Tuesday, October 31, 2023
Several times a year, aligned to the full moon, the Thames sees some particularly high tides. Sometimes, after particularly heavy spells of rain, much more water comes down the Thames than usual. And when these two events coincide various paths, piers and embankments that don't normally succumb to the river get overtopped and there can be consequences. Particularly out west.
The stretch of waterfront just upstream of Putney Bridge is probably the most tidally susceptible in the capital. Most of the time it's just a nice embankment to walk along and the ideal spot to locate umpteen boathouses, but monthly spring tides often see the Embankment overtopped. Property isn't generally affected but the roadway can be submerged, much to the surprise of drivers who parked their cars here without reading the signs. I'd seen the signs but never seen it happen, and now I have.
I turned up an hour before high tide yesterday, having heard that strong flow often causes the peak to arrive prematurely. The river hadn't yet overtopped but when I stepped out onto Putney Pier I could see it was only a couple of inches below the top of the wall. Have I missed it, I thought, given that the pavement was a bit muddy in a post-inundation way. Spoilers - that was Sunday's muck. So on I walked, and as I did so the Thames got incrementally higher and within two minutes was starting to lap gently across my path.
The river had already made serious inroads by the boathouse slipway and started to fill the cambered roadway where several cars were parked. This left me walking a narrow path between a deep puddle and the Embankment's railings, through which the encroaching water was starting to become more pronounced. I walked far enough to meet ripples advancing as if I were at the seaside, and decided that continuing to the boathouses wouldn't be wise, not in my absorbent footwear. Turning back I then realised that the overtopping was becoming more significant, this in barely the space of a minute, so sped up lest I be forced to exit through that deep puddle. I was never at serious risk but was taking no chances, hence passers-by on the safer side got to enjoy the minor spectacle of a grown man suddenly making a run for it.
I then got to enjoy the sight of a gentleman returning to his Ford Fiesta, made all the better by the fact he was in a suit and tie. I particularly liked how he prioritised feeding the parking payment machine, which was just on the edge of the flood, before stepping gingerly across the spreading puddle and into the safety of his vehicle. BBC London News later reported that several car owners upstream in Mortlake hadn't been so fortunate. And by the time I got back to Putney Pier it too was underwater, or at least the entrance was, as further ripples washed out across the widened Thames. Checking the timestamps on my photos, it's amazing how fast things can change in just seven minutes.
I didn't stay to see what happened next because I wanted to experience high tide elsewhere and had a train to catch. And it was hardly a major disaster, just a natural phenomenon taking advantage of lower-than-normal river defences. But it was quite an experience, another thing I can now say I've ticked off the London Must-See List. And it might just happen again today, perhaps to a lesser extent, so keep an eye on dates and times and tide heights here if you're interested.
Five miles upstream, just beyond the limit of the annual Boat Race, lies Strand-on-the-Green. It sits on the edge of Chiswick, it used to be a medieval fishing village and it's now a highly desirable suburb. The oldest and most characterful properties are in a long quaint block along the waterfront, bisected midway by Kew Railway Bridge (so you might well have seen it from a District line train). Here the Thames Path normally follows the edge of a gently sloping muddy beach (or strand), or at high tide directly abuts the edge of the river. But at spring tides it often floods, and at turbo-charged spring tides quarter of a mile of promenade just disappears under the water.
This time I arrived three-quarters of an hour before high tide to find that the parklet closest to Kew Bridge was just starting to succumb to the water. A small fountain was bubbling up from a drain cover and helping to fill the space around the foot of the benches, which at this point were still behind a foot of riverwall. It wouldn't be enough, the Thames would eventually conceal the top of the wall inviting swans and ducks to go swimming across grass they'd more usually waddle on. Local residents stood by the second line of defence and watched with fascination.
At the other end of the disruption, by the drinking fountain, the broad sweep of a new waterfront could be seen. A dog dashed round the corner ahead of its owner and stopped dead in front of the flood as if trying to work out where the onward path had gone. Boats you can usually reach on foot lay out of reach offshore. Walking further wouldn't have been wise without wellies, and even then best avoided because you'd essentially be entering a flood-swelled Thames. An elderly lady turned to me and said "I've never seen it this bad before", which might have been genuinely noteworthy or might just be because to see it this bad you have to turn up during the right half hour.
The riverfront properties are of course fully prepared for all this - some of them for centuries - with boards to block doorways, solid foundations and impermeable window frames. This is especially true of the The Bulls Head, one of three pubs on this stretch, where punters can sit inside supping pints while brown water laps menacingly against the glass. None of the intermediate alleyways down to the Thames Path were accessible either, they all ended at a line of encroaching water, and I can only imagine what a few people's gardens might have temporarily looked like.
I think the phenomenon peaked about 20 minutes before the official time of high tide, because that was when a widening damp patch above the water line started to appear. Following different amounts of rain that time interval would duly vary. And again this was no physical calamity, just a tidal fluctuation that years of practice have made perfect. But it is perhaps a calamity-in-waiting, as rising sea levels inexorably nudge our spring tides higher, and then it won't just be a few spots in West London facing a temporary flood.
posted 07:00 :
Monday, October 30, 2023The News From Your Borough
If I went to your borough yesterday, here's some news from it.
I arrived in Cricklewood after a seriously heavy downpour and the road outside The Crown was awash, so much so that I could only get across the pedestrian crossing by stepping into a nasty cambered puddle which swiftly proved that my shoes weren't waterproof. The other side of the road, in Brent, had been fine.
I could spend most of today's post moaning about inadequate weekend transport, but I'll just do this one. I had to catch a replacement bus service from Willesden Junction because the line to Richmond was closed, but the driver of the terminating-early train didn't mention it, and I never spotted a poster for it at the station, and only when I checked Citymapper at the bus stop did I realise it existed, and it was supposed to run every 15 minutes but one bus was inexplicably cancelled and the next was 5 minutes late, and it said 'Richmond all stations' but it didn't stop at South Acton, except apparently it did (at a stop 600m from the station) but there were no announcements, and instead I ended up at the next stop which turned out to be Turnham Green, and there were no trains there either.
I've always thought Brondes Age is a brilliant name for a restaurant in Brondesbury. However the management have just used the same name for a pub they've rebranded on Camden High Street so I'm suddenly much less impressed. Also Tripadvisor reckons that Brondes Age is #14,524 of 15,760 Restaurants in London so I'd definitely give them a miss.
City of London
In 2017 they introduced temporary pavement barriers along London Bridge, for depressing security reasons, and six years later they're still there. Westminster Bridge has since introduced a better cycleway/bollards solution, but London Bridge alas remains ugly and unprofessional.
The last remaining building in North Acton with any character, The Castle pub, is currently a hole in the ground awaiting transformation into a 32 storey block of flats. What a horrible place North Acton is becoming, a dense stack of architecturally vacuous towers, even worse than Colindale, like a poor man's Nine Elms.
