Tag Archives: snow

The White Stuff

You know, with all the excitement, I never did get around to putting up my snow photos. Which is a shame, because working in Bloomsbury you get some rather pretty scenes on the way into work. Here’s a snowy photo entry type thing! Hurrah!

We begin the journey, as I did, in Colliers Wood. Not that Colliers Wood is a particularly scenically spectacular place, but I thought it would be nice to get a shot of the virgin snow in the small hours. Virgin anything is a rarity in South London, particularly after a late night.

Here is Colliers Wood the next morning. See what I mean about it not being scenically spectacular? Oh well, that’s suburbia I suppose. Affordable suburbia, at least.

Here we go, Bloomsbury at last. Here are some of the many parks and gardens in the area.

This on the left is Store Street, just off Tottenham Court Road. Is that a really big wreath or a really small building?

Also, what is it with blue lights these days? I bet in years to come, blue lights will be remembered as one of those retro obsessions we had.

The snow had started to melt by the time I got to the Brunswick Centre. Still, there was enough on the Christmas trees for my sinister purpose.

The rather art deco lions outside the British Museum seemed unperturbed by the weather. I call the one to the left of the doors Fortescue and the one to the right Ponsomby.

Fortescue is the impulsive one, Ponsomby is the sobering influence.

Statue of Peter Pan outside Great Ormond Street Hospital. Interesting fact, trivia fans: the ashes of former Prime Minister Jim Callaghan are scattered in the flower bed there.

Now, here are three icons of the city – a phone box, a pillar box and an Underground sign. I liked this blog better before it sold out to the tourists.

And finally, a disgruntled pigeon.

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Filed under Bloomsbury, London, London Underground, Photos, Suburbia, tourism

Ice, Ice Baby

Winter, it would seem, is well and truly here. I am basing this purely on the heinous amount of snow outside. Of course, this isn’t entirely unexpected – it’s been brass-monkeys cold for a while now. I’m not a religious guy, but on Saturday, with my hands purple and aching with cold, I had cause to thank God for Primark and their inexpensive gloves. Later that day I took the terrible photo above, showing that City Road Basin in Islington was partially frozen.

Back in “The Day,” (i.e. up until about the mid-20th century) frozen canals and rivers were a serious issue. Canals in particular, which don’t flow like a river, were vulnerable to icing up. This had obvious economic consequences for trade, particularly before the advent of decent roads and railways. The low-tech but cunning solution was to apply brute force and a certain amount of wiggling. This was achieved using the canal icebreaker, or “rocker,” as they were known in the business.

The rocker was like a shortened narrowboat, but instead of a cargo area, it simply had a long bar. The bow sloped upwards. A team of men would stand either side, holding on to the bar. When the rocker came to ice, the bow would ride up on top of the ice and the men would rock back and forth to break it (hence the vessel’s nickname). This was usually sufficient for all but the most Arctic conditions in London.

[PARENTHESIS: Did you know that the word “Arctic” comes from the Latin word for polar bear, “arcta.” Arctic literally means “place where there are polar bears.” Antarctic means “place where there are no polar bears.” Now you know.]

Now, earlier this year I wrote about the frost fairs that were held on the Thames when it froze over in winter. The idea of the river freezing over sounds like the sort of thing that went out with breeches and snufftaking. In fact, the end of the frozen Thames can be put down to several factors. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the river flows that much faster these days. The construction of the Embankments north and south of the river has constrained it, which, if you recall your school physics lessons, speeds the flow up. The old London Bridge, which had lots of arches and waterwheels to slow things down, has been demolished and replaced twice – the new one allowing freer flow and also, interestingly, possessing heating elements for the road over it.

Industry since the dawn of the steam age has discharged a lot of hot water – and other products – into the Thames, raising the overall temperature. I would imagine residential and commercial premises, with their heating and lighting, are contributing factors as well – but I’m no scientist.

And down in South London, the draining of the Lambeth marshes (commemorated with the street called Lower Marsh in Waterloo) has meant that ice no longer forms along the banks there, preventing the freeze from getting a foothold, or whatever it is that freezes do.

That being said, I was surprised to learn how recent the last big freeze was. In fact, it was 1963. This was the coldest winter since 1740. Roads and railways were, as you might imagine, choked up. Rivers fared little better, and even the sea was frozen at Margate and Chatham (the Navy employed an icebreaker at the latter). The Thames, as you can see above in this view at Windsor, was no exception. At Oxford, one chap managed to drive a car across the river. The docks in London iced up like many others, driving prices of imported goods up. Kingston saw ice skating on the river, and bicycle races were held at Hampton. Below right may be seen boas iced up near Hampton Wick.

