The Anonymous Widower

A Surreal Experience

I have just come back from Walthamstow on a Victoria line train. I actually sat in the empty front carriage opposite to the big window. When the train stopped at I think, Seven Sisters, I became aware that eyes were watching me. Only then did I realise that the train had stopped, so that the four puppies in an advert on the station wall stared in through the window.

What are the chances of that happening?

I had to get the Victoria Line a day later, so I thought, I’d find the puppies! It wasn’t Seven Sisters, but Tottenham Hale.

Could this advert start a whole new trend, where some of the large wall adverts in stations are arranged so that the message is aligned with the window?

January 1, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Crossrail 2 And The Angel

My Crossrail alert picked up this article in the Islington Tribune entitled Angel’s landmark Co-op building could go if £20bn Crossrail scheme goes ahead. The article says this.

Cllr Klute, an architect who has studied the plans in detail, said he was concerned that all the buildings on the west side of Upper Street from Angel tube to White Lion Street could be demolished.

The building on the corner might be iconic, as the article says, but it is one of those buildings which probably doesn’t have the dimensions that fit the sort of high-tech businesses, that are being attracted to this area of London and will hopefully come even more, when Crossrail 2 opens. I took these pictures of the area.

The four corners of the Angel junction have.

  • The Co-op building or Angel Corner House that Councillor Klute wants to save at the north west.
  • The Angel Building which was short-listed for the Stirling Prize in 2011 at the south west.
  • Some rather tired low rise buildings at the south east.
  • The offices over Angel tube station which was built in the early 1990s at the north east.

I can remember when I lived in London in the 1970s, that there were plans to create a large roundabout here to solve the traffic problems. Obviously you wouldn’t do that now, as it would create all sorts of probems about how to fit in the Crossrail 2 station.

As you can see in the pictures, the buses from Kings Cross cause problems as they turn out left from White Lion Street to go North. Not perhaps today, but the buses do cause problems on days when there is more traffic around.

There is just not enough space in the area to accommodate all of the traffic and the expanded station.

The pressing need is a left turn somewhere to get the buses from Kings Cross onto Upper Street and Essex Road, so the only way is to cut the corner through the Angel Corner Building that Councillor Klute wants to save.

As someone, who catches buses at the Angel to go down the Essex Road, the bottleneck at White Lion Street often means that buses come through rather sporadically.

An improved bus service would mean that I probably spent more of my shopping time at the Angel.

So how will Crossrail 2 affect those who currently get the 38, 56,73 and other buses to the Angel and beyond?

1. Between the Angel and Victoria, Crossrail 2 will take passengers from both the 38 and 73.

2. between the Angel and Seven Sisters, Crossrail 2 will take passengers from the 73.

3. Hopefully as both Kings Cross and Euston will be on Crossrail 2, the need for buses between Kings Cross and the Angel will be greatly reduced.

Looking at that, it says to my simple mind, that building Crossrail 2, might mean that there is less need to demolish the Angel Corner Building, as it might be possible to eliminate the left turn of buses, which creates such a problem.

If the space at the Angel and the buses turning north are one of the problems, then the bizarre design of the new station at the Angel in the early 1990s is another.

Plans for Crossrail 2 in the 1980s went via Angel and Essex Road from Kings Cross to Dalston. A few years later the 1990s route went via Highbury and Islington only.

So was the bizarre layout of Angel tube station down to this uncertainty? Who’d be an architect, when politicians keep changing their minds?

The article also says this.

Cllr Klute said if there is going to be a rail development he’d rather see a tube line running along the Hackney to Chelsea section. “It would probably be cheaper and a lot less disruptive and damaging,” he said. “It could also take in Essex Road and Old Street, which is less well connected.

“A tube train would also be of more use to Londoners. The fact that they want to run regional trains across Islington seems to suggest that they are more interested in shipping ­people from outside London rather than moving people around the capital.”

On the first point it would be madness to bore a tube line from Chelsea to Hackney, as you’d then have to build terminal stations at both ends to turnback the tube trains.

We already have two two different fleets being built for the new lines under London, with Class 700 trains for Thameslink and Class 345 trains for Crossrail. Engineering, operational, economic and political common sense, says that these two trains should have been virtually identical and made in Derby by Bombardier. Logic says that if Crossrail and Crossrail 2 trains are identical, then there should be cost and time savings in both train manufacture of the trains and design and building of the stations.

