Ten years ago today, a blog was born, blinking into the real world from its digital gestation – IanVisits was born.

10th-anniversary

Over the past 10 years, you’ve consumed my thoughts in digital typeface, with hopefully only the occasional dose of indigestion. What you’ve read though, was never intended to be a blog.

It’s origin stems from an unfortunate incident. I used to organise group visits to places, and following a dispute on that other website flounced out and set up a website to continue that hobby, and I might as well set up a blog while I was at it.

As it happened, the events organising died off, attending events organised by other people took off, and so did the blog.

An accident, but a very useful one.

I am, at times, subject to bouts of lethargy and if I don’t force myself to go out to do things, then I would spent far more time at home staring at a computer screen and getting depressed.

That’s why I used to organise events, and now that’s why I write a blog. I have a need to be active. Writing this blog is enlightened self-interest. I fill my diary with things to do, and an alarm clock encourages attendance at venues, and you hopefully get an interesting article to read.

It has been ten years of therapy, and without you the readers, it would have been a lonely path to tread.

Putting things in diaries and forcing myself out and about is a Good Thing.

Ten years of writing is a scary thought, from early random postings that when I look back seem as alien today as the primary school work looks to most adults.

There is the perpetual desire to write better in-depth articles, but that is very dependent not so much on having the time, but not being too mentally exhausted to think clearly at the end of a day at an often very frustrating day job.

More often than I would like, I feel the writing is indifferent, not quite up to standard, but at times, the words flow, the thoughts actually make sense, and a well earned drink follows.

Most exciting are the times when there is a chance to visit strange places, whether little known museums or building sites, or when researching an article and find a document in the archives that few people have read before.

When I started, I was one amongst a great multitude of voices, but sadly over the years many have fallen silent. Killed off by careers, families, boredom or sheer exhaustion. Bloging as a publishing mechanism in itself is slowly drying up. The great “democratisation” of publishing has taken place, but people then learnt that living in a publishing democracy is quite hard work.

I am perpetually astonished at how other writers seem to generate a continuous stream not just of writing, but damn good writing at that. So unfair!

However, 10 years is both just another day but also a moment for introspection, so I’ve waded though a decade’s worth of rambling blog posts.

My ten top

Not necessarily the best blog posts, as frankly a couple of them are rather badly written, but they are the blog posts that for some reason mean more to me as the writer for the memories they trigger. Good, bad, and sometimes embarrassing.

Even after I cut the archive of ten years of writing down to my absolute top list of articles, I had 23 to choose from, but it’s a ten-year anniversary so I forced myself to stick to a top 10 list. This isn’t a listicle after all.

In no particular order:

1) Underneath the Albert Memorial

One of my first proper bits of research that resulted in a wonderful morning wandering around an astonishing brick undercroft that lies hidden under the monument.

I spent ages studying the history, and the willingness of the Royal Parks to let me in was a surprise. It was an unexpectedly delightful conclusion to all the research, and one of those exciting chances to share something few have seen.

It also encourages a person to do more research on topics, for what else lies hidden under London.

2) Deserted London

I think I can claim to starting a trend here, when one cold Christmas morning, with a streaming bad cold I cycled into London to take photos. It was utterly deserted, but if you try it this year, expect to see lots of cyclists out taking photos. Whoops!

But it’s addictive, the chance to have an (almost) utterly empty and almost silent city all to yourself for a few hours is something that just has to be experienced.

Probably related to the delight of the Christmas morning cycles, being in London when the area is deserted is so delightful that I’ll get up at 2am to do it.

Whenever there’s a major ceremonial event, it’ll be rehearsed a few days before, and that means large chunks of London sealed off and soldiers stomping around in the middle of the night while an often lone photographer hangs around for hours in the cold chatting to police waiting for something to happen.

Of all of them, the strangest one was the rehearsal for Thatcher’s funeral, and being in an empty city while soldiers slowly marched up Ludgate Hill slowly beating a drum in mourning sent shivers up my spine in a way I have never experienced before, or since.

It was eerie.

3) The Parliamentary Train

It was just a short trip on an ordinary train in London, yet also one of the strangest. In writing terms though it was a chance to share a rarely known quirk of the railways, which is always a fun thing to do. It’s very rewarding to write an article which turns out to delight and amaze people who read it.

A news broadcaster also picked up on the story, but they ran a negative waste of money piece about it, which was totally at odds with the impression I wanted of a delightful quirk of the railways.

Bad news sells, but there’s enough bad things in the newspapers as it is. Writing a negative piece gives me a headache, and I’m not a fired up activist any more. I’d rather read something more tea and biscuits than a polemic rant. Don’t always seek out the negative just to write a headline, seek out the delightful and give people a smile.

4) HIV

A blog is a curious thing, it can be solely personal diary, or more news with a personal voice. As such, I tend to write less about me, than what I have done, but occasionally, I am the topic of the article.

This was one of the hardest things I have ever written and totally outside my comfort zone as it was about me, rather than someone else, and while not a secret, it wasn’t a topic I talked about a lot.

While I still look back at it thinking, ugh, too personal, I am more glad I wrote it than not.

5) Taking the Boris Bikes to Paris

I am quite disappointed with this article, as I wrote it too soon after the event, and it reads more like a dry travel diary than the really fun day that it actually was. I should have waited a few days and collected my thoughts, then wrote something better.

That said, it’s still one of my best biking event memories, and the notion of “can you take a Boris bike to Paris and back again in a day” was so bonkers that it just had to be done.

6) A flooded Northern Line tunnel

I knew about the claims of a flooded tunnel, but no one ever seemed to have more than a sentence or two, so it just had to be investigated. Which eventually resulted in sitting in the National Archives holding a document that was still top secret just a few years earlier and which hardly anyone had ever seen.

More excitingly though, there was enough information to carve out an interesting story. To do all that work and end up with a couple of sentences is a regular frustration that any historian will nod their head in sympathy with.

I have often abandoned stories after researching them as there just isn’t enough to write up. This time though, the joy of having all that information to work with and the ability to write a nice story which magically combined into both the delight of the discovery, and the delight of writing something interesting was a rare moment.

7) Crossrail visits

One of the advantages of having a blog with an audience is that you are sometimes invited to interesting places (and vastly more often, asked to plug junk press releases), and London’s largest construction project has been good at inviting people in to show off what they are up to.

I almost actively try not to be an expert on railways and construction in part so that I can really enjoy site visits without it being a mere box ticking exercise, but mainly to support the goal of writing something less boringly technical and more “wow”.

I aim, I hope, to straddle a middle ground. The curious bystander, who’s fascinated by what’s going on, but doesn’t want to read jargon laden trade magazines, yet wants more than a couple of paragraphs in a newspaper clipping.

I’ve picked this article, as it was unlike anything I had ever written about Crossrail, but is also memorable for the worst bout of travel sickness in over a decade that saw me spend much of the trip back to London in the toilet, and took days to recover from.

I suffered for that article!

8) The trial of the Pyx

The City of London is replete with quaint ceremonies and customs often left over from long since abolished laws, but the Trial of the Pyx is still legally required.

To sit in an ornate room with a Judge formally declaring it to be a court, an actual trial commencing, and then watching a lot of men count coins while the Judge takes off his wig and relaxes was one of the weirder ceremonies I have reported on.

Over the past decade, I’ve covered a lot of the City’s old traditions — still a few left to report on — but the Pyx will probably remain one of my favourites.

9) A secret tube station

One of the pleasures of this blog is the chance to go somewhere that would be otherwise impossible to visit, and — when permitted — to share that with you.

That there is a fully mocked up tube station in a West London office block was such a crazy notion that when the opportunity came to visit, I jumped at the chance.

The article wasn’t one I was happy with in terms of how I wrote it — but the reaction of people reading about this secret tube station justified the day off work.

