My local Tube is 125 Years Old

I am intensely fascinated by the Tube, otherwise known as the London Underground – for those that haven’t had the pleasure.

Pleasure may not be quite the right word. Londoners whinge about it all the time. It is true that it can be unpleasant to have your face shoved under someones armpit, crammed in like cattle, whilst clenching every muscle possible to ensure you don’t (god forbid), touch someone else. Peak hour travel can be testing. Especially in summer, as Brits are not always too flash on the showering every day thing, or deodorants… but that’s another story.

I learned yesterday, on a trip to the London Transport Museum (yes I really am that nerdy), that Borough Tube station, my local Tube, had it’s first lift installed in 1890. That makes it 125 years old. And it’s deep – 102 steps down. I actually went there today to take another look, it’s around 5 storeys as far as I can work out.

Borough Tube Stairs

And get this – the original tube lines were dug – get this – BY HAND. Yes, guys down a very deep hole, with shovels. Amazeballs.

The original Tube lines weren’t actually tunnels, but were created by basically digging a ditch, and then covering the top. The first of what would become the Tube was opened in 1863, with the ditch method.  The problem was that they kept hitting too much of London, like pipes, and foundations and all sorts. So they came up with the great idea of putting the tunnels deeper – called deep-level tube lines. Borough is on the Northern Line, which is the oldest part of the deep-level tube.

Train arriving Borough Tube

Borough Platform Today

The original tunnels were updated in 1920, so they are not the exact same tunnels as were originally dug. But they are pretty close – and the station is still basically the same, with updated lifts and trimmings.

Despite it sometimes getting a bad rap from Londoners, the Tube is undeniably an efficient transport system. Yes, yes, I know the Japanese have bullet trains and there are super fast networks in other places – blah blah. But the Tube is somehow cool, in that it has moulded itself into this ancient city.  It is such a part of London life, most people never really stop to think about it. Londoners spend a good part of their time, their lives, travelling underground on the Tube – over the past year 1.34 billion journeys were taken on the network. It kind of astounds me that there is this huge network of tunnels, with trains buzzing around, below us all day every day.

It just seems to me to be an amazing example of human ingenuity and adaptiveness. And somehow, in our modern world we seem to think that amazing things are done with technology. There is no doubt that new technology, in terms of engineering technology taken from the mining industry, was used in building the Tube, even back in the 1800’s. But there is something special, maybe even a little bit magical, in that the bulk of the work was done by people power, and not machines.

It gives me faith in what humans are capable of. Like anything is possible.

If you want an insight into what life might have been like in when the Tube was being built in London, check out The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. Great read.

Walk In Her Shoes : Day 5

Day 5 was a beautiful walk along Oxford Canal. I walked 19.88kms – and am now up to 88.45 k’s in total – yay!

It was a beautiful afternoon for walking yesterday. I headed off straight from the bus, up the Oxford Canal towards where I used to live. Was a real trip down memory lane, and with the sun out, the canal and it’s community were all smiling.


The canal was certainly showing of English country living at it’s best…


It was sooo good to get the lungs filled with some truly fresh air. I didn’t realise how much I had been missing green space and beauty in London. It was just magical walking through these idyllic scenes.




Had some lovely stops behind the bridges and locks.


I walked a good long distance, and then decided it was time to head back, as the sun began to set.


Was a brilliant walk. It has really reminded me how much I love to be out there walking through this beautiful world that we live in. Will be back out there somewhere in a few hours – looks like I might hit the 100km mark today!

If you would like to donate to CARE Australia, my fundraising page is here.

Walking 100km next week… would love your support!

Like many of us, I have been watching the unfolding Syrian Refuges Crisis and thinking: “What can I do to help?”

I’ve decided to walk 100km the Walk in Her Shoes challenge from 8 to 14 March 2016.  I hope to raise AUD$5000.

It’s my 43rd birthday on 15th March 2016. According to Douglas Adams, 42 should be The Answer. It doesn’t seem to have materialised yet. We’ll see what 43 brings.

