Stuff that doesn’t fit on Twitter



Areas of London according to Desigual

When I was ordering something from Spanish clothing company Desigual's web site this weekend, something caught my eye during the checkout process.

Once you chose your county from a drop-down list, this information was used to populate a second drop-down list containing all the towns within that county. The county list included Greater London, and selecting this enabled you optionally to choose a ‘town’ within London.

I thought it would be interesting to look at the full list, so I grabbed it via my browser’s developer tools and, well, I’ve pasted below what Desigual thinks are all the separate ‘towns’ in Greater London.

But what are they? Are they all the council wards with London postcodes? Or were they, at some point? My own ward, Lewisham Central, isn’t included, although plain “Lewisham” is. Wards out in Bexley such as Christchurch also don’t appear so it can’t just be all wards in all London boroughs. Mysterious…

  • Abbey
  • Abbey
  • Abbey Road
  • Abbey Wood
  • Abingdon
  • Acton
  • Addison
  • Aldersgate
  • Aldgate
  • Alexandra
  • Alibon
  • Alperton
  • Ashburton
  • Askew
  • Avonmore and Brook Green
  • Balham
  • Barnes
  • Barnhill
  • Barnhill
  • Barnsbury
  • Bassishaw
  • Bayswater
  • Beckton
  • Becontree
  • Beddington
  • Beddington North
  • Beddington South
  • Bedfont
  • Bedford
  • Bellingham
  • Belmont
  • Belmont
  • Belsize
  • Belvedere
  • Bensham Manor
  • Bermondsey
  • Bethnal Green North
  • Bethnal Green South
  • Billingsgate
  • Bishop’s
  • Bishopsgate
  • Blackfen and Lamorbey
  • Blackheath
  • Blackheath Westcombe
  • Blackwall and Cubitt Town
  • Bloomsbury
  • Boleyn
  • Botwell
  • Bounds Green
  • Bow East
  • Bowes
  • Bow West
  • Bread Street
  • Brentford
  • Bridge & Bridge Without
  • Brimsdown
  • Brixton Hill
  • Broad Street
  • Brockley
  • Bromley-by-Bow
  • Brompton
  • Brondesbury Park
  • Brooklands
  • Brownswood
  • Bruce Grove
  • Brunel
  • Brunswick Park
  • Brunswick Park
  • Bryanston and Dorset Square
  • Bunhill
  • Burnt Oak
  • Bush Hill Park
  • Caledonian
  • Camberwell Green
  • Camden Town with Primrose Hill
  • Campden
  • Candlewick
  • Cann Hall
  • Canning Town North
  • Canning Town South
  • Cannon Hill
  • Canonbury
  • Canons
  • Cantelowes
  • Carshalton
  • Carshalton South and Clockhouse
  • Castle Baynard
  • Catford South
  • Cathall
  • Cathedrals
  • Cavendish
  • Cazenove
  • Chadwell Heath
  • Chapel End
  • Charlton
  • Charville
  • Chase
  • Chatham
  • Chaucer
  • Cheam
  • Cheap
  • Childs Hill
  • Chingford Green
  • Chiswick
  • Church End
  • Churchill
  • Church Street
  • Clapham Common
  • Clapham Town
  • Clerkenwell
  • Clerkenwell
  • Cleveland
  • Clissold
  • Clock House
  • Cockfosters
  • Coldharbour
  • Coldharbour and New Eltham
  • Coleman Street
  • Colindale
  • College
  • College Park and Old Oak
  • Collier Row
  • Colliers Wood
  • Colville
  • Coombe Hill
  • Copers Cope
  • Coppetts
  • Cordwainer
  • Cornhill
  • Courtfield
  • Cowley
  • Cranford
  • Cranham
  • Cremorne
  • Cricket Green
  • Cripplegate
  • Crofton Park
  • Crouch End
  • Croydon
  • Crystal Palace
  • Custom House
  • Dalston
  • De Beauvoir
  • Dollis Hill
  • Dormers Wells
  • Dowgate
  • Downham
  • Dudden Hill
  • Dundonald
  • Ealing Broadway
  • Ealing Common
  • Earl’s Court
  • Earlsfield
  • East Acton
  • East Barnet
  • Eastbrook
  • Eastbury
  • Eastcote
  • Eastcote and East Ruislip
  • East Dulwich
  • East Finchley
  • East Ham
  • East Ham North
  • East Ham South
  • East India and Lansbury
  • East Putney
  • East Sheen
  • East Walworth
  • Edgware
  • Edgware
  • Edmonton Green
  • Elm Park
  • Eltham North
  • Eltham South
  • Eltham West
  • Elthorne
  • Emerson Park
  • Endlebury
  • Enfield Highway
  • Enfield Lock
  • Evelyn
  • Fairfield
  • Falconwood and Welling
  • Faraday
  • Farringdon Within
  • Farringdon Without
  • Feltham North
  • Feltham West
  • Ferndale
  • Finchley Church End
  • Finsbury Park
  • Forest
  • Forest Gate North
  • Forest Gate South
  • Forest Hill
  • Fortis Green
  • Fortune Green
  • Frognal and Fitzjohns
  • Fryent
  • Fulham Broadway
  • Fulham Reach
  • Fulwell and Hampton Hill
  • Furzedown
  • Garden Suburb
  • Gascoigne
  • Gidea Park
  • Gipsy Hill
  • Glyndon
  • Golborne
  • Golders Green
  • Gooshays
  • Goresbrook
  • Gospel Oak
  • Grange
  • Grange
  • Graveney
  • Graveney
  • Great Warley
  • Greenford Broadway
  • Greenford Green
  • Greenhill
  • Green Street East
  • Green Street West
  • Greenwich West
  • Grosvenor Square
  • Grove Green
  • Grove Park
  • Hackbridge
  • Hackney
  • Hackney Downs
  • Hacton
  • Haggerston
  • Hale
  • Hale End and Highams Park
  • Ham, Petersham and Richmond Riversi
  • Hammersmith Broadway
  • Hampstead Town
  • Hampton
  • Hampton Hill
  • Hampton North
  • Hampton Wick
  • Hanger Hill
  • Hans Town
  • Hanworth
  • Hanworth Park
  • Harlesden
  • Harlington
  • Harmondsworth
  • Harold Hill
  • Harold Wood
  • Harringay
  • Harrow on the Hill
  • Harrow Road
  • Harrow Weald
  • Haselbury
  • Hatch End
  • Hatch Lane
  • Havering-Atte-Bower
  • Havering Park
  • Haverstock
  • Headstone North
  • Headstone South
  • Heath
  • Heathfield
  • Heath Park
  • Heathrow
