driving Places


It’s now nearly three years since I moved to London.

Before London, Bedford. Before Bedford, Letchworth Garden City. Before Letchworth, Reading, Cambridge, Kent, Sunderland and initially Kent. London is the city I’ve spent the most time in apart from Kent.

I find the concept of “I hate London” both really easy and really hard to accept. I can understand that if you commute in every day, spend most of your time in London in either the tube or an office, always in Central London how you could find it clostrophobic and dirty. Mostly. But I’m sitting at my desk in east London, and behind my monitors I can see Hackney Marshes, a space of land the size of 88 full sized football pitches. We know it’s the size of 88 full sized football pitches, because there are 88 full sized football pitches marked out on it. Green fields for ages. Trees. Rows of houses as well as council flats. Elsewhere there are leafy, tree lined suburbs; huge gothic buildings and tiny wooden churches. I find it hard to hate London, because it’s like attempting to embrace the moon. You can get a part of it, but the whole thing is beyond your reach.

When I moved in I had the same view of London as most people who visit it occasionally. Islands where I knew the roads and directions, clustered entirely around tube stations. I knew the area round Kings Cross towards Angel very well, for I used to commute there. I knew Paddington Station, where my train from Bedford got in; Charring Cross, where trains from Kent got in. I knew bits and places. Getting around London was a matter of using the tube to hop between islands.

Later on, mostly once I’d moved here, I started to join the islands up, discovering that this Kings Cross island was actually within a couple of minutes walk from this Angel island; that Charring Cross Island was quite close to Oxford Circus Island; that you can get from Camden Island to Kings Cross Island quicker by walking. Covent Garden Island is within walking distance of Tottenham Court Road island, which is handy since Covent Garden Island’s tube station is heck on earth.

Eventually, you get a better understanding of how London fits together. Eventually I’d got down my “Islands” to two: Central London and Walthamstow, because walking between them was a faff.

Eventually I moved to Leyton, and now to Hackney, and found the actual secret to getting around London without losing your sense of what’s where: Buses. My natural aversion to buses was caused by living in a small town, where buses where every half an hour or so if you’re lucky, and the massive problem with buses which is that in almost all cases you don’t know where you’re supposed to get off unless you’ve been there before, which presents a bootstrapping problem. In London, the former problem is solved by the fact that there are buses *everywhere* and they all run every 10 minutes on average, and the latter partly by automated announcements of which stop you’re at and partly by the fact I now have a GPS device in the form of an iPhone.

Living in Hackney makes getting buses more likely, as we’re the most central area of London that the Tube has little access to. The Overground works, but isn’t very frequent, and mostly goes between the great spokes of the London transport system, rather than down into the centre.

All of this is part of why I find things like The Knowledge – the official exam that London black-cab drivers take – really interesting. It apparently takes around four years to pass the test. The perils of an evolved city over a planned grid-based system, I suppose.

driving Imported From Epistula Larp LUGRadio Personal Projects social trutap

An Update

Most of what I’m doing right now is working, and due to the nature of my working, it’s dull. I’m mostly writing unit tests. And because it’s work, it’s occasionally awesome and fun, challanging and occasionally frustrating. We are, however, looking for PHP dev to work in our Kings Cross office, so if you know any PHP devs looking for a new job, fire an email at nicholas care of trutap dot net. I do hope to be able to shout about stuff we’re doing soon.

Because I’ve moved to the place with the most integrated transportation network in the country, it’s obvious that the next thing I need to do is learn to drive. Since my last experience I haven’t actually had any driving lessons at all (Well, not true. I got one while in Bedford, but taking a two hour lunch break meant I missed my bus home and didn’t get back to Letchworth until 22:00. I didn’t repeat the experience), But I’ve just signed up with Go Red for a lesson on the 1st August. Now to pass my theory test for the third, and ideally final, time.

One of the reasons for the above is my current habit of going LARPing, and the fact that lugging all my stuff on trains is annoying. Also, National Rail always seem to schedule line work over me coming back from Maelstrom, which is irritating. A car would make getting there – as well as Treasure Trap in Cambridge – easier. This weekend is another Maelstrom weekend, which should be fun.

This means that I’m going to not only miss LUGRadio Live, which annoyed me, but when it became the very last LR event ever, it just seemed like malice. I’ve listened to, and enjoyed, the show from the first episode, and while I’ve recently not been much part of the community, I’m proud of the bits I have been part of. LUGRadio is a staggering achievement, and I hope someone picks up the idea and does it half as well as the various generations of Gents have over the years. I don’t know what they’re planning to do with the site after it’s over, but if it fractures into a few dozen local LUGRadio divisions – such as was originally the plan for the series, I believe – it will be interesting.

Still not completed GTA4 yet.

