Friday, September 24, 2004

And Now Over To Nostradamus For The Weather and Traffic

[Kolley Kibber, who has evidently been rooting through the recycling bins at the London Library again, has made an astonishing discovery ...]

A lost quatrain written by Nostradamus is believed to be a depiction of The City Of London.

"Vegetable fascination leads to the creation of a towering glass cucumis anguria, which is laughed at by all,

"A good service on all lines except red infuriates the suits,

"A snappy named French pantry will saturate the stale baguette market,

"The bowler hat will be slowly phased out."

Monday, September 20, 2004

What The Numbers On Your Tube Ticket Mean

A: Chance of arriving on time (%).

B: How many minutes into journey train will stop unexpectedly in a tunnel.

C: Length of that stop in tunnel in minutes.

D: Number of minutes into tunnel stop before someone will remark "This wouldn't happen in France/Germany/America/Japan, you know" on the basis of a week they spent there in 1994, during which they used the local railway network precisely once.

E: Number of curry varieties man standing next to you must have eaten the previous night to achieve his remarkable mixture of halitosis and body odours.

F: Estimated total length of delays to your journey in minutes.

G: Number of people in carriage who think they are on a Circle Line train (does not apply when using Circle Line).

H: Number of loud, badly behaved teenage German exchange students in your carriage.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Mill Hill East

Introducing Mill Hill East, the repository of stuff that would be here if it wasn't true.

Friday, September 10, 2004

London Walks #1: Plutonium and Urchins in Borough

Welcome to a new series of tours of interest around the forgotten byways of old London. We'll kick off with Borough, in scenic SE1.

Start the tour at Borough Tube - turn onto Marshalsea Road and then take the first left onto Platypus Street. The blue plaque above number 15 remembers Henry Matchison, who invented the blue plaque. Continue along Platypus Street and turn left at the gibbet.

This takes you onto Rundont Walk. The impressive brick building at the end of the street is The Old Plutonium Works, London's first nuclear power station, which became operational in 1927. Designed before nuclear fission and the splitting of the atom, power generation involved workers shovelling plutonium into a giant furnace, the intense heat from which drove a mighty set of bellows, which in turn turned a nearby windmill. It's an inspring example of cutting-edge technology.

From there left and then right onto Isandlwhana Gardens. To the left is George Bernard Shaw (don't give him any money - he only spends it on beards). To the right is The Hobscotch Institution, one of the city's few remaining workhouses. Listed by English Heritage and the Society for the Preservation of Unnecessary Cruelty, this interesting throwback to a more level-headed age is well worth a look. Its inmates, mostly between the ages of eight and 12, are generally speaking kept chained to the machinery inside, but for the edification of visitors some a chained to the outside wall. For sixpence, and urchin will carry your bags back to the Tube station from here, or maybe steal them.

Turn onto Orangey-Brown Street. Orangey-Brown Street was bombed flat during the Second World War, but still has treats in store for fans of modern architecture. Chief among these is Lactose House, which is designed in the Brutalist-Minimal Style. It was opened by the Mayor of Southwark in 1966, who, along with the other dignitaries in attendance, promptly realised that its rough-hewn concrete form was far too minimal to include decorations like doors or windows. It is believed that the architect may still be inside.

If you turn right sharply at this point while still looking up, as this writer did, you will trip over a stone horse drinking-trough. This will be followed by a rapid freestyle descent of Cornwallis Steps, and you should emerge from unconsciousness back outside Borough Tube station with your wallet missing.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Tally Hox!

It's almost time for the 20th annual Hoxton foxhunt. Urban foxes colonised the north-east London district of Hoxton in the early 1980s, and the hunt was established in 1984 as a way of keeping the numbers down.

Although some consider it cruel, none can deny that the hunt is a stirring sight as it sweeps through the streets of N1. Horses can't cope with the irregular paving slabs, tarmac and permanent roadworks in that part of town, especially at speed, and so the huntsmen and women take up the chase on a fleet and Vespas and mini-scooters. Kills are celebrated with a round of skinny lattes or fruit smoothies, and most of the participants work in the design, new media and "creative" professions.

Despite the protestations of hunt saboteurs - who attempt to distract the hunters with cries of "UNKLE are shit!" - this urban hunt is a good deal more humane than its rural equivalent. The fox is not torn to pieces by hounds - the hunt dogs are all Sony Aibos and are rarely able to keep up with the pack, as well as not having teeth - but instead gently bored to death as the hunters enagage them in conversation about their iPods and what's they're bidding for on Ebay.

Transport Update

The indomitable Kolley Kibber has provided this roundup of what's happening over- and underground ...

London Underground will now run a buffet service on all circle line and central line trains. Morning rush hour trains now include a buffet carriage, which will serve breakfast until nine thirty. The buffet carriages will also be used on the late night weekend trains serving Kebabs.

The replacement for the custom designed London Bus, The Routemaster, has been greeted with a mixed reception. The ‘Bendy bus’ has proved unpopular with many commuters. Plans to build a new London bus are being considered by transport officials. One of the major contenders is the triple-decker bus, which will include an onboard lift. Also in the running is the open-sided bus. The sides of the bus are replaced with a number of poles allowing passengers to board and alight the vehicle at any point. Proving the most popular idea though is to marry the triple-decker and the open sided bus, using a combination of ladders and slides to access the higher levels.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Kubrick's War

Marxist guerrillas imported by Stanley Kubrick to add realism to the film Full Metal Jacket are still fighting the Vietnam War in Epping Forest. The guerrillas, borrowed from an insurgency in the Philippines, have recently claimed a breakthrough in their summer offensive, claiming almost a quarter of an acre from the groundsman with minimal casualties. If the clement September weather holds, an assault on the King's Oak public house is to be expected, or a fresh attempt to cut the strategically important north-south cycle route.

Peace talks brokered by Equity broke down in 2002 after the guerrillas learned their scenes had been left out of the final cut of the film.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Water, Water Everywhere

The appalling wet August that London has suffered means that residents of the Greater London area are now entitled to a rebate from the Meteorological Office for loss of summer. This ordinance, brought in after the famously wet summer of 1952, entitles you to a welly full of crisp fivers, with deductions for any holiday you may have taken outside the city.

However, be advised that in taking up this rebate, you render yourself liable for a surcharge from Thames Water under the Water Supply (Freedom of Choice) Act 1991 section 15c: Involuntary Supplies as a large quantity of water was delivered to your house for free over the summer. As this surcharge often exceeds the Met Office rebate, the option is little used, but taking it out is invaluable for those wishing to learn the meaning of the phrase "mind-numbingly Byzantine bureaucracy".

Apology: It's Ackroyd's Fault

The lack of posts over the past week was owing to the author recovering from injuries sustained in a fist-fight with Peter Ackroyd over the origin of the term "mind the gap". For those thinking of taking on Ackroyd in the future, be advised that he bites.