Visiting the National Gallery

Visiting the National Gallery during this pandemic is, somewhat perversely, something I’ve been wanting to do ever since I saw a tweet from someone I follow who was one of the earliest visitors after the doors reopened and the new system was in place.

The system for limiting numbers and following a one way system is necessary to enable galleries like this one to reopen. Although they are large spaces, they can be tricky to navigate and – possibly even by design – allow the visitor to get lost in a reverie and wander the halls for hours. This sort of flaneuring is incompatible with the Covid world, and one way systems are now found everywhere from supermarkets to art galleries.

The National Gallery is still free to visit, and access is still reasonably easy, albeit via an online ticketing system. Those wishing to remain anonymous might wish to utilise a burner email account, and I’m not sure if there is a satisfactory offline system for those who find the online world daunting or unusable.

Entry is simple enough – I ran there, actually, and was a few minutes late. There was a small holding queue around the corner from the entrance and I assume this was for the next batch of visitors; when I told the guard my time slot and apologised for being a few minutes late, he happily waved me through and I walked straight in. Just inside, I scanned my QR code for the NHS app, and I was waved inside by another bank of security guards who had no desire to see inside my running backpack, thankyouverymuch.

Inside the main (Salisbury wing) entrance, a lady asked if I was here to see “the exhibition”, which threw me a little, but she probably meant the paid-for/ticketed one. No, I said, I was planning to follow route B. Hearing this, she gave me some slightly convoluted directions.

For a gallery with a tricky layout like the National, they have devised three lettered routes for visitors to follow, which means deciding between a greatest hits of artists. There’s no bad route to follow, in fairness – though I must admit I was a bit daunted by the choices and  a bit like a kid choosing between different Now! compilations, I didn’t know if I wanted the one with Michelangelo and Raphael, the one with Van Gogh, Rubens and Pissarro, or the one with Holbein and Canaletto.

(It turns out that routes B and C actually overlap, so you get some Monet and Seurat and co whichever you choose.)

I went with route B, and wasn’t disappointed. I can’t remember if the gallery is deliberately laid out in chronological order, but this route certainly is. (There is a chuckle-worthy sign near the loos on the way in which riffs on this, kindly informing you that the next toilets are 700 years away, e.g. at the other end of the gallery by the exit.)

The gallery did, indeed, feel quite empty. I don’t tend to make a bee-line for institutions like this at times when they are normally busy – a sunny Saturday afternoon in Trafalgar Square and you’ll find me far, far away. But a rainy Monday afternoon in a pandemic with enforced restrictions on visitor numbers? Bliss.

I found that some of the curators seemed quite keen to give impromptu explanations of this painting or that. I’m not sure if they’re normally this chatty, but it caught me off-guard and I somewhat ashamedly found myself mentally rehearsing what I’d do if one of them sidled up to me and asked me if I wanted to know more about this Rubens painting. What am I going to say, “no”? Such are the trials of the introverted gallery-goer.

Most people were doing as they were told. Arrow signage on the floor was subtle but useful. The curators that weren’t spouting off wisdom were doing the other thing they not-so-secretly love: quietly telling visitors what to do. In this case, it was almost always asking them to put their damn masks on properly. Too right. Most people I see in London are doing this fairly well, but I’m regularly left frustrated by the amount I see who have gone to the effort of putting a mask on, only for it to hang below one or more of the few holes in their head it’s designed to cover.

Art-wise, I found myself gravitating towards the landscapes, and paintings featuring architecture. I can only take so many religious allegories or portraits of dead rich people. Show me a photo-realistic streetscape with sunlight glancing off stonework, or a sea of roofs punctuated by smoking chimneys and I am away, floating off into a daydream as close to time travel as I can get.

I recently updated the screensaver images on my Fire stick so that it shows a slideshow of photographs we’ve taken over the years. I also added about fifteen artworks from a little list I keep when visiting galleries. It was nice visiting the National Gallery today, knowing that a few of the images that now grace my TV screen while it’s idling are on show here. But of course most of the time they are much larger in real-life than on a 40″ screen.

