Sunday, 27 September 2009

Disappearing industries

A while ago my dad was looking to replace his typewriter and found that they'd almost disappeared from the market. I think it would be even harder to replace a typewriter ribbon, and many people wouldn't even know what carbon paper was or what it was used for. Here, on the National Cycle Route 21, on an industrial estate by Lower Sydenham Station, is a factory whose fate was sealed by computers and printers.

Though the Columbia Ribbon & Carbon Manufacturing Co Ltd no longer seems to exist, the building is still in use - lights on, the odd door open from time to time - perhaps as warehouse storage, but the frontage, which displays a degree of assured confidence that makes it stand out from the rest of the light industrial units surrounding it, has prevailed. So far. Maybe it is under some kind of preservation order. Or perhaps the present occupiers are an industrial version of the hermit crab - happy to occupy the shell of a now dead animal.And, while talking about industrial buildings that stand out, just off the NCR21 there's also this one. It's on Ladywell Bridge, just by wartime the ''shelter for 700'' sign (see earlier blog - ''Shelter'')
This building also seems a million miles away from any similar enterprise - it simply stands out on its own.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

London Skyride

...or should I call it The Mayor of London's Skyride? No, I'll call it London Skyride because none of the other Skyrides feel the need to name it after their mayor. Anyhow, it happened today. I rolled up at Cutty Sark Gardens expecting there to be a handful of bikes - but you'd need pretty big hands for this lot:

And this was early, bikes were still arriving from all directions. Just after 11am we set off for London, (accompanied) children going immediately after the leader and the rest of us followed in what was possibly the most chaotic ride up to town - and definitely the slowest - that I've ever experienced. Here's a view of the monster crocodile just on our way down Creek Road

Just up the road, where Church Street joins Creek Road there was already one taxi driver at the front of the queue, swearing and handwaving and rolling menacingly forwards at one of the marshalls, fulfilling the traditional role expected of a London cabbie - and, of course, by almost everyone who's cycled in London . I don't suppose he'd ever seen that many taxi-fare dodgers in his life before. It was facinating to watch the different reactions of motorists, though most of the smiles and waves of encouragement did come from cars on the other side of the road.

Several hundred car horns later - isn't it illegal to sound horns on a Sunday? - we eventually stop-started-crawled our way to Tower Bridge and over to the Skyride eastern access point near Tower Hill.

A lass on a podium to the left of the picture above was announcing over a PA that they'd been expecting 50,000 but believed that they already had 60,000. I've no idea how you can estimate the number with any degree of accuracy - I had certainly never seen so many bikes in one place before. Even without lights, there were enough to create their own traffic jams.

Here's a tribute to Sponge-Boris No-Pants:

I guess I'm being a little really does makes a change to see London dominated by bikes without fear of traffic - well without fear of the usual traffic, anyway. Trafalgar Square seemed pretty spacious:

Though that's most likely because the route onto the Mall was so busy:

Strangely, the atmosphere wasn't particularly carnivalesque, more about lots and lots of people enjoying a gentle ride through a busier yet quieter London on a lovely warm Autumn day. Though there's always some clown who feels the need to go just that bit further, that little bit higher...this man, innocent though he looks, almost took me out on a sharp bend with his rear wheels. And he didn't even notice!

And of course some people just have to push the envelope, or in some cases, envelop the push bike: below are some BSOs (Bicycle-Shaped Objects)....

And if you've ever had to cycle into a headwind, you'll know the immensity of the force you're fighting against. This young lad has reconceived the Raleigh Chopper (c. 1975) by using a headwind to generate the power needed to ride into a headwind. Pure genius!

Almost finally here's St Pedal's Cathedral, simply because it is Sunday after all...

And, do you know what? Many cyclists are what I've seen called ''sociable loners'' - and I think I'm one of them. On the way out, the lass on the podium had revised her estimate upwards to 75,000 and I think I cycled past/round/with/had to evade most of them. It was quite a relief to get onto the Lower Road back to Deptford where you can ride more smoothly, without too many lights or people holding you up, doing silly things in the road, without upsetting tetchy cabbies. Because in the end, I want to cycle peacefully and safely with everyone, be they in a car or on a bike, without feeling in danger. So yes, there have to be more cyclists on the road simply to make drivers more cycle-aware. And you're not going to achieve that by segregating two-wheelers from the four-or-more-wheelers.

Still, it was a lovely day out, and doing it one day a year isn't going to ruin your life - unless you're a taxi driver with anger management problems. In which case, get your heart MOT'd at the first opportunity.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Deptford X is coming

I've been noticing a few odd sights appearing recently around Deptford: people are getting ready for Deptford X. This slice of yellow appeared over the last couple of days in Creekside. I wouldn't advise parking on it though.

And along the ha'penny hatch I noticed this yesterday. I'd never actually really thought about how all those plants have names, though I do remember loving the sound of ''rose bay willow herb'' when I was on a primary school nature study trip back in the 60s. This would be a Creekside Centre-led project - there's a man in there who can tell a dragon-tailed spindlewort from and old maiden's tooth. Nice to have some educational graffiti....

And there's a strange vehicle recently appeared in the grounds of the Steven Laurence centre in Brookmill Road. It's in honour of Ken Saro-Wiwa. I don't know for sure that it's actually linked to Deptford X but it certainly seems to have arrived at the same time.

Thursday, 3 September 2009


I grew up with lots of bomb shelter signs around - I even remember a fire warden sign painted on the outside of a house in Langdale Road, SE10. But gradually they've disappeared with the passing of time. I've no idea how many remain in the area but I thought I'd photograph these before they disappear.

The one above is at the High Street end of Frankham Street in Deptford and I guess it might have been indicating Tidemill School - though that is a bit more than 50 yards.

And this one is in Speedwell Street, also just off the High Street - I didn't even know it was there until today.

And on Ladywell Railway bridge this one is still visible: