diamond geezer

 Wednesday, January 31, 2024

31 unblogged things I did in January

Mon 1: I watched the New Year fireworks from the western edge of Canary Wharf, and they were a bit small and the Shard got in the way but at least I celebrated midnight at the right time, rather than slightly delayed on the telly.

Tue 2: After watching the first episodes of The Tourist and Mr Bates vs The Post Office yesterday, it was obvious today that only one was worth carrying on with. Sorry BBC, well done ITV.
Wed 3: I have since been back to the A24 to check the pubs I appear to have missed, and yes you're right the Mayfair Tavern is totally obvious if walking in the opposite direction. That adjustment would make the 24th pub The Rifleman in Epsom instead, and that would have been a much better place for a pint if only I'd realised.
Thu 4: My Morrisons Experience: The family-sized chicken pie was supposedly half price according to the label on the shelf but it came up as full price at the till, and this is one advantage of self-scan because I aborted my purchase and put it back.
Fri 5: I walked up to Fish Island to see the flooding by the lock, but all that remained were some leftover floodlights, a couple of sandbags and folk on Dace Road clearing out their studio bucket by bucket.

Sat 6: The blogpost I didn't write: The history of Sussex Ring, Woodside Park. Apparently the avenues in this swirl of pre-war semis were named after Sussex villages because the developer came from Sussex. I don't think there'd have been much more to say.
Sun 7: Every time I open up my email I keep my fingers crossed a certain email isn't there, and this evening it was, and I fear it's now annual.
Mon 8: I don't know where you were when the snow arrived and flurried for half an hour and didn't settle, but I was in Welling.
Tue 9: That wasn't my best day, it was expensive and I think I have a developing issue and I didn't sleep well and they'd sold out of cucumbers.

Wed 10: The blogpost I didn't write: The Hartley Memorial Obelisk on Putney Heath. I stumbled upon this redbrick oddity in the woods by Tibbet's Corner, an unusual memorial to the man who invented fireplates in the 1770s, a security technique which so impressed the City that they paid for this gushing tribute which now lurks beside the A3.
Thu 11: I caught the bus through Harrow School at lesson changeover time and wow, the seething mass of boaters was incredible. But on the way back again ten minutes later, you'd never have known.
Fri 12: I was really sorry to hear about the death of Annie Nightingale, a pioneering DJ for whom new music was always number 1. She was somehow still broadcasting regularly on Radio 1 in her 80s, but for many of us will always be the eclectic accompaniment to doing our homework on Sunday evenings.
Sat 13: They have a cunning solution to mitigate the number of potholes in Mogador.

Sun 14: I caught an Overground train from Stratford to Watford Junction. Not all the way, you understand, but just so I could say I had.
Mon 15: The post is now so terrible/irregular that my electricity bill (please pay within 14 days!) took 10 days to arrive.
Tue 16: The blogpost I didn't write: A comparison between the shops in Dulwich Village (brunch, boutiques, art supplies) and the shops on a typical parade anywhere else (fried chicken, barbers, vapes).
Wed 17: I always think TV news is at its most tedious when it leads with a story about how a family doesn't think justice has been done, and it's not even the first time they've said that. Kick off with something that matters.

Thu 18: The Welcome to Bexley sign on the Crayford/Dartford border is sponsored by Stone4Life kitchen worktops, and I think this sums up the borough better than their official motto 'Boldly and Rightly'.
Fri 19: That's the coldest it's been in my living room first thing in the morning since 2019. It's been quite the cold snap this week, and yet it's still not icy or frosty outside. Maybe one of my neighbours who used to have their heating pumped up has moved out.
Sat 20: I enjoyed the Radio 4 series The Children Are Alt Right, ostensibly an investigation into youth politics across Europe but in truth a fascinating analysis into why how we vote changes.
Sun 21: Today I found a bus stop still displaying a timetable for route 10 which was withdrawn in 2018. Normally you might allow TfL some leeway for overlooking an anachronistic timetable in an obscure location, but this bus stop is in the middle of Oxford Street ffs. Please pay more attention.

Mon 22: At the library I'm continuing my alphabetical journey through classic authors. For C I picked Agatha Christie, for D Roddy Doyle and for E Bret Easton Ellis. So far Agatha's the only one whose book I've finished.
Tue 23: The Great British Rail Sale - up to 50% off a million advance tickets - wasn't as Great as I was hoping. I could get to Shrewsbury on the cheap but not back. I could come back from Sunderland on the cheap but not get there. But I did manage to find three new farflung towns to visit (average ticket price £4.40), so look out for reports in the next few weeks.
Wed 24: The blogpost I didn't write: Multiplicative dates. Damn, I forgot until it was too late. But today was the first of seven 'multiplication dates' in 2024, more than any other year this century.

Thu 25: After five years I've finally reached the end of The Crown, having watched all six seasons round at BestMate's because he has Netflix. It was definitely over-Diana-ed, and increasingly obviously fictionalised in the latter years, but I thought the final scene in (what was supposed to be) St George's Chapel was a narrative masterstroke.
Fri 26: Well done Harry, although if Mollie had been a logician she'd have seen Jaz's bag burn red and deduced he wasn't a Traitor and then shared the money, but it's all too easy afterwards.
Sat 27: Thank you for your speculative email. I will not be plugging your Monopoly-related podcast, sorry, nor am I subsequently interested in appearing on it.
Sun 28: The blogpost I didn't write: The Fishmongers Almshouses in Wandsworth (mainly because they were demolished in 1923 and replaced by council flats, and all I know about them I read on a plaque by the gates).

Mon 29: The blogpost I didn't write: Is this London's dreariest park? I speak of Aylands Open Space in Bullsmoor, a drab slab of grass frequented by straining dogs, centred round a pylon, a drained paddling pool and a prefabby shed. Maybe it looks more appealing in July.
Tue 30: The Mayor has already tweeted about his Off-Peak Fridays fare trial 15 times, and he hasn't finished yet. That said, his free school meals pledge is currently on 37 tweets and maybe he's over-bashing his big themes at the moment.
Wed 31: I can't believe today is the last ever edition of Stereo Underground on the BBC. It's regularly the most downloaded local radio programme but it doesn't fit the new remit so it's been thoughtlessly ditched. Good luck to Richard Latto relaunching on Mixcloud but gaaah, it's just not Radio 2 enough for Radio 2 nor 6Music enough for 6Music.

 Tuesday, January 30, 2024

This is one of the toughest decisions I've faced recently.
Left or right?

This is the entrance to the public conveniences under the Fulham Broadway Retail Centre.

