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The tube rules that matter

 

So a ‘standing-only’ escalator trial has begun at Holborn Tube station this week, with commuters being asked not to walk up two of the station’s escalators in a bid to reduce congestion.

However the ‘standing only’ trial – which goes against London Underground convention for customers to stand on the right of escalators, allowing others to walk on the left – hasn’t had the smoothest of starts. Rather most Londoners have chosen to ignore the rule and opt to walk up the escalators as usual.

Not that we Londoners are a disobedient bunch. Every Londoner dweller knows that there’s an underground etiquette that demands to be observed. For the benefit of tourists and out-of-towners, JAT reveals the 10 tube rules that really matter

 

DO

* Let passengers off the tube before you board

* Be polite and always offer a pregnant woman your seat – providing you’re certain she is “with child”

* Pregnant? Those ‘baby on board’ badges were invented for a reason. Please wear one so to avoid any awkwardness and confusion

* Move down the aisle. Which part of the driver’s “please move down the carriage” announcement, don’t you understand?

* Check your oyster card balance/have your contactless credit card ready, before reaching the ticket barrier. Londoners are always in a rush…

 

DON’T

* Play your music too loudly. You’re on the tube – not in a club

* Ditto when it comes to talking on the phone: no one wants to know what you’re doing for dinner that night

* Try to make small talk on the tube. This is London: we don’t do familiar

* Read newspapers, texts, WhatsApp messages, emails etc over a fellow passenger’s shoulder. It’s just rude

* Eat on the tube. Ok, a packet of crisps or a sneaky sandwich is acceptable when you’ve been held (yet again) at another red signal but avoid tucking into anything hot or smelly. A packed train is not the place to enjoy your dinner

 

So long London...?

A record number of 30 somethings are considering leaving the capital. Kaye Holland is one of them

Dr Samuel Johnson once famously said that "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."

As a proud born and bred Londoner, I don’t disagree with the good doctor (so much so that I last year I launched a walking tour company, take a bow Talk of the Town London, with the aim of sharing my passion for the colourful, cosmopolitan capital with tourists and locals alike.)

In London there’s always something to do. You have everything you want in terms of activity and accessibility. Every week a new (independent, natch) bar or restaurant is opening and I love the constant buzz. The capital also offers a cornucopia of world class carnivals, museums, theatres and art galleries plus gorgeous gardens and parks (30 percent of the capital is given over to green space so wherever you find yourself in the city, a leafy retreat isn’t far away).

 

I adore the old and the new side by side: the London Eye towering over the Thames, the tatty fabric shops in Broadwick Street market nestling between Soho’s multi million dollar film companies. I love waking up in the mornings and knowing that the rest of the city is waking up too. The hustle and bustle… the healthy cosmopolitan mix. To see the streetlights! To hear the taxis! The sheer, unadulterated adrenaline of it all!

Sure the capital is costly but it gives you something you can’t put a price on: energy. It is truly a great city and on a good day, there isn’t any place in the world I would rather be.

And yet, and yet… I have days when I detest London. Samuel Johnson may have said that a man who is tired of London, he is is tired of life. However with all due respect to Dr J, he uttered his now oft repeated phrase some 200 odd years ago. London 2016 is certainly not the same as it was, circa 1777.

 

Would Boswell’s erstwhile friend have uttered the same words today had he been stuck living out in the suburbs, while struggling to climb the British housing ladder? (The fact that a modest one bedroom flat in Brixton will set you back a minimum of £350,000, continues to astound me).

Would Sir Samuel have said that now immortal sentence while standing shivering on a Metropolitan line platform, waiting for a train (why is it that they used to come along every few minutes on the met line, but now we all wait ages) to turn up?

Would he have felt the same having forked out £212 for a monthly zone one to five travel card only to discover that, despite advertising a ‘seven day service’, the tube is invariably out of action at weekends and on bank holidays - basically the time that Londoners want to venture out and make the most of the metropolis?

Or upon being asked to pay 50p to use a station toilet and finding that you have to have the exact money - even in today’s cashless society? (Really, how hard can it be to make a machine that gives back change if you put in a £1?)

 

Would he share the same stance having parted with £7 for two scoops of ice cream  in German Gymnasium  - London’s latest dining hotspot?


