Monday, 23 November 2009


Ok, moving swiftly on (temporal) from Time, or moving up (spatial), I'm now in a minor quandary about the spatial dimension.

We all know where the meridian is - it's that imaginary line that runs through the long room in Flamsteed house (or maybe I got that wrong) and to help tourists - or Greenwich's proud heritage - they've helpfully marked it out on the forecourt, on the pathway immediately below and on the road down to the King William Gate - you can even become at one with this wonderful landmark as you go to the public conveniences.

And yet...and yet...I've got this digital Ordnance survey map and the meridian (for mapping purposes) is not where they tell us it is. Have a shifty at the two red dots in the image below:

(You might need to big it up in a clickety-click kind of way to see the points.) The point over to the left/west is pretty close to where we all know the meridian is. And yet, my digital map tells me that this point is longitude W 0.00180046. And if I tell my OS map to stick a point on 0.0000000 (which should be right to quite a few decimal places!) around the same latitude, it sticks a point 0.08 of a mile to the East - this is the second red point. The old reservoir to the south is west of the heritage meridian and east of the OS meridian. And of course, the Wolfe statue is also sitting somewhere in the middle. (I've only just noticed that the name Wolfe very conveniently has a W at the beginning and an E at the end. Perhaps we should go for a Wolfe meridian....) It's curious really. Greenwich is the one place where you'd expect to be able to find the damn meridian. But it's not that easy. Or is it?

(Any expert who happens to randomly arrive on this page will probably reliably inform us that, due to the vagaries of the Earth's rotation, time is now measured with a series of atomic clocks in Paris, amongst other places, and that the meridian moves around depending on whether the Earth is in a rush or taking the leisurely approach to planetary rotation. However, this complicates things even more - we'd then have a heritage meridian, an Ordnance Survey meridian and a notional meridian that moves about....)

This time and space business really can be confusing!

Though it's not all getting more and more complicated - I was chatting with my clever program-writing mathematically-competent brother the other day when I confided in him that I had no idea what an algorithm was. So, I've just asked a mathematician, there's me expecting a volley of algebraical theorems and....this was his reply:

''OK, it is just a step by step procedure such as "wet hair, shampoo, rinse, repeat until done"

Wow, so it's that easy! He may have skipped a couple of details, of course...but I'm just going to file it as one minor mystery solved.

Minor mysteries (1) - THE TIME SIGNAL

Is it just Radio4 that gives that ''pip-pip-pip-peep'' time signal? Anyhow, listening to an exceptionally long series of pip-pip-pip-pip-pip-peeps last night I got to thinking that you only know when the hour has arrived because it's a longer note. But, here's the rub, you only know that it's a longer note when it hasn't stopped as quickly as the previous ones did. So you're only going to know when that times comes after it's come. In other words, you're late!

It would be so much easier to change the pitch of the penultimate note: A A A B A. The lead-in As would give you the rhythm, the B (a higher note) would tell you that it was the last pip before the hour. And then you'd get the time much more accurately. Because this, for some reason, is held to be important.

A A A B A is only an idea. You could just as easily change the B bit.

pip pip toodle pip!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Where do bikes belong?

Since getting exceedingly fed up catching the bus to work, waiting in the cold, never knowing when I'm going to arrive or whether I would be spending the whole journey listening to some edgy schoolboy's rap music droning tunelessly on, I got myself a cheap new bike in April. Since then I've done 1600 miles in a mixture of commuting, weekend runs and evening fresh air runs. I've also done a fair bit of reading cycling blogs. And one of the things that becomes striking very quickly is that there is an awful lot of debate about where bikes should go. Many motorists believe firmly that bikes shouldn't be on the road. Many pedestrians believe just as firmly that they should go on the road - usually with the law on their side.

And what do road planners think? Well, I think you have to say that they really don't know - some of them don't even seem to grasp the fundamental points - such as what a bike looks like...
Some of them think they should be mingled unobtrusively with the street furniture
Or given their own micro-traffic chaos systems of their own (here they can practice changing over from cycling on the left to cycling on the right in preparation for the day when we all change over.)
Others seem to think that the best place is to force them into the most dangerous place in the road - in the door zone with traffic to one side shaving the bike lane. Or to just paint lines in the road that drivers simply drive inStill others display considerable ingenuity in making sure that the lanes don't go anywhere at all

Other, more ingenious planners sidestep deciding where bikes should go by using both road and pavement (provided they don't lead anywhere or come from anywhere)

On a more local note, here's Tunnel Avenue in Greenwich - ticking box A for not going anywhere and ticking box B for doing it with no reason.
And where Plumstead meets Woolwich, three bike lanes come from nowhere and go precisely nowhere. The building behind is the Plumstead Radical Club. They clearly hold Radical Cycling Club events there. But this for chappie on Google street view, evidently doesn't really know what's going to happen to him when he reaches the epicentre...because radical cyclists are capable of appearing from three different directions and from nowhere at the same time. I'd be a little nervous too.
It really shouldn't be funny - but you have to have to give people some credit (and taxpayers' money) for coming up with designs that combine ingenuity with built-in inutility.

UPDATE 30 August 2010:

 This one solves the problem of cars driving in cycle lanes...

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

There's a thief about....

A couple of weeks ago some beastie came along onto my 4th floor balcony and ate the roots of my basil, oregano and coriander. Whatever it was, it displayed no interest whatsoever in the foliage, just the roots. And yesterday, what did I see but a squirrel hanging around outside! I really should have taken more notice of the street signs they put up in the street below a couple of years ago, they were actually quite prophetic:

If I ever get hold of him, he'll have no idea where to look for his nuts!

And while I'm thinking about the signs that were put up for the Deptford 2007 exhibition, there's another few that seem to have foreseen post-Boris London.

Bye-bye bendy bus...
Playing Franny's cycling knight in shining armour and riding off in pursuit...

Designs and photo: (c) Sue Lawes & Lionel Openshaw :

Monday, 9 November 2009

Ha'penny Hatch gets a service

After a lazy stroll into the kitchen for the morning pot of tea this morning, I looked out of the window and saw the footbridge had been lifted. I've never seen it up since they built it. In the time it took me to find my camera and open the front door it had been lowered again - surprisingly quickly, though finding anything in here is never a quick job. Anyhow, I managed to grab this image.Seconds later it was almost back to normal:

And just a couple of seconds later, after a posse of hi-vizened engineers wandered up and had a leisurely peek about the place, everything returned to normal again. Even the guy who, at a guess, isn't allowed to practise his drums indoors made an afternoon reappearance, serenading pedestrians with his snare drum paradiddles.