I got it right in a couple of seconds, after I'd thought "what the hell are those?" and "why have they drawn an ice lolly?" and "hang on one of these must be male" and "oh I see what they did there" and "what a bloody stupid pair of symbols", and I turned right.

I should point out that I'm not in the habit of photographing public conveniences. But the toilets at Fulham were very quiet, and I made sure nobody was coming in or out, and I didn't have to hang around waiting because they really were very quiet, and this is the outside of the toilets anyway, and the same will also be the case during the remainder of this post, because rest assured I'm not in the habit of photographing public conveniences.

I mulled it over afterwards and tried to decide why the symbols were so difficult to decode. It might have been that the differential had been reduced to an absolute minimum. It might have been the lack of a head, because a head would have made the symbols look more human. It might have been the fact that each symbol only had one leg, aligned centrally where nobody has a leg. It was probably all of these, but mainly the fact that the designer had prioritised cleverness over clarity.

This is the entrance to the new toilets at Ealing Broadway station.

These are the standard pictograms for toilets - if you see this pair you know exactly what's being pointed towards. Each has a head and two legs, which definitely helps. That said, they differ only in that one has a 'skirt' and one doesn't, which is exactly the same single difference as at Fulham Broadway. Through years of familiarity we've been hardwired to associate the correct door with whether or not the symbol has a skirt, despite many women not wearing them, and certainly not skirts that short, and what's to stop anyone wearing or not wearing a skirt these days anyway.

They're not brilliant symbols but they work.

These are the public conveniences on Botwell Road in Hayes. They're a lot older, indeed quite primitive, but a welcome leftover from the days when local councils provided public conveniences as a matter of course.

They also display the usual pictograms on light fittings by the entrances, one with a skirt and one without. But these are quite small and quite distant from the pavement where you have to make your decision, so I imagine many with poor sight might accidentally go the wrong way if this were all that was provided.

Thankfully the good folk who designed these conveniences looked ahead at this possibility and also wrote the name in words. The sign above this gate says Ladies and the sign to the right, out of shot, says Gentlemen. The ironwork looks old enough that it might have been Hayes and Harlington Urban District Council who first did this, and I thank them for their common sense. I cannot get 'Ladies' and 'Gentlemen' wrong, it's much better than relying on symbols.

That said I did once make a total mess of going into the correct toilet at a museum in Paris. I don't have a photo of it, not least because I was utterly mortified.

The words on those doors were in French so didn't immediately register in my brain. I'm not inept at French, I got an 'A 'in it and I know the French words for Ladies and Gentlemen. But I don't think they used those words, they used something unfamiliar, and because French is only my second language I walked into the wrong one. Words on toilets aren't actually the slamdunk we might think they are, not if they're words you don't recognise.

Some pubs are awful at naming toilets in a readily identifiable way. For a laugh they write 'Cocks' and 'Hens', or 'Stags' and 'Hinds', or 'Sausage' and 'Eggs, or far far worse. And whilst it may be a hilarious talking point the last thing you want to find when you're half-inebriated and dying for a wee is a word puzzle leading to salvation or embarrassment.

These are the toilets above The Mall in Walthamstow.

They too are using words but very annoying words, namely Womens and Mens without apostrophes, which must be enough to make grammar pedants pause for breath and perhaps refuse to enter. Then above this they've used a symbol for the disabled toilet and nappy change area, combining the two so it looks like an amusement arcade grab machine. Words for one and symbols for the other is not the way to go, especially when both are entirely non-standard.

The perfect toilet identifier uses proper words and proper symbols, one to nail for certain which is which and the other for the benefit of those who can't read the words. Proper words that make it clear whether you're about to face urinals or just cubicles, and proper symbols that don't leave you second guessing whether you're about to enter the wrong one. We need fewer jokes and fewer minimalist graphics, and indeed probably more toilets.

When I'm walking towards the divide at a set of public conveniences, all I want is for it not to be ambiguous which way to go. Sort it out, public realm designers.

 Monday, January 29, 2024

The fares post

The Mayor made an announcement yesterday about trialling off-peak fares on Fridays.

It was odd because he doesn't normally announce things at the weekend.
It was odd because it's only a three month trial.
And it was odd because it's not a done deal, he's merely asked for the trial to happen which it might or might not.

Here's the start of the press release.
• Off-peak journeys on Fridays could transform the morning commute for Londoners and provide a welcome further boost to London’s economy
• Midweek Tube ridership is now at up to 85% compared to pre-pandemic levels and is continuing to grow, but Friday ridership remains lower at around 73%
• The move forms part of wider plans to ‘revitalise Fridays’, working with businesses, the hospitality sector and other key stakeholders to encourage more Londoners back into the city on Fridays to make the most of all London has to offer
The plan is to charge off-peak fares all day on Fridays. Fares-wise this would make it an extension of the weekend. It'd mean charging off-peak fares from 7pm on Thursday until 6.30am on Monday, which is just half an hour away from being exactly half a week.

It'd also mean losing out on a fair slice of peaktime fare revenue, that is unless it's hugely popular and a lot more people travel. Coming on top of the recently announced fares freeze it's more good news for travellers but less good news for TfL's accountants.
"The trial is expected to begin in March and last for three months."
It'd almost certainly start on 3rd March because that's the appointed day for other fare increases, and thus end at the start of June. You don't need to be a cynic to spot that the Mayoral election occurs precisely two months into the trial.

The Mayor's press release states that a Zone 6 → Zone 1 journey would cost £2 less (down from £5.60 to £3.60) and a Zone 4 → Zone 2 journey would cost 90p less (down from £2.80 to £1.90). An Uxbridge to Westminster commuter could save £52 over the course of thirteen off-peak Fridays. The Mayor's press release does not state that a Zone 1 tube journey would cost just 10p less (down from £2.80 to £2.70), a measly saving. Nor does it mention that bus passengers, tram passengers and Heathrow-bound passengers will save nothing.

And here's the catch.
"The trial will need the support of the wider rail industry and early discussions about this and the technicality of how it will work are now underway."
The Mayor can do what he likes with TfL fares, but tweaking rail fares across Zones 1 to 6 is beyond his remit so he needs the rail operators to agree to take the hit and charge less on Fridays. They also need to agree whether the benefit will extend to any stations outside Greater London or indeed outside zone 6. Might it look unfair if commuters from Epsom are paying peak fares on Fridays while commuters from Epsom Downs are travelling off-peak? The trial is no done deal.

