It’s earlier. I’ve already taken my Dad to Lidl to buy provisions for his birthday party and got myself up here on the Hammersmith and City. Ther baubles have gone on the platform until next year!

The computer system has been changed and is having “a few teething problems.” I thought I was going mad when I couldn’t log in to check my books.

The Library is noisy. I notice with dread that both buggy parks are full of buggys…. And push chairs. There are babies crying and someone is plonking about on the piano down stairs. I won’t be staying too long. A couple are talking very loudly to each out her and I have a growing desire to shout “SHHHHHHH” Perfhaps I’m getting grumpy in my old age. The buggys are leaving. Toddlers are crying and parents talk in a different language. Their tone tells me all I need to know. It’s Winter, it’s wet and every one seems miserable.

The couple are telling each other their life stories. If I could type quicker, I’d write it all down. Like those people in the courts, writing up the cases. Now someone behind me is getting up the baby’s wind. I think I’m in the breast feeding section. Time to move on I think. I’m making a mental note to keep to my slightly later time on a Friday. It’s not as stressful.

I’m not sure what to get from the Library today. I’m thinking that another audio book will be good. If I am going to spend an hour each way travelling to work I might as well use it productively. Again, there is such a choice.

Ive left the Barbican with an audio cd of Arthur C Clarke short stories and a couple of London books. I’m walking through Clarkenwell and I’m surprised by how little I’ve seen. I’m crossing Hatton Gardens and there are quite a few shows offering to buy my gold so I’m guessing it’s THE Hatton Gardens ben though I had no idea they came to here.

At the TES building I reflect on how different times are. The newspaper, once a staple of staff rooms everywhere now appears to be a magazine. I’m guessing the jobs section, eagerly awaited by teachers everywhere planning their escape,is now only accessible online. Not quite the same. Or perhaps most teachers are looking for jobs out of the education sector.

Ive come across a waiting room in an office block which is showing the Parliamentary Channel  to keep people interested. I can’t belive that anyone would want to watch while waiting for an appointment. I’m walking round the corner. The building houses the Society of Anethsetists. Some how it all makes sense.

New Year’s wander

A Happy New year to you all. It is 2nd January 2016 and we have entered a new year for the first time on this blog. In fact it will be coming up for a year of writing soon. I’m not sure how many people read this. We could probably all meet up for a party in one of the Barbican lifts. But that was never the point and the writing is for me more than anyone else.

The train ride up here was exciting. I came on the overground from Enfield again. A family get on an surround my seat. The young boy seems apprehensive. As we go he says “I thought Tube Trains went faster than this.” I don’t expect thy do. And anyway, our ex British Rail stock never enters a tube. We go further.

“Dad, why is White Hart Lane not near White Hart Lane” says the boy

“It is” says his Dad.”The Lane runs just there”

“Well why is the Stadium not near White Hart Lane and it’s called White Hart Lane?” He responds.

“It is” Says his Dad. “It’s just over there”

There is a pause.

“So why do loads of people come out of Seven Sisters station on Football day. It’s two stops away”

The Dad doesn’t say anything. The rest of the family don’t seem interested.

At Seven Sisters the train empties but only after the boys asks,

“Why does everyone get off at Seven Sisers, Dad?”

I wanted to shout that I was staying on but I resisted. Their place was taken by an older Asian guy swigging from a can of larger and his young companion who was rather glamorously dressed. I drifted in and out of the conversation, thinking it lucky that I could actually understand their conversation. Eaves dropping is getting a little difficult I Enfield.

“Yeah, My mum’s still having em’. She’s got eleven already. She likes big families.”

The fumes from his larger are reminding me of a pub carpet. He wants to go to the bank. She doesn’t like the bank since it put in computers. “The F****** queue goes right out the door”

They get off and the train is quiet. I notice someone as erected a dining ambience on the roof of one of the buildings along the track before Liverpool Street. Well a tarpaulins at least. Reminds me of Stratford bus station.

I’m in the Library now. It’s quiet. Like a Library should be. I think it is the interval of a concert in the Barbican Hall. The audience is elderly and I like to think that they have a discount on their tickets.

