diamond geezer

 Saturday, July 20, 2024

Seaside postcard: Hunstanton

Hunstanton is a seaside town at Norfolk's northwest tip and reputedly the only resort on the East Coast that faces west. It's like Great Yarmouth in that it boasts amusements, tattoos and chippies, but also smaller, newer, remoter, genteeler, cliffier and less likely to return a Reform MP. To get there head for King's Lynn and keep going along the side of The Wash until you can see Skegness. I'd recommend visiting before the school summer holidays, but you're just too late for that sorry. [Visit Hunstanton] [8 photos]

The resort of Hunstanton was the brainchild of the gloriously named Henry L'Estrange Styleman Le Strange, a young Victorian local nobleman. In the late 1840s he eyed up a patch of land south of the cliffs, built a hotel and then a surrounding cluster of Old-English-style buildings, before luring in punters with a convenient railway. Henry died just as things were picking up but so successful was his project that the medieval village of Hunstanton soon became Old Hunstanton while New Hunstanton became plain Hunstanton.

Hunstanton's railway connection ended in 1969, the alternative now a 50 minute bus ride from King's Lynn, but if you want to relive the branch line's twilight years Sir John Betjeman obligingly made a celebrated 10 minute documentary in 1962.

The heart of the town is The Green, a large wedge of greensward sloping down from the Town Hall and the aforementioned hotel, now The Golden Lion. The medieval cross at the top of the lawn was filched from Old Hunstanton in 1846 as an initial act of placemaking and is now sadly topless. Close by is a statue of Henry Le Strange, phenomenally bewhiskered in a pose that would have made many a Victorian lady tremble. The town sign is a bit lower down and depicts St Edmund and a little wolf.

St Edmund was teenage East Anglian royalty, reputedly landing below the cliffs in Hunstanton in 855 to claim his crown. His elevation to sainthood came after he was defeated by a wave of Danish invaders in 869 and executed for refusing to denounce his Christian faith. Legend says a young wolf was found nuzzling his decapitated head, or some such romantic fiction, hence a small lupine statue now sits beside the remains of the memorial chapel on the clifftop. Follow the Wolf Trail along Cliff Parade for the full story. Also I suspect everybody takes this photo of the lighthouse through the arch and I was no exception.

Hunstanton's had a lighthouse since 1665 because manoeuvring into The Wash can be very dangerous. An earlier version contained the world's first parabolic refractor, or so the plaque says, this back in 1776. The latest white tower was decommissioned in 1921, then turned over to the Royal Observer Corps and is now used for self-catering. Hunstanton's land train turns round here and heads back to the town centre and Searles Holiday Resort, but only hourly and not on Fridays so don't rely on it.

The cliffs are splendid, maybe 80 foot high and unusually stripy. They run for a mile with a layer of white chalk on top of red chalk on top of brownish sandstone, like a stretched-out frothy coffee or a massive neapolitan Viennetta. The red layer brims with tiny fossilised squid and shellfish, not necessarily visible, and the brown layer gains its colour from the presence of iron ore. To see them properly you have to walk the beach, there being no promenade below, and best come nearer low tide so you're not restricted to a thin shoreline strip.

At the northern end the white layer is by far the thickest, and the beach is broad and encouragingly sandy. Keep heading south, past occasional piles of collapsed chalk, and the red gradually rises to almost nudge out the white. The beach simultaneously gets rockier with little pools, nothing overly challenging but enough I suspect to dissuade the geologically apathetic. Less adventurous souls can instead choose a £10 shoreline chug aboard The Wash Monster, an amphibious vehicle painted with shark's teeth, or alternatively go on a longer seal safari (tide permitting).

Hunstanton used to have a pier but it didn't have a lot of elemental luck. Fire destroyed the pavilion at the far end in June 1939, a storm destroyed most of the rest in January 1978 and a fire in May 2002 finished the job. Today the site is occupied by an arcade and bowling alley complex which, though elevated, fails to jut out beyond the shoreline and is a Pier in name only.

North of the pier are the formal gardens, the crazy golf and the bowling green, i.e. the Cromerier side of town. South of the pier it's much more Great Yarmouthy, a long promenade lined by tacky kiosks and unhealthy food outlets leading to an amusement park with spinning rides. If you want a 50p stick of rock, a bag of candy floss and a slab of nougat before a walk through the Crazy House and a splash down the waterslide then head south.

If the weather's less fabulous than it's been this week, the chief indoor attraction is the Sea Life centre where penguins, piranhas and rescued seals are amongst the highlights. If the tide's in and the beach has disappeared then the Oasis pool offers seal-free splashing and a long swooshing slide. Elsewhere in town you'll find Britain's Largest Joke Shop, called World of Fun, and for something a tad more cultural the Hunstanton Heritage Centre (but this only opens four afternoons a week so quite possibly not).

As you'd expect there are a heck of a lot of fish and chip outlets from lowly takeaway cubicles to proper sitdown restaurants. Henry's proudly boasts across its frontage that it earned third place in the National Fish and Chip Awards 2023, while Fishers on Greevegate has just been listed by The Times as one of the 23 best chippies in the country. I thought Fishers' cod was proper tasty but their chips were stodgy, undercooked and disappointing, indeed unfinishable, and the gull eyeing up my greasy box nearly got the remnants.

Fish and chips aside I rather liked Hunstanton, a layered resort with a prim end and a common end both firmly anchored in the seaside tradition, and some special stripy cliffs to boot. It's just a shame it's so far from anywhere I'm likely to be, so if you're any nearer best take advantage.

 Friday, July 19, 2024

Bus Route Of The Day
197: Croydon to Peckham

Quadrant: London southeast
Length of journey: 10 miles, 65 minutes

Because it's 19th July I've been out riding the 197, because that's the Bus Route Of The Day. My apologies for the repetition.

