An idea for London

Why not set up Oyster card touch points at each busking semi-circle which could give £1 per tap?

Apple Pay arrived in the UK this month – woo!

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And, teething issues aside…

…the launch has only served to further enlighten the public at large that we are indeed edging ever closer to a completely cashless London.

For some, that’s awesome.
For others, it’s a problem.

Specifically, it’s a problem for the buskers of the London Underground.

For those of you that don’t know, the buskers of our fair city’s amazing transport system are all auditioned and then licensed accordingly; they are of a standard.

With 39 busking pitches across 25 stations with an audience of up to 3.5m commuters every day, these talented guys and girls have a huge opportunity to turn in a few quid by pleasing the ears of the frequent passers by.

That is, if they carried a few quid on them.

Which, as we’ve established, is becoming rarer and rarer.

chart

Source.

SO HERE’S A FREE IDEA:

Why not set up Oyster card touch points at each TfL busking pitch that could give £1 per tap?

Think about it.

I’m pretty sure the technology wouldn’t need that much of an update to allow for this adjustment. You could start in Zone 1 and work out, or vice-versa, and go from there.

It should be simple from a logistical perspective as well. For example, given the already acknowledged stringent licensing that takes place, it follows that the talented musicians that grace the tunnels beneath our streets would probably have to book into their respective slots in advance. Meaning there must be a database somewhere that tracks who plays where and when.

Simply marry that data up with the money tapped in during those hours, and at the end of each day (or at the start of the next), said talent collect their money from a TfL window or a collection point of some description.

From a cost angle, TfL/Oyster could lift 1% of the donation to cover costs or if they were really savvy, they could get a brand to partner up on it and they could pay the costs as part of the sponsortship.

That’d make sense wouldn’t it?

What about safety? TfL handles millions of commuters every day and those tunnels and walkways have to be kept clear BUT if there’s room for a girl with a cello, there’s certainly room for a wall-hugging Oyster ‘tap-to-donate’ button.

Right? Right.

In short, it frustrates me when I hear great music and/or singing and am unable to show my appreciation because of the lack of shrapnel about my person. With a busking Oystercard touch point, I’d be able to give a pound every time I liked some music.

Which would be ace!

With the advent of Apply Pay, contactless payments in London have never had greater mindshare. If we truly give a monkey’s about our city then we should be working hard at lowering the barriers to donating to charity wherever possible and fundamentally making it even easier to move towards the progressive-yet-caring cashless society we’re so ardently idealistic about (maybe that last past is just me).

Try this: next time you’re in the Underground and you hear a busker that you enjoy, I want you to think about how much would it please you if you could just tap-to-donate them a pound as you wander by.

If TfL made it happen it would be:

  • An extra bit of pocket money for TfL.
  • A potential not insignificant lift in busker-income.
  • A way of helping the commuters of London feel better about having the cashless pockets that society is granting upon them.

So come on TfL, let’s make it happen.

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(not from TfL? Click this to let them know)

 

 

 

Walking the Thames Tunnel

From Wapping to Rotherhithe and back again.

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:

 

 

Exhibiting at the Saatchi Gallery

Yup.

Whatley @ The Saatchi

BACK STORY

In March I wrote a post about the reason why I use Google+. In short, it’s only really down to one thing, and that thing is a little feature known as ‘Auto Awesome‘.

What Auto Awesome does is automatically add special effects to the photos that it thinks could do with them. Obviously this is all done separately from your main folder, so you don’t ruin your originals, but the net effect is actually quite fun and cool.

The awesomes themselves vary but my favourite is definitely when Google+ spots a batch of photos that look similar, and then throws them together to create an animated gif.

Like so:


THE COMPETITION

Shortly after that post went live, I was alerted to a Google-sponsored Motion Photography competition at the Saatchi Gallery (that obviously lent itself to the creation of these Auto Awesomes).

Google+ Motion Photography

Of the six categories available, I entered this one into the Urban category –

 

I didn’t win.

Boo.

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BUT I DID MAKE IT AS A FINALIST!

Which means:

  1. My work was judged by film director Baz Luhrmann, artists Tracey Emin, Shezad Dawood and Cindy Sherman, and Saatchi Gallery CEO, Nigel Hurst – AMAZING!
  2. I got my name in The LondonistBRILLIANT!
  3. My work is at this very moment on display in the Saatchi Gallery – SPEECHLESS!