I’ve chosen a book on “Mrs Shufflewick” which seems quite random. Another name I seem to know, but I’m not sure why.

As I leave the Barbican it is starting to rain. I walk past the Greengrocers and a sign says it is closed for a few weeks. I like to think the owner is on holiday somewhere warm in the sun. At the end of the road I turn right in to Old Street. This is unchartered territory. I make a quick glance either side of the road as I walk, catching sight of a few things but there are more questions than answers. Over the Old Street roundabout until I eventually get to Shorditch Overground Station. Quite a walk. I make a resolution to come this way and explore more this year.


Baubles at Barbican station

Its a Monday 14th of December and term has finished. Three weeks of school holidays start here. I set off to Enfield Town station to try this route in to the Barbican. Enfield Trains are half hourly so it might not be good despite being direct. There are two trains in the platforms so I plump for the usual one. There is an air of promise now that the Overground has taken over the route. More trains and better trains. But not yet.

The journey is different and I’m noticing the unusual roofs of the shops that line the track. A woman is leaning out of the window to watch the train. I guess that passes for excitement around here.

I dash through the barriers at Liverpool Street and re-enter the  tube. This is quite liberating now as you don’t have to pay any more now that the Enfield line is part of the tube network. About time too.

On arrival at Barbican station, via a Met Line Train (I am being daring) I notice the trees on the dis-used platform are decorated for christmas with large baubles. Very festive. I’m reminded how this blog has seen the year round nearly. Perhaps I should plan an anniversary event.

The library is open longer today and I don’t feel in such a rush. Not that I have ever been here as it has closed. But somehow there is always the feeling that it might. A year on, I still feel this is the most remarkable library I have used in London. I started out coming to borrow the sheet music. I have discovered the London Collection and now borrow the audio books from the vast collection. All for free. Barbican Library is how all Libraries should be.

A plonk on a piano reminds me that the concert hall is just below. Only once, have I been here at the time of a concert. Maybe in the new year. Now a baby is screaming. It’s time to move around and look for some books for the Christmas holidays.

The Launderette is busy as I pass by. There’s a couple of old ladies sitting doing their word searches. A bid sign shows the Christmas opening times. A cage of men ascends noisily along some scaffolding and them promptly descends before ascending again. Someone must have forgotten something. Or pushed the wrong button.


At the Greengrocers, I buy one of those Christmas plants with the orange cherries. The assistant served me while the owner sat watching out the back. There is no one else there in the shop and I’m optimistic that my purchase might help keep them open. I head along the Clerkenwell Road. My plan for the new year is to explore out the other way. Although, thinking of it, there is plenty still to discover along here. I pass the solicitors I took shelter at last time and try to find a nemonic to help remember the name. It doesn’t work.

I fancy some soup but Prets doesn’t have any I like. So I decide to look for Eat which I am sure is along here somewhere.  3 branches of Prets later and Eat still hasn’t appeared. By Holborn, I end up in the Golden Arches again. In the new year, I am determined to try out a small independent cafe each time I come up rather than a chain.

I’ve arrived at Tottenham Court Road station and the Central Line is stopping here again. I decide to explore. It has been shut to central line passengers for about a year while they prepare the new station for the coming of Crossrail. It seems a long way down to the Central Line platforms. It’s very white. Looks like a job lot of Wickes Tiles. No more mosaics. And I’m only going to Liverpool Street today for the journey home.

I’m reflecting on the year and the blog. I have written a post each time I come to the Barbican. Mostly, it is written while I am out. I’m not sure that anyone reads it. But that was not the intention. I have written it for me. And I like to think I have got a little better at it as I go along.

Merry Christmas, and may your bauble glisten like the ones at Barbican Station.

A Ghost Train

It’s Friday 13th November. I hope you are feeling brave.

The weather promised to be warm and sunny when I looked out of the curtains, but now there is a cold wind and it is drizzling with rain. I blow along the road to South Woodford station and tap in to the platform.

“The next train is not in service” it anounces on the board.