  • Heathrow Villages
  • Heaton
  • Hendon
  • Herne Hill
  • Heston
  • Heston East
  • Heston West
  • Higham Hill
  • Highbury East
  • Highbury West
  • Highgate
  • Highgate
  • Highlands
  • High Street
  • Hillingdon
  • Hillingdon East
  • Hillrise
  • Hillside
  • Hobbayne
  • Hoe Street
  • Holborn and Covent Garden
  • Holborn and Covent Garden
  • Holland
  • Holloway
  • Hornsey
  • Hornsey
  • Hounslow
  • Hounslow Heath
  • Hounslow South
  • Hounslow West
  • Hoxton
  • Hyde Park
  • Hylands
  • Ickenham
  • Isleworth
  • Islington
  • Jubilee
  • Junction
  • Kensal Green
  • Kentish Town
  • Kenton
  • Kenton East
  • Kenton West
  • Kew
  • Kidbrooke with Hornfair
  • Kilburn
  • King’s Cross
  • King’s Park
  • Knight’s Hill
  • Knightsbridge and Belgravia
  • Lady Margaret
  • Ladywell
  • Lancaster Gate
  • Langbourn
  • Larkhall
  • Larkswood
  • Latchmere
  • Lavender Fields
  • Leabridge
  • Lea Bridge
  • Lee Green
  • Lesnes Abbey
  • Lewisham
  • Leyton
  • Leytonstone
  • Limehouse
  • Lime Street
  • Little Ilford
  • Little Venice
  • Livesey
  • Longbridge
  • Longlands
  • Longthornton
  • Lordship
  • Lower Edmonton
  • Lower Morden
  • Maida Vale
  • Manor
  • Manor Park
  • Mapesbury
  • Markhouse
  • Marlborough
  • Marylebone High Street
  • Mawneys
  • Mayesbrook
  • Merton Park
  • Middle Park and Sutcliffe
  • Mildmay
  • Mile End and Globe Town
  • Mile End East
  • Mill Hill
  • Millwall
  • Mitcham Junction
  • Mortlake and Barnes Common
  • Mottingham and Chislehurst North
  • Munster
  • Muswell Hill
  • New Cross
  • Newington
  • New River
  • Nightingale
  • Noak Hill
  • Noel Park
  • Nonsuch
  • Norbury
  • Norland
  • Northcote
  • North End
  • Northfield
  • North Greenford
  • North Harrow
  • Northolt Mandeville
  • Northolt West End
  • North Richmond
  • Northumberland Park
  • Northwick Park
  • Northwood Hills
  • Norwood Green
  • Notting Barns
  • Nunhead
  • Oakleigh
  • Osterley and Spring Grove
  • Oval
  • Palace Riverside
  • Palmers Green
  • Parsloes
  • Parsons Green and Walham
  • Peckham
  • Peckham Rye
  • Pembridge
  • Penge and Cator
  • Peninsula
  • Perivale
  • Perry Vale
  • Pettits
  • Pinkwell
  • Pinner South
  • Plaistow North
  • Plaistow South
  • Plumstead
  • Ponders End
  • Portsoken
  • Preston
  • Prince’s
  • Queen’s Gate
  • Queen’s Park
  • Queenhithe
  • Queensbridge
  • Queensbury
  • Queensbury
  • Queens Park
  • Queenstown
  • Rainham and Wennington
  • Ravenscourt Park
  • Rayners Lane
  • Raynes Park
  • Redcliffe
  • Regent’s Park
  • Regents Park
  • Richmond
  • River
  • Riverside
  • Roding
  • Roehampton
  • Romford Town
  • Rotherhithe
  • Roxbourne
  • Roxeth
  • Royal Docks
  • Royal Hospital
  • Rushey Green
  • Rush Green
  • Sands End
  • Selhurst
  • Seven Sisters
  • Shadwell
  • Shaftesbury
  • Shepherd’s Bush Green
  • Shooters Hill
  • Sipson
  • Snaresbrook
  • South Acton
  • Southall Broadway
  • Southall Green
  • South Bermondsey
  • Southbury
  • South Camberwell
  • South Croydon
  • Southfield
  • Southfields
  • Southgate
  • Southgate Green
  • South Harrow
  • South Hornchurch
  • South Norwood
  • South Ruislip
  • South Twickenham
  • Spitalfields and Banglatown
  • Springfield
  • Squirrel’s Heath
  • St Andrew’s
  • Stanley
  • Stanmore Park
  • St Ann’s
  • St Charles
  • St Dunstan’s and Stepney Green
  • St George’s
  • St Helier
  • St James’s
  • St Katharine’s and Wapping
  • St Leonard’s
  • St Margarets and North Twickenham
  • St Mary’s
  • St Mary’s Park
  • Stockwell
  • Stoke Newington
  • Stonebridge
  • Stonecot
  • St Pancras and Somers Town
  • St Peter’s
  • Stratford and New Town
  • Streatham Hill
  • Streatham South
  • Streatham Wells
  • Stroud Green
  • Sudbury
  • Surrey Docks
  • Sutton
  • Sutton North
  • Sutton South
  • Sutton West
  • Swiss Cottage
  • Sydenham
  • Syon
  • Tachbrook
  • Teddington
  • Telegraph Hill
  • Temple Church
  • Thames
  • Thamesfield
  • Thamesmead East
  • Thamesmead Moorings
  • The Lane
  • The Ridgeway
  • The Wrythe
  • Thornton
  • Thornton Heath
  • Thurlow Park
  • Tokyngton
  • Tollington
  • Tooting
  • Tottenham Green
  • Tottenham Hale
  • Totteridge
  • Tower
  • Town
  • Town
  • Townfield
  • Trinity
  • Tulse Hill
  • Turkey Street
  • Turnham Green
  • Twickenham Riverside
  • Underhill
  • Upper Edmonton
  • Upper Norwood
  • Uxbridge North
  • Uxbridge South
  • Valence
  • Valley
  • Vassall
  • Victoria
  • Village
  • Village
  • Village
  • Vincent Square
  • Vintry
  • Walbrook
  • Wall End
  • Wallington North
  • Wallington South
  • Walpole
  • Waltham Abbey High Beach
  • Wandle Valley
  • Wandsworth Common
  • Wanstead
  • Warwick
  • Wealdstone
  • Weavers
  • Welsh Harp
  • Wembley
  • Wennington
  • West Barnes
  • Westbourne
  • West Drayton
  • West End
  • West Finchley
  • West Green
  • West Ham
  • West Hampstead
  • West Harrow
  • West Hendon
  • West Hill
  • West Putney
  • West Ruislip
  • West Twickenham
  • Whalebone
  • Whitechapel
  • Whitefoot
  • White Hart Lane
  • Whitton
  • Wick
  • Willesden Green
  • William Morris
  • Wimbledon Park
  • Winchmore Hill
  • Woodhouse
  • Woodside
  • Woodside
  • Wood Street
  • Woolwich Common
  • Woolwich Riverside
  • Worcester Park
  • Wormholt and White City
  • Yeading
  • Yiewsley

