Archive for the ‘London’ Category

No seats on Virgin Trains East Coast Mainline

December 14, 2016

A few months ago, Jeremy Corbyn caused a kerfuffle when found sitting on the floor near the door on a Virgin train on the East Coast Mainline.

Richard Branson claimed it was a publicity stunt.

As regular travellers are well aware, these trains either have occupied seats or are reserved.

And so it was today on the 1330 Kings Cross to Edinburgh train, arrives Edinburgh 1830.

Kings Cross Station Real Food Market

December 14, 2016

Every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, a handful of food stalls outside Kings Cross Station selling overpriced cakes, a few pastries and very expensive cheese.

To be fair to the cheese stall, it was high quality cheese. But 19 month’s old Comte, is not two year’s old, as the stallholder claimed. It was though excellent cheese, but very expensive. My piece came to £7-50.

The market seems to have shrunk compared with a year ago, and it certainly was not busy.

A good idea, but needs more variety and not so expensive.

ReSpacing Conference at The Hive

April 21, 2016

skipping breakfast

skipping breakfast

I arrived half an hour later than I would have wished as I caught two buses from Waterloo, rather than one, but at least arrived, and alighted more or less at the correct bus stop on Kingsland Road in Dalston.

The Hive is an office block just over the canal.

I recognised where I was as the social enterprise café established by Russell Brand is nearby.

Initial impressions, a legalised squat, though they would probably object to my description.

Up a flight of stairs, then a vast open space, but arranged into smaller areas, a kitchen cum café  in one corner, a  little rooftop garden outside. There were upper floors, these I did not explore.

Everything I saw, the chairs the tables, the stage, all had been salvaged and put to use.

Although half an hour late, an hour later than start time, I was still one of the first.

Did I understand Skipping Breakfast? Yes, food from skips.

We are told to recycle. Do we? No.

We waste food, we waste materials, we waste space.

Derelict building are everywhere. The Hive was a derelict building. In Aldershot, a dead shopping centre, with TechStart occupying one large unit, but begging to be used.

The Hive approached a developer, and with reservations, he agreed to let them use. A very short lease, the volunteers provided everything, all of which was salvaged.

The developer Michael has been completely won over, he is now a big cheer leader for ReSpace, putting derelict buildings to use for the community.

What is ReSpace?

ReSpace is a planning designation that any local council or planning authority can use.

Any property that is empty for six months can be designated ReSpace. It is then open to local communities to use, pay a peppercorn rent, the developer pays no businesses rates.

Everyone benefits.

There is now a petition calling for ReSpace to be written into planning law. Everyone is urged to please sign.

We are losing community space. We are losing green space, pubs, libraries.

Who runs these reclaimed spaces?

Volunteers.

How de we found them?

We don’t, they appear.

Nomadic Community Gardens: Two people toiling away at derelict land, bringing back into use. They did not ask for volunteers, the community joined in.

This is what happened at The Hive.

It is not only materials and spaces we need to recycle, we also need to recycle people. Idle hands, idle minds, that can be put to use on behalf of the community.

The Hive is a not for profit. The space is for use by not for profit, even for profit, they have helped set up several business, but they have to contribute to the common good. In other words they have to contribute to the collaborative commons.

The next step, having demonstrated the feasibility of The Hive, not forgetting an enlightened developer who wishes to contribute to the local community and without who The Hive would not be possible, is to establish a network of Hives, Holistic Urban Regeneration in action.

In Revolution, Russell Brand talks of Greys, a town in Essex, boarded-up shops, an air of desolation. Paul Mason mentions a similar town in PostCapitalism. These towns are everywhere.

The question is how do we regenerate them? Top down does not work. It has to be bottom up, small businesses, social enterprises, open coops, collaborative commons, sharing economy.

Aldershot is one such dismal town. Decades of bad planning decisions, a dysfunctional council with no understanding of what constitutes good town centre planning, no understanding of how local economies function, the need to recycle money within the local economy.  The streets are deserted, the shops boarded up, homeless in the shop doorways, the few who are on the street, no money to spend.

In the midst of this deprivation lies a derelict shopping centre. It could be the set for a post-apocalypse movie. There is even the occasional zombie walking through, saving on the need for extras.

The question is, what to do with it? It has been derelict for years. It is likely to remain derelict for the foreseeable future.

The one ray of hope, TechStart opened two years ago. Run by volunteers, they recycle old computers, run a net café, carry out repairs, provide training.

Last Saturday, TechStart closed, their funding had been pulled. The good news is, an outbreak of commons sense, funding for four months. But they have to become self-sufficient.

