Thursday, 26 August 2010

Swimming pool at Elephant and Castle, or How Co-operative is the Co-operative Council?

Thanks to an article on London-SE1, we've learned that Southwark Council are consulting residents on whether they desire a swimming pool in the re-developed Fusion centre in Elephant and Castle.  A swimming pool would be of considerable benefit to the residents of SE11, and the north of the Borough of Lambeth.  Anybody in Princes, Oval, Bishops, Vassall or Stockwell ward would certainly benefit from this facility, as the nearest available public pool is currently located in Brixton.  Lambeth Council have proposed a pool in Waterloo underneath the Coin Street tower, but many North Lambeth residents actually live closer to Elephant than they do to Waterloo.  Swimming has provable health benefits for the elderly and the young, residents for whom even short trips can prove particularly difficult, so I suggest that Lambeth residents with any interest in the matter fill out the consultation questionnaire here.  (Be aware that the number "5" on the questionnaire means "most important").

"What a good idea!  I'd really like a local swimming pool", you might think to yourself.  What you might not know is that one exists at present; it's in the Elephant & Castle Fusion Leisure centre.  Unfortunately, it has fallen into disrepair and needs to be replaced.  So Southwark Council are consulting on whether or not to replace a facility that they should be providing at present.  The reason given for this pointless consultation is that Southwark council officers are concerned that they might be unable to meet their leisure commitments on the basis of the financial squeeze.  However, due to the fact that most of SE11 is in Lambeth, many local residents will not be included in the consultation.  Obviously, residents living in Kennington, Oval or Vauxhall would be much closer to the propsed pool than Southwark residents in Peckham or East Dulwich.  So, I'm proposing that the news of the potential pool be circulated as widely as possible to Lambeth residents so that we have a chance to comment on the consultation.

On the basis that we're all good friends really (since Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Councils are all Labour controlled) and we're meant to be thinking of ways to be co-operative and share services, I thought it might be worth suggesting to Cllr Mark Harrison (Princes Ward) that he could campaign on behalf of Princes residents to enable the pool in the complex to be replaced.  After all, according to London-SE1,
[Southwark] "Council leader Peter John said last month: 'We do want to see a swimming pool at the site and we're determined to deliver'".
So, it should be a done deal, a fait accompli....  But unfortunately, despite our very poor local leisure coverage in the area (kindly mapped for us by Jason Cobb), Cllr Harrison considers the matter would be better taken up by individual residents.  After all, maybe many local residents wouldn't consider a pool a priority.  Bah.  Unlikely.  Here are the Tweets in question:

And this is Cllr Harrison's response:

So, let's demonstrate to Southwark / Lambeth Labour group that local residents would seek to prioritize a local swimming pool, and put pressure on them to provide this type of essential service, despite cuts. Let's demonstrate that there is a clear majority view in favour of such a service. 

Why not write to Cllr Mark Harrison outlining your views (if you're a Princes Ward constituent) at to ask him to put pressure on the Labour coalition of councils?  Here's the link again to fill out the Southwark Council questionnaire (it's very short).  After all, shouldn't the Co-operative Council actually, y'know, co-operate?

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Lollard Street Adventure Playground Fun Day Today

I'm not sure that my blog's target audience is parents with young children, but just on the off-chance, the Friends of Lollard Street Adventure Playground (FOLSAP) are holding a fun day today to give everybody a chance to find out more about the adventure playground.  They've invited parents, councillors and officials to demonstrate what takes place at the playground and show how important it is for young people to have a place to play.  It's free and anybody can go.

Lollard St Adventure Playground is opposite the former Lilian Baylis School on Lollard Street and the play day lasts from 12:30 - 16:30.

If you want more info. take a look at the article on the Kennington Association News blog here.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

North Lambeth Writers Project - seeking submissions

The North Lambeth Writers Project (set up a couple of months ago) is seeking to publish its debut October edition on the theme of urban regeneration.  If you enjoy writing and have anything to say about regeneration (locally or otherwise), consider submitting it to them.  They'll accept prose, poetry and essays.  The deadline for submission is 15th September and you need to submit your writing (including name and home address) to

The definition the group cite for the word "regeneration" is taken from Greenwich Council's website:

Regeneration 'centres on the physical development of land, buildings, and new transport systems. [It also refers to] social regeneration in terms of skills, social and economic inclusion, prosperity, education, housing, health, community development and the environment.'
Perhaps you're wondering "am I in North Lambeth?".  The boundaries for this group are quite fluid and include the areas known as Kennington, Oval, Vauxhall, Vassall, Stockwell, Waterloo, and some sections of the South Bank.  In any case, your work will be considered if you live outside of the area, but choose to write about the locality.