From the distance, a train pulls along. People on the platform get up and move to the edge to get on. It doesn’t stop. It said it wouldn’t. The driver and his mate smile knowingly to each other. It probably happened at the last staion. There is something different about this train. It sounds different. Sounds from my childhood. It isn’t a usual central line train. It is one of the Silver Trains being used as an engineers train. I’m smiling listening to the sound, quite unlike the wailing and whining the trains make now. Theres a knock Knock sound as it pulls along further. Magic.

I’m watching it disappear in to the distance. Why didn’t I take a photo? Perhaps we will catch it up. We can’t, we are on a track.

We’ve been held at a signal outside Leytonstone. “There’s and Engineers train in Platform Two” the driver anounces over the intercom. We might catch it up in the other platform. I hear a noise and look ot of the window. It’s the engineers train going back the way it came. Perhaps it forgot something. Perhaps it has a little run out every so often to keep its hand in.

Stratford is busier because of the few minutes hold up in the service. The station seems unable to cope with any changes to the plan.

I’m at Mle end where I change trains. The announcement tells me it is a Hammersmith and City Train, but a District Line Train pulls in. Such fun.

I’m not in the Library for long. I love the Cd’s and find one about Predicting the weather with a coffe cup. Sounds different. Something for the car.

As I leave the library, the sky darkens. I haven’t brought and umberella. You would have thought i’d hav learnt by now. I’m walking along Grays Inn Road and the sky is now seriously dark. Its like night.

The storm has hit. Swirling rain soaks me in all directions. I try and pretend its not that bad and walk a little faster. Now its hail stones. I try putting a carrier bag on my head but it doesn’t do much. My skinny jeans are going see through.

I’ve taken refuge in the door way of an up matket solicitors. I’m staying dry except when the wind swirls in the direction to blow it all at me. I’m trying to memories the name of the solicitors to write here. It obviously didn’t work.

The rain has subsided and I’m on my way. Don’t think I’ll stay up here long. I discover Costa Coffee has gone from the Waterstones near London University. So has the bargain book section. A new Waterstones Coffe shop is being built. Can’t say I’m hopeful. And the Costa in Goodge Street is also closed while they construct a new type of Costa with better food options. Sounds expensive. Bet the students aren’t happy.

A Nephew tags along

It’s the 23rd October.
Today I have an accomplice so I’ll keep it brief. My Nephew has escaped accompanying his mother to the dentist and instead is accompanying me. Its a good excuse to check out the Children’s Library. We are on a mission to get a song by Flanders and Swan.
In the music Library we hunt the shelves but can’t find it. My Nephew is amazed that there are so many music books.
“How are we ever going to find it?” he asks.
I ask and assistant. She offers to find it on the shelf for us.
“He was asking me how we were ever going to find it” I tell her.
She then shows him how the Dewey System works on the side of the books.
“Wow” he says, sounding suitably impressed even if he wasn’t.

The Children’s Library is Ok and we have a look round. My Nephew isn’t in the mood for borrowing books so we move quickly on.

Outside we come to the Barbican Greengrocers and Fruiterers. There are pink heathers outside and we buy one. My Nephew pays with the £5 note I give him and then he suspects, correctly, it is the one his Mum gave him to get lunch with. The fact I will pay on my card doesn’t seem to calm him. He offers to carry the bag. It was his note. He will hold it ransom until I pay up.

Its a long way to walk to Holborn when you are eight so we find a bus stop and catch the Boris Bus. It is packed. My Nephew offers a seat to an old Lady who is very appreciative. She thanks him personally as she gets off and offers him it back. She can see the pain in my eyes from his boney bum on my lap.

He is rhythmically shaking the heather in its bag. The drumming lessons are paying off.

We browse the shops and then head for home. His mother has been to the dentist and is now having coffee at Costa in the Highams Park Tesco. Lets just say, I won’t rush to visit that Tesco again.

A Route Master and a pain in the bum.

