23rd July, to mark the nation's historic counties."

The aim's been thwarted somewhat this year by Historic County Flags Day being a Sunday so most civic buildings aren't operational. But true county flag patriots raise their standards no matter what, and the Parliamentary estate has had its display up and flapping since the end of term on Thursday.

You'll recognise some of them as age-old classics. The red and white roses of Lancashire and Yorkshire respectively. The rampant horse of Kent. The black and white cross of Cornwall. The three swords - officially seaxes - of Essex.

But not all of the county flags are as old as you might think. The flag of Middlesex dates back only to 1910 when a crown was added to the three seaxes to distinguish it from Essex. Bedfordshire's stripe of shells - peculiar for a landlocked county - is a 1951 invention. Hampshire and Herefordshire didn't get official flags until 2019. Leicestershire was late to the party in 2021. Aberdeenshire's crowned castle on a gold and purple background was launched as recently as April this year. If you think some of the county flags look like they were designed by schoolchildren, at least five of them were.

And if you're now thinking, hmm, perhaps Historic County Flag Day isn't that historic after all, you'd be right. It was concocted in 2014 by the Association of British Counties, an organisation devoted to keeping alive administrative boundaries long since extinguished. To be clear this is "traditional counties", not ceremonial counties, because their members are the kind of diehards who never believed in Cumbria and got grumpy when it was replaced by something that wasn't quite Cumberland.

They picked 23rd July as Historic County Flag Day because the flag of Devon was created on 23rd July 2002, and because that kickstarted wider interest in the adoption of county flags. But lest you think St Petroc's Cross is in any way traditional, it was actually devised by a student called Ryan on his home computer and won out in an online poll organised by BBC Devon. On such non-historic decisions are these so-called traditions based.

The first Historic County Flag Day gained momentum when it received top level backing from Whitehall, specifically the vexillologically-obsessed local government minister Eric Pickles. He detested the destruction of traditional counties by his predecessors, almost as much as he delighted in strangling local government budgets, and launched a series of initiatives to recognise defunct administrative areas and make flying their flags a lot easier.
"England's traditional counties date back over a thousand years of history, but in the past, many of them were sidelined by Whitehall and municipal bureaucrats. By contrast, the coalition Government are championing local people in flying the flag for such traditional ties and community spirit."
Eric's dream was the resurgence of defunct county signage, a flagpole in every garden and a nation of austerity-strapped patriots. But it took until 2019 before Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry took the plunge and filled Parliament Square with flags for a week.
"Our history helps to define who we are and where we come from, and we are stronger as a nation when we cherish and champion our local traditions. I am proud to see fifty iconic historic county flags of our great nation proudly flying in the heart of Westminster on this momentous day for the United Kingdom. I cannot think of a more important and fitting time to celebrate our shared cultural identity and all that binds our communities together."

As well as HCFD today there are also official days for flying the flags of individual counties, so for example Norfolk Day is next Thursday, Buckinghamshire Day is next Saturday and Yorkshire Day is on the first of next month. But these too are mostly modern inventions, a day plucked from the ether to celebrate an area that might now be a multiplicity of unitary authorities by waving a flag knocked up to look historic.

I love an archaic county boundary more than most, as I'll demonstrate at the end of today's post, but I have an issue with politicians wrapping themselves in flags and urging us all to feel 'pride' like what they do. Forever looking backwards and calling it patriotism isn't the best way to create a cohesive community. Cheerleading past glories with a display of flapping rectangles isn't exactly rational. And idolising an administrative system in which London doesn't actually exist is just what throwbacks like Eric Pickles would like you to think.

Historic County Flag Day has therefore evolved from a peculiarly populist mindset, a fictional creation deemed somehow traditional, and the fact it continues to bump under the radar is somewhat reassuring. But Parliament Square is certainly looking attractive at present, whether you treat it as an emotional display of collective pride or a multi-coloured fluttering of symbolic art.

If you'd like to check what your 'traditional' county is, the map at Wikishire is designed to show you. A far more detailed map has been provided, at Pickles' urging, on which ceremonial and traditional county boundaries can be compared simultaneously. You can then learn more about your county flag at the Flag Institute, and maybe go the whole hog and hoist it up your pole.

For Londoners it's generally a case of whether you live north of the Thames (Middlesex/Essex) or south of it (Surrey/Kent). And to help you decide which side of the line you fall I went to both of the historic triple-points yesterday, or at least as close as I could get without swimming into the middle of the river.

