Adrian’s week off in London: Day 1

I’m taking this week off work, and rather than going away anywhere, thought I’d stay in London. In the mornings I intend to explore London, ideally things that can’t be done normally on a weekend. In the afternoons I’m going to attempt cooking, something I don’t normally do but this week gives the time to practice.

Today’s plan was to go to the Bank of England museum, which is only open on Mondays to Fridays.

On the way from the station to the museum, I took some random back roads and came across the church of St Clement Eastcheap. This church is supposedly the one from the ‘Oranges and Lemons’ nursery rhyme. Half of the church is currently used by a couple of charities and I debated whether to actually push the buzzer to request to look around. What swayed me was an interesting looking exhibition that turned out to be focused on graffiti in Derry/Londonderry, mostly based on the Troubles. This led to a slightly awkward situation where I was reading display boards and taking photos, metres away from where people were working, but no-one said anything or paid any attention.

I then headed off towards Bank, however I decided to stop in the church of St Edmund, King and Martyr, now used by the London Spirituality Centre. This church was apparently bombed in the First World War, and some shrapnel from the bomb is now framed in the altar. The stained glass window was moved here in the late 1940s from a demolished London church. Apparently St Paul’s Cathedral turned it down because the angels in the picture have red wings, rather than white. I was also given a map of all 48 churches in the City. [Possibly a theme for future posts?]

Continuing my church exploring theme, I popped into St Michael Cornhill, where the organist was practicing for the 1pm organ recital. There wasn’t so much to look at here, other than the one man who was doing a crossword.

I then decided I needed to meet my main objective of going to the Bank of England museum.

The museum seems to focus on three main areas. The first part of the museum covers how banking works. This mainly focuses on the financial crisis, inflation and how interest rates are set. The main message of this was that banking is really hard and therefore it’s not always possible to get it right. To emphasise this fact, there are two challenges to attempt. The first is controlling a yacht and keeping it at the same speed whilst the wind and the current continually change. I thought I did quite well (once I got the hang of the complicated controls). However the game gave me a score of “3: Second Mate” and recommended I “never work in planning the bank rate”. The other game involved trying to balance a ball in a tube, whilst both sides seemed to raise/lower randomly. Again, it was surprisingly tricky and the bank rate fluctuated massively. I hope this isn’t how the bank rate is actually decided.
Inflation challenge

The second part of the museum looks at the history of the Bank, from its early days as an actual bank, to being a central bank which only lends to governments and other banks. Interestingly, staff members are allowed to have standard bank accounts here, and there is a counter specially for this. There is a lot covered here, and there is some repetition of stories as the museum covers the history of the building, the history of the Bank, and the history of bank notes.

The third part of the museum covers the development of bank notes, originally given as receipts for gold deposited with the bank, which started as “trust that the bank had the gold to repay the stated value”, but now simply certifies against “trust”. The exhibition shows a history of bank notes, from the very oldest all the way to the current day ones. There’s a lot of detail going into the security features of modern bank notes, explaining that forgeries have always been a problem (I checked my wallet, fortunately all legit). An interesting fact here is that any historic bank note can be exchanged at the Bank of England. It is however only worth what it’s written out for. So any £5 note will always be worth £5, even if it is 300 years old.

Speaking of gold, there is a section here that covers the Bank of England’s gold vaults. Every gold bar (technically a trapezohedron) weighs 13kg is designed for handling, and is stored upside down for this reason. There’s a gold bar here which is possible to attempt to lift up to see how heavy they actually are. Today, one bar of gold was worth £293,281 and the gold bar is firmly fixed in (and surrounded by CCTV) to prevent potential thieves.

Which more or less finishes this morning’s adventures.

This afternoon, for the cooking part of my holiday, I decided to attempt Toad in the Hole, a popular choice when I asked for suggestions at work. It turned out fine, although I may use a different cooking dish next time, as it rose massively over the top of dish, and therefore not all of the “hole” was crispy (inside was still a bit batter-y). I think I would also do fewer potatoes next time. Otherwise this is a fairly simple meal that I may do again if I want something more exciting than plain sausages.

Adrian’s Boris bike adventures

Hi, remember me?

Despite living in London, until last weekend, I had never ridden a Boris bike. The main reason for this is that it costs £2 for the use per day, though the first 30 minutes are free (and then £2/thirty minutes thereafter). Fortunately this year is the 5th anniversary of the scheme, and last weekend the £2 access charge was removed.

My plan was to follow one of TfL’s suggested routes ‘Quirky London’.