The Best Of Santastic 1-8

[The Best Of Santastic 1-8 cover image]

Santastic is an annual festive mashup/remix album compiled by dj BC and made available as a free download at the start of December each year.

You can find all eight Santastic albums and related content at Christmash.com.

In recent weeks I’ve been referring numerous people to that site and suggesting they should listen to it all but, with eight albums of the stuff, this felt like it could be a bit daunting, even unappealing to the point they wouldn’t bother. I needed to do something to give people the best possible flavour of what’s on offer without committing them to wading through all eight albums.

So on Christmas Eve I, er, waded through all eight albums - listening to them all as I worked at home and copying any tracks I thought should make it onto a highlights compilation into a new folder.

Despite trying to be pretty harsh as I went along, I still ended up with about 50% more tracks than I really wanted. But after some tough weeding, I can now present the results:

This compilation (in no way created or even known about by Santastic creator dj BC) is just my personal attempt to pick the 20 ‘best’ tracks from the first eight Santastic albums - a highly subjective task, of course. I think these 20 tracks give a good overview of the kinds of stuff to be found on the albums, as well as representing 20 of my favourites.

I’ve tried to give a good spread across all the albums, although Santastic V (2010) was a particularly amazing album I could easily have included nearly any track from so it is overrepresented here, while Santastic Six (2011) didn’t really offer anything so stand-out it could justify inclusion, to my ears at least.

N.B. There are two versions of a couple of the tracks, depending on the sensitivities of the ears of those you’ll be sharing the music with. The filenames are hopefully self-explanatory :)

Merry Christmas - enjoy the music :)

All my coverage of The Rest Is Noise festival

Southbank Centre ran a wonderfully ambitious year-long festival of 20th century culture based on (and named after) Alex Ross’s comprehensive book The Rest Is Noise, throughout 2013.

Southbank Centre’s The Rest Is Noise web site is here, with countless recordings and other information about the year’s events, which were concentrated primarily on 12 weekends of talks, discussions and performances during the year.

We attended at least one day of every one of those 12 weekends, and I livetweeted every session I attended, with Edith often tweeting from any differing sessions she went to too, in what we started to think of as a ‘red button’ service :)

After each day of The Rest Is Noise, I compiled all my tweets and pictures, along with many responses I’d received, into a Storify compilation. This post brings together all 17 of those compilations, for posterity!

What a year! Congratulations to all involved in putting this festival on – it’s been amazing. We’ve learnt so much! Looking forward to whatever the next project up Southbank Centre’s sleeve may be…

London Film Festival - shorts short on women directors

Yesterday we went to a good discussion on feminism, curated by performance artist Bryony Kimmings at Soho Theatre in relation to her show there at the moment, Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model. Although we disagreed with quite a lot of what one panellist said, everyone there was well aware of issues of underrepresentation of women in the arts world and we left reassured to hear good practices being discussed to improve the situation.

Then we went to our first set of short films at the 2013 London Film Festival.