The dividing line is the River Lea, the traditional Anglo-Saxon boundary between the kingdoms of Mercia and Essex. Where I live in Bow I'm marginally a Middlesex man whereas if I were quarter of a mile further east I'd be an Essex geezer. The triple point with Kent is at the mouth of the Lea, as pictured here.

• In the foreground is Trinity Buoy Wharf - the remotest part of Tower Hamlets and the very tip of Middlesex.
• Across the Lea, back left, are the recycling dumps of Newham and what used to be prime industrial Essex.
• Across the Thames, back right, are the North Greenwich peninsula, the Millennium Dome and former Kent.
» The Blackwall Tunnel is a Middlesex-Kent link; the Silvertown Tunnel and Dangleway are Essex-Kent.

The dividing line is less well defined, both geographically and historically, although Surrey was originally more part of Wessex and Kent was a bit more Jutish. The divide didn't matter much when all this was marshes, but the spread of the capital made it a lot more pertinent. The triple point with Middlesex is about halfway down the west side of the Isle of Dogs. On the opposite bank, if walking along the Thames Path, look out for 200 year-old parish markers on a stone bridge that used to cross the mouth of the Earl's Sluice, as pictured here.

• In the foreground are the top of St George's Stairs at what used to be Deptford Wharf - the northernmost part of Lewisham, ex-Kent.
• In the background is Greenland Pier, now in Southwark, once Surrey and that's the reason why these are the Surrey Docks.
• Across the Thames on the right is Millwall Slipway on the Isle of Dogs, now Tower Hamlets, originally Middlesex.
» The flags don't actually float like that, obviously.

 Saturday, July 22, 2023

A glorious blue dawn spread across the skies above Uxbridge and South Ruislip yesterday morning as the Conservatives celebrated a stunning by-election victory in a seat they were always destined to lose.

Forget Selby and Ainsty where Labour snuck ahead in their North Yorkshire heartlands. Forget Somerton and Frome where the Liberal Democrats achieved a meaningless win. The real story of Triple By-Election Thursday is the unexpected triumph of common sense on the outskirts of London where Labour's toxic ULEZ repulsed the electorate.

Usually it's national politics that swings local elections, infuriating hard-working councillors whose prudent records are trashed by ministerial incompetence. But on this occasion it was local politics which swung the Westminster vote, against all the odds, confirming that mud sticks no matter where you throw it from.

Shout loudly enough about an unfair tax on an everyday necessity and everyone forgets why the by-election was called, what the previous incumbent did and who's been in power for the last 13 years. No matter that MPs have no jurisdiction whatsoever over Mayoral transport policy, my god it was good giving Keir Starmer a bloody nose.

A car is an absolute necessity in Outer London, indeed only 22% of households in Hillingdon don't have one. You can't impose a savage daily £12.50 charge on every industrious driver without expecting payback. But Sadiq Khan still blundered in and showed Labour's true colours, and it's only taken 495 voters to prove him irrefutably wrong.

The good people of Hillingdon may be struggling with the cost of living but they know proper policies when they see them. Stopping the boats and lowering inflation, these are the Tory successes that drive them on, not invisible health benefits paid for by airy-fairy green levies that drain the funds they need to pay their skyrocketing mortgages.

When the TV crews came to Uxbridge yesterday they found a high street full of shoppers happy to badmouth the redhead Labour whippersnapper parachuted in to hijack the seat. By contrast plain-speaking Councillor Tuckwell was always 'one of them', very much a man of the people, so the perfect choice to replace Brexit hero Boris Johnson as MP.

Nobody mentioned that the former Mayor introduced the ULEZ in the first place, nor that his government had insisted it was expanded as part of emergency pandemic funding. These traps were set so long ago that everyone's conveniently forgotten how this started, hence it's all Khan's fault and on such distinctions are wafer-thin majorities won.

Uxbridge and South Ruislip is a constituency where Londoners are proud to be British, indeed the flag of the historic county of Middlesex flies high above the town hall. You only have to visit the pubs or set foot on the garage forecourts to know that these simple people may like a good curry but they aren't natural eco-warriors.

Many excellent policies have contributed to this by-election triumph. A new hospital for Hillingdon funded from the Brexit dividend. The imposition of Voter ID to exclude undesirables. And, perhaps most importantly, waiting until Brunel University had broken up for the summer. On such strategic decisions are marginal victories won and lost.

It was only right that Rishi Sunak dropped into the Rumbling Tum cafe on Victoria Road to celebrate his party's historic win, rather than visiting the foodbank in the church nextdoor. This bastion of working class solidarity is entirely representative of Conservative values, and also a very brief limo-trip from the gates of RAF Northolt.

