Tag Archives: London

The Pinnacle Of Atrophy

Imagine my surprise when, after over a year of inactivity, I saw the cranes towering above the Pinnacle construction site, actually moving, on my morning stroll to work this morning.

As I have reported previously, the Pinnacle is due to be the tallest building within the square mile of the City of London, upon its completion, but building work on the central concrete spine has been stalled at the 7th floor since January of 2012 due to a lack of funding as a consequence of pre-letting contractual terms. Heaven only knows how much the ‘leasing’ of three lumbering giants of cranes, lying static on the site is costing, but it is surely affecting the bottom line of the capital implementation costs.

The giants awake
The giants awake

Yesterday and today, there was visible activity with the behemoth structures, but there did not seem to be any other signs of ‘life’ around the site, so I am dubious as to whether this indicates progress, or merely a twitch prior to deeper sleep. Indeed, there has been nothing in the media recently regarding the recommencement of construction, so I pessimistically suspect the latter.

If people coursing through the streets are the life blood of a city, and the buildings are its muscles, we should certainly be worried about the atrophy in our capital city at the moment. There is some growth, but it is by no means consistent and the amount of stagnation is worrying with unused offices for let a constant reminder of the hard times we are currently experiencing.

It seems the recession is affecting all sorts of areas and nowhere, especially construction and infrastructure is immune from the impact. Investment is needed in these areas to kick start the economy from its current flatlining though, and the sooner the Government releases supply side reforms and demand side incentives, the better.

Mini Bridges Run

There are many runs that I used to love doing, especially around the City of London.

Indeed, if you accept that you have to run in order to train, etc., that the easiest and most convenient time to run is a lunchtime, and also that this means running on streets., there are little places better, IMHO, than London.

Bridges over the Thames
Bridges over the Thames

There is just so much variety to experience, if you look for it, of course, and every day you could run a different route.

Runners tend to be creatures of habit to a certain extent though and I’m really no different in that respect. I guess there is comfort in running the same routes so you can concentrate of technique and performance rather than city navigation and urban map reading skills. Still, having been running in the City for the last 7 years at least, I have huge variety of routes at my disposal, depending upon my mood or distance to run, although one of the things it is always easy to do is to add distance as necessary!

The variety comes from the huge range of ages of buildings and eras captured in the Capital. Sure somewhere like Rome might have a greater range, and New York Higher buildings, and perhaps Paris comes close in terms of different epochs represented in such a relatively small area. That is why London is so popular, that, and of course the cosmopolitan people that represent the city as well.

Anyway, I digress.

One of my favourite runs in the past was to take in as many bridges as possible down the Thames, starting at Tower Bridge and moving west on whichever bank is appropriate to and then swapping after crossing at the next bridge along – Tower Bridge past the Tower of London, London Bridge past the Shard on one side and The Golden Hinde on the other, Southwark Bridge, Millennium Bridge past the Tate Modern and St Pauls, Blackfriars Bridge where the new station is being built and Waterloo Bridge after passing the South Bank, National Festival Hall. This was my route today but in the past, and hopefully in the future I would also take in Hungerford Bridge, near Somerset House, and Westminster Bridge after the London Eye and with the classical view of the Houses of Parliament, before turning back and performing the whole route in a style which resembles a DNA double helix ladder from the GPS plots of the route.

As my pace improves I will be able to cover greater distances in a lunchtime, but even now, the pleasure quotient is rising rapidly, as my running slowly becomes easier again and I have less difficulty on each run remembering why I subject myself to the tourists, wind chill and hard surfaces

Architecture Update

When I was running round the streets of London at lunchtime today, I realised I had been remiss in updating my avid readers (both of them), on the current situation with the architectural renaissance that is occurring in the City of London at the moment.

In the past I have written about the Pinnacle, the Cheesegrater, the Walkie-Talkie or Pint, amongst others, which will shortly be joining the now famous Gherkin and the more recently completed Heron Tower, Bishopsgate Tower and the Shard which have significantly altered the London skyline over the last 10 years or so.