In the roulette game of "where on earth do buses in Croydon currently start from", the answer in the 197's case is the Fairfield Halls. It then weaves round the iconic Threepenny Bit building, stopping not quite outside East Croydon station, before ejecting itself from the town centre along a canyon of newbuild flats. According to signs this is now Lower Addiscombe, which seems a lot more takeaway-focused than Addiscombe proper, which we're skipping. Instead the 197 ploughs a lonely furrow past a pandemic academy, a shabby Londis and a car showroom called Classic Automobiles which appears to sell anything but. Blackhorse Lane marks the 1½ mile point and I don't know about you but I can't face the rest on the bus so I'm bailing here to catch the tram.

When the 197 reaches South Norwood it starts to shadow the 157, and I've already done that this week so let's not bother. In Anerley it splits away and heads for Penge, but then just shadows the Overground so what's to see? It splits again at Forest Hill and crosses most of Dulwich on its eventual way to Peckham, but I've already been there this week on the 177 so it seems I was right to alight several miles ago. The problem with Buses of the Day is that they too quickly get too repetitive, even in abbreviated form, so let's not even consider droning down the Uxbridge Road tomorrow.

NewsBites From Norfolk
(It's been a busy week)

• Two US fighter planes interrupted lunch on the new patio
• The train turned round just as we reached the lighthouse
• We got home to find a celebrity's father spraying our gravel
• Half the B1145 shut by nasty accident involving crumpled car
• Retiring teacher to receive trafficked £25 gardening voucher
• Sixty bikers roared off after we tried taking their photo
• Receipts for 17 year-old ink cartridges fed into shredder
• Perennial Christmas news venue is smaller than it looks
• The tortoise ate all the dandelion leaves before breakfast
• Windfarm shore access rig spotted in North Sea off Kelling
• Small brown deer wandered into back garden during elevenses
• 50% off big terracotta pots at Chelsea-winning garden centre

n.b. one of these didn't actually happen, sorry.

 Thursday, July 18, 2024

Bus Route Of The Day
187: West Hampstead to Park Royal

Quadrant: London northwest
Length of journey: 8 miles, 60 minutes

Because it's 18th July I've been out riding the 187, because that's the Bus Route Of The Day. It's no big hitter.

Officially the route is Finchley Road O2 Centre to Central Middlesex Hospital, but West Hampstead to Park Royal explains it better. The 187 is one of inner London's minor workhorses, a fleet of ancient rattly single-deckers twiddling round backstreets in an inefficient manner. Starting in a car park round the back of a shopping centre the bus manages to just miss the Abbey Road zebra crossing, Lord's Cricket Ground and Little Venice, all in favour of tracing streets where people actually live instead. Those who live in this corner of zone 2 suburbia have generally done very well for themselves, at least until we reach some of the council estates Dame Shirley Porter decanted her undesirables into. Maida Vale gradually blends into West Kilburn and then Queen's Park, and if you can imagine how bucolic Kilburn Lane must once have been you have a better imagination than most.

The shops at Kensal Rise thrive off disposable income, as befits a fine street of smart late Victorian terraces. But once you turn off Chamberlayne Road the architectural clock abruptly jumps ahead by 30 years, now passing bay-windowed pseudo-semis with gardens that make decent parking spaces. A teensy shooping parade here hides a cafe which started out as a grilled cheese stall in a Hackney market (that's Morty and Bob's) and what looks like a converted garage is actually a martial arts and wellness space. But mostly it's all houses, a few streets back from anywhere important, as we trace the outer fringes of Willesden. Look, we're just about high enough up to get one good view across west London. The owner of a Jaguar plated NW10 ROY must be living his best life. Who even knew there was a street caled Wrottesley Road? After minutes of mild mundanity a backed-up queue of traffic is your welcome to Harlesden, the shops on Park Parade kicking off with a vinyl/rugs stockist from the 0181 era, then Victory Divine Tailoring Alterations which might well be older.

Central Harlesden is a jumbly bazaar with a jubilee clock, eventually escaped past the County Court and the RC shrine on Acton Lane. Crossing the mainline brings the wafting smell of McVities digestives - if you're lucky - heralding the outer perimeter of the Park Royal trading estate. It's the 187's task to mop up some of the grubbier streets to the east before circling round towards the inevitability of the Central Middlesex Hospital, like a moth to a flame. The 22nd April, 22nd June and 22nd August can all whisk you away if you choose, but that's it for July.

More News From Norfolk

The project that's got a lot of East East Anglia fuming is the proposed imposition of a 110 mile line of pylons all the way from Norwich to the Thames. It's needed to help connect an increasing number of wind farms in the North Sea to population centres in London and the southeast, because it's no good having all that cheap energy if you can't deliver it. But it also means plonking 50m-high pylons across swathes of rural Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, for whose residents this is all pain and no gain. [map]

The route starts just outside the ring road at the 50 year-old Norwich Main substation which is being massively extended to cope with inflow from Hornsea Project Three and Equinor Sheringham Shoal and Dudgeon. It then runs south across field after field to almost-Ipswich, almost-Colchester and almost-Chelmsford, diverting slightly to link to the East Anglia Connection Node on the Tendring Peninsula. The end target is an upgraded Tilbury Substation, just downriver from the port, where the energy generated by offshore windfarms will be connected to the transmission network. In the latest version of the consultation they've agreed to bury the cables across Constable Country in the Dedham Vale, which has pleased some, but elsewhere it's pylons all the way despoiling the landscape and furious communities who don't want to have to look at them. As here.

This is where the megapylons will cross Shelfanger Road, just north of Diss by the awkward double bend on the B1077. As you can see it's an open arable landscape, or if you can't see that sorry but this was the best photo I could take through the windscreen. Telegraph poles already stalk the wheatfields so the area's not exactly pristine, but they're not the lofty metal whoppers proposed to dominate instead. "I've never seen people either quite so angry or quite so in despair," said Diss's local county councillor. "I think this development, even the prospect of it, has stolen a lot of my happiness," said Gillian who lives just up the road in Bunwell.