On entering the cafe the PM was greeted by spontaneous applause from tablefuls of ordinary punters kickstarting their working day with a traditional breakfast. How unexpectedly fortunate that one of these was Tory Mayoral candidate Susan Hall, a hard-nosed force of nature whose chance of replacing the current incumbent just visibly multiplied.

Against all expectations the people of Uxbridge and South Ruislip have fought back and delivered one in the eye for the metropolitan elite. More importantly they've put taxation in the spotlight and provided a total distraction from the unprecedented losses suffered by the Conservative party elsewhere, indeed you've likely forgotten them already.

It seems turning an election into a single-issue referendum pays great dividends, especially if your laser focus is being negative about your opponent rather than showcasing policies of your own. In business parks and hair salons, in supermarkets and semi-detached avenues, this historic by-election is surely the harbinger of five more glorious years.

 Friday, July 21, 2023

TfL have a new favourite adjective.

And that adjective is 'brighter'.

Journeys are brighter, connections are brighter, networks are brighter, everything's getting brighter.

And all because, apparently, TfL are "helping to make greener** journeys in London brighter for everyone".

Join me on a walk along the tube platform at King's Cross St Pancras station and let's see if we can work out what brighter actually means.

Ahhh, tube improvements. Many such improvements exist but this poster is celebrating the Four Lines Modernisation programme and its new signalling system. This is the programme Ken Livingstone launched in December 2006 to replace all the trains on four tube lines and upgrade archaic signalling systems. His successor introduced the first new train in 2010 and his successor finally saw the fleet replaced in 2017. As for signalling it's now 10 years since TfL had to replace the original supplier, totally delaying things, and the rollout of the new system isn't due to be completed until the start of 2025. Essentially this is a poster that could have appeared on a tube platform at any time between 2006 and 2025. An improved, more frequent, 'brighter' timetable remains tantalisingly far away.

Ahhh, Crossrail. You'd expect TfL to go big on all things purple and indeed they have, and rightly so. 10 minutes from Paddington to Liverpool Street is brilliant, I did it myself yesterday and praised the gods of rail improvement. You'd think therefore that the claim "making journeys through central London faster than ever before*" was watertight but apparently not because they've had to asterisk it. You may have noticed that all three posters in my first photo also had asterisks, indeed this advertising campaign could be the most asterisked of all time. The caveat in this case is
* faster than previous TfL journeys on a single train
I'm trying to imagine how anyone would have got from Paddington to Liverpool Street faster than 10 minutes previously, even with their foot down in a sports car or on a motorbike. It's still 18 minutes on the Circle Line, best case scenario, and I can't see any reason why this asterisk is needed unless TfL has an asterisk pedant whose job is to sit in meetings and say "no, you have to be specific what it's faster than."

And that's not the only asterisk on the poster because there's a double asterisk on "That is how we're helping to make greener** journeys in London brighter for everyone". The asterisk pedant has additionally insisted that TfL explain what they mean by "greener", and this time it's...
** compared against average car emissions LEGGI 2020 and LAEI 2019
It turns out TfL are comparing their operations to car emissions and saying they're greener than that, which perhaps doesn't come as much of a surprise. Also LEGGI is the London Energy and Greenhouse Gas Inventory and LAEI is the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, in case you were wondering. However the LEGGI documentation specifically states "2020 statistics should therefore be cited with caution, and we expect to see an increase in emissions in 2021." so this may not be the most helpful or meaningful benchmark.

Ahhh, buses. Here's the much quoted environmental claim that the TfL bus fleet is "100% low or zero-emission*" which is clearly excellent. Officially this means all 9000 buses operating across London meet or exceed Euro VI emission standards, i.e. the same emissions standard as the Ultra Low Emission Zone, so no vehicle's going to have to stop running when the zone expands. But this is not exactly new news, it's been the case since January 2021, and a more important thing would be how fast the fleet is moving from low to zero emission. Also note the asterisk because "emission*" too needs clarifying...
* at the tailpipe
This tailpipe thing's always coming up, as if the asterisk pedant's been employed for years, because with buses it seems you have to be really specific which orifice you're claiming to be low-emission. I'd like to remind the asterisk pedant that electric buses don't have tailpipes so they can't be zero-emission at the tailpipe because they don't have one QED.