Most of my “home” coding right now is being done on AqWiki, which is now running a community wiki for Maelstrom fans as well as one for an Ikariam alliance – pushing the under-developed macro system to the limit with treaty managers and databases. I’m also working on Lampstand, which is an IRC bot again for Maelstrom fans. It’s based on the Twisted framework, which is something of a run-up all of its own, and eventually I hope to integrate it into a django-powered community site.

aqcom driving Imported From Epistula

Famous for the wrong reasons

The top three articles on Aquarionics are.

For amount of wuffie generated: ESF

For amount of Google hits: How to convert AMR to MP3

But for shear amount of comments, draining of my faith in human kind, and horror value:

How I failed my driving test

It’s not an amazingly written article. It’s not even that funny. But it did something quite neat at the time, and became the number three result for “failed driving test” in Google in the UK.

And the first that allowed comments.

Now, for a second, go and read that thread. Catch up on FIVE YEARS of people wondering why only running over a pedestrian a little bit counts as a fail.

Yesterday, I implemented the ability to shut off comments on arbitrary posts. So.

What little of my readership remains: Should I disable comments on that article?

driving Imported From Epistula weblog

Teh Drivingness

I have passed my driving theory test. I win at teh drivingness.

Computer Games driving Imported From Epistula Those who evolve

Work, Rest and Play

In much the same way that dancing around the high street naked will probably filter back to your co-workers, you should realise that anything you say on your public weblog will also possibly get back to them.

So, don’t do stupid things. If you do stupid things, apologise, find out exactly what you did that was stupid, and move on.

Google isn’t helpful in this. Within two weeks of my accepting the job with Evolving Media, my category of the same name was in the top five matches for the phrase on Google. This means that a client of the company googling for our past works will probably stumble upon this little rock in the ocean.

So, a couple of entries on here have been edited at the company’s request, and I’m considering a few things I’ve been looking at for a while, like blocking access to diary entries more than six months old (Articles stay, that’s the point). I’ve also added the disclaimer to the end of the site.

I’m also saving all my rants about what we’re doing until I can formulate them into an impartial essay on the relative benifits of technology over other technology, rather than “ARGH! $FOO SUCKS GOATS THOUGH FINE GAUZE!”, which would be roughly my current thing.

So, with little time to do anything but work (I’m passing taking my driving theory test on Monday, the next step in a long road that will lead – eventually – to driving down roads instead of taking steps down them) and censoring myself from everything I _am_ doing, this thing’s looking a little sparse.

Currently, however, I’m ill, spending time in bed feeling sorry for myself (and attempting to work) and attempting to start a movement to start the entire millenium again.

So, with no time and no energy, I’ve done the only logical thing.

I’ve started a new project, more creative than most of the recent ones. See how long this one lasts…

driving Imported From Epistula

Evil Drivers

For the last year, I’ve commuted from Reading (and later Letchworth) to KX London by train. All was good. Well, I was spending as much on train fares as I was on rental, but mostly good.

Recently, I started commuting from Letchworth (which is on the Cambridge spur of the railway out from london) to Bedford (which is on the Bedford spur from same). Going by train was going to take four hours each way. So I go by bus.

It takes half an hour by car to go from my office to home. I know this because someone gave me a lift once, every other day I’ve spent two hours each way commuting, plus the half hour early I get to work, and the half hour late I have to leave because the buses don’t mesh with my work hours. That’s four hours excess that I spend every single day because I’m taking the bus, added to the fuckwittery that means that buses not only leave late, but frequently come (and leave) early, have totally different numbers on one sign to the other (and, of course, are going by neither route) , and yet I’m still bothered by militantly anti-car people who berate me for having the desire to destroy the countryside, kill thousands a year personally as I ride rough-shod over the battered and broken bodies of those who are killed in traffic accidents, and – incidentally – have more than two hours in my week day to actually sit down and watch TV.

But I can’t tell them that, of course, because I don’t have time. I have a bus to catch at 06:30 tomorrow morning.

driving Imported From Epistula Those who evolve


I got on a bus to Bedford Bus Station.

But it didn’t go to Bedford Bus Station, it went to the bus stop outside my office.

Later, I got on a bus that said “Hitchin” on the front.

But it didn’t go to Hitchin, it stopped in Biggleswade and the driver told me to get off, he wasn’t going any further.

So I got on a bus which said it was stopping at Biggleswade, and went to Hitchin.

At that point, I got a taxi.

I don’t like buses much.

driving Imported From Epistula Those who evolve


Have new job.

Leave home at 06:00. Bus at 06:30, ‘nother at 0700, Hour on bus, half hour walk other side. 08:45ish, Work eight hours, repeat in reverse.

Until I learn to drive, get a car, and get insured (Which will turn my commute into an hour each way) stuff here – or anywhere – is likely to be sporadic unless I can do it on the bus.