That a local newspaper picked up on the story and ran a negative piece about “waste of money” was disappointing, but I still look back on the visit fondly.

10) An embarrassing request

Not one of my favourite blog posts to have written as it was done under extremis, but a very necessary one, and one which stopped me ending up homeless.

I was, and remain, deeply grateful for the support offered, and the comments that were sent, private and public. Apart from staving off fiscal disaster, I also learned a lot about what you like to read about, why you put up with my tedious writings and what excites you.

It’s really quite reassuring to learn that I am not alone in liking the things I like and that there are other people out there that are also interested in concrete buildings, in trains, in visiting odd places, in general weirdness that London is so amply supplied with.

Finances are still very tight, but I have managed to move back to central London after spending six rather uncomfortable months living in a back-garden “shed” with an outside loo. Flatsharing with most of the spider population of Harrow wasn’t pleasant, but it did let me pay down a chunk of debt.

So, health and finances permitting, there’ll be another 10 years of writing ahead.

Cheers!

Also on ianVisits

Whats's on in London: today or tomorrow or this weekend

49 comments on “IanVisits is 10 years old today
  1. Dave says:

    Thanks for all the inspiration – you’ve helped make my life more interesting with the countless events you’ve informed me of. Here’s to the next 10 years!

  2. ediFanoB says:

    Congratulations!
    Even for a foreigner like me (I live in Germany) your posts are interesting, informative, and inspiring.

    Keep up the excelent work!

  3. Terry Hill says:

    Thank you for all you do…..I’m not a Londoner, but on our occasional visits stuff that you have posted have been sought out and enjoyed

  4. Peter Preksto says:

    Thank you, I look forward to this daily, have done so for years. Great to see your Top Ten list!

  5. E says:

    Thank you again for what you do.

    I remember almost all those posts, though a couple of them are from before I started reading. The HIV one was I think worth doing, and worth including in your top ten. Helpfully informative, like your other posts 🙂

    I am glad your living situation has improved. I have worried about you. I hope you would ask again if you needed it.

    And I am looking forward to another 10 years of fascinating info about London places (and the trains).

  6. SimonB says:

    Happy blog birthday!

    Always something interesting in my view, so I hope you do indeed manage another 10 years.

  7. Andrew says:

    Congrats on you anniversary. While I rarely comment because of your blog host, I just love your blog. Now to type my name, email address and website.

  8. Wayne Robinson says:

    Congratulations, I enjoy the vicarious visiting that I’m unable to to myself by virtue of an accident of geography. One day I’ll get back, if our paths ever cross I owe you a bevvy or two for all the excellent visiting.

  9. Jo says:

    Here’s to the next ten years! Sending warm wishes and many thanks for opening my eyes to so many fascinating things.

  10. M@ says:

    Happy birthday, Ian. It’s been a real pleasure reading you over the years (from almost day one), and sharing many adventures with you. Here’s to another decade of Ian Visits.

  11. Congratulations on the Full Decade! And enormous thanks for reminding us all what a full decade it’s been. We’d have missed so much without you.

  12. John Poole says:

    Many congratulations on the last ten years and at least another ten. I do not know how you manage to find the time to find so many wonderful things. I hope we can meet up again sometime.

  13. Many congratulations from here in America. Been reading you for just as long I think and I always look forward to your latest adventures. Regarding your last favorite post on the list – if you ever need help again from us, your readers, do not hesitate to ask. We are here.

  14. Peter of London says:

    Congratulations!

    I’d say the majority of the best days out in London I’ve had are because of your blog – even done London on Christmas Day twice now.

    Especially well done on the original research, it’s been fascinating reading and it’s inspired me to go and find out more about topics that interest me beyond what gets rehashed across all the usual Internet sites.

    Thanks!

  15. Brad says:

    HI, many thanks and congrats on reaching 10!
    I’d like to say thank you in a different way, is there a way i can say thank you by showing some appreciation in a financial sense? shout you a dinner or something more?
    Please let me know
    Brad

  16. Congratulations! I couldn’t count up the number of events that I’ve attended as a result of hearing about them from you so many thanks.