If you're wondering where the Superloop is, because the Superloop's at the top of the publicity volcano these days, it's in the video. Yes of course TfL have made a 40 second video for the 'brighter' campaign, in which they dutifully claim "we've made all our buses low or zero emission at the tailpipe, including those for our proposed Superloop routes". I'd like to remind the asterisk pedant that if all your buses are low or zero-emission then obviously a subset of those buses will also be low or zero-emission because that's how logic works, so maybe you didn't need to clarify that one.

Ahhh, cycling. Trebling the amount of Cycleway since 2016 is a good statistic, although I'm not sure how much of the increase is rebranded cycle lanes and how much is genuine improvement. Also according to the online Cycleways map there are still zero kilometres of Cycleway in Bromley, Croydon, Sutton, Harrow and Havering, and derisory coverage in Barnet, Hounslow, Richmond and Bexley. Let's hope these "plans with the London boroughs to expand it further" have teeth otherwise this isn't genuinely brighter for outer London at all. Also please hurry up, because if bike-hating Susan Hall gets into City Hall next year all cycle improvements will be off the table.

Ahh, step free stations. According to the poster "now over 200 have step free access", which sounds great but masks several wide discrepancies. The total includes "DLR stations and all tram stops", both of which have been in existence since the 20th century, and they contribute over 80 to the "over 200" total. Crossrail contributes at least 40 more, whereas the number of tube stations with step-free access has yet to hit 100 (i.e. still below 40% coverage). I don't know if you saw last week's press release showcasing the next 10 tube stations to get step-free access but that was literally just a shortlist, there's no current funding, none are getting built yet, so hold your dreams of brighter journeys for the time being.

I suspect there are more posters than this - for example for the DLR, the Overground and for road safety - but that's where this particular Northern line platform ran out of wall. I suspect the existence of additional posters because the 'brighter' campaign has a call to action which is to "search TfL improvement plan", and all those projects are on the longlist bundled in with everything positive the campaign team could think of.

According to the accompanying video, "At TfL we start every day with the same ambition. To make your journeys with us brighter*". The asterisk there is my own addition because brighter is a silly word to use, a meaningless adjective in the circumstances, glibly smothering an appropriately upbeat aspiration. So next time you see stuff about "brighter* journeys" being bandied about, remember what the asterisk pedant really means and nod along.

         * better

 Thursday, July 20, 2023

For all mileage purposes the centre of London is taken to be the statue of Charles I at Charing Cross.

This used to be the site of one of the 12 Eleanor Crosses commissioned by Edward I to commemorate the funeral procession of his wife Eleanor of Castile. The last (and largest) cross was erected here at the top of Whitehall in 1291, but was cast down by the Parliamentarians in 1647 having been deemed too royal/Catholic/pagan (delete as appropriate). The current equestrian statue replaced it in 1675 when royalty was back in vogue, and has been sitting there on its traffic island just south of Nelson's Column ever since there was a traffic island just south of Nelson's Column.

So with that as our central point, let's enumerate...

London's boroughs ranked by how close to the centre they are

1) Westminster (0 miles)
A plaque beneath the statue of Charles I confirms "mileages from London are measured from the site of the original cross", and Charing Cross is in Westminster which makes Westminster definitively London's most central borough.
n.b. All borough names click through to a map.

2) Lambeth (0.3 miles)
Lambeth is the 2nd closest borough to the centre of London, being just across the Thames from Charing Cross station. The closest point is halfway across the Golden Jubilee Bridges.
n.b. Because Lambeth stretches all the way to Crystal Palace, 6 miles away, nine other boroughs are more central in their entirety.

3) Camden (0.4 miles)
The closest point to the centre of London is on West Street in Covent Garden, immediately outside St Martin's Theatre (where The Mousetrap is now in its 71st year).

4) Southwark (0.6 miles)
The closest point is below the OXO Tower on the South Bank.

5) City of London (0.7 miles)
The closest point is on the western edge of Temple Inn, close to Fountain Court.
n.b. The City, in its entirety, is closer to the centre than any other London borough.

6) Islington (1.3 miles)
The closest point is round the back of Farringdon Crossrail station, where Farringdon Road meets Charterhouse Street.

7) Kensington & Chelsea (1.4 miles)
The closest point is on Knightsbridge, facing the Albert Gate into Hyde Park.
n.b. Kensington & Chelsea, in its entirety, is the third closest borough to the centre.

8) Wandsworth (1.6 miles)
The closest point is Riverside Gardens on Nine Elms Lane in Vauxhall, at the foot of St George's Wharf Tower.

9) Hackney (2.0 miles)
The closest point is on the corner of Sun Street and Wilson Street, where One Crown Place faces Broadgate (as blogged here).

