Autistic Special Interests 1: Public Transport

The first in a series of posts about #Autisticspecialinterests that will be appearing here during May.

INTRODUCTION

Here as promised is the first of a series of posts I shall be doing about my special interests. I am starting with public transport, and in this post I shall be referring to events that took place long before I was diagnosed as autistic.

GREAT ORMOND STREET HOSPITAL AND THE BIRTH OF A SPECIAL INTEREST

I was a patient in a child psychiatric unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital for over a year in the early 1980s. The trigger for the illness that put me there appears to have been a bout of chickenpox. For the first half of my time there I was an in-patient, at the hospital 24/7, and then when they deemed it safe for me to sent home at nights I was a day patient. Although I cannot remember a time when trains did not interest me, it was during this period that I would say that my special interest in public transport was formed. 

My family moved to London in 1979, when I was four, and I have a London Underground map from that time:

LU 1979

Now, here is an edited version, highlighting the two key stations:

LU 1979 - edited

Tooting Bec was our local station, just about a mile from our house, while Russell Square is the station for Great Ormond Street Hospital. My father would take me there in the mornings and pick me up in the afternoons, using London Underground. We took some very bizarre routes, as my fascination grew, which sometimes led to my father getting awkward questions from ticket inspectors (yes folks, in those days London Underground had on-train ticket inspectors). 

TEENAGE YEARS – GOING SOLO

In later years I was able to explore on my own, and when I was in my early teens the child rate for a one-day travelcard was only 90p, so I would often go out on a Saturday and explore London transport in detail (I used various local railway lines as well as the Underground, though in those days I did not make much use of buses). It was also in this period that I discovered the London Transport Museum at Covent Garden

A big moment for me was the opening of The Docklands Light Railway (I travelled on it on its first day of operation way back in 1987, and it was a huge buzz to be there at the start of a new development in public transport). In particular I first developed the method of visiting Greenwich described in this post on www.londontu.be as a teenager, and since the DLR was then pretty much brand spanking new I claim to be the pioneer of that method.

Like most who have been regular users of it I came to despise the Northern Line, and later in my teenage years it was a thing with me to make my excursions without using the Northern line (this meant starting and finishing at one of various railway stations which were walkable from home – Tooting, Streatham Common, Streatham, or Streatham Hill). A frequent finish to my excursions was to take the Hammersmith & City line to Hammersmith, get an eastbound District line train to Earl’s Court and then cross the platform to get a Wimbledon train, finally changing to railway train to Tooting. 

At the same time as I was exploring public transport in London to the full I was also learning more about its history and development. 

Very late in my teens I became a regular commuter, because after finishing at my local comprehensive I decided to resit my Chemistry ‘A’ Level and do the first year of Maths and Physics ‘A’ Levels at Richmond Upon Thames College of Further Education, whose local station was Twickenham, two stops west of Richmond. I had two regular routes there, either travelling in my mother’s car as far as Baron’s Court (the nearest station to the school she was teaching at in that period), District to Richmond, train to Twickenham, or from home, walk to Balham (about a half-hour walk, perfectly manageable for an 18 year old), get a train to Clapham Junction and change for another train to Twickenham. The fastest trains over the Clapham Junction – Twickenham section were those going to Reading, which did it non-stop. Those trains were also the only ones that still had manually opened and closed doors (two choices folks, either slam the thing, making a monstrous crash, which most people did,  or learn, as I did, how the catches worked so that one could shut the door quietly). 

FURTHER POSTS

When I revisit this series, probably at the weekend, the story will move away from London, as I did, and will indeed go international. To finish for today, here are some old pictures of Tooting Bec Station, taken from the book Bright Underground Spaces:

Tooting Bec 1
The Stapleton Road sufrface building agt Tooting Bec, which was the one I used to enter and exit by.
Tooting Bec 2
Both of Tooting Bec;s surface buildings (from 1926-50 the station was called Trinity Road).

National Park Cities Thunderclap

Introducing the concept of National Park Cities, publicising a thunderclap about the same and displaying some of my own photographs.

INTRODUCTION

To take part in a Thunderclap you have to be on at least one of facebook, twitter or tumblr, so for the benefit of those among my readers who cannot take part I am also including some recent photos of my own that tie in well with this particular thunderclap. 

NATIONAL PARK CITIES

The idea behind this thunderclap, set up the folks at team4nature is that there are recognized health benefits to people having easy access to nature. Among the potential pioneers of the concept of a National Park City is London, and you can declare your support here. To take part in the thunderclap click here, or on the image below, which shows the story in full:

NPCTC

PHOTOGRAPHS

Here are some of my recent nature pictures, which also feature the two main parks in King’s Lynn, The Walks and Lynnsport Park and sections of Bawsey Drain and The Gaywood River.

GullsMerula IWalks IWalks IIWalks IIIWalks IVWalks VMerula IIMerula IIIMagpieGulls IIbirdsSmall birds ISmall birds IISmall birds IIISmall birds IVMerula IVbrown patchesOmniaOmnia IIgrey specklesdark muscovydark muscovy IItwo foron the bridgedark muscovy IIIGreymuscovies and mallardseightPanoramaParting shot

Shared Space Roads ?

Some thoughts on shared space streets and Exhibition Road in particular.

INTRODUCTION

Much of this post will also be appearing on my London Transport themed website as well as here because of the location of the particular shared space road that brought this issue to my attention. That location is of course Exhibition Road, London – a location very familiar to me from when I lived in London and was a regular visitor to museums. Here is a map for you to orient yourselves:

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WHAT IS A SHARED SPACE ROAD?

A shared space road is a road without pavements, with no clear distinctions between where cars, cyclists and pedestrians should be. According to some this arrangement reduces accidents. However, a recent incident on London’s Exhibition Road has called this into question. Here is a tweet from campaign group Transport for All:

SS

This (to me) raises two questions to be taken in turn:

CAN SHARED SPACE ROADS WORK?

I am uncertain on this one and will welcome evidence from people with experience of shared space roads in their localities. My own view is that they could work but the following is necessary:

  • Clear signage explaining what a shared space road is and what that means.
  • A very low speed limit for motor vehicles (even lower than the 20mph which is now commonplace in the vicinity of schools) fiercely enforced – speeding on a shared space street should be punished more severely than speeding elsewhere because of the greater risk of hitting someone.
  • Referring back to my first bullet point it needs to made clear that motorists are always expected to give way to cyclists and pedestrians.

Given what I know of London drivers I do not think that London is the right city to be trialling these (although Rome and Paris would both clearly by even worse options!)

SHOULD EXHIBITION ROAD BE A SHARED SPACE ROAD?

Absolutely not – it should be completely pedestrianised. There are excellent public transport connections in this part of the world. 
Continue reading “Shared Space Roads ?”

Marxism 2017

Setting the scene for a series of posts about Marxism 2017.

INTRODUCTION

In approximately two hours I will be off to catch a train to London for Marxism 2017, four days of political meetings. Given the location I will have regular wi-fi access and will blog regularly about the event.

MARXISM 2017

Most of the rest of this post will be taken up with pictures of my timetable, but before I put them up a note – I have ticked the meetings that I definitely intend to go to, and put question marks against those I am considering (if for example there are two in one slot that appeal and I have not yet made a final decision).

Front CoverInside FCCorbyn & New PoliticsRRRA World in TurmoilThursdayFridaySaturdaySundayInside back coverMarxism Map

Four New Posts on www.londontu.be

Screenshot links to all four of my new posts on http://www.londontu.be

INTRODUCTION

In my previous post here I indicated that there would be a number of new posts appearing on my London Transport themed website. I now provide links to them.

THE LINKS

Each link will come in the form of a screenshot…

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Southern’s rail plans will breach Equality Act, says disabled access expert | DisabledGo News and Blog

More trouble for #SouthernFail. They should lose their franchise forthwith, either being run direct by the government or being put under the umbrella of TFL…

Plans by an under-fire rail company to change the way it staffs its trains will lead to “unacceptable” and repeated breaches of the Equality Act by denying disabled passengers the support they need to travel, it has been claimed. Southern – which operates train services across parts of south London and southern England – is planning to replace conductors with “on board supervisors” (OBSs), whose job will not include stepping onto the platform at stations. Campaigners fear that introducing these supervisors will mean that disabled passengers who need assistance on platforms at unstaffed stations could be left stranded and unable to board their train. Southern is also planning to allow OBS trains to operate with only a driver in “exceptional circumstances” – which is likely to make travel even harder for disabled people – and has also admitted that two-fifths of its trains are already driver only operated (DOO). Southern is embroiled in a long-running industrial action over its plans to

Source: Southern’s rail plans will breach Equality Act, says disabled access expert | DisabledGo News and Blog

Marxism 5: The Final Day

The conclusion to my series of posts about Marxism 2016.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to my fifth post in this series about Marxism 2016. Since Marxism adopted its current format of running from Thursday afternoon through to Monday afternoon in 2005 (before that it used run from a Friday evening to the afternoon of the following Friday) the Monday morning has usually been the quietest time of the event, before the closing rally finishes things with a flourish.

GETTING THERE AND THE PLAN

I wished to arrive early at the event so as to have time to deposit my main bag in the left luggage room for the morning and then prepare for the day. I was accompanied on this last journey in from Walthamstow to the Institute of Education by the other person who had been a guest in the house I was staying at, and who I had discovered was also autistic. We left in good time and had a very smooth journey to the event.

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THE MORNING MEETINGS

My first meeting, Lewis Nielsen on What Would a Revolution Look Like? down in the drama studio was interesting, and well worth attending. The second meeting, Camilla Royle on How Big Pharma stops us making progress in Nunn Hall was excellent. As well as stuff from Bad Pharma (Ben Goldacre’s classic) she mentioned the Martin Skhreli case. This meeting was a worthy lead up to the closing rally, due to start at 2PM in the Logan Hall.

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DSCN7274
Lewis Nielsen ready for his meeting.
DSCN7279
Camilla Royle ready for action in Nunn Hall.

THE FINAL RALLY

The Final Rally was quite simply magnificent. After several prominent campaigners, including a trainee nurse and a junior doctor, the last two speeches were by Richard Boyd Barrett TD and Michael Bradley. I left during the applause at the end of Michael’s speech, wishing to retrieve my bag and leave the building reasonably swiftly. This meant that I missed the singing of the Internationale.

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Some of the team, in their red t-shirts.

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Sarah who helped organize the event chaired the final rally.
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Our firs speaker, a trainee nurse talking about what is being done to people in her position.

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Junior doctor Megan Parsons addresses the final rally.
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Richard Boyd Barrett TD seeks to inspire by showing how Irish politics has changed out of all recognition since he joined the Irish SWP in 1989
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Mike Bradley making the final speech of Marxism 2016.

HOMEWARD BOUND

My departure during the applause for Mike Bradley enabled me to make a swift exit from the building, which had the extra benefit that I got to King’s Cross station at 15:37, so was able to travel back on the 15:44, which I had not expected.