Today, however, was special. It was my first day of this painfull comute, and thus the perfect time to discover that the bus stop was on the other side of the estate to where I thought it was.

As a result of this and the incomprehensibility of timetables, it took me five hours to get to Bedford.

I hate buses.

I will learn to drive.

BrowserAngel driving Imported From Epistula Work

Because it's cruel to cats (It's cruel to cats)

My back garden is a veritable feast of campanology now. Some mean, cruel and nasty person has attached a bell to one of the cats which wanders around, I watched it yesterday attempting to pounce on raindrops (Preferably without getting wet) and every stealthy step it took was accompanied by the jingling of bells. It was not a happy kitty.

Yesterday was not just a bad day for cats, in fact. It’s a long running in-joke that either me or LoneCat can be employed at any one time, and so it’s only logical that with BrowserAngel putting me on notice that they have a new grant and will be reemploying me forthwith, LoneCat has been placed on her mandatory 3 month notice of redundancy.

Not that this has stopped me applying for other jobs, I point out. Optimism is for people with savings accounts.

On top of all this, I went head over handlebars yesterday when a fuckwitted moron decided that cyclists didn’t deserve roundabouts and pulled out in front of me. My immediate reaction was to slam on the brakes, but since my right hand brake is the front brake (And I’m right handed) this didn’t have the desired effect, as whilst much of my forward momentum was curtailed, it transferred into a graceful arc around the radius of my stationary front wheel, depositing me nose to tarmac. Shortly afterwards my rucksack, which happened to be full of library books due to be returned, continued to follow its own interpretation of the laws of momentum and comedy to hit me in the back of the head.

The car behind me was tolerance itself, waiting almost two seconds after the crash before it beeped for me to get out of the way, whereupon I dragged my bruised – but otherwise unharmed – self and my unscathed cycle to the side of the road where I waited until I had stopped shaking sufficiently to go and be patronised by the Job Centre.

And the causing car? Drove off without even noticing me.

All motorists should be forced to cycle on main roads for at least two weeks every few years.

driving Imported From Epistula Personal


It’s not a dark and stormy night.

It’s a bright, sunshiney summers morning.

Well, it’s an overcast spring morning, but in comparison to previous mornings recently it’s a tropical heat wave. It’s been less than eventful around here these past few weeks. This is mostly because my life has been alternating between vague depression and playing Knights of the Old Republic. Last night it crashed at the end of a fight that I’d spent the previous hour trying to win, and so I got vague depression _at_ Knights of the Old Republic, which was a Novelty and therefore Good Thing. Probably.

Wednesday I did something really quite stupid.

Wednesday I paid my rent, which involved going to Hitchin and paying in cash for various reasons that I won’t bore you with. Actually, I may end up forcing myself to pay with cash lots more in the future, as the whole “This is a lot of money you’re spending here” vibe comes across a lot more when it’s in twenty pound units. Anyway, cycle-cycle-bank, cycle-cycle-station, train-ride-Hitchin, cycle-cycle-Rental, cycle-cycle. At this point I was bored and saw a sign to Letchworth, where I live, and I thought:

“It’s not that far to Letchworth, I could cycle home”

This was really, really stupid. I’m not that fit, I don’t cycle enough, and although I was aware that Hitchin-Letchworth was a reasonably short distance, I kind of assumed that since we’re in one of the flattest areas of the country, it’d be mostly flat.

Most of it was easy, apart from the dealing with motorists who had never encountered a real live cyclist before, but you get that everywhere. The difficult part was the hill. Because there was a hill. Not a particularly steep hill, but a terribly, terribly long hill. The kind of hill that saps the strength from you and makes you scared you’re going to be arrested for minimum speed on an A-road. Then it became the type of hill that looks like you’re nearly at the top, but really you’re merely halfway up. Then, right at the crest of the hill, it became the type of hill with a “No Cycling” sign down the fun part. So I walked down the hill on the pavement.

Actually, it wasn’t a pavement, it was a cycle-path, But it was only marked as a cycle-path from one direction, and it wasn’t the direction I was going, so I didn’t see it. This made me Annoyed. Eventually I reached civilisation again, arbitrarily decided that the no-cycling sign stopped when the cycle-path did, crossed the road and cycled home.

Then died for a while, and flogged myself mentally for a while for being a moron. Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Probably.

It would certainly be helping now. Last night I used the last of the milk, so I have to get some more before I can get my morning cup of tea. Therefore I’m attempting to get a running start on the day without Tea. Bah.

I have my P45 now as well, which is going to help with the whole “Not being brassic” plot as soon as I sign on at the Delaundrette. A Delaundrette is a place where you become one of the Great Unwashed, obviously. But now, I feel I am awake enough to go on a Great Quest for the Milk of Cow.