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Annie Mole's, daily web log (blog) & “guide” to the London Underground
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Friday, May 28, 2010

Aerial Lunch in the Sky

This was the aerial view of trains coming over Hungerford Bridge yesterday lunchtime. I took it while eating, but it's not the view from a high rise office, or the nearby London Eye.

Lunch in the Sky with J20 026

It's a view from lunch in the sky. Basically with around 20 other diners our dining table, chairs, kitchen & chef were all suspended 50 metres by a crane and treated to a fanastic lunch thanks to J20.

Lunch in the Sky with J20 004

They were launching their new J20 White Blend drinks & although we knew we would get lunch in the sky, we were left in suspense as to what this actually meant (The invite just cryptically said meet in a car park at the South Bank)

Lunch in the Sky with J20 003

I'm lucky to be invited to eat on a number of different “travelling” modes. Lunch on the Orient Express, was amazing, but being suspended like this was a whole new experience.

Lunch in the Sky with J20 007

Once we were strapped in, I wondered what the emergency stickers on the table in front meant. No smoking was expected. No undoing your seat-belt (also expected) the last thing you want to do when you're gently swinging around 30 metres in the air is have any chance of dropping. We were slightly puzzled by the last sign. Was this a version of the no drinking on the London Underground sign? I don't think it was a message to refrain from pouring your drinks on the people below you. Who knows?

Lunch in the Sky with J20 008

Lunch was fantastic and prepared by Something for The Weekend TV chef – Simon Rimmer – who was also equally surprised by the location. I bet it was the first time, he had to prepare food strapped to a safety harness. (Simon's one of first people I've seen from TV who was actually taller than I imagined him – otherwise he was exactly the same affable 'scouser' who manages to make cookery look actually attainable in the hangover Sunday morning TV spot)

Lunch in the Sky with J20 013

The Italian starter of “leftovers” (can't remember it's official name) - peppers, bread, olives, tomatoes soaked in a lovely olive oil & vinegar dressing, matched the J20 White Grape & Kiwi & really well. The guys from J20 are aware their normal drinks are a bit heavy or over-sweet to have with food, & these lighter version really seemed like a refreshing “grown up” version of their stickier counterparts. In fact they even used a wine connoisseur Chris Scott, to work with Simon on producing a soft drink to complement food & not fight against it.

Lunch in the Sky with J20 024

Mains was a sumptuous portion of bangers & mash. Venison sausages, a hugely comforting portion of buttery mustard mash, a fluffy onion ring, in a light pool of a rich gravy. I'd have remembered these bangers & mash eating them on the ground or in a pub, but they were even more memorable while I was suspended in the air. Simon said he was trying to match the slightly peppery flavour of the Red Grape & Blackcurrant J20 and he did an excellent job of this.

Lunch in the Sky with J20 018

The 45 minutes or so we were in the air passed all too quickly. When I first saw the table & crane, I couldn't imagine eating in mid air, but I was genuinely surprised how fast I got used to the gentle swaying and rotation. Admittedly I wasn't sitting on a corner, which I understand was a bit scarier. I also only managed to take one picture looking down (you might just about be able to make out the people by the red carpet and shrubs).

Lunch in the Sky with J20 030

The rest of my pictures from Lunch in the Sky are here. TikiChris, Food by Mark and Miss Geeky have already uploded pictures from the day. I'm sure my other blogging friends the Londoneer and Cristiano will upload more pictures soon with reports of the day.

If you're going to the Edinburgh Festival look out for the Dinner in the Sky team who will be serving food there for a while. Normally the aerial meals are only for special corporate occasions and this was the first time they'd operated on the South Bank.

Thanks again to J20 for a most memorable experience and to Simon Rimmer and his assistant for keeping us entertained, well fed and refreshed with J20 White Blend.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, May 28, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What's your relationship with Tube wildlife?

Do you love rather than hate pigeons on the London Underground? Do you come into regular contact with our feathered or furry friends on the Tube. If so a BBC documentary film maker would like to hear from you.

P1000903 by gavs_pics3

Gaby Bastyra emailed me and said:

"I am a documentary film maker and am currently making a film for the BBC about London Wildlife. I figured you can't make this kind of film without including the Tube and the wildlife associated with it.

I stumbled across your blog and think it is great. I was reading the animal section which has some great stories. I am looking for people with similar stories about pigeons or the tube mice or even the mosquitos there. Ideally, I am looking for a person with a unique relationship with the animals of the underground. For example, someone who may feed mice at a certain platform/station every day or anyone involved in pest control or cleaning on the underground that comes into regular contact with the creatures that live there

If you feel you can help or have stories of anyone you think fits the bill, please email her at gabybastyra AT googlemail DOT com.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, May 26, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, May 24, 2010

Signs of Summer on the Tube

Thanks to
@yaili for this lovely version of the standard "Hot weather alert" Tube posters.

Hot weather alert by Yaili
Hot Weather sign at Caledonian Road Tube by Yaili

Apart from the typo it seems much more personal than the normal London Underground "Stay Cool" or "Carry Water" posters.

Stay Cool in the heat

I particularly like the request to "Have a magical weekend my lovelies" and the little PS to ask staff for water if needed.

Other signs that summer's arrived on the Tube - along with the outbreak of sandals & sunglasses - are the stream of announcements about delays due to people who are ill on trains. Not sure if water is a general cure all to stop commuters fainting in the heat & perhaps if water was more readily available, that might help trains being delayed as a result of people swooning.

Summer on Tube

If you see (or hear) of any other signs of summer on the Tube or your station has any recommendations of how to deal with the heat, let me know!

You might also like:

Hottest Spots on the London Underground - it's from 2009, but I bet it hasn't changed much.

; Posted by annie mole Monday, May 24, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Tube Map Cover apes Patterson's Great Bear

"Next stop Irony, for the Northern Line change at Compassion", could be the announcement from London Underground drivers based on the next Tube Map. May's cover, which will be at Tube stations from May 21st, replaces station names with an artist's experience of that part of London.

Tube Map Cover May 2010

If you think it looks familiar you're probably recalling Simon Patterson's Great Bear from 1992 where, station names were replaced by famous people. Or indeed any number of Tube map "mash ups" or spoofs which have followed (and usually banished by TfL ever since).

However, the powers that be, have decided in their infinite wisdom, that artistic Tube map mash ups are OK. They probably could have saved some money by getting the wags at b3ta to produce something. The Great Bear was sold at auction for £14,950 and I imagine the artist of this map, Barbara Kruger, didn't come cheaply.

If you can dress up a simple idea with enough creative and artistic words and get buy-in from TfL, convince them it's not going to "damage the brand", you're quids in! Art blog Aesthetica says: "Taking the very familiar visual language of the Tube map, she keeps the main image intact but changes the words – still in their daily uniform of the classic New Johnston Font – and liberates them from their daily function. St. James’s Park is momentarily renamed ‘Fame’, Westminster station becomes ‘Reason’ and Victoria station as ‘Pride’ completes a humorous triumvirate."

Humorous triumvirate, took the words right out of my mouth!

Sally Shaw, Art on the Underground's curator, said: "We are excited and privileged to be working with Barbara Kruger on this project. Untitled (Tube Map) presents a subtly humorous and human interpretation of life in the city, navigated via the Tube. I am looking forward to hearing what our customers think about Barbara’s work and the others in the series via our website."

I wonder whether the full map would also include stations liberated to be accurately renamed "Despair", "Boredom", "Dirty", "Sauna", "Pigeon dropping ridden" & "Pickpocket's delight"?

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, May 20, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bob Crow on the Tube

For once it's not Mr Crow pontificating about trains & strikes. But a great "celebrity" Tube spot of RMT leader Bob Crow (or his doppelganger) on the London Underground yesterday morning.

Bob Crow on the Tube by Mags Halliday

It was taken by Mags Halliday who's pretty certain it was Bob Crow. Why? Two reasons a) "He was wearing an RMT badge" and b) He was sitting "legs apart so that he took up both seats, though there were people standing".

Yes, I think we can safely say that's Bob Crow. If anyone's going to do "bloke sitting" or "Tube space invading", he'd be a prime candidate.

If only we had these signs on the Tube

Well spotted Mags, who said "After all these years semi-working in London I finally get a celeb spot on my last trip pre-baby. Although it tells you a lot that I recognise a union leader over an actor or musician".

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, May 19, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Naked Tube

Forget "
No Trousers on the Underground" or "No Pants Subway Day", four naked men & women got shocked looks when they travelled through Charing Cross London Underground.

Naked commuters at Charing Cross Tube

With only strategically placed briefcases and handbags, they travelled as though it was completely normal to be nude on the Tube. Surprisingly it's not a new trend, but to launch Virgin 1's The Naked Office, which broadcasts tonight at 9pm.

Naked commuters at Charing Cross Tube

The premise is that staff at struggling businesses try to help turn their companies around by stripping off. Steven Suphi, behaviour change specialist and leadership guru, believes that being naked in an office will help boost employees' confidence and develop trust.

In a moment of understatement she said: "For most people in the UK going to work in the nude is a very daunting prospect."

