Monthly Archives: October 2009

In Vigeland Park

On my last day in Oslo I got up early and ran across town. It was frosty and sunny and there weren’t many people about. Doubtless everyone was still sleeping off a Volcano Bowl at the Aku Aku Tiki Bar. Guards on duty at the Royal Palace stood frozen to the spot. After half an hour I reached Vigeland Park, a chunk of Frogner Park named for the sculptor whose work fills the grand avenues and platforms of this imposing and peaceful place.

In Vigeland Park 4

Of all the statues in the main avenue, Sinnataggen (Angry Boy) stands out. The main monolith is an astonishing collection of human figures in a variety of poses. A central totem of figures entwined on top of one another rises fourteen metres into the air.

 

In Vigeland Park 1

Angry Boy

 

In Vigeland Park 3

Sunday morning quiet in the sculpture park

 

 

On this Sunday morning I had the place to myself and stayed until I started to get cold, when I trotted home past a funky tram junction which has had fountains installed in it. Food for the brain, the eyes and the legs before breakfast in Norway’s capital.

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Scottish Cup Second Round Review

 

Scottish Cup

The Scottish Cup

 

 

I, Ludicrous’ almighty single ‘The Highland League’ has provoked many a love affair with the lower echelons of Scottish football. Fans of the band, and the song, will have enjoyed a glance at this weekend’s Scottish Cup Second Round results. To the uninitiated, a man called Keith beat Vale of Leithen 3-1 all on this own, and he didn’t even require home advantage to do so. The team with the greatest name in British football, Inverurie Loco Works, knocked out Stranraer, though given that the Locies are riding high in the HFL and the men from Stair Park are struggling in the Scottish Third Division, keen observers may have seen this one coming.

 

Harlaw Park

Full steam ahead for the third round: Inverurie's Harlaw Park

 

 

The harshest result of the round saw Montrose strolling to a 3-0 victory over Banks O’Dee, the Gable Endies (yes, that really is their nickname) seemingly mercilessly ploughing on even though they were eleven men playing against the sides of a fast-flowing Highland river.

Results in full:

Queen’s Park 1-3 Livingston, Nairn County 2-4 Elgin City, Fraserburgh 1-4 Spartans, Deveronvale 2-2 Buckie Thistle, Whitehill Welfare 1-1 Threave Rovers, Inverurie Loco Works 2-1 Stranraer, Vale of Leithen 1-3 Keith, Forfar Athletic 4-2 East Stirlingshire, Cove Rangers 2-1 Annan Athletic, Selkirk 0-3 Irvine Meadow, Girvan 1-4 Wick Academy, Lossiemouth 0-2 Albion Rovers, Edinburgh City 5-1 Burntisland Shipyard Amateur, Banks O Dee 0-3 Montrose, Huntly 1-1 Auchinleck Talbot, Civil Service Strollers 1-2 Berwick Rangers

Secret London: Holloway Road’s long-lost spiral escalator

Holloway Road Station on the Piccadilly Line is an unremarkable place. It is inconvenient for most places except the nearby London Metropolitan University. The stop before or after Arsenal, but closed to fans on match-days. It’s one of only two stations on the northern (or is it eastbound?) section of the Piccadilly Line with lifts. And yet it was nearly so different. If the station’s Edwardian construction had gone to plan, this unassuming N7 landmark could have been home to a unique engineering achievement.

Strange plans from another time: spiral escalator blueprints

Strange plans from another time: spiral escalator blueprints

The clues can be found in the London Transport Museum Depot in Acton. Dumped down an aisle of jumble and boxes are some dust-covered piles of chains, steps and tangled metal. Don’t pass by so fast: this is the remains of what was supposed to be the world’s first spiral escalator.

Men at work: did costs spiral out of control?

Men at work: did costs spiral out of control?