The old Greenwich Magistrates Court by Deptford Bridge has been purchased by London Hotel Group with an eye to becoming a 293 room boutique hotel. It'll retain two existing buildings and a facade so they can claim it's "sympathetic to the Ashburnham Triangle Conservation Area", but the stuff behind is just little brick boxes. That said, the development's had planning permission since 2019 so maybe it'll never happen.
It's not quite as inexpensive as you'll find on Brick Lane, but the Happening Bagel Bakery on Seven Sisters Road has much the same cheap and cheerful vibe, and menu. Think tuna bagels, almond croissants, large wholemeal loaves, apple slices and salt beef options. It also stays open from 5am to midnight seven days a week, so might be exactly what you need for a low cost carb boost out of hours.
Hammersmith and Fulham
They've started sticking up monthly updates along the walkways at Hammersmith Bridge, which has now been closed to traffic for 4½ years. October's says "Our engineers are checking on the condition of the bridge's 200 year-old pier foundations using a barge and additional equipment on the riverside." No chance of it reopening for its bicentenary next year, then.
I still prefer Haringey's original starburst logo to its later incarnations, so how lovely to find an example still in situ at the entrance to the borough on Stapleton Hall Road.
In the time the tube-replacement bus took to drive 300m down Turnham Green Terrace the tube could have got you all the way to Earl's Court, if only it was running. The traffic always seems a lot worse round here since they added the nice cycleway along Chiswick High Road and rejigged the junctions.
The white plastic letters on the front of Finsbury Park station, above Pret, currently read rea o thern Electrics icto ia and Piccadilly lines. The first 'a' has slumped through 90 degrees, the 'N' at the start of Northern has slipped and been caught by the 'a's underneath, and the 'c' and 's' in Electrics are only hanging on because the sign's behind netting.
Kensington and Chelsea
The roundels at West Brompton station include a unique 'crossed W', as every tube nerd knows. But I hadn't previously spotted that the roundel includes the shortened name of a West Midlands football club. Other Championship teams who don't quite appear on a tube roundel include Preston North End, Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City.
The sparkling wine stall at the Southbank Centre Food Market (behind the Royal Festival Hall) has temporarily rebranded as The Mulled Wine Tavern, so I guess Christmas is more imminent than I thought.
The Job Centre on Deptford High Street, a bar which used to be a job centre, has rebranded this month as Jam Circus. On the last Sunday of every month they host a free Jazz and Jam Session from 4-7pm organised by the Unity Music Art Team, but you've just missed October's which was setting up by the window as I walked past.
High on the front of Wimbledon station, either side of the main entrance, are black and white artworks depicting two sets of spectators watching some kind of event from behind a fence. I presume it's tennis related, it usually is round here, but I'd never noticed them before and Google hasn't managed to answer my basic question 'what on earth is this?'
Update: It's by Bruce Williams, it's called Concourse, it is indeed tennis-related and it's been there for 25 years, which just goes to show how observant I am.
Just off Station Road in Forest Gate I stumbled upon Dimond Close, which I guess I've never noticed before because it's one letter away from something I'd definitely have noticed. One side has undistinguished postwar council flats and the other has insufficient parking and binstores that look like outside loos. You've been saved from me writing a lengthy post about my almost-namesake because there is nothing else of interest to say.
The thing about the pigeons beside the Jubilee Pond on Wanstead Flats is that you can walk right up to them and they don't fly away. You'd expect that from the parallel infestation of geese but it's unusual in pigeons... perhaps a learned behaviour or perhaps because so many people pass by all the time.
The Thames was really high under Hammersmith Bridge yesterday lunchtime, even with high tide still over an hour away. You don't normally see rowers passing underneath quite so close. Another couple of feet and it would've overtopped the banks on the Richmond side.
It may not be Hallowe'en yet but partying hordes from Bromley and Kent were already trickling off the trains at London Bridge mid-afternoon. Some were dressed as extras from The Munsters, some pretended to be computer game characters, some had full-on face make-up and the less-inspired simply wore t-shirts splattered with a few dollops of red paint.
Over the weekend hundreds of pro-Palestine stickers have been stuck to the street furniture along Bow Road, each with a QR code link to the website of a 'pro-justice organisation with an Islamic ethos'. The pillar box has four stickers, the pedestrian crossing has six and the shelter at Bus Stop M has a dozen. Bus stops A and B each have 20 stickers arranged in the shape of the Palestinian flag. They peel off lampposts really easily. They don't peel off glass without making a right mess.
Harrow Road has been closed this week while the council installs an enhanced speed bump outside number 243. It'll be closed outside number 193 from today while they install another, and outside number 183 next week while they install another. It's a heck of a lot of disruption just to slow down the traffic.
The Original Fish And Chip Shop in Southfields has flowers and decking out front but otherwise looks like a fairly standard chippy, so I was shocked to see they charge £12 for cod and £15 for cod and chips. When I did my chip shop survey recently the average for cod and chips in E3/E15 was more like £10-£11, but I guess folk in SW19 are willing and able to pay a lot more.
I went back to look at the clock on Shell Mex House and they hadn't put it back an hour, it still said five to four when it was really five to three. So it's also Britain's largest incorrect clockface.
posted 07:00 :
Sunday, October 29, 2023Britain's Largest Clocks Going Back
That's largest by diameter.
That's 'going back' as in counting down from 5 to 1.
I've based this on the Wikipedia page 'List of largest clock faces' (so if that's wrong, this is wrong)
See if you can guess what's coming up...
5) Manchester Town Hall
Diameter of clockface: 4.8m
Area of clockface: 18.1m²
Length of hands: 2.4m/1.8m
Number of clockfaces: 4
First operated: New Year's Day 1879
Manchester's Town Hall is peak gothic Victoriana, although the Queen refused to turn up and open it so the city's mayor Abel Heywood officiated instead. The clocktower is a sandstone upthrust with an ornate spire topped off by a gold orb which sits 85m above Albert Square. And the clock itself was made in London, or what's now London but was then Surrey, in the Gillett and Bland factory off Whitehorse Road in Thornton Heath. Look for the self-storage facility behind the former Olde Clocktower pub if you want to pay a pilgrimage. The Town Hall tower contains 23 bells, the largest of which weighs 8 tons and is named Great Abel, for reasons hinted at earlier in this paragraph. As for the clockfaces, Britain's fifth largest, they're made from Polish glass and bear the inscription 'Teach us to number our Days' (taken from Psalm 90 verse 12).
Sorry the photo's poor but it's the only one I've got, taken on a gloomy day in 2016 when the Town Hall was marooned behind major roadworks in readiness for a tram extension. But you won't get a better photo at the moment because the entire building's currently under white plastic sheeting as part of a significant (and significantly over-running) restoration project, so it'll have to do. Manchester City Council have uploaded 25 mighty fine photos of the clocktower to Flickr here.
4) Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower
Diameter of clockface: 5.25m
Area of clockface: 21.6m²
Length of hands: 3.0m/1.8m
Number of clockfaces: 4
First operated: 1908
We're in Birmingham for this one, in case you weren't sure, specifically on the Edgbaston campus at the University of Birmingham. The founders always wanted a clocktower as its centrepiece but funds ran out and had to be raised separately by the university's first Chancellor, Joseph Chamberlain. He based the design on the Torre del Mangia in Siena, a medieval Italian campanile, but with the clockfaces near the top rather than near the bottom. Birmingham's version is still the world's tallest free-standing clock tower, and at 100m was also the tallest building in the city until 1965 when the Post Office Tower overtook it. The clock is by JB Joyce & Co of Shropshire, the hands are made from sheet copper and the heaviest bell weighs over 6 tons. And the whole caboodle, which also houses nesting peregrine falcons, is affectionately known by generations of students as Old Joe.
Sorry, the photo makes it look like the tower's part of the adjacent building instead of separate and slender, but it's hard to get a good shot of something this tall from directly underneath. You can see a better photo and watch a 3 minute video on Old Joe's bespoke page on the University of Birmingham website, plus @oldjoeclock is on Twitter and posts a lot of selfies (the most recent with a bright purple face to celebrate Postural Tachycardia Syndrome Awareness Day on Thursday).
3) Elizabeth Tower
Diameter of clockface: 7.0m
Area of clockface: 38.5m²
Length of hands: 4.3m/2.7m
Number of clockfaces: 4
First bonged: Monday 11th July 1859
That's Big Ben to most people, and the Clock Tower to pedants who failed to notice the name-change for the late Queen's Diamond Jubilee. You might have been expecting it to crop up later in the countdown but no, despite having a massive diameter it's only third on the UK's clockface list. I won't drone on about the Elizabeth Tower, it's all terribly familiar, plus I wrote a special 150th anniversary post back in 2009. But if I were writing more I'd likely have mentioned the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, the 334 steps, the double three-legged gravity escapement, the Ayrton Light and the fact that each clock face is made up of 312 pieces of opal glass.
I have far too many photos of the clock tower - most tourists do - but not many good ones showing the frame and hands restored to Prussian Blue following the recent major restoration. This photo was taken yesterday morning amid the crowd of tourists massing on Westminster Bridge, each jockeying to get Pugin's erection in the perfect spot behind their grinning face. I'm quite chuffed to have got an aeroplane instead.
2) Royal Liver Building
Diameter of clockface: 7.6m
Area of clockface: 45.3m²
Length of hands: 4.3m/??m
Number of clockfaces: 4
First operated: 22nd June 1911 at 1.40pm
The runner-up clockface is in Liverpool atop perhaps its most iconic landmark, the Royal Liver Building, a twin-towered bulwark on the Pier Head. It was originally built as the head office of an insurance company, the Royal Liver Assurance group, and forms part of the 'Three Graces' along with the Cunard Building and Port of Liverpool Building. Three of its clockfaces are on the tower at the Mersey end while the other faces the wider city. Because the mechanism first whirred into action at the precise moment of the Coronation in 1911 they're sometimes known as the George Clocks. All are numeral-free. The real stars here are of course Bella and Bertie, aka the Liver Birds, two copper cormorants firmly chained to their domes lest they blow away and bring bad luck to the city. Each is taller than a minute hand and has a wingspan wider than a dial.
Sorry there's a halfmast flag in my photo, indeed there are two, but that's because Cilla Black was laid to rest on that particular day in August 2015 and the city was taking it very seriously. A much better view is now available looking up from the 10th floor of the Liver Building as part of an immersive experiential tour, but not from the 15th floor because that's immediately above the clockface so you have to stare out across the former World Heritage Site instead.
1) Shell Mex House
Diameter of clockface: 7.62m
Area of clockface: 45.6m²
Length of hands: ??m/??m
Number of clockfaces: 2
First operated: 1932
London takes the clockface crown by the narrowest margin, barely an inch, at the youngest building on the list. This is Shell Mex House, necessitated by the merger of Royal Dutch Shell and the British Petroleum Company, and is today known as 80 Strand because officefolk have no sense of history. It was built on the site of the Hotel Cecil, once Europe's largest hotel, and faces the River Thames across Victoria Embankment Gardens. The architecture is full-on symmetrical art deco, fronted with gleaming Portland stone and topped by a squat buttressed clocktower. The clockface isn't particularly decorative, being little more than twelve black blobs stuck to the wall in a circle, but it does have a simple charm. Its innards were also built in Thornton Heath, now by Gillett & Johnston, and as a giant oil company clock it soon earned the nickname 'Big Benzene'.
Sorry I can't tell you how long the hands are, this being the least-well-documented of Britain's largest clocks. Also my sincere apologies that I can't bring you a rare shot of the clockface from directly underneath. I was once invited to an event on the 10th floor where I was delighted to find doors that led out onto a small Thames-facing balcony immediately under the clock, but alas these were the days before phones routinely came with cameras. My close-up encounter with the very big hands impressed, but even better was the panorama up and down the river because Shell Mex House is perfectly located on the outside of a right-angled bend. Britain's biggest clockface, it turns out, has the finest view of all.
posted 02:00 :
Saturday, October 28, 2023Two NW London suburbs (and thus two tube stations) are named after lumps of rock at the side of the road. Let's visit both.
The Weald Stone, Wealdstone
What? The Weald Stone is a humpy lump of sarsen stone approximately the same length as a sleeping human.
Where? Not in the centre of Wealdstone where I'd always assumed it'd be, but on the High Road in Harrow Weald outside an Indian restaurant.
Why? Nobody knows. Sarsens aren't naturally found on the Middlesex scarp, but the southern extent of glaciation is hereabouts so it might have been dumped by the ice, else ancient peoples moved it here for some reason.
When? Nobody knows. The first recorded mention of the rock is in the reign of Henry VII when it was important enough a landmark to be described in legal documents as 'le stone'. And it's still here.
Nearest station? Bear with me. When the London and Birmingham Railway opened in 1837 Harrow was the first stop after Euston. But it wasn't that close to Harrow which at the time was clustered around the famous school-on-the-hill a mile to the south. Neither was it particularly close to Wealdstone, a mile to the north, which was then a tiny hamlet with a farm, a smithy, a pond, some cottages and an ancient sarsen stone. But a more commuter-friendly Wealdstone duly grew up closer to the station, which in 1897 was renamed Harrow and Wealdstone, and that's now where all the main shops and services are. The old Wealdstone is better known these days as the hub of Harrow Weald, itself a sprawling suburb where the chief transport focus is the bus garage just up the road opposite Lidl. And OK, the closest station to the Weald Stone is marginally Headstone Lane, but it makes more historical and geographical sense if you pretend it's the interstitial node of Harrow and Wealdstone.
