Archive for September, 2004

How accessible is your Metroblog city?

BBC radio news has been carrying a story all day regarding the Disability Rights Commission’s report on the lack of decent facilities for those with disabilities in London’s key Oxford Street shopping area. Rather neatly for the Metroblogging network, they compare this shortfall with the rather better provision made for the disabled in our sister city, San Francisco. What is noticable is that, as is often the way with such coverage, both reports seem to equate disability with being wheelchair bound though, to be fair, some mention is made of issues affecting the sight impaired.

The Yeorange light

If the light is on, it means it’s available for hire.

Once again we’re talking about the famous London black cab. I recently asked two of my friends if the light on a London cab’s roof, saying “taxi” – in their view – is orange or yellow, since I could not quite decide myself. One of them said it’s yellow, the other said orange. So I’ve settled on Yeorange.

I am quite sure most of us here in London have experienced the mystery of the Yeorange light. It’s actually quite a simple rule: The extend to which you will see cabs with their Yeorange lights on is directly related to how urgently you need one.

When you don’t need a cab, almost every cab you see has its Yeorange light on. When you need a cab, very few of them do. When you desperately need a cab, none have their Yeorange light on.

Just to add to the fun, the higher your level of desperation, like for instance when you’re semi-drunk and it’s 2 AM with a wind-chill factor of – 20 and you’re miles away from home, let alone a bus stop, the fewer cabs you’ll see. Let me correct that – you’ll actually see loads of cabs coming by, but none with their Yeorange lights on.

It’s just the way it works.

The joy of seeing the Yeorange light in a moment of desperately seeking a cab is sweet.

– Riaan
London

Cycling in London

Cycling is a great way to see London in a way that a driver or passenger of a car, bus or tube train never can. The myriad cycle routes of Sustrans, Mayor Of London, Transport for London and London Cycling Campaign offer cyclists safer, quieter routes through the capital, often passing buildings or places of interest. So, as a former cycle courier and sometime biking commuter, nobody is more surprised than me that I have somehow turned into a car commuter. I have recently decided to ditch my company car in favour of a combined bike/train commute to do my 50 mile round trip between East London to Heathrow each day.  As full-sized bikes are at best frowned upon and at worst forbidden on parts of the tube and overground network in London, I am set on using a London-built Brompton folding cycle to use at each end of the train journey.  Whilst I am an experienced cyclist, I have never owned a folding bike before before so I have been reading a bunch of sites like those of The Folding Society and the BromptonTalk Yahoo group to get myself up to speed.  Even though I won’t be getting the tax break advantages of one of the Government’s best kept secrets, this change will hopefully remove the stress of a daily drive through London, save me thousands in tax and congestion charges and do a bit for the environment.  I wanted to have a test ride before ordering one, just in case I hate the thing. Rather than test a brand new Brompton, I opted to take up an offer from a Tower Hamlets Wheeler to test her 3 year old bike to get an idea of how they ride and how they stand up to 36 months usage.  Not only was the 4km ride all I needed to confirm both the build quality and my decision to buy one, it helped me decide on the model I want.  Although I had been considering a secondhand bike, I have now chosen to spend the extra to get the setup, colour and additional kit I want. Hopefully, at some point this week I’ll get along to my local dealer to order and pay a deposit, with a view to collecting it next payday.

The captain and his dog

I live right on the river Thames, so one of my favourite activities first thing in the morning, when it’s still really quiet, is having a cuppa tea on the tiny outside extension my landlord calls a balcony. Ok, and a ciggarette. But it’s the combination of just having woken up, the taste of the first cup of tea and the quietness of the river that is really nice.

Between my balcony – on the ground floor – and the river there is a public walkway, well used by a steady stream of regular strollers, joggers and so on.

Soon after I moved in here, I started to recognize regular strollers who come by each morning. There are the two ladies with their three dogs, with one of the dogs always very agigated that his owner is throwing bread at the ducks and he can’t see what’s happening on the other side of the wall. There is the very smartly dressed gentleman (he looks Spanish) that walks his very well groomed dog, mumbling as he comes by.

Most of the regulars now slightly nod in my direction when they see me, and get their nods returned. (That seems to be the extend of public exchanges in Brittain. A nod. If this was the US, it would have been a stream of “How ya doing” each morning. Thank goodness it ain’t.)

