Tag Archives: London

Why I like staying home too.

The last few and the next couple of posts have been and will be about travelling to far away places. I love travelling to far away places, medium away places and I also like to stay at home. Even bearing in mind that I live in London and you can basically travel the world within the M25. However, I think you can see cool stuff just about anywhere (and I have some experience in this from growing up in central Pennsylvania.) Here are some reasons why I like staying at home too.

The trains out my window – including the Orient Express.

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Sunsets, anywhere.

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Hidden beauty.

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New discoveries.

Jubilee Line

The pub.

Day 21

Sitting still.

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Walking the Northern Line: Part 2

It wasn’t my finest moment when I finally rocked up to Kennington station after 7 hours of walking, being rained on, enjoying a brass band, and having been lost for the last half hour. I chose to walk this section by myself and as such I just wanted to get it over with. This meant one bathroom break, no pub, lunch on the go, and clearly a lot of poor decisions relating to food and drink (tuna pasta salad washed down with Gatoraid while walking down Goldiers Green Road got some weird looks.)

Another of my finest moments is that I can’t actually find any photos from this walk (how frustrating!) Anyway, I started my walk from Edgeware to Brent Cross, crossing over what’s left of the River Brent and a very scary footbridge over a motorway. From there I walked through Goldiers Green, past some surprisingly leafy areas in the very affluent Hampstead which actually felt like it was farther out of London than where I started in Edgeware.

From Goldiers Green, through Camden, Euston and central London, now with a headache and no patience for the tourists going out to the theatre in the evening. Finally crossed the river as it started to absolutely pour to find a flash mob brass band. I have to say, I love brass bands at the best of times and this really perked up my spirits. I thought I really could make it to Kennington at this point. And I did eventually after walking past it for about 20 minutes and then back.

I then, in my infinite wisdom decided to pop into the food store and pick up soup and juice (very heavy) and get on the train home with everyone else who was going out for their Saturday night. I arrived home around 10pm, after giving fairly detailed instructions to a very confused Italian who was finding his way from Manchester to Milan somehow via Heathrow with no tickets.

It may come as no surprise as I took a very long break before starting my next line, the Jubilee.

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Photo 365: 1 photo a day

So of course I know about the 365 Photo project where you take a photo a day for an entire year. Typically, I am totally incapable of starting at the first of a year (I started in March) and also incapable of actually taking exactly a photo a day.

So what if I started in March?

Day 1

And so what if I take a photo in the same few hundred yards everyday (ever see my Window series?)

Day 2

And so what if I don’t actually take a photo everyday, but several in one day and maybe none the next?

Day 21

What’s important to me is that I’m taking more photos.

Day 20

And I’m taking part.

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Acton Town Depot: The way cool kids spend their Sunday

Remember how an original steam(!!!) tube train was refurbished and run on the Underground for its 150th anniversary? You may have noticed I don’t have any pictures nor did I gush at any point about getting to ride on it (for several hundred pounds!) or having seen it go past in all its classy glory. That’s because I didn’t get a ride (for several hundred pounds) nor did I get to see it (I was too busy.) Well, that’s been rectified (and I got to blow it’s whistle!)

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Just look at it! A feat of beauty and engineering.

It’s safe to say that this steam train hissing, dripping, and periodically bellowing easily stole the show. The engine and the carriages were beautifully restored. We got to sit in the carriages and although I felt woefully under-dressed, I could just about imagine myself in 1863 on the first journey through central London.

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Another steam train was a close second due to its small stature (look how cute it is!) and that it gave rides. Who doesn’t like rides?

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Of course these two trains were the last things in a long line of very cool Underground and transport vehicles and general memorabilia related to transport in London. (I wonder where they keep all the complaints though!)

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In addition, there was the renown 38 Stock. Arguably the classiest Tube trains that ever existed.

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There was also every sign imaginable, some from Tube stations I’ve never even heard of!

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There were also models of trains and entire stations, tiles, clocks, an electric car and a strange mixture of transport geeks and families. I wholly enjoyed myself and I think those I dragged along who were significantly less excited by the prospect of looking at London transport memorbilia also liked it despite themselves.

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Wanderlust Wednesday: The Northern Line- Part 1

The Northern line is a real doosy. I’ve split this one up into two posts so the first one is my walk from Morden to High Barnet. (The second post will be the epic walk from Edgeware to Kennington.)