Whatever, the Mayor has got several big names in the commercial sector and hospitality industry to say how brilliant the trial would be, so if it doesn't happen a lot of hopes will be dashed.
"Muniya Barua, Deputy CEO at BusinessLDN, said: “Experimenting with Friday fares is an innovative step that could help encourage some hybrid workers back into the capital, in turn supporting businesses that rely on footfall. It will be interesting to see if this will be enough to change habits that have become engrained since the pandemic for the many Londoners who can choose to work from home.”
Beware hypothetical trials announced at the weekend just before an election. And keep your fingers crossed this one happens.

The temperature post

Yesterday the UK recorded its warmest ever January temperature: 19.6°C at Kinlochewe.

Kinlochewe is a village in NW Scotland, about halfway between Skye and Inverness. It sits at the head of a loch and is also surrounded on three sides by mountains, so is precisely the sort of place where the Föhn effect might boost temperatures on a windy day. The high temperature was a very localised phenomenon - only the northwestern coast of the Highlands topped 15°C, and the east coast barely scraped double figures. But it's still extraordinary to hit almost 20°C in January, and it's not the local geography that's changed, it's the climate.

More extraordinarily yesterday didn't just exceed the previous record, it smashed it. The previous January maximum was 18.3°C, a temperature jointly recorded in 1958, 1971 and 2003, and this is 1.3°C warmer. A change of this magnitude shouldn't normally happen. It's similar to what happened in July 2022 when Coningsby recorded 40.3°C, the UK's highest ever temperature, beating the previous record of 38.7°C by over a degree and a half.

I thought I'd look back at the years in which the UK's monthly temperature records were last broken. For July that's 2022 and for January that's now 2024. Here's the full list.

When the UK maximum monthly temperature record was last broken

Years in the last decade are underlined. There are five of these, i.e. almost half our monthly records have been broken in the last 10 years. Every month from November to February has been upgraded since 2014, suggesting that winter extremes are being affected more than summer extremes.

When the UK minimum monthly temperature record was last broken

Years in the last decade are underlined. There's only one of these, indeed the monthly minimum temperature record has only been broken once this century. Look more carefully and you'll see it's only been broken twice in the last 40 years, whereas in the same period the record for maximum temperature has been broken seven times.

In summary, when it comes to monthly temperature records we've been breaking a lot more maxima than minima recently. It doesn't prove the climate is heating up, not in itself, but it is self-evidently the direction of travel you'd expect if it was. I wonder which monthly record will fall next?

 Sunday, January 28, 2024

We often say somewhere is "in the shadow of" something without it necessarily being true.

» Coventry is in the shadow of Birmingham - technically no.
» Stratford is in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium - not really.
» Crawley is in the shadow of Gatwick Airport - only metaphorically.

The sun does not cast a shadow from the first location to the second, that's not how daylight works, so these places are not "in the shadow of".

Which got me wondering which places genuinely are in the shadow of somewhere else.
Or more to the point, where do you have to be to have a shadow cast upon you?
And I think this question has a brilliant but extraordinary answer, spatially speaking.

Let's start with something familiar in the centre of London - Nelson's Column.
Where could conceivably be "in the shadow of" Nelson's Column?

First important thing - Nelson's Column is 52m tall.
Its shadow isn't going to reach Buckingham Palace no matter what happens.

Second important thing - we need a formula for the length of a shadow.

 Length = height ÷ tan α 
(where α = angle of elevation of the sun)

So it all depends how high the sun is in the sky.
Don't worry, I'll do the maths.

On the longest day of the year the sun reaches a maximum elevation of 62°.
The formula gives a shadow length of 52 ÷ tan(62°) = 52 ÷ 1.88 = 28m
A shadow of length 28m is pretty small, but that's the minimum it ever reaches on a sunny day.

On the shortest day of the year the sun reaches a maximum elevation of 15°.
The formula gives a shadow length of 52 ÷ tan(15°) = 52 ÷ 0.267 = 195m
That's more like it. A shadow of length 195m is easily long enough to hit the National Gallery.

Of course the sun is often a lot lower than that, especially close to sunrise or sunset.
Technically it reaches 0°, i.e. the horizon, but buildings around Trafalgar Square block sunlight that low down.

Let's say the lowest the sun ever gets in Trafalgar Square is 4°.
The formula gives a shadow length of 52 ÷ tan(4°) = 52 ÷ 0.087 = 600m
That's long enough to hit Piccadilly Circus or Covent Garden but not Tottenham Court Road.
In reality, however, intermediate buildings would stop a 600m shadow from getting that far.

But another important thing to consider is compass direction.

This is the statue of Charles I, the official centre of London.
It's only 40m from Nelson's Column but it's also due south.
The sun never ever shines from north to south, not in the northern hemisphere.
This means the shadow of Nelson's Column is never going to hit the statue, never ever.

Let's summarise.
Shadow pointing west: around sunrise, so shadow quite long.
Shadow pointing north: sun at maximum elevation, so shadow quite short.
Shadow pointing east: around sunset, so shadow quite long.
Shadow pointing south: never happens, so no shadow

Things in the shadow of Nelson's Column: Trafalgar Square, Canada House, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, St Martin-in-the-Fields, Charing Cross station
Things not in the shadow of Nelson's Column: Charles I statue, Admiralty Arch, Whitehall

If you want to play around and have a go with this yourself, this map is set up to show the shadow of Nelson's Column at noon on 21st December.
Move the yellow circle at the top between sunrise and sunset to see the shadow change length and position.

And I've set up this map to show the shadow of Nelson's Column at noon (GMT) on 21st June.
See how short the shadow gets in the middle of the day.
Zoom out and you can see just how far the shadow stretches just after sunrise or just before sunset.

Ok, let's turn our attention to London's tallest building.
Here's the actual shadow of the Shard, as seen from the observation deck.

I took this photo just after noon at the end of January.
The tip of the Shard has just about reached Monument station.
Due north, this is almost as far as the Shard's shadow ever stretches.
And this is for a 310m tall building!

Again I can let you play around with this on a map.

Let me generalise so I can try to delineate the Shard's potential shadow.

For an extremely long shadow it needs to be sunrise or sunset.
And the direction of sunrise and sunset changes throughout the year.

This diagram shows the direction of sunrise and sunset in London on the 21st day of each month.

In winter, sunrise in London is roughly southeast and sunset is roughly southwest.
In summer, sunrise in London is roughly northeast and sunset is roughly northwest.
Everywhere inbetween these extremes can be the location of a sunrise or sunset.

The red sector shows everywhere that can be hit by a post-sunrise shadow at some point in the year.
The blue sector shows everywhere that can be hit by a pre-sunset shadow at some point in the year.
The red and blue sectors are all "in the shadow of".

But the 'south' sector can never be in the shadow of.
And the 'north' sector is sometimes in the shadow of, but only some of it and only around the middle of the day.

Here's how that looks when you apply it to the Shard.

