The Anonymous Widower

Not the Dreaded Knotweed

I know that these days the boundary between town and country is very vague these days, with foxes and muntjac everywhere, but I was surprised to see this at Caledonian Road and Barnsbury station.

Japanese Knotweed at Caledonian Road and Barnsbury Station

It would appear that the unwanted Japanese knotweed gets everywhere.

June 23, 2011 Posted by | World | Leave a comment

How To Fund A Dog Wash!

The Times today has an article about peer-to-peer lending by Alexandra Frean.

In it she describes how a guy called John Good from Davison, Michigan got the money to expand his car wash into the clean dog business by using a loan from Lending Club.

It’s all good stuff and just shows how the banks are missing the peer-to-peer lending market, which I think will be one of successes of the next ten years or so and probably much longer.

In the United States the systems are different to the UK, but it doesn’t totally stop them having successes. I myself use the peer-to-peer lending site, Zopa,  as my deposit account as even if I run it conservatively, it gives me upwards of six percent before tax. There is risk and I have had 3 contracts out of 2359 go bad, which have cost me £322.60 or 0.6 percent of my total investment.  Alexandra’s article quotes returns of 9 percent net of defaults and charges in the United States.

I could probably make a higher return, if I upped my rates, but then I’d get a higher rate of default, as I’d probably attract more risky borrowers.

I also think I’m benefiting because I’ve been lending money for some years now and have a strong feeling about how you arrange the rates to get the best value.

June 23, 2011 Posted by | Finance | , | Leave a comment

A Circus Performer on a 141 Bus

When I was returning from Oxford Street yesterday, I took the route using the Central line via Bank and a 141 or 21 bus to the end of my road. It is an easier route especially, if you are laden down with parcels as I was.

I sat just behind the wheelchair bay and shared a seat with an attractive young lady, who was also travelling fairly heavily laden.  She had the aura of being someone like a dancer or athlete and after we’d chatted for a few minutes, I asked what she did.  She said she worked as a circus performer (An aerial artist no less!) and had just done a show in London and was returning home before going to Glastonbury, where she will be performing in the Circus Tent.

I’m posting this, because Danny Baker on Radio 5 Live, asked if people had ever met anybody from a circus.

So I now have!

June 23, 2011 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , | 1 Comment

Chaos In Oxford Street

I needed to get some towels and a couple of lamps from John Lewis yesterday evening, so I took my usual route of Overground to Highbury and Islington station and then the Victoria line to Oxford Circus.

For some years now, getting out of Oxford Circus station has been a nightmare, so much so that I used to get there by taking a Central line train to Bond Street instead and then walking backwards.

That is not really an option now, as they are rebuilding Bond Street station and the narrow pavements cluttered by smokers outside the stores are not an easy route.

So it was a walk up the stairs to Argyll Street and then across the centre of Oxford Circus. At least that crossing works well, but then the north side of Oxford Street was cluttered with smokers and locked up stalls, that sell junk.

It is not good and it never has been in my memory.

Some years ago, I proposed an alternative which was published as a long letter in the Evening Standard.

I read with interest an article in the Evening Standard yesterday and feel I should comment about a proposed monorail for Oxford Street.

I should explain that I am an engineer with a lot of experience of transport projects around the world, mainly because the software I wrote, Artemis, was used to plan them.

I am also an inveterate traveller and have experience of a very large number of cities around the world. That experience is usually as a tourist and includes the Sydney monorail, the escalators of Hong Kong and the underground walkways of Perugia. I should also say that I visit the Oxford Street area at least once a month for shopping, eating or business.

I will agree with the plan, where the monorail gives the whole street a connection and a focus, but I believe that a moving walkway suspended over the street below would be much more flexible and inherently better.

1. It could be built in stages, with perhaps a spectacular star over Oxford Circus as a first phase to move people from say Regent Street North to Oxford Street East and West without getting involved in the fearsome crowds at road level.

2. Walkways are basically hop-on and hop-off. So if you see a shop or something else that interests you, then all you do is wait to the next hop-off point and exit.

3. As the walkway progressed down Oxford Street, it could rise and fall so that it was level with the floors of the major stores. How much would John Lewis pay for an entrance at first floor level?

4. Stops would be much more frequent than a monorail.

5. Walkways are a fail-safe system in that when the motor breaks, the system is still walkable. What happens when a monorail breaks down as the Sydney system did when I rode it?

6. Walkways can add spurs as required to Conference Centres, attractions and also to move people well away from Oxford Street.

7. As they would run effectively from Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch, they would take the pressure off the Central Line.

8. Just as in Hong Kong it would be covered in a clear plastic roof. Video screens could be included under the roof to sell advertising.

9. Security is important and I’m sure the Police would like a high-level walkway from which to view the crowds below.

10. Bulges and platforms could be attached to the walkway, so that cafes and other attractions could be setup. If access is provided to stores on route, there would be no problems as to servicing these cafes.

11. The whole system has to be commercial. Imagine a platform just by Selfridges which sells the Wallace Collection, with a down escalator pointing that way.

Admittedly, it was published partly as part of their campaign against the then mayor, but I believe the idea of an overhead moving walkway would improve the movement of pedestrians around the area.

Thinking about it six years after the original letter was published, there are other factors that now apply.

  1. Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street are to become major stations on Crossrail and they will probably discharge more people into the area making it worse.  Especially, as many will be long-distance travellers trailing mobile obstacles behind them.  The pavements are just not big enough.
  2. The Eastern end of Oxford Street is scruffier now and who would want to shop there, when there are shopping centres at Westfield and the soon to open, Eastfield, just a few stops away on the Central line.

Certainly, I can’t wait for Eastfield to open, as then I’ll be closer to a John Lewis.

You will see I call the new shopping centre at Stratford, Eastfield. It’s what many of  the locals do, despite the fact that it’s promoted as Westfield Stratford City. 

But then East is east and West is west and ne’er the twain shall meet.

June 23, 2011 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , , | 7 Comments