It’s the 2nd of October. I’m out in the sunshine. I keep singing ” A blanket two sheets, and a pillow” which the Two Ronnies rhymed with Waring and Gillows in one of their songs. My book on London Shopping showed me about Waring and Gillows in Oxford street many years ago. An internet search showed that they are still going as an internet company. Time moves on. The book must be returned.
Its a beautiful autumnal day. Its the sort of day I always picture my school days being. My Journey to Barbican is quick but there’s a change when i get to the end. On leaving Barbican station, I notice a sign advertising Tea at 80p. This being much cheaper than the Barbican centre, and it being a nice day, I decide to chance my arm and go in. The shop, Tardis like, is much bigger than the entrance would suggest. Plenty of freshly made sandwiches. I order my tea.
“you want your bag left in?” the girl asks.
Knowing how milky it will probably be, I say yes.
I’ve only got a £10 note so I buy a bag of crisps and a huge Iced doughnut.. All for about £2.50. A bargain in my book.
I walk to the High walk and find a seat in the sun. It’s lovely. A man comes out with a watering can and I remember the allotment beds and wonder if they had any crops.
I’m on a mission today. I’ve gone all high tech. Last week, I enrolled on a free Robotics course on the Future learn website. Thats not dancing you understand. Previously, I ordered a Kano children’s computer kit based on the popular Raspberry PI. And a mini control card. This may seem random to you readers, but on some of the days when I’m not swanning around the Barbican, I teach Computing to Primary School Children. Programming is the big thing lately and I want to start a robotics club at lunchtime. I need to learn. Fast.
The Barbican is quieter today. I look for a book on Raspberry Pi but cant find the computer section. Its one of those odd things. Computers were not big enough to include in the Dewey System so the now fit in a 0 category. I look but it isn’t where I thought it should be. A nice lady points out a huge section on the other side of the Library. I’d expect no less from the Barbican. However Raspberry Pi is popular and the book I’d like is out. BUT there is a book at Shoe Lane!
I ask what time Shoe Lane stays open till and someone finds out.

I pass the Barbering School near Smithfield. It’s packed with chairs and young men cutting the hair of young men. There is an old fashioned stationers which seems to have a second shop as a store. It is good to see another independent shop and I hope it is well used.
Long Lane is certainly long

On arrival in Shoe Lane, I find the entrance to the Library and expect it will be up a few few floor. Oh no. Its down a few floors. I descend the stair case which is not dissimilar to a multi storey Car Park. There’s not a soul about. I’m beginning to feel I’ve got it wrong. I see the electronic doors which look more secure than usual for a Library. Everything has a touch of the military about it. I go in and find a Library much as you would expect with the complete absence of daylight. It feels slightly unnerving. I ask for the computer section and the book I want is there. I ask the girl if I can check out and she takes my book.
“Self Service hasn’t arrived here…..yet” she says.
I don’t mind. I like to talk to someone.
I leave, thinking that I have discovered a safe bunker built for the Librarians of England on the day of Armageddon. It’s nice to think that there will be books available in a post apocalyptic world.

I decided to have a bus ride. Route 15 still runs a Route master Heritage service between Trafalgar Square and The Tower of London. Boris seems to think the demand for a heritage service has declined since he designed his new bus. Nonsense. There is no comparison. But the Heritage routes have been cut back to this last part. The bus is empty when I find the start actually outside Charing Cross Station. No Gibson ticket machine. The lady conductor checks my Oyster and we are off. We’ve only gone a few yards, the bus pulls up in a queue of traffic and I get a sharp pain in my stomach. I think it will pass. It is coming in waves. I have the desire to get home. The bus hasn’t reached Tower Hill station. I see a sign for Aldgate station and jump off. I don’t know the area. in front of me is Fenchurch Street station. Great. A Terminus that does not have a tube station. Another sharp twinge. I use an app on my phone a find the direction of Aldgate tube. I stop to take a picture of the Police phone box outside and then look for my train. I’m disorientated. I find my way to Liverpool Street and eventually get home. You don’t want to know the rest. Suffice it to say I’m glad I wasn’t still on the train. A few hours later and it had all passed. I think the excitement of a Route Master had been a bit too much.

A little bit of stress and the right time to eat.

