Big news! Little Waitrose.

I was complimented on this blog yesterday – which, niche as it is – doesn’t happen very often. I immediately felt guilty. It’s been neglected, passed over in favour of things that aren’t Parking In Stevenage. So this morning gave me the perfect opportunity to right that wrong.

King’s Cross has finally completed its last phase of gentrification. That final piece of the jigsaw is in place. That key indicator is now present. That beacon of ‘honestly-priced goods’ for the middle classes and above is nestled in the armpit between the ticket office and the currency exchange. Do you need a different currency to shop in Waitrose? I thought it was just accents. Maybe you can change those green charity discs for Fortnum’s vouchers…?

This, according to Jackie Wharton, director of convenience for Waitrose, makes me a “transumer” (*heart sinks*) just by walking past it. A collision of transport and consumer. I guess colliding ‘consumer’ with ‘commuter’ was a real bastard. Consummuter? Commusumer?

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So if you’re travelling from the family pile to the big smoke or simply hammered and starving for some organic kale and free range cous cous, your prayers have been answered.

Little Waitrose, King's Cross

A ‘hustle alarm’ is a thing.

Unfortunately this alarm does not signal a highly sophisticated scam conducted by a gang of lovable, wise-cracking transatlantic con artists on an unsuspecting but unsympathetic ‘mark’.

On your marks...

On your marks…

It is in fact the alarm that sounds a few seconds before the doors shut so that staff can laugh at travellers weighed down with kids and luggage as they make a last ditch attempt to board the train before they become one with the doors as they close slowly and determinedly on them.

Sadly, I’m unable to attach a photo of this sound at present.

The Perfect Storm – London-style.

As if a tube strike wasn’t enough, a decidedly un-British monsoon and a power surge in New Southgate tunnel conspired to hamper my commute home. Having to walk to King’s Cross as there were no buses due for ages and you can imagine the crush when they eventually arrived/sailed straight past. So then waiting for the 6.44, at 6.44 there was no sign of the front 4 coaches that always arrive separately and join uncomfortably.

So very cleverly, avoiding the crush of the people waiting on Platform 9, I snuck round the top and back down a deserted Platform 8 and took this pic.

Vanishing Point

Vanishing Point

So then checking my National Rail app on my phone, I saw the platform had been announced for the 6.53 – Platform 7. I could walk to the ticket barrier end and round that way, but I had the brainwave of getting the lift up to the walkway and down. Easy. Except a few others had the same idea and when the 2 guys and their very muscular dog got in with us, the computer lady said we had to reduce the weight. It took a little for the 2 chaps with the dog to work out what this meant, but the penny dropped and they wandered off.

So we left nearly on time and we seemed to be home and (getting) dry. Then the main carriage lights went off and we were reduced to a crawl. The driver, bless him, used the tannoy to tell us a power surge in the tunnel had buggered the train. Luckily it seemed to get fixed and we carried on… Look no wonder I don’t post on this blog any more. So tedious! Yes I KNOW that was the point…

Premier Inn re-creates King’s Cross in Lego, to mark “Lego Movie” launch.

We thought we recognised that grid/structure working its way up from the ground. The main concourse at King’s Cross – there it is! It’s part of a marketing coup from the makers of Lego Movie, persuading advertisers to run Lego versions of their commercials. Premier Inn aren’t alone, by any means. Confused.com and BT are among the ads going all stop-frame and bricky for a wall-to-wall Lego fest during an ad-break in Sundays’ Dancing On Ice.

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King’s Cross narrowly missed the Lego treatment a while back when it’s illustrious neighbour, St Pancras was immortalised in Lego. 18 months and 150,000 bricks, that’s all it took.

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The Great Northern Route: not so great.

This week got off to a bad start. Monday night at King’s Cross was like the Slug and Lettuce on a Friday night. It was Lethal Bizzle. The Departures board made depressing viewing. Delayed, Cancelled and no platforms marked at all. No trains.

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The problem was with 14 ‘droppers’ on the line between Hitchin and Stevenage. What’s a dropper? The same question occurred to me. A dropper is the non-electrified wire that supports the electrified lines above the tracks and trains. I think.

Vandalism or scrap metal theft, surely. In which case, there’s little Network Rail can do except replace/fix them. Am I too quick to forgive?

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I was earwigging a member of staff trying to sound as cheerful as possible while telling a commuter “You’re looking at 2 hours.”

I was checking maps on my phone to see how close to home a train from St Pancras would get me. Not great. Harpenden or Luton were the choices. A 40-minute drive for my wife to come and fetch me. Then another 40 minutes back…

But as if by magic the station announcer told us the next train calling at Stevenage would soon be leaving from Platform 0. There was no stampede but there was certainly urgency in the way people made their way to the train.