For those who'll benefit from the transfer of green electricity, which is millions of people elsewhere, this moaning is all a bit NIMBY. Pylons aren't exactly a new thing and many areas across the country already have them and manage to live perfectly oblivious lives. My auntie lived under the pylons fanning out from Sizewell for decades and you never heard her moaning about the cables that stalked her lovely garden. Obviously it'd be nicer if all the new pylons were replaced by buried cables or undersea routes, preserving local loveliness, but that'd be prohibitively expensive and also much slower and sometimes you just have to get on and build stuff. Expect a lot more of this kind of tension as the new government goes for growth and if you happen to live in the way bad luck, somebody somewhere has to take the hit to keep the lights on.

 Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Bus Route Of The Day
177: Peckham to Thamesmead

Quadrant: London southeast
Length of journey: 12 miles, 75 minutes

Because it's 17th July I've been out riding the 177, because that's the Bus Route Of The Day. There are more glamorous ways to travel.

On the off chance you ever want to go from Peckham to Thamesmead the 177 is your friend, and regularly so, if on the painfully slow side. It passes sequentially through New Cross, Greenwich and Woolwich, hence the snail's pace. The 177 emerges every 10 minutes from Peckham bus station, which always looks like it might one day be replaced by flats, and aims for the police station rather than on-trend Rye Lane. Chunky council housing dominates on Queen's Road, ploughing through what used to be Hatcham to join what's effectively the foot of the Old Kent Road near the launderette and the bus garage.

"Are you going to Greenwich?" asks the lady who hasn't checked the timetable, then gets on because we are. She comes up top but doesn't risk the front seat because someone's left a can of Red Bull and something fruity on the seat. A bus lane is our saviour through much of the maelstrom of New Cross, but sadly not all the way because squeezing the A2 through a Victorian town centre isn't ideal. A young lad boards with a trumpet, thankfully secure in its case. As New Cross Road becomes Deptford Broadway the pubs are plentiful and the takeaway offer is bolstered by the solidarity of The Communist Kebab. After crossing the Ravensbourne our job is to be the only bus serving Greenwich High Road, a historic street now dominated by blocky newbuilds. At number 62 is The Golden Chippy, a local favourite whose owner recently got into trouble for displaying an oversized patriotic sign above the door (and who's also diversified nextdoor into The Golden Vineyard off-license and The Golden Cafe). Someone's busy Flymo-ing the lawn in front of the Jubilee almshouses, the bus now passing Greenwich station, then two other routes merge in and the 177's brief exclusive link is complete.

Onwards round Greenwich's markets and World Heritage Site, onwards through the constricted artery of Trafalgar Road and onwards under the concrete legs of the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road. Charlton's superstores now generate an increasing number of passengers, though Woolwich town centre still dominates for lower value items. Eastbound the routing is slow but busy, eventually permitting escape onto Plumstead Road where that annoying change of drivers always happens. Plumstead proper delays things too before the bus bears off across the railway to serve the Abbey Wood estate which mouldered here pre-Crossrail. The route skips the station but still insists on doing an almost entire circuit of Thamesmead before finally terminating by the library, the lake and the lack of shops. There is, I'd suggest, a lot to be said for cramming a 12 mile bus route into three paragraphs.

I'm in Norfolk all this week, so expect a mild dose of

The News From Norfolk

In politics the news is that after the recent General Election Norfolk has more Labour MPs than Conservative MPs. That's very unusual in what's normally true blue territory, indeed it hasn't happened since 1945. What's even more unusual is that Norfolk now has MPs from five different parties, thereby making it the most electorally diverse county in Great Britain.

Labour tends to win in the city - Norwich South more often than Norwich North - and slammed both with a five-figure majority this time. South Norfolk has been safe Tory for 70 years but turned red this time, perhaps aided by annexing Wymondham in the recent constituency shake-up. But the biggest prize was South West Norfolk where, in the biggest moment of Election Night, seven-week PM Liz Truss was turfed out by a majority of 630 and the nation cheered. Labour wouldn't have won had Reform not taken 22% of the vote, making this technically now a three-way marginal.
The Conservatives won three of the more rural constituencies, as they always do, though with much reduced majorities. The margin was really slim in Broadland and Fakenham where my brother lives, again aided by a strong Reform vote. In Mid Norfolk the Tory vote more than halved, but my dad gets to keep his oleaginous MP anyway.
The Liberal Democrats took back North Norfolk which they'd held from 2001 to 2019. Labour were way behind in 4th place here because everyone knew the Lib Dems had historical form and tactical voting works.
Reform took Great Yarmouth, indeed coastal communities provided most of their MPs, grabbing about a third of the vote. The previously-victorous Conservatives were relegated to third place. New MP Rupert Lowe is an ex-banker who lives in Gloucestershire, perhaps best known as the chairman of Southampton FC from 1996 to 2009.
And the Greens took Waveney Valley, a newly created constituency which straddles Norfolk and Suffolk. It's one of the four seats they piled resources into nationwide, aided here by there being no existing tribal loyalties, and Adrian Ramsay was rewarded with the county's largest majority outside the city of Norwich.

None of this is necessarily a good indication of how Norfolk'll turn out in 2028/29, but expect a lot of interest from the media during the campaign because reporting from a five-coloured county would be excellent for balance.

 Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Bus Route Of The Day
167: Ilford to Loughton

Quadrant: London northeast
Length of journey: 8 miles, 50 minutes

Because it's 16th July I've been out riding the 167, because that's the Bus Route Of The Day. Let's hit the Home Counties.