Everywhere in the west and east sectors can be in the shadow of the Shard.
Nowhere in the southern sector can be in the shadow of the Shard.
And in the northern sector only a boomerang-shaped strip can be in the shadow of the Shard.

Sorry the curve's a bit wonky, my drawing program's not up to drawing hyperbolas.

And to summarise all that, this is the pattern you get if you superimpose every possible shadow over the course of a year.

Everywhere in black is potentially "in the shadow" of the Shard.

A similar pattern applies to smaller buildings, just over a much smaller area.
I have to confess this is not the shape I was expecting.

We often say somewhere is "in the shadow of" something without it necessarily being true.

 Saturday, January 27, 2024

Yesterday was one of the ten busiest days ever on this blog. Almost ten thousand people turned up.

But it had nothing to do what I wrote yesterday, it rarely does when this kind of thing happens. People don't flock here in large numbers because I've been cutting edge and on trend, they pour in because somebody's spotted something I wrote a while ago.

• When an American website got excited about the location of pylons in London they linked to something I'd written 4 days earlier. That was my 3rd best ever day.
• When that same American website got excited about the number of candy shops on Oxford Street they linked to something I'd written 28 days earlier. That was my 8th best ever day.
• When Reddit got excited about the History Trees in the Olympic Park (what on earth are they?) they linked to something I'd written 746 days earlier. That was my best ever day.
• When the QI Elves pointed folk towards my definitive list of tube stations where it's quicker to walk they linked to something I'd written 949 days earlier. That was my 7th best ever day.

And I've just smashed that longevity record with something I wrote 1390 days ago, which is almost four years. Again it's Reddit that's flooded folk my way and again it's a peculiarity in the Olympic Park.

"Why would the blocks be laid out like this on a closed road?" asked a Redditor called cool-passata.

That's my photo but it's very similar to their photo, except mine was taken last summer and theirs has twice as many concrete blocks. It looks like the blocks have been multiplying.

The thread got upvoted over 800 times on the London subreddit r/london and currently has 254 comments.

As usual their threaded system has filtered the best comment to the top and that comment is
» Allows access for bikes but prevents racing other vehicles?
These three comments provided added background.
» There was a big problem with people riding motorbikes up and down it a couple of summers ago before these concrete blocks up and down it for hours after dark. Source, live 5 mins walk away and got very annoyed with them.

» This is the correct answer. I used to play tennis at the Olympic centre across the road by the hockey pitches. Motorbikes would be doing donuts and wheelies etc for hours on end on this road so they put these blocks there around 18 months ago to stop it. Interestingly if you look the other way from the bridge where this photo was taken there are no concrete blocks, so not sure why the bikers don't just do it in the other section of road?!?

» Correct, we used to hold huge eskate races here... DAMN LEGO BLOCKS.
I said this last summer, not on Reddit but on my blog ("Now littered with concrete blocks to prevent wheeled anti-social types enjoying it too much"), but that's not why everyone turned up.

People turned up because someone remembered I'd written a post about this unusual road during lockdown, and that got traction.
» Check out this post for more information. It's pretty interesting.

» Damn, that is some blog. Looks like almost daily blogs going back to 2002.

» Wow. To think this is hidden from most people somewhere deep in the web.
I don't like to think of my blog as 'hidden' but it clearly is, because if you live in the world of mainstream social media/scrolling apps/chatboards/forums you're not going to stumble on it by mistake. Not unless someone points it out - thanks YU_AKI!

It got nicer.
» Ohhh my darling friend, welcome to the wonderful world of diamondgeezer! And yeah you’re right, he’s maybe missed 5 days of blogging in the last 10 years. An absolute legend, known only to a very nerdy cult following of about 40k (?) people.

» That’s amazing that he so little known. He does sound like a Diamond Geezer.
I haven't missed 5 days of blogging in the last 10 years, I've missed maybe 1. Also my 'very nerdy cult following' isn't about 40k, it's rarely even 10% of that. But yes, this does count as 'little known' amidst a London population of approximately 9 million. I'm not complaining.

The Reddit thread featured another top comment which said pretty much what I said in 2020 and 2023.
» The road has been closed for absolutely ages, it's odd considering it was built only a little over a decade ago that there doesn't seem to have been any long term plan for it. Or at least not one that has been followed through on. Sometimes you see film crews there, other than that I don't think it has anything close to an official use.

There was a consultation a few months ago about what to do with it. I think it's most likely that will basically become green space and adopted by the park, but with how much it dips down under the footbridge (because it was designed to accommodate tall vehicles) and also with the A12 running parallel it might be challenging to try and make it an inviting space to spend time.
Northwall Road is a very strange road, and may not be a road for much longer.

But I thank it for giving me this blog's 6th best ever day.

I fear most of those 9244 readers will never be back.

 Friday, January 26, 2024

For two decades Euston had a very long departures board across the front of the station concourse.

You'd stand there watching for your platform to be announced and then rush forward to catch your train. A large expectant crowd often gathered.

At the end of 2022 it was switched off to be replaced by two new departure boards in the centre of the floor space.

They're digital not LED. They're brighter but smaller. They only fully display the next six departures. They're double-sided. And they're aligned perpendicular to the original board, which has divided those waiting into four separate groups and supposedly improved circulation around the concourse.

If you feel the need to tell us you would have set the boards out differently, either moan pointlessly into this comments box or get a job with Network Rail's stations team where your opinions would be of actual relevance. comments

Last spring Network Rail set about dismantling the old departures board, briefly revealing some old branding behind it.

And in its place they installed a single, very very long digital display.

The new screen was up and ready in November, an ominous black rectangle awaiting content.

It's now been fully switched on for the first time.

And not unexpectedly it's an advertising screen, blazing down non-train-related content.

The first advertiser is OVO Energy, an electricity supplier keen to tell everyone about Britain's energy mix. They've paid a not inconsiderable amount to display the percentage of energy currently sourced from wind/solar/etc, and obviously to plug themselves, in a carousel which goes round and round and round while you wait. It's horribly unavoidable.

The worst phase is the green phase, illumination-wise, although the white splash and animated swirling are terribly distracting too. And yes, admittedly the original departures board was bookended by advertising but this is on another level, bludgeoning its message onto a captive audience.

Sit at the back of the concourse on the nasty airport-style seating and you can see the advert clearly but not the times of the trains. Sit on the mezzanine nibbling overpriced Leon snacks and the OVO message burns into your soul whereas the departures display is awkwardly lower and side-on. What have we become when the font size in a pointless advert is umpteen times larger than the number of the platform that'll take you to Manchester?

