Friday 13 April 2018

Snails...and other interesting objects.

I took way too many photos on our Underground Overground Walk on Sunday - I actually joked to MrEH that I reckoned I was going to have to do multiple blog posts if I wanted to share them all with you as putting them all into one would just make that post far too slow to load up. Then I thought about it a bit more and thought "Why not?!" - it would be great to think that someone else thinking about walking the Victoria Line might find my post one day and get some inspiration from it, so I'll link this and any subsequent ones into it - our "interesting things seen" are mostly different to those of the other people that have completed the walk so I reckon there's space for some more posts on the subject!

When we arrived at Walthamstow Central we walked across the road to the Bus Station so I could use the loo there - I felt a pre-emptive visit might be a good plan. In the event they were closed for repairs, but while I was finding that out MrEH spotted that around the glass enclosure that surrounds the escalator shaft to the tube were a whole load of china garden-type ornaments. When I saw this one...

...I took a photo of it saying to MrEH "You'll see why later in the walk...And so will scrolling now! (Unless you're a vegetarian, in which case you might like to scroll on past the next photo...)

I loved the section of Walthamstow Market we walked along and was telling MrEH all sorts of interesting odds and ends that I remembered about it, both about the history and things I remembered from my childhood too. Manzes Pie & Mash shop is an East London institution and I can clearly remember the delicious smells emanating from it as we used to walk past. It's a beautiful shop front too - very traditional of its type, and I was pleased to see that it's now been given a Heritage Plaque. (My parents can remember the "eel man" outside chopping live eels into portions for customers to purchase, take home and cook - all the little individual sections used to wiggle around on the board as the nerves took a while to catch up with the fact that the creature itself was dead!)

We veered off the route that a lot of others had taken when we got to Pretoria Avenue - I knew exactly where the route of the line ran at that point - because of this...

That is one of the ventilation shafts that helps to keep the air fresh down at platform & tunnel level, and it happens to be right next to the school I attended for 4 years when I was little - you used to be able to hear the noise of the trains from it occasionally, although not since it's been fitted with a fancy-pants water cooled cooling fan I'm guessing - although that 3 degrees of cooling it apparently achieves is  much needed in those deep level stations! It's not the most attractive of buildings but I do like the fact that they've painted it Victoria Line Blue - and I wondered whether perhaps more of them had been painted similarly.

Onwards and from Blackhorse Road station came what I suspected would be the dullest bit of walk being on busy main roads and without any backstreets to divert through to add a bit of interest (and some peace and quiet!). Part way along Ferry Lane though you pass by the reservoirs/Walthamstow Wetlands nature reserve which makes for a bit of a better view..

...and crossing to the other side of the road we crossed over another walk we did a while ago - the Lea Navigation - you might remember that we walked that back in 2014 - this time we kept walking on down Ferry lane though, tempting as that towpath looked even in the rain! 

Finally just up the road from Seven Sisters station and brightening a very dull stretch of the Seven Sisters Road, we reached it...

This snail has been painted on this wall looking exactly the same for as long as I can remember. It must have been repainted a number of times I imagine but always in the same colours. A quick search on Mr Google has confirmed that it has in fact been there for pretty much as long as I would remember as it dates back to 1976, it was painted for the Jubilee. The Silver one, that is, not the two we've celebrated since. Oh and it's called Sid - next time we pass I shall be sure to greet it by name.

I'll be back with another of these posts at some stage - goodness knows I've got plenty of pictures to share still!


Tuesday 10 April 2018

A quick fix...

By the time we got home from our Underground Overground walk on Sunday and had a bite to eat, all I wanted to do was to soak in a hot bath for a bit and then head to bed. It had been a distinctly long, if triumphant day, so I took my book, had a nice read until the heat started leaving the water, hopped out, dried off and then fell into bed and pretty much straight to sleep. Fast forward to the following morning and MrEH dashing around looking harassed "There's no hot water!" he exclaimed grumpily. Never something you want to hear before 7am, I instantly found myself thinking of the nuisance involved in needing to get plumbers round and all the hassle that entails, never mind the cost.

