Monday 5 July 2010

London trip Sat 3-Jul-2010

I've been trying to use the Woolwich extension of the DLR since it opened about 18 months ago; this would have been my first trip to Woolwich. I set out at 05:45 to make the most of the coolest part of the day. Instead this happened.

On leaving Shadwell station I headed north through a very run-down 1960s residential/shopping centre, Watney Market, where market stalls were being set up. Emerging on Commercial Road, there was a 10min+ wait for a no. 15 bus westwards, which was fairly full.

I was trying to get back on plan but arrived at Borough Market at 08:30, which proved to be too early as not enough stalls were ready, though it opened at 08:00. I carried on via buses RV1 and 77, arriving at Lambeth Palace at 09:15.

Treasures of Lambeth Palace Library was fascinating - stunning old books, documents such as the death warrant for Mary Queen of Scots...

I went next door to the Garden Museum, a lovely little museum with a very popular tea room attached.

Next stop was Aldwych Tube station for the Transforming the Tube exhibition. The exhib. was good but the attraction was this rare chance to see the disused station - still very much looking 1930s-1950s.

Next I went to Somerset House's Terrace Rooms to see City Living – highlights from the Fleming Collection. They showed a much wider selection than the old favourites such as the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists. On the way out, a troup of young women danced in the fountains in the courtyard.

After lunch I arrived at the Comedy Theatre to see La Bete, starring Joanna Lumley, David Hyde Pierce, and Mark Rylance. As usual with plays with big names, it attracted people who don't know how to behave.

David Hyde Pierce opened the piece with a monologue of about 8 minutes, setting out his character's artistic credentials as actor-manager of a serious troup and ranting about the popular performer his patron, the Princess, has lumbered him with. Then Mark Rylance comes on and has an even longer monologue putting his case for populist entertainment - mass appeal. There's no plot to speak of, just argument and counter-argument, done with style and wit, all in rhyming couplets. David Hyde Pierce was particularly fine: a subtle, nuanced performance, with little looks and gestures. Mark Rylance (as so often) gave a rather larger-than-life performance, suiting his character. Joanna Lumley wasn't on stage that much but was suitably regal. The last third was rather dull and drifting. [Review]

An odd couple got up and left about a third of the way through the interval-less performance. (Why do such people bother to come and then leave? Didn't they check first?)

On leaving at 16:20 I tangled with the end of the Gay Pride March & Traf.Sq. rally, so I headed into the City by bus for peace & quiet. Unusually lots of pubs were open, even after 5pm, due to World Cup (Germany getting their just reward of a semis place for their earlier good work in knocking England out).

    [An aside, on a favouite theme: this is a notable step forward. In the last 10 years the numbers of people in the City at weekends has been rising. Many coffee & sandwich bars have noticed and are open but pubs stubbornly refuse to open. (There are exceptions in the high-volume tourist areas of St Pauls and Tower Hill.)

I've given up on the rush&crush of afternoon/evening Kings Cross return trains and go with the civilised calm of Liverpool St ones (usually 70mins instead of 50mins).

England football team

Back around December 2007-January 2008, thinking about the state of the England football team, I came to the conclusion that the way forward was as follows, which is definitely not a quick-fix.
  1. Current premiership players to be banned from selection to England team. They are not and will never be sufficiently committed to the national team, as their ambitions are focused elsewhere, to the international arena of premiership clubs and all the associated sponsorship opportunities and celebrity culture.
  2. Establish a pool of central contracts, very much like rugby union and cricket, to encourage and stabilise promising talent and form the core of the team.
  3. Whilst this no doubt would be hugely disruptive for the team at first, once Division 1 & 2 players get used to the new situation, they will see there are two equally valid career paths : national team or Premiership.
  4. There must be significant periods of whole-team training. Again this is something rugby and cricket have resolved. The Division 1 and 2 clubs need to see that a successful national side is essential to their well-being. It took rugby and cricket clubs years to 'get' this and it's unlikely that Premiership clubs would ever accept such a sacrifice.
  5. Premiership managers to be banned from selection as England manager, since they inevitably have similar issues to the players. Ideally only former England players should be eligible but EU employment laws may hamper this. This is an important part of building a proper career structure and motiviation around the national team.

On joining the knife crime stats, 3-Jul-2010

Man with knife on train arrested:
    Source: Press Association. Published Date: 03 July 2010

    A man has been arrested after he was seen with a knife on a train, police said. Officers were called to the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train shortly after 7am between Shadwell and Limehouse, east London.

    A British Transport Police (BTP) spokesman said: "At 0707, the BTP were made aware of reports of a disorderly male seen with a knife on board a DLR train between Shadwell and Limehouse.

    "Officers from the BTP and Metropolitan Police attended and at 0822 the male was detained by police.

    "A member of the public was injured during this process but these injuries are believed to be minor.

    "While this incident was taking place DLR and C2C services were suspended."

    Copyright © Press Association Ltd. 2010, All Rights Reserved.

I'd had an uneventful journey so far, 05:45 train to Kings Cross, Tube to Bank, and at 06:58 onto the middle car of the DLR to Woolwich. About 150 yards past Shadwell station the emergency stop button was pressed and we halted. The train guard came through from the front of the train to the rear.

Nothing happened for about 15 minutes - trains continued to pass - but looking back to the rear car it was clear the guard and a young man were 'in a situation' - the man had a long kitchen knife. The guard moved forward steadily, with the man following.

In the middle car the guard continued to do a great job of keeping the bloke (20ish) talking whilst moving gradually forward. The man was clear about staying 'within stabbing distance' though generally he rambled and was clearly under the influence of something. I was studiously avaiding the possibility of eye contact and I think all the passengers instinctively did something of the sort. The pair moved through to the front car.

About 07:35 the rear passenger doors opened and we started to de-train. There was a large group of DLR staff and police just behind the rear of the train and lots more on Shadwell station, where our names and addresses were taken.

The police suddenly decided that we should now leave the station and escorted us out, through sets of 'Police' tapes. As we left, a heavily tooled-up armed response unit arrived (machine guns, tear gas mortar...). There were 10 or so police vehicles in the street, the police helicopter was circling and even at that time in the morning a curious crowd beyond the tape barriers.