 


And that’s pretty darn awesome.

As you can see, I’ve already been to see my stuff (and the rest of the entries, including the rather excellent winning entrants) and the whole exhibition is pretty special.

It’s an odd feeling, having work up in the Saatchi. It didn’t really hit me until I was leaving, just how lucky I am to have stuff there. The other work that has appeared in that building. The other artists. The effort.

I’m still a bit dumbfounded by it all really.

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The Motion Photography Prize is on display on the top floor of Saatchi Gallery, King’s Road, SW3 4RY until 24 May.

Abandoned Tube Stations: Aldwych

Or why Aldwych Station is the best ‘#EmptyUnderground’ ever.

Formerly known as ‘Strand’, Aldwych first opened in 1907, closed in 1940, reopened in 1946 and then closed again, for the final time, in 1994.

Twenty years later, sharp-eyed Sherlock fans (as if there’s any other kind) would go on to spot it in the first episode of season three, ‘The Empty Hearse’ (as confirmed by Buzzfeed and the BBC shortly after).

Back in November, my good friend Robbie managed to lay his hands on an extremely rare pair of tickets for the tour of the now abandoned station and, if you know anything about me and a certain hobby I have, you’d know that it was pretty much like Christmas coming a whole month early for me – I couldn’t have been more excited.

Aldwych is amazing. The above photo, for example, shows a track before the introduction of ‘suicide pits’ – a fairly recent addition that a medical study found halved the death rate of those falling onto (or under) the tracks (it was the first thing I spotted when we entered this part of the station; it’s weird to see tracks flat like this, I thought anyway).

Interesting facts about Strand/Aldwych:

  • Located on The Strand, the station is/was on the Piccadilly line and was the terminus and only station the short branch from Holborn.
  • During both World Wars, aside from being partially fitted out as an air-raid shelter, disused parts of the tunnels were used to store and protect artworks from London’s museums from bombing – including the Elgin Marbles.
  • While many old posters can be seen adoring the walls of the platform, nearly of these have been placed there by movie studios, to provide the ‘old abandoned platform’ look for many films.

There are no rats in Aldwych, apparently. What with a distinct lack of commuters down there every day, they have no opportunities to snack on our litter. Sad but true.

What’s also sad (but also quite cool) is that the tours aren’t really on that regularly. You have to be super keen to catch one. So keep your eyes peeled, you never know when they might open them again.

UPDATE: see the comments for an update on when the tickets might be available again in 2014.

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All photos taken, by me, with the Nokia Lumia 1020, published under Creative Commons with the full set of photos available on my Flickr page.

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Getting my coffee fix at #illyschool

Technically, it was the illy university but hey…

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image via TikiChris

Last week, thanks to the lovely people at Espresso Crazy, I was invited along to the illy university of coffee to learn about (and taste!) the amazing coffee available from illy – and it was pretty darn awesome.

This is my Illy apron (I'm gonna be a barista!) #illyschool

— I got an apron and everything —

For those that don’t know (I know I didn’t) illy runs its own barista training class over in London’s Islington Business Centre, near Angel. Here, they hammer into the new recruits exactly how to make the perfect cup of illy coffee and here is where we were all to meet.

IMG_20131111_190050_1.jpg

Things we learnt:

  1. Decaffeinated illy coffee tastes gorgeous, who knew?
  2. The £139 illy coffee machines for the home make pretty much the exact same coffee you can get in a coffee shop. Not. Kidding.
  3. Drinking a lot of coffee at 9pm in the evening is a sure fire way to be up all night and to write notes like a crazy person.

IMAG0151_1.jpg

Joking aside, the guys from Espresso Crazy were kind enough to not only throw us each an illy X7.1 (which I obviously had to unbox on Vine – so cool) but also gave me a link offering any of you lovely lot 20% off any purchases from Espresso Crazy* (head to http://www.espressocrazy.com/promo/ILLYSCHOOL and the code will automatically be embedded in the checkout). – Offer expired Jan 10th, 2014

I’m sure you’ll agree, all of this is yet again pretty darn nice of them.

Finally, the X7.1 (maybe do something about that name guys? how about ‘amazing coffee maker of win’? yeah, that’d do it) is a bloody fantastic little machine. I’m using it pretty much every day, AND I’m making proper latte milk with the whoosher** too.