The empty shopping centre, instead of being seen as a liability, should be seen as an opportunity to showcase that alternatives are possible, that we do not have to be drawn into the addiction  of consumerism.

Look what could be possible:

  • TechStart
  • social enterprise café
  • repair shop
  • tool swap
  • credit union
  • start-ups
  • conferences
  • exhibitions

All it requires is vision.

Replicate across the country, make a difference.

What uses can that derelict building in your community be put to?

Does the local council maintain a list of derelict buildings, is it made public, are they designating as ReSpace?

For the developer, nothing worse than a derelict building, it soon falls into disrepair, becomes vandalised. Added to which the cost of securing the building. Occupation, put to community use, is better than sitting empty.

At the very least there has to be an exploration of what the The Hive in Dalston are doing. Hive started with just £250.

As a showcase building, The Hive in Dalston has demonstrated the feasibility of such a model and in only nine  months has seen over 4000 people, held 17 art exhibitions, numerous performance, environmental, political and cultural events and helped about 50 local charities. Has enabled people to start businesses and even had a skate park. This has all been achieved using a system that is self-sustaining and utilises volunteers, donations, up-cycling, recycling and sharing.

Local councils are almost an irrelevance. If they wish to work with the local community fine, if not bypass and work directly with a property developer.

The Hive are fortunate in not only having an enlightened local council, but also an enlightened property developer, who wishes to work with the local community, put something back into the local community.

Where else other than The Hive would you find activists praising a property developer, and vice a versa the property developer heaping praise on the activists?

Discussion of the London Mayoral Hustings to be held at The Hive the following day. Questions people wished to put. What are they going to do to resolve growing homelessness, we cannot sweep under the carpet or push into neighbouring boroughs. Air pollution, expansion of Heathrow and Gatwick. Encouragement of growing food locally cf Dig for Victory during WWII.

A handful of groups were invited to pitch their ideas to a panel of experts. The ideas in themselves not that interesting. What was of more interest, was the advice given and the constructive criticism that followed. One important piece of advice, have a property lawyer with you to help negotiate and draw up a contract.

The Hive held their ReSpacing Conference on Wednesday 20 April 2016. A second day will be for London Mayoral Hustings.

The Hive is reclaimed space.

The Hive is community space.

The Hive is Holistic Urban Regeneration.

Reposted in Light on a Dark Mountain.

Soup at Wild Food Cafe

April 20, 2016
Wild Food Cafe

Wild Food Cafe

Turkish lentil soup

Turkish lentil soup

The only reason I was here, Home Slice was busy and I had an hour to kill.

On walking in, very noisy, oppressively so.

All the tables were taken. I was invited to take a bar stool, sit at a shelf overlooking the kitchen.

When taking the order, neither I nor the person standing in the kitchen, could hear each other, such was the level of oppressive noise.

Turkish lentil soup, tasty, generous portion size, but like everything else on the menu, expensive and overpriced.

When paying over a fiver for a bowl of soup, expect at least the bread to be free.  But no.

Did I want bread. No.

I then changed my mind, and ordered what I thought was seeded bread. No, what appeared was a minuscule portion of seeds, somehow glued together, not much bigger than a 50p piece.

staff fare

staff fare

One of the staff came and sat with me. I asked what she was eating. She explained, adding, it was not on the menu. Staff apparently get a far better deal. It looked marginally better than what I saw being served from the kitchen.

Pretentious, noisy and overpriced, Wild Food Cafe very poor compared with Food for Thought, which is sadly no more, closed down last year, much loved and much missed, driven out of business by a greedy grasping landlord driving up the rent to unaffordable levels.

I then departed for Home Slice where I knew I would get an excellent pizza.

Wild Food Cafe is located in Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden.

Pizza at Home Slice

April 20, 2016
Camden Hells Lager

Camden Hells Lager

mushroom, ricotta, pumpkin seed and chilli pizza slice

mushroom, ricotta, pumpkin seed and chilli pizza slice

I arrived around eight. Could I please pop back in an hour, my name noted down.

A freezing cold evening.

I popped in Wild Food Cafe next door. Pretentious and overpriced.

Returning, still a long wait.

Two, maybe three groups of people, escorted to a table before me.

The service is appalling.

Not the fault of the staff. Home Slice is too popular, they cannot cope with the demand. An enviable position many restaurants would love to be.

Were it not for the food being excellent, and I being cold and hungry, nothing since breakfast, I would have walked out.

I am finally shown to a table.

I  order a slice of mushroom pizza. Although tasty, not hot. Obviously been lying around.

Hungry, I order a second slice.

To drink, lager from a local brewery in Camden. This too is excellent.

Home Slice is located in Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden.

Curio Cabal

April 20, 2016
cappuccino

cappuccino

An excellent little coffee shop.