So from Tuesday, I’ll be aiming to walk a minimum of 15km every day for a week. I’ll be doing this as well as working, so will be a bit tough, but I’m sure will also be rewarding. London is an amazing city to walk around, so although my legs may feel it a bit, it’ll be with it on many levels. And of course, it’s not like I’m walking to collect water for my own survival, which so many people have to do on a daily basis.  I’ll be walking to support Syrian refugees and women and girls who have to walk an average of 6km every day to collect water and food and firewood in developing countries.


All I ask is for you to donate the cost of a birthday card. And maybe we can all do something real to help.

Almost 11 million people are in need inside Syria and a further three million have been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.

Women and children make up three-quarters of the refugee population.

Care Australia do great work supporting the Syrian refugees, you can read about all their great work here.

You can donate on my fundraising page here.


It’s Hot in London

It was 33 degrees on Wednesday. In London terms – that’s Armageddon.

Tube Hot Weather

I am now sitting in a pub, drinking a cold beer. This is the current status.

Sunny 21People are sitting here in shorts (with very white, skinny legs on show), wiping their brow and trying not to faint.

This is somehow even more amusing, because I was recently in Alicante, Spain, where the temperature rarely got below 30 degrees. The average bar was filled with at least as many Brits as this pub currently is, mixed in with few Germans and Russians.

You can tell the Brits a mile off. When the Brits turn up at the beach, they strip off their clothes with reckless abandon, and run towards the brightness. There is no thought to body grooming ahead of this plan. I mean – why bother to cut your toenails? Your feet have been in shoes for 10 months, and never seen the light of day, so I’m sure they look great.

And then they get confused. This sun thing – it’s hot. It burns. It’s all very confusing.

So they lie in the brightness all day, all the time refusing to acknowledge that the sun is very very hot, and burning them. They then stagger to the bar with 3rd degree burns.

Which beggars the question. Why then, as soon as it inches above 20 degrees in London – do they run back to the dark corners of the pub, like cockroaches?

I’ve worked it out. Brits like brightness – not hotness. They are all for sitting in the twilight until 10pm drinking their beer. No worry that it is only 10 degrees outside – that is not the point. Let There Be Light.

Put them in The Tube, with other people very close to them (God forbid), and a temperature where they may need to take their jacket off… well I’m sure you can imagine. It’s not pretty.

But with their stiff upper lip reserve, and their absolute commitment to being strong, and resolute, and showing no emotion whatsoever – I’m sure they’ll see it through.

They’re a tough bunch. They may be confused, disorientated by ‘the heat’ and without their bottle of water – but they will never let on. They will stagger to their pub, where the beer is good and their friends are waiting, engage in witty repartee, and regroup to face the world.

keep calm beer


The Adventure Begins

London is huge. It’s like a country unto itself, mini-cities within a city. Every corner has it’s own story. Like a never ending jewellery box to explore. Tiny pieces of beauty, telling a story.

On my first day, Peter Pan leapt out as I rounded a corner, transforming an otherwise ordinary building into a trip to Neverland.


The next day, on Oxford Street, this happened:

You never know what you are going to get. The first couple of weeks I was staying in Pimlico. The walk home from Tottenham Court Road had some nice treasures.

IMG_0602 IMG_0609 IMG_0610

I’m now in Borough, and can walk home in 40 minutes, across the Thames.


Spring is here, with daffodils, and spring blossoms everywhere.


Last night, I had a drink at the Royal Festival Hall – just a 15 minute walk from home. The sun was out, a beautiful Spring evening, with joy everywhere…

A whole fresh weekend ahead. More treasures to find, and joy to be had. As it said over a pub door, my first night in London:


The Next Adventure: London Baby!

In less than two weeks I will be off to London.

The Balcony Garden has been disassembled, and plants distributed to various family gardens. I am surrounded by boxes, and have a very long To Do list. It’s all very exciting.

I have visions of writing about my new adventures here, in this blog. For those of you who know me well, those adventures are likely to involve getting lost, tripping over my own feet and spilling red wine at inappropriate moments. If this sounds like something you are interested in hearing about – you can follow this blog by subscribing to receive email updates, or by following the blog page on Facebook, or me on Twitter.

I will try to squeeze in some hill scaling and exotic weekends away to keep it interesting.

London, here we come…


Climbing Thursday

I think Thursdays might be becoming my favourite night of the week.

Indoor rock climbing after work, with good folk. Home in time for a summer dessert treat (Frosty Fruit is the current favourite), a little Star Trek, warm shower – and finishing up with some good Deep Heat action.