I get why Network Rail have done it - it's because they need the money. A massive advertising screen will bring in more commercial revenue and help mitigate funding cuts which might lead to less long-term maintenance or ultimately higher fares.

But viewed objectively it can't be a good thing to deliberately flash irrelevance across a major transport hub to the detriment of genuinely useful information. When did public service take second place to commercial interest, why is that even a consideration and how have we got here?

In part it's how the railways are - the current government hates railways and loathes long term investment - but the railways are just part of it.

It's been going wrong for decades, a prolonged squeeze on public services across the board diminishing the things we need, an insistence on value for money that's resulted in paring back rather than enhancement, a grim determination to tighten the purse strings, a long-term policy of 'austerity' used simply as cover for cuts, a mindset that instinctively steps back instead of offering support, a selfishness that stems from the very top of politics, a blinkered drive to reduce taxes at all costs, an expectation that commercial interests will fund necessities, an earnest willingness to withdraw what the private sector could provide, an insidious rightward shift in the Overton window, the Eric Pickles-ation of public finance, forever kowtowing to what business wants, the abdication of society, a relentless drive towards Trumpian uplands, an obsession with cutting taxes because you think that's all the electorate will tolerate, an attitude so entrenched that even the opposition can't escape it, a narrowing of optimism in favour of petty penny pinching, a meathead urge to scrimp now and leave the future for others to tidy up, a deeply depressing abdication of community, a prolonged ideological constriction because voters think they want more money in their pockets, a ruling party left free to shrivel public services to the point where not even the most committed alternative could patch them up, a succession of budgetary shrinkers, a cabal of corrupt politicians letting shareholders off the hook, a philosophy of spend less and stuff the consequences, a decade and a half of I'm alright Jack, a creeping economic dystopia, a society off balance, a Tory government in power for far too long, an electoral error we need to put right.

It's not about whether the new information boards are in the right place, it's why they've been replaced by something screamingly worse.

And how we stop that.

 Thursday, January 25, 2024

50 posts I won't be writing

• My tattoos
• Facebook top tips
• What's cheaper, Uber or a taxi?
• The Heysham Ferry
• Secret messages in wifi codes
• Roadtesting scampi fries
• Are storm names woke?
• The pretty trees of Lamb's Conduit Street
• Cute - an exhibition
• Microwaving tea
• Cutting back on postal deliveries
• Bureaux de change
• Embracing the paleo diet
• Super Bowl predictions
• Birmingham's wind turbines
• The Wetherspoons menu, ranked
• All the pubs I went to in 1999
• The Southampton Model Railway Exhibition
• Manholes of Bexley
• Otters chasing a butterfly
• A ride on bus route 297, but in the dark
• Affordable housing in Hendon
• I remember the Kardomah restaurant
• Cultivating snowdrops
• The Ancient Oaks of Salcey Forest
• The 118th birthday of Eastcote station
• Globalised patient pathways
• Retracing Terry and June
• Siemens Combino trams
• January's fried chicken launches
• Grooming your moustache
• Are litter bin apertures too small?
• Bleeding radiators
• Why are there no 4-digit palindromic primes?
• How I order my bookshelves
• Cattle grid dimensions
• Thursdays in January 1984
• Name that Sutton station
• What's the best bin night?
• The ban on traffic turning right from Baylis Road
• How The Traitors might end
• National Express to Worksop
• The correct way up for Hobnobs
• M26 sliproads
• Embracing oat milk
• London's most common tree
• The evolution of TV screen dimensions
• Susan Stranks - a typical Sagittarius
• London's lost swimming pools
• Where cats go during the day
• 10 guttering tips

...except that's actually 51...
...so I will be writing one of them...

Retracing Terry and June

The BBC sitcom Happy Ever After evolved into Terry and June in 1979, for copyright reasons. Both featured Terry Scott and June Whitfield as the quintessential suburban couple, engaged each week in wafer-thin inoffensive plots of minimal jocularity. Nevertheless Terry and June garnered impressive audience figures and ran for nine series until being quietly retired in 1987. In the show they lived in Purley, at the fictional 26 Elmtree Avenue, but in real life the exterior shots were filmed in Cheam. In later series the opening credits featured a collapsing sun lounger on the patio, which never got funny despite week-on-week repeats. But the really memorable opening sequence was in the first couple of series when the two of them walked round Croydon town centre 'hilariously' missing one another [video]. Let's see how retraceable that is.

The credits open with Terry arriving at British Rail's East Croydon station, which back then was the original building, not the steel and glass framed box which replaced it in 1992. Meanwhile June is outside the Fairfield Hall, again at least two rebrands away from the current building. Both are checking their watches. As the camera pans back from Terry we see Richard Seifert's NLA Tower, known colloquially as the Threepenny Bit Building, a unique addition to Croydon's high rise skyline in 1970. And as June steps away we see Nestle's towering HQ, a 1964 bulwark now mid-demolishment and pencilled in for flats. The first fifteen seconds are truly showcasing Croydon as a modern bustling hub, Seventies style, and Purley alas doesn't get a look in.

Then we're off to the Whitgift Centre, a shopping mall almost ten years old at time of filming and still open to the elements (its roof wouldn't arrive until after the sitcom ended). June is riding up the escalator looking one way while Terry strides oblivious along the balcony behind - a set piece you can still recreate today, although with less direct sunlight. The scene jumps to June in a park of some kind... my money's on Queen's Gardens... then back to the Whitgift for more comic misdirection. Suddenly June is crossing a street, most likely somewhere she'd get knocked down by a tram today, and finally Terry makes his way along a row of three red telephone boxes before finding June in the last one. It'd never happen today in an age of mobile phones, but how lovely to have this blurry video postcard of postmodern Croydon immortalised in sitcom canon forever.

 Wednesday, January 24, 2024

An interview with Liam Fennell, TfL Bus Rescheduler

DG: Hi Liam, tell us what you do.
Liam: Hi, I'm the guy who slows the buses down.
DG: I've always wondered who that was.
Liam: It's quite a responsibility!
DG: So how does that work?

Liam: You know when you're on a bus, pootling nicely towards your destination? And then the bus pulls over and you hear the dreaded message "The driver has been told to wait at this stop to even out the service"? That's me, that is.
DG: You're the one who recorded the message?
Liam: No, I'm the man who tells the driver to wait.
DG: Literally the most evil man in London.
Liam: Oh I wouldn't quite go that far. Somebody's got to do it.

DG: Where are you based?
Liam: I work in at the main TfL building in Southwark. I could do it from home but in this job it's all about speed of connection so it's best to do it in the office. I have a great view of the Imperial War Museum.
DG: How big is the team?
Liam: No it's just me. It's quite a responsibility, you know.