Pleasant ambience both inside and the outside seating area.

An excellent cappuccino.

I thanked the barista. In part his skill, also the quality of the beans they are sourcing from Square Mile Coffee Roaster, a local coffee roaster just down the road.

The beans are on sale.

Curio Cabal, a strange name, and no, I did not ask.

Located by The Hive in Dalston, on Kingsland Road, close by the canal.

Ignore the bad reviews on TripAdvisor. I had no problems with staff, service or the coffee.

Staff were pleasant. Yes, several minutes before my cappuccino arrived, they were serving folk sat outside. And it was worth the wait, as when my cappuccino arrived, it was excellent.

Day in London

April 20, 2016
Dalston Regent's Canal

Dalston Regent’s Canal

Lovely and sunny, but cold.

Train to Waterloo, overcrowded, standing room only. Why only five coaches, why not ten?

No 243 bus to Dalston, only I could not see a 243. Hopped on I think 76 or maybe it was 26. It went to Liverpool Street Station. I then saw I had gone to the wrong  bus stop. Why did the driver not tell me?

It took as long to reach Liverpool Street by bus, as train journey into London. One continuous traffic jam.

No 242 to Dalston not a lot better.

I find The Hive, where I was due for a conference. Although I was late, I was one of the first there.

Food laid on for breakfast, raided from skips.

ReSpacing Conference all day.

We are told to recycle. Do we? No. Food is wasted, materials are wasted, even space is wasted, derelict building dot the landscape, green space is destroyed by developers, aided and abetted by corrupt councils.

On my way in, I had noticed what was maybe a coffee bar. Not sure, as it said coffee, then I thought maybe not, outside seating for a pub.

I checked during a break, saw it was a coffee bar, Curio Cabal, popped back later and had a coffee. It was excellent.

Conference was due finish at 5-30. It overran until sometime past six, I did not leave until gone seven.  A very interesting conversation with an enlightened property developer.

By now very cold.

No 243, I saw, did indeed go to Waterloo.

But now I wished for Covent Garden.

No 243 skirted Covent Garden. I alighted at Holborn and walked.  Had I waited for 242, it would have taken me more or less where I wished to be in Covent Garden.

Pizza at Home Slice, only Home Slice packed.

I had soupe at Wild Food Cafe. Expensive and very noisy.

Back to Home Slice, still a long wait.

Train from Waterloo, gone ten, and yet packed, standing room only.

Trip to London

April 6, 2016

 

Thames looking down river from Hungerford Bridge

Thames looking down river from Hungerford Bridge

I had intended to set off lunchtime, arrive early afternoon, but various calamities, I did not set off until a couple of hours later and arrived late afternoon.

Walking out of Waterloo Station the Shell building. A shock, it was no longer there, it had gone, demolished.

Very windy crossing Hungerford Bridge.

Through Embankment Gardens, up through Covent Garden, into Neal’s Yard, very late lunch at Home Slice.

Home Slice packed, but not too long a wait. Excellent pizza, I had two slices, and a half of their excellent local lager. But why oh why do they have to have awful music thudding out?

Coffee in Monmouth coffee shop. No room, had to make do with a takeaway cappuccino.

Then off to Union Chapel, somewhere in Islington.

Journey there quite easy, Piccadilly Line to King’s Cross, then Victoria Line to Highbury & Islington.

It was then I got lost.

I knew head south, came out of the station, and headed what I thought was south. I head down a side street, baffled why the sun is now facing me, opposite direction to when I left the station.   I had been heading north. I can only assume, I had seen the sun reflected off a building.

I retrace my steps, go long way around, eventually find Union Chapel.

An evening with Yanis Varoufakis. A long queue to get in. Time passes quickly, chatting to people in the queue.

Once inside, amazing building.

Yanis Varoufakis as always brilliant.

Eat at Union Chapel in the bar. Not quite what I expect in a chapel.

I have chicken. It does not look good. It is surprisingly tasty. I have with salad. It needed rice too.  I have a chat with the chef.

Leave gone 10-30. No idea where I am.

Head chef has said take Victoria Line to Oxford Circus, then Bakerloo Line to Waterloo.

Proves to be good advice as only short walk to change lines.

— to be continued —-

Wasabi hikes prices by 25%

February 7, 2016

 

Wasabi tempura prawns

Wasabi tempura prawns

Wasabi at Waterloo Station serves excellent tempura prawns, but how do they justify 25% price hike, up from £1-00 to £1-25?

Happy New Year 2016

January 1, 2016
Happy New Year - Ken Crane

Happy New Year – Ken Crane

Happy New Year

Feliz año nuevo

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