Its been a stressful start to the day. I thought for a change I would use the line from Enfield Town to Liverpool street to get to the Barbican today. If you don’t know it, and there is no reason why you should, it’s an end end of the line type station with very few trains. Half hourly service for most of the day. I couldn’t find my jumper, I late leaving and the station is far enough away to make walking sound too much of an effort in the morning. The car was no help. It is impossible to find anywhere to park thanks to Enfield Town’s Residents Parking Only Scheme. So yes, I missed the train and not wanting to sit there for half an hour I drove to Woodford where my parents live and a train pulled in within a minute. Not to worry if it didn’t. They are usually every few minutes anyway.

I’ve zipped along the central line and now I’m waiting at Mile End. An announcement tells us that the board and announcements are not accurate and that we should check the front of the train. I’m in a dilemma now, not sure whether I should belive this announcement but sure enough, the Richmond Train on the board turns out to be my Hammersmith and City. How exciting.

I’m at Barbican station and the sun is out. Always the same on the first week I start back at school. I’ve been going to school for over 40 years now. I’ve got  a new bag to accompany me on this days out. My blue bag faded to nothing and was returned to John Lewis who provided me with a refund. I pull a zip that I’ve not found before and open up a new compartment with holders for pens and cards. Magic.

The Barbican is different today. There is a conference on and the door I usually go in to reach the Foyer is shut off. There are lots of very bored looking people with tags with their names on them popping out for a fag. The door I’m allowed in through take me right to the lifts and I ascend to the second floor with the air of someone who visits regularly; not someone who’s been sent on a course.

Even in the Library, things are different. Chairs are out in a corner and someone adjusts a projector screen to accommodate the image from their laptop. Maybe a talk? I’m siting right next to a sign saying that The use of mobile phones is strictly prohibited. We are all using them. But not to make a call. This sign is from the days when that’s all you could do, judging by the sign. Its taken me a while to realise but a new disabled lift has been put in to take customers from the Main Library down to the Music Library. For some reason it is reminding me of a Magicians Wardrobe where the assistant enters only to disappear.

I’m leaving the Barbican Centre and there is a change of mood. It’s lunch time for the conference and the delegates are coming outside into the sunshine clutching a boxed salad which looks quite nice. I walk out along the road checking everything is ok. The Launderette has a sign saying I can see the assistant to make arrangements! The greengrocer has different plants and a Bay Tree for £2.90 appeals but I don’t have any cash so it will have to wait for another time. When I pas the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, I peer through the window and see another Lunch set out on a table. Another conference and the delegates will be well feed. The leaders in Child Health know how to get up a good spread. I walk dow Leather Lane Market. The name has such promise but most of the stalls today are Street Food. There are long queues at each stall. I feel sorry for anyone local that wants to buy a nylon overall or a pair of fluffy slippers. Still, I guess you go with the public and street food is the in thing.

I’ve diverted off of my route and the Pleasant Lambs Passage takes me to Lion Square and I see the front of Conway Hall owned by the Conway Hall Ethical Society and opened in 1929. The cafe in Red Lion Square is doing good business. Everyone is eating and I do too.

Bloomsbury is overshadowed by the British Museum and as always there are plenty of tourists posing for selfies outside. There is a copy of the A and C Black Music Express book I teach with in school, in the Oxfam Book shop. This isn’t even a year old yet and the CD’s and DVD inside are unopened. They are selling it for £8. It costs £29 new. Some one will get a bargain if they see it. I should have bought it for a spare. I look in the window of Souvenir publishing which seems to be part book shop and part publishing house. It’s closed for lunch. A new Tea shop has opened called Tea and Tattle and it looks nice. A pot of Loose Tea was over £3 with cakes a similar price. Expensive but hopefully it will taste a little better than my Costa pot I’m drinking now. Boiling water is so important and it clearly was made with water off the boil.

I’m near the Brunswick centre. Two old ladies, one black, one white, both wrapped up for snow with headscarves are heading towards each other. The acknowledge each other with a slight nod of the head and walk on past. The troubles of the world on both their shoulders.

One girl is talking loudly about her eating habits.

“I only eat when I’m hungry. No Breakfast, Dinner, Tea. You know. When your Hungry?”

“Are you Hungry?” Said her friend with the desperate look of someone who would like a meal.

“I don’t know” said the girl. “My boyfriend goes mad. He likes his dinner at a set time.

Are you Hungry? We could get something.” Said her friend.

“I don’t know”