DG: I always thought the drivers just decided to stop and wait of their own accord.
Liam: Oh no, somebody actually instructs them to do it and that someone is me.
DG: Is there a secret radio earpiece or something?
Liam: Not since 2007, no. Nowadays it's all done by electronics and transmitted from a central location. That small box to the left of the driver, that's where it all happens. If I want the driver to wait I send a message to the vehicle and a small orange light lights up.
DG: I've seen it but I've never seen it, if you know what I mean.
Liam: Well you wouldn't normally see the light light up, not if you're a passenger, it's quite low down.

DG: How does the driver know how long to wait?
Liam: We used to do it by flashing the light once for one minute, twice for two minutes and so on. But that got quite imprecise - drivers weren't counting the longer waits properly - so now there's a digital display.
DG: I can see that would be an improvement.
Liam: It's very clever, it counts down from however long the wait is, and when it hits zero the driver can close the doors and carry on again.

DG: What's the longest you've ever told a driver to wait?
Liam: Normally it's one or two minutes, otherwise you risk annoying the passengers. I once had to stall a bus in Hounslow by nine minutes, but that was when I was new to the job and now I'd do that by ordering three three-minuters at consecutive stops.
DG: To be fair that's also really annoying.
Liam: Yes, but also less likely to inspire a passenger mutiny... three minutes is about as far as you can stretch it.

DG: Why do you do it?
Liam: Two reasons, but mainly it's the timetable. If a bus gets too far ahead of schedule it throws the timetable out of sync.
DG: But this is London and nobody looks at the timetable, they check on an app or just turn up.
Liam: We have an entire department dedicated to writing timetables and they spend ages juggling spreadsheets against best fit congestion scenarios. It's my job to make sure their hard work isn't wasted if the traffic's too light or too few passengers flag the buses down.

DG: And the second reason?
Liam: Maintenance of headway. Same as it ever was.
DG: Please explain.
Liam: It's all about the gaps between buses... you never want them to get too long. My job is literally to "even out the service", that's why it says so in the announcement. If it's supposed to be a ten minute frequency then ten minutes it should be. Every time I see it's got to twelve or thirteen I contact the driver in front and get them to slow down. Sometimes I get an itchy trigger finger on eleven, but my boss considers that to be overkeen.
DG: What happens if the gaps get too short?
Liam: Well then I slow down the bus behind. There's always a way, and it always involves making journeys longer.
DG: Wouldn't it be better to improve the passenger experience instead?
Liam: I can't speed up the buses, I can only slow them down.

DG: Hang on, are you monitoring all the bus routes in London simultaneously?
Liam: It used to be like that. I'd scan round the capital from Harrow to Hornchurch and if I saw a bus getting ahead of itself I'd slow it down. Now we have a computer monitoring all 8000 vehicles and it flashes up the worst behaved buses for me to contact, it's much more efficient.
DG: Sounds like a job AI would be perfect for!
Liam: Technically yes. But in reality the human element is crucial, otherwise you'd just end up slowing down half the buses in London and everyone would be furious.

DG: How do you justify delaying hundreds of thousands of passengers by hundreds of thousands of minutes every year?
Liam: Imagine if buses just progressed according to traffic conditions, it'd be anarchy. In a worst case scenario passengers might reach their destinations before they were supposed to and that would never do.
DG: I've never complained about that myself.
Liam: Yes but that's because you're already on the bus. What you never see are all the buses I've slowed down before you boarded them and which you wouldn't have caught otherwise.
DG: Point taken.
Liam: My best work always goes unnoticed.

DG: What's your favourite bus to slow down?
Liam: Anything on a dual carriageway. I love to imagine the faces of the passengers who thought they were going to speed to their destination impressively fast, but then I've made them wait at the end of it.
DG: How do you sleep at night?
Liam: I often don't. Some nightbuses get well ahead of themselves on those empty roads, and someone has to be there to stop them.

DG: I guess you don't realise how incredibly annoying all this is.
Liam: Oh I don't use London buses, they're much too slow. I travel everywhere by train.
DG: Hang on, do you even exist?
Liam: No I'm a figment of your imagination, a personification conjured up so you have someone to curse every time a bus driver pulls over to the kerb and flaps his doors.
DG: You're right, this entire interview has been a fictional outpouring inspired by repeated frustration.
Liam: The driver has been told to wait at this stop to even out the service, again and again and again, forever.

 Tuesday, January 23, 2024

London contains a lot of former airfields.
I spotted this one yesterday in Hornchurch.

As street names go it's a huge clue.

This was formerly RAF Hornchurch, a large airfield in the Ingrebourne valley which played a vital role in defending the eastern side of the capital from German bombers. It first came into service in 1915 when it was known as Suttons Farm, this because it was a farm and the planes touched down on the fields. In 1924 the RAF made the decision to build a proper aerodrome with proper runways, and several squadrons called Hornchurch home. It was thus well prepared for WW2 and saw plenty of action, after which it became Flying Training Command's Aircrew Selection Centre.

After the airfield closed in 1962 the majority was turned over to gravel extraction, and this was later filled in to create Hornchurch Country Park. But the former administrative and technical areas were instead levelled and this part of the airfield was repurposed as a surprisingly large housing estate. They call it the Airfield Estate, and although it's architecturally undistinguished its cul-de-sacs of townhouses with little gardens are precisely the affordable properties many Londoners crave.

• For considerably more history and background information, the website rafhornchurch.com is comprehensively excellent.
• For considerably more history and background information, a nine room Heritage Centre opened on Suttons Lane in 2021 and is currently open at weekends (admission £5).
• London Loop section 23 passes through Hornchurch Country Park past most of the remaining gun posts and pill boxes.
• The Country Park also has a cosy cafe/visitor centre, and is easily accessed from Hornchurch station aboard bus 252.

But in today's post it's the housing I'm interested in, three dozen curling streets occupying land once devoted to planes. Bader Way leads off Deere Avenue leads off Tempest Way leads off Mungo Park Drive. Fairlop Close leads off Manston Way leads off Tangmere Crescent leads off Airfield Way. Harrier Close, Kestrel Close and Fulmar Road all lead off Heron Flight Avenue. If your house is on Drake Mews or Leathart Close you actually live on a former runway.

By my calculations this residential ex-airfield covers 0.3 square miles - about the same size as the East Village development in the Olympic Park. Normally we think about homes under threat from airport expansion but here in Hornchurch it's the other way round.

So I wondered, where else in London do people live on former airfields?