Then I remembered. Blast - of course, I'd put the immersion heater on at the same time as running my bath the night before, and since we've had the in-line pump fitted to the feed from the hot water tank to the taps, the water pressure is high enough that the tank gets emptier than it should, which means the element in the tank gets above it's prescribed temperature and the thermal link trips out. I know about thermal links from my time in the construction industry - back then they were often a physical link, which blew, but now the immersion heater ones at least are an electronic style trip that works to cut the power to the element in that circumstance. I've had to reset ours once before, and was aware of the issue with it, but being tired after our long day I simply forgot and just did everything in the wrong order. We agreed that it would have to wait to sort until the evening, got ready with the aid of some boiled kettles for hot water, and headed to work.

Yesterday evening I grabbed my spare and current iPhones - the thermostat on the tank is buried in the airing cupboard and you can't actually see it without a phone camera to look at it with. It's dark in there though, which also means you need a torch, By stacking the phones one on top of the other held in my left hand I can use the torch from one for light and the camera from the other to aid vision, leaving my right hand free to do the re-set. I then turned off the switch to the heater - although it has no power feed during the day I didn't want to take chances. Safety first with electrics, always. If I had been doing this job at a time the power to the circuit was live I would have flicked the main trip switch off while I did the job as well, just to be certain.

This is the first thing you'll see - with that little nut on the bottom right corner being the key - undo that and set it aside CAREFULLY, and then lift that black plastic cover clear of it's retaining bolt. Bingo - everything becomes clear.

What you're looking at here is the thermostat itself - the larger red disc is used to set the required temperature (there is a slot in the centre of the disk which allows you to turn it to your required level) and diagonally up and to the left of that is the tiny red "reset"button - at first glance I wasn't sure it had tripped and my heart began to sink, but I gave it a little push with a ballpoint pen nib (the perfect size) just to see and heard a very audible small "click" - hurrah! All done - I popped the cover back on, carefully replaced and tightened the nut, then switched the power back on and set the over-ride to the circuit for half an hour to see what would happen. Sure enough when I checked back 30 minutes later - we had hot water again! 

This sort of small job is a great example of where the internet can be super-helpful. The first time this happened I admit I really didn't have a clue - I knew what had gone wrong, but not how to fix it, but a quick google search and there was a YouTube video just begging to help. There is something deeply satisfying about being able to carry out this sort of little household fix without needing to call someone in though, even more so when it's ME that's effected the fix, not MrEH! (And who knows, in the future maybe someone will find this post and be able to make use of it in exactly the same way!)

Have you encountered any minor household repairs that gave you a small sense of triumph for being able to complete them? 


Monday 9 April 2018

Underground, Overground...

I may have mentioned on here before that MrEH is exceptionally good at buying books that turn out to be a really good read. One example of this was a book about the shipping forecast which was utterly fascinating. And another was Mark Mason's excellent "Walking the Lines" book - the story of one man's decision to walk all the lines of the London Underground system overground. For a born-and-bred Londoner the tube is an endless source of fascination - we're fiercely proud of our rather excellent subterranean transport network, whilst utterly taking its presence for granted! Of course we're all familiar with walking between the odd station here and there - I grew up near Blackhorse Road (Victoria Line) for example, and frequently walked to Walthamstow Central as it wasn't quite far enough to justify paying for a tube ticket. When living in Bethnal Green the walk to Liverpool Street was a regular feature, and all Londoners are aware of the various journeys in the centre of the city where it is quite simply quicker by far to walk, than to undertake the necessary changes required for a journey on the underground instead. Mr Mason's book however made me think about the system in a rather different way, and while we harbour no particular ambition to try to walk ALL the lines, I did find myself wondering whether perhaps we could walk "my Childhood line" - the Victoria - from end to end in one go.

I mentioned in a previous post that I'd signed up for a challenge which involved me covering 100km under my own steam inside 7 days, and suddenly that gave a bit more purpose to the mused-on idea of the Victoria Line walk. We played about on Google maps - Walthamstow to Brixton as a walking route, dragging the route to all the stations en-route, and it gave us a distance of 14.5 miles - not so bad (The actual line distance is 13 miles) although we were well aware that the physical route walked would end up longer than this by the time we'd meandered off course to look at things, or taken a slightly more zig-zaggy route in places to stay a bit closer to the line. We found a few other accounts online of other people who'd done the walk including this rather jolly Canadian chap who's made a bit of a habit of tube-walking and doesn't look likely to stop any time soon! When we started thinking about potential locations to stop for breaks, and what sort of food to carry with us, we knew that we were hooked on the idea and the walk was definitely going to happen!

