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A Tale of Two Velodromes

London’s two velodromes were built in the 19th and 21st centuries. The indoor track at the Lee Valley Velodrome, one of the fastest in the world, is housed in a beautiful stadium built at cost of £94 million. Its distinctive roof, a hyperbolic paraboloid clad in 5000m2 of custom-cut Western red cedar, is a prominent landmark at the edge of the 2012 Olympic park. The open-air track at Herne Hill is completely hidden in a South London suburb. The entrance lies at the end of a narrow path between two semi-detached houses. Coming out behind them, you see a wall supporting a low bank of rusting metal seats. This little stand is the only permanent structure that was built – at any of the venues – for the 1948 Olympics. The pavilion, also derelict, dates from 1891, when the track opened. In 2015, any spectators sit on folding plastic seats in a small area of open terracing in front of the older stands. There is no café. Competitors change in a portaloo in a cluster of temporary cabins and containers behind the old pavilion.

Marina Abramovic's odd jobs

“We milked the goats in Sardinia to get sausages and bread. … We made [sweaters] and sell them on the market,” says Abramovic. For one month, Abramovic even worked as a mail carrier in London—which didn’t end well. “First it took me so long time to deliver all the letters,” she says. “And I decide that every letter who was written with typewriter machine must be bad news or a bill, and I throw them away. And I only deliver letters written by hand and become much faster. Only beautiful letters. After four weeks working, they could not prove anything, but they asked me to give back uniform, which I did.”

Chaucer's day job

Chaucer’s London job was always a precarious one. The king’s own advisers and allies in the City of London colluded to put him there, as their fall guy in a major profiteering scheme. His job as controller of customs was to certify honesty of the powerful and influential customs collectors – including the wealthy and imperious Nicholas Brembre, long-term mayor of London – and to ensure the proper collection of duties on all outgoing wool shipments. This sounds routine enough, until we realise how much was at stake: in the 14th century, wool duties contributed one-third of the total revenues of the realm. What’s more, the collectors of customs whose activities Chaucer was expected to regulate were themselves wool shippers and wool profiteers on a grand scale, taking advantage of their positions to accumulate immense fortunes at public expense. Their wealth enabled them to become donors and lenders to the king, and to multiply their privileges and profits. As lone watchdog of customs revenues, Chaucer was hardly likely to bring them to heel. His job was, essentially, to look the other way.

Personalities self-segregate depending on environment, improving their happiness

The more agreeable residents of London tended to be happiest outside the centre in more residential parts of the capital, where there was more space for gardens and parks. The same suburban areas were not so appealing to open, creative types though. “If you’re high in openness – artists and creative types – you tend to be much happier in a part of London that’s diverse and densely populated and where there’s a lot of stimulation to feed your curiosity,” said Rentfrow.

Disaster old skool -- charge admission and hyperbolate!

After the accident, watchmen charged people a penny or two-pence to see the ruins of the beer vats, and visitors came in their hundreds to witness the macabre spectacle. But a report in The Times praised local people’s response to the disaster, noting how the crowd kept quiet so the cries of trapped victims could be heard.In fact, it seems like later rumours that people collected the beer in pots and pans were untrue, as Martyn Cornell, author of Amber, Gold and Black: The History of Britain’s Great Beers, explains: “None of the London newspapers report anyone trying to drink the beer after the flood, indeed, they say the crowds that gathered were pretty well behaved. Only much later did stories start being told about riots, people getting drunk and so on: these seem to have been be prompted by what people thought ought to have happened, rather than what did happen.”

The literary map of London is just beautiful

In central London, about 28 percent of home buyers in the two years to June didn’t live in the U.K., according to broker Knight Frank LLP. That rises to about 49 percent for new homes. In Greater London, 10 percent to 15 percent of new homes are bought by non-residents, Knight Frank estimated in October.
The average London house price will rise 44 per cent by 2018 to a dizzying £566,000, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research. So, if I don’t hurry, my savings won’t even stretch to a deposit. Channel 4 has extended Location, Location, Location – a voyeuristic house-hunting show – to an hour from 30 minutes, understanding that property has become our nation’s unrivalled bread and circuses.