Good news in the pipeline for Crampton Primary School

Crampton Primary School in Iliffe Street, SE17 (behind Kennington tube) have submitted a planning application for an extension to build:

* A new entrance and reception for the school
* A new classroom
* Additional accommodation for multi-use teaching room and space for breakfast club
* Additional accommodation for an enlarged library
* A pedestrian entrance on Iliffe Street and new staffroom

I've still not yet typed up the notes (the meeting was very long) from the angry Kennington parents meeting a few weeks ago, but Crampton Primary was named as a popular school that has not previously been an option for Kennington parents who live in Lambeth, on account of the borough boundaries.  Crampton Primary falls under Southwark Council's control, meaning applications from Lambeth parents would usually be unsuccessful.  This (I imagine) poses a particular problem for parents that live on or near the Kennington Park Road boundary. 

I'd certainly welcome a little fuzzy-boundary thinking from both councils and LEAs so that one is not deprived of services or education on account of arbitrarily living on one side of the road or other.  Lambeth Council of course intend to collapse these lines somewhat (at least between Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham), but that's in order to make job and service cuts, rather than specifically in order to benefit residents.  The Kennington Park Road borough boundary and the postcode boundary follow the same line, which I think probably form a social boundary. Buying a house in SE17 is considerably cheaper than buying one in SE11 (not sure about the differences in costs of social housing), so these geographic lines (be they borough, postcode or parish) are invisible boundaries that are used (whether by design or accident) to separate Londoners from one another. 

When the school entrance system is changed in time for entrants in 2011, I understand that parents will be able to apply for any London primary school, continuing to make Crampton Primary an option for local Lambeth parents.  It looks as though Crampton Prumary school are taking advantage of their popularity and have obtained the means to expand.  [But, actually, if you take a look at the comment from the Head of Governors below, you'll notice that they're not expanding so much as building extra classroom space to accommodate a population bulge.]  Hopefully their planning application will be successful.  (Of course, this opening of the boundaries might just have the effect of making North Lambeth primary schools further over-subscribed due to an influx of applications from Southwark parents, but we won't know until it happens).

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Cycle hire scheme - more docking stations needed

I cycled home this evening using the Cycle Hire scheme and discovered, to my dismay that Kennington Post Office, Kennington Cross, Kennington Tesco, Vauxhall Station and Sancroft Street docking stations were all full.  It appears that Kennington is quite the fashionable place to visit... or that we're as far south as people can get before resorting to buses and tubes.  The Evening Standard has a photo of the Serco personnel supplying extra bikes (or docks) at Waterloo Station here.  In my view, TFL have massively underestimated the demand and popularity of the Cycle Hire Scheme, particularly amongst commuters.

London-SE1 spotted a rather interesting clipping that suggests we might be due to gain some additional docking stations in SE11 soon. The proposed sites would be Vauxhall Street and Oval Way.  Vauxhall Street is quite long and so the site could be anywhere between Black Prince Road and the Oval Cricket Ground.  Oval Way is a tiny street and extra docks their should relieve the crowding at Tescos and provide a cycle hire option for the young people at Lilian Baylis School.  Objections from residents/businesses etc.have to be made by the 6th September.  Let's hope that nobody objects!

Also, if you're interested, here is a list of sites refused permission for docking stations.  Six sites in Lambeth were refused, three in SE11 and three in SE1.  One of the SE11 potential docks was Windmill Row, which many of us objected to on the basis that it is a very congested thoroughfare, doesn't have wide pavements and removes car parking that elderly/disabled people use to access the shops.  The other SE11 spots that didn't get permission were:  190-194 Kennington Lane (this is on the opposite side of the road to Imperial Court) and Sancroft Street where it crosses Newburn Street (2 stations have been built in Sancroft Street so this one wasn't a great loss).  In SE1, Webber Street and the Cut outside the Young Vic both had permission refused.  Near the border, permission was refused for a dock in SE1 near Lambeth Bridge.  The Lambeth Bridge dock is the one that I consider most important.  There's a lack of bikes anywhere near Westminster and this one would have bridged the gap somewhat.  I'm hoping that another application might be made.