Whence? The rock's not always been where it is now. It disappeared from public record between 1547 and 1834 although must have been around long enough to give the hamlet its name. It was then rediscovered during the building of The Red Lion, the second pub on this site, and placed outside by the road (perhaps as a mounting block). When the pub was re-rebuilt in 1934 it was moved again, I think to its current location, although the road junction shows every sign of being remodelled since.
Whither? Other than the Weald Stone there's nothing historic hereabouts, only a mini-roundabout, some local shops and a Waitrose whose architect seems to have had a Teutonic castle in mind. If you want a kebab, a dental implant or a seven-horse accumulator you're in the right place. Alas The Red Lion stopped being a pub in 2016, or hurrah if what you'd prefer is a curry as it now exists as a cafe/bar/restaurant called Bombay Central. This has spread out onto the High Road with outdoor seating across what used to be a parking bay, so the Weald Stone now sits at the foot of a curved black fence emblazoned with adverts for Diwali fireworks. Alas the restaurant is currently closed following a catastrophic water main burst under the High Road in June and won't be reopening before mid-November, if they're lucky. Being a lump of rock the Weald Stone weathered the inundation without damage and you can still see it, touch it, sit on it, stand on it or even tie your shoelaces on it.
How? For further background information, Londonist has you covered.
The Whetstone, Whetstone
What? A squarish block of limestone, two foot by two foot, resembling a large grey cough lozenge.
Where? At the heart of Whetstone beside the big crossroads, again on the High Road but a completely different High Road, outside a traditional pub.
Why? Nobody's sure. But the true reason is almost certainly not the Civil War-related reason the Victorians thought it was.
When? Nobody knows. As with the Weald Stone the official Historic England listing just says "indeterminate antiquity", but it's almost certainly the younger of the two.
Nearest station? Totteridge and Whetstone, which is just down the hill in the Dollis Brook valley. The village of Totteridge is to the west and the estates of Whetstone are to the east.
Nearest vehicle? A red Honda CR-V, 2007 vintage (annoyingly for photographic purposes).
Whence? The village of Whetstone grew up after the Great North Road was diverted here in the early 14th century. Its name may have derived from the Whetstone or, less thrillingly for today's subject matter, it may have been a later corruption of West Town. Legend says that soldiers on their way to the Battle of Barnet in 1471 sharpened their swords on the Whetstone, the very definition of a whetstone being a stone to sharpen blades. However Finchley historians are more convinced that it's a mounting block, perhaps placed in situ in the 18th century when riders needed to dismount outside The Griffin Inn to pass through a tollgate on the turnpike. Additionally the stone was once thought to be 14 foot deep, but a council inspection in 1905 confirmed it was merely resting on the surface. All in all it's a bit of a disappointment, probably, but still a significant relic in the locality.
Whither? There's been a pub at this crossroads for over 500 years, although the current The Griffin is a 1930 rebuild. You can sense the longevity of the road by its width, with the Whetstone positioned on a lengthy traffic island added to aid traffic filtering left. This is a potentially vulnerable location so two thin bollards protect the block to either side, neither of which stand upright suggesting they have a valuable role to play. The neighbouring horse trough isn't original, alas, it's a granite replica added in 2020 and filled with bedding plants. Whetstone's residents enjoy some fairly decent retail options hereabouts including fireplace showrooms, yet another Waitrose and cafes where they give you a little biscuit with your coffee. But it's not all classy, with the massive hulk of former office block Barnet House smashing any heritage illusions, and that's before it's been converted into 260 flats. Given the money you'd live in Totteridge, but if the choice were Wealdstone versus Whetstone then you're in the right place.
How? For further background information the Friern Barnet & District Local History Society have installed a fact-dense information board beside the Whetstone, and if I sounded well-informed earlier it's mostly thanks to them.
posted 07:00 :
Friday, October 27, 2023Modern life, eh, it's not what it was. People are so badly behaved these days, they get away with so much and it's incredibly irritating. So many things aren't as good as they should be because rules are ignored, adults are selfish, children have no respect, officials are thoughtless, processes are slapdash, systems are inadequate, corners are cut, property isn't respected, and standards aren't met. The world has gone to pot.
And when things aren't right we love to point this out and tut, perhaps with our friends and families, perhaps over a pint in the pub, perhaps on social media, perhaps just rolling our eyes at a passing stranger as yet another minor misdemeanour rubs us up the wrong way. It feels so good to vent our frustrations and get them off our chest.
But what can be hard is when you're up for a further moan but have run out of things to tut about. So today I'm providing a list of 200 angry grievances and petty annoyances which you can call up at any time online. Simply Google the word 'grumpytutters', surf to this blogpost and carry on putting the world to rights as you work your way through my list.
You need never be stuck for conversation again.
Vandalism caused by so-called graffiti artists, potholes, businesses that don't take cash any more, businesses that don't do contactless yet, miscreants who jump ticket barriers, so-called 'pies' that are just stew with a pastry lid, modern so-called pop music, the impossibility of booking a driving test, the colour of your new passport, putting the clocks back in the autumn (why can't they just leave them alone?).
The way teenagers look at you these days, shrinkflation, people who listen to music on public transport without using headphones, the unfairness of the scoring system on Strictly, the state of your local town centre, hire bikes abandoned in the middle of the pavement, football matches should be at 3pm on a Saturday and it's not been the same since Sky came along, public convenience deserts, trying to get past the receptionist to book an appointment with your family doctor.
Youths who walk around suspiciously with their hoods up even when it's not chilly, stamps with barcodes on them, people who post spoilers online before you've had the chance to watch the finale, trying to find the end of the sticky tape, what the BBC are doing to local radio, roaming charges since Brexit, hedge fund asset strippers, consultations in name only, QR codes, you can hear every footstep through the ceiling since they took their carpet up.
Queue-jumpers, overflowing litter bins due to council cutbacks, plastic bags of dog mess hanging from bushes, people who use strimmers before 9am, idiots who cross the street while watching videos on their phones, adverts during cricket matches, the £7 pint, the £8.99 dessert, unexpected items in the bagging area, after Woolworths closed you could always buy one at Wilko and now you can't even do that.
The impossibility of getting onto the housing ladder, the interest rate they charge on your student loan, ULEZ, fortnightly bin collections, nobody holds doors open for you any more, facial piercings, there's no actual news in local newspapers any more, Twitter, what Elon Musk has done to Twitter, have you tried to find an NHS dentist recently?
MPs just can't be trusted, grown adults who still write its instead of it's, the extortionate price of car insurance, trying to find an electric charging point, having to write annual objectives, impossibly narrow aisles on trains, onshore wind farms, "your call is important to us", trying to understand the customer service agent when they're obviously on a different continent, Vernon Kay isn't Ken Bruce is he?
People who get their phones out in the cinema, people who talk all the way through a film, multiplying bus lanes, packages they definitely didn't try to deliver, the Americanization of Halloween, parking apps, menus with prices to one decimal place, it's not a font it's a typeface, the silly names they give to storms, kids called Jaxxon.