It wasn’t a great start to the adventure when my train into London Bridge was delayed because a lorry got stuck under a bridge further down the line. (Yes, the same thing happened on the same line last year.)

Boris bike: Hop Exchange, The Borough to West Smithfield Rotunda, Farringdon

I planned to break half way round to visit the Barts Pathology Museum which was having a rare open day. Unfortunately, because it was so rare, it was also very popular. As interested as I was in seeing Victorian body parts, there was a 90 minute wait to get in, and I didn’t want to queue on such a warm day. Instead I decided to jump on the tube to continue the adventure.

Underground (Hammersmith & City): Farringdon to Mile End
At Mile End, I discovered the main problem with the app on my phone. Since my phone doesn’t let android apps access the maps functionality, there was no way of finding the nearest docking station. I had to do the old method of finding a physical map and comparing the local docking station names (which I could see) with the actual street names.

Boris bike: Clinton Road, Mile End to Alpha Grove, Millwall
Once I had found a bike, I set off south through Mile End Park along the Regent’s Canal before coming out at the River Thames.

However stopping to take photos (including trying to take one of myself on a Boris bike) took time, and I realised I had five minutes to get to a docking station or exceed the free 30 minute limit. Not having a clue where to go, and not wanting to spend £2, I sped off in the direction of where I hoped I would find one. I was sure there must be loads in the area, but where were they all? None on the main road anyway. My watch was passing through the 29 minutes stage now and I was beginning to wonder if would find a docking station in time. Should I just keep the bike for a whole extra half hour and make the most of the £2, or try to return the bike now, paying £2 for a fraction over the 30 minutes. Should I risk a side road? Yes, there’s one! I docked the bike at 30 minutes and 20 seconds (by my watch) and the light flashed green, but that was all they can do. I quickly opened the app, heart pounding. Journey time: 31 minutes. Charge: £0.00. That was a relief. Obviously there’s some flexibility.

On foot: Around the Isle of Dogs
I then set off through the back streets of the Isle of Dogs towards Canary Wharf to find my next bike.

I then arrived at South Quay East docking station, opened the app, clicked hire a bike, got an activation code and went to the bike to check one out. Red light. Type it in again. Nope, red light. Huh? Turns out I’ve selected South Quay West docking station. Not only is that in the other direction to where I want to go, it turns out it’s currently suspended. Ok. So I’ll try and get another code for this docking station then. “You must wait 10 minutes before requesting another code.” That’s annoying.

The map at South Quay East shows another docking station, Churchill Place, in the direction of where I’m trying to get to, so I head off in that direction. Then I come across another docking station, Montgomery Square, that wasn’t on the map at all. But since I still have another 6 minutes to wait, I continue walking. After a few minutes of searching, I finally find Churchill Place docking station and am greeted by:

Since this is one of the last docking stations along this stretch of road, I’m forced to go back to Montgomery Square where I’m finally able to get my third bike of the day.

Boris bike: Montgomery Square, Canary Wharf to Stebondale Street, Cubitt Town

This cycle is the most straight forward of the cycling legs as I was simply planning to get to the most southerly part of the Isle of Dogs at Island Gardens to get the DLR home. I was trying to follow the Thames Path round but after two failed attempts to get to edge of the land, I gave up and just followed the main road which I knew led exactly where I wanted to go (I was turning off too early). On one of these detours, I had to go down (and back up) a few steps, and the bikes are surprisingly heavy although I’m sure they are designed for precisely this reason. Which handily brings me on to…

Reasons why I probably won’t hire one again (aka why I should just use my own bike):
– They are too slow. The top gear (of three) is very low and combined with the weight, it’s hard to get up to anything fast. Although it is more relaxing.
– The 30 minutes of free usage. It’s probably alright for someone who knows exactly where they want to go and can make their journey in that time (e.g. a commuter). It’s probably alright for someone who wants to bimble around but also doesn’t mind spending lots of money if they go over (e.g. a tourist). I was somewhere in between the two.
– Oh, and that £2 access charge I mentioned at the start.

Also, I’ve now started to upload photos to my flickr account. I’ll be putting some photos here which won’t always make it onto the blog. If you have a look now, there’s a sneak peek at what’s coming next time. (Hint: We’re going back in time, both literally and figuratively.)

Catching Up

It’s now the 7th 19th 21st January, which means it’s the perfect time to blog about Christmas.

Because it’s been so long since Christmas, and because I have more exciting things I want to blog about I’m going to keep this short.