Or after inhaling the foul air (turns out that London is, GULP, the most toxic town on the planet after researchers from King’s College London, found nitrogen dioxide levels to be worse on London’s Oxford Street than anywhere else on earth). As a gal who said goodbye to living in Beijing -partly because of the Imperial City’s appalling air pollution - the irony isn’t lost on me.

 

And I’m not sure that Sir Samuel would appreciate London’s ever changing skyline. The capital - under the helm of mayor, Boris Johnson, is in the grip of skyscraper fever with unusually named projects (the Cheesegrater, the Walkie-Talkie and the Gherkin anyone?) springing up all over the shop.  Shiny new high rise buildings may sound brilliant but - take it from someone who spent several years living in Dubai, a paean to skyscrapers - in reality they’re as dull as dishwater and devoid of any individualism. Sadly certain parts of London are no longer recognisable.

You might think that I am being too demanding, but I’m not alone. The stats speak for themselves: record numbers of 30 somethings are leaving London in their droves in search of a property - perhaps with a garden - that they can call their own.

Some such as my mates, Chris and Kaira, are escaping to the country while others (Christoph and Caroline, Heidi and Matt) are moving to smaller cities where renting a one bedroom flat doesn’t costs a minimum of £1200 per month excluding bills. Even my high-earning accountant mate Patrick has had to quit London’s inner zones and move to the suburbs - all because, at the age of 40, he had enough of living in a  windowless shoebox.


Bottom line? Unless you’re generously backed by the Bank of Mum and Dad or earning in excess of £40k (and the average UK salary is  £26,500)  the living (in London) ain’t easy.

 

Which is why I’ve decided to escape the capital city of a cold, wet, grey island for a bit, by boarding a plane for Buenos Aires, Argentina - aka the land of gauchos, glaciers, futbol, tango and beef.

Sure Argentina isn’t without its problems (corruption and weekly power cuts prevail for starters), but when it’s blue skies and 30 degrees outside and a train ticket from one side of town to another costs just 25p, they’re a helluva lot easier to deal with.

Will I go back to Blighty, despite the fact that London is no longer the pleasure it should be?  Yes. I’ll return every now and then - partly because, thanks to that insidious Dr Johnson quote, I feel compelled to keep trying to make it in the capital. And also because London is in my blood: I grew up there and most of my family and friends still call the capital home. However I’ve reached the conclusion that while I do largely love London - on it's day, it is a wonderful city - we can’t be together for long.

The latest from Talk of the Town London

Dear London lovers,

Hello and welcome to the latest edition of the Talk of the Town newsletter!

Our popular  Lovers in London tour is back just in time for Valentine’s Day. What’s more, we’re offering one lucky reader the chance to win a pair of tickets to a Lovers in London tour on a date of your choosing! Elsewhere, we reveal our plans for Easter and let you in on how you can make Mother’s Day extra special this year…

Keep reading for the full lowdown and all that’s great about Talk of the Town London!

Our warmest regards, as always

David, John, Kaye & Steph

‘LOVERS IN LONDON’ WALKING TOURS NOW ON SALE
Do something a little different this Valentine’s Day and discover the capital’s romantic side with the Talk of the Town team on our popular Lovers in London walk.
New York may be the city to search for love, Paris the city of romance, but London: London is the city for lovers! From secret assignations to amorous rendezvous, London has a long history of accommodating those in love.
Join Talk of the Town to discover the truth about Elizabeth I (the famous Virgin Queen) and Lord Dudley, get a behind-the-scenes look at Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s steamy love affair,and listen to anecdotes about star-crossed lovers who found their solace in the London streets.
Lovers in London will walk you through plenty of romantic history in Talk of the Town’s usual tongue-in-cheek way-and being a lover OF London is the only requirement necessary! See you in February…
Lovers In London tours will run on Sat 13 and Sun 14 Feb at 3pm and 6pm. Find out more at www.talkofthetownlondon.com/our-tours

 

MAKE MOTHER’S DAY
Sunday 6 March is Mother’s Day. Show your Mother how much you care, by treating her to a special High Society tour at 3pm! Discover the stomping ground of 18th century bachelors, peek into the windows of exclusive private gentlemen’s clubs and accompany blushing débutantes to their first high society ball. This Mayfair based tour also reveals the intrigues and behind-the-scene politics that dominated this distinctive social class and includes an optional afternoon tea at one of London’s most charming venues.
Even better? All Mums qualify for half-price admission on their special day, making tickets a bargainous £7.50!
 