Edit:  Under the guise of "why there aren't more bikes near Waterloo", Ross Lydall has published research by Ashley Lumsden (Lib Dem in Streatham Hill) on the reasons for Lambeth's refusal of the above docks.  Quite frankly, I fail to see how Windmill Row, Sancroft St and Lambeth Bridge quite count as Waterloo. Lambeth's refusal of six docks (many at the request of residents) hardly compares with Westminster's refusal of 29 and K&C's refusal of 12.  The real reason that there aren't more docks at Waterloo is because TFL chose to prioritise the Cycle Hire Scheme roll out for non-commuters.  Additional docks at stations will happen (we are lead to believe) during phase 2 of the installation.  Lumsdens' complaints look a little like political point scoring.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Local trees being chopped down, inadequate recycling and extension of Kelly's pub licensing hours

Over the last week, I've received a number of emails from readers on a variety of hyper-local topics that don't quite warrant posts of their own, so here's a quick summary:

Firstly, one resident has noted that Lambeth Council are being rather heavy handed in their removal of trees in SE11.  I've been informed that two trees have already been culled from Chester Street / Denny Street.  I could only find one of them (or its remains, at any rate).  What a mess!

Alarmingly, another two trees are scheduled for removal shortly, and yet all of the trees that have been chopped (or are facing the chop) look healthy.  Here are the two concerned (left on Denny Street and right on Chester Street):

The resident in question has contacted the council, but wanted me to publicise the danger that the trigger-happy council pose to the trees.  A visit this evening yielded more info on  the tree on Chester Way and it seems that some of the residents are protesting the cull:

The poster on the left points out that it would take two decades to grow another cherry tree, and adds that the tree is being destroyed on the basis that the trees roots are exposed and it therefore may form a danger.  Is this not a "Health & Safety gone mad" blooper of the year?  The poster designer has instead suggested that it would be better to raise the pavement than destroy the tree.  Hear, hear!

This is probably a question for the Princes Ward councillors, but it would be good to receive clarification about the reasons for the tree removal. Perhaps additional residents need to act to prevent the removal of established trees if the only reason for cutting them down is exposed roots.  The tree on Denny Street doesn't contain an explanation about why it's facing the chop:

This issue probably should  be drawn to the attention of the Kennington Association, as there may well be other local trees that Lambeth wish to cut down, and residents deserve some prior warning or explanation in order to protest if necessary.

Secondly, one reader has noted that I've previously praised Lambeth Council's recycling procedures and good performance in the area of recycling.  The correspondent begs to differ and is unhappy with the frequency which which the one bin on his block is emptied.  (Recycling collections generally take place weekly in Lambeth).  The reader has attempted to get his block's bin emptied more frequently, but has had no success.  Cllr Jack Hopkins (so I'm assuming this refers to Oval Ward) did respond to one email from the correspondent, but subsequent emails on the matter have not received a response.  Does anybody else on local estates in the area suffer from the same issue?  I know that many estates suffer from people using recycling bins as rubbish bins (I'm unclear if this is lack of understanding of policy or willful misuse), but are there a dearth of recycling bins in the Borough, particularly given the size of some local estates?  It would be good to draw this to the attention of the Council if it's a wider problem.

Lastly, one reader wanted to highlight their objection to a request made by Kelly's Pub (in Clapham Road) to extend their opening hours to 5am from Thursday to Sunday.  I don't intend to go into detail here (suffice to say that the request seems wholly unreasonable), since Jason Cobb has covered that patch of SW8 adequately on his Onionbag blog in a post here and another here.  Do remember to submit objections since the Council won't hear residents' voices otherwise.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Bondway - Appeal against planning refusal (Part 1: Opening Statement)

The Bondway Tower planning appeal began on 20th July and was presented at Lambeth Town Hall.  Many representatives for the local community met (headed by David Boardman of Kennington Association Planning Forum) to prepare several lengthy documents and then  present them at the Appeal.  Viva Vauxhall mentioned the appeal a while ago, and the documents (which present a strong argument against the erection of the 149 metre Bondway Tower) are available on the Kennington Association Planning blog.