I’m a big fan of short films and generally go to a lot of the programmes of these that the LFF curate. This year we’ve booked five, and our first was a comedy lineup. Before the screenings began, five of the directors stood up - and they were all men:

London Film Festival comedy shorts programme directors

Sure enough, all eight films turned out to be directed by men.

Aside from our concerns about the apparently sexist selection practices of the BFI’s curators, this lack of women clearly translated into the films’ content.

Below I have listed all the female characters from the eight films - I think you’ll see what I mean. Those with an asterisk are the only ones who actually appeared in a majority of their respective films.

Film 1:

  • Young girl victim of bungled kidnap plot (possibly the strongest female character of the whole evening, oddly enough!)*
  • Kidnapper’s pregnant wife/girlfriend (quite a clichéd nagging type)

Film 2:

  • This was a weird, scribbly animation and I couldn’t remember what characters were in it but my wife recalls some women firing guns and/or having large breasts.

Film 3:

  • Hackneyed, clichéd, nagging, somewhat-unpleasant-but-probably-not-as-much-as-the-director-likes-to-think-if-he-only-developed-her-character-a-bit-more girlfriend of the lead man*

Film 4:

  • None

Film 5:

  • Supportive, forgiving wife of idiot lead man (she - OMG - beats him at arm-wrestling, triggering a major crisis of masculinity, obv)*
  • The (three) wives/girlfriends of the other three men at their dinner party, one of whom has her chest admired by the lead man at one point and rides on her partner’s back (that’s it for notable appearances by these three).

Film 6:

  • Female panda (it’s an animation about pandas) brought in by zoo in hope lead male panda will mate with her

Film 7:

  • The wife of the lead man (spoiler: turns out she’s been having an affair with another main character)

Film 8:

  • [Spoiler] Two women police officers pretending until the last moments to be submissive sex workers.

That’s it. Women may make up half the world’s population but they just aren’t interesting enough to make films about.

Films 4 and 6 were the comedy highlights - Talking Dog For Sale, 10 Euros, and Pandas [Pandy] - with Film 1 - Penny Dreadful - an enjoyable watch too. But the rest largely left us cold and we were particularly irritated by the lack of women.

So today I thought I’d check over all nine programmes of short films from this year’s LFF and see what the gender balance in the directors is across the lot, in case we’d had an unrepresentative view last night.

Almost inevitably, the average is more than none, so to that extent, we had - but the picture is not good.

Of 72 short films across the nine programmes, only 11 have women directors. That’s just 15%, less than one in every six shorts.

The figures for the nine specific programmes are as follows:

  • The Best Medicine (in the Laugh strand): 0/8
  • Bizarre Ride (in the Thrill strand): 0/8
  • Freaks ‘n’ Geeks (in the Cult strand): 0/8
  • Love Will Conquer All (in the Love strand): 1/8
  • Everything Good Is Happening Somewhere Else (in the Journey strand): 1/8
  • London Calling (best new up-and-coming London directors): 1/7
  • Animated Shorts (for children, in the Family strand): 2/9
  • Shiny Happy Fits Of Rage (in the Debate strand): 2/8
  • You Took A Child And You Made Them Old (films starring, but not for, children, in the Dare strand): 4/8.

Just one programme achieves gender parity.

And as bad luck would have it, the five we’re going to are among the worst, so we’ll only be seeing two shorts directed by women out of the 39 we’re seeing.

If I were the BFI, curating the London Film Festival shorts programmes, I’d be asking whether it’s really true that 85% of the world’s best short films come from men directors, or whether there might be something amiss with the selection process.

P.S. If LFF-going leaves you too with a slightly nasty taste in your mouth around this issue, here are a couple of festivals coming up in the next few weeks which we’ve heard about recently and sound like good antidotes:

Calm Down, Dear - Camden People’s Theatre’s Festival of Feminism

Underwire Film Festival - loads of shorts by women - it’s almost like they do exist after all!

And Birds Eye View continues to do great things with women filmmakers, and holds a festival in the spring.

Update, 15 October 2013:

Three days after I first complained about the all-male lineup on Twitter, BFI have replied to me in a series of tweets (1 2 3) this afternoon. Taken together, they read:

Thanks for a very thought provoking tumblr. We take diversity seriously and we’re really proud of how diverse the LFF is when viewed as a whole. We agree that there’s an issue with how few films are directed by women in the UK, and we’re working hard to change that.

I’m glad they’ve responded and agree there’s an issue, although their wording is interesting as it suggests they don’t think the issue is with their selection process, but only acknowledges the limited number of women directors in the industry (and only in the UK, for that matter), rather than a suggestion that their shorts selection may be inadequately representative even within those parameters.

So, as my reply to them said:

Thanks for your response - I look forward to seeing that hard work pay off more in next year’s shorts programmes!

Me meme

Lonely

Just found out this pic we put on Flickr of us at a friend’s 50th birthday party in Scotland in 2009 has become a worldwide online icon for ‘empty party’ - indeed, a copy of it appears when you type the phrase into Google!

One of the main uses for it is as a metaphor for underused social network Google+:

Although one of Google+’s handful of users seems to think it actually represents Facebook.

We’re also in a widespread ‘expectations vs. reality’ meme!

Party expectations vs reality

As someone who organises Facebook events, I can confirm the caption someone’s added to this version.

And perhaps most weirdly of all - what on earth is going on here?

That’s just some highlights from Google reverse image search - do let me know if you spot us anywhere else, won’t you? :D

Justice for Lewisham Hospital

I’ve just read the full 43-page judgement published today by the judge hearing Lewisham Council and the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign’s judicial review of the South London Healthcare Trust’s Special Administrator’s recommendation, and the government’s decision - to downgrade Lewisham Hospital’s A&E and maternity services.