And that’s part of the joy of coming to an art gallery. Not just the sheer variety and quantity of what’s on show, but the physicality of each individual, unique object. These are not prints or facsimiles: each one is the final, painted, physical, three-dimensional object. This is, of course, obvious. But it’s worth reminding oneself of this simple fact. The way the light plays off the brush-strokes set hard all those years ago. The vastness of some of the canvasses and the logistics involved in not just framing it or moving it from one building to another but even painting the damn thing. It’s amazing.

And of course the final piece of the art gallery package is the space itself, particularly one as large as the National Gallery. Huge long halls create vistas and focal points in and of themselves; the art hanging on their walls suddenly playing second fiddle. The high ceilings and the inimitable ambience of hushed voices and shuffling footsteps, occasionally interrupted by a clipping heel or a voice suddenly coming out louder than one expects which reminds everyone how quiet it has been up to that point. That subtle atmosphere that can only be conjured by a congregation of bodies in a space has become a rare sensation in 2020.

My visit to the National Gallery today was much-needed, partly to top myself up on some art and a visit to a London institution (to remind myself they’re there). But also to show me with my own eyes how the world works now. I’m glad places like this have made it work so well. Not everywhere can.

London LOOP section 19: Chingford to Chigwell

With not too many sections of the London LOOP left to walk, it continues to be tempting to walk two – sometimes even three – in one day. The sections often seem to agree with this notion, and even promote it: certain shorter sections feel like a small hop from one place to another, bookended where they are simply by nature of the public transport connections at either end.

We had been tempted to lump section 19 onto section 20 and section 21, making a grand total of 25km or so. Not a short walk by any means, but very much doable in a day (while also bearing in mind the need to get from north West London to rural Essex and back to even start the walk).

But this walk was to take place in the days following a return from twelve days of camping and cycling in Cornwall – of which more in a separate post – and so we decided to keep it simple and do just section 19: a nice, friendly 7km tromp from Chingford to Chigwell.

Having made our way back to Chingford – a slightly easier ride this time as our return home from this point last time included a rail replacement bus service – we made for Epping Forest, at this point a large open expanse of green stretching up to hills in the distance. It’s reminiscent of Hampstead Heath, and not just because of the City of London Corporation signs denoting the owner and maintainer of this space.

A few hundred metres into the walk took us up a short rise to Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, a Tudor timbered building – with walls oddly whitewashed to cover the exposed timbers as well.

We’d visited this part of Epping Forest before – the hunting lodge was closed today so I was glad we had already explored it on that previous occasion. I remember being caught by the imagination of what this hunting lodge must have overlooked in centuries past, with royalty leaving London way off in the distance to come out to open country and hunt deer and whatever else. I think it had been a misty winter’s day that time, and it all added to the romance of the images being conjured in my head. The plastic food on the exemplary dinner table and the Tudor costumes for kids to play dress-up definitely helped. But just being able to enter a building of that age and in that setting and climb the stairs to look out over land that really hasn’t changed much in 500 years is… Quite something.

On this day, of course, the lodge was closed. But with the sun shining and a summer breeze, the green spaces all around were full of picnicking families and children flying kites. The nearby carvery pub was doing a brisk trade, and in keeping with the laid-back attitude to this section of the London LOOP, it felt only fitting to pause less than a kilometre into the walk to have a pub lunch washed down with some real ale.

Suitably refreshed, we left the pub garden and it’s attendant child-scaring wasps behind and started out on the remainder of our walk.

Back along grass paths we followed a shallow rise in the land, first crossing a dip and small brook – the river Ching, apparently, marking the boundary where we crossed from the London Borough of Waltham Forest into Essex.

Ahead of us lay a pleasant section of grassy paths weaving in and out of mature woodland. This part took us up to a small collection of quite large houses at Buckhurst Hill, where we had to refer to an OS map a few times to truly understand where we were supposed to be heading.

The London LOOP is like this: you’ll often find yourself spat out from a lovely bit of parkland into a built-up area, having now to follow little green signs rather than your own intuition.

Here at Buckhurst Hill, however, signs were lacking. The path took us down a narrow driveway that served two or three houses, before snaking off to the left down the side of a house. Signs were nowhere to be found. It was the kind of footpath where, without the benefit of an OS map app which plots your exact GPS location on the map, you really wouldn’t be sure if you were simply trespassing. As usual, one suspects that any pre-existing ‘Public Footpath’ signs might have been quietly turned around or even removed entirely by locals.