My 100k challenge meant that I had to do a fair bit of walking in the days running up to tackling the Vic Line - that would only account for (playing safe) 16 or so of those 63 miles. My week didn't start well with a Bank Holiday Monday featuring a lot of time in the car and horrendous weather meaning only 2 miles clocked up that day. The following days picked up a lot - with a low of 7.15 miles and a high of 10.16 meaning I was very much on track so long as the Vic Line was doable at the end of it... 

Wanting to keep "off walk" mileage as low as possible on Sunday we elected to drive into London, parking the car close by where I work and hopping on the bus to Walthamstow where we'd decided to start. The main reason for doing the walk this way round was that it meant we dealt with the bit we knew best at the beginning, meaning that by the time tiredness and sore feet started to bite we'd be onto areas which would hopefully be a bit more interesting. 

The bus stops directly outside the original Tube Station entrance - there is a new one across the road in the "new" bus station (it was opened in 1987 if I remember rightly, but it still feels new to me!) but this will always be the entrance to me.. 

We were off! Along Selborne Rd, past the shopping centre (also "new" - see above!) and then right and left onto High St - or "Walthamstow Market" as it's known. (Think "I'm goin' dahn the market" for context here). No market on a Sunday though - it was blissfully quiet. We then strayed off the route that others have taken as I knew exactly where the line ran at this stage - outside one of my old schools is a Vent Shaft that rather gives the game away - more on this in a future post! Onto Forest Road and a left turn up to Blackhorse Road...

This one probably has to take the award for best station exterior thanks to the plaque of the horse. I loved that when I was a kid! Of course this is the design continued on the platforms below - each Victoria Line Station has its own design, linked in with the area the station is in - so Walthamstow Central has a William Morris design, Victoria has a picture of Queen Victoria, Brixton has a picture of, just kidding with that last one! ;-) The next part of the walk is along a busy road with a brick wall one side (concealing the overground Barking to Gospel Oak line) and a palisade fence on the other beyond which are a succession of reservoirs which are also now home to the very new Walthamstow Wetlands Nature Reserve. Crossing over the Lea Navigation brought us to our next station. Tottenham Hale is undergoing refurbishment (again) so this was as good as I could get for an exterior shot. The place seems to have been constantly pulled apart and put back together again for years now - and in the process has gone from an easy to use station to one that simply doesn't work, sadly.

Onwards - round the busy Broad Lane one way system and past the retail park - a short section of zig-zagging through back streets and we encountered the first entrance to Seven Sisters station - there are entrances at all sides of this busy road as well as the "main" entrance (although I suspect used by far less folk than the satellite entrances) so I opted for photographing this one.

The next bit of the walk was probably the part I was least looking forward to. Seven Sisters Road is mostly dull and dreary, very full of traffic and generally not somewhere we'd choose to walk. The distance between Seven Sisters and Finsbury Park is also the longest between two deep-level stations on the network other than out at Heathrow - for me, psychologically, this was the tough bit. This was also the section we encountered our first tube station not served by the Vic Line - Manor House on the Piccadilly line. It also gave us our first bit of "off road" walking as we were able to come off the main road and walk through Finsbury Park itself which was a nice diversion if rather muddy. Finally after a lot of steps we arrived here...

Suddenly there were a lot of people around with red & white scarves and shirts on - yep, Arsenal had a home match in the afternoon! Finsbury Park is the closest Vic Line station to the Emirates Stadium - home of the Gunners - and we were about to walk right past it, but we'd done our homework and knew that as long as we were past the stadium by around 12.30 we'd be fine, and we were well ahead of that. We encountered another Piccadilly Line only station on this stretch too - Arsenal Station. That also gives the game away as to the road we were on - Gillespie Road was the original name of this station until it was renamed Arsenal in October 1932. The football fans continued milling around but we continued onwards and shortly afterwards were able to tick this one off our list...

