Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Another lost railway walk in North London

Last Wednesday evening we set off on this 4 mile country walk in north London. It is nearly all on paths other than a small section in Hendon.

We started from Brent Cross tube and walked to Mill Hill East tube via various parks, a 13th Century church, Sunny Hill (magnificent views), Copthall Fields (once the great park of an old mansion), and a disused railway (Copthall Railway walk). The latter has an interesting history - well those of us who like old railways find it interesting.

A tiny bit of history
The Copthall Railway walk was part of the old Finchley Central to Edgware steam train line constructed in 1872. In the 1930s there was a plan to electrify the line and convert to to a tube (part of the Northern Line). However electrification was completed only as far as Mill Hill East before the plan was abandoned in the 1950s. This is why the Northern line has a odd single track one station spur called the Mill Hill East branch. The remaining line continued to be used for goods trains until the 1960s when the tracks were lifted.

And here is a photo of one of its old railway bridges:

Bury Abbey Gardens...

...was where we were a couple of weeks ago.  And where I took this photo.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Demons of Ghent - a supernatural thriller with intriguing subplots.

I've just finished reading Helen's Grant's latest book - The Demons of Ghent - the second novel in her Silent Spaces Trilogy.  I mainly borrow from my local library, but I decided to buy this one rather than wait for it to appear in the library.

Veerle is now living in Ghent, but finds it hard to settle down to a new school and life with her father and his unsympathetic partner.  She makes friends with Bram, a local boy, who introduces her to his hobby - climbing and exploring the rooftops of Ghent.  He tells her about a local legend involving a old painting, demons on the rooftops and some long undead local citizens

After hearing about several unexplained deaths, Veerle and Bram witness the murder of one of Bram's friends on the rooftops.  As well as danger from whoever or whatever is stalking the streets and rooftops, Veerle's escapades bring her into conflict with her family and also with her boyfriend Kris.

The book is a little slow at the start, but the tension gradually builds to a white knuckle climax.  Veerle's complicated personal life adds another dimension to the plot which keeps the pages turning.

Despite not being quite as good as the first novel in the trilogy (Silent Saturday), this book is a great read for anyone who likes creepy YA fiction with strong characterisation.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Weird rock formations - where and what?

In a later post I will tell you where these pictures were taken and what caused these weird stoney structures.

In the meantime would anyone hazard a guess?  And no, it isn't Easter Island...

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Lost railway walk in North London

This 4.5 mile walk has a rather boring and misleading official title.

It is virtually all off-road but doesn't go through any parks. Instead it follows the routes of two abandoned railways connected by a section through two woods.  It forms London's longest Local Nature Reserve complete with bats, squirrels, wildflowers, butterflies and even the occasional munjac deer.

Uncowed by the forecast of rain, rain, and yet more rain, we set off last Wednesday in glorious evening sunlight.  We encountered overgrown platforms, colourful road bridges, disused stations, abandoned tunnels, dreamy woods, panoramic views and a spooky green man.

Any guesses which walk this is?

Ways to See a Ghost

I have just finished reading Ways to See a Ghost by Emily Diamond.

It is a story about a two teenagers, Gray and Isis, and their interactions with ghosts, UFOs, spirits, clairvoyants and other strange forces.

Is it a ghost story?  Well, sort of.  The main ghost characters - Angel and Mandeville not malevolent.  But there is supernatural evil in the form of a horrible creature that threatens both ghosts and humans.

Along the way, we encounter UFO sightings, seances, a society of fake clairvoyants, and a bunch of avid but nutty UFO hunters

Both Gray and Isis have complicated relationships with their parents and this gives the story an interesting and sometimes funny subplot.

However in some places the writing was too verbose and the pace tended to slow rather than pick up towards the end.

I have given it 3 stars.

Mystery shopper visits opticians

I am thinking of getting new spectacles with the latest Transitions treatment.

The prices at my regular independent opticians are uber-expensive, so this time I'm shopping round.

First stop: supermarket opticians.

It was easy to phone up and get the appointment for the eye test.  The staff were helpful, the basic eye test was OK but not as thorough as my regular one.  The price was £15 compared with £35 at the independent.

They had a good selection of frames, including several rimless, so there were a couple that I would have been happy with.  Pricewise, they are the high myope's best friend as they let you have thin lenses at no extra cost depending on your prescription.  Higher degrees of myopia qualify you for higher index specs and with my prescription I could get the thinnest (1.74 index)  lenses.

The total price for varifocals with my choice of designer frames is £99 all in (or 2 for £157).

The main downside is that you can't pay extra to have transitions or to choose your lens size - I wanted both.  What a shame!

But all was not lost.

The dispensing optician showed me some cycling sunglasses with removable prescription inserts. You can choose darker sunglasses by getting the insert tinted as well. I decided to get two pairs with different tints which should correspond to Class 3 and Class 4 sunnies (£157 for the two). They are expected arrive in a fortnight.

Next Stop:  Internet Opticians

I still want a new pair of varifocals with transitions for indoors and less bright outdoor conditions.

I decided to buy an frame of the same make and model as my current one online and send it off together with an old pair of lenses to an online optician specialising in reglazing.  They claim to be able to get the critical measurements (eg Pupillary Distance etc) from your old specs.

At this stage it looks as the varifocals with transitions from the online optician plus the two pairs of varifocal cycling sunglasses plus eye test from the supermarket opticians will be around half the price of one pair varifocals plus eye test at my regular opticians.

But how will the quality and fit compare?

I will post an update when both sets of specs are received.