Happy 150th Birthday to the London Underground! The first journey taken on the Tube was on the 9th January 1963 on the Metropolitan Line, a distance of 3.5 miles between Paddington and Farringdon stations on a steam train!
To mark this event, the Royal Mail has released a London Underground stamp set featuring lithographs, illustrations and photographs of the development of the transport network from 1863 to the present day and the Royal Mint have issued a commemorative £2 coin bearing the “roundel” logo which first appeared on Underground station platforms in 1908 and featuring an edge inscription heralding the famous advice: MIND THE GAP.
Three little factoids (my new favourite word) for you are:
The nickname “the Tube” comes from the circular tube-like tunnels through which the trains travel.
The busiest station is Waterloo with 82 million passengers a year, and
- It is the 3rd largest metro system in the world after the Beijing Subway and the Shanghai Metro.
That said, whilst I appreciate that the Underground is a very good way to get around, avoiding traffic jams, road closures etc., it is actually my least favourite mode of transport – if God had wanted us to travel underground, he would have made us all moles!
Anyone who has paid a visit to my bathroom will know that I am particularly fond of a rubber duck! I used to have a much larger collection but an episode with a cleaner and a plastic carrier bag meant that the originals were lost to the bin men! That said, I now have another 6 wee friends taking pride of place beside the bath!
My collection is small fry though! Did anyone see the story of the huge rubber duck that “swam” under Tower Bridge in December? This was a stunt organised by an online bingo site to publicise its £250,000 “bursary” to help make more Britons have fun. The giant 50ft-tall rubber duck went along the River Thames, past HMS Belfast, The Tower of London and under a raised Tower Bridge, much to the amusement of tourists along the riverbank.
And this week another specimen has been spotted floating through Darling Harbour in Australia to mark the opening of the Sydney Festival. Looking very similar to the London visitor, but with more plastic coverage over the hovercraft-like platform.
The organisers of the Festival say that the duck has been popping up in various sites around the world since 2007, although this is the first I’ve read about it. If it wants to join us on the Clyde in Glasgow next as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games celebrations, that would be ducking marvellous!
A second tranche of figures has just been released from the 2011 census and all the important details have been teased out and widely published. But what about the more obscure facts?
Well the main one that leapt out for me was the fact that more people in London’s Kensington and Chelsea describe themselves as working in mining and quarrying than in Gateshead, although the figures – 207 and 151 individuals respectively – are not exactly large.
The decline of the coal industry in England and Wales has been well documented and about 2,000 people now work in coal mines, according to the National Union of Mineworkers, compared with more than a million at the industry’s height in the early 1900s. The mining and quarrying industry as a whole employs 46,478, according to the 2011 Census, down 12,913 on 2001.
These people may of course work in management or for large international mining conglomerates such as Rio Tinto, which has its headquarters in London – unless some of the Kent miners have won the lottery and moved to the Big Smoke or there’s something going on underneath the High Street that no-one has told us about!
I’ve been reading an article today about the reasons why we behave so oddly in lifts.
Many of us use them several times a day without really noticing. And yet the way we behave in lifts, or elevators as they are known in the US, reveals a hidden anxiety. Most of us sort of shut down. We walk in. We press the button. We stand perfectly still.
So why are we so awkward in lifts?
It is probably because you don’t have enough space. Usually when we meet other people we have about an arm’s length of distance between us but that’s not possible in most lifts so it’s a very unusual setting. It’s unnatural. In such a small, enclosed space it becomes vital to act in a way that cannot be construed as threatening, odd or in any way ambiguous. The easiest way to do this is to avoid eye-contact completely.
But perhaps there is more to it than just social awkwardness. Perhaps it is more about being trapped inside this small enclosed space if the lift breaks down. Regular Twitter followers will remember Stephen Fry’s amusing tweet when he got stuck in a lift at Centre Point in London in 2009 – it made the national news! The reality of course is far from amusing as you have no idea how long it will be before you are set free from your incarceration and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably be desperate to go to the toilet as well!
One thing I always do now when entering a lift is to read the name of the manufacturer which is usually displayed on the plaque where you find the buttons to operate the darn thing. This goes back to when I worked on the 4th floor of a building in Edinburgh and each time I got in, I smiled inwardly, saying to myself “Schindler’s Lift”! Not very mature I know, but it always made me smile [and colleagues groan!].
For what it’s worth, if the thought of travelling in a machine that’s moving and over which you have no control, you can’t see its engine and you don’t know how it’s working fills you with dread – err on the side of caution and take the stairs!