Surreptitious vaping, intrusive cookie option pop-ups, built-in obsolescence, LTNs, hotdesking, you won't believe what they replaced my supermarket order with, HS2, Voter ID, seven bins, bants.
White milk bottle tops, trying to attract the waiter's attention, those new Quality Street wrappers, politicians who say "what the British people really want is...", free museums that make you file in past a cash desk, cyclists who abuse the pavement, businessmen who buy football clubs, no I was not trying to write 'ducking', the decline of public firework displays, they didn't clean this hotel room properly did they?
When the car goes very slightly wrong but you can't fix it yourself any more, legroom on planes, the nearest bank is now miles away, I'm sure I've seen this episode of Pointless before, water companies dumping sewage, gambling adverts everywhere, "hoping this finds you well", unwanted Bounty bars in tubs of Celebrations, petty officialdom, people who ring when they could have messaged.
Autoplay before you can do anything to stop it, hospital parking fees, Christmas starting much too early, computers updating in the middle of a critical piece of work, electricity bills going monthly, headphones that needed charging but you didn't realise, toilet seats left down, "going forward", the BBC weather app is never right, the news is always so miserable these days.
When they expect you to have a smartphone, when they expect you to have a printer, dangerous dogs, it would have been quicker to walk to the takeaway rather than waiting for them to deliver, having to listen to what somebody else thinks, vegan bacon, having to knock up a costume the night before World Book Day, American spellings in Wordle, mortgage rates, Eurovision voting patterns.
I swear there are more adverts on YouTube now, hidden airline charges, shrinking library opening hours, mansplaining, promotional Black Friday emails, apps that no longer do reverse chronological order, the scandalous cost of childcare, smart meters, lists that don't actually contain the number of items they say they do, people who tut all the time.
Inconsiderate wielding of rucksacks, sports highlights that are mostly chat, influencers, excessively-repeated announcements on trains, films that nudge three hours, craft beer, the brain-numbing predictability of daytime TV, excessive repetition of the word 'like' in youthful conversation, yet another gambling advert, life hacks.
People eating smelly food on public transport, opinion expressed as fact, muzak, TV shows you can only watch if you take out yet another subscription, chewing gum on pavements, shops wanting to email your receipt, "train stations", unnecessary recaps during documentaries, the increasing prevalence of subscription over ownership, cheese and onion should be in a green packet.
Spitting in public, restaurants that don't take bookings, restaurants that only take bookings, dumbing down, intrusive background music, people who slow down just before the ticket barrier as they fire up their smart device, celebrities presenting documentaries in lieu of experts, delusional nostalgia, the general acceptance of austerity across our public services, superfluous emojis.
Videos in portrait rather than landscape, irresponsible e-scootering, light pollution, enforced use of self-service checkouts, 'bags for life' that people only use once, public enquiries as delaying tactics, first world problems, people who say 'everyone' when they mean 'I', repeated exhortations to use a smart speaker, GB News.
Drivers who don't indicate at junctions, "reaching out", leafblowers that merely move the problem somewhere else, chuggers, mumblers, lurkers, being expected to watch an instructional video rather reading a transcript, lengthy recorded waffle at the start of customer service calls, activists trying to save the planet, not trying to save the planet.
posted 07:00 :
Thursday, October 26, 2023I always keep my eyes peeled for a new tube map, even when one isn't scheduled. So I was surprised to see a cover I'd never seen before in the rack at Bow Road station yesterday morning. It was mostly black, and they don't make tube maps with mostly-black covers so I thought that was odd. I wondered if it might be a new night tube map, although they haven't printed one of those since 2018. So I picked up a copy, indeed I picked up two, and that turned out to be all the copies there were.
The design on the front cover was a photo of tracks in a dark tunnel, maybe close to a station, with the edge of a blurred face on the lefthand side. There was with a quote at the bottom.
"There is nothing artistic about what you do"It was printed on thicker paper than usual, so that was immediately suspicious. And the biggest clue was the date on the cover, which didn't say October 2023 like you might have expected, it said TOX23.
Judge Peter Clarke QC
TOX is a graffiti artist, or profligate tagger, real name Daniel Halpin. He's been leaving his tag all over the tube network (and all over London) for many years, scrawling TOX plus the last two digits of the year on walls and surfaces of all kinds. When it was 2004 he wrote TOX04, when he got arrested in 2011 it had been TOX11 and this year it's TOX23. It's fair to say Judge Peter Clarke QC was no great fan, sentencing him to 27 months in custody much to TfL's delight. But that didn't stop him tagging ubiquitously after he got out, and neither have fences, razor wire, CCTV, live rails, security patrols or seeming inaccessibility. As one London Underground manager once said, "I don't know where you can't see a TOX tag – they are in places even I don't know how to access."
And now he's making tube maps.
Unfolding my copy I found a very different design - eleven coloured lines spray-painted on top of each other and left to drip. The Circle line's on top, having been painted last, and I think either the Metropolitan or Northern line went down first. It's an impractical mess, but simultaneously far less cluttered than the usual version - an attempt at a work of art.
A TOX23 tag is included, confirming authenticity, and underneath that an extremely cheeky use of the Art on the Underground logo. The most provocative message is in the bottom right hand corner:
To see more work by the artist,I like the index, which across two panels lists all 272 tube stations in a font size large enough to actually read, with no additional faff like step-free cycle-parking toilets. Other lines are also summarily ignored, along with the footnote *DLR, Overground and Elizabeth Line don't exist. Many tube map purists might agree.
take the tube.
You might have seen the original TOX23 tube map canvas at the Beyond The Streets exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery earlier in the year. Its official title is Underground (Analogue) and it was also available as a limited edition print (officially an "11 colour, layered archival enamel ink screenprint"). All 100 copies are now sold out, which at £300 a time will have been a nice little earner. One of these prints recently sold for £1792 at Bonhams.
And I picked up my map for nothing. Keep your eyes peeled.
posted 09:00 :
Three weeks ago a pasta-delivery company announced they'd be giving away free pasta outside five tube stations on October 25th to celebrate World Pasta Day. This is the kind of marketingbolx that various media platforms adore, and Time Out, Metro, Secret London, AOL, MSN and the Newham Recorder were amongst those who obliged with a carb-packed write-up.
The pasta pros will be dishing out free carbs to commuters at select tube stations between 11:30am and 1:30pm on Wednesday October 25. On offer will be 1000 classic dishes including carbonara, beef shin ragu, spicy arrabbiata and wild mushroom pasta. They'll also be rebranding partaking stations with punny pasta-fied names.The rebranding of tube stations infuriated many people. "So tacky it's embarrassing," said one. "I think it's a sad indication of the value put on London's Underground when it is left with such gimmicks to raise funds for essential maintenance of the system," said another. "Sounds like a load of old bolognaise to me," said another.
It will see Farringdon transformed into Farfallingdon, Clapham Junction become Claphamellini, and Fulham Broadway change to Fusilli for the day. Plus, Tooting will rebrand as Tootelloni and Camden Town will become Camdenlloni Town.
The business in question also produced a tube map showing the five renamed stations, which they circulated to interested parties and hosted on a bespoke page on their website. And my word, these are utterly appalling renamings.
Camdenlloni Town is barely pronounceable. Farfallingdon is plain contrived. But they are at least recognisable as the original name they replace, which is more than can be said for the recent 'Burberry Street' renaming debacle.
The south London contingent was far worse.
Fulsilli Broadway is indeed silly, and intriguingly not the same name that went out in the press release which was plain Fusilli. Claphamellini was meant to reference capellini, a pasta shape resembling strands of hair, but ended up as a stringy mouthful. At least Tootelloni looks a lot like tortelloni... but which station is it meant to represent?
According to the press release the rebranded station was Tooting, but that's not a tube station, it's on Thameslink. The map makes it clear it's supposed to be on the Northern line, but not whether it's Tooting Bec or Tooting Broadway. Clapham is even more ambiguous - the press release said Clapham Junction but the roundel on the map could be Clapham North, Clapham Common or Clapham South. Everything pointed towards a ballsed-up campaign.
A couple of days before the big giveaway the bespoke page on the company website disappeared, along with the invitation to "find your nearest free pasta tube station on the map". But the news media continued to remind their readers of the giveaway, so it was hard to tell if it was off or on.
I visited three of the stations yesterday lunchtime, or at least I think I did, and I can confirm that none of them had rebranded in any way and no free pasta was being given away outside. It's possible that practical considerations caused the company to withdraw, it's possible that licensing the sale of streetfood proved tougher than they expected, and it's possible that TfL screamed "you can't do that" and everything fell apart.
Whatever the reason, the good news is that none of the brand abominations actually occurred, nobody earned a pretty penne and we are not yet scraping the bottom of the sponsorship barrel. Indeed it may never have been an official TfL campaign in the first place, but I wouldn't put it pasta them.
posted 07:00 :
Wednesday, October 25, 2023The latest exhibition at Gunnersbury Park Museum is called Set To Stun and is all about designing and filming sci-fi in West London. A lot of plastic props and alien beings have been created in the boroughs of Ealing and Hounslow, and slightly wider afield, so this is a chance to see them up close. Unusually the exhibition's only taking place because the public crowdfunded it to the tune of £15K, but that's post-Thatcherite funding cuts and geeky devotion for you. Pick up a guide and you'll see there are three dedicated rooms, one upstairs and two down, and also several original artefacts scattered around the display cases elsewhere. The exhibition's free and is open until June so there's no need to rush, and if you're of a certain age and of a certain bent expect to go "oh I loved that" at regular intervals.
This is an Imperial Dalek from Remembrance of The Daleks which was first broadcast in 1988. I loved Remembrance of the Daleks, everybody did, it's the famous one where a Dalek climbs a staircase for the first time, and that was quite a shock I can tell you. It might even have been the Dalek in this display case that did the hovering, they made four white ones for this series in the BBC VFX Department in Acton so it's a 25% chance. I was out the night they broadcast the first episode, but thankfully they'd invented video recorders by then so I watched it the following day over breakfast, and little did I guess I'd eventually meet the author who wrote the classic elevation scene and see the actual Dalek in a case at Gunnersbury, though admittedly on the ground floor.
This is Star Bug from Red Dwarf, a model spaceship which first appeared in season 3 in 1989. I loved Red Dwarf, it was like nothing else on TV even though it was really a standard odd couple sitcom but in space. It had that grimy spaceship aesthetic, some of which was in the script but most of which came from BBC VFX at 250 Western Avenue W3. Star Bug's first mission involved Kryten piloting Rimmer to an alternative Earth where time ran backwards, this also being the episode in which Hattie Hayridge took over being Holly. I described it in my diary as "v good". Meanwhile in the background is one of the robots from The Robots of Death, a Doctor Who serial first broadcast in 1977. I loved The Robots of Death, it was like an Art Deco whodunnit set in space although I was only 11 at the time so I'd have loved anything Tom Baker was in. The robot's eyes still flash red, which is potentially scary until you read underneath that the costume is made from a green shower curtain.
This is a tripod from The Tripods, the classic sci-fi serial from 1984/85. I loved The Tripods, I'd already taken out the fictional trilogy from my local library and devoured the lot long before the BBC decided to televise them. It was always going to be a hugely ambitious task, given how alien the plot got, but I see now they used CSO Blue backgrounds superimposed on top of Surrey villages and life-size model legs for close-up encounters. Sadly I missed the first three episodes at the time because canal boats and weddings don't have TV rooms, and the BBC missed the entire third series because critical reception was poor and the money ran out. Meanwhile in the adjacent case is Davros from Resurrection of the Daleks, the 1984 Docklands reboot, plus two miniature TARDISes from Matt Smith's last episode (2013) and the Children in Need abomination Dimensions In Time (1993). Nobody loved Dimensions in Time because mixing 3D with EastEnders was a terrible error.
This is a Moon buggy from Star Cops, a lunar police drama from 1987. I liked Star Cops but it rarely thrilled me so I wasn't too distraught when it was cancelled after just one season. More excitingly the guns in the drawer underneath are from Blake's 7, the first from a single episode in 1981 and the second often seen in the hands of a Federation Trooper. I loved Blake's 7, I watched it religiously every week and have watched it all the way through twice since, even the embarrassingly bad quarry shootouts. I love that the top gun has actually been in the same studio as Jacqueline Pearce, the queenly Servalan, but not in her hand because she always preferred a sleeker Acton-built model. Be sure to look at the weapons in all the other drawers because Joan Sims waved that rifle, Adric faced that gunbarrel and Kryten fired that pistol.
This is the actual Marvin The Paranoid Android as envisioned for TV in 1981. I loved The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy, the first series on the radio was like nothing I'd ever heard before. I still have the second series recorded onto C60 cassettes, and although it's brilliant it's not quite as brilliant as Douglas Adams' initial masterwork. Admittedly this metal robot isn't quite how I'd envisioned Marvin, it's Jim Francis's vision as knocked up on Western Avenue and filmed at Ealing Studios. But it now spends most of its time at Gunnersbury Park Museum so you can see it any time, including the little stickers on the front that say 'GPP' (Genuine People Personality) and 'Sirius Cybernetics Corp'. What's new for this exhibition is the amazing detail that Marvin's chest unit had previously appeared in Blake's Seven series 3 episode 1 and before that as a communicator panel in the living quarters in the film Alien.