What I'm going to do in a series of blog posts is try to distill the contents of some of the Bondway documents.  The information that David Boardman and co. revealed through a Freedom of Information request from Lambeth is fascinating and I think readers should be aware of the sheer scale of the proposed Bondway development.  The Appeal campaign (mounted by many represenatives from the local community) has probably not received enough exposure, due to its necessarily dense and detailed documents.  I've tried to summarise the info. and only publicise the interesting bits, which will appear over the next week or so in a Bondway Appeal series.  My comments are in red.

Bondway Appeal Series, Part 1 (opening statement):
20th July - Opening Statement to the Bondway Enquiry Document:

The Vauxhall community has not been well served by the planning system.  The gyratory is despised by residents and TFL has failed to engage with the community about how it might be improved.  The Bondway developers hope to "repopulate" what they call a "traffic dominated backwater".  Boardman notes that the area is not in need of repopulation, but would benefit from regeneration. 

Following the Secretary of State's decision to allow the St George Wharf Tower (180m), it's inevitable that developers would want to build a cluster, but planning guidance is not clear how this should happen.  Planning documents are only available in draft eg. Vauxhall Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) and Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Planning Framework (VNEB), but have not been formally adopted.  The Kennington Association Planning Forum complained that there is no outline plan for the area, but were informed by the Bondway developers that one did exist, and had been used to write the Vauxhall SPD!  A FOI request forced Lambeth Council to reveal the document (named "Vauxhall Urban Design Study").  However, the Urban Design Study revealed a plan for a different cluster of buildings to the one in the VNEB report. 

Ok, if you're still with me (apologies for the acronyms), it appears that the VNEB (document commissioned by the Mayor of London) and the SPD (document commissioned by Lambeth Council) formulated two different plans of what a cluster of tall buildings in Vauxhall would look like.  Surprisingly (given Boris' view on tall buildings), the VNEB study suggested taller buildings in Vauxhall than the SPD study. 

Indeed, the SPD study suggested that the cluster be based around the Vauxhall Triangle / Vauxhall Cross site (that's Kylun's site) with Bondway Tower being shorter than it. Additionally, the Lambeth study (SPD) suggested 40% employment space, and Bondway developers have submitted plans for 10%. More crucially, the Mayor's Density Plan suggests that units should be built at 405 units per hectare.  The Design for London report gives a wider limit of 500 units per hectare.  Bondway Developers wish to house people at 1297 per hectareThis would have serious consequences for residents living in the buildings, and one would imagine that tenants offered social housing would suffer the most (as they inevitably do in such developments).

Boardman noted that Bondway had not provided reasons for departing from providing the originally agreed percentage of social housing.   A concern was also raised about the negative impact the proposed Bondway tower would have on Vauxhall Park.  Additionally, Vauxhall Underground Station is at capacity due to gate line and escalator capacity (gates already have to be closed at times, during rush hour).  Finally, Lambeth (as a borough) has an Open Space deficiency.  Lambeth through the SPD had suggested that additional green space be added to the west of the Bondway site.  Bondway are in favour of this, but want it added using their neighbour's land.  The Kennington Association Planning Forum consider that Bondway should offer Section 106 funding for the purchase of such land, and that the Section 106 monies payable by the applicant should be a considerably larger sum than is ordinarily the case to buy land to mitigate the space deficiency.  They suggest the figure of £10 million.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Kennington Gardens Society - 12th August - Guerrilla Gardening Talk

Just a quick post to note that on Thursday 12th August (this week) at 7:30pm, Kennington Gardens Society are hosting a talk from Richard Reynolds, who is a local founder of the Guerrilla Gardening movement.  There's a £2 fee on the door and the venue is Roots and Shoots on Walnut Tree Walk (see poster below)

I've been to KGS talks in the past, and they usually prove fascinating, even if your garden is only as extensive as a patio.  I'm definitely attending this one, since I'd be interested in hearing whether there might be local sites that could benefit from beautification.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Planning Appeal on 216 Kennington Road (possible Tesco)

Since I was assuming that the opening of 216 Kennington Road as a Tesco was a virtual certainty (and the owners of Aby Convenience Store at 297 Kennington Road seem to have assumed thus, since they've shut up shop), I've not been taking much notice of the endless letters Lambeth Council keep sending out.  I was just assuming that the store would soon open.  There appears to have been a slight delay though, so I've just been leafing back through correspondence to figure out what's happening.