I'd say it's daunting. Where would you carry your iPod and keep your Oystercard handy?

Hat tip to Bernard P who saw this story featured in Australian press.

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, May 18, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, May 17, 2010

Piccadilly Circus Tube - then & now

The Musuem of London have just launched a great
free iPhone app that let's you wander around London and see how various parts looked in the past. Anne from the museum kindly sent me a wartime image just outside Piccadilly Circus London Underground station.

Piccadilly Circus then and now from Museum of London's Streetmusuem app

Here's how it works. "Select a destination from our London map or use your GPS to locate an image near you. Hold your camera up to the present day street scene and see the same London location appear on your screen, offering you a window through time. If the image is flipped, just walk around it to see it from the correct viewpoint. Want to know more about what you’re seeing? Simply tap the info button for historical facts.

Once you’ve got the hang of it, use Streetmuseum to create your own trails around London. At home, on the way to work or enjoying a trip to the capital – whatever you're doing, Streetmuseum offers you a different outlook on London

I'm not sure how many Tube stations are pictured in the app - but for those of you with iPhones, it's another nice app to add to the London Underground related ones.

; Posted by annie mole Monday, May 17, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tube Photo of the Week

Great spot by
@Joshweller who said "This was on the Tubeline board at Tottenham Court Road station. Only in London..."

We are doomed by @Joshweller

Pop star Paloma Faith also saw the sign at TCR and Twitpicced "Even Tube staff agree Cameron is a bad idea".

Hat tip to MichalD RichJM, CTrouper & deekdeester for letting me know!

All it needed was a line underneath saying "and Nick Clegg's the new deputy PM, so any delays on the London Underground are his fault".

Update: The message got removed and according to The Mirror a TfL spokesperson said:

"Our service information boards are in public areas of stations and are used to update our customers of service changes. This message has been removed, we are urgently investigating how it appeared, and apologise for it."

How do they explain all of the other human touches on the service update boards? Does this mean I won't see my daily birthdays & fact of the Day at Kew Gardens any more? What about Mr Warwick Avenue's cheery ones? Maybe there'll be a new TfL rule - no political comments on the noticeboards.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, May 12, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Jubilee Line Upgrade - Line may split

Today TfL's Rail and London Underground Panel reports on the Jubilee Line Upgrades and their status. There's a
summary report online of the status, which makes a depressing read in terms of delivery date slippage and the many weekends of closures due to engineering works.

sanity now broken by version3point1
sanity now broken by version3point1

In a nutshell the report says it's likely that the Jubilee Line upgrade won't be finished until October 2010 - making it more than nine months late. In the meantime a proposal has been made to split the work in to more manageable chunks.

London Reconnections goes into the report and what it might mean, far better than I could, so I'd suggest you read that.

In summary he concludes:

"Overall, therefore, the report is well worth a read - whilst it may need to be reworked and re-evaluated after Tube Lines impending takeover, it nonetheless still contains an interesting perspective on the current situation, and it throws an interesting light on the problems those upgrading the Jubilee Line will likely still face - be they Tube Lines or London Underground.

Whether we see a reduction in full weekend closures as a result of TfL's impending buyout of the company remains to be seen. If we do though, it seems likely that this will not be without cost - the temporary splitting of the line. Whilst that may be an improvement, it will still not be a pain-free experience.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, May 12, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Will NYC subway have as much CCTV as the Tube?

Today Boris Johnson is showing Mayor Bloomberg from New York City round the London Underground in an effort to display how
he's tackling crime.

No urinating on the tube by futureshape
No urinating on the Tube photo by futureshape

Apparently Bloomberg "is particularly interested in London's use of CCTV" and more so in the 12,000 cameras on the Tube (which will soon be rising to 14,000).

The Mayor's office said "This will ultimately mean that no one will be able to enter the Underground network without their face being recorded by CCTV - a development which has aroused considerable interest in New York."

I'm all for safety on the Tube, but I'm not sure how Boris is able to balance this with the Conservative party's election manifesto. One of the points states that it will be "curtailing the surveillance powers that allow some councils to use anti-terrorism laws to spy on people making trivial mistakes or minor breaches of the rules".

Video surveillance to tackle real crime is great. But low level nuisance like people having a wee in Tube corridors - is that really an offence for the police? Will that be extended to people who are sick in Tube passageways too?

A month or so ago I had lunch with Chief Inspector Paul Wilson who runs Neighbourhood Policing for the British Transport Police. It's possible to see what crime levels are like at individual London Underground stations.

