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Out and about

“Walking” From Home

I know, I did a post with a very similar title recently about doing a long walking route where I went home every night and back again the next morning. Well, this one is different.

Back in May, I went out for a 26 mile walk in the Chilterns (I know I’ve done a lot of walking recently). This was a set route with questions to answer at various checkpoints to prove that the route had been followed. All of the grid references for the questions were available before the walk started, and part of the challenge was to plan your own route. But given the questions and the available footpaths between them, there was really only one possible option for the majority of the walk. For example, in the picture below, the only sensible option between points 7 and 8 is to follow the green-dashed footpath (the red line shows the direct line between checkpoints).

However, there was one point where I got distracted and forgot to look for the answer to the question I was on. It was only when I was a few hundred metres later on that I realised I’d missed it out. I knew exactly where the answer was as I’d seen it as I walked past (but just not realised I was supposed to be paying more attention). Rather than go back, I decided I would just check Google Street View when I got home.

And then that got me wondering: how much of the walk could I just do from home on the internet without doing any actual walking. So I thought I would check.

Some answers were very easy to find on Street View (including the one I needed). However, Street View doesn’t generally cover footpaths and so a lot of answers couldn’t be found this way. And even if there is Street View coverage, some questions relied on reading signs which is quite impossible due the image resolution not being high enough.

This is the correct signpost, but good luck trying to answer “What symbol is displayed in a square sign for the National Trust?”

Some of the answers remaining were quite easy to find elsewhere on the internet. For example, there was a question to state the reference number of the trig point at the top of Ivinghoe Beacon. The internet is full of photos of trig points and it was easy to find the answer.

My photo of the trig point plate at Ivinghoe Beacon. There are lots of very similar photos at Trigpointing:UK

Some other questions were guessable based on the context of the question without even visiting the area, although not always correctly. For example, “Happiness grows on what?” is probably “trees” (correct), but “Warning! What vehicles are operating?” is “agricultural” (my initial guess was “farm”).

But a lot of answers couldn’t be found at all (or at least not without specific knowledge of the subject or a much more detailed search).

Number of correct answers visible on Street View or available elsewhere on the internet10
Answers that may or may not be correct based on guesses or incomplete information on the internet6
Number of answers not possible without visiting the actual location16

There were six questions that I could possibly make a guess at based on the question or making an extrapolation based on internet data, and even if these guesses were correct, it would only be possible to get 16/32, a measly 50% score. I don’t know if there was a “pass rate” as such, but I don’t think that only half marks would qualify as completing the route.

I got 100% correct by walking the route and to be honest, I think it would take longer to try and find all the answers on the internet than just doing the walk. And I also had the advantage that I had already done the walk so I knew what the actual answers were and what I should be searching for online. So really it’s well done to the organisers for choosing good questions which can’t be found on the internet and ensures that “walking” from home can’t happen.

If you want to look at the questions (or to do the walk), it’s available here. (Note: You had to do it before the end of May to do it as part of the organised event, which is why I can talk about the answers now.)

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Out and about

Lockdown 2.0

We’re almost a week into the second lockdown of the year, so I thought I’d have a look at how things compare now to earlier this year.

Unlike the previous lockdown where I only worked in the office a fraction of the time, I’ve still been going into the office everyday. I’ve also had a work trip away (which is allowed within the rules) and a day working from home, so I feel like I’ve seen a few different areas.

Central London (weekdays) – Central London on a working day is definitely quieter than it would normally be, and quieter than a few weeks ago. It’s not at the same emptiness as April, but the coffee shops (which are still open this time) are all noticeably empty. The pubs meanwhile are shut, which, combined with the early sunset and the emptier streets, makes walking through the streets at 6pm feel much more like it’s actually 2am.

Central London (weekends) – I was also in the office this weekend. When I was heading into the office, the streets were really empty, but heading home mid-afternoon I was surprised how busy it was. I’ve never seen that many cyclists, and there were plenty of people wandering round. Yes, a lot of them may have been doing it for exercise, but I’m sure a high proportion were tourists, because who wants a pre-booked holiday stuck in a hotel room?

Outer London – Nearer home, I’ve noticed that there are fewer people around, although there are far more cars on the roads. This could be because people think being in a vehicle is safer, or it could just be because of the really bad weather and that it gets dark earlier now. I have noticed that the parks are still very busy, particularly at weekends.

Travel (trains) – My commuter trains are emptier than a few weeks ago, but still not as empty as the first lockdown. Some of these will be school-children, but I’m sure there are some people making non-essential journeys (but I have no way to confirm this).