A letter on 22nd July noted that Gallagher wished to extend the opening hours by two hours (from 7:00 - 21:00 to 7:00 - 23:00) 7 days a week.  A second letter on 27th July corrected the first letter, which had omitted to mention that the extended opening times would apply seven days a week, and which added that the application would not be heard at the Planning Committee on 4 August 2010, but would be heard at the next possible date.

In the meantime, I've received a third letter which notifies of a Planning Appeal to the Secretary of State contesting hours of operation and deliveries on Bank and Public Holidays.  If you wish to comment in favour of the appeal (against extended opening) or against the appeal (in support of extended opening), you must quote reference APP/N5660/A/10/2130094, send three copies of your comments (by 31 August 2010) to:

The Planning Inspectorate, Room 3/19,
Eagle Wing, Temple Quay House
2 The Square, Temple Quay
Bristol, BS1 6PN

Alternatively, you can make your comments online at:

So, I presume the thing will open in the end, but whether it will open from 7am to 11pm each day is under dispute.  One recent Tweet sent my way complained that there were no cash points between Elephant and Kennington Tesco, so if they do have to open a Tesco, let's hope they'll think to install a free cash point.  It would be useful to have one in the centre of Kennington.

Meanwhile, I notice that Ladbrokes and Pizza Express have both received a lick of paint and external improvements, and Kennington Cross is looking quite polished at the moment.

Triangle Adventure Playground vs. Archbishop Tenison School

Cast your mind back to the Parliamentary hustings, held back in April in St Mark's Church and you might remember that the "Triangle" featured briefly in questions to the candidates.  The Triangle is an Adventure Playground that sits just outside of the SE11 border in Ashmole Street.  The site is leased to the Triangle Adventure Playground Association (who are a charitable foundation) by Lambeth Council.  The Triangle is the oldest Adventure Playground to have remained on a consistent site in London, but was founded at a similar time to Lollard Street Adventure playground.  (It's worth noting at this point that residents must keep a close eye on the Lollard site since its future is potentially tied up in the future of the former Lilian Baylis School, and all of our adventure playgrounds are very valuable community resources).

Mention the Triangle to local councillors, and you might receive well-worn looks of despair.  Essentially, Archbisop Tenison School needed space to expand their play facilities.  The school /was/ due to receive money from the Building Future Schools programme which would allow them to provide schooling for an additional 150 boys, and Lambeth Council were left in the slightly awkward position that they would essentially need to sacrifice the Community Playground in order to turn it into a school playground that could be used on an out-of-hours basis by the community.  A shared solution was being sought (as at 15/10/2009) according to this FOI request, but since mention of the site still seems contentious, it would appear that no joint solution has been found.  I've also found that wading through the documentation on the matter is confusing.  The FOI email seems to suggest that Archbishop Tenison needed the space for a car park (Lambeth Council firmly refuted this) and reports from elsewhere seemed to suggest that the site would only be closed temporarily in order to allow the school to complete some building work (which is what seemed to be at issue during the hustings).  I am going to assume, unless somebody says to the contrary, that the plan was to give the Triangle Adventure Playground to Archbishop Tension School, and it is this that the Playground committee are objecting to (particularly since many students at the school are not resident in Lambeth).

At the hustings, Kate Hoey appeared to blame Council Officers / council machinery for some of the decisions taken on the project.  More recently, the South London Press published an article (KA news blog has a copy here) which suggests that Kate Hoey has written to the Council, asking them to "save" the playground.  This is an interesting request, but is perhaps not unachievable, given the recent Lib/Tory pact to abolish the Future for Schools program.  If the Archbishop Tension School can't expand, then there's not really much reason to absorb the playground (as Kate Hoey noted) and she has called for the Council to reconsider their decision to close the Triangle.