The thing is, nothing really beats a little natural adrenaline – well not for me anyway. Some people’s buzz of choice is substance induced, drugs or alcohol*, for others its the endorphins from a long run, swim or bike ride. Some even get a buzz from buying new stuff. Or dosing up on sugar. But for me – I need a little fear.

I love travelling. But what I really love, is the buzz of walking out into a city I’ve never been to before. The thrill of being somewhere completely foreign, where you can’t even understand what is being spoken, or read the street signs. The excitement of finding out what is around the corner, a corner you’ve never seen before.

It is scary. What you find is not always good. Its not always interesting. But its new.

I love the scary.

Indoor rock climbing is pretty tame as far as adventures are concerned. You are inside for one thing. You don’t even have to worry about the weather. You are strapped in and safe. You have to try pretty hard to really hurt yourself.

But you are climbing up a wall. And there is something instinctive about being 20 feet off the ground that gets the heart racing. Throw in a few overhangs, the feeling of your foot slipping – hanging from one arm trying desperately to reach the next hold… and you have it. That natural little adrenaline rush, that makes you know you’re alive.

And it doesn’t give you a hangover, or make you fat, or hurt your budget.

In fact, its kind of good for you. Works the muscles and all that. And thinking through a climb is kind of like doing a puzzle with your body. Good for the brain.

Thursdays. The day before Friday, with a little adrenaline thrown in.


*Ok – I’m a little partial to the alcohol. Just a little.

Adventure Ready

I’m ready for adventure – literally. I’ve just removed six leeches from my legs after completing a 15 kilometre (undulating…) walk with a 16kg pack – and I feel good.

Even though I have been training to ready myself for walking the Jatbula Trail, which means training up to carry a full pack weight, I wasn’t actually sure I would be feeling good right now. Today was the assessment walk for our little group, and I was nervous when I set out this morning. I had walked with 16kg during training – but not for six hours.

In true adventure style – it rained for a good chunk of our walk. My feet were soaked. Leeches were everywhere. But it was great. Maybe even awesome.

The bush smells beautiful in the rain. The birds were singing. The water balanced on the leaves, sparkling in the light.

My legs are tired, but good tired. My shoulders aren’t sore and I have no major blisters. And the leeches – well they were truly gross. But I walked my 15 kilometres with my full pack – and now I truly feel ready for adventure.

Can’t wait for Jatbula… and the rest…

The World is more fun from a Tuk-tuk

I’ve been home from Cambodia a week, and in my head I’m still riding around in a tuk-tuk.

Tuk-tuk is actually the Thai word for a car without walls (or so I’ve been told), but it seems to have been adopted in Cambodia. In Cambodia they are really a carriage of sorts, designed for passengers and attached to the back of a motor bike. Tuk-tuks are mainly used for taxis, and their users can unhitch the carriage when they just want to use their motor bike.

Each owner decorates their tuk-tuk differently – which is partly to help you identify your tuk-tuk driver in a crowd (they often wait for passengers for the return trip after dropping them off), but is also simply an expression of the owners’ taste. The tuk-tuk’s in Cambodia were impressively clean and well cared for, and the variety in decoration and colour was impressive.

The thing about Tuk-tuks is, they are great fun to travel around in. You really feel like you are riding, fresh air blowing against your skin, wizzing around amongst the traffic. Years ago I had a Suzuki Vitara softop with no roof, and minimal walls. Ah – those were the days. I miss it still.

You see, when you travel around without walls (or a roof, or neither), you actually feel like you are there. You are in the place you are travelling through, not locked up in a little bubble looking out at it. You can reach out and touch the world as you pass (especially in Cambodia, the world passes particularly closely), hear all the sounds and smell the life around you.

Not only that, it is a communal experience. Everyone is out travelling along together. Seeing someone you know pass in a tuk-tuk feels very different to seeing them pass in a sealed air conditioned car.

Part of me wishes that tuk-tuks would take off in Australia, so I could go wizzing about in them here. But I fear the Health and Safety nuts will never let that happen.

It seems I will just have to keep planning overseas adventures, and enjoy tuk-tuks in their natural habitat – swarming smiling Asian cities.