Croydon Airport is the obvious candidate, for two decades Britain's premier airport and the starting point for many a continental flight. A lot of the airfield is still open space with a small slice of runway still visible in the heath off Purley Way. But a substantial portion became the Roundshaw Estate, a mid-60s swirl of concrete council houses, many of which have been rebuilt to higher standards since. 1800 homes were built altogether. The estate layout features a lot of nested closes, and residents of Spitfire Road, Moth Close and Avro Way are amongst those who live on its historic runway.

Hendon Aerodrome was an important centre for aviation from 1908 to 1968, so from the very earliest days until surprisingly late. It started out as an aircraft factory and flying school, became critically important during WW1 and later hosted air pageants that attracted tens of thousands of spectators. It was less well used during WW2 for fear of becoming a suburban bomb target. After closure part of the site became Hendon Police College, part the RAF Museum and the remainder the Grahame Park housing estate with another 1800 homes. Street names here are more pastoral than atmospheric, and this too is now undergoing 'intensification', for which read major redevelopment,

Cricklewood Aerodrome is another. During WW1 this was the site of the Handley Page aircraft factory but an airfield was also built alongside as somewhere to test planes and as a base for one of the very first public airports. But the surrounding area soon built up to the point where aviation became untenable, so in 1929 Handley Page shifted all their flying to Radlett and the aerodrome became the Golders Green Estate. This private estate plumped for hills rather than aviation to name its roads, its spine roads being Pennine Drive and Purbeck Drive, and from above it resembles the whorl of a fingerprint.

Stag Lane Aerodrome was first used for flying training during WW1, after which it was purchased by the de Havilland Aircraft Company. They used it to build aeroplanes including the classic Gipsy Moth, but encroaching housing saw them depart for a larger factory in Hatfield in 1932. Engine production remained in situ rather longer, also since redeveloped, which is why you'll now find a sliver of modern flats within a 30s housing estate just to the northeast of Queensbury station.

A wonderful London Transport poster from 1928 helped me narrow down any further potential candidates. It's an Empire Air Day poster, inviting you to spend 28th May 'at the aerodromes' to 'watch the flying' and 'inspect the planes'. It lists 12 airfields, but...
» I've already mentioned Hendon and Hornchurch
» Halton, North Weald, Brooklands, Hatfield and Gravesend are outside London
» Biggin Hill, Kenley and Northolt are still airfields, not housing
» Hanworth and Heston are, I think, still undeveloped
So what have I missed? It has to be in Greater London, it has to have been a relatively significant airfield and it has to now contain a reasonable amount of housing.

Here's what I've got so far, including approximate size and a link to an old map:
(although some are just blank spaces on the OS map because they appeared on a need to know basis, beware Johnny Foreigner, hush hush)

London's residential airfields
Hendon Aerodrome: 0.35 square miles
RAF Hornchurch: 0.3 square miles
Stag Lane Aerodrome: 0.2 square miles
Croydon Airport: 0.15 square miles
Cricklewood Aerodrome 0.1 square miles

 Monday, January 22, 2024



London's Monopoly Streets


Colour group: brown
Purchase price: £60
Rent: £4
Length: 1 kilometre
Borough: Tower Hamlets
Postcodes: E1

Were the Monopoly board based on today's property prices, rather than 1935's, Whitechapel Road would be the first square. Instead it's the second brown, the more expensive of the cheapest, and like the Old Kent Road is a former Roman road. It's very much the East End's commercial artery, a necklace of small traders and historic institutions with only a few stretches of bland cloned high street. It's always been a magnet for minorities, once Irish, later Jewish and today is the heart of the UK's Bangladeshi community. Let's start at the far end, a mile from the City, at the big crossroads where the Mile End tollgate used to stand.

The pub on the corner is the Blind Beggar, whose notoriety was sealed one Wednesday evening in March 1966 when the Kray Brothers dropped in to confront George Cornell, a former acolyte who'd jumped ship to join a rival gang south of the river. After a brief slanging match Ronnie coolly shot George in the head, and to the police's dismay not one of the pub's regulars was willing to testify against him. There are fewer regulars today, but also a steady drip of curious visitors come to hunt for evidence of bulletholes and to enjoy downing a pilsner by the koi pond. Nextdoor-but-one are the gates of the Albion Brewery, a former Blind Beggar offshoot, although the front building is now flats and the main yard out back is now occupied by a very large Sainsburys.

The five-storey glass box which interrupts the street is Whitechapel Idea Store, the local library, whose striking architecture was nominated for the Stirling Prize in 2006. The escalator which once swept up visitors from the street proved impractical and has had to be closed, but the multiple facilities within greatly boosted attendance compared to the days when it was all just books. As for the hulking concrete block opposite this used to be Whitechapel Sorting Office from which the mail for every E postcode was distributed, and also the eastern terminus of the Post Office's mini underground railway. Closed in 2012 it remains mostly vacant, bar a scruffy parcel collection counter, while a less Crown-like Post Office has been installed in a nearby shop unit slotted underneath the Methodist church.

Whitechapel's famous market stretches most of this end of the street, a linear bazaar flogging fruit and fabrics to a dedicated clientele six days a week. On the seventh day you get a much clearer view of the shops behind, a motley collection with few familiar names, spread to either side of the entrance to Whitechapel station. Most of the units at the eastern end have recently closed pending scaffolded renovation, or perhaps redevelopment, although you can't do much substantial when the District line runs directly underneath. The bookmakers at number 269 used to be a wine bar and before that the Grave Maurice, a classic old school boozer oft frequented by the Krays (and less so by Morrissey). More unprepossessing is number 259, now a sari store and jewellers but in 1884 the very shop in which Joseph Merrick, the 'Elephant Man', was exhibited as a sideshow freak.

A lot has been happening recently on the other side of the street. The Royal London Hospital has retreated to a new purpose-built complex clad in blue glass, and occasionally causes everyone to look up as London's Air Ambulance lands on its tower-top helipad. Meanwhile Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman has adopted the former hospital building as his new town hall, retaining the imposing Georgian facade but little else behind, and a triumphant amalgam of architecture it truly is. The hospital's postwar annexe and the older Outpatients building are next to face the developmental whirlwind with plans to replace them with a 3½ acre 'life sciences cluster'. The labs closest to the Whitechapel Road will rise no higher than four storeys but further back they're planning a seven, an eight and a fifteen.

House: Booth House (153-175 Whitechapel Road)
The Booth in question is William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, whose very first open air sermon took place outside the pub in paragraph two. It's perhaps not surprising then that when his organisation came to open their very first purpose-built hostel for the homeless they did it here on Whitechapel Road. It was designed in the mid-60s using reinforced concrete and didn't so much contain rooms as cubicles, 252 of them, with communal washrooms, canteen and lounge. A millennial refurb made things more ensuite and added that steel-framed frontage, then in 2018 the Salvation Army closed it down and relocated their 'Lifehouse' tenants to a nearby property in Old Montague Street. Booth House is now being targeted for student accommodation (of course it is, see yesterday's post for potential reasons).