Highlights included seeing my youngest niece again (and of course my sister, brother-in-law, brother, mum and dad), doing a secret Santa present giving (rather than the usual one for each person) and just generally not being in work.

Unfortunately I didn’t have long at my parents house because the adventures continue elsewhere…

Back in the olden days

Over 4 years ago, I wrote a blog post speculating what people did before they had mobile phones. Well, this week I’ve been finding out…

On Sunday evening, my phone had an argument with the floor and it came out of the fight looking like this:
(Don’t worry, the floor came out undamaged.)

I’ve been without a mobile phone for 5 days now whilst it’s off being fixed, and here are the things I would normally have done using my phone:

Phone calls/text messages This is obviously the main one. I’m not a prolific caller/texter but it is a problem when I can’t. Alternative: None (excluding using the phone at work)

Emails Although I can still read emails on my laptop, I have to go get them, rather than have them delivered to me. Alternative: Computer

Social networking Again, it can be done on a laptop, but not as convenient or accessible on the move. Alternative: Computer

Mapping It’s much easier to find a location when you check where you are and where you’re trying to get to. Not as big a problem in central London but it is more annoying in the suburbs. Alternative: Planning ahead and reading directions/signs (where available)

Bus/train times I often use my phone to tell me when the next bus is due to arrive at a bus stop or to let me know if there is any disruption on the trains. Alternative: Waiting around for ages at the bus stop/station

Alarm clock This was the hardest one to find a substitute for as I couldn’t think of anything that would do this, and obviously I need to be up in time for work. Eventually I remembered my fitbit one has built in alarm functionality. Alternative: My fitbit

Random searching/thoughts Those random thoughts/questions that just pop into your head that you have to look up or you’ll forget them. Probably not the most essential of missing items. Alternative: None

Shopping list I often make notes on my phone of what I need to buy when I head to the supermarket. Alternative: Pen and paper

Weather Do I need to take a raincoat to work or not? Alternative: Paying attention to the weather section on TV

Games I like to play Sudoku on my phone before bed. Just one of those things I like to do. Alternative: None (without buying a puzzle book)

I’m sure there are lots of other things I use my phone for, but ironically without my phone I’m unable to check. Most of the activities do have alternatives, but it is more the convenience of accessing things when I need to that is the most annoying factor, and the thing I miss most. Hopefully it’ll be back soon.

Have I missed anything? I’ve definitely not included taking photos, but mainly because I don’t often do that on my phone.

Number 9

This weekend I got to meet my latest niece. Annabel is just two months old and is my 9th nibling*.

* Nibling: A collective term for one’s nieces and nephews [Source: Urban Dictionary]

It’s always really fun to meet new babies and to see them growing up, so thanks sis.

Next up, I need to meet niblings 5 to 8 (and catch up with 1 to 4).

Mebbies aye, Mebbies naw

Since today is Scottish independence referendum day, I thought I’d conduct some voting of my own.

A couple of months ago, I decided to see what it would be like to grow a beard. Here’s the current status:

Should I keep the beard?

View Results

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Leave a comment with any additional thoughts. Should it be longer? Shorter? Get rid of it all together?

Everything is Awesome!

Everything is awesome
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team
Everything is awesome, when we’re living our dream
– LEGO Movie

Last week, I went on holiday to Kintyre in Scotland with my “team” from university. As it’s much quicker to just stick a load of pictures in a blog post rather than writing anything, here you go:
[Note: Not all photos taken by me]

Wild Dolphins!

Last weekend I visited my brother in Aberdeen. The city has currently been taken over by wild dolphins as part of a charity event.

Over the 3 days we saw 28 different dolphins (out of 50). There was a special app for keeping track of found dolphins although we didn’t discover this until the second day so the first three dolphins weren’t officially counted. Here’s our progress within the app:
Wild Dolphins app scoreboard

My favourite was probably Spiderdolphin, mainly because it wasn’t there and was obviously off fighting crime (and not being repaired like claimed). I also like The Great Wave at Aberdeen as it looks like it’s about to jump straight back into the North Sea.

Here’s one photo of each of the dolphins we saw:

Lights Out

Yesterday evening, to remember the start of the First World War, many buildings were turning off their lights as part of “Lights Out“.

Here are some of the better photos I took whilst out in central London.
Note: If I had a tripod and/or knew what I was doing I’m sure these photos would have come out better. And sorry, the photos seem to load quite slowly. And if any don’t load, just hit refresh and hopefully they’ll show.

Update: Apparently the beam of light is part of a new art work [Link]