55. A letter to Terry ✒️ #9
Puddlegate in pictures, compass creativity, a Tube boob and some crunchy compost.
Thank you for your latest letter. I was pleased to able to review the status of Puddlegate from your photograph, but was disappointed that the words you chose to describe the latest situation amounted only to the presumably rhetorical ‘What more can I say?’.
I’m assuming that this means you have no more words on the subject, so I’m anticipating any further Puddlegate updates to arrive in the form of pictures. On that subject, you had quite rightly pointed out that I had included none of my artwork in my last letter to you; indeed, I felt almost moved by your claim to be ‘vastly disappointed’ by this.
So, two birds, one stone, three pictures, Terry: here you are:
I learned a lot about the London Tube map from your letter. Harry Beck’s stylised design is actually very clever in its distillation of what is a very complex network into a minimal number of lines. Just thinking about it, I’m wondering if there is a ‘not to scale’ warning tucked away on the bottom right-hand corner of every fold-out map or billboard-sized map on every station platform?
I noticed you’d slipped in the word ‘east’ after your description of a map location being ‘a bit to the right’. I am deeply grateful to you – to use educational phraseology – for differentiating that paragraph for me as a learner with geographical challenges, although I do feel that I’d nailed down that nugget of knowledge when I was about eight. If a map is laid out with north at the top – which it should be, right? – then west is left and east is right, right?
I remember two aides-mémoire we learned for the points of the compass at school: one was right, and the other – the one I preferred, ironically – was idiotic.
Here’s the first:
Now, this is clearly a daft turn of phrase – although I agree with the principle of the imperative (I don’t eat that stuff) – but N E S W does make sense in as much as it represents a clockwise circuit of the compass, starting with north:
However, I much prefer to consider the points of the compass as N E W S, because hey, that’s something that we get from around the world, and… oh, never mind.
In rejigging Figure 1 to show N E W S instead of N E S W for Figure 2, though, the arrows reveal it to be utter nonsense – much like most of the news itself, come to think of it:
And just for good measure, Figure 3 shows my inner compass. No surprises here:
Terry, you mentioned in your letter that in sensibly avoiding using the Tube during a bout of gastric distress you’d discovered how much more efficient your journey had been by bus instead.
I used to work near Green Park station, and would often skip up to Leicester Square on the Tube to spend my lunchbreaks hanging out in Soho. The journey wouldn’t cost me anything, given that I always paid a month in advance for unlimited journeys on my Travelcard, and it had never occurred to me to get there any other way.
A colleague pointed out that Leicester Square was only just a little bit further on from Piccadilly Circus, which we could almost see from the end of the street where our office was located.
‘Just walk!’ she told me. ‘I mean, you’re walking five minutes away from Leicester Square every day in order to get on the Piccadilly Line to Leicester Square! That’s hardly efficient!’
Naïve and new to London, I felt really embarrassed, and that I should have known this stuff. That day I walked to Leicester Square, and indeed, it took me no time at all.
Emboldened by how efficiently I could travel in London on foot, I decided the next day to walk home to Pimlico after work.
‘Aren’t you getting the Tube?’ asked the same
contrary colleague. We’d usually walk to Green Park station together to get to our respective homes each night.
‘No, I’m going to walk tonight! Much more efficient than getting on the Victoria Line – it’s only two stops, after all!’
Her eyes widened. ‘Oh, okay. Well, see you tomorrow!’
Nearly forty minutes later, exhausted and panting, I stumbled up the steps to my front door.
Terry, two stops on the Piccadilly Line are nothing compared to two on the Victoria Line, no matter how much the Tube map tries to tell you different.
I looked all of this up on Google Maps just now. Green Park station to Leicester Square takes three minutes on the Piccadilly Line and less than fifteen on foot: a journey of a mere three quarters of a mile. It’s nearly two miles from Green Park to Pimlico on the Victoria Line – no wonder I was knackered.
Next morning, my ‘it’s only two stops’ colleague paused on her way past my desk.
I looked at her.
She kept walking.
As I so often do in times of trouble, just now I turned to Wikipedia. To my horror, I found this bombshell:
Like many other rapid transit maps, because the Tube map ignores geography, it may not accurately depict the relative orientation and distance between stations.
Gee, thanks, Tube map! Do you know who you’re dealing with here? My ambition – no, my entire focus – is to develop my limited sense of direction into the ability to follow a simple map without needing to call for back-up, and you’re telling me that you ‘ignore geography’?
Terry, I give up.
It was nice to see from your snap that the scale of your tea mug rivals mine. In fact, you claim yours holds three quarters of a litre, so I guess you win. I do hope you alternate the hand you hold it with for successive sips, otherwise your biceps aren’t going to match.
Do you find that tea tastes different in different types of mug? Not that I go to takeaway cafés any more, but pre-Covid I’d always have takeaway coffee, not tea, because the flavour of coffee – whether a decent cup, or coffee-flavoured dishwater – will always prevail over the taste of a paper or polystyrene cup. Tea, on the other hand, will always taste lousy.
Even my super-duper on-the-go insulated ‘flask mug’ which comes campervanning with me makes ‘proper’ tea taste revolting. For that reason, my travelling beverage of choice is usually peppermint tea, because regardlessof what container it’s in, it’s always going to taste nicely of peppermint.
And Terry, I do compost my tea bags – well, their contents anyway. I wish they’d never started putting plastic in them!
People have expressed surprise that I put eggshells into the compost. We eat a lot of eggs in our house – I have two for breakfast, and snack on at least one more every day – and our compost is speckled with tiny shards of shell. Since we started using the crunchy contents of our compost Dalek as a soil improver for our raised vegetable bed we have not seen any evidence of the bed being used by the neighbourhood cats as a litter tray. Now, that’s a result!
Despite your claim, I’m not sure that one can necessarily conclude that the flowering of daffodils means that spring has sprung. There are some really early (or three seasons late!) ones in the next village that flower before Christmas every year. I’m not sure if they’ve got under-bulb heating or are perhaps radioactive, but they’re surely certainly not announcing spring in December?
I read somewhere once that if you can cover seven or more daisies on your lawn with your foot, that means it’s spring. No allowance for the size of either foot or daisy, mind you, so I’m not sure quite how scientific that is.
I’ll just pop outside to test it:
And I think that out of compassion for those poor folk still stuck in their cars in the snowdrifts of the M62 between Manchester and Huddersfield, I’ll delay any further commentary on spring until at least April!
Still, perhaps it will have warmed up a bit by the time you’re writing your reply to this letter, Terry. I do hope so, even if it’s just for the daffodils.
All my very best, as always,
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Recommended reading before you dive into this one! You can find it here:
Disclaimer: okay, not every container.
HA! N— ever E— at S —hredded W— heat (oh my gosh...this is what I learned too) It's funny my children and I were just talked about this the other day but they had a different way to remember...which I can't remember right now. (go figure) Anyway, loved your post and YES to egg shells in the compost. I don't eat eggs but my husband does and they go right in each time. I looking forward to starting my garden in the spring and can't wait to use this great soil we are making. Have a lovely day Rebecca. Write on!
That representation of your inner compass 👌🤣