HOW TO HAVE AN EGGCELLENT EASTER
Hot cross buns, chocolate bunnies and mini eggs adorn the avenues and aisles of the supermarkets and, with Easter just a few weeks away, the lure of said sweet treats may be too much to bear. But panic not! Easter doesn’t have to mean weight gain…  Burn off those calorific goodies by joining us on a jolly jaunt through elegant Mayfair on Easter Saturday (26 March) at 3pm and Easter Monday (28 March) at 3pm, to see London through the eyes of the elite. So what are you waiting for? Limit the damage to your waistline by booking your place on one of our Easter weekend High Society tours now…
FAO David: please add to website and include link here

THE PERFECT GIFT
Unsure what gift to get your friends and family this Easter? Enter Talk of the Town tour vouchers! Treat your loved ones to an unforgettable London experience of ghastly ghouls (Grim Tales tour), opulent occasions (High Society tour) or all the major blockbusters (London 101 tour). And if - like the Talk of the Town team - you leave present buying to the last minute, put the panic on hold. You can shop online at www.talkofthetownlondon.com, 24/7.

CELEBRATE SPRING WITH OUR GREAT GIVEAWAY
Here at Talk of the Town towers, we’re full of the joys of spring. With this in mind, we’re offering you the chance to win x2 tickets - one for you and one for a guest - for a Talk of the Town ‘Lovers in London’ tour on the following dates:

Saturday 13 February at 3pm or 6pm
Sunday 14 February at 3pm or6pm

To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to is tweetus (@tottLondon) or post on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/talkofthetownlondon) your favourite #London pictures! Competition closes at midnight on Sunday 7 February. Good luck!

PRIVATE TOURS
Prefer to get to grips with London at your own pace? No problem! As well as our core group tours, we offer private tours - great for families, friends, hen and stag weekends... We can also craft customised itineraries to suit your personality (tell us what you like and we’ll tell you what you will love...), pocket and time frame. Simply drop us a little line at info@talkofthetownlondon with your comments and questions.

WHAT THE PRESS ARE SAYING
“History of London’s dark underbelly has never been so entertaining.”
Business Day

“From the moment John Bosco clutching his signature umbrella, began his very eloquent and dramatic exposé we knew we were in for a treat.”
The Cultural Voyager

“Offering something to suit all tastes, Talk of the Town invites visitors to make the most of their trip to Europe’s most exciting metropolis – ‘real’London is just waiting to be discovered.”
Group Travel

Let’s face facts: London is best seen on foot. On a Talk of the Town tour, you’ll get up close and personal with London landmarks rather than stare at them through a window, onboard a bus.”
Just About Travel


LAST WORD
“Living in London is like winning the lottery every single day”
Talk of the Town London

 

Follow us on Twitter (@tottLondon) and like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/talkofthetownlondon) and we’ll keep you in the loop re all the latest London news…

Down the tube?

So it turns out that we Londoners won’t be able to go big and go home on the tube, anytime soon after all… The long awaited Night Tube was due to begin last month, but was delayed over a dispute about staff pay and conditions.

An autumn launch date was then ear marked, but torturous talks between TFL and transport unions mean that long suffering Londoners might now have to wait until March 2016 before they can catch the tube home after a night out in town. Make no mistake: the night tube dream has morphed into a never-ending nightmare.

Tube workers and their supporters say that they are worried about a work life balance. However with TFL insisting that their pay offer is “fair and sustainable” with “cast-iron” guarantees for limiting employees’ night shifts and soldiers, police officers, nurses, teachers, junior doctors - and yes journalists - working more unsociable hours for a lot less than a tube driver is paid to drive a train, sympathy for the drivers is in short supply here at JAT towers….

Needless to say the ongoing night tube dispute is having a negative effect on ordinary Londoners looking to avoid a mad dash across town for the last tube, a long journey on a battered, beer soaked night bus or an expensive cab ride home.

However not only is the night tube delay damaging our fun (as well as making life difficult for weekend shift workers), it’s having a negative effect on the economy. Experts estimate that the delay will cost London's businesses, restaurants and theatres "tens of millions of pounds” as locals and tourists alike continue to curtail their evenings out, because the only safe and reliable way they can get home after midnight is via a wallet damaging taxi.