Now, where did I put that apron…

 

 

*The discount covers new machines and coffee. It will allow a max of 3 items per order and will expire 10 January 2014.
**Am pretty sure it’s called a steamer, but I prefer whoosher.

Hanging out at the #GoogleHouse

See what I did there?

GOOGLE_HOUSE_2013-23

Last week, a friend of a friend at Google invited me along to find out how Google will change the future. The pitch?

Let’s face it, we’re all busy. Whether you’re plotting the fastest public transport route across London, trying to order a drink in Paris en Français, or cheating at a pub quiz, Google is there to help you get the information you need. Fast. We’d like to invite you to Google House, where you’ll see first-hand how Google can help make the lives of you and your customers easier.

And they weren’t wrong. But first, let’s take look awesome #GoogleHouse is (or was).

GOOGLE_HOUSE_2013-21

The Kitchen

GOOGLE_HOUSE_2013-1

The Teenager Bedroom

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The Living Room

Basically, this beautiful four storey house in London’s Fitzrovia was turned into a Googley-fied house of the future.

And it was awesome.

Glass.... and me. #googlehouse

Obligatory ‘Whatley wearing Google Glass’ photo.

Three things I learnt:

  1. Google Chromecast? I want one of those. It’s a bit cheeky of Google to demo a product that isn’t currently available in the UK (EDIT: Amazon UK has Chromecast available now!) but still, it was really cool.  In fact, any of you reading this in the US, I’ll PayPal you the money right now. Come on, let’s do this.
  2. Google’s voice-activated search and translation is incredible. It’s unbelievable how much it has come on over the past year or so and it easily blows Siri out of the water. Everything from contextual awareness re previous/current searches, through to actually translating a conversation between two people, LIVE, is amazing. Very, very impressive indeed.
  3. Google Glass was cool, but not for me (yet). I used someone else’s set, and it was a noisy room, and they weren’t connected to my device (which is a key part of the experience). So yeah, not yet.

Overall? I had a LOT of fun and it’s great to see Google step up their game in the consumer-facing market here in the UK.

Long may it continue.


PS. Big love to the amazing guys over at the Sorted Food. They ran the Google/Kitchen demo and I’ve been watching their videos ever since. Check them out.

PPS. More photos over on Google+ (natch).

 

Completing the British London 10k for CALM

I did it!

Winner @TheBritish10k

Today I ran The British 10k.

It’s the first time in my life that I’d ran that far and it was awesome. Some of you will know that I only started running in January of this year. I don’t know where it came from, but it’s something I’m sticking with.

I’ve been through injury (twice) but a positive mental attitude, and a damn good physio, saw me through. Some of you may also know that this past week I have been horrendously under the weather. Having been knocked down by sunstroke this time last weekend, I picked up a virus soon after and have been flat out in bed and without training for five days. At one point, I very nearly had to pull out. So, yeah. There was that.

But then the day came, and I endured. Not only was it my first ever 10k today but it was also my first ‘proper’ run, as in organised like, y’know? 25,000 people ran The British 10k today, and I was just one of them. But wow wow wow wow WOW, what an amazing feeling it was! The atmosphere, the crowds, the camaraderie… all of it, just amazing. I ran the first 5k (my average running distance) in what seemed like no time at all. Truth is, I just ran it without even thinking. The energy of the people around me just kept me going.

Incredible.

[runkeeper url=”http://runkeeper.com/activity?userId=18548137&trip=208640332″]

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Around 8k, as we looped over Westminster Bridge, it hit me: the heat, the stamina (or lack thereof), and just knowing that I was so close too… I knew I needed to walk for a bit. But again, the cheers lift your up and, after a rejig of my playlist, I was running again.

My total time? 70mins 38secs. Not bad for my first time, I’d say. And, with a medal around my neck and over £500 raised for CALM, I’m a very happy Whatley indeed.

Next up? Tough Mudder in October.

Between now and then?

More.
Again.
As soon as.
I’ve got the bug and it feels amazing.

Today I ran @TheBritish10k. It's the first time *in my life* that I'd ran that far (and it was awesome). Some of you will know that I only started running in January of this year. I don't know where it came from, but it's something I'm sticking with. I've

See you on the road.