Archive for May 2009
(8PM UPDATE: I bet they are glum now- Adam has trumped me over at Tory Troll, identifying Mrs Glum as Labour Party activist and wannabe councillor Miranda Williams. I thought she looked familiar as well – and yes, it was her that made an odd contribution to March’s Greenwich Olympics meeting at Mycenae House. Oh, and here is Mr Glum – “apparently the worlds glummest man at 6.30 am!”.)
Well, it makes a refreshing change from featuring happy, smiling couples, I guess… reckon the photographer said “say sleaze!” and they didn’t find the joke very funny?
“But I don’t want to appear in the leaflet!”
- “Shut up or I’ll shave your beard off.”
“But I like my beard! And look at that cobblers down there about leisure centres – they shut my local gym to pay for all that! And since when has the Labour party ever fought for ‘better train services’? They can’t even force the private train firms they created to take Oyster cards. And why is getting to North Greenwich tube such a pain in the arse?”
- “Look, if you don’t stop moaning, I’ll make you read every back issue of Greenwich Time while doing an impression of the council leader. Now shut up and look grateful!”
“And this street looks a mess as well. Does anyone ever come around and clean it?”
- “Now he’s already taken the picture! And you’re still moaning! Honestly, you should be proud to appear in every letter box in the borough.”
“I suppose it’ll increase the recycling rates…”
A shooting had truncated my last stroll along the Capital Ring, but picking up the route again at Wandsworth Prison meant I was able to enjoy one of the greenest sections of route so far, moving from city commons to the surprising sight of having my path blocked by a grazing cow. I wasn’t expecting to be slightly worried by passing a mean-looking bull on this leg…
Picking up the route by Wandsworth Prison, the leg starts at the pretty Victoria cottages of Alma Terrace, which shows what can be done with streets with a little love and imagination. The prison itself looms forbiddingly to the right, and then it’s through residential streets to Wandsworth Cemetery, which I took the option to walk through. There are few extravagant memorials here, but students of wartime London will find many graves of those killed fighting the Nazis, or, in one case, a 19-year-old sailor killed when an air raid hit a Putney dance hall. Another grave was for a young man killed in his mid-20s just a few weeks back in a bike accident. I paused and found his details on a website, and the tributes to him, one proudly saying his child had just started to walk.
With thoughts of too many people gone too soon, I moved on past Earlsfield station, over the river Wandle and into Wimbledon.
Through the underwhelming Durnsford Road Recreation Ground, past a mosque and up to Wimbledon Park station, suddenly things took a turn for the affluent. Wimbledon Park itself was full of children playing, and the tennis courts were starting to get some serious use. At the centre of the park is a beautiful lake, where the noise of south London fades away and – aeroplanes and District Line trains aside – the sounds of children playing and ducks quacking take charge. It was a gorgeous day, and I could have stayed there for hours.
Out of the park and onto a problematic section of route at Wimbledon Park Road. From the start, the quality of the Capital Ring’s signage had gradually got worse – Greenwich had done their job very well, Lewisham had missed some bits, and beyond the Green Chain walk boroughs the signs had petered out a little. Now the route followed the boundary of Wandsworth and Merton – two boroughs which weren’t exactly lavish with their signs. In fact, knowing the walk followed the boundary saved the day, because that imaginary line was easier to pick out than the route. Past the All England Club‘s croquet lawns, up past some seriously posh homes and up to Putney Heath.
And then it’s green nearly all the way. Together, Putney Heath and Wimbledon Common form a huge chunk of open space. The walk passes through scrubland before hitting open common at Wimbledon’s windmill, where the cafe closes at 5pm sharp. The London Scottish golf club has its course here, but most of the walk passes through woodland, before emerging alongside Beverley Brook. I chatted with a man whose dog duly leapt into the river for a swim, and emerged into a big field by the A3, suddenly so full of dogs that I felt I was in a Pedigree Chum ad.
Crossing the dual carriageway by footbridge at Kingston Vale provides a sudden jolt back to reality, but the scene soon changes dramatically. I’d only ever been to Richmond Park once – that was in an ex-girlfriend’s VW Beetle many years back, where we wandered around and gawped at deer. On foot, it’s a different proposition. The largest urban park in Europe, Richmond Park is huge. No deer to greet me, though, and as the sun began to set for the evening, passers-by were few and far between. Up a hill at the brilliantly-named Spankers Hill Wood, then towards Pen Ponds, the quiet only disturbed by the roar of jets from the Heathrow flightpath above. It suddenly felt possible to get completely lost in this vast open space.
But here’s where I committed a big boo-boo – I managed to miss Henry VIII’s Mound, from where you can look towards St Paul’s Cathedral. Instead, I was distracted by the views from the side of the mound – on one side, deep into Surrey, and on the other, straight over to Heathrow, the roof of what I guessed was Terminal 5 reflecting the setting sun. Watching the planes land and take off had a hypnotic effect. It was time to clamber down the hill, and after about three miles, finally leave the park at Petersham.
The path heads down to the river here – I thought I knew what to expect, I’d only been here a few weeks before after taking my stricken camera to Nikon’s HQ in nearby Kingston and passing through this area on the way. I couldn’t have been more surprised, though. After passing a churchyard, a right turn into a field which I thought looked like grazing territory. Can’t be, I thought, not this close to London. Into the next field, I was confronted with a) commuters strolling home from work, and b) cows merrily chomping away. Um, best give way to the cows, then, like that woman in the waxy jacket is doing. Petersham Meadows is all flood plain, so the cows help keep the grass down. All was fine until a bull eyed me suspiciously. Well, he probably didn’t give a toss about my presence, but I didn’t hang around to find out.
And finally, to the river. The walk into Richmond lasted longer than I expected, but with the sun setting, it didn’t really matter. Couples strolled along the path, ducks dawdled outside a riverside restaurant. I’d planned to be back in Greenwich by now (it was now past 8pm, over five hours after I’d started out) but had enjoyed the walk so much it was no problem to change my plans. At Water Lane, the White Cross pub might have had an entrance for high tides, but it wasn’t showing the football match I wanted to see. I looked east into the sunset along the Thames – then darted off to find somewhere on Richmond Green. It’d been my favourite stretch of walk so far. It’ll be at least a couple of weeks before I can pick up the walk again and cross the Thames, but I’ve made a note to come back and explore this area another time.
The next stage, north to Brentford and beyond, will feature my trusty SLR once again, as that’s back in service. But for the next couple of weeks, the scene’s going to shift a little…
I went for a walk along the Thames to central London yesterday – the first time I’ve done that in about 14 years, I reckon. (For the record, it took about five hours to stroll from Charlton to Soho via Greenwich Park, Deptford High Street, the Rotherhithe peninsula and the Millennium Bridge, not including a short stop to watch the end of Newcastle’s Premier League career in the only Bermondsey pub not containing punch-drunk Millwall fans.) Not something I’d planned to do, but I was due to meet some pals in the West End, had walked to the Last Orders exhibition at the Gallop gallery (ta Deptford Dame), and it was such a nice day I decided to extend my stroll.
The last time I walked into town, it was out of neccessity – I had 90p to my name and used that to take a bus home. But, by chance, I popped into a pub on the route to enquire about a job behind the bar – and ended up working there for a year. This stroll was less life-changing, but it was intriguing to see how much had changed on the route – the destruction of Chambers Wharf came as a surprise to me.
But another hardy icon of SE16 has also bitten the dust – no, not Downtown restaurant!
I remember, for some reason, this being a big deal when it opened – early 1980s? In fact, before the arrival of Surrey Quays shopping centre, wasn’t there an attempt to rebrand the Surrey Docks area as “Downtown”? I was always surprised to see it still open; I’ve no idea how long it’s been shut for, but a it looks like a relic of early Docklands optimism has gone forever. If anyone knows any more about this place, I’d love to hear it.
I’m also sorry I missed a rare appearance from a Labour party canvasser on my doorstep – it’s a dull bank holiday, and it’d be nice to have someone to talk to.
And hey, maybe they might need cheering up. After all, it can’t be going well when your publicity team can’t even spell the word “border” correctly.
Incidentally, while on local political shenanigans, the woman Labour’s top brass wanted to be their candidate in Erith and Thamesmead has been complaining to the Evening Standard about how beastly everybody was to her Georgia Gould, the 23-year-old daughter of multi-millionaire Blair aide Lord Gould, says she was “a the victim of a well-orchestrated and vicious smear campaign”. When you’ve hardly any experience in life, and you rock up in somewhere like Thamesmead expecting the locals to be impressed by your well-known supporters, then I’m not quite sure what else she could have expected, really. Garlands? Bunting? Perhaps she will return some day, older and wiser for the experience, and will wince at some of the things she said in that interview.
And the Conservatives have launched a new blog for the Peninsula ward (east Greenwich and a chunk of Charlton) called Charlie’s Greenwich. In its most recent entry, Charlie discovers flytipping. But unlike his friends in Charlton, our true blue hero doesn’t appear to have called the council to get it shifted. Tremendous stuff. I can’t wait for the next instalment.
I feel awful for taking a second pop at The Guardian, but this helps illustrate Time Out’s recent piece about south-east London having the best blogs – it’s because the mainstream media is, frankly, too lazy to bother covering south of the river properly.
In yesterday’s Guardian’s property pages… Let’s move to… Greenwich, south-east London. Now, I don’t think writer Tom Dyckhoff moved off his chair to write this, never mind to Greenwich. I could be wrong, but let’s see…
Though just a hop from London Bridge, its tubelessness (plus the Thames, and the dreamy Greenwich Park and Blackheath) makes the place feel far out of the Smoke… “Tubeless?” What’s the thing called “North Greenwich Station”, then? Does this mean Hackney is a distant suburb too? And the Thames makes Greenwich feel distant from London? Buck up, man, what’s the wet thing that passes under Tower Bridge?
Well connected? Rather. No tube – erm… oh, never mind… but suburban rail connects to London Bridge, Charing Cross and Cannon Street (three to five trains an hour, 13-18 minutes) – actually 4-6 trains each hour off-peak – Roads: avoid, though the Blackwall Tunnel and A2 mean escape’s on the doorstep. Although you’ve just told people to avoid roads. Ahem.
Schools Primaries: James Wolfe, St Alfege With St Peter’s CofE and St Joseph’s Catholic all “good”, says Ofsted; Meridian’s “good” with “outstanding personal development”. And Halstow and Millennium Primary clearly don’t count or got edited out. Secondaries more problematic: St Ursula’s Convent School for girls is “outstanding”, but John Roan and Blackheath Bluecoat CofE are just “satisfactory”, though “improving”. Rumour has it a new secondary’s going to be built near the Dome. This is actually Greenwich Council’s dim-witted plan to move John Roan to a spot next to the Blackwall Tunnel approach road, but don’t let facts get in the way, eh?
Hang out at… The Trafalgar on the Thames and Greenwich Park Bar & Grill are unbeatable in summer. I can think of many words to describe those tourist-friendly pubs – “unbeatable” is not, however, among them.
Where to buy Close to the park. Well, durrrr.
Bargain of the week A three-bed flat in an ex-local authority block in a great central location, £199,950, with Foxtons. Erm, right.
From the streets of Greenwich - “Too many tourist-trap eateries, but some good restaurants like Inside. The only thing we don’t have is a decent supermarket.” As opposed to the large barn with “Sainsbury’s” written on the front, the M&S in central Greenwich, the Co-Op, Somerfield, a Tesco Express, oh, and a big Tesco and Asda within a few hundred yards of SE10’s borders. Definitely no decent supermarket, then. Oh, Waitrose? That’s only up at Canary Wharf.
I suspect this was knocked out with the help of Mr Google’s amazing search engine rather than a trip down here, as well as drinking deep from the well of south-east London cliches. The omission of any mention of the O2 (apart from a passing reference to its cinema) seems a bit odd as well. Maybe he used a vintage version of Google dating from the early 1990s. It doesn’t quite beat the Daily Telegraph’s appalling “my home by the Dome” feature from some years back (it dates back to at least 2001, I’m sure) about living in Charlton Church Lane – “the newsagent now sells the Independent – a sure sign of gentrification”.
But if the mainstream media ever wonder why people around here are sometimes hostile to their work, and why people in general are less willing to fork out to buy newspapers – they only have to look at themselves to find out why.