We decided this would be a good time to stop for a bit of a break so popped into a handy Wetherspoons pub for a sandwich and a glass of juice. 6 stations done and about half the total distance covered. From Highbury we chose to zig-zag through the back streets of Barnsbury to cut across to the Caledonian Road as this kept us closer to the actual route of the line than the online suggested route would. By this stage we'd realised that Google's "public transport" map overlay showed the rough "real life" routes of the lines so were consulting with that on a regular basis to see how we were doing. I deliberately photographed Kings Cross with St Pancras in the background because that is of course the correct name of the Underground stations - the two mainline stations share it so it serves both.
 This was probably the easiest stretch on the line in many ways as within a very short stretch of straight-line walking we ticked off three stations - the beautifully refurbished KXStP above, then the hideous concrete nightmare that is Euston...

(The statue of Mr Stephenson used to prevail over the "Grand Hall" in the original station - he looks like he wishes he was still there to be quite honest!) Then on to Warren Street in the shadow of the BT Tower just beyond...

The route we took led us past the base of the tower - the closest MrEH had ever been I believe - and then a further bit of zig-zagging to get us to the madness of Oxford Circus while missing as many of the crowds as possible! Tube nerds will instantly spot that this is a Leslie Green station - with its distinctive Ox Blood tiling!

A short stretch of crowd-dodging on Regent Street followed - before we shot off down a side street and subsequently onto the VERY Smart New Bond Street past some rather expensive looking boutiques. We short-cutted through The Royal Arcade, stopped briefly to drool over some rather nice chocolates (we decided that even with 50% off the Easter Eggs we still didn't want to know the price!) then stopped under cover at the end of it to eat a rather more downmarket banana each!  A few more left and rights and we emerged on Piccadilly opposite The Ritz and just a few steps from our next station - Green Park.

The next stretch was straight across the park itself to Buckingham Palace - and was probably the most pleasant stretch of the walk. A brief stop to look at the St James' Park lake even netted us a new bird for our year-list with a sighting of a White Fronted Goose. An almost straight line then brought us to Victoria where we decided another break and a cup of tea was in order - once again Wetherspoons came to the rescue!

Once we started walking again we were both aware of starting to feel a bit tired in the legs but this really felt like the home stretch which fired us up to keep going. Google wanted to take us straight along Vauxhall Bridge Road, but instead we chose a slight detour which would bring us straight past Pimlico Station. As well as being the only station on the line that only serves the Vic Line with no other interchange at all it is also without question the most uninteresting station of all those we passed. 

Over Vauxhall Bridge, being sure to pause and peer over the parapet to find the emergence of the River Effra into the Thames - it comes out under the MI6 building - you know, the one that got blown up in Skyfall? ;-) Thankfully they've done a great job of the repairs...

Vauxhall underground station sits in the middle of a teemingly busy one way system - even on a Sunday it took us a while to cross but finally we were over and heading for South Lambeth Road.

This brought me back onto a route I knew - I spent a fair bit of time in Stockwell years ago and so knew this last stretch of walking with no need to look at the map. Across the road from Stockwell Station, past the Swan (we didn't bother going in - the far better Priory Arms is not far away and had we been wanting a pub right then we'd have aimed there instead)...

...and on down Stockwell Road. Nothing remarkable here, although there are some really beautiful houses in the streets off to the left. Finally towards the very end of Stockwell road we took one final short cut through Stockwell Avenue and it's little alleyway that pops out onto Brixton Road itself - a right turn under two railway bridges, and there it was...

Two people have probably never approached Brixton Station wearing quite such broad grins!

I tracked the walk using my FitBit - apart from the stretch from Victoria Station where I only realised at the bottom of Belgrave Road that I'd forgotten to restart it again - and the mileage tracked at 16.59 miles - that stretch that didn't track was probably about half a mile. We managed to keep a quite impressive pace of 3.1mph which was a little faster than I was expecting - unsurprisingly our first mile was the quickest - with the slowest being mile 11 for some reason. (I suspect because we stopped for longer at various places on that stretch). I burned 1,997 calories, and we were walking for 6 hours and 9 minutes. I'll do a subsequent post with some of the interesting things we saw on the way - for now though I just intend to say "We did it!" and feel smug! 


More posts on this can be found at : Snails and other interesting objects...

Tuesday 3 April 2018

Truth or lies?

I've been reading my way through the great blog from Charlie - aka "The Runner Beans" and came across her post about false impressions given on social media about the way people live their lives, specifically relating to fitness and diet. Let's face it, I bet there is hardly a blogger or instagrammer out there not occasionally guilty of putting their life into "soft focus" and only showing the good bits? It's natural to want to show the best of ourselves, rather than confessing that yesterday, we ate a breakfast that contained more calories than we burned off in the entire very rainy day. (Yes, this actually WAS me yesterday!)