A sheaf of buses fans out north from Ilford but only the 167 extends far enough to properly enter Essex. It joins the throng of traffic passing the pound shops and the pawnbrokers before Cranbrook Road suddenly opens out to reveal the glories of Valentines Park. The nicest bit with the mansion and the canal grotto is three stops further on at the foot of Beehive Lane, then it's time to circle Gants Hill station where The Vortex spins in the middle of the roundabout. Take the third turning for Barkingside, past the excruciatingly 1930s library, to the leafy corner with the Magistrates Court and the whopping Tesco. The High Street still feels substantial rather than a vacated shell and eventually ends at Fulwell Cross by the gloriously 1950s library. Fencepiece Road continues the break for the border, which occurs almost invisibly just past the Hainault turn as the road climbs to a proper summit at Grange Hill.

You can't see Chigwell's golf course because it's hidden behind a row of houses, but the clue is right there in a bus stop named Linkside. And what houses these are, proper nouveau riche Towie mansions competing to see who can build the showiest frontage on a compact plot. Many are firmly gated to keep the riffraff out, and I think the maximum number of cars I saw crammed out front was eight. Chigwell station is an unlikely zone 4 outpost and many locals aren't pleased it's proved a magnet for development, the Volkswagen showroom having recently succumbed to rebirth as 35 'stylish' apartments. Longstanding fashion mecca Debra is already a stack of less stylish flats, but thankfully moved into alternative premises on Brook Parade in 2014 so Tracey and Dorien need not miss out. Beyond the village green and village sign the 167 passes umpteen more flashy castles on Chigwell Rise, before leaping over the thundering M11 on a high bridge which affords fine views across the Roding Valley.

The route's dalliance with Buckhurst Hill is a quick twiddle round the station forecourt, before veering off to serve a stripe of suburbia east of the railway line which would otherwise be served by shonky infrequent Essex bus services. Loughton station has been the route's terminus since 2017 when the council stopped paying for it to go all the way to Debden, allowing me to end this reportage prematurely rather than droning on for four more miles.

Officially Midsummer Day is 24th June.

But midsummer is also today.
If you take summer to be 1st June to 31st August, i.e. meteorological summer, then today is the middle day of the middle of those three months. To look at it another way today is the 46th day of summer and we still have 46 days to go, so we must be halfway through. Technically halfway is midnight tonight, this because June is shorter than August, but whichever way you jump midsummer is 16th or 17th July.

And midsummer is also 6th August.
The astronomical definition of summer is the period between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox. Summer is 94 days long so we're looking for the 47th day after the solstice and that's 6th August. Technically the gap is 93 days 15 hours and about 40 minutes, and technically the solstice moves around by a few hours every year, so sometimes the halfway point is on 7th August instead. But whichever day it is, 6th or 7th August, the good news is it's still three weeks away.

And midsummer is also tomorrow.
I'm basing this on temperature because it would make sense to think of midsummer as the warmest part of the year. Clearly this varies from year to year so the trick is to average out a lot of past temperature data and see where the warmest day is. I found a dataset for Oxford with a daily record going back to 1815 so have been able to calculate the average maximum temperature on every day from 1st July to 31st August. Here's the graph.

The average maximum temperature at the start of July is about 21°C, climbs to 22°C by the middle of July, gently drops back to 21.5°C until the middle of August and then quickly falls away. The day with the warmest average in this dataset is 25th July, a bit of an outlier, but the warmest week is 14th-20th July and that suggests 17th July is the height of midsummer.

And midsummer was also 20th June.
This is because 20th June was the summer solstice and by definition the summer solstice has the maximum number of daylight hours. It's seemingly weird that temperatures peak four weeks after maximum daylight but that's because before the solstice the land and the sea are still warming up.

So take your pick as to when Midsummer Day falls, but it could be last month, it could be next month or it could be right around now.

20th/21st June - maximum daylight
24th June - traditional Midsummer Day
14th-20th July - highest average daily temperature
16th/17th July - midpoint of meteorological summer
6th/7th August - midpoint of astronomical summer

 Monday, July 15, 2024

Bus Route Of The Day
157: Crystal Palace to Morden

Quadrant: London southwest
Length of journey: 12 miles, 70 minutes

Because it's 15th July I've been out riding the 157, because that's the Bus Route Of The Day. Be warned I have a few of these up my sleeve as the week progresses, one from each quadrant. Also be reassured I won't be overdoing the reportage, focusing mostly on a brief stretch of each route.

The 157 is a perversely bowl-shaped route which links Bromley to Merton via Croydon and Sutton. That it still does this 60 years on is testament to the occasional need to bolt together several useful sections into an impractical meander. Double deckers emerge from Crystal Palace bus station five times an hour and tumble down Anerley Hill - the best view on the entire route - passing Betts Park where the Croydon Canal no longer flows. Then at Aldi the route makes its first big turn and shadows the 75 all the way to Croydon, three long miles whose highlights include South Norwood Clock Tower, Selhurst Train Depot and north Croydon's weird figure-of-8 gyratory. If you were heading to Morden you'd be much better off alighting at West Croydon and taking the tram. Beyond the busy town centre the 157 becomes the direct bus to Wallington, eventually dipping beneath the railway as it veers off for the last drive north. Crossing Carshalton Ponds is the pretty bit, then it's relentless suburbia up Wrythe Lane before catering to the unwell at St Helier Hospital.

There's not much rosy, nor hilly, about the elongated Rosehill roundabout. It acts as the hub of the ginormous St Helier estate, an overspill sprawl built by the LCC in the 1930s, just far enough from useful railways that the bus remains king. The 157 takes the direct route up St Helier Avenue, a pastoral dual carriageway lined by redbrick and pebbledash cottages, with occasional parking spaces for those thwarted by red route restrictions. At the borough boundary I see Merton have replaced their outdated waterwheel with their new tons-blander logo, fortuitously in Wimbledon colours. The bins are out for collection, the yellow cameras await any fool exceeding 30 and Wok Inc haven't yet lifted their takeaway shutters. Morden Hall roundabout toys with the unseen river Wandle and has been sponsored by Tax Link, your friendly local accountants. More and more buses funnel in as the Northern line approaches, then we duck left by the National Trust cafe to approach the heart of the town centre from the rear. Take your pick from Iceland, the emerald-fronted Irish bar or the tube to somewhere rather more substantial, with most passengers plumping for the latter.