My pace run today took me past all of the above, whilst also taking me around and over some of the more traditional London landmarks such as Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral and even a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde. When I am totally grumpy with having to commute to work, I simply have to remind myself how lucky I am to be able to run around so many historic sites everyday.

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My run was actually really good – the training with a backpack and on the hills, must be having a good impact since I am thankfully starting to find it easier to add a little pace into my runs. I actually managed to kick out a few kms at an average of 4:15 with which I was more than happy.

The buildings that are being worked on have been taking shape nicely.

The Cheesegrater or 122 Leadenhall has a distinctive wedge shaped design facing south to the Thames, and is right next to the Lloyds of London building. This building is unusual in its construction for the present in that most steel buildings have central concrete cores around which the steelwork is built, but the Cheesegrater is a ‘megaframe’ construction, and will be the largest of its kind in the world and it will also feature exterior glass lifts like those on the Lloyds building. The building is progressing well, and ‘topping out’ is expected shortly. The builder has also started the glass cladding on the lower floors.

The same level of success cannot be claimed for the Pinnacle, construction of which has now been stalled for nearly a year due to a lack of pre-letting arrangements. This problem seems to have been resolved recently and work will ‘potentially’ resume shortly. The distinctive spiral form of the Pinnacle will dominate the London skyline, upon its completion, as the tallest building in the City of London, and the second tallest in both The UK and the European Union, after the Shard.

In what seems to be the fickle world of commercial real estate ‘the Pint’, ‘Walkie-Talkie’ or 20 Fenchurch Street, is also progressing well. Topping out of the metal framework was completed in Dec 2012 and the glass cladding is now over half way up the 36 floor construction the novel design of which by the Uraguan architect, Rafael Viñoly is denoted by the top floors having more area than those lower down, although this is probably because the upper floors, with their better views over the Thames, will command a significantly higher lease rate.

The Shard, in Tooley Street south of the Thames close to London Bridge, was inaugurated on the 5 July 2012, but will open to the public shortly (Feb 2013) when the viewing gallery between the 68th and 72nd floors will afford spectacular views over London – sounds like one for the diary.

Passing the Baton

All my current posts seem to have a sporting theme. I wonder why 🙂

This morning was a bit strange, since from what I can gather there seems to be some minor sporting event going on about 4 miles east of where I work in Liverpool street, London, and I consequently decided to try miss the predicted rush of tourists and sporting enthusiasts, with their noses in their guide books and underground maps, by getting a head start on the train.

Waterloo & City Line

However, in complete contrast to the anticipated trauma, it was probably the easiest journey I’ve ever had!

I’m not sure it was that much quieter, but the volume of people was obviously just below a certain critical threshold level so as to make everyone far more relaxed and chilled out, or perhaps it was that we were all still half asleep 😉 Either way, there wasn’t the usual pushing, jostling, shoving and general loss of dignity which most commuters, if they thought about it, would be ashamed to admit they are part, every workday of the year.

So having reached work in a far more relaxed state, I was then confronted with a handover to my manager, Marco, which I had prepared, but strangely he was less interested in some of the things that I thought were important (and vice versa!) – The handover was interrupted abruptly by some problems in the systems (I can see the headlines tomorrow ‘More woes for British Banks as IT systems fail again’) athough it ended up not being a major issue.

East End Running

The last day of my trials as the ‘man in-charge’ of business systems at work, and with it being Friday I made time for a run at lunchtime, and after a final debrief of what is effectively our CIO, I was ready for it!

I had bumped into a colleague, Nigel, earlier in the week and we had exchanged some emails about a run on Friday, after the stiflingly hot weather at the beginning of the week, but we had not made any firm arrangements.

Victoria Park

As luck would have it, I was just about to pop upstairs from the gym, when I met him and so we quickly arranged an impromptu run as he explained he was meeting his brother who works locally. By the time my watch had struggled to pick up the satellites in the building surrounded confines of Exchange Square, Nigel was bounding up the stairs to meet me.