What's important to note though, is that Kate Hoey has been campaigning for a shared solution (which does appear on the face of it to be common sense).  Ms Hoey doesn't want to see the Triangle disappear, nor does she want the school to be deprived of extra play space.  But the SLP article notes that,
"a council spokesman said the local authority would still not be renewing the lease when it expires in November."
Now surely anybody can see that that is not a good decision.  The school cannot expand due to the failure of the Building Future Schools program (which is a very bad thing), but the Triangle Adventure Playground cannot continue because the Council are refusing to renew the lease.  Are the Council attempting to de-facto hand the playground to the school, ousting the good work put in on behalf of local children in the 344th (out of 354) most deprived area of child deprivation in the UK?  Yes. Councillor Pete Robbins maintains that Lambeth Council are committed to expanding the school and that more space is needed for classrooms and play space (how they'll do this without any money is unknown).  I'm not sure whether Lambeth Council fund the Triangle at all, but it's quite clear that Lambeth Council will be cutting youth services, which might have something to do with the decision.

It seems to me that this would be a very good opportunity to start practicing all of this Co-operative Council malarky.  I'd have thought that Polly Toynbee (who will sit on the co-op's board), who has always been an advocate for the disenfranchised ought to be concerned about the removal of the playground.  Has anybody written to her?  I wouldn't personally wish to take on a Toynbee-Hoey coalition!  The Triangle are talking about organising a sit-in in November and waiting for forcible removal by bailiffs.  Surely it needn't come to that?  But if it does, perhaps we can arrange for some of the members of the venerable associations, organisations and adventure playgrounds in the area to at least organise a large enough sit-in that the bailiffs have a difficult task on their hands!  If you wish to sign the Triangle Association's petition, you can do so here, but they seem still to be using the misleading information that the site would be turned into a car-park, which from what I can discern is not quite true.

Schools in Lambeth will have to expand, but why not add secondary school places to the borough by using the already existing empty Beaufoy building?  A situation in which schools are having to compete with youth facilities for space is completely unacceptable, and I do wonder whether, perhaps led and arbitrated by Kate Hoey, the Triangle Adventure Playground Association might not be able to meet with the governors of the Archbishop Tension School to come to a mutual arrangement?

Part 2... continued here.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Boris bikes / Ken bikes continued... or Why can't London always be this way?

So, I decided to continue my Boris bike (Ken bike) exploration today.  Somebody really needs to invent a better name for these bikes, since nobody wants to call them Barclays Cycle Hire bikes on account of our dislike of corporate sponsorship (and big banks).  To be fair, it's also rather a mouthful.  But it seems disingenuous to call them Boris bikes when they were Ken's idea.  Barc Bikes is nicely alliterative, but alludes back to Barclays again.  Anybody any better ideas?

Anyhow, I wanted to go and discover whether the Lollard Street dock and the Kennington Lane Rail Bridge dock really existed, and if they worked.  I began at my local, Kennington Road Post Office, hopped on a bike, glanced behind me and set off.  I share the view of another commentator who remarked that the gears are set too low.  My legs were spinning around, Tom and Jerry-like, and I wasn't going very far!  They're also designed only to be ridden for short distances on account of having saddles that tip you forward slightly.  I've discovered that they're much more comfortable to ride when I raise the saddle so that my toes don't touch the ground.  I don't regard myself as short by any means (I'm 5'4"), but I can't see anybody much shorter being able to ride these and still have their toes touch the ground.  The other SE11_lurker (who is 4ft 11 and three quarter inches) cannot ride them at all, so they're yet another philandrist device, designed to exclude short people!  Other than that, they're a fine specimen of transport.

My ride to Lollard Street didn't take long, but upon arrival, I was detained by an older, slightly inebriated man who wished to engage in conversation about the bikes.  That is what I really like about the scheme.  Londoners have suddenly stopped to talk to one another.  The chap wanted to know what I thought about the scheme, how you used the cycles and how much it cost.  It seems to take people a little while to get their heads around the idea that there is both an access and a usage charge.  I explained that the bikes were designed for tourists to hire all day (eg. a rip-off for long-time hire), and most people would put them back within half an hour.  He was unconvinced that they were better than his bike at home, and I had to agree, but we chatted for 10 minutes. On Friday, I was detained at the Post Office by a man from an expensive flat and a woman who lived on the local estate who both wanted the scheme explained.  On Saturday, whilst I was experiencing the yellow light-red light issue, again at the Post Office, another woman wanted to chat about them.  When I put my key in, there's usually a set of passers-by wondering how they work.  And this morning, I was chatting to some Camberwellians who had noticed my TV appearance, and wanted to know why the bikes hadn't been placed further south in London.  Well, quite.  Boris probably doesn't travel much further south than Elephant and Castle, so that might explain it.  But it has led me to wonder, "why can't London always be this way?".  I really like these conversational excursus, although one has to ensure they're held /before/ you put the key in, otherwise you'll be using up the half hour chatting to strangers!  But, why not?  I hope that people keep chatting, even when the novelty wears off.