Had England won the Euros, our new PM said "we should certainly mark the occasion". He stopped short of confirming there'd be a bank holiday saying he didn't want to "jinx it", but an extra day off work was always a possibility. It didn't happen because Spain scored more goals than we did, hence nobody's going to have to reorganise their workplace schedule at the last minute. But it encouraged me to research England's most sudden bank holidays, and of course I jinxed it by juggling it into a blogpost before the final whistle.

Standard English Bank Holidays
Good Friday and Christmas Day have been public holidays since time immemorial, so no advance warning there. The first 'proper' bank holidays (Easter Monday, Whit Monday, the first Monday in August and Boxing Day) were instigated by the banker Sir John Lubbock and set in stone by the Bank Holidays Act 1871. This received Royal Assent on 25th May 1871, too late for Easter Monday that year but just in time for the other three, notably the Whit Monday holiday which had 4 days advance notice. New Year's Day took another century to be granted, confirmed in the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971 and was first observed on 1st January 1974. The May Day bank holiday was first announced by Michael Foot in March 1976, just over two years before the first occurrence in 1978.
How much advance notice?
New Year's Day: 2 years 2 weeks (16 Dec 1971 → 1 Jan 1974)
Easter Monday: 10 months (25 May 1871 → 1 Apr 1872)
May Day: 2 years 1 month (30 Mar 1976 → 1 May 1978)
Whit Monday: 4 days (25 May 1871 → 29 May 1871)
First Monday in August: 2 months (25 May 1871 → 4 Aug 1871)
Boxing Day: 7 months (25 May 1871 → 26 Dec 1871)
Royal bank holidays
Many of our additional bank holidays have been to commemorate siginificant royal events, specifically marriages, funerals and staying alive for a very long time. Of these jubilees are generally planned a long way in advance, coronations take several months, weddings have about five months notice and funerals rear up unexpectedly fast.
How much advance notice?
ERII Coronation: 7 months (22 Oct 19522 Jun 1953)
Anne & Mark: 5 months (29 May 1973 → 14 Nov 1973)
Silver Jubilee: 18 months (18 Dec 19757 Jun 1977)
Charles & Diana: 5 months (23 Feb 1981 → 29 Jul 1981)
Golden Jubilee: 18 months (23 Nov 20002 Jun 2002)
Kate & William: 5 months (23 Nov 201029 Apr 2011)
Diamond Jubilee: 2 years 5 months (5 Jan 20104 Jun 2012)
Platinum Jubilee: 19 months (12 Nov 20203 Jun 2022)
ERII Funeral: 9 days (10 Sep 202219 Sep 2022)
CRIII Coronation: 6 months (6 Nov 20228 May 2023)
Other additional bank holidays
In May 1945 the two VE Day public holidays were announced very late by PM Winston Churchill ("We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing"), specifically in a BBC radio news flash at 7.40pm the night before. The two VJ Day public holidays were announced even later, literally at the very last minute, in a midnight news broadcast by new PM Clement Attlee. In 1968 Harold Wilson sprang a nigh immediate bank holiday on the banks, but not the populace, to try to stall a sterling crisis in the gold markets. Tony Blair offered a one-off bank holiday on Millennium's Eve and gave us six months notice.
How much advance notice?
VE Day: 4 hours 20 minutes (7 May 1945 → 8/9 May 1945)
VJ Day: 0 minutes (15 Aug 1945 → 15/16 Aug 1945)
Sterling Crisis: 20 hours (14 Mar 1968 → 15 Mar 1968)
Millennium: 6 months (23 Jun 1999 → 31 Dec 1999)
England Euros Win: [not happening]
In the absence of an instant football celebration this month, dammit, I can at least bring you what I hope is a definitive Top 10 list of very sudden days off.

England's Most Rapidly Announced Bank Holidays
1) VJ Day (1945) 0 minutes
2) VE Day (1945) 4 hours 20 minutes
3) Sterling Crisis (1968) 20 hours
4) Whit Monday (1871) 4 days
5) ERII Funeral (2022) 9 days

And pencil in Monday 20th July 2026 just in case.

 Sunday, July 14, 2024

Euros final liveblog 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿🇪🇸
19:00 Only an hour to go.
19:10 I'm having steak and ale pie.
20:00 Kick-off. The score is nil nil.
20:48 Off for oranges at half time.
21:05 Back.
21:06 Goal 😢
21:32 Goal 😀
21:46 Goal 😢
21:55 I'm sure everyone will be very happy with that.

Why is football the world's greatest sport?

It's played by more people than any other sport, watched by more people than any other sport, followed more fervently than any other sport, and all this across more countries than any other sport. What's football's magic, what's it got that no other sport's got and how does it somehow trump all others?

It might not be your favourite sport but that's not relevant here - on a global stage football dominates all.

One reason is that football's so simple to play. It's just you and a ball and all you have to do is kick it. Most other sports are much faffier, requiring specialist equipment like a net, a hoop, a hole or something special to hold or wear. Football merely requires a ball, and not even necessarily a special ball - you can play a decent game with spheres of various types and sizes so long as they're suitably bouncy.

Another reason is you can play it almost anywhere. Ideally you need a big rectangle of grass but fake grass will do, even something more solid potentially indoors, And the rectangle doesn't have to be a specific size, a reasonable range applies, and if playing unofficially you can shrink that down considerably. Even if all you have is the corner of a playground you can still use jumpers for goalposts or chalk on a wall. It scales up, it scales down.

