Walking the Thames Tunnel

From Rotherhite to Wapping and back again.

Back in May, my friend Robbie and I managed to bag a couple of [super rare] tickets to walk the original Thames Tunnel.

If you’ve never heard of the Thames Tunnel before, it’s the underwater tunnel that lives between Rotherhithe and Wapping. You’ll know it today as part of the London Overground network.

Thames Tunnel location

Hang on, let me look it up on Wikipedia:

The Thames Tunnel is an underwater tunnel, built beneath the River Thames in London, connecting Rotherhithe and Wapping. It measures 35 feet (11 m) wide by 20 feet (6 m) high and is 1,300 feet (396 m) long, running at a depth of 75 feet (23 m) below the river surface measured at high tide. It was the first tunnel known to have been constructed successfully underneath a navigable river, and was built between 1825 and 1843 using Marc Isambard Brunel’s and Thomas Cochrane’s newly invented tunnelling shield technology, by Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The tunnel was originally designed for, but never used by, horse-drawn carriages. It now forms part of the London Overground railway network.

On its opening day in 1843 it is said over fifty thousand people paid a single penny to walk through Brunel’s tunnel and within three months it is reported that over one million people had been through.

Amazing.

Some 170 years later, I paid 1800 pennies and descended into the tunnel myself but not via the stairs of Londoners old, instead by way of platform 2 at Rotherhithe station.

I don’t think there’ll be many of you that can say that they’ve walked on the tracks around London. It’s definitely worth doing (even if it is a little hairy when you first get down there).

Once the first part of ‘OMG! We’re on the frickin’ tracks!’ excitement subsided, we entered into the main event.

And we were not disappointed.

IT WAS SO AWESOME.

If you know me even slightly then you probably know that I’m a massive tube geek. I love this stuff. Be it snapping deserted underground stations in the name of #EmptyUnderground or even headed down to the disused tracks of Aldwych Station – if it’s to do with the London Underground, I’m all over it.

You could argue the Thames Tunnel was the first true ‘London Underground’ and even though it has found its home as part of the Overground network, I’ll never pass through it feeling the same way ever again.

I don’t know how often these walks are arranged (I’m guessing only a couple of times a year, maximum) but keep an eye out for them, they’re totally worth it, and all the money goes towards the upkeep of the Brunel museum nearby – so it’s helping a good cause too!

The guide we had was pretty awesome, told us about the huge dinner parties they used throw down there and the different uses that it had over the years. I could recount those stories here but you’d be better off just doing the tour yourself.

Additional reading:

 

 

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Genesis Crafty

Somebody sent me baked goods.

Genesis Crafty

I say ‘somebody’, what I actually mean is ‘some awesome people working with the six brothers behind Genesis Crafty‘.

In the above box of treats were:

  • One packet of four cheese scones.
  • One packet of mini sultana scones.
  • One packet of six standard pancakes.
  • One packet of chocolate chip pancakes.

First up, said package arrived at the office. Meaning the team wanted in. Obviously, being the kind-hearted chap that I am, I shared the wealth… on the proviso they agreed to writing mini-reviews of every bite.

Foolishly, I only thought of this condition after we’d opened the first and most appealing packet, the chocolate chip pancakes (they didn’t last long).

Hmm. Chocolate.

(seriously, this was breakfast and they were gone in a flash)

However, once I’d realised how famished the team were (and how much they enjoyed the first round) we made a pact to not open any more until our 10:30 coffee break.

AND THEN IT WAS 10:30 AND WE ATE LIKE KINGS AND QUEENS.

Chocolate Pancakes:
Toasting should be strongly advised. Dark chocolate chips were perfectly bitter-sweet, cutting through the comforting stodge of the pancake.’ – Will

Plain Pancakes:
‘Inferior to chocolate chip in every way. Would not eat again without toasting and adding maple syrup.’  – Will
‘Fluffy but with substance. Like an intellectual bunny rabbit.’ – Briony
‘They’re very slappable.’ - Anastasia

Scones:
‘Satisfyingly cheesy, but a little dry. The food equivalent of the Graham Norton show. Without the glitter.’ – Briony

B & A inspecting...

(Briony and Anastasia are inspecting.. something in the ingredients, I think)

All in all the baked goods from Genesis Crafty were mostly super yummy. They weren’t eaten with the best of accompaniments nor were they warmed up (as we think the pancakes should’ve been) but they were still quite excellent.