Nothern Line

I started off at Morden and walked to Balham (it was convenient for where I was living at the time.) I’d never been anywhere near Morden and it felt very suburban walking from there to South Wimbledon (a euphemism if I ever heard one) and a very straight, long road from Colliers Wood to Balham. Broken up with very, very different neighbourhoods that ranged from very suburban (hardly feeling like London) to feeling like I was in another country (which I think is really cool- ie. This is a xenophobic anti-immigration free zone) with African and Middle Eastern shops and a very non-suburban feel and an amazing lamp post.

Nothern Line

Another day, I met my very patient friend, Lenny at Stockwell for ‘a quick walk’ (walking from Balham to complete that stretch) and once again while we passed through Stockwell, it absolutely poured down with rain. It stopped (thankfully) as we walked towards Oval and then London Bridge.

Nothern Line

From Colliers Wood to Balham to London Bridge the Northern line follows a single road. A distance of over 7 miles! No screeching carriages around curves on this stretch! (Although to be fair, I’ve never taken the Northern Line all the way to Morden- I got the bus to get there!)

We passed through the city and I experienced for the third time the weird disjointed feeling when I compare where I walked from – Balham (or Morden) to the City of London. From a suburban (and not so up-and-coming) residential area to the pinnacle of the world’s financial markets where on weekdays the people going into the sky scrapers wear suits that cost more than my rent for the year.  Welcome to London.

Back out of the city, through Angel and King’s Cross (again) and north, up Hampstead Hill (more like a cliff face) and onward to Finchley. Watching the trains pull in and out of King’s cross (and getting a severe case of the travel bug) and then walking to the next station I was surprised once again with how post-industrial and run down it still is. Though since Google announced it’s offices moving here, it won’t be up-and-coming for long- it’ll be expensive.

We walked past Camden, Tufnell Arch and then Archway and a really cool second-hand shop with a nautical theme (and completely incongruous with my budget even if I wanted to carry a ship’s wheel with me for the rest of the walk.)

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Finally, we gave it up at East Finchley and stopped at a surprisingly nice pub tucked in to one side of the railway bridge. I really enjoyed making the bar tender guess where we had walked from.

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Photo courtesy of Runny Custard Photography

Another day, we finished the walk from East Finchley to High Barnet- including Millhill East (a very annoying appendage to the main High Barnet branch of the Northern Line but passed the Dollis Brook Viaduct- an incredible feat of engineering and a big surprise to stumble across.

Finally at High Barnet-  the end of the line.

Nothern Line

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Book Review – London: A Biography

This review is a long time in the making. I started reading London: A Biography almost a year ago. I think it took me so long because it’s over 900 pages long and as one of the definitive histories of London, it can be rather dense. Peter Ackroyd (or his editors) made a really good decision by making each chapter a manageable length and just enough to read before bed. Reading a chapter before bed of a 900 page book meant that it takes ages to finish.

London: A Biography has been called a definitive history of London and I think that’s a fair description. In both scope and time periods covered, I don’t know of too many other books written on London or anything else  that attempt such a range. It covers London from prehistory to very near the present day. (London without the Shard already feels dated.) It also fairly comprehensively discusses both ‘high’ historical concepts as well as the social history of the city. It is very much a popular history book though and the emphasis is very much on entertainment.

Sometimes when an author attempts to cover too much, the results can be very simplistic with sweeping generalisations that are desperately trying to create a narrative out of what is essentially a list of facts written into prose. The length of this book renders that a general impossibility, however Akroyd does have an agenda and his own generalisation about London. He emphasises the continuity of London ranging from dubious claims of the same social activity perpetually occurring in certain geographical locations to short histories of the building activity on a certain modern footprint (like St. Pauls Cathedral).

The social history of the book is very much written from a privileged position. There is a token chapter on women and children and one on the east and the south of the city. These chapters felt awkward and the topics worked better when included in the main body of the text (to which an attempt was made). Ackroyd also at points seems to justify the timeless nature of the homeless in London as inevitable and just the price to pay for progress. London seems to romaticise and condone the inhuman way Londoners treat each other, that is to say ignoring them. It seems to collectively clear the conscious of London and absolve Londoners of any responsibility towards their fellow citizens.

For a popular history book, I think London: A Biography straddles general appeal and good history very well. There are shortfalls, but I think it’s worth the investment of time to read. It aims to entertain and generally achieves this. Who knows, you might just learn something too!

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Natural History Museum London

Here’s a few photos of when I went to the Natural History Museum for probably the 10th time. I still love it. (Pittsburgh has better dinos though!)

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The mighty Coelocanth, rediscovered by Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer in 1938.

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