These situations can be a false dawn; you can’t let your guard down. A place on a train is no guarantee of being sped home with effortless efficiency. When you’re dealing with overhead wires (and we were) you can be crawling along at best or stationary at worst – actually, going backwards would be worse but that’s never happened to me.
But as luck would have it, I was home as fast as I could have wished. So that was the worst over, right?

You know when you get phone calls early in the morning, it’s never good news. All kinds if thoughts rush through your head. Anyway, it was my neighbour to say that if I was considering Parking In Stevenage today, don’t bother.
Apparently the platforms were packed and there was talk of the dreaded Replacement Bus Service. All the way to London. Serious.

My neighbour was right; I didn’t bother.

This post was brought to you by two well-executed semi-colons. I advise you to use them more in 2013. They are unloved and underrated.

Underground bloggery.

…courtesy of Virgin Media’s wifi network at King’s Cross.

It’s my first post underground and it feels new, progressive, natural, liberating and at the same time slightly unnerving.

So there it is: another step forward into the omnipresent-data future.

We all know what it’s like to be without that link to the grid. It becomes like air. We miss it when it’s not there and often take it for granted.

But do we know enough about living in the cloud? Can our bodies withstand constant immersion in wifi microwaves (regardless of what we think we need)?

Well, for the short-term at least, it’s here and it’s free for the summer – is that a distant paywall I can hear coming down the tracks?

I shall enjoy it while it lasts or until it gives me something painfully terminal…

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King’s Cross 2.0

After a very long wait, the day has arrived and I couldn’t let it pass without comment.

The covers are off the new ‘Western Departures Concourse’ and it looks great – a massive leap forward for King’s Cross.

The weird thing was seeing people wandering about the place as though it had been like this all the time – made me feel a bit like I was late to the party.

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Courtesy of @floheiss (BIG shout out!)

I don’t know what I was expecting really. It’s like Christmas. The wait is the thing. The day arrives and you go, “Oh yeah, no biggie.”

I did treat myself to a ride down the new escalator – and to be fair, it shaves a good 30 seconds of my commute to the Tube. Progress!

They were handing out maps so people could find their way around the new layout – saves them gathering up the 40 or so strays at the end of the day and shipping them home with a note.

You are here.

A Paperchase and a Boots – could prove priceless. And I haven’t even checked out the Parcel Yard yet. So much to explore! But I’ve got to get home/to work…

Here it is at night: concourse of the future!

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Looking up at King’s Cross.

So we now know the new station concourse opens on March 19. We also know that they plan to knock the existing one down and create more space out front (didn’t you know – keep up!).

Truth be told, there’s been work going on all over King’s Cross – laying new floors, revamping the building alongside platform 9, 10 and 11 as well as work on the roof covering platform 0 to 8 (yes – King’s Cross has the distinction of having a Platform Zero).

They have now unwrapped much of the covering they had up while they renovated the roof and the massive glass frontage at the, er… front of the station.

Here are a couple of views of the new look ‘upper area’:

Glass roof by day.

Glass roof by night.

The big reveal: set for March 19, 2012.

Hot off the Twitter press, the powers that be are saying the hoardings come down on March 19.

Very exciting for everyone, not just us commuters that get diverted a slightly different way every day as they lay the flooring bit by bit.

And what does this vision of the future look like? A bit like this:

It's all hover boards and retina scans from here on in.

I especially like the woman on the far right wiping dog shit off her shoe – click to enlarge it and you’ll see what I mean.

Craving more info? Click below for the lowdown, including this bombshell, “…the current concourse will be demolished revealing for the first time in decades the Grade I listed Victorian façade which has been fully restored to its former glory.”

King’s Cross official announcement >

King’s Cross passengers offered a glimpse into the future >

Want more piccies? here you go:

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The secret escalator at King’s Cross.

As I’ve posted once or twice, the new look King’s Cross draws ever nearer. We get glimpses of new bits, then curiously they erect tarpaulins to keep it from us. As Patrick Stewart said in Extras, “It’s too late of course, because I’ve seen everything.”

One corner that’s been forgotten about is in the Northern ticket hall. Away from the ticket machines, booths and barriers there’s a section, er…sectioned off by hoardings the same colour as the surrounding walls. Closer inspection reveals a notice pertaining to escalators. Take it from me, dear reader, this corner will soon blossom into our escalator up to the brand new concourse – our stairway to heaven/hell (depending on how the trains are that day).

One view.

So, here is your ‘before’ photo and in another post after the big reveal, I shall share the ‘after with you.

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Another view.

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