10) Tower Hamlets (2.1 miles)
The closest point is at the entrance to Tower Millennium Pier alongside the Tower of London.

11) Hammersmith & Fulham (3.1 miles)
The closest point is at Chelsea Harbour amid the private development at the mouth of Chelsea Creek.

12) Brent (3.3 miles)
The closest point is a parade of shops in Maida Hill where Shirland Road meets Kilburn Park Road (as blogged here).
n.b. Brent is the first outer London borough to appear on this list.

13) Lewisham (3.4 miles)
The closest point is below South Bermondsey station, off Bolina Road by The Den, home of Millwall FC. It's a bit grim.

14) Haringey (4.0 miles)
The closest point is at the southern tip of Finsbury Park, by the tenpin bowling place, immediately opposite Finsbury Park station.

15) Barnet (4.6 miles)
The closest point is the University College School Sports Ground in Cricklewood, just behind Hampstead Cemetery.
n.b. Everyone in Barnet lives closer to central London than everyone in Havering.

16) Greenwich (4.7 miles)
The closest point is by Twinkle Park at the end of Borthwick Street in Deptford, facing Convoys Wharf.

17) Newham (5.0 miles)
The closest point is on the River Lea at Old Ford near the Bow Roundabout, behind the Crossrail electricty substation on Cooks Road.
n.b. This is the middle borough on the list, and it may not be a coincidence that Newham is sometimes defined as inner London and sometimes as outer.

18) Ealing (5.1 miles)
The closest point is in Acton on the corner of Old Oak Road and Uxbridge Road.
n.b. I know on the graphic it looks like Richmond is closer, but the graphic's oversimplified.

19) Hounslow (5.2 miles)
The closest point is marginally in Chiswick off Goldhawk Road near Stamford Brook Common.
n.b. Hounslow stretches for another 9 miles from here, and only six other boroughs stretch further.

20) Richmond (5.3 miles)
The closest point is on the Thames Path just downstream of Hammersmith Bridge, by the Harrods Furniture Depository.

21) Merton (5.4 miles)
The closest point is in the River Wandle just southwest of Earlsfield station.

22) Waltham Forest (5.7 miles)
The closest point is in the River Lea where it ducks under Lea Bridge Road by The Princess of Wales.

23) Croydon (5.8 miles)
The closest point is on Crown Lane at the northeastern tip of Streatham Common.
n.b. Even though Croydon is London's southernmost borough, five boroughs stretch further from the centre of London.

24) Bromley (6.0 miles)
The closest point is the mini roundabout at the top of Crystal Palace Parade near the TV mast.
n.b. Bromley stretches for another 10 miles from here, and only two other boroughs stretch further.

25) Enfield (6.9 miles)
The closest point is on the railway line two streets north of Bowes Park station.
n.b. Even though Enfield is London's northernmost borough, thirteen(!) boroughs stretch further from the centre of London.

26) Redbridge (7.2 miles)
The closest point is on Harrow Road on the western edge of Wanstead Flats at Harrow Road Playing Fields.

27) Kingston (7.4 miles)
The closest point is on the Beverley Brook along the edge of Richmond Park, where Kingston Vale becomes Roehampton Vale.

28) Sutton (8.1 miles)
The closest point is on Bishopsford Road between Poulter Park and the home ground of Tooting and Mitcham United FC.

29) Harrow (8.6 miles)
The closest point is on Kingsbury Circle roundabout, just west of Kingsbury station.

30) Barking & Dagenham (8.7 miles)
The closest point is the roundabout in Barking where London Road meets the North Circular.

31) Bexley (9.9 miles)
The closest point is Falconwood station, just off Rochester Way.

32) Hillingdon (11.9 miles)
The closest point is on the Grand Union Canal (Paddington Arm) alongside Willow Tree Open Space.
n.b. If Hillingdon didn't bend inwards towards Greenford it'd be the furthest borough of all.

33) Havering (12.2 miles)
The closest point is where the River Beam flows into the Thames, on private land alongside Ford Dagenham.
n.b. Havering contains the furthest point from central London, beyond the M25, a full 20 miles from Charing Cross.

And I've slogged through all this because it helps explain why residents of some boroughs feel a long way from the action, maybe not even Londoners at all. Havering's almost a world of its own demographically. Hillingdon's peripheral location might be significant if there were, say, a by-election taking place there today.

Also people don't necessarily realise that London goes a lot further east-west than north-south... 36 miles across but only 28 miles top-to-bottom. London would be a lot more circular if you got rid of Hillingdon and Havering.

n.b. There are no plans to get rid of Hillingdon and Havering.

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