Charlie posted this list which came from a study carried out by KP Nuts, apparently, so I thought it would be fun to take a look and see how I stacked up with some truths...

  1. I drink more than 1 litre of water a day During the week, yes I do, and it's often more than 2. At weekends though I can be shockingly bad at forgetting about hydration.
  2. I don’t watch much telly I watch a lot less than MrEH but still probably more than I'd like. I do have a few shows I will make a point of recording (By a Tuesday night when he's at rugby training I'm always itching to catch up on casualty, for example!).
  3. I only drink at weekends It's a rare week when this one isn't true - although my weekends do start on a Thursday night, it should be remembered! If I do drink during the week though it's because we're out somewhere and it will be beer rather than wine or spirits.
  4. I visit the gym regularly Generally once a week.
  5. My kids aren’t allowed sweets No kids, and the chances of me stopping MrEH from eating sweets is next to zero! I don't eat much in the way of sweets myself although I do enjoy a bit of good dark chocolate on occasion. 
  6. I have a normal BMI It's getting there - finally - last time I got on my scales they told me 24.8 so *just* in the healthy zone finally. 
  7. I never eat takeaways This is definitely not me! At home we have a takeaway about once a month - with occasionally a second one creeping in there. If we're away at weekends then there will often be one somewhere along the lines there too - the weekend just gone this was the most fantastic fish & chips!
  8. I don’t really like chocolate I have far more of a savoury taste than sweet, but I do enjoy chocolate from time to time. If you gave me a straight choice between a bar of Dairy Milk or a packet of Cheese & Onion though the crisps would win every single time!
  9. I don’t like the taste of alcohol Really? People say this? I definitely DO like the taste of alcohol - especially in beer or gin form! And of course in moderation drinking can be a great way to get out and socialise with friends, too.
  10. I’m not a fan of fried food This is too general, surely? I frequently use my frying pan at home, usually with just a teaspoon or two of rapeseed oil, but we don't eat deep fried food at home particularly. 
  11. My kids love vegetables Again - no kids. MrEH probably eats more veggies than he would if he was single though if that counts? 
  12. I never eat fast food See no. 7 above...although in terms of the "usual suspect" fast food chains - McDonalds is a "never" - this is on grounds of principle following some rather dubious activities that they supported years ago. BK & KFC are a "very occasional" - and I tend not to enjoy them particularly when I do these days. 
  13. I lift really heavy weights The only weights I own at home are dinky 1.5kg ones. I don't do any free weights stuff at the gym at all at the moment - and the leg-press machine is the only one I set above 25kg, currently! 
  14. I only shop at organic supermarkets I pretty much never buy organic. I'll be honest, I'm unsure whether the benefits of doing so are great enough to justify the much higher price tags. Instead we try to focus on buying British as far as possible, and in the case of meat, always British free range/higher welfare.
  15. I don’t eat any saturated fat Crisps contain saturated fat. Therefore I DO eat saturated fat. ;-) 
  16. I won’t have processed food in the house Cheese is made via a process and is therefore, surely, processed? Seriously though, generally speaking we avoid ready meals and similar and usually cook from scratch from bare ingredients. It's just the way we prefer to eat. 
  17. I have never tried a kebab My answer here is much the same as Charlie's - shish kebabs....mmmm! 
  18. I don’t eat carbs at all Pfft. I have days when I eat precious little but carbs! 
  19. I’ve run a marathon Nope. And that is highly unlikely to change, too. Absolutely get why people go out there and do it, but have zero wish to run one myself, thanks! 
  20. My children never eat fast food As above, no children to think about. If we had, I'd hate for them to be the "strange ones" at school for never eating fast food - but I would make sure that rather as when I was a child, it was a treat rather than a regular occurrence. 
So there you go - I reckon I'm pretty much the same as most people when it comes to food and eating - there are things I could do better for sure, but equally some of my choices are probably better than a lot of people's. I'm pretty active, and tend to watch what I eat during the week and relax a lot at weekends. Ultimately I really enjoy nice food, and taking my weekdays as mostly in calorie deficit and exercising a fair bit means I can get away with splurging a bit more at weekends. It works for me.