This is a display of Star Wars toys and costumes, as sold in the shop Jedi Robe in Northolt. I loved Star Wars, but not to the extent I started spending enormous amounts on every element of memorabilia. It's also a mantlepieceful of prosthetic heads, not from actual TV or film but created by students at Delamar Academy in Ealing. It's also an original silver Cyberman, circa 1967, alongside a photograph of seven Cybermen waiting for a number 65 bus outside Ealing Studios. I always preferred Cybermen to Daleks because dehumanisation felt much scarier than extermination. It's also the actual storyboard from The Invisible Enemy, the 1977 serial which introduced K9. I loved K9, though perhaps not his TV spinoff where he rattled round a devil-worshipping village. It's also a bookcase full of Doctor Who annuals, plus the actual Astrakhan hat William Hartnell wore in the series from 1963 to 1966 (plus out of sight underneath a set of Doctor Who Top Trumps and a Tom Baker jigsaw, not to mention the WH Allen Doctor Who knitting pattern book).
This is an exhibition for sci-fi fans of a certain era, to be honest mostly gentlemen, and is already proving popular with gentlemen of a certain era, plus children who look like they might be gentleman of another era later. To the many crowdfunders who made it all possible we collectively thank you. And if you don't think it's for you because it won't make you go "oh I loved that" at regular intervals, the regular museum includes alternative delights like the bus pass used by Stanley Green the Protein Man who carried his placard up and down Oxford Street for over 25 years. Beam down to Gunnersbury Park and experience a universe of history.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, October 24, 2023A Nice Walk: Putney Sculpture Trail (1½ miles)
Sometimes you just want to go for a nice walk, nothing too taxing, a bit of a stroll, lots to see, pretty views, tidal waterside, pockets of history, nine bronzes, multiple refreshment opportunities, entirely step-free, won't take long. So here's a pleasant mile and a half along the Thames in Wandsworth, nowhere near enough to make a day of it but a nice walk all the same.
In the 1980s the sculptor Alan Thornhill made a bronze sculpture called Load and donated it to the people of Putney, who promptly positioned it on the Embankment near Waterman's Green. Twenty years later he donated eight more, which were spread out along the riverfront either side of Putney Bridge to create the Putney Sculpture Trail. It's easy to follow, a pleasant promenade with nine sculptural forms to spot, and most of the plinths include a small plaque with a map to help you on your way. [jpg map] [pdf map] [Google map]
1) Fall (by Alan Thornhill)
If walking east to west you start off in Wandsworth Riverside Quarter, an upthrust of unaffordable apartments promising contemporary living in a vibrant oasis. Come for the dining opportunities, the direct Clipper service to the West End and a burgeoning service charge. The first sculpture has been placed on the promenade beside a small manicured lawn and a row of freestanding adverts for estate agents, eyebrow twirlers and epicurean evening classes. Alan's bronze comprises two entwined bodies, or appears to because "the sculptor asks you to view the sculptures with an open and enquiring mind, without preconceptions of either form or meaning". If you're here before lunchtime the adjacent Lebanese restaurant is more than keen to sell you a coffee, and later in the day a full-on meze platter.
2) Pygmalion (by Alan Thornhill)
A short stroll along Lightermans Walk, past candystripe moorings, brings you to the gates of Wandsworth Park. Alan's second sculpture lies just beyond, at the start of a magnificent avenue of plane trees which overhangs the promenade. The best way to identify the front of each sculpture is to look for the plaque on the plinth, which in this case is on the riverside side, although to see the knobbly mammary protrusions you'll need to walk round the back.
3) Nexus (by Alan Thornhill)
The park contains one more sculpture, located halfway along the far side where Thames Path strollers will never see it. Either cut bravely across the grass, stepping carefully because I've seen how many dogs exercise here, or take the perimeter path past the tennis courts and the minigolf. That's £1.08 per hole, so entirely skippable. Nexus supposedly faces the football pitches, whose white lines were getting a repaint yesterday, and has its collective back towards a parade of what used to be twelve shops. Today all but four have become homes, the survivors being a Korean takeaway, a convenience store, a pet groomers and a motorcycle service centre which goes by the peculiar name of Gambier Reeks.
Homes hug the waterfront along the next stretch so you won't be seeing any sculptures for a while. First exit the park via Blade Mews, whose residents are insistent cyclists get off and walk, although my brief experience is that few oblige. Then enjoy Deodar Road's quirky Edwardian villas, the odd-numbered of which are (or have been) home to a veritable wikipageful of famous people. If you divert up the steps onto Fulham Railway Bridge you can look down onto their rear facades, variously extended, and note that the essential garden accessory hereabouts is an orange lifebelt.
4) Motherfigure(by Alan Thornhill)
5) Punch and Judy (by Alan Thornhill)
Turn right at the British Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and you'll find yourself in Putney Wharf. Before Putney Bridge was built this was where the cross-Thames ferry moored up, and if the tide's out you can still walk down the cobbled slipway onto the Thames foreshore. An old brewery also survives, scrubbed up into a Youngs pub, and a lot of Putneyites come here to graze and sip. But mostly this is a dense mixed-used development overlooked by what used to be ICL HQ and which is now a steep bulwark of stepped flats. Alan's sculptures are located near two of the entrances, one plausibly suckling a babe in arms and the other believably a battling couple.
6) The Turning Point (by Alan Thornhill)
This bronze, another entwined couple, has been plonked outside Jubilee House - a Seifert and Partners office block currently occupied by the Metropolitan Police. It does however feel somewhat lost amongst the hubbub of Putney High Street, just around the corner from the Odeon Luxe. Surplus wealth is in evidence, as exemplified by a sourdough pizzeria and two neighbouring cocktail bars, but also cheaper chains like Burger King and Snappy Snaps. For history you want St Mary the Virgin, the church at the southern end of Putney Bridge, where in 1647 the New Model Army sat down with the Levellers to discuss the future political direction of the Commonwealth. These days it's more a social hub with cafe, and not a cheap one, but the interior's well worth a look if the doors are unlocked.
7) Load (by Alan Thornhill)
This is Alan's original sculpture, the hub of the trail, and resembles a crouching snog. So it's a surprise to find it in a scrappy location at the top of Putney Embankment outside a postmodern wedge which hosts the Thai Square restaurant. The lingering cones and worksite are because the Thames Tideway crew are still clearing up after building a connecting shaft 36m deep to divert the Putney Bridge Combined Sewer Overflow. It's already possible to walk out onto what's poshly described as 'foreshore' but is more a slabbed rectangle embedded with umpteen access covers.
Initially I thought it quite bland, with a single cylindrical-ish monument at one end, but a closer look revealed a smattering of additional artiness. A short poem climbs one side of the pillar, too brief to deliver its intended meaning. The railings are cast in bronze from oars. And a black line inscribed across the granite marks the precise starting line for the Boat Race, which bears off from the original stubby stone marker on what used to be the riverbank. Look out for all this on TV next Spring.
8) Horizontal Ambiguity (by Alan Thornhill)
That's an excellent title, Alan, because this is a flattish sculpture and I'm not sure what it represents. The head count wasn't right for the number of limbs, however hard I looked at it. You'll find it at the foot of Thames Place opposite the Duke's Head, close to numerous roadsigns warning that the Embankment is susceptible to tidal flooding so park carefully. To reach the final sculpture you then have to walk between a lengthy stretch of boathouses and a sloping concrete slipway. This is London's premier rowing hub, complete with chandlery and several public school outposts, so don't be surprised if you have to dodge wet bobs from Dulwich or Wimbledon carrying upturned quads back from the water.