Travel (motorways) – It’s not often that I drive the M25 on a weekday afternoon, so I don’t have much to compare it to. It wasn’t empty, but I certainly have seen it far busier. All the overhead signs said “STAY HOME. ONLY TRAVEL IF ESSENTIAL”, but again, I have no idea if that’s being adhered to. However, I have never seen the motorway services that empty. So much so that I was worried that it might have been closed (but thankfully it wasn’t).

Hotels – I’ve also had a night away in a hotel whilst on my work trip. Pretty much everything was shut: the restaurant, the bar, the fitness centre. The hotel itself is still open and judging by the car park it’s fairly full. Most of the vehicles are contractor’s vans (probably railway related by the looks of them) so people with a legitimate need to travel. As I mentioned, I was also travelling for work (so allowed), but no-one actually checked.

So that’s really it. It’s busier than the first lockdown, and some places are still quite busy. But the rules are more flexible this time so that’s really to be expected.

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Out and about

Adrian’s week off at home

So only two weeks in to blogging again, and I’ve already missed my self-imposed target to post something every Wednesday evening. My not-very-good excuse is that I was on holiday last week. I’ve posted before about some of my activities that I’ve got to around London whilst on holiday. So what did I do this time with my week’s holiday during the lockdown?

The first thing to say is that I definitely chose the week with the worst weather. The week before was warm and sunny and this week has been fairly settled. Last week however was the heaviest rain in a long while. So between the rain and the lockdown, the options for things to do was quite limited.

I did recently find that there are a number of “heritage trails” in my local area. This seemed like a good time to walk some of them. Here’s some of the things I found out:

  1. The definition of “heritage” and “trail” are variable – Some of them only pointed out key landmarks or things of particular interest, whilst others went out of their way to show every possible item. The longest trail was about 7km and included a 1.5km detour to show off a street which had three blue plaques (and I only even recognised one of the names). The shortest trail was only 800m long and went along one side of a high street and back down the other.
  2. The lockdown may not be the best time to do these walks – Some of the walks had a lot of information to read. It’s quite hard to stop in the pavements without blocking them and that’s no good for social distancing. It’s also quite hard to imagine an area as “vibrant” when you’re the only person around and everywhere is shuttered up.
  3. The marks of the past are everywhere – There’s a footpath which follows the boundary of a field (which for a built-up area behind a main shopping street is quite surprising). Elsewhere there’s a car park behind a local church that used to be built up housing but was destroyed during WW2 bombing. And half of that church is made of newer brick, which I had vaguely noticed but never really thought about. Everything has a story.
  4. You have to look up – Every high street looks fairly similar with its rows of shops with the same signs and facades. However, if you look at the first floor and above they all have very different buildings behind them which often have their own architectural flair and histories. Again, everything has a story.

So was it worth it? Probably yes, because I did learn some useful local knowledge whilst getting some exercise and seeing areas that I wouldn’t normally go to. Would I do these walks again? Probably not.

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Life event Out and about

Solar Eclipse 2017

In my ongoing aim to photograph astronomical phenomena, I recently went to the USA to capture the 2017 solar eclipse. As with the super blood moon, it’s been described as a “once in a lifetime” event, however I saw the 1999 eclipse (in Romania) and I might go to the 2024 one too (also in the USA), so it’s probably just a “three times in a lifetime” event (which is probably more common than a lot of things).

Having bought a special filter for my camera to protect it from the sun, I connected my camera to my computer and set it up to take a photo every minute.

The first few shots were slightly out of focus but do show the moon gradually moving across the sun (or does the sun move behind the moon?).

The main issue was with the sun moving across the camera field of view and disappearing off the edge. The answer was to redirect the camera but sometimes it took time to re-find the sun (the viewfinder couldn’t be used because the filter wasn’t suitable for human use, and the electronic display doesn’t work when connected to the computer). Therefore I missed a few of the shots, but I still got enough to produce this awesome timelapse:

[ADDITION: This is over about a 3 hour period and each ‘sun’ is about 3-5 minutes apart]

And here’s a simpler linear version:

I also captured several images of the corona (after taking the filter off):

Following some post-processing in Photoshop, I produced a more detailed shot of the corona:

And here’s a shot of the sun without the moon blocking it:

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Out and about

Annual Review

It’s now been over a year since my last post, so it’s time for my annual review of the last 12 or so months. So what have I been up to? Well, here’s some of the places I’ve been…

Beijing
Beijing

New York
New York

Scotland
Scotland

Wales (I didn’t get any good photos)
Wales

Northumberland
Northumberland

San Francisco
San Francisco

And just around London
Underground London

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Out and about

Adrian’s week off in London: Day 5

So here we are, the final day of my holiday at home. Having woken up late and having somewhere else to be mid-afternoon, I didn’t have much time.