What dominates the next part of the street are the golden dome and triple minarets of the East London Mosque. Part paid for by the local community and part by the King of Saudi Arabia, the mosque has been serving a growing community since 1985. Nextdoor is the white-tiled London Muslim Centre with its striking Islamic patterned overhang, and to either side a surprisingly large number of shops catering specifically for worshippers. Clothing, perfumes, religious books, financial solutions and agent-booked pilgrimages are all on offer. See how wide the road is here - room for two lanes each way plus two swooshing cycle superhighways - hence the need for whopping pedestrian crossings.

Hotel: Whitechapel Bell Foundry
Well that was the plan anyway, to convert Britain's oldest surviving manufacturing company into a boutique hotel, but thankfully it hit the buffers. They'd been making bells here since 1570(!), including Big Ben and the Liberty Bell, until the product finally became economically unviable as the country increasingly became new-churchless. Hence in 2017 the owner sold out to a holding company, an American venture capital firm, and they eyed up the site as a 100-room hotel with a pseudo-foundry churning out dinky handbells. Tower Hamlets council gave the go-ahead but the Secretary State thankfully called it in, ending the hotelier's dream, and the building remains unused with an entirely uncertain future. What a waste.

Beyond the foundry some familiar names make an appearance including an Argos, a Tesco and two high street banks. When Starbucks unexpectedly appeared in 2007 it was the East End's very first. The Nag's Head is one of very few two-storey buildings hereabouts, less a pub and more a "gentlemen's venue" where strutting showgirls strip to please. Or so the website tells me anyway. Across the street is Altab Ali Park, a patch of patchy grass named after a murdered Bangladeshi textile worker. It covers the former churchyard of medieval St Mary Matfelon, the original "white chapel" after which the local area is named, which was enlarged several times until the Blitz delivered it a direct hit. And here Whitechapel Road ends, or rather morphs unnoticed into Whitechapel High Street on the final run-in to Aldgate. Nothing else on the Monopoly board comes close.

 Sunday, January 21, 2024

London contains a lot of non-London universities.
I spotted this one yesterday in Uxbridge.

This building is part of Buckinghamshire New University, which is neither new nor in Buckinghamshire.

It's not in Buckinghamshire because it's on the wrong side of the river Colne. Admittedly the boundary's less than 200 metres away but this side of the river has always been Middlesex, then the London borough of Hillingdon, so very much not Bucks.

And it's not new because on the front of the building underneath Buckinghamshire New University it says Est 1891. That would make Buckinghamshire New University over 130 years old, and yet no Victorian university would have called itself that.

What we have here is actually an institution that's climbed the higher education ladder over the years - one of many - repeatedly reimagining itself to gain status. It is in fact a jumped-up High Wycombe low key start-up, originally created to provide evening classes and now dishing out proper degrees. Here's the hyper-trajectory this university's been on.
1891: Established in High Wycombe as The School of Science and Art (using public funds raised from a tax on beer and spirits)
1920: Renamed Wycombe Technical Institute (offering furniture making and cabinetry skills to injured war veterans)
1963: Moved to a new site as High Wycombe College of Technology and Art (now providing a broader technical education)
1975: Merged with Newland Park College of Education to create Buckinghamshire College of Further Education
1989: Became a Higher Education Corporation (taking advantage of new legislation)
1999: Awarded University College status becoming Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College
2007: Gained full University status and renamed itself Buckinghamshire New University
n.b. not to be confused with the University of Buckingham, Britain's oldest private university, who weren't terribly pleased with the name change.
n.b. Famous alumni include Howard Jones, Noel Fielding and Jay Blades (who's currently the Chancellor)

So Buckinghamshire New University has only been a university for 17 years, not 133, and this building in Uxbridge is even younger. It's BNU's Uxbridge campus, one of four, and opened in 2009 to specialise in the training of nurses. Marvellous stuff, but multiply misleading all the same.

All of which got me wondering how many other UK universities outside London have campuses in the capital. Wikipedia suggests there are at least 14 (and you've since added two more, thanks).

1) Anglia Ruskin University: i) East India [2019]; ii) Farringdon
2) Bath Spa University: Hoxton [2023]
3) Coventry University: i) Spitalfields [2010] ii) Dagenham [2017] iii) North Greenwich [2020]
4) Glasgow Caledonian University: Spitalfields [2010]
5) Loughborough University: Olympic Park E20 [2015]
6) Nottingham Trent University: Whitechapel [2023]
7) University of Northumbria: Spitalfields [2014]
8) Staffordshire University: Olympic Park E20 [2019]
9) Teesside University: Olympic Park E20 [2023]
10) Ulster University: Clerkenwell
11) University of Cumbria: East India [2007]
12) University of Sunderland: Canary Wharf [2012]
13) University of Wales Trinity Saint David: i) Kennington [2013] ii) Holborn [2019]
14) University of Warwick: The Shard [2014]
15) University of the West of Scotland: East India [2016]
16) York St John University: East India [2018]

...and two due to open over the next couple of years...

17) University of Portsmouth: Walthamstow [2024]
18) Sheffield Hallam University: Brent Cross [2026]

Most of these incomer universities are quite recent, indeed BRU's 2009 campus in Uxbridge is one of the oldest. They also cluster in central and east London, most notably in Clerkenwell, Spitalfields, Docklands and the Olympic Park. Half of these universities have a presence in Tower Hamlets, which might help explain why the borough has the youngest population in the country.

What's on offer at these campuses can be quite specialist, for example financial education, MBAs, fashion, programming, even e-sports. They can also be relatively small, a transplanted satellite facility with limited teaching staff, library resources and social opportunities. Some are really franchises, not part of the university proper. But when they work they benefit everyone, not least the developers of stacky student accommodation.

And why are these provincial universities in London? Mainly to attract international students and their unregulated tuition fees, because it's a lot easier to persuade them to spend a year or three in a throbbing world city than to entice them to the wilds of Leicestershire or Wales. Your average British student, unless parentally flushed, is more likely to run a mile from the expense of London living.

Also these branches don't always last. The University of Liverpool opened a London campus in 2013 focusing on architecture, accountancy, psychology and public health, then changed its strategic priorities and closed it down in 2020. Online tuition may further muddy the waters in the future, as may gently declining numbers in higher education as a whole.

But there are still a lot more non-London London universities than I ever thought there were. I suspect the nursing facility in Uxbridge is quite atypical, and all the better for it.

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my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

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diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards