I don’t know much about art, but I do know these need a little context.

Stop stop stop stop stop! I need to caveat this. Since writing what’s below, I’ve discovered that this is the work of St Francis students in Letchworth. It’s a good school with an impressive theatre. Really, you’d never think a school would have a theatre of its own that’s so well-appointed. So, I’m hoping even the parents concerned might agree that in the grand scheme of the history of art, there are better examples than this. Is this the reason First Capital Connect lost their franchise?

I applaud the use of the community to help bring some colour to what could be a dreary environment (though I do question why a Stevenage school wasn’t asked to supply the art). That being the case, would it not be apt for whoever arranged this to give these artworks some context and recognition to the students behind them so people can appreciate then a little more. Otherwise, people tend to think the worst. Myself included. So here’s what I wrote in my ‘ignorant phase’.

I’m trying not to offend. I’m not an art critic but I’m about to criticise some art – in the very loose sense of the word.

A short while ago, Stevenage station underwent a bit of a makeover. Very nice tiling all around. A real breath of fresh air – tarted up the place no end. Then someone had the bright idea of breaking up all this lovely tile-work with some culture. So here we see what I can only imagine is specially-commissioned ‘art’ for the station.

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Someone has deliberately done this with the authorities’ permission. Or have they? Would everyone else assume someone else gave permission for this to go up?

There’s a handshake growing out of a path with a park bench with Mr Benn on it. Then there’s a tree and office block growing out of another hand. Not to mention the isometric train up on one rail or some people in black morph suits playing dangerously next to the unguarded tracks.

I hate to be harsh in case the person that did this is really proud of what they created. Is it a competition winner? Someone really young? Or ill? It’s hard to say. But this commuter doesn’t think they’re very good. At all.

I’ll leave it there.

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Swingate: Now you don’t (see it).

Imagine how ghasted by flabber was when I saw a sign saying that Swingate was closing for 2 weeks. One of my first thoughts was – wow – maybe after a 6-month break, this might be worthy of a post in Parking In Stevenage. Of course that was very closely followed by the more practical consideration of where to park my reasonable-in-every-way-except-the-£1400-auto-gearbox-repair Ford Focus.

I don’t know what’s happened it’s getting harder to get into my car parks of choice unless it’s a Friday. My guess is that few people take holiday in January so everyone is using the car park. Throughout the rest of the year, we have a few of us who go AWOL and introduce some more slack into the system.

It’s got to the point that I can only dream of getting a spot in Daneshill or Danesgate, let alone Swingate. So for now, Southgate is my car’s new home. Downside: a long walk and desolate at night. Upside. No trees = no birdshit on the paintwork or door handles. Nice.

And the good news continues. Why have they closed Swingate for 2 weeks? They’re knocking down the Stevenage Voluntary Services building. it was a pig-ugly building – the longest portakabin I’ve ever seen that had a matching portaloo sitting 8 feet away, like a moon to its planet. It always looked very depressing – no wonder people stopped volunteering their services. Search Google for a pic and you won’t find one. Fortunately, yours truly captured this temporary structure a while back – when it photo-bombed my shot of a Rolls Royce and my Focus.

Before

Before

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After

If you remember before these photos, I mentioned good news. Yes, that good news is not just that an eyesore is being removed so we can see the eyesore behind it. No – this will add around half a dozen new spaces to Swingate. Is someone re-programming the barrier? Due diligence, ladies and gentlemen!

Smile, you’re on CCTV.

They’ve recently installed CCTV screens at Stevenage station, so if you’re that way inclined you can watch Stevenage station LIVE AND EXCLUSIVE only at Stevenage station.

If you glance up you can watch yourself as you come through the barriers.

I’m not a big fan. For me it’s like a premonition of your own death on the news. “These are the last pictures of the victim alive before he was snatched up by a griffin and spontaneously combusted…”

That’s a self-fulfilling prophecy just waiting happen.

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Harry Potter open for business at King’s Cross.

That Harry Potter’s opened a store for muggles right by Platform 9 3/4. They got that Warwick Davies to open it. Ribbons, speeches, geeky fans, the lot!

This opened 2 weeks ago and I didn’t even notice. I pass through King’s Cross twice a day and still haven’t spotted the store.

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What I DID spot this morning was that the customary Harry Potter luggage trolley had changed. Like its predecessor, it’s embedded in the wall, making it a super photo op for tourists and/or Harry Potter fans.

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However, the new trolley sports some rugged old leather suitcases and half a birdcage. Is this for the owl? Sadly there isn’t half an owl embedded in the wall to establish this.

This is the 3rd location for the trolley. It used to be tucked away outside Platforms 9, 10 and 11, then they tucked it away by Platform 8 before moving it to its current position. Nice to see they’ve made an effort to Hogwartify the trolley. Before it was just a bog standard First Capital Connect one that got vandalised from time to time.

The map online puts the Harry Potter shop right next door to the trolley, so how come I didn’t spot it?

No idea, but the shop is a very good idea – heavy tourist traffic, excellent transport connections and highly relevant to the film (ignoring the fact that they actually used the more cinematic St Pancras next door for the films).

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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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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.

King’s Cross: getting closer all the time.

King’s Cross is getting closer and closer to completion as the days go by (you’d hope). I’ve touched on it before and over the Christmas period they revealed even more to us. You could get a  glimpse of their new ticket hall from different vantage points. Any day now I’m expecting to see the hoardings fall away to reveal the full monty. Well, the briefest of Googles offers us this thrilling insider shot of the new ticket hall. If you’ve ever wanted to see it filled with rail workers in Santa hats, hold on to your trousers because your wish just came true!

The new ticket hall (1000 Santas not included).

And here’s a quote from the press release:

“Over 600 people – from engineers, electricians and builders to carpenters, stone masons and abseilers – who are working to transform King’s Cross station got into the festive spirit today to celebrate the end of major construction work on the new western concourse. The new concourse is the stand-out feature of the £500m redevelopment of King’s Cross to make it into a world-class transport hub. The striking domed roof covers an area three-times the size of the existing concourse and big enough to fit over six Olympic-sized swimming pools. As well as providing a brighter, more spacious station, it will contain a wide range of new food and drink outlets and shops, plus improved facilities which will improve the journey experience for passengers.”

Platform 3 in all its panoramic glory.

It was a nice day. I had a panoramic app on my phone. Put the two together and hey presto…

Click it to get the full effect.

Emile Heskey transferred to Daneshill.

There’s a chap who used to park in Swingate. Green Y reg Citroen. Looks a bit like Emile Heskey. But shorter. We used to arrive at roughly the same time each morning.

Well, the big news is he seems to have swapped Swingate for Daneshill, the local rival.

Little Emile Heskey.

Don’t know why. Maybe there were more opportunities, maybe he just fancied a move. The 2 car parks are only yards apart but he’s made the big move to the other side. Good luck to him I say. Me? I’m sticking with Swingate. Someone needs to show some loyalty, for god’s sake!

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