I would think from reading the second of Councillor Klute statements about regional trains, he tends to have thoughts that would be very much at home in UKIP.

Crossrail 2 isn’t perfect, but it will be needed in the late 2020s.

I think that by the time it is being built, improvements in construction, that in many cases are being used on Crossrail will be used to both save time and money, and build a better railway.

As a simple example, could the techniques used at Whitechapel enable Crossrail 2 stations to be built from the deep rail tunnels upwards, thus creating less disturbance to buildings on the surface.

Perhaps this would enable the Angel Corner Building  to be gutted and left as a shell, in which the escalators could emerge and the new western entrance to Angel station could be built.

So the Angel would have an iconic station entrance on the west side of the main north-south route through the Angel. Hopefully, the new extended station would include a much needed subway across the road.

January 1, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , | 1 Comment

A Simple Gluten-Free Guide To London For Visitors

In Oliver’s yesterday, I met an American couple, who were visiting London and Paris. They could have been on honeymoon even, but they certainly wanted to eat gluten-free.

So I decided to put up this simple guide, which includes some my favourite restaurants and the rules by which I live.

Marks and Spencer

I’ve eaten gluten-free bread all over the UK and most of Europe, including in specialist gluten-free bakeries. But none compare with the range of breads in Marks and Spencer, if you take availability into account. Most of their stores in London, including those in stations, have a range of bread, biscuits and cakes. And many have gluten-free sandwiches, which you usually have to buy early, as many on their way to work, buy them as they pass by.

Marks also sell lots of salads, fruit and vegetables, including single bananas.

There are also gluten-free quiches and scotch eggs. I also thing, that the company is implementing a policy of making sausages, burgers and other goods, as free of all allergens as possible. Most packaging is clearly labelled in English, French and Dutch. I regularly eat their ultimate burgers and specialist gluten-free fishcakes.

So if you’re staying in London for a few days make sure you check out the nearest store to where you are staying.

I would issue a slight word of warning.

Suppose you are travelling outside of London to visit an attraction. Don’t expect that the range in all stores will be the same as London! So make sure you plan your eating properly or take supplies from a store in London.

Incidentally, I have found that their sandwiches usually last a day past their sell-by date, if kept unopened in a fridge. In fact generally, their bread, unlike some others, seems to last well. Even when it is past the sell-by date, the bread, still makes an acceptable toast.

EatNakd Bars

EatNakd bars are my staple snack, that I carry with me most of the time. I usually get mine in a supermarket from the Free From section, but they are turning up in more and more places.

Holland and Barrett

Holland and Barrett is a chain of health food shops and every one has a selection of gluten-free snacks amongst a comprehensive range of foods and supplements for the health conscious. Most seem to have a selection of EatNakd bars too!

Restaurant and Cafe Chains

As in all the corporate world, some are good, some are very average and some are downright bad. I use four chains regularly as I know I can trust them and perhaps more importantly I like their menu.

Bill’s – I’ve recently discovered this chain, which seems to be expanding fast. They sell themselves as opening from breakfast to bedtime.

Carluccio’s – This group is expanding all over the country, with a lot of restaurants in the London area. They have a gluten-free menu and pasta is always on offer. A particularly useful one for me on my travels around the country is the restaurant in Manchester Piccadilly station, where I often change trains.

Jamie’s Italian – Jamie’s Italian is a good upmarket alternative, which has a comprehensive gluten free menu including pasta.

Leon – This a smallish chain, that is setting  new standards in fast food. I regularly use them, when I want an interesting small eggy snack for breakfast. Some of them, actually serve tea and coffee in large real mugs.

Patisserie Valerie – Probably best described as an upmarket cafe chain, but the tea and coffee are good and they do have an acceptable gluten-free brownie.

Pizza Express – C and myself would regularly eat in one of the numerous Pizza Express restaurants until I was diagnosed with coeliac disease. After that, it was less often, as you can only eat so many salad nicoise. Now I regularly go as I’ve always liked a good pizza. They may not be as good as the one I ate in Munich, but they are certainly as good as any in the UK. If you choose your Pizza Express with a bit of care, you can find some with excellent views or in historic locations and buildings. I regularly eat in one by the Globe theatre, that has good views of the River.