He concluded that the TSA and government had acted unlawfully and this part of their recommendations and decision had to be quashed - hooray!

The PDF is here and is an interesting read: http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Judgments/Lewisham-v-SSH310713.pdf

If you just want to read the stuff where the judge destroys the government’s arguments, that’s mainly on pages 18-23, 30-31 and 36-43 :)

The first of those bits deals with the meaning of “in relation to” - as in, the Trust Special Administrator and government could only act in relation to South London Healthcare Trust, which doesn’t include Lewisham. Bizarrely, the government tried at length to argue that ‘in relation to’ could have a really broad meaning that did allow it to deal with pretty much anything, but the judge was having none of it.

Interesting and heartening too to see that both the council’s resolute opposition and public turnout at the two big demos (15k and 25k respectively) are cited as evidence that the reconfiguration would have struggled to get through a proper procedure, which would have more closely involved the council and required far more public consultation. This means the judge is able to raise enough doubt to question whether the same decision would definitely have been reached via that process (in which case gov’t might have been able to say it stood regardless of having been done wrong), so that the judge can rule it can’t stand.

So the community turning out on a demo, and lovely Lewisham Council being seen “to oppose the proposal very forcefully putting forward every possible argument”, actually helped!

Finally, I guess the judge would have tweaked his wording slightly in the final paragraph if he’d been *intentionally* rubbing the government’s noses in it, but I enjoy the irony anyway:

"Therefore the decision of the Secretary of State insofar as it relates to LH must be quashed as must the recommendations of the TSA also insofar as they relate to LH."

Quashed *in relation to* Lewisham Hospital, eh? By the government’s definition, that means the whole thing’s quashed, right? ;)

London Assembly bus passenger survey submission

Here are my ‘additional comments’ that I’ve just submitted to the London Assembly’s current bus passenger survey:

I was delighted when TfL introduced a Sunday service on route B12 recently after many years’ campaigning for this. But all over Greater London there are still roads/towns/villages which are served by buses only part of the time, be that daytimes only and/or Mon-Fri/Sat only. The only way anyone in these areas will be persuaded out of their polluting, congesting cars is to ensure that all bus-served roads in the capital have a basic full service, throughout the week. This doesn’t mean that *all* routes *must* be 7-day, as it may be that in some specific cases all parts of a route are duplicated by other routes and the demand simply wouldn’t be there at some times - Route 521 comes to mind as a rare case. But the general principle should apply and it’s a great shame that this was missed during the halcyon years at the start of the London Mayoralty when the service in general was vastly expanded.

Recognising the above applies primarily in areas with minimal bus patronage, at the other end of the spectrum, I’d also like to comment on the bad overcrowding on numerous routes in SE London. I don’t claim this is anything like a comprehensive list because I see this a lot, but in recent weeks I can recall being on astonishingly crammed buses on the 181 and 53 routes in particular. During the Olympics the 53 had its capacity temporarily increased and I’m sure many of its regular users thought this arrangement should have stayed, or even been further improved on, after the Games were over!

Third, I sometime worry that the bus network has grown/changed too organically without enough strategic planning, which can lead to odd anomalies. For instance, logically you would expect key bus hubs like Lewisham, Bexleyheath, Woolwich, Elephant & Castle each to be linked to each other to form a network with easy interchanges between maximum numbers of routes. While this is indeed the case for most of these, the lack of direct route between Lewisham and Elephant & Castle etc is an especially glaring omission. The 53 misses Lewisham while the 21 swerves past Elephant. I dare say there are other oddities like this elsewhere so it would be worth considering this stragetic-level network of key interchanges and ensuring there are good, high-capacity, reliable, direct links between them all.

Finally, what’s been particularly noticeable to me as a frequent bus passenger across a wide area of London over the past few years is a decline in speed and reliability of bus travel. Part of this could be down to the overcrowding increasing dwell times, but undoubtedly a lot of it is down to the increased traffic levels on the roads. TfL really need to focus on getting people out of their cars and stop all this ‘smoothing traffic flow’ nonsense which has had quite the opposite effect. A decline in car journeys in the first decade of the 21st century has in recent years switched to become an increase, and this needs urgent attention if all the bus routes aren’t to grind to a halt.

Thanks for reading!

London 2012 Memorabilia auction

What better reminder of the happy days of last summer than some colourful London 2012 banners? So I thought, in December, when I saw that post on Darryl’s local blog.

I co-ordinated my bids and managed to snare a combination of banners in the three colours I liked best, and with the three graphics/messages on that I wanted - brilliant. (Example of a banner I won!)

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That was on 16 December 2012. It’s now 5 March 2013 and I still don’t actually have the banners. And in contrast with the impressive feat of pulling off a phenomenal Olympic and Paralympic Games last summer, it seems this auction is one of the most shambolic operations I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with.

My initial elation at winning the banners was immediately tempered slightly by the silly, but not altogether surprising, fact that I had to pay a full £15+VAT delivery charge on each banner, even though it would surely have made sense for them to offer a way to package them up together and send them to me for one fee.

When I hadn’t received the banner after a month’s wait, though, I decided to take this up with their customer services department and ask for half this excessive delivery charge back. To their credit, they agreed to this; however, there followed a painful series of e-mails in which I had to explain to the customer services staff how VAT worked: they wanted to refund me 1½×£15, not the 1½×(£15+VAT) I had actually paid. Eventually, after consulting a manager, they accepted my explanation and refunded the correct amount.