If anyone else would like me or my team to review any baked goods in future then please, by all means, get in touch.

Genesis Crafty baked goods are available pretty much everywhere you’d expect them to be.

Go get some.

 

 

 

 

 

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a brief interlude

Sat in green. The air is cool. Four vehicles in view: two similar, two practical. The trees are cut purposefully into square arrangements. It is unclear why. Three squares of trees, four if you count that one twice, stand on hills. Their shared diagonal rooves sharing the same degree as the angle they’re growing upon.

There were hedgehogs here last night. Two of them, fattening up quickly before hibernating into the long winter months that lay ahead. 650 grams is the minimum weight required for a hedgehog to survive its seasonal sleep. The little lad finishing off the plates last night knows it and will keep returning until his internal body scales tell him it’s OK. I wish him well.

Back to those hills, rising up like the arched backs of sleeping giants, they surround us. Left, hills. Forward, hills. Right, hills. It is only the gravel track behind us that provides any route out of this deep maze and even that feels like driving through the bottom of a ravine. As a result, the wind barely comes down and it is a magnificent anomaly of nature. There is no wind to be felt, in this hole between hills, and yet the clouds above race by at an incredible speed.

My mind jumps briefly. From here, sat still in green, to there, racing past in white. And I wonder if it feels still up there. If the cloud looks down and marvels at how fast the world is turning below it. I wonder.

The cows are moving. Up high on the hill ahead, a heard of around 40 bovines have erupted into noise. They are being herded, slowly, up and over the crest. Their silhouettes atop the hill would make a beautiful photograph – perhaps I’ll try to draw it later.

The clouds part, hello sunshine.

I could sit here all day.

I probably will.

But first: coffee.

Fresh.

 

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Five things on Friday #94

Things of note for the week ending October 17th, 2014.

Five things on Friday

1. Teens are NOT deserting Facebook (again)
Earlier this year, tired of all the ‘Oh no! Facebook is dying!’ trash that was flooding the news feeds, I wrote an article for The Drum entitled ‘Myths, Money, Mobile, and Teens: this is how we debunk the demise of Facebook‘. Eight months later and the counterpoints to the deafening waffle all still stand: Facebook isn’t going anywhere (and the kids aren’t either).

But that hasn’t stopped the headlines rolling in.

‘Teens are officially over Facebook’ states the headline from The Washington Post, with an almost deliberate yet understated finality. The source? A ‘dramatic new report’ from investment bank/research house, Piper Jaffray.

The article states:

“Between fall 2014 and spring 2014, when Piper Jaffray last conducted this survey, Facebook use among teenagers aged 13 to 19 plummeted from 72 percent to 45 percent. In other words, less than half of the teenagers surveyed said “yes” when asked if they use Facebook.”

And they’ve got this killer chart to back them up.

Stupid American Facebook 'Chart'

So it must be right, right?

WRONG.

The Washington Post fails to mention two key factors that make this report fairly meaningless.

Key Factor One: Only 7,200 US teens were surveyed.
Seven thousand two hundred teenagers. There are 1.19billion Facebook users, total. But let’s be fair, only 728million of those users visit the service every day. So basically, if you’re worried about the opinion of a potential 0.0001% of Facebook’s daily active users then you’re doing it wrong. To say that this is not representative data would be the understatement of the century.

Key Factor Two: Only 7,200 US teens were surveyed.
This is absolutely not the first time a US publication has cited US data as a global trend. But surely, what with Facebook having been founded in the good ol’ US of A, must obviously have the lion’s share of its users on its home turf, right? WRONG.

On Facebook’s very own company info page the following data point can be found:

“Approximately 81.7% of our daily active users are outside the US and Canada”

That’s an incredible stat. Less than 19% of all Facebook users reside in North America.

I ask you: how can a subset of a subset of a subset be anywhere near passing for the norm?

Here endeth the lesson.

2. Newsletters
A short one now. I like newsletters. This list of newsletters is a good list of newsletters to dive into if you like newsletters too. So y’know, go and like newsletter yourself nuts.

3. Bill the Billboard
Hand on heart, I saw (and loved) this work before I knew it was from Ogilvy. But seriously, this stuff is awesome. Ogilvy Nairobi decided to help Sprite launch a new kind of billboard. Bill the Billboard, in fact.