9) Exodus (by Alan Thornhill)
The last sculpture resembles many of the previous forms (although this time with what appears to be a small body on the shoulders of a larger body). It's located bang in the middle of Leader's Gardens, a small public park, surrounded by what looks like a circle of young acers planted to celebrate the Coronation. Feel free to celebrate completion of the trail with a cuppa and a bacon bap from the chalet in the trees. It's called LooLoo's Cafe, but this turns out to be a poor choice of name because they've had to stick up two signs saying We Do *Not* Have a Toilet. And when you're done you should head off down Festing Road, casting a knowing glance at number 52 which you may have seen multiple times on BBC children's TV. That's because illustrator David McKee lived nextdoor and used it as the inspiration for Mr Benn's house on 'Festive Road', but that's an entirely different artistic adventure.
» Nine full-size photos on Flickr
posted 07:00 :
Monday, October 23, 2023
We can all agree that the Royal British Legion does excellent work supporting ex-service personnel and their families, and that their annual Poppy Appeal is an inspirational fund-raising exercise. We can all agree that the Royal British Legion does excellent work supporting ex-service personnel and their families, and that their annual Poppy Appeal is an inspirational fund-raising exercise.
But do we really need TfL slapping poppies on the front of trains several weeks before Remembrance Sunday?
So it's praiseworthy to see TfL already sticking poppies on the front of trains in readiness for Remembrance Day.
This is a DLR train pulling into All Saints last Thursday with a big red poppy on the front. This is nothing new, TfL have been sticking poppies on the front of trains for years. But it's only mid-October for heaven's sake and Poppy Day is more like mid-November, so whose idea was it to slap on the stickers so prematurely? Waiting passengers must have swelled with pride as this DLR train approached, perhaps bowing their heads in memory of battles fought and lives lost. It's always an emotional time, the first poppy-stickered train of the year, so it must be best to stick them on as early as possible to maximise the period of remembrance.
What's more they've even stuck them inbetween the carriages, at the blank ends where you can't pretend you're driving the train. Nobody needs poppies interspersed on the grubby windows mid-train, this is totally unnecessary signage for added the sake of it. Indeed precisely how many of these sticky red shapes have they spent our fares on when the money could have instead gone on something genuinely practical?
How great to also find poppies stuck to the windows inbetween the carriages. It wouldn't be right for people sitting in the middle of the train to miss out, scrolling obliviously on their phones instead of musing on heroic self-sacrifice. Also these 2- and 3-carriage trains must sometimes be reassembled into different combinations, so this over-stickering ensures that no unpoppied train will ever shame our city.
The key date in all this is Remembrance Sunday, the day on which all official commemorations are held and which this year falls on November 12th. The key date in all this is Remembrance Day, the true anniversary of the Armistice, the common sense option which always falls on November 11th.
And Remembrance Sunday is still three weeks away, a lengthy period which also contains the distractions of Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night. What is the point in kicking off our season of remembrance quite this early when the genuine focus of commemoration is so far distant? Even the Royal British Legion haven't launched their Poppy Appeal yet, it'll start this Thursday by which point these stickered DLR trains will have been running for over a week.
And Remembrance Day is less than 20 days away, a tantalisingly brief period in which to give our national heroes their due. We should be remembering their sacrifice for much longer, ideally at least a month, so that the distractions of Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night don't dim our appreciation and our pride. The Royal British Legion really ought to launch its Poppy Appeal much earlier than 26th October, indeed it seems TfL may have got it right.
It's not just the DLR that's slapped the poppies on, it's also Crossrail. Scores of their trains have also been red-stickered, again prematurely, clashing colourwise with the usual purple trim.
It's not just the DLR that's been bepoppied, it's also the Elizabeth Line. Not all these trains yet have stickers, which is somewhat remiss, but what a beautiful sight on London's newest line.
These poppies aren't on the front because that's pointy and it would look stupid. Instead they appear on the side of the driver's cab where even those waiting behind platform doors will see the premature aberration pass as the train grinds gently to a halt. It's a shame these poppies aren't on the front of the train in a position of pre-eminence, and also that they only appear at one end rather than both. How much better it would be if, like the DLR, every carriage had at least two stickers, preferably more.
It's possible these stickers emerge so early because some budgetary jobsworth insists on getting their moneysworth. "If we're going to add poppies to trains again this year", they might argue, "at least let's display them for a lengthy period of time." This would fit with the fact they're never removed from trains immediately after Remembrance Sunday either, often lingering into late November or, where depot staff are particularly lazy, well into December.
For those who revere the poppy as a symbol of ongoing respect - often seen wearing pin badges and decorated jackets all year round - the stickering of London's trains can never come soon enough. It might therefore be appropriate to decorate our trains from Trafalgar Day onwards, i.e. from 21st October, even though no veterans from this key battle are still supported by the British Legion, and to retain them until Churchill's birthday on the last day of November.
The tube is also getting in on the act, as seen here on the front of a Metropolitan line train arriving into Moorgate. But here it seems the stickers have not been consistently applied, with the Hammersmith & City train alongside remaining resolutely poppyless.
The tube is also getting in on the act, as all right-thinking passengers would rightly expect. But the stickering is often disrespectfully slapdash, as here at Moorgate where one train has been correctly stickered while the other is offensively blank-fronted.
Does anybody, on seeing a train with a poppy on it, seriously pause to remember a fallen comrade, reflect on the resolve of the human spirit or consider the futility of war? At least we haven't yet reached the ridiculous situation where every bus in London tours the streets with a poppy on the side for the best part of a month, at least not yet. It stirs the soul to be reminded, with every train we take, of the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation and the ongoing conflicts the brave lads in our armed forces continue to face. If only all London's buses could be similarly emblazoned, not just the occasional all-over vinyl, how much stronger our collective remembrance would be.
This pointless pandering to patriots is being foisted upon our transport system for an unnecessarily extended period of time, inexplicably defined and which is somehow equivalent to over 5% of the calendar year. And all this for a commemoration which officially lasts just two minutes, or two minutes twice if the populist November-11thers get their way.
This excellent annual crusade imposes remembrance on the masses through the simple act of sticking a poppy on the front of trains, reminding everyone of the selfless souls who died to save our future. The campaign can never start soon enough, nor should these stickers be unpeeled too early if our heroes are to receive the long-term respect they deserve.
It's only right and proper that we remember, but nobody's memory is best commemorated by cheap red stickers slapped nonsensically on the sides of trains over three weeks in advance.
Until TfL can be persuaded to provide more consistent impact by leaving the stickers on all year, the earlier they appear the better, ideally long before we can buy one ourselves.
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