Unless you’ve been living on another planet for the last few years, you will be aware that October marks Breast Cancer Campaign’s action month. The event aims to raise awareness about the devastating disease, its effects and ways to prevent it throughout October.
Last night London’s skyline was speckled with pink as its most famous landmarks were lit up in support of the UK’s leading breast cancer research charity. Buckingham Palace, Nelson’s Column, the Tower of London and the BT Tower were among the capital’s icons that were bathed in a rosy pink glow.
I am sure there will be plenty of fundraising activities going on in your area, but you can also donate whatever you can afford on the Breast Cancer Campaign website at: http://www.breastcancercampaign.org/about-us. The money is vital as the statistics speak for themselves:
Breast cancer is the most common cancer
- Around 47,700 women and 340 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year
- One woman in eight will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime
- Around 12,000 women and 90 men will die from breast cancer each year
- More people are surviving breast cancer than ever before
- 80% of people with breast cancer are still alive five years after diagnosis
- People are surviving longer thanks to advances in research, new treatments, earlier diagnosis, breast screening and breast cancer awareness
As one of the 80% – it is now almost 10 years since my diagnosis – I would urge you to give generously to help people like me survive this horrible disease and, in time, find a way to prevent it. Thank you.
There are many courageous stories from the Paralympics, but the one that has captured my interest today is that of swimmer Achmat Hassiem, who uses special motivation to go fast: he imagines being chased by the great white shark that bit off his right leg.
The South African was attacked by a shark off the coast of Cape Town six years ago after he lured the great white away from his younger brother. Before then Hassiem had competed in various sports, including swimming, but wasn’t sure what to do after losing his leg.
It was South African Paralympic swimming champion Natalie du Toit who encouraged Hassiem to get back into the water. Before long, he started breaking his country’s Paralympic records.
The 30-year-old Hassiem came to the London Paralympics determined to do better than his ninth-place finish at the Beijing Paralympics four years ago. On Saturday, he won bronze in the men’s 100-meter butterfly.
‘My little secret is obviously that I just try and imagine I’m in the ocean and I’ve got a 4 ½-meter great white shark at my feet,’ Hassiem said. ‘It’s definitely good motivation to swim fast.‘ With more than a little irony he added ‘I took to the pool like a shark in the ocean,’ .
Speaking after receiving his medal he said: ‘I believe I lost my leg for a good reason,’ he said. ‘Losing a leg is nothing compared to losing my brother, so I’m just trying to make the best of it.’
And making the best of it he certainly is! This, and of course the hundreds of other incredible stories we’ve heard during these Games, are an inspiration to us all. Well done!
This is my favourite image so far of the imminent London2012 Olympics!
A Czech artist has re-modelled a traditional London double-decker bus into a mechanical sculpture of an athlete doing push-ups to celebrate the Olympic Games opening in the British capital on Friday.
David Cerny bought the 1957 bus from an owner in the Netherlands, attached two huge arms, an electrical engine and a lot of wiring and suspension tools to make it into a piece of art named “London Boosted”.
Cerny, whose past works have enraged European politicians and sought to poke fun at rival artists, has installed the bus outside the Czech Olympic House in London’s Islington neighbourhood.
“There is one common exercise for every sportsman in the world, and that is push-ups,” Cerny said. “It is training for sport activities but at the same time it is also punishment in armies and prisons. So the push-ups are a very universal physical activity…It is in a way very ironic.”
For regular travellers on this particular transport however, the irony might be the fact that there’s only one and not 3 identical buses there at the same time!
I’ve often wondered if sporting activity is really good for you. In the light of some of the recent events in the world of the elite sportsman, I’m starting to think I might actually have something!
The dramatic pictures of Fabrice Muamba, the Bolton Wanderers footballer, suffering a heart attack at the age of 23 on the pitch at White Hart Lane during the FA Cup quarter final against Spurs, were shocking to say the least, but happily, despite being technically dead for 78 minutes, he appears to be making a miraculous recovery and we can only hope that he continues to progress well.
The Motherwell FC player, Phil O’Donnell was not as fortunate. He died following a cardiac arrest during a game against Dundee on 29th December 2007. He was 35 years old, married and had 4 young children.
So it was yet another shock to read in the news today of the death of Norway’s world swimming champion, Alexander Dale Oen, at the age of 26. Again, he had suffered a cardiac arrest. He was found collapsed in a shower yesterday evening after a training session in Arizona. Having won silver at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Norway’s first Olympic swimming medal, he was considered a strong hope for this summer’s London Games.
My thoughts and good wishes are with all the families, to lose a loved one at any age is difficult but particularly harrowing if they are in their prime with everything to live for.