I shall probably add other chains to this list, as there are some restaurants on my radar, that may grow up to be more widespread.

Indian Restaurants

I have generally found that an Indian restaurant with good tablecloths and an owner, who speaks good English, generally cook with chick-pea flour and are usually gluten-free. Or at least, I’ve never had a problem. Some might in some, as a lot of very competent and affordable Indian restaurants in the East End of London, don’t serve alcohol. But they usually say you can get beer or wine at a nearby shop!

If I need an Indian meal, I usually go to the Angel Curry Centre in Chapel Market at the Angel.

Gluten-Free Cake

There is quite a bit of excellent gluten-free cake in London and even in the smallest non-chain cafes, you’ll see one displayed. There is an excellent chocolate chip and mandarin cake that turns up all over the East. Obviously they mine it somewhere near the Olympic Park.

Railway Stations

Network Rail, who manage a lot of the bigger stations in the UK, have stated that they want to get the fast food chains like Burger King, McDonalds and Starbucks out of the stations.They hsave said they want to go upmarket with chains like Carluccio’s and Patisserie Valerie. They also seem to be encouraging local cafes, like the one at Alexandra Palace station. London Overground also seem to be using up spare space for local cafes, some of which, like Crystal Palace, are very good.

As many stations now seem to be featuring a Marks and Spencer food outlet and these are increasingly featuring coeliac-friendly food, it’s a far cry from the day, when comedians made the joke about their father working as a sandwich curler for British Rail.

As many busy provincial interchange stations like Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester have a Marks and Spencer and a cafe/restaurant that does a passable gluten-free, train travel is almost becoming a preferable alternative to driving. Unless of course motorway service stations have improved since I last visited one.

Trains for me in the UK are not a problem, as I usually take something I’ve either made or cooked, or bought elsewhere. On some operators like Virgin, if you pick your train out of London correctly and travel First, you can sometimes have a gluten-free breakfast.

Gordon Ramsay

I once talked to Gordon Ramsay on the radio about gluten-free food in a restaurant.  He said that if you book at least 24 hours before and say you want a gluten-free meal, the restaurant has no excuse for not giving you what you need. He also said that if they think they’re a good restaurant and can’t offer gluten-free food, then they’re not a good restaurant. I’ve never eaten in one of his upmarket restaurants, but I have eaten in his Plane Food at Heathrow and his restaurant certainly follows his advice.  Although, I broke his rule, by just turning up. But he still got his share of a satisfied customer’s money.

I have found that his advice usually works, except in a couple of cases where they have said they can’t, so I’ve just gone elsewhere.


I like good food and there are some very interesting restaurants, where gluten-free food features.

Arbutus – In my view Arbutus is one of the best restaurants in London. It was also one of C’s favourites.

First Great Western Pullman Dining – This must be one of the best, if not the best food on a scheduled train. Read about Pullman Dining and my experiences to Plymouth and Cardiff. To my mind, there’s no better way to go to Devon, Cornwall or South Wales.

Oliver’s Fish and Chips – If you’d like to try traditional fish and chips, but gluten-free, then Oliver’s is your place on one of their Gluten Free Wednesdays

View Tube – The View Tube is one of London’s most unusually placed cafes, as it sits on top of Bazalgette’s sewer, looking out over the Olympic Park. You couldn’t do better than start your trip to the park, by having coffee and a tasty snack here. Just go to Pudding Mill Lane DLR station and look for the yellowy-green building made out of containers.

Vozars – Vozars is unique, in that it combines gluten-free food with gluten-free beer. It is also tucked away in the heart of Brixton and can be difficult to find, but it is always worth a visit.

Yard at Alexandra Palace station – An upmarket cafe, that certainly impressed me.

This small list will grow!

January 1, 2015 Posted by | Food, Transport | , | Leave a comment

Has Marine Ices Closed?

We used to live on the other side of Primrose Hill from Chalk Farm and several times went to the famous Marine Ices ice cream parlour on Chalk Farm Road.

I was shocked to see the parlour all shut up and derelict.

Has Marine Ices Closed?

Has Marine Ices Closed?

But everything had an explanation and because of the retirement of the Mansi family, the building has been sold and the parlour moved to new premises closer to Camden Town.

Long may the business continue undr the ownership of a new family.

January 1, 2015 Posted by | Food | | Leave a comment