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Another month passed, with still no banners, so I e-mailed again to ask what on earth was going on now. Their reply was somewhat enlightening:

I have had your order forms resent over again to the warehouse. We have found that around the time you won these auctions that not all the orders forms were going through in the system to our warehouse. With the forms resent over we should be able to get these out to you in the next ten business days.

Quite why they hadn’t looked into this a month earlier, when I was getting my refund, is anyone’s guess, but at least this would mean I got the banners soon, right?

Wrong. After a further two weeks had passed, yesterday I e-mailed them again to inform them that not only had they not yet arrived, but all three order statuses still say “Paid (awaiting shipment)”, so it evidently still hasn’t even left the warehouse.

Their reply today suggests that perhaps I was reading rather too much into that apparent evidence:

I know it says that your items are awaiting shipment but that message has to be updated manually and as we are nearing the end of our auction unfortunately it is rarely accurate - I can only assume that your banners have indeed been shipped to you and will be with you shortly, but I will send through the request again just in case.

Of course! Because the auction has nearly ended, no-one’s bothering to do their jobs properly any more! Makes, er, very little sense.

The subsequent sentence was also rather revealing. Here I am in London, awaiting some London 2012 banners, as used in London, for the London 2012 Olympics. In London. I assume the banners are somewhere near, well, London. And of course the people answering my e-mails about them will be in an office at the side of the warehouse, won’t they?

Our customer service office is located in Vancouver, Canada - If i could go down to the warehouse for you I would!

Oh.

Please let me know if your items are still not with you by the start of next week and we may have to pursue another solution.

What on earth that solution will be, I don’t know. I’ve replied asking this, as well as asking what kind of courier they’re using for £15+VAT a time who doesn’t offer a comprehensive order-tracking system they could follow my banners through. And I’ve repeated my so-far-unanswered question about where this warehouse actually is, because I’d rather like to go there and get the banners myself, given the chance!

Memorabilia indeed: at this rate, by the time I get these banners, I’ll need them to try to jog my memory as to what the London 2012 Games actually were.

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Edit: Oh look, I’d only heard of this happening to me and a friend (whose experience is almost identical to mine), but this Independent article suggests we’re not alone.

Update, 6 March:

Unexpected good news: my friend’s banner arrived today! So they do exist. There is hope!

I’ve also had a reply from the customer service people. They really do paint an unimpressive picture of an abysmally run business:

our warehouse is located in London, unfortunately you can not go pick up your items yourself as there is no customer service team there. We are in communication with the warehouse primarily via e-mail for customer service related issues and it takes time to communicate because of the volume of orders being processed and due to the time difference. We have re-sent your order request forms to the warehouse and if they are not already in transit they will be out shortly, the warehouse has let us know they have too many orders to process to manually update each order status online.

If only they had, say, enough staff to do the work that needs to be done, eh? Hard to imagine where they could find the money for that out of items being sold with £18 delivery charges.

we have noticed out of our Vancouver office that there have been many issues with banners purchased during a specific time period in December (around the 13th to 17th when the warehouse moved address) and some order forms were lost in transit. We have to manually re-send these order forms through to the warehouse for fulfillment.

Can’t find out what’s happening with an order, can’t update order statuses, can’t ship orders, can’t move some paperwork between two warehouses… I’m very glad my friend’s arrived today or I might have abandoned all hope of ever seeing my banners!

All I want from a mobile Twitter client

This is all I want from a mobile Twitter client (Android, since you ask):

  • Columns, including:
    • Timeline
    • Mentions
    • RTs of me
    • DMs
    • Any particular Twitter List of my choosing (showing RTs in the list should be an option)
    • Any particular Search of my choosing
  • Individual settings for each columnrelating to:
    • Frequency of update (and I mean update: downloading tweets in the background whether I’m looking at the app or not, and keeping them sitting there in the app awaiting me reading them whenever I next look at that column. If I pick every 3min, I want this checkedevery 3min, whether at 1pm and then 1.03pm or 4am and then 4.03am, whatever else the phone is up to!)
    • Notifications of new items in column (standard Android notifications, with optional sound, flashing light etc.)
    • Order of columns
  • Cacheing of each column’s content*
  • Columns always remember where you were in them last time you looked at them, so you can pick up where you left off
  • Multiple accounts
  • Media preview (in my fantasy world this includes Vine!)
  • Conversation view
  • Autocomplete of @ names and # tags
  • Native, transparent t.co URL shortening
  • Options for which picture service to upload to
  • Option to enable Streaming for all Twitter content that supports it, meaning the relevant columns are kept permanently up-to-date, even in the background.

* The cacheing problem is what I touched on under the frequency of update column setting, above: I am baffled by apps which notify me something is awaiting me in a column, then make me wait for the column to load the new items when I go to it - why didn’t it just update when it noticed the new things?! Relatedly irritating: loading the tweets in a List, going elsewhere, then going back to the List and finding it loads the whole thing again. No! Cache it, show what was there last time, then add to it! Of course, my requirement for the app to be downloading tweets at the specified interval 24/7 links into this too - it’d be pointless if it did this and didn’t then cache them.

Is that so unreasonable?

TweakDeck (updated version of TweetDeck) offers the majority of this - the first six top-level bullet points, pretty much in full - but nothing else manages enough of these to satisfy me.

In particular, handling of Lists, updating in the background and most of all cacheing seem to let apps down. Why isn’t cacheing the default? Surely it makes the most sense on mobile, where download allowances etc. may apply, to cling tight to anything useful you grab and only add to it, not grab it all again? TweetDeck/TweakDeck manage this - why does nothing else?

Janetter (which I’m happy with on my PC, incidentally), Tweedle, TweetCaster, Plume, tweecha, twicca… I’ve tried them all, and probably others. No joy.

And now TweakDeck is to be killed off in a couple of months by the idiots at Twitter, who stumble from one mistake to another in their handling of a wonderful service whose features and take-up were for years driven by users and third-party apps, but who now want to restrict users and all but kill off apps.

If I had the slightest, remotest clue how to do so, I’d write this app myself. But I don’t. Developers, if you can deliver the above, I’ll happily buy the ad-free top-tier pro donation version of your app from Google Play on the day of its release.

Oops

Can you spot what really wasn’t what I had in mind?

Clue: it’s not the typoed hashtag in the 10,000th tweet.

Thanks, Southbank Centre, for #deathfest

A year ago, Southbank Centre held a weekend-long festival of death. Arts events, exhibitions, and especially two days packed with discussions and workshops, all on the theme of death.

Introducing the idea to members and others a month or two before, Jude Kelly, creative director, faced an audience unsure what to make of this perhaps controversial idea. Her talk was inspiring and candid, as she explained how her experience of cot death, and how knowledge gleaned from a TV documentary seen during pregnancy helped her cope with that tragedy, had made her see the value in knowledge, understanding and simply talking about what for many is still a taboo subject.

So we spent the last weekend of January 2012 absorbed in death - everything from Desert Island Death Discs, with Paul Gambaccini playing music popular at funerals, to brainstorming your ideal funeral to make life that bit less difficult for relatives when the inevitable happens.

Exactly 11 months after the Death festival weekend finished, my mother-in-law died suddenly, on 29 December 2012. Today, her funeral was held in Aberdeen.

And I’m writing this post because I want to thank Southbank Centre, especially Jude Kelly but also Domino Pateman and everyone else involved in #deathfest (as I joked its Twitter hashtag should be - and it then was, after their new media people saw it!). I credit their festival as perhaps the main reason we’ve been able to approach these past couple of weeks with the information and understanding that’s made them pass off relatively smoothly.

The most straightforwardly attributable was that my wife had been e-mailing her mum about Death festival after we went to it, and in reply her mum had given us a quick overview of some of her wishes - cremation, scattering of ashes where her husband’s were scattered, etc., which saved a bit of wondering if we were doing the right thing.

But we were also able to be unfazed by decisions and arrangements we’d not given that much thought to less than a year ago - humanist celebrants, whether there’s a ‘right’ way to do things, what to wear, even what the actual purpose of a funeral is.

So yes, thanks, Southbank Centre.

But hang on, why are Europe’s biggest *arts* centre putting on a weekend of discussions about death? Is that art?

Putting aside the fact that many events did have clear arts links, such as the Death Discs’ take on music, it’s also possible to make some sort of case that anything attracting the question “Is it art?” is probably art ;)

But even if not, it misses the point of what makes Southbank Centre more than *just* Europe’s biggest arts centre - if ‘just’ is an appropriate word in that context!

Southbank Centre’s origins were in the Festival of Britain - the phenomenally popular 1951 celebration of all spheres of British life, innovation and achievement, put on by the post-war Labour government to lift the nation’s spirits. Its one permanent structure, the Royal Festival Hall, may have been a concert hall, but this was no arts-only festival.

Through festivals like Death, and its now well established annual predecessor Women of the World, Jude Kelly’s realising her vision of regaining that ‘festival site’ status across Southbank Centre’s remaining 21 acres*, by expanding the focus of activity on the site to encompass the discussion and celebration of all British life (in its broadest, multicultural sense, of course!).

Even the forthcoming Imagine festival, ostensibly a load of artsy half-term activities for children, includes discussions like “Why Can’t I Go To The Same School As My Friends?”, for ages 7+.

It’s an enormously broad-minded philosophy of curiosity and exploration which keeps us coming back to Southbank Centre for more. All human life - and death - is there.

- You can follow what you missed at #deathfest through my three daily compilations of tweets from the events and discussions we attended, starting here:
http://storify.com/bitoclass/death-southbank-centre-s-festival-for-the-living-d

*A big chunk of the original Festival of Britain site became Shell’s HQ, since partly converted to flats, in return for them helping fund the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery’s addition adjacent to the Royal Festival Hall in the 1960s. Section 106, PFI etc are nothing new, it seems!

RIP, MIL

We had some sad news out of the blue on Saturday evening (29 December) - my wife Edith's mum, Isobel, has died. We think fairly suddenly (and hopefully peacefully) in the preceding few days but don’t know the details of what happened yet - she lived alone in north-east Scotland, so we had to get her silence looked into by those nearer by than we are, and she was found in her home that evening. I wrote this post later that night.

I first met Isobel at the same moment I first met Edith, when they both came to London in July 2000 to meet their respective internet friends. On 1 January 2001 her reaction to the news her 17-year-old daughter, still at school, had got engaged to a man 4½ years her senior off the internet, with whom she had never actually been told Edith was romantically involved, was “Oh, jolly good!”, which I think shows a breadth of mind both rare and very welcome.

On our wedding day she told me I was “a nice enough chap” but “she wouldn’t want to live with” me - fair comment, and the feeling was in both respects mutual! She could be obstinate and difficult, of course, but at the same time no trouble was too much whenever we visited: she would ferry us around all of north-east Scotland at the drop of a hat, get in whatever food we fancied, take me for a macaroni pie and cheesy chips, and rarely would a trip pass without some form of giraffe memorabilia heading my way from her.