Plans for the night tube are far from perfect - it will only run on Friday and Saturday nights, while some lines (here’s looking at the much maligned Metropolitan line) are being overlooked entirely. Others won't run on the whole of their lines (the Piccadilly line, for example, will run between Cockfosters and Heathrow Terminal Five but not out to Uxbridge).

Still while I’d like to see night services extended to all lines on a Friday and Saturday and for the Piccadilly line to run to Heathrow airport every single day of the week so that we can all travel to and from early and late flights with ease, it would nonetheless be a start.

If the unions remain reluctant for London to join New York, Chicago, Copenhagen, Berlin, Stockholm and Sydney in offering a night time metro service, then perhaps it’s time to seriously think  long and hard about introducing driverless trains?

For the fact of the matter is this: the colourful, cosmopolitan capital is no Cinderella. London doesn’t shut down, when the clock strikes midnight. Neither should the tube.

Saturday Kitchen: Coffee eclairs

Celebrity chef, James Martin, reveals how to make Coffee eclairs
 

Éclairs are a great thing to have in your repertoire – and with my recipe in the Basics chapter, they couldn’t be easier. When the times comes to fill them with cream, the trick is that rather than slicing the éclairs open or putting holes in the base, you fill them from the top. This way, the coffee icing seals in the filling, so that when you bite into an éclair, the cream doesn’t shoot out of the other end.

COFFEE ÉCLAIRS
Serves 12–14

1 quantity choux pastry éclairs (see page 20)
butter, for greasing

For the vanilla cream
1.2 litres double cream
2 vanilla pods, split and seeds removed 

For the coffee icing
350g fondant icing sugar
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp Camp coffee essence
Prepare and bake the choux éclairs as described on page 20.

Method
* Turn the oven up to 220°C/425°F/Gas mark 7 and grease a baking tray.

* For the vanilla cream, pour the cream into a large bowl, add the vanilla seeds and whip to soft peaks.

* To make the coffee icing, sift the icing sugar into a large bowl, add the water and coffee essence and whisk together.

* Using the tip of a sharp knife, pierce a hole in the rounded end of each éclair. Place the éclairs on their sides and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes so that they become dry and crisp. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

* To serve, transfer the vanilla cream to a piping bag fitted with a 6mm plain nozzle. Pipe the cream into the éclairs through the hole. Dip them into the icing to cover the top evenly. Leave on the wire rack until the icing is set.

CHOUX PASTRY ÉCLAIRS
Choux pastry is one of my favourite things to cook. I picked up this recipe whilst working as a pastry chef in a three-star Michelin restaurant in the south of France, and I’ve used it ever since. Make sure the butter, sugar, salt and water are brought slowly to the boil. If you do this too quickly, the butter will not melt and the water will evaporate. The butter should be diced small so that it melts before you add the flour. To get a really crisp texture, add half a cup of cold water to a preheated tray in the oven before cooking, and then after 20 minutes, open the door for a few seconds to let out the steam.

Makes 12–14 medium éclairs

Ingredients
250ml water
100g cold butter, diced small
1 tsp caster sugar
pinch of salt
150g strong flour
4 eggs

Method
* Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4 and line a baking sheet with silicone paper.

* Pour the water into a pan and add the butter, sugar and pinch of salt. Bring to the boil slowly and boil for 1 minute. Add the flour in one go.

* Cook for a few minutes, beating all the time, until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan cleanly and is smooth. Tip out onto a silicone-lined tray and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

* Transfer the cooled mixture to a kitchen mixer or large bowl and beat in the eggs, one at a time, then continue to beat until the mixture is smooth and shiny, about 2 more minutes.

* Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large, plain nozzle, then pipe 10cm-long éclair shapes onto the prepared baking sheet. Smooth out any bumps with the tip of a wet finger. (See also page 38.)

* Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes until golden brown and crisp.

* Remove from the oven and transfer the éclairs from the baking tray to a wire rack to cool.

Recipe extracted from Sweet by James Martin (Quadrille, £20). Photography: Peter Cassidy
James will be appearing live at the BBC Good Food Show Winter at the NEC Birmingham, 26-29 November.

Photography: Peter Cassidy