Another reason is it's dead simple to understand. Each team tries to kick the ball between the other team's goalposts and the team that does this most often wins. Obviously there are other rules, indeed one of these is the offside rule which is notoriously difficult to unpick, but the underlying 'count the goals' rule is brilliantly simple. Compare this with tennis (deuce, advantage, game, set, match) or even, heaven forbid, American football.

Another reason is you can imagine you might be good at it. It's only kicking a ball with your foot, how difficult can it be? Extremely difficult as it turns out, at least at the highest levels, but the fundamental basics are within any able-bodied player's reach. This is also why millions of children dream of being a professional footballer, however misguided the aspiration, because why shouldn't the next Harry Kane be them?

Another reason is the element of surprise. The better team usually wins but not always, the chance of an upset is always there and happens just often enough to give everyone hope. Also the games themselves often bring surprising moves, indeed it's pretty much impossible to predict what the field of play will look like in a minute's time (whereas in tennis, say, you know it'll still look like two people either side of a net).

Another is that it creates heroes and villains. One great goal can be talked about forever, whereas one penalty missed can put you in a nation's bad books with no hope of reprieve. Also that glory/infamy can either be at player level or team level, thereby multiplying the fascination, and sometimes what looks like the worst drubbing in the world can all be forgotten by next weekend.

Another reason is it's a common language. I was in the library the other day and three people who'd never normally have spoken were engaged in an animated in-depth conversation about the last match and the next - absolutely invested - which they'd never have done were the topic cricket, politics, climate change, whatever. Not everyone has a footballing point of view, granted, but in no other field is so much expertise shared by so many.

Another reason is the hierarchy of competition. Whatever level your team's at they could always be doing better, or worryingly doing worse, so there's always a narrative drive going forward. Do well in this competition and we'll let you play in the next tier, right up to the full-on continental pinnacle, and even if you win that the next step is to try to do it consecutively because the pressure never ever eases up.

Another reason is nostalgia. Football's been going so long that every team has a lovingly-tended backstory. Even if you're not doing great right now there's always that time when you were, be it an entire season, a glorious cup run or a distant tournament's quarter final. Memories of a giant-killing goal on a Tuesday evening 30 years ago have sustained many a supporter through another turgid run of draws and defeats.

Another reason is that it's tribal. Everyone has a favourite team, even those who barely follow the game, even if that team is their default local side or national squad. For those who follow more faithfully football becomes something of a religion, arguably more of a belief system than religion itself, a blind all-consuming devotion to be carried to the grave. You just don't get that in Formula 1, baseball or darts.

Another reason is the embodiment of nationalism in sport. The England flag and the England team run hand in hand, at least in the minds of many, as if the performance of eleven players somehow embodies the soul of the country. And it's the same elsewhere around the world, particularly in tournaments, where a single result can result in patriotic joy or mass collective despair (or potentially just a lot of drinking).

Another reason is the artifice of the players. Create a good pass, a well-timed tackle, a dazzling run down the wing or a magnificent shot on goal and you'll have everybody talking. Every football match is a free-flowing sequence of events any one of which can demonstrate talent and any one of which can be dissected in enormous detail later. Match of the Day would be nothing more than a highlights show were it not for the inevitable extended punditry, repeated ad nauseam in pubs around the country.

Another reason is sheer drama. Will whatever the score is now continue to the end of the match? Who'll snatch the winner, will the upcoming substitution make a difference and who was to blame for that awful tackle? In particular goals tend to become more common as a game goes on and players tire, so extra-time is always nailbiting and the showdown of a penalty shootout can be more of a coin toss than a display of talent.

Another reason is micro-management. Every fan thinks they know how they'd run the team, which players they'd pick, who they'd buy and who they'd leave on the bench. It's especially easy to have an opinion on how the current manager's doing, especially if they're doing badly, which somehow isn't so fanatically driven in other sports.

Another reason is that every match can be summed up in two numbers. If someone tells you the result was 2-1, 0-0, 4-0 or 6-6 you can instantly understand the underlying story of the game. Tennis needs lots more numbers, golf tends to go negative, cricket is a shower of digits and rugby's scoring is an artificial construct. Admittedly it's not quite as simple as a race ("Who won?), but football's number pairs are narratively all-powerful.

Another reason is the rarity of the goals. Somehow a game has evolved in which goals are relatively infrequent, generally one, two or three per half, so when one happens it's of enormous importance. If goals were ten a penny you wouldn't get that explosion of emotion when they occur, and if they were excessively infrequent there'd be far too many tedious no-score draws. I'd argue the perfectly-pitched frequency of the goals is at the very heart of what makes football shine.

Another reason, therefore, is the size of the goalposts. Any bigger and they'd let in more goals which'd cheapen things, any smaller and they'd let in fewer goals and everyone'd get bored. Kudos to the people who deduced the dimensions that worked best, and indeed how far away the penalty spot needs to be, because another few inches and it'd be a very different game.

Another reason is the sheer simplicity of the numbers. Football's not about 7s, 15s and 40s, it's about 0s, 1s, 2s and 3s. Everybody gets that. It also means there's a very limited number of likely scores, just enough to make predictions worthwhile, even if all you're going to guess is that the result'll be 2-1 because everyone predicts that.

Only two sporting events unite the planet, one being the Olympics and the other the World Cup. But the Olympics involves a multitude of sports and the World Cup just the one - the all-consuming, population-embracing sport of football. Obviously talent and tactics play their part, but it's also the simplicity of the rules, the rarity of the goals and the underlying mathematics that makes football a devotional entity.

Bear that in mind as England strives for glory tonight, or crashes and burns, and somehow an entire continent watches on.