We went through Spitalfields to meet his brother, Blair, and then took a new route, across Brick Lane and through a couple of parks, that I was desperately trying to memorise, before we popped out on Bethnal Green Road, just a few hundred metres from Victoria Park. We chatted as we ran along, relatively gently, and the subject inevitably turned to the Olympics and the starting ceremony which was starting at 9pm in the evening. Blair had apparently been invited to the preview for the opening, a sort of full scale dress rehearsal, as he is associated with the audio and video industry, making shorts movies and mood music. Although he was clearly nervous to discuss the detail at any length (many of the participants have had to sign what in effect is a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements, such is the secrecy surrounding the opening display) he did confess is was going to be a great show and worth watching.

So, fast forward to 9pm, the children were getting tired but we had decided this was too good an opportunity for them and one which they could not miss, but not knowing what the ceremony would encompass, I was unsure as to whether it would capture their attention.

I need not have worried.

Olympic Cauldron 2012

In the end the show had something for everyone and kept their attention for hours with a simple display of the ‘best of British’ – a stunning set piece to start with depicting the change of Britain from a ‘green and pleasant land to the industrial revolution with the introduction of the Olympic rings coming together from molten metal. Then there was British music from the 60 to the present day, comedy and humour from Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean and Daniel Craig as James Bond with an unbelievable cameo from the Queen herself, children’s literature with J.K.Rowling reading from J.M.Barrie’s Peter Pan, and dancing along with a final nod to British technical genius in the digital and social media age, with the introduction of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the CERN scientist who invented the world wide web back in 1989. There were a few moments of reflection before the athletes entered, which the children enjoyed watching as they spotted the colourful flags and cosmopolitan attire of the competitors as they paraded around the stadium.

The final crowning glory was the lighting of the ‘cauldron’ from the torch which had travelled more than 3000 miles on it’s journey around Britain, but which was subsequently the subject of intense speculation as to who would actually take it on it’s final journey. David Beckham? Steve Redgrave? Kelly Holmes? All were there towards the end, but nobody could have predicted the torch being symbolically passed to seven young athletes; the next generation, who then, after one more lap of the stadium, lit the ‘petals’ of the cauldron, all 204 of which had been carried in by each of the teams competing in the games, but which were ‘brought together’ to form a huge sculpture of fire. A stunning idea, brilliantly designed and wonderfully executed.

In the end some of the sentiment would have been lost on some of the foreign audiences (the NHS?) but it was certainly a celebration of everything it means to be, and what makes us proud to be, British.

 

Warming Up

My last day at work for a few days, and a quick (short) run run planned.

Wednesday’s is normally my day for a pace or interval run and lunchtime was my only chance today.

At the beginning of the year we had a period of unseasonably mild weather, which the whole country enjoyed, with the exception of the the local water authorities, who, when the weather finally took a turn for the worse, declared the inevitable drought condition and hosepipe ban. The weather has been pretty non-descript ever since, being sometimes grey, sometimes drizzle and sometimes rain.

Heat wave in the City

The British are very accepting of the weather and the climate in general, so there haven’t really been any complaints about the fact it is nearly the end of May, nearly the start of summer and yet the temperatures are still as one might have expected for several months earlier, the occasional morning frosts and the central heating still kicking in to remind us how accustomed we have become, as a race in general, to the control and invariability of our climate requirements. People at work have not started complaining about the public transport saunas they would normally be using to travel to work at this time of year, or the fact they have still been wearing overcoats, well past the time of their consignment to the back of a wardrobe.

So, although the marble steps and water feature adorning Exchange Square were suddenly full of people bathing in the rays of our nearest stellar companion today, I was distracted enough to not think about the consequences of a pace run under such conditions.

Until I stepped onto the street

Maybe because I had run the day before, and maybe because of the sudden quantum leap in temperature, I felt heavy legged and sluggish today. Indeed, compared to the exuberance of my pace run a week ago, along a similar route, I felt like a different person.