I made a bit of a mistake with Lollard Street.  It's one of those "out of the way" bike docks, and the bikes have been placed just outside of the former Lilian Baylis School.  There were plenty there, but it turned out that I'd hired one of those over-tightened back wheel affairs.  I realised within 15 seconds, but decided to plough on.  Phewww.  Exhausting.  I cycled as far as the Embankment, and went to see whether  the Fire Brigade Pier docking station exists.  It doesn't.  Do beware of that.  Whilst it seems to appear on some of the maps, I arrived at the place where it should have been, only to be greeted by a blank section of pavement and no electrical points here:

The bike had become seriously hard work by this point, but I pioneered on, heading for Vauxhall.  However, a little further up, I spotted the Albert Embankment dock.  I thought they weren't operative, so I zoomed to the right to chat to the chap in the yellow jacket.  He noted that I could choose to dock the bike and that I should press the red "fault" button, but that if I did so, I'd be unable to take out another bike.  Oh dear!  Here's the Albert Embankment dock (including some tourists looking curious):

I elected to cycle on to Vauxhall, hoping to find the Kennington Lane Rail Bridge dock.  I'd not spotted it before, because it's actually under the bridge (it's the tunnel just next to the Vauxhall Tavern).  I docked the bike, but completely forgot about pressing the fault button and by the time I'd remembered, 10 seconds had more than expired.  I turned the saddle around (like the French do) to indicate a fault, and hoped that some of the Serco chaps would spot it.  Here's the dock... (Photo quality is due to iphone camera):

At that point, things took a turn for the worse.  I decided to print out my journey thus far, and headed to the computer:

I went to try the screen on the other side.  Incidentally, I'm not fond of this particular spot.  Hanging around for 5 minutes inside a tunnel makes one look rather seedy.  Unfortunately, the back of the terminal was no better:

Whilst I was waiting, I spotted one of those rather curious poems/anecdotes pinned to the side of the tunnel (see below). So I waited for what seemed like five minutes and reinserted the key.  Oh no!  The yellow light-red light fault had recurred.  I was certain that I'd definitely got the green light when redocking, so waited a few more minutes to try again.  No luck.  Happily, I remembered that Kennington Tesco should have some bikes, and it's only a quick walk down the road.

Full of the joy of "I'm a friendly Londoner spirit", I very nearly stopped a man wearing a "Sex, bugs and rock and roll" T-shirt to admire it, but then I realised that I'd not got a cycle hire bike with me, and he might think I were mad.  I thought better of the decision to stop and chat!

I quickly arrived at Tesco to find another chap in a yellow vest who advised that there were no known problems at his terminal, so I tried the key again, attained the green light and hoiked out a bike.  From there, I just cut across Tesco car park, and zoomed back to the Post Office to re-dock.  As easy as pie!  It's fantastic.  And well done to TFL for ensuring that there are plenty of personnel on hand to explain how the scheme works.  Just one quick plea to Londoners... please don't stop talking to strangers!

Don't try bombing MI6. The spooks don't like it!

Bombing MI6 is not going to make you popular, and will almost certainly lead to your arrest.  If you were thinking about it, don't.  If you want further proof that it's a  bad idea, you need look no further than the arrest of two Welsh chaps with too much time on their hands.  Apparently, two men, aged 21 and 52 (father and son) were detained by local and Metropolitan Police in Wales on 28th July when one suspicious parcel was found at the M16 Building (whether it got inside is unknown) and another suspicious parcel was discovered at a South London sorting office early on the morning of the 29th (we're not given its destination)!  The article notes that police were granted "extra time" to question them this afternoon.  Crikey.

All that I've written above has already been released by the AFP, who simply issue simple news items without further embellishment, but it does pertain to this area, and I'm sure we'll all hear more as it unfolds!  The Daily Fail has a little more info, saying that the men are being questioned at Padding Green "secure" police station in London (Queens Park) and that the bombs were "amateurish" (neither had to be destroyed in a controlled explosion, which rather implies that these were not serious bomb makers).

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