 Saturday, July 13, 2024

Dull Saturday morning

07:00 Mug of tea
07:30 Crumpet
08:00 Paper shop
08:30 Evening Standard
09:00 Giving Parkrun a miss
09:30 Pigeons in the park
10:00 Leaden skies
10:30 Spits and spots
11:00 A church bell rings
11:30 Mug of tea
12:00 Cheese & Onion

Less dull Saturday morning

07:00 It's the weekend and a wealth of opportunities spread before us. Cultural, recreational, social, explorational, motivational, architectural, gastronomical, provincial, parochial, financial, retail, whatever. So many possibilities. Or you could just waste the day.
07:30 Just flicking through a copy of Tunnels & Tunnelling International magazine over breakfast. The proposed Stad Ship Tunnel looks astonishing, a mile-long bore designed to let cruise ships avoid the most turbulent section of Norway's fjordy coastline.
08:00 Buying my paper I interrupted the shop assistant who was trying to unload today's delivery of fresh milk into the chiller cabinet, and given the steady drip of construction workers nipping in behind I fear the bottles may still be in the aisle.
08:30 It's not a good sign that hundreds of copies of the Evening Standard remain in the hopper outside Farringdon station, having not been picked up last night. No wonder they're stopping printing a Friday edition from 2nd August (and Mondays from 5th August, and going weekly later in the year).
09:00 This guy in Hendon was loading a skip onto a truck but had parked diagonally across the pavement so the only way past was to walk out into the busy Edgware Road, and he didn't acknowledge me, not even a glance, but it's OK I'm still alive.
09:30 I don't know what's most surprising about the Barnet Millenium Walk, the fact the council no longer acknowledges it, the fact its signs only point in one direction or the fact they spelled Millenium with one 'n'. I failed to follow it beyond Silkstream Park.
10:00 I've always been amused that there's a whole neighbourhood of northwest London essentially called Colin. Today I left Colindeep Lane and found myself crossing Colin Gardens, Colin Crescent and Colin Drive. One day I will blog properly about the weirdness of Colindeep, but today I merely shuddered across its grim motorway footbridge/railway subway combo.
10:30 I was pleasantly surprised to get a 4G signal on the Northern line all the way from Golders Green to Camden Town, having totally lost track of how far the incremental rollout has progressed. It seems TfL have lost track too - the explanatory text on their website is behind the times (although the attached pdf map is better informed).
11:00 Even in this very meh weather London Bridge is still full of weekend sightseers and global tourists grabbing their chance to cross the iconic span and get a selfie with Tower Bridge in the background. "Look it's the tallest building in the world" said a mother to her children, pointing at the Shard, and I kept diplomatically quiet.
11:30 It's the weekend and a wealth of opportunities spread before us. Cultural, recreational, social, explorational, motivational, architectural, gastronomical, provincial, parochial, financial, retail, whatever. So many possibilities. Or you could just waste the day going to Burnt Oak and back. Still, I got my 13,000 steps in.

12:00 So yeah, I had no idea what to post today, having not been anywhere overly exciting yesterday and having decided I wasn't going to subject you to another day of transport-related waffling. What I've discovered is that you can get more comments by posting three dozen words than by writing 1500 (and that I probably needn't have written this extra exposition either).

   WORDLE #13724

 Friday, July 12, 2024

Crossing the river news

Silvertown Tunnel toll news

The proposed tolls for using the Silvertown Tunnel have been announced. They're not called tolls, they're called user charges, but we all know what they are. The tolls will also apply to the Blackwall Tunnel from the day the Silvertown Tunnel opens which is expected to be 'spring 2025'. The Rotherhithe Tunnel and Woolwich Ferry will remain free. TfL first proposed tolling the two tunnels in a consultation in 2012 under the previous Mayor, so you've had a very long time to get used to all this.

The lowest charge will be £1.50 for motorbikes and cars.
Large vans pay more than small vans.
HGVs are paying well over the odds.

But it's quite complicated, and you might well end up paying more.

Firstly there'll be higher charges at peak times.
Peak times are northbound in the morning and southbound in the evening.
The morning peak is four hours long (6-10am), the evening peak is three (4-7pm).
Cars will pay more than twice as much at peak times - £4 instead of £1.50.

Also the lower fares apply only to those who've registered for an 'Auto Pay' account.
Everyone else pays peak fares even if it's not peak time.
You'll be able to pay the charge via a website, an app or a phoneline but the financial penalty will be severe.
You'll have three days to pay.

In good news the tunnels will be free to use...
a) between 10pm and 6am
b) on Christmas Day

Using the tunnels will also be free for Blue Badge holders, vehicles with 9 or more seats, taxis, the emergency services and 'Zero-Emission Capable and Wheelchair Accessible private hire vehicles'.

There'll also be short term local discounts.
• £1 off for small businesses registered in Tower Hamlets, Newham or Greenwich, but only off-peak and only for 12 months.
• 50% off for low-income residents in 13 east and southeast London boroughs, this for at least 3 years.

Cars will pay less than on the Dartford Crossing (which is £2 for Auto Pay).
Motorbikes will pay more than on the Dartford Crossing (which is free).

Cyclists will not be allowed to ride through the Silvertown Tunnel but they can use a new cycle bus shuttle which'll be free for at least 12 months. The results of this consultation are promised 'soon'. (see previous lengthy blogpost)

Pedestrians will not be allowed to walk through the tunnels but they can catch a bus.
There'll be three bus routes (see previous lengthy blogpost)
» the existing 108 through the Blackwall Tunnel
» an extended 129 to the backside of Beckton
» the still-frankly-baffling Superloop route SL4

I note that catching a bus through the tunnels (£1.75) will be more expensive than driving (£1.50).

Local residents will get two further concessions for a duration of 12 months.
• Free trips on the new cross-river bus services (108, 129 and SL4).
• Free trips (refunded) for those making DLR journeys from King George V - Woolwich Arsenal or Island Gardens - Cutty Sark.

If you'd like more background detail the consultation website has a lengthy set of FAQs.
If you'd like even more background detail try this 51 page pdf of Supplementary Information.

Dangleway News

This advert has been all over the place lately, including on tube posters and popping up in Instagram.

It say 'Book now to save up to 30%* on the IFS Cloud Cable Car'.