There was however one Monday-Friday only museum that I wanted to visit during this week, the Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre.

To get over to West London, I had to take three Overground trains, having to zig-zag across South London to get to West Brompton.

The museum is very small and only took about 5 minutes or so to look around, which was good as I didn’t have much time. The sign on the door implied that it was only open by appointment, whereas the website states that appointments are appreciated. When the man inside saw me peering through the door, he happily let me in. I wasn’t even the only person there in this small museum, as a group of three other people turned up when I was inside. The photo below pretty much shows the entirety of the museum.


One of the interesting items was a document detailing the requirements for police officers in 1829. Here are some of the more interesting ones:

* Your working hours will be eight, ten or twelve hour shifts, seven days a week. No rest days are allowed and only one week holiday per annum, unpaid.
* Every encouragement will be given to grow beards, as shaving is regarded as unhealthy. However, beards must not exceed two inches in length.
* You are NOT allowed to sit down in public houses at any time. [Does this include standing?]
* No meal breaks are allowed, the top hat may be used to hold a snack.
* Before attending for medical examination and interview to join the police it is advisable to have a bath.

Having seen most of the items in a few minutes (there wasn’t much to read), I headed back for my afternoon appointment. I decided to take a different route home, using the District line to Wimbledon where I changed to Tramlink. This was my first trip on London’s tram system and I planned to explore more of it and then get the bus home, however I realised I was quickly running out of time so transferred back to the Overground to complete the loop.

And I would have been back in time, if my afternoon engagement hadn’t been cancelled.


Several months ago I bought some fish from my local Food Assembly. Not having much clue what to do with so much fish, I put most of it in the freezer. Today seemed liked the perfect opportunity to use up one of the dabs I had stored.

Searching the internet, I came across Jamie Oliver’s recipe for Mediterranean-style Dab with bacon, olives, tomatoes and pine nuts. Surprisingly, this recipe was incredibly easy to follow and I completed it in the same time as stated (30 mins). The hardest part was eating it, given the amount I had on the plate (I served it with salad and new potatoes), and also the bones in the fish. A successful meal to round off the week.
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Out and about

Adrian’s week off in London: Day 4

Today I headed back into the City of London for a tour of Guildhall.

First though, I popped into the church of St Lawrence Jewry next door, which is actually a very recent church building, rebuilt after being bombed in WW2. The Jewry part of the name refers to this being in the Jewish part of the city until 1290.

Our tour guide, Pat, advised that this tour only lasts an hour, but could easily last well over two, so would be fairly rushed. We were also told that photos could be taken but discretely, so apologies that the interior photos are taken on my phone rather than my camera.

The tour started in the Great Hall which was being set up for the afternoon’s Court of Common Council meeting. A few members of the group were training to be Blue Badge Tourist Guides and were scribbling frantically in their notebooks. The remainder of us just listening as Pat explained all the statues in the hall and the symbolism of all the particular objects. The main theme within the entire building is of history and tradition, combined with rebuilding following the Great Fire of London and the Blitz. Many of the rooms have changed usage over the various centuries although most of them are used as meeting rooms today, mainly to be hired out to businesses or for wedding receptions.


We then had the option of coming back in an hour to see the council meeting. However I had to be getting home to get the evening’s meal ready (even if Thameslink had other plans).


My meal for this evening was another one suggested by colleagues at work – kebabs.

I chose to make two different kebabs: “Chicken kebabs” from “Nosh for graduates“, and “Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kebabs with Aleppo Pepper” from Serious Eats.

Both of these recipes wanted to make a marinade which the chicken would then soak in for a few hours before cooking. This made the cooking process seem less onerous as it broke it down into two distinct parts. The recipes were designed for BBQs and large quantities so I reduced all of the ingredients in each by about 60% as I only planned on making two skewers of each. I did make a few deviations from the recipe. In the first recipe I swapped mushrooms for courgette, and, whilst writing this, I realised that I missed out the red pepper. In the second recipe I used smoked paprika and dried crushed chili peppers as the first step. I also swapped red wine vinegar for white wine vinegar as that’s what I already had, although I’m sure it made absolutely no difference.

I then grilled the kebabs on my George Foreman grill (which will now need a lot of cleaning) and served it with pitta bread and hummus. I did look at making my own hummus, however since I don’t own a food processor or a blender or a pestle and mortar (and no intention of buying any of them just for this) I didn’t. It was a fairly simple recipe and it all tasted good.