Speaking of locals, the other reassurance we had been given just moments before came in the form of a well-meaning but slightly overbearing lady who had spotted us, pulled over her car, got out, walked over to us and suggested, “you seem to be lost, can I help?”

It was the kind of tone that, if you heard it in a remote bit of the countryside you would naturally take it to mean “believe me, you are lost, please be on your way, off my land.” But here in the cosy settlement of Buckhurst Hill, and its multi-bedroom houses with expensive cars on the driveway, I think this was just a well-meaning lady who isn’t used to seeing, well, walkers here trying to find the footpath.

Onwards from here we quickly left the houses behind and were back amongst fields, following a narrow path hemmed in on both sides by farmland that had apparently been saved and set aside to stop it being built upon.

We soon dropped down to a railway footbridge. An aroma of marijuana was detected and we passed two ne’er-do-wells loitering halfway up the steps. We descended the other side into another collection of houses rather more densely packed than those at Buckhurst Hill.

Passing through these we came to a decent-sized lake which the London LOOP guidebook describes as attractive – and it is, but our appreciation of it was marred slightly by the sudden downpour which sent us ferreting around in our backpacks for our waterproofs, and those who had until that point been enjoying a picnic – or a game of cricket – around the lake scurrying for shelter.

The suddenness of the rain was apparent not just from the cricketers in their whites manhandling a tarpaulin to cover the pitch, but also the amusement and bewilderment of the picnickers we passed who walk-ran, carrying open alcoholic drinks and commenting on the sudden realisation that a hastily packed Bluetooth speaker was still playing away in their bag.

Undeterred – we had, as I say, packed raincoats, and anyway the temperature was still relatively mild – we rounded the lake, joined for part of the way by two small, lean and wiry dogs, their shorthaired coats slick with rain, shivering and sheltering as they walked.

The rain abated a little, and I tried to enjoy the vaguely attractive horizon consisting of three distinct church spires or towers, but we carried on to the other side of the lake, suddenly dwarfed by the presence of a vast leisure centre.

Having rounded this, as the hum of the centre’s air conditioning softened, it was replaced by another low hum: the traffic of the M11, which we shortly had to cross over via an over ridge carrying a short access road.

From here it was a slightly dull trudge along a pavement adjoining a busy road into Chigwell, and we saw little of any interest besides more large and not entirely attractive houses. At the bottom of this road we turned right and onto one of Chigwell’s high streets.

With the Underground some 200m off in the distance and the welcome sight of a pub just over the road, we called an end to the little 7km Chingford to Chigwell section 19 of the London LOOP, such as it was, and headed inside for a drink and a place to warm up.

The first day of July

It’s the first of July, and apparently one hundred days since lockdown began. Truly a Lost Year.

Except, my mornings lately start like this: I stir to some indie classic (or soon-to-be classic) on BBC 6Music, and feel comforted by the familiar warmth of Chris Hawkins’s voice.

A short while later I am stirred by just enough motivation to swing my legs out of bed and head upstairs, where another radio is playing the same station. Crucially they are both DAB and so there is no syncopation as I move up the stairs.

In the kitchen I boil the kettle. I’ve filled it the night before, so that my very first action in the kitchen is flicking the switch and not trying to carefully decant a litre of water from one vessel into another. As the sound of boiling water rises, I get out the things I need to make breakfast and – if I didn’t make it the night before – a packed lunch for M.

Today it’s granola, yogurt, coffee, rocket leaves, tomatoes, mozzarella, and some Tupperware boxes.

I assemble all of this and then take breakfast and coffee downstairs, where I spend the next 30-40 minutes sipping coffee, chewing mouthfuls of yogurty granola, scrolling Twitter, occasionally noting down the name of a song on the radio, and chatting on and off to M as she gets ready.

She leaves at 7.30 or so and I spend another half an hour scrolling or reading or sipping coffee until I decide I have the motivation, like this morning, to go out for a run.

When I went to sleep last night my legs had a warm ache from running in VivoBarefoot shoes that morning. Not pain, just a dull acknowledgement of having used muscles I don’t use every day. I am trying to acclimatise to these new shoes and my muscles and tendons are slowly adjusting.

When I woke this morning, the dull tiredness remained, and I just caught myself before saying out loud to M that I didn’t think I had a run in me this morning. “Wait until you’ve had your coffee. Woken up a bit,” I told myself.

Sure enough, not long after 8am, I am out the door and putting the pavements of West Hampstead and Hampstead under my shoes. My ASICS this morning – my muscles and feet thankful for the added support, such to the degree that they propel me faster and more smoothly along the roads than I could have hoped for this early in the day, even as we ascend Arkwright Road towards Hampstead high street.

The weather is good for a morning run. The sun peeks out from fluffy, fast-moving clouds. There is a light breeze, and an attendant freshness to the air.

Someone on the podcast I am listening to, an American, uses the word clique in a sentence, but he pronounces it ‘click’ as Americans do. I spend the next twenty seconds thinking that the words cheque and clique must have a kinship, and then I find myself unable to remember if Americans spell clique as click. Surely not, I think, but then, cheque/check?

I stop occasionally, to cross roads, to allow pedestrians a wide berth, or to catch my breath. But my legs need less time to recover, and this morning I discover that, pushing off, I don’t so much limp and lurch forward as slightly bounce back into my jogging, and then running, pace.

This small, unexpected burst carries me forward a few steps further and I settle into a decent rhythm. I am later told by my running apps that my pace was decent. Very much so for a morning run, when my muscles aren’t fully warmed up, or my joints sufficiently oiled.

I sit in the park by my house to massage my calf muscles. A couple and another woman pass each other and catch up. They are familiar with one another. They ask each other how things are going. The unspoken implication is “…during all of this,” as so many questions are at the moment.

They talk of webcams and Zoom meetings. One of the ladies is newly pregnant. Congratulations are given and received. They stand in the middle of the path and other park users edge around them, or pause just long enough for one of this triangle of conversing humans to notice and they all move, as one, to the side.

My calf muscles are feeling better for being massaged for a few minutes. I rise, relieved that my legs feel warm and used, but not sore or tight. I walk the short distance home.

I lock the door behind me, remove my running belt, earpiece and phone to the counter, and wash my hands. I pour myself the last of the coffee and I come to sit on the patio to drink it. Dappled sunlight falls on the patio, the sunflowers, and on me.

And then I write this.

2020 weeknote 15 – Zoom Meeting with a Jane Eyre on Lockdown (with added robin)

Okay, it’s actually getting hard to remember how many weeks we’ve done this for. And I know we (the lucky, privileged ones who are just sort of doing things differently but are basically fine) are all probably kind of grieving in a small way for our previous lives, work or otherwise. Maybe that’s too strong a word, but there must be something psychological going on when you suddenly stop doing the stuff you normally do, or seeing the people you normally do, or whatnot.


Here’s some stuff that I have been doing.

I had my first functional Zoom meeting with work colleagues, which actually worked once I sorted out the wifi my iPad was using. I had initially run my iPad over wifi to a router in not just a different room but on a different floor. Not ideal for low latency communications.

My top tip for anyone with precisely my own setup is this: if you are near a desktop computer with a wired connection to your router, you can use your desktop machine to share a wifi connection (much like tethering with a mobile phone to share your 4G connection to other wifi devices).

I hadn’t realised this was was possible, much less that you can just enable it in Windows 10’s Settings under Network & Internet > Mobile hotspot. Pretty sure I used to do something similar with my MacBook back in the day as well.



Once I got this set up, my Zoom connection seemed rock solid, and it was a strangely useful/pleasant exercise. It’s not something I want to do permanently, but it’s good to have the option.

TeamViewer has also been rock solid for our entire office for the past few weeks.

Some of our functions can be done through browser access to webmail and so on, but we need access to our shared files and some bespoke software that isn’t available outside our office machines in any easy way.

TeamViewer has made this very easy. I have found the connection very reliable, and as I am using the same OS at work and at home, with TeamViewer in fullscreen it really is just like I’m sat in front of my work machine.

Homewise, we have kept ourselves amused by rearranging the lounge furniture and keeping an eye on the local bird population.

We have a friendly local pair of robins who are either building a nest or feeding and housing young chicks, and they’ve taken to our selection of sunflower seeds and fat balls, visiting the patio (handily, also the view outside my wfh window) scores of times a day to collect food or nesting material. It’s been a real joy.


I can often be found sat gazing out the window with my dSLR and 70-200mm lens in hand like some sort of Rear Window cosplayer.

We had a power cut on Monday night at almost exactly midnight. I wouldn’t normally notice a power cut until the next day when any old digital clocks might be found blinking 12:00* but we have a noticeably noisy extractor fan near our bedroom for the services in our building. We have naturally gotten used to the low hum it emits constantly 24/7 – so when it stops for whatever reason, it’s really quite noticeable.

* I tried to wrap this in blink tag HTML code but, no dice.**

** Apparently the'code' HTML tag works, though.

In this case, the power was out for about five minutes. Just long enough for me to stagger round to the window to check and see – yep – it had affected other properties in our street, and even the street lights, which I thought was unusual. Pleasingly, this was also the night of the April supermoon, and it was front and centre as I twitched at the curtains to look out into the street.

We basically don’t get power cuts any more. I remember them happening what felt like quite often when I grew up. But in the past decade or more I can’t remember a power cut lasting more than a few minutes, and more often they’re a brief flicker.

Rearranging the furniture seems to be very lockdown from what I’ve seen online. And even on the streets it’s been clear people have been having a clear out from the piles of unwanted stuff on garden walls.

The rearranged lounge has been especially pleasant as we now have a plethora of plants which rejoice in the sunshine that streams in most of the day, and our TV unit is now in a shadowy corner which makes it easier to watch, like vampires, while the aforementioned sunlight pours in, attempting to disturb our lockdown viewing.

Such viewing has this week included:

  • National Theatre Live’s Jane Eyre which was a very enjoyable and inventive production with real heart. It took me about half an hour to get over my initial feelings of not being able to fully get into it until I realised I was able to enjoy the production for what it was and how it made use of the set etc., and the story could come second. Unsure if this is how theatre is meant to be enjoyed, but sort of don’t care.
  • Jesus Christ, Superstar (which I spent the preceding days confusing with Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat – but apparently that was streamed the week earlier, so perhaps it wasn’t entirely my fault) – this was a weird one – a huge, vast, arena-sized production which mostly worked and made use of the giant stage, and benefitted massively from some good cameo performances and Tim Minchin absolutely bossing it as Judas.
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which I was *delighted* to see was added to Mubi this week (it’s on Mubi in the UK for the next few weeks – if you need a code for a free trial, why not use mine?), especially having missed it in the cinema not so long ago. It was as beautifully shot as I’d hoped, and I loved it. About two thirds of the way through I noticed how weird it was – sorry – how there hadn’t been a single man in the cast. This made it no less enjoyable. Actually probably made it even more enjoyable.
  • Race Across the World on BBC iPlayer, which I hadn’t seen before, but seems like a cross between maybe The Apprentice and Channel 4’s Hunted except with more realistic restrictions, and has been great fun. Watching people romp around South America while we’re stuck inside has definitely increased our wanderlust.

In non-viewing, I was delighted that Radio 3 re-broadcast the live performance of Max Richter’s Sleep from a few years ago at the Wellcome Collection. Sleep is an eight-hour(!) piece of music designed, as you might guess, to fall asleep to.

It was broadcast from 11pm to 7am, and I found myself stirring – as I often do during the night – and quickly finding the constant musical companion pleasant, before nodding off again. Really wonderful. That’s available on the BBC Sounds app/website for the next few weeks too – I really encourage anyone to stick it on at bedtime and give it a whirl.

It reminded me that I used to fall asleep to a pretty ace playlist consisting of Stars of the Lid, Jonsi & Alex, some Peter Broderick stuff… It was a good playlist.

In fact, Stars of the Lid’s And Their Refinement of the Decline is something I stick on in times of anxietal need, including sleeplessness and on flights.

Finally, Easter was… weird. But, well, we made nice food and drank nice wine, and even ate and drank some of it sat outside on the patio – so it was a pretty great Easter, actually. We didn’t have much chocolate as, when we’ve been able to get out to the shops recently, it felt frivolous to stock up on essentials as well as the least efficient way to store and carry chocolate.

This isn’t just lockdown fever: in previous Easters I have been much happier buying a few Chocolate Oranges (by far the cheapest/best value chocolate by weight) and some bars of decent choccy rather than wanting any actual eggs.

Instead of chocolate eggs we drank nice red wine, and I ordered one of those home deliveries of craft beer that doesn’t work out very economical apart from the first box, and I liked a fair few of them. I’m not a craft beer lover, but it’s nice to try a few different ones selected by someone else from time to time.

I’ve also been managing to get out for a ride or run every 2-3 days which is keeping me sane. Most other days I get out for a stroll, and it’s been nice walking nearby roads I don’t know, remarking at some really quite interesting residential architecture.

On Good Friday I rode my bike down to the river and it was… Weird. Pleasant – what with the roads being clear enough – but eerie, what with the city being basically empty.

2020 weeknote 12 – the week that everything changed

Well this was the week that things really changed, for me and those around me. It’s been interesting keeping abreast of how the spread of the virus and the reactions by different countries has rolled onward, in waves. Interesting and kind of horrifying, when you spend more than half a minute considering what it all means.

It has, in many ways, been good that the upheaval has kept us all so busy. Heaven forbid what will happen when we are all set up with our new routines and we stop for a second to get bogged down in the sheer existential woe of it all – and that’s before even considering the actual health crisis worsening any further, which each day it threatens to on a hitherto-unseen scale.

We have found ourselves unexpectedly buoyed by taping occasional news updates from Chinese state broadcasters in which they describe the recovery process. Life, while not returning to normal, per se, is returning to something approaching it. Or at least a healthy, post-virus world.

At work I have been extremely busy helping as far as I can to get the office set up for home working. A few months ago, working from home on the scale that we soon will be would have been completely unthinkable. But, as with so much of this escalating crisis, unthinkable things are now having to be thunk, and it’s funny what you can achieve when you have to.

In fact, the extent to which we’ve established a working-from-home policy means that it’s only really a few little issues and niggles we’ve found, rather than any flat-out business critical failure points.

We’re lucky in that a lot of what we do isn’t business critical. And where it is, the timelines and deadlines are those we set for ourselves and we are fortunate enough not to be beholden to many authorities or external/market forces. We have a job to do, and we do it however we can. This will not change, but the methods and timescales may.

Meanwhile, anything that isn’t related to work, or keeping ourselves constantly updated on news has, by necessity, been for the purposes of distraction, amusement or entertainment. The rest of this week’s note is simply some of that stuff that has kept me from losing my mind the past few days.

We had the first day of spring, and the weather this week has been cool but increasingly wonderful and bright. There is blossom everywhere, and the spring weather looks set to continue. This does mean that people who ought to be self-isolating are popping out more than they might if it had been tipping down all week, and I am concerned about that. But at the same time, the sight of spring springing is a huge boost.

As well as a brief trip to a nearby park (where I saw the woodpecker above), I also popped to Hampstead Heath on Saturday to get some fresh air. Unfortunately, so did a lot of other people, and I really should have known better. I was able to keep my distance from most people, and I found myself a secluded perch where I spent a happy hour or so playing with radios, and eating cold pizza.


On FM, my elevated position near one of London’s highest points meant stations came booming in loud and clear, and I found a good number of pirate stations giving shout-outs to the shut-ins.

I found that the signal on my little POP Nano radio was decent, but both my Tecsun PL-380 and my Motorola G7 Power logged 58 stations each on the FM band, with the Moto serving doubly useful as not only does it have an RDS decoder built-in, but it also neatly displays all logged stations in one big list, acting as a very useful results page for active stations complete with station IDs, where available.

I’ve written before about the pretty excellent FM radio software on an older Moto G device, and it’s just as good on my current G7 Power. It serves as an effective stopgap between idly tuning around with a normal radio and setting up some sort of portable SDR that will automatically log station IDs in a neat spreadsheet for me.

(A rainy day project I daydream of is a Raspberry Pi Zero-powered unit that I can just switch on, run an autoscan, and log all active stations in a spreadsheet. Might have a little screen and possibly audio out.)

The subsequent list generated by the Moto is displayed as you can see to the right: it’s a neat list of station IDs and frequencies and I only wish I could quickly and easily export this data into a spreadsheet. I suspect there’s an OCR capture that could do a half decent job. But even in its present form, the FM radio software gives me a decent overview of what’s around in a given session.