Then there is the captain and his dog. It’s an elderly, clearly retired man with a face that speaks of many long winters, hardship and eventual retirement. He is in good shape for his age and walks a brisk pace, with a sheepdog at his side, every so often daring to go ahead a bit, only to be called back with the slighest of whistles from his owner.

I call him the captain since the mentioned two ladies one morning greeted him with a unison “Morning Captain!”, and I could swear even exchanging one of those “what a nice man” looks.

Whenever I see the captain, and the way he stares out across the river (sometimes scanning it with binoculours) I wonder firstly if he gets up that early just because he’s been doing it for so many years he can’t sleep in (scary thought) and then I wonder what he is thinking about when he looks out at the water. And I have to sustain a smile when he stops outside my flat to look at the overly expensive motoryacht moored at the jetty, but never used, with an expression of “what does the owner know about navigating the open seas” etc.

Maybe he is not a captain after all, or maybe he is not reminiscent about his marine career when he stares out over the water, but I like to think that. But that is what the river brings to me each morning, and it’s almost re-assuring to see the familiar faces come by every morning.

– Riaan
London

Street Crime

wanted.jpg Do you know this man? He performed a victimless crime on me. Well, I’m

Adventures in moving

I’ve always thought the best way to get to know a place, or more specifically an area, is to get lost in it. Just start wandering.

I had to meet the London Inventories lady at the new flat today to check in and make sure all of the scrapes on the walls and holes in the carpet were accounted for before we began to be liable for such things. Once finished, I had a couple hours before a chiropractor appointment up near Angel, so I wandered.

During my wanderings, I encountered a somewhat comical image. Some people were trying to move into a first floor flat, and apparently the stairs were just too small for their sofa. No less than five people were struggling with getting this sofa up there. I couldn’t help but take a picture with my phone.

I was duly chastised by the poor people on the roof, who told me to not look so amused by their misfortune. Really, though, I was impressed by how well they were doing with it. All of this, of course, made me even more impatient for our own moving day: Tuesday.

As for the fate of the sofa… well, when I passed by a little later, it was nowhere to be seen. I’m going to assume the mission was successful.

Bit of an absence, but I’m back

I am remiss. There is a reason – we’ve been going through that hellish process known as selling a house. We accepted an offer on the 15th of July, were supposed to exchange on the 20th of August, but, well, didn’t do it until yesterday. The stress has been overwhelming, but the worst of it is thankfully past. So I haven’t been very good at blogging, but then, it probably would’ve been an endless tirade of rants anyway.

We signed the lease for our flat (yes, we’re stepping off the property ladder), yesterday afternoon. Today we get to meet the landlord and go through it. I am now officially a Londoner, instead of being a ‘just north of London’er. You don’t know how happy this makes me.

So, yes, I’ve been MIA, but hopefully that will be the case no longer. Oh, and if anyone has any restaurant or pub recommendations for the Old Street area (i.e. my new neighbourhood), I’d love to hear them!

London rooftop living

I was watching a programme on BBC 3 the other night where the presenter explored alternative housing options; in this case they were experimenting with converting a shipping container into a “flat”, and then renting some unused rooftop space to house the container.

Sceptical at first, I had to admit the programme made a good case – house prices in London are exceptionally high. The average age of first time buyers in London rose to 34 this year and it is estimated that you need a salary of about

Skin tight Lycra! Shaved legs! Sweat!

The Tour of Britain hits London tomorrow, bringing the gaudy excitement of the professional cycling world to Westminster for an afternoon. The provsional schedule is:

10.15am –

Wi-Fi on a London bus

This morning (great weather by the way) I had to go meet someone at a cafe in Kensington. I decided to take the bus there from Hammersmith station and halfway to the station I remembered the map I printed out for getting to the cafe was still lying neatly in my printer at home.

Not having much time I decided to go ahead anyway, thinking I can phone the person I’m supposed to meet if I can’t find the place.

But then whilst on the bus, I flicked open my laptop, at least to look at her email about the meeting since it gave some directions. With the bus crawling along Kensington High Street, I thought “why not try get a connection”…and what do you know, loads of wireless connections are floating about, most of them open and not requiring an access key.

So there I was this morning, on a bus going down Kensington High Street whilst connected to the Net and finding my way courtesy of www.streetmap.co.uk!

Awesome.

-Riaan
London

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