As that July 2000 ‘internet friends’ trip indicates, she was no stranger to technology, contradicting the stereotypes generally associated with women of her age (73 as of November 2012). She wasn’t far behind us in joining Twitter, and I know she kept up with all our London adventures through there.

Sadly she hadn’t been down to join us on any of them since we moved to Lewisham - the one most suitable time (between bouts of treatment for the cancer that tonight’s news surely stems from) fully coincided with the London 2012 Games, and her financially prudent ways meant she didn’t want to give money to transport and other companies profiteering during that time by visiting the city when everything here had had a premium slapped on it! As was so often the case, underneath her stubbornness, she was quite right - right to withhold her custom from optimistically overpriced businesses, as the companies that did worse than expected learnt to their cost!

We last saw her three months ago, when the three of us enjoyed a visit to the beautiful Pitmedden Garden and a tour (in her car, as ever) of various local artists’ open studios - and a macaroni pie and cheesy chips.

Rest in peace, Isobel - although if there *were* some sort of afterlife for you to rest in, I would neither expect nor want you to hang out there peacefully - that would be most out of character!

With mixed felines
Isobel Gray in August 2011 with two of her cats

An Oyster overcharging bug that TfL won’t fix

I’ve found a clear example of TfL’s fare finder telling you one fare but the system applying a higher fare, and TfL not intending to resolve the issue.

(I have a Gold Card discount on my Oyster card but it sounds very likely that this would apply to people who don’t, as well, probably with a higher overcharge (30p, I guess). But that’s why these fares may not look familiar - they’re all discounted by a third due to my Gold Card.)

TfL commendably introduced a ‘contraflow discount’, whereby if you travel into Zone 1 during the evening peak, you are charged the off-peak fare. Merely travelling towards Zone 1, however, doesn’t work for this offer, which causes some interesting anomalies.

It’s actually cheaper to travel into Zone 1 than into Zone 2 in most cases, and the example I’ve encountered is as a result of this. Here it is:

I touch in with my Oyster at my local DLR station, Elverson Road, then travel to Heron Quays, I have £1.50 deducted from my Oyster - the correct fare for peak travel within Zone 2. I then interchange with the Jubilee Line at Canary Wharf (an ‘Out-of-Station Interchange’, requiring touching out at one station and in at the next, but counted as one journey). When I reach my destination, Waterloo, in Zone 1, no further fare is deducted. But the correct off-peak (or contraflow) fare for a journey from Elverson Road to Waterloo is £1.30, so touching out at Waterloo should 'charge' me -20p, i.e. refund the excess amount charged to me at Heron Quays.

I imagine this will be the case for most journeys to Zone 1 (from anywhere) involving an Out-of-Station Interchange in Zone 2, or perhaps even further out, so I asked TfL (as well as refunding me 20p!) to look at this and let me know how it would be resolved. Their first response just offered me the 20p and ignored the wider issue, so I asked again. This time, they responded as follows:

I have contacted our Fares and Ticketing team in order to find out about the problem with the pricing of this particular journey on your Oyster card. It seems that when you are interchanging, the system is set up not to give back any part of the fare charged up to the interchange. In this case, the correct full Peak fare £1.50 was charged on exit from Heron Quays. Heron Quays is in Zone 2 so contraflow doesn’t apply up to there. The £1.50 is then ‘kept’ even though an Off-Peak fare of £1.30 with railcard discount should apply if you are continuing to Waterloo London Underground.

Unfortunately it would be prohibitively costly to re-write the Oyster software at this stage to rectify this anomaly as it affects a very small number of people. We are happy to arrange a refund for you when this occurs. Please just email us within 28 days of the journey and we can take care of this. If you can, please keep this email on file along with the reference [redacted] so that your contacts take less time in future.

Given my relative geekery when it comes to all things London transport, and the fact that this had presumably happened to me several times in the past couple of years before even I noticed and contacted TfL, I can only speculate how many 20 pences and 30 pences have built up in their coffers from overcharging those less aware of contraflow discounts and Out-of-Station Interchanges. A nice little earner for TfL, which does at least plough its revenues back into public transport, perhaps, but hardly a fair one.

Don’t waste your vote

The 2012 London Mayoral election has a voting system which is actually rather well suited to the situation in which we now find ourselves. You get to cast two votes, a first and a second preference.

This means you can cast whatever vote you truly want to cast as your first preference – whoever, in the field of candidates, you’d most like to see become Mayor of London – without risking letting a candidate in that you don’t like.

That’s because you can use your second preference to vote for whichever of the two most popular candidates – yes, those are definitely Labour’s Ken Livingstone and Conservative Boris Johnson – you would rather ended up running London for the next four years.

As long as you only give one of your votes to one of these two, it doesn’t matter which vote, and you’ll have done all you need to do to prevent the other getting in.

In other words, for instance, if you want to “Sack Boris”, there’s only one way to do so: give one of your two Mayoral votes to Ken, and neither to Boris. (It doesn’t matter who your other vote goes to.)

Conversely, if you don’t give one vote to Ken nor one to Boris, your vote will make absolutely no difference at all to the outcome. The only reason why you should not give a vote to either of them is if you genuinely do not care which of them runs London for the next four years.

If you truly cannot think, in your heart of hearts, which of them might do a better job for Londoners, who might make Londoners better off, who might best stand up for the city against the government, or indeed who might have the best ideas for London on any given subject close to your heart, so that you simply do not think it will matter a jot either way which of them wins – only in those circumstances is it logical to give neither vote to either of them.

Make no mistake: this week, either Ken or Boris will be elected Mayor of London for the next four years. If you have even the slightest preference which, don’t waste your vote.