The asterisked smallprint says 'Peak and off-peak discounts vary. Maximum 30% discount only available for off-peak round trips when you book seven days in advance'.

I couldn't find any further details of how the discount works. However I have tried finding fares using online ticketing and I can confirm that the 30% discount is not a widespread offer.

Price of a round trip booked in advance
Today: £12 (full price)
This weekend: £12 (full price)
Monday: £10 (17% off)
Tuesday: £9.50 (20% off)
Wednesday: £9 (25% off)
Thursday: £9 (25% off)
Friday: £8.40 (30% off)
Saturday and every day more than 7 days in the future: £10.20 (15% off)

i.e. the 30% offer only applies 7 days in the future, and never at weekends.

You get no discount for a single trip.
You used to get 17% off simply for using Oyster or contactless but they scrapped that.

So if you want to risk paying in advance and possibly turning up during dull or wet weather you could save a few quid. But probably not as much as the 30% in the adverts.

 Thursday, July 11, 2024

Stratford station has a new entrance.
It's the Gibbins Road entrance and for most passengers it's of no use whatsoever.

Stratford station has a new entrance.
It opened late. It was meant to open by the end of March but it didn't. It was due to open in May but it didn't. It's looked finished for ages but it clearly wasn't otherwise they'd have opened it earlier. It finally opened yesterday. [8 photos]

Stratford station has a new entrance.
Originally you could only exit to the east - that's to the bus station and town centre. In 2011 they added an exit to the northwest - that's to Westfield and the Olympic Park. Now they've added an exit to the south - that's to the Carpenters Estate. Given that the Carpenters Estate opened in 1967, you could argue this entrance is over 50 years late.

Stratford station has a new entrance.
They opened it quietly at noon - no fanfare. A few senior staff were hovering to check everything went smoothly, one even grinned out loud at being the first person through, but it was a very soft launch. Maybe the Mayors of Newham and/or London will turn up later and applaud properly.

Stratford station has a new entrance.
In an act of seeming generosity, the new entrance benefits several hundred residents in most-low-rise mostly low-quality council housing on the Carpenters Estate. They live in a wedge between the mainline railway and the Jubilee line so previously the most direct route to the station has been via a skanky footbridge at the end of Jupp Road. Now they can walk straight in via a new entrance at the tip of Gibbins Road, and if they want the Jubilee line it's right there, no steps, no escalators, dead easy.

Stratford station has a new entrance.
It used to be a staff entrance leading to a small car park and a rubbish collection point. Now it's a proper exit with ticket gates and ticket machines accessed from a small piazza with cycle parking and benches. They're very nice benches, proper wooden beauties, but seemingly far too many of them for the dribble of footfall this entrance is going to get.

Stratford station has a new entrance.
It's really really convenient for the Jubilee line. You walk off the trains and there it is, just before Pret. If you arrive on the elevated DLR platforms via Pudding Mill Lane you can see the new entrance down below on your right.

Stratford station has a new entrance.
It's labelled 'Way Out Gibbins Road' above the gateline. If you're not sure where Gibbins Road is, there's no map to help you. If you simply fixate on the words 'Way out' you may be tempted to leave the station in a highly suboptimal location.

Stratford station has a new entrance.
I worry that a lot of people exiting the station will use it by mistake and find themselves the wrong side of a barrier a long way from where they want to be. The new exit ejects you abruptly into a semi-industrial backwater at the tip of a maze-like housing estate with minimal facilities. As yet there are no signs or maps to suggest where to go next which seems a serious lack of forethought. To reach the front of the station is a walk of 500m via the aforementioned skanky footbridge, and that's assuming you know it exists and can work out which way to go. To reach Westfield without retapping at the barriers is a full half mile, that's how out of the way this exit is.

Stratford station has a new exit.
I'm not sure I'd want to use it after dark. Indeed I was considering using it at 10pm last night but I thought "this goes nowhere terribly populated and it's a long way to Stratford High Street where I'd feel safe, I don't think I'll risk it", so I didn't.

Stratford station has a new entrance.
Revenue-wise it's a real weakspot in the station's perimeter because it'll require full-time staffing to ensure nobody sneaks in and out without paying. I was particularly surprised yesterday afternoon to see they'd already left the gates open, although four revenue protection officers were hovering out front just in case. It didn't make for great Day One vibes.

Stratford station has a new entrance.
It cost a few million pounds, but because it's part of a wider package including the installation of new lifts and the extension of a disused subway it's not possible to say precisely how many millions it cost. Peanuts in the grand scheme of things, I'd have thought, given it's level access throughout.

Stratford station has a new entrance.
It's been put forward as a new way to reach the Olympic Park, but it's not really much quicker than the existing route via Westfield. On the plus side you don't need to exit via Westfield. One thing I reckon it'll be extremely useful for is crowds heading to and from the Olympic Stadium. The wooden fencing feels very much like it was deliberately designed to funnel rowdy West Ham supporters into a side-entrance.

Stratford station has a new entrance.
It's so unusual to gift fresh infrastructure to a 50 year-old council estate that there must be a catch, and indeed there is. It's because the Carpenters Estate is due to undergo almost-total regeneration upping the number of homes from 700 to over 2000, as befits a prime slice of land adjacent to Britain's 6th busiest station. It's been a very long time coming - Newham council were intent on decanting everyone long before the Olympics - but a ten year masterplan was finally agreed earlier this year with the tower blocks getting their spruce-up first. The station improvements aren't for the long-suffering residents of the existing Carpenters community, they're for the incomers who'll pay to live in shiny boxes to the south of Stratford station over the next decade.

Stratford station has a new entrance.
It may look like a few ticket barriers but in reality it's the starting gun for an explosion of highrise gentrification. One day there'll be a coffee stall outside, however unlikely that looks on opening day.

Stratford station has a new exit.
It's the Gibbins Road exit and if you use it by mistake you will kick yourself.

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