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Out and about

Adrian’s week off in London: Day 3

My initial plan for today was to attend a talk on Benjamin Franklin’s experiments with a kite and lightning at Benjamin Franklin House.

However, one the other attractions I wanted to visit this week was the London Fire Brigade museum. This is only open Mondays to Fridays, and also happens to be closing down at the end of this month. When I found out that the only way to see this museum (at least in full, and without waiting a few years whilst a new museum is built) was this morning, I decided to choose this museum over the kite/lightning talk. [The Benjamin Franklin House is still on my to-do list, but it is open at weekends too.]

The museum is in two parts, the first part is based in the original fire appliance shed from the mid-19th century where there’s a selection of old fire appliances from the early hand carts to more modern fire engines. The first appliance we were shown was an 1860s manual pump that required 20 people to operate. Since there weren’t that many firefighters, locals were given beer tokens in exchange for helping out. Apparently it was very popular!

The second part of the museum is housed within the adjoining house, originally occupied by the first London Fire Chief, Eyre Massey Shaw. This had a more structured museum type structure with exhibits and placards, however since this was a tour we didn’t get to read most of it and were instead shown a few key items in each room. The tour I was on had some descendants of James Braidwood (Massey Shaw’s predecessor) so the tour focussed on some of these elements. There was also a current firefighter on the tour so there was some discussion over the bits that had stayed the same since the beginning, and the bits that had changed (seemingly for the worse – the tour was given by an ex-firefighter). The World War 2 room contained two shells. There used to be 5 until a previous tour noticed that 3 of them were still live!


Since today is Wednesday, Great British Bake Off day, I decided to make a pie. I choose to do ‘Winter Warming Meat and Potato Pie with a suet pastry crust’ from “Nosh for Graduates”. I mainly followed the recipe, however I substituted some of the water for beer, simply because I thought this would be good, but I’m not sure if I could actually taste it at the end. The recipe took surprisingly longer than expected. The book reckons about 55 minutes total, but I started about 6 and it was well after 8 by the time I was eating. Maybe I just need more practice. I also hadn’t noticed that it said “serves 4” and found myself with a lot more pie than I was expecting. I actually made 3 pies, two of which are now waiting in the freezer for another time.

The only other issue I had was in making the dough for the top. The recipe says to roll out the dough and lift it on top of the potato layer. I’m not sure if I had it too runny, but I definitely couldn’t lift it, and resorted to using a spoon to place it on top. It all worked out fine though, and it was another successful (if delayed) meal.

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Out and about

Adrian’s week off in London: Day 2

Today’s adventure started off with a trip on the Overground


the Underground

and then the Emirates Air Line

This was my first trip on the Dangleway and it was everything I expected from a not-very-popular tourist attraction. The in-cabin video wasn’t playing so I had a nice quiet ride across the Thames by myself.

At the other end of the cable car, I arrived for the purpose of my outing, a tour of the Royal Docks as part of the Totally Thames festival. The tour was led by Gary, who was studying for a Masters in Heritage at nearby University of East London, and Matt, who works on a nearby historic boat. This was the first time the tour has been run so it was a little bit uncertain and read off the notes, but they had obviously researched the topics and knew what they were talking about. The tour covered the history of the docks, the recent (and ongoing) rejuvenation projects and the social history of the area. The tour was helped by audio samples from local residents (available here) and historic photographs.

At the end of the tour, Matt asked if anyone wanted to look round his boat, the SS Robin. This boat is the world’s oldest complete steamboat (from 1890). The boat is less famous than the Cutty Sark or HMS Belfast, although apparently of equal historical significance (it lacks the military history or the exotic routes – it just went around the UK). Boats don’t have the same heritage options as buildings, and therefore it is harder to preserve them or stop them from being scrapped. For example, there is the ethical heritage question of “is it better to keep a boat in the water but to have to replace large parts of the hull, or to keep the original structure but store the boat out of the water?”. In this case they went for out of the water (but then is it still really a boat?).

Finally I headed off to get the DLR as my final mode of transport for the day.


Food-wise, today I decided to cook Mexican food. I could have just used a pre-made pack, but I wanted the challenge so I followed Jamie Oliver’s chicken fajitas with homemade salsa and guacamole. It was a lot of effort to make the dips and they are slightly chunkier than they could have been, but it did feel worth it after. For a quicker meal I might consider buying some pre-made sauces (unless it was a special occasion). I was hoping I would be able to freeze half of the chicken mix, so I added an additional chicken breast, however I should probably have added an additional pepper too. In the end I just ate it all in one go (apart from the dips). Doing some nachos as well would probably help with this.

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Out and about

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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