As Adweek put it:

If it’s more comedy you want from your billboard, Sprite is happy to oblige.
Ogilvy Kenya recently put up “Bill the Billboard” at a busy intersection in Nairobi, and programmed him to endlessly crack jokes. He’s sort of an outdoor version of the famous Pringles banner ad from 2009, offering seemingly stream-of-consciousness quips to keep viewers entertained.
The jokes aren’t exactly side-splitting, and the case study’s boast that Bill is the “first ad ever with mental issues” isn’t exactly P.C. But at least he’s a little different than your typical boring digital ad.

Bill the Billboard

The video is gold.

4. Super Mario Bros 2
If you grew up in the 80s (like me) then you might be familiar with the Nintendo game, Super Mario Bros 2. If you are one of these people then you’ll know how wildly different the game was to its original counter-part. This article, ‘Four things I learnt while writing about SMB2‘, is a really interesting read.

SMB2

If you’re not familiar with SMB2 it’s still, genuinely, a very good read.

Check it out.

5. Music Twitter Cards
They’re a thing.

And they’re actually quite a good/nice/cool thing (David Guetta aside).

Screenshot_2014-10-17-09-18-58Screenshot_2014-10-17-09-19-04Screenshot_2014-10-17-09-19-08

You click on a (soundcloud) link, the music opens, starts streaming, and then can be ‘docked’ so you can continue to scroll through Twitter while the music plays.

Reminds me a lot of how the YouTube app works on Android which in turn says to me that you could expect Twitter’s video cards to follow a similar set up in the very near future.

Maybe.

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Bonuses this week:

 

 

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Five things on Friday #93

Things of note for the week ending October 10th, 2014.

Five Things on Friday

1. This is Groot
Did you see Guardians of the Galaxy this past summer (this is worth sticking with even if it’s a ‘no’, by the way)? Did you fall in love with a walking talking tree named Groot? If not, why not? Seriously, he steals the entire movie!

Anyway, all that being said, I found this video this week. It’s of wood sculpture specialist, Griffon Ramsey (yeah, she uses a chainsaw), creating her very own Groot statue out of an actual tree.

I AM GROOT

Yes, of course the end product is awesome and yes, now you’ve seen his face you can probably skip over this bit and get to the next thing (spoiler: it’s David Fincher related) but before you get there just stop.

Take six and a half minutes out of your day and watch the amazing making-of video that Ramsey made. It’s not only an awesome look at how such a beautiful thing is created but also a rather lovely bit of story-telling about what makes an artist tick.

Enjoy.

2. All of the Fincher things
If you read my website regularly (thanks) or follow me on Twitter (thanks again) you might already know that I saw Gone Girl last weekend and you might already know that I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF IT too. To say I have a massive hard on for all things David Fincher right now would be an understatement (yes, I was a fan already). So with that, here’s a selection of different Fincher things I’ve been reading this week (none of which hold any spoilers).

Have you seen it yet? What did you think? Let me know, yo!

3. Future of Copywriting
Written by the talented wordsmith, Rishi Dastidar, this piece over on Medium (actually entitled ‘continuous partial argument’) is/was an entry into a competition with the above name. Read as a lament for all that is wrong with the art of the written word the author comes through as passionate, driven, and yet ultimately bereft of hope for the future.

It is a fantastic read.

4. Amazon for a Fiver
The rather thoughtful Mr Terence Eden has put together this Tumblr of things you can buy from Amazon for under a fiver. Christmas is coming so I thought this might be useful. Bookmark it. Put it in your diary for pay day. Whatever.

Cool Stuff for FIVE POUNDS

THIS IS IMPORTANT AND USEFUL FOR CHRISTMAS.

5.  Hello Willem
My friend, Willem van der Horst, is back in Europe and this makes me very happy indeed. He is a big thinker, a deep philosopher, and overall, the keeper of a big warm heart. We caught up last night and I’m hoping it’ll be the first of many drinks now that he’s back (ish) from Asia.

You can follow Willem on Twitter or catch up on his travels via his blog, Ice Cream for Everyone (I know, right?).

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Bonuses this week are -

  • Over the past month or so I’ve given the same talk a few times to various groups of people all about Twitter Cards (aka ‘expandable Tweets’). The latest slides, used most recently at Social Media Week London, are now available to read/share/download over on my Slideshare account. If you do anything in social then you might them useful. Share and share alike etc.
  • Speaking of Social Media Week, The Guardian asked me about it recently. ‘What were your five key takeaways?’ they said. “Well,” I replied  “they are as follows…”
  • The Trailer for Disney’s new film, Tomorrowland, dropped just yesterday and it looks great.

 

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