He stressed to me that it's possible to report low level crime and nuisances on the Tube, such as unruly kids, rowdy drunks and the like to their local Neighbourhood Policing Teams. This seems more sensible to me than putting up a CCTV camera with the aim to catch someone urinating!

Anyway, Chief Inspector Wilson would be very keen to hear your views of crime on the Tube. Do you have any specific questions for him? Did you know about the Neighbourhood Policing System? Have you ever reported a crime on the Tube? Do you feel we have another police visibly patrolling stations, What do you think of the levels of CCTV on the network?

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, May 11, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tube Strike Threat as PPP ends

It didn't take long for the RMT to start talking about London Underground strikes as Public Private Partnership (PPP) was brought to an end on
Friday. Transport for London, bought out the shareholders of contractor Tube Lines for 310 million pounds, ending the much maligned public-private partnership.

You would think that Bob Crow would be happy that the Tube was now (or at least from June) back in state control. But no! He fears that a number of maintenance jobs could be at risk and said:

"We still want concrete assurances on jobs and conditions and we are preparing to ballot our members for industrial action."

So on the one hand it's a "a welcome development and would kill off the privatisation disaster on the tube once and for all." according to his comments on Friday. Yet on the other a perfect excuse to go on strike.

In a press statement just released he said "We have made it clear again today that unless we get assurances that staff will not be expected to pay the price for the collapse of Tube Lines and the last knockings of the failed tube privatisation experiment we will push on with plans for action and our ballot of members will go ahead."

Shouldn't there at least be a chance for the ink to dry on Friday's announcement, before Crow rushes in all gun ho with a ballot for a strike?

; Posted by annie mole Monday, May 10, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, May 07, 2010

Brown & Cameron Tube Pole Dancing

What would you do if you saw two girls dressed as Gordon Brown & David Cameron pole dancing on the London Underground? Nothing much. In typical Tube style, the commuters in the video seem pretty non plussed.

Maybe if Cameron & Brown actually travelled on the Tube, there'd be more eyebrows raised.

Thanks to
@Bash for finding the video and to @Utku who was one of the bewildered people in the Tube while it was going on.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, May 07, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Oyster Card Error Messages

There seemed to be a malfunction with the Oyster Card reader at my London Underground station this morning. I have an annual Oyster Card, so the strange reading didn't bother me, but I wonder what happened to others with Pre Pay on going through the gate. Would they have got a free journey? Would have been charged several times? Would they have a problem making a return journey?

Aliens take over Oyster Card Reader

This led me to wonder whether there was listing of Oyster Card codes and whether it was worth knowing what they meant.

Naturally, someone (@markylon) has come up with a listing of Oyster Card codes that looks pretty comprehensive. There's almost a hundred codes covering a variety of things that can happen when you pass through the gates at a Tube station.

Some of my favourites are "82 - Illogical use of ticket" - the mind boggles as to what that would be. "33 - Illogical interchange through gates", also got the person who published the listing thinking. But he elaborated. An illogical journey is not taking the Tube from Covent Garden to Leicester Square (why would you want to do that?), but "is when, say you exit through Monument station and re-enter at Tower Hill"!!!!

There are also error message 61 - 63 which are for spending too long at an interchange, on a journey and on a platform. Just how long is too long to spend at a station? How many hours? What if you'd had a long day & fell asleep?

Error message 41 was also puzzling. "Zig Zag through gates". Does this mean something like going through and then immediately coming back through the same gate? Would you even have long enough to do this before the barrier closed behind you?

If you know of any other messages which are not on the list, let us know. Or if you can think of any activities or behaviour such as "Taking too long to go through gates" or "Trying to take a huge amount of luggage through the standard gates", of which there should be error codes for.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, May 05, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tube Pic of the Week - Red Bull

A case where Red Bull doesn't give you wings. Kate R spotted a sleepy London Underground commuter, trying but failing to stay awake with the assistance of a can of Red Bull.

Red Bull doesn't Give you Wings by Kate R

She said "It was almost like an ad for Red Bull in that he was holding it perfectly upright with the logo facing out."

Kate didn't stay on the Tube long enough to see where he got off, but wouldn't be surprised if he'd missed his stop.

One of my most embarrassing Tube sleeps was waking up just as I pulled into my station, but then stupidly standing on the wrong side of the train waiting for the doors to open. I've seen a number of other people do this, so know that I'm not alone in this disorientation. However, a sleepy woman in Zurich managed to delay a number of trains in her dozy state. She leapt off her train after falling asleep and jumped off before it had pulled into the station.

She said "I didn’t notice we weren’t in the station because I’d been napping. I thought it was a long drop down."

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, May 04, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE