Hello again one and all and welcome to what is my 17th Lock-down Diary and exactly two months since I posted my last one although I have frankly very little to report. I have spent those two months effectively doing nothing bar complete a fairly large series of posts about a 2014 trip to Canada.
If you have not read some or all of it I shall not put you through the hassle of scrolling back 37 posts (yes, it was that long) so if you want to read the whole piece from the beginning you can do so here. If you want to know about the little which has actually happened to me then please read on.
The unnecessary and certainly unwelcome virus has effectively put my life on hold for about 15 months now with the restrictions changing so often my head was spinning and I believe they are changing yet again tomorrow. I long since gave up any desire to either know about them or do anything except sit alone in my tiny flat (apartment) and ride it out.
Even now when it has been proven to be an abject failure and an expensive one at that, the Government’s Test and Trace system which is a spook’s dream, people signing up to beg to be traced wherever they go, still continues. Don’t take my word for this, have a look at the Report of the Public Accounts Committee (a Parliamentary body).
If you don’t fancy reading what is a fairly dry document I’ll make it easy for you and quote Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, who states, “”The £22 billion for test and trace is about the annual budget of the Department for Transport. Test and Trace still continues to pay for consultants at £1000 a day.
Yet despite the unimaginable resources thrown at this project Test and Trace cannot point to a measurable difference to the progress of the pandemic, (my emphasis) and the promise on which this huge expense was justified – avoiding another lockdown – has been broken, twice”. There, dear readers, you have it from the horse’s mouth.
The upshot of this Government incompetence is that if I want to go and have a drink in my local pub this afternoon (sitting outside obviously) I still have to prove I have signed up to this abomination and that pre-supposes I can work the technology which is doubtful. It has been the same since the pubs were allowed to re-open under heavy restriction. Is it any wonder I want to stay at home?
I realise we have not had it as bad as some places as my dear friend in Sri Lanka is in touch regularly and is telling me horror stories of what the situation is there. Infection numbers are through the roof, another virtually complete lockdown is in place, they have compulsory double face masking, there is no food in the shops and the country is rapidly running out of oxygen. It sounds horrendous and I am sure there are other countries even worse off.
As I have mentioned in a previous post here I had the virus right back at the start of the affair, at least I am guessing I did as I know I had it prior to June 2020 and was no longer infectious then. I can only guess it was about February or March 2020 and that is based on a 24 hour loss of my sense of taste which was so early they were not even listing it as a symptom then.
I had my first jab a few months ago and then towards the end of April I got a call asking me if I could attend that afternoon for the second dose which I should have had weeks before that but I wasn’t overly bothered and didn’t push the matter. They gave me just over an hour to get ready and get to a very pleasant Arts Centre a couple of miles from my home. You can see it in the featured image at the top of the page.
I was considering trying to walk there and back as a small contribution to the exercise I have been missing for so long but because time was tight I got the bus there instead and that marked a bit of a milestone for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it was the first public transport I had been on for about a year and it was the first time I had been out of the E1 postal district for 15 months. Admittedly, the Regent’s Canal, which you can see in the image, marks the boundary between E1 and E3 so I must have made it perhaps 300 yards out of my “patch” but it was a start.
When I got there the place was completely devoid of patients although there were plenty of staff. I saw one other man coming in as I was leaving. I asked the Doctor attending me why this was and she said it was just a quiet day. I thought they were trying to knock out these jabs as quickly as possible so this makes no sense to me.
With no time pressure after my appointment I did walk back home which gave me the pleasure of walking along the Regent’s Canal if only for a few hundred yards but on a lovely Spring afternoon it was a joy. I stopped for a while just to sit and look at it before heading on and coming to a sight that did not please me so much, another closed pub which is a bit of a soapbox of mine.
Pubs have been closing hand over fist for maybe 20 years now all over the UK and I am not going to go into the various reasons for that but it really annoys me. OK, this hasn’t been a proper pub for a while as it had become a pizza restaurant / bar / cheap hotel but it still saddened me. I remember it as the New Globe and I had a few good nights in there even if I wasn’t exactly a regular but that has never stopped me!
I have to say I was surprised at how hideously unfit I have become with my enforced domesticity, I was actually a bit tired when I got home and I had only been ambling along rather than walking. Although I have not been properly fit for decades I was not too bad for a man in his 60’s but it did give me a bit of a wake-up call about getting out again but therein lies the problem.
I am now in a state of mind where I have absolutely zero interest in going anywhere or doing anything and I think this is going to be a huge problem. The mental situation around the world is undoubtedly in a bad way now and probably only going to get worse.
I was recently talking to a dear friend who teaches 10 – 11 year-olds and she told me that a worrying number of them are displaying symptoms of depression, a much higher figure than pre-virus. That is pretty appalling.
A couple of days later it was a lovely afternoon and I forced myself to go out for a walk even though it was a bit of a push. I worked out a route that would allow me to never be too far from public transport home should I flag on the way. It also allowed me to extend it as much or little as required so I was never going to be stranded and wheezing for breath on a bench somewhere wondering how I was going to get home.