The rest of the populous seemed to be sensibly enjoying ice cold, wheat and barley derived beverages in the local drinking establishments around the periphery of Exchange Square, so perhaps summer is finally here, but either way I’ll have to use the opportunities as they arise and take a lot more of this ‘punishment’ before I hit the desert next year 😉

Pre-Op

As Liz has her operation booked in for next Thursday, we had a pre-op discussion planed for today.

Or so we thought.

When we originally spoke to David Ward in the Royal Surrey a month or more back he said that they do the PFO closure operations in ‘batches’. Presumably this make sense not only economically, as the overheads with having the right equipment and staff available are less, but the risk aspects are also minimised by carrying out repetitive procedures which staff will be familiar with. He also said that they carry them out on a Thursday towards the end of the month and that Liz would be booked in for either April or May.

St Georges, London

A few weeks back, as the end of April was approaching and we still had no date for the procedure, Liz phone to discuss with the admission people at St George’s, at which point they confirmed, as we had begun to suspect, that the end of May was a more likely candidate. The gent she spoke to said she was on the system and booked in for the procedure on the 24 May and that the pre-op would be the 18 May, to do ECG and blood pressure, and discuss the finer detail of the procedure with the consultant. He said he would follow up with paperwork

Some weeks after the call, Liz had searched for the paperwork, but couldn’t find it and we assumed we had lost it.

So this morning we duly travelled up to just past Wimbledon, leaving at around 8:30 as our friend Natasha was kindly taking the children to school. The journey was on the whole quite simple, but I took a wrong turn at one point, or rather I didn’t turn off the A3 soon enough. Still, on this occasion there was no stress as we had plenty of time, so the dress rehearsal, was not to be entirely wasted.

We found our way to the hospital, and the right annex, in plenty of time and even afforded ourselves the luxury of a coffee before going to the appointment.

When we arrived at reception though, we were met with blank faces.

There was a predictable rushing around of staff trying to determine what had happened to our 10:00am appointment booking, and we suddenly found ourselves not in a pre-op clinic, but the administration room where the booking should originally have been registered.

I have to say, and I’m sure Liz would agree, they were very helpful, apologetic and caring all at the same time; Liz’s worst case expectation was that she would have to wait for another month, but they explained that would not be the case as she was still booked in for the 24th May.

In the end they said they would carry out the checks on the morning of the procedure, so the journey ended up being predominantly to find the place and see what the traffic was like.

Not a very auspicious start to the whole process, but a start, nonetheless.

Caffeine and Pace

For the last 15 months or so, I’ve been largely caffeine free.

In an attempt to give my leg the best possible chance of healing, I forsook caffeine in coffee and tea, choosing instead to drink decaf coffee and rooibos tea, the naturally decaffeinated tea which originates from South Africa. On occasions I have had the odd double espresso after a meal, and of course I’ve not given up chocolate by any means, but these have been the exception rather than the rule.

Caffeine

So imagine, if you will, the effect of a couple of full strength coffees on a pace run I had today.

I am still feeling a bit blocked up, so decided I needed a bit of a perk up this morning after getting into the City and it certainly worked.

London is filled with small coffee shops, Pret a Manger, Pod, Eat, Cafe Nero, Starbucks, Costa’s, plus any number of small independent shops – it is clearly a lucrative business to feed the City’s habit of morning stimulant. I don’t normally have to worry about frequenting them though, as our restaurant and coffee bar normally provision adequately for my needs. Still, you never know what you’ve got, until it’s gone, and as both are closed for the Bank’s annual meeting, for the last week I’ve been experimenting with the local drug establishments, but still getting decaf as a preference.

I had a large coffee from Pret first thing, with my croissant followed by another from rival Pod a couple of hours later.

When I got down to the gym I was still feeling a touch congested, and it had not even crossed my mind that I had been imbibing hard stimulants all morning. The weather was good, but my mind was such that I only decided to go outside at the last minute, deferring from my planned treadmill interval session to get some fresh air along the Regent’s Canal.

As I started out I tried to get things moving as quickly as possible, warming up for the first km with a view to doing a faster 4km before a cool down final km back to the gym. My watch beeped all too soon though and as I glanced down I was pleased with the 4:45 recorded for my first lap as I sped up for the real test.