Will climate change result in us seeing another freeze like 1963, or are such sights finally confined to the history books? Well I don’t know.

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Filed under 19th century, 20th Century, Canals and Waterways, Current events, Disasters, East End and Docklands, Geography, History, Islington, Kingston, London, london bridge, Rambling on and on, Randomness, Rivers, Sports and Recreation, Suburbia, Thames, Transport, Waterloo and Southwark, Windsor and Eton

The Bloomsbury Christmas

A common complaint levelled against Britain is the weather. Speaking personally, I don’t mind it. I’m a cold-weather person myself. When it gets hot I either tend to get snappy and irritable or – to the relief of all – suffer from heat stroke. I overheat incredibly easily. In short, cold = good. What I’ll agree on, though, is that we tend to get our weather at the wrong time. We’ll get a sudden heatwave in September, or a week of rain in August. Most irritating of all is our snow. This never comes when it should, at least not in London. When we get proper snow (that is, snow that lies on the ground as opposed to the lame five-minute flurry that melts on impact), it’ll usually be in February or November or some other time when it does nothing but annoy.

Despite numerous Hollywood portrayals of rosy-cheeked carol singers huddled under a gas lamp in the snow at Christmas time (oh, hey Bridget Jones’ Diary, I didn’t see you there), white Christmases don’t really happen here. Of all the major population centres of Britain, we have by far the lowest number of white Christmases. The highest, by the way, is Aberdeen. This is largely due to the fact that London is a city of seven million people, countless animals and God-only-knows how many machines and electrical devices, all of which produce heat. And I’m afraid to say, all you people who live in less populous and colder climes who put money on it this year, white Christmases are measured from London (if a snowflake lands on the roof of the London Weather Centre on 25th December, it’s officially a white Christmas). Also, unlike many of its neighbours, Britain is warmed by the Gulf Stream, making white Christmases even less likely. Bing Crosby can dream all he likes. So.

That meant that last Monday, when we not only had snow but had it lie, was particularly unusual. I love the snow. I think it’s one of those rare occasions when it’s justifiable to regress to childhood. Others being Halloween, Christmas and birthdays, if your childhood involved heinous amounts of alcohol (mine did).

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees. There’s always a lot of moaning when it starts snowing. And yeah, okay, it delays the trains and means a lot of places have to close, but still, snoooooow! I mean, come on, at least it gives you an excuse not to go into work.

Oh, and inevitably we had the papers getting all snarky about claims that trains were held up because the snow was too fluffy. The media, of course, like this sort of thing because it means they can sneer at the railways. In fact, fluffy snow is not a stupid excuse. The reason fluffy snow causes so much trouble on the railways is that the flakes are small and light enough to get sucked in through electric trains’ air intakes and thus into the workings. AND NOW YOU KNOW.

In the meantime, here are some photos I took around Bloomsbury and environs before the snow started to melt.

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Filed under Bloomsbury, Buildings and architecture, Current events, Geography, London, London's Termini, Photos, Transport

Snow Days Don’t Count

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The British Museum. Just near here I met a bunch of New Yorkers who were quite surprised that this was all it took to bring the city to a halt.

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This was the sight that greeted me when I woke up.  I mean seriously dude.

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Shin-deep snow. The only time I can recall encountering deeper snow in London was back in the 1980s, when it came up to my knees. Mind you, I was three at the time.

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While attempting to take this Highly Symbolic Picture of an Underground sign covered in snow, I failed to notice the office block sneaking up on me from round the corner. In the ensuing battle I lost three teeth and a leg.

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The junction at Tottenham Court Road.

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Looking towards High Holborn. This junction is normally so jammed that it’s impossible to cross. In fact, it’s so crowded with traffic that I once saw a policeman do three drivers for obstruction in one go. Ha ha ha that was funny.

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Bloomsbury Square. No humorous caption I’m afraid.

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Charles James Fox had himself cryogenically frozen at the moment of his death, along with his entire garden. It is now all he is remembered for. Memento mori.

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Looking towards Great Ormond Street. As a meta thing, the guy right in front was just taking a photo himself.

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Harry was staying at Hogwarts for another Christmas.

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Filed under Current events, London, Photos