I started off by walking through Stepney Green Park, which was built mostly on cleared bombsites after World War II, this area really did get a serious pasting during the Blitz. The map here shows you the distribution of bombs in Tower Hamlets Borough, which is the area I was walking in. It’s proximity to the vitally important docks brought it a lot of attention from the Luftwaffe.
I was glad to see quite a few people out enjoying the sunshine and apparently being pretty sensible about it, thankfully there were no huge groups except at the far end of the Park where there wasquite a gang of teenagers, just out of the school across the road, hanging about. The only face coverings in evidence were those worn by some of the females for religious reasons but I suppose it is the Devil’s own job to stop teenagers being teenagers and at least they were well enough behaved.
I skirted the kids as best I could and took a bit of a short cut through a post-War housing estate which could certainly not be described as attractive but on that lovely day I was as happy as a pig in muck just walking through it. It is an area I know very well and I took some short-cuts I probably have not walked for 20 years or more.
My happiness was slightly dampened by the sight of the Royal Duchess (or at least where it used to be), another closed and demolished pub but it was only very slightly dispiriting as it was never a great place and it could get quite rough. I wasn’t much of a fan. It will come as no surprise to regular readers to hear that it is slated to become a 4 / 5 storey block of flats that local people will undoubtedly never be able to afford.
A short distance later I reached another milestone, the E14 postal district which I arrived at simply by virtue of walking across Butcher Row. My word, I was getting adventurous. Three postal districts in three days, what was the world coming to? At this rate I might make it South of the River Thames by Christmas! My plan was to have a walk round the Limehouse Basin Marina which is a favourite spot of mine.
The Basin is beautiful now, as you can see, with ample mooring for plenty of boats, but I remember it in 1988 when I moved to London, more specifically less than a mile from here, and it was a dirty, run-down mess. The Docklands development of the whole are was not completed and they hadn’t got round to this yet. I think that when they did that they made rather a good job of it.
As you can see, there is rather a poignant reminder to a firefighter from Poplar, the station just up the road, who lost his life tackling a blaze on a vessel here in 1980. I have the utmost respect for firefighters who are insanely brave and sometimes pay the ultimate price for that courage. It was heartening to see how well-maintained the memorial was, someone obviously gives it a polish regularly and rightly so.
When I was down there I could not resist a walk down to the Thames as that was another landmark I had not seen for so long. I love the river so much and used to spend a lot of time wandering various sections of it before everything went wrong. Incidentally, the low-rise building on the right of the image is a Gordon Ramsay restaurant if you are interested.
I did a complete circuit of the Basin and this time I even managed an image of the accumulator tower which I had always seemed to miss with the camera before. This relatively modest tower, by use of an ingenious hydraulic system, managed to power all the cranes, lock gates, capstans and swing bridges when this was a working dock.
I don’t really understand the mechanics but it involves 80 tons of gravel and an awful lot of water to create a huge amount of pressure (700 psi if you’re interested). An interesting factoid is that to achieve the same pressure by gravity you would need a water tower twice the height of Canary Wharf which you can easily see from here.
At this point I was at the start of the Regent’s Canal which, as some of my regular readers will know I have walked all of before, including the start of my Jubilee Greenway project (which I am still trying to complete thanks to the pandemic, maybe soon).
I have documented it all here and there are far more images and much more information there. Knowing this I deliberately only took a few images this day (I have literally hundreds of this canal) and I have included just a few above just to indicate what a lovely day it was. If you are reading the linked page I am only going as far as Mile End Bridge today so you can jump back here then if you want to keep it in order. Naturally, I would be delighted if you read far more than that!
Well, there is a bit of a spoiler. I only got as far as Mile End and it had taken me a lot longer than it should have done at an absolute snail’s pace. I suppose I could have gone on up to Roman Road but I didn’t want to overdo it, ridiculous as that sounds.
On my way back along Mile End Road I stopped off to take the images you can see above which are obviously of the People’s Palace, a place I have walked past literally hundreds of times and yet appeared to have no images of. It is quite stunning as you can see and is understandably a Grade II listed building.
This is not the original People’s Palace which was what is now known as Queen’s Building and part of Queen Mary University of London as is this structure. The original had been opened in 1887 and had been constructed largely through the charitable donations of one John B Beaumont for the education and entertainment of local people in what was a hideously socially deprived area then (and even now in some parts).
The original structure was destroyed by fire in 1931 and this building was opened in 1937 by King George VI on his first public engagement as Sovereign. I expect this accounts for the very strongly Art Deco style which was so popular at the time. Sadly, it did not perform it’s intended purpose for long and had been bought over by the University by 1954.
I continued my slow walk home and eventually arrived quite tired but happy with a good, if ludicrously short, walk under my belt. I really do need to start working up the mileages and frequencies.
As for my next project I am still undecided. The next trip chronologically would be when Lynne came to visit UK later that year and we had a great trip round the UK but a number of my images appear to be missing as do nearly all the notes. I may well pass on to a wonderful trip I made to a Virtual Tourist meeting based in Aachen in Germany slightly later with a few days in Brussels tacked on the end.
As always, if you want to find out what transpires, you’ll have to stay tuned and spread the word!