One surprise, beyond the ever-present London pirates, was decent reception of a station apparently broadcasting to Greenwich on 96.5fm. A later dig around uncovered this as Maritime Radio, with the always-helpful mb21 giving more information about where this station broadcasts from. Not a bad catch at a distance of approximately 20km.

It’s hard to tell where the pirate stations themselves broadcast from – obviously – so it’s never easy to known whether you’re getting fabulous reception across a vast distance, or merely being blasted from the nearest rooftop. I suspect it’s usually the latter, though there is usually a good range of signals when tuning in from a high point in north west London, with some sounding stronger and others weaker.

The variability in the tech used by each pirate could give rise to this, of course, but it all makes it feel as though you’re picking up signals from all over London.

On DAB, my position near London’s highest point meant great reception of a huge range of stations. The POP Nano picked up 148 stations without issue, and I noted down that I was getting reception of the following multiplexes on top of those I’d expect to get in London: Kent, Herts Beds Bucks, Surrey NSussex, and Essex. On the one hand, these extra muxes simply bring in local stations or local variants of commercial stations. But it’s still pretty cool to pick these all up along with the ones which are meant to cover my area.

Of note, the Kent multiplex coverage map [PDF] does show parts of Hampstead as able to pick up occasional offshoots of the signal over high ground:

So it’s perhaps not that unexpected, but still vaguely interesting to me.

I also had a scan around on shortwave and aside from the usual national broadcasters who have mastered dominating the waves, I was pleased to pick up two pirate(?) stations on 5780kHz and 6205kHz – possibly Laser Hot Hits and Euro Radio. (This was at approximately 1445 UTC on Saturday 21 March.)

Nothing else really of any note on the radio, although I did spot this new addition to the London Trial multiplex – Health Info Radio, which launched a week ago on various other local muxes, and whose sole purpose is to play a looped recording of coronavirus-related public information.


On the YouTube front, beyond the usual tech videos I tend to gorge myself on, the algorithms threw me a wonderful bone in a series of aviation videos by a chap named Matt Guthmiller. I’m not sure what YouTube thought it was doing, but I was absolutely enthralled by this four-part series on flying a 1930s DC-3 from the US to Duxford.

Spoiler alert: it’s not quite as simple as hopping across the Atlantic. In fact, it involves hopping to Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and Scotland, before hopping down to Duxford.

At times, the serenity and majesty of early to mid 20th century flight is intoxicating, and at others you are hit with the nauseating concept of hurtling through the air in nothing much more than a 1930s bus with temperamental moving parts and a hell of a lot to understand about how to get it airborne and keep it there.

The four parts are available in this playlist, or just watch the first one below:

Pro-tip: use the ‘Watch later’ button to save these kinds of YouTube clips to a… Watch later playlist.

And finally, I’ve recently seen a few good links to online collections of stuff and wanted to share some and add one of my own.


The first, shared by Robin Sloan recently, was a directory of images by Eugene Delacroix. Delacroix is an artist I don’t know a huge amount about, but I stumbled across him years ago doing my degree as it turned out he kept diaries, and really enjoyable ones too. Sloan peppered a recent newsletter with images by Delacroix, all pilfered from this great online collection of his work from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The second collection was posted by the excellent SWLing Post, a great resource for all things radio – with a focus on shortwave and ham radio. They recently pointed to a subset of the Smithsonian’s open access collection of objects which is, quite simply, a bunch of radios you can look at. Wonderful.


And finally, the National Trust’s ‘Collections’ image database is staggering in its scale – they have photographed countless objects held within their collections at the various properties they look after. You could find yourself lost for weeks on this website, whether searching across the entire collection by keyword, exploring the contents of one particular property, or paging through the works of one artist.

For the purposes of this post, I will simply point you to a collection illustrations and artworks by my man Charles Paget Wade. I have searched and filtered and refined this set so it may be a bit rough around the edges and not sorted in any particular way, but you get the gist.

By the collection’s very nature, this is not a greatest hits, but a snapshot of all that is contained within it: from sketches on the backs of letters, to glorious watercoloured ink sketches like that shown below, of the Great Wall at Hampstead Garden Suburb.