(Thanks to Adam for the tip-off.)
If you get a moment, head to the Guardian’s website and subscribe to Dave Hill‘s new weekly e-mail, Metropolitan Lines. Dave’s been a backer of this blog since the beginning and his thoughtful site on London life and politics has been a terrific addition to the Guardian’s web offering since it took it on last year. In fact, I’d go so far as to argue that together with Hélène Mulholland‘s City Hall reporting, the Guardian website now offers better London reporting than the Evening Standard has done for a long while, even under its new regime.
But I’ve got a beef with the Guardian at the moment – a comment of mine on one of Dave’s posts, about mainline train firms further delaying the use of Oyster pay-as-you-go on their services, was mysteriously excised a few days after it was posted. Yes, I’ll concede, it did contain bad language, but with asterisks to indicate in a light-hearted manner that Dave’s correspondent who alerted him to the story had a stronger view on it than “Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”. This expression of south London anger clearly did not pass muster with the Graun’s moderators in its north London HQ – but if it was so bad, why the hell it took them a couple of days to delete it is beyond me. It doesn’t help them set standards for the site, or help users understand their standards, if they’re so slow to delete things they think are a bit rude. Strange.
Indeed, the Guardian’s not being very vigilant on the ad front either. It takes its ads from Google, and is happily affixing them to this story about Boris Johnson’s welcome announcement that he’s increasing the London living wage….
What’s that at the bottom? Straight males required? Well, since I’m lacking an income at the moment…
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Indeed, if you’re a woman wanting to book a male prostitute, you can do so via this outfit. As they say on the ad – this means only one thing!! The Guardian is taking ads from an escort agency.
This is from the same newspaper whose columnists regularly lambast the sex industry. Sure, they’re just opinion pieces, but I very much doubt an ad for “straight females” would make it onto their website, so why should an ad for “straight males”?
Moral issues aside, it’d just be good if the paper took a consistent line – after all, isn’t sticking an ad like this at the foot of a story about low wages like job centres advertising for nude cleaners and mucky phone line operators? Hopefully the Guardian will clean up its act.
UPDATE 6.45pm: Turns out the ad shouldn’t be there anyway – it’s been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority after someone who was successful in getting onto the firm’s books complained he was charged a registration fee, contrary to the claim in the ad. “The ad must not appear again in its current form,” the ASA ruled on 29 April. Oh dear.
I moan a lot about Southeastern trains, but I found yesterday a train firm that’s worse than them by a long shot. I went to visit a pal in Waltham Cross yesterday, taking a train from scruffy and horrible Hackney Downs station through more scruffy and horrible stations up to the bleak corner that is Waltham Cross station. The train itself had a garish carpet and was heated to a near-suffocating level on a sunny day, a bit like being in an old lady’s living room on wheels. Oyster card? Not on your nelly, for although the Hertfordshire town is the terminus for a clutch of London buses, the rail station sits defiantly outside the zones, without even a destination board to tell you if your train’s going to be late. If you don’t drive, places like this feel like the edge of the civilised world as London’s well-planned transport network peters out.
All this is down to National Express trains, which pocketed £3.10 from me for the journey, but without the courtesy of even checking my ticket. I may as well have not bothered. It’s the typical high fares-easy to avoid paying policy which is helping these firms get into a pickle – the opposite of the low fares-hard to avoid policy on London Overground, on which I’d travelled to Hackney. The trains are dirty and infrequent, the stations are gloomy and lack staff or helpful information, and the whole experience is just grim. At least Southeastern knows how to use mops and brooms.
In fact, National Express seems to be such a bunch of cheapskates, it even has a notice in each carriage telling you to text “dodger” to 60006 “if you believe a fellow customer is deliberately evading payment of their fare”. Yup, they’ve even got the brass neck to ask customers to do their job for them. Ironically, National Express is trying to avoid its own responsiblities, and is trying to get out of paying the socking great sums they’re supposed to pay the government to run the east coast mainline, having mistaken a public service for a licence to print money.
I did think about texting the names of National Express’s management to 60006, suggesting that they should cough up or hand their franchises back – but instead, peered out of the dirty windows and willed on the end of the journey. Liverpool Street couldn’t come soon enough.