And there the trail dries up. Labels attached to the wreckage offer a photo of workmen, and a sketch of what the escalator would have looked like. The picture resembles a DNA double helix. Escalator buffs suggest that Jesse W Reno, inventor of the escalator, was the man behind the designs. Christian Wolmar, in his superb Subterranean Railway history of London and the Underground, notes that the idea was not a success and that, it seems, was that. The construction was abandoned and left to rot until found a few years ago. No spiral escalator, no grand achievement – but at least someone gave it a try.

UPDATE 7/1/10: Visitors to this site from District Dave’s London Underground Site have pointed the way to this comprehensive discussion about the spiral escalator, including some fascinating photographs and the news that sections of it are being restored. If you’re intrigued by what’s here, the site is well worth a look. And is you’re a District Dave regular passing through, thanks for stopping by. And don’t forget to give Holloway Road station a respectful doff of the cap the next time you’re passing by. It’s proof that London is full of interest.

Kon-Tiki Oslo

3,000 miles with only one beard blowing: the Kon-Tiki raft

3,000 miles with only one beard blowing: the Kon-Tiki raft

When Thor Heyerdahl set out from Callao, Peru in 1947 bound for a vague Pacific destination, he was aiming to prove that ocean-going exploration from the Americas predated Columbus – and may have helped populate Polynesia.  His subsequent fame,  ensured by the success of sailing a balsa-wood raft thousands of miles from South America to an atoll in Tuamotu freed his hand to turn his attention to other mysteries of the Pacific, most notably Easter Island.

My Moai is bigger than yours - outside the Kon-Tiki Museum in Olso

My Moai is bigger than yours - outside the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo

While Thor was gadding about on tropical islands the rest of the world looked on in amazement and responded in the only way possible: by wearing Hawaiian shirts, forming surf rock bands and opening Tiki themed bars serving exotic fruit based cocktails.

Heyerdahl's Easter Island magnum opus

Heyerdahl's Easter Island magnum opus

In time, this craze passed and the eyes of the world moved on. But there is a corner of Oslo that is forever Tiki: the Aku Aku Tiki Bar at Thorvald Meyers Gate 32 in the happening neighbourhood of Grunerlokka. Not being a big drinker is usually a fatal impediment to enjoying a bar but not on this occasion. Tropical juice cocktail in hand, I sheltered from a chilly Autumn afternoon admiring the Moai motifs, hula sounds on the jukebox and puffer-fish lampshades. Aku Aku refers to a kind of spiritual intelligence, which you will acquire if you drink enough of their Volcano Bowl cocktails. The joint jumps to a 1950s luau beat by evening.

Oslo's awesome Aku Aku Bar: Polynesian paradise

Oslo's awesome Aku Aku Bar: Polynesian paradise

A visit here is the perfect accompaniment to visiting the essential Kon-Tiki Museum on the beautiful Bydgoy Peninsula. Between them, they offer a delightfully bonkers taste of the south Pacific Ocean in neat and tidy Oslo. Other cities take note: the world needs more Tiki bars.

Secret London: a day out at the museum depot

Family Hall – three train buffs, one in training and one person too exhausted to argue – went on a long-awaited outing to the London Transport Museum’s Depot this weekend – and were not disappointed. The depot, located by Acton Town tube in deepest west London, holds everything that can’t be crammed into the main museum in Covent Garden. It’s only open to visitors twice a year, which meant there was not long to check out the 370,000 artefacts from three centuries of public transport in London. There was no time to waste, which is why it was ideal to arrive an hour early.

Big shot depot

The fun begun before we even got in the front door with not one, but two miniature trains to ride on along the edge of the depot. One was a replica of an original Metropolitan Railway steam engine, the sort which used to belch smoke into tunnels from Paddington to Farringdon. The other was an electric model of what (to my untrained eye) appeared to be a Central Line train from years gone by. The drivers of these trains are serious, blue overall-wearing men. The children riding behind them are equally straight-faced, staring wide-eyed at the train, track and signal. Only the adults accompanying the very young let the side down, grinning from ear to ear.

Mini Metropolitan Railway steam engine

Mini Metropolitan Railway steam engine

Accompanying small tube train

Accompanying small tube train

Inside, the Depot housed a fascinating collection of rolling stock from differing ages, and in varied states of preservation, repair or mothballing. As well as trains there were trams, buses and several magnificent avenues of signs, one corner of which was dedicated to Arsenal station roundels. Another wall held pre Harrry Beck tube maps and the odd stray station sign, which hinted at a time before London Transport’s design and branding was very strictly uniform.

Mind the gap, Gooners

Mind the gap, Gooners

Rogue Shoreditch - no wonder they closed it (twice)

Rogue Shoreditch - no wonder they closed it (twice)

Some of the more curious objects inside took a little finding. In one corner was a grey metal cone, which on closer inspection was an air raid shelter for one, or maybe at a pinch two (presumably very friendly) London Transport employees. The other was so interesting it warrants its own post, so beyond putting the words Holloway Road Spiral Escalator in as a future link I shall say no more about it.

Air raid shelter for two

Air raid shelter for two

We left, a little giddy after too many doughnuts, and vowed to return for the spring model railway event.

London Transport as far as the eye can see

London Transport as far as the eye can see

Not lost on the Tour d’Afrique

This article appeared in the Autumn 2009 edition of Traveller, and is reproduced with thanks.

Traveller magazine

Traveller magazine

Not lost on the Tour d’Afrique
Tom Hall

What started out as a regular day on a bicycle ride across a continent was suddenly not going according to plan. My speedo told me I was ten, maybe fifteen kilometres past where our bush camp was supposed to be that night. Something in my head told me to ignore my dwindling water and energy supplies, to not turn around and look for the tell-tale pink flagging tape and instead to press on for Maun, our destination the following day. You could call it a mad moment. Everybody else did.

This felt a long way from the water-cooler conversation at Lonely Planet HQ just under a year earlier. On a rainy London day three of us hatched a plan to join the Tour d’Afrique, the 8000 mile (12,000 kilometre) pedal-powered expedition which runs from Cairo to Cape Town every year. Around fifty riders cross nine borders and almost every conceivable terrain and climate (it doesn’t snow much) on the way. I was riding the penultimate stage, riding 1000 miles from Livingstone in Zambia to Windhoek, Namibia’s capital.

Reading the signs for once

Reading the signs for once

Riding I certainly was. Spurred on by a thrill of doing something probably quite stupid a long way from home, I went for it. It worked for a while. I was averaging 22mph (36kmh) which won’t give Lance Armstrong any headaches but was enough for me. But a double puncture when you’ve only got three spare tubes is no laughing matter. The next emergency was water. I needed a lot – it was 45c – and I didn’t have any. A roadside coke stop proved salvation and the man behind the cool-box got a hug and a sweaty handshake while I either drunk or bought his entire stock. He must’ve been pretty pleased as he took the next day off and no-one else saw him. Or perhaps he was a benevolent spirit sent to reward the intrepid and daft.

Twenty kilometres from the end of the ride and dreaming of a cold shower, the ‘pfft!’ of a third puncture left me with one option. After ten hours riding in the heat I was done in. I stuck my arm out and the first truck that passed stopped. How I loved that I was in Africa at that moment! Slightly confused, the driver gestured I should hop in, and phoned ahead to tell his mates he had a very soggy and hot white chap in his pickup. They formed a speechless welcoming party in Maun, silently shaking my hand before I wheeled my bike off towards the hotel.

Bike meets truck: sad end to gloriously silly day

Bike meets truck: sad end to gloriously silly day

The next day, reunited with my fellow cyclists, who found the whole thing hilarious, I was finally able to put some clean clothes on. My bags had done the sensible thing and stayed behind back at bush camp. I wasn’t allowed to forget that it was the travel hack who’d gone missing.* I now know three things: puncture repair kits are not optional, Botswana is a big, hot place and that if you turn a bike around it will still pedal.

*The only other rider who’d gone missing on the Tour was also from Lonely Planet.