Then the surprise really happened, 4:15 as I picked up the canal, 4:14 for the third km, feeling the strain, but still not maxed out. I took the prudent course at this point and slowed marginally for a couple of minutes as a recovery, so the next beep indicated 4:34 as I sped up again on my way back through Hackney and Hoxton to record 4:10 with the last cool down km being 4:28.

Now, I know these are not particularly fast pace times, indeed, I will be looking to attain this as the norm, rather than the exception in a few months time. Even so, the surprise was that in my semi-depleted, blocked up state, I was able to run at this pace at all, let alone without bursting a blood vessel.

It was only much later that I realised the probable, caffeine related reasoning behind my sudden performance increase.

Performance enhancing indeed!

At The Pinnacle

One of the (many) advantages of coming to London every day is that one gets to see the skyline as it metamorphoses itself into a new form.

Slowly, and almost imperceptibly over the last few years the skyline has been changing after the easing of the height restrictions in 1938 (which nevertheless still tried to maintain historic views and hence became know as St Paul’s heights) new edifices have sprung up to replace the older crumbling buildings. Through necessity and an almost insatiable demand for office space within the Square mile of the City, architects have fallen over themselves to produce buildings to dominate the skyline into the 21st Century.

St Paul’s Cathedral, finished in 1710 after the old cathedral was burned down in the great fire of London (1666) remained the tallest building in London for over 250 years, until eclipsed by the BT Tower in 1962. This was followed shortly after by Centre Point in 1966 and then Tower 42 (Natwest Tower) in 1980. During the development of Canary Wharf, One Canada Square took over the mantle of the highest building in London and the UK in 1991.

Over the last few years, since opening in 2004, the now iconic Gherkin (30, St. Mary Axe) has heralded in a new era of building construction, some more conventional than others, but all fundamentally modern designs. These include Broadgate Tower (2008) and Heron Tower (2011) which is currently the tallest building in the City of London.

Currently under construction are 2 notable buildings including The Shard which at 310m (1017ft) will become the tallest building in the EU when opened this year, and The Pinnacle, which I pass every day on my walk from Bank to Liverpool Street along Threadneedle street, which in 2014 at 288m (945ft) will become the highest in the City of London.

So that was my walk to work today! It is quite interesting to see how they push up the floors on the Pinnacle; I haven’t worked out how long each floor of the concrete ‘spine’ is taking them at the moment, but it is not more than a couple of weeks each. I’m sure you’ll hear more about this over the next few months.

On the Positive Side

At least this time the trains were running on time.

After six years, I had finally got a place in the London Marathon AND managed not to have to defer or cancel through illness or injury. Just.

I am convinced 90% of the battle with racing is actually getting to the start line, and this I achieved, albeit with a reduced level of confidence in my ability due to a foot problem I had picked up 3 weeks previously (see ‘The final days’). So although not in perfect form and having had three weeks without any form of training to speak of, I was at least on my way to line up at the start.

John on Blackheath

I met up with John at Guildford station and we had little trouble with the trains, unlike Reading, and after a rather cramped journey from Waterloo East to Blackheath, we walked up to the top of the hill and were presented with the Virgin marketing machine – chalk one up for Richard Branson (who was running on the day) from the array of tethered balloons to the largest banner I’ve ever seen being towed behind, or rather dangled beneath, a helicopter, roaming sedately amongst the many airborne television crews over Blackheath. ATC nightmare, I thought.

John was to start at the ‘Red’ start and I at the ‘Blue’ start so we parted with wishes of good luck and went our separate ways.  It was about this point, at about 9:00am just after the women’s race had started and with the men’s and mass race due to commence at 9:45am, that it began to rain.  Genuinely, I considered that this would be useful to stifle the predicted heat although later in the race would be better, but as the downpour got harder as I made my way through to the competitor start area, I began to regret not bringing a waterproof, or even a bin liner.  Make a mental note for next time….

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