  17. Paul Lunn says:

    I love reading ‘Ian Visits’ each week. Ihave lived in London for 4 years. I am retired and your blog enables Me to plan my visits. Keep up the good work!

  18. Mark Pack says:

    Thank you for all the entertainment, information and ideas for spending my time you’ve given me over the first decade. I hope you keep on filling up my wish list with more things than I have time to do for many more decades!

  19. Glen says:

    Happy birthday to one of the best sites on the web! Thanks again for the events information, and keeping my secret geek side happy with the weekly railway updates. Thanks for your hard work.

    • Susan Collyer says:

      Yes thanks Ian great blog I have told lots of people about it. Have visited a few places and invents you have written about. Here’s to the next ten years.

  20. RS says:

    Thank you for all your time and great articles. I have enjoyed your thoughts and suggestions over the years and appreciate the time and research you put into the blog. Looking forward to the next 10 years

  21. Keith says:

    Happy 10th Birthday and thanks for all the hard work and commitment that goes into your blog. I love reading it and some of the most interesting things I’ve attended in London has been as a result of reading your blog. Also was full of respect and admiration for your HIV blog. Love the Crossrail stuff too including the great pix. Looking forward to another 10yrs.

  22. Harry says:

    Thank you Ian for all that you have done. I hope you will not consider it too impertinent / conservative / conventional of me to hope that the next ten years yields you a partner/husband. I think you deserve someone to look after you.

  23. Martin says:

    Just to echo what everyone else has said – thanks and congratulations on 10 years. Yours is the first goto blog when we have a chance to get to London for a day. We’d be lost without you.

  24. Steve Groves says:

    Happy 10th birthday! When I lived in London 30 years ago there was sadly no internet. In those days one relied on Time Out for diversionary ideas, but the publication was skewed towards the arts and eating out. Had your blog been around in those days I would have been an avid reader. Despite living 5 hours away from the metropolis, I am still an avid reader of your blog, because London never ceases to be quirky, fascinating and frustrating.

  25. Hi Ian – I’m so glad I found you via … this thing that connects us in strange ways. Congratulations on your ten years … your courage in writing personal stuff … but also for keeping us so well informed about fascinating facts and story lines.

    I started blogging when my mother became terminally ill and the pleasure of coming home and finding encouraging comments helped enormously. It’s a strange ‘creature’ is this blogging lark … from so many perspectives …

    But again – many many thanks – Hilary

  26. Johnny says:

    Congratulations Ian, and many thanks for all of your hard work! I think I know London pretty well, but am always finding out fascinating things and new places via your blog. You’re very much appreciated!

  27. The Freerangers. says:

    Congratulations and thank you. We are a group of 6 pensioners who have been to so many interesting places since we retired.

  28. captainjoerg says:

    Congratulations on the anniversary. As a frequent visitor to London (I’m from Germany), your blog is one of my favourite places to check for interesting things to do on my next trip. I’ve seen a lot of interesting stuff in London that I wouldn’t have found without you. And I hope to be inspired by you in the coming years still.

  29. Robin Richardson says:

    Dear Ian

    Many thanks for your blog. I enjoy it each week, even if I’m not likely to come to London, as I
    live in Wales. I especially like the transport links.

    Best wishes

    Robin

  30. Peter says:

    From a Londoner now residing in Oz thank you for all your sterling work. Always something interesting to look forward to on Wednesdays.

  31. Jennifer Lambert says:

    Ian, thank you so much. I have only found your page since I retired but what a joy it is. You have allowed me the pleasure of finding things in our wonderful city that I and my husband (a Londoner) never knew existed. We and four of our also retired friends have found days of pleasure from your page. Happy ten year anniversary, you are a legend!

  32. Veronica Burrows says:

    Hi Ian

    Congratualtions on your 10th anniversary and for all the ‘heads up’ over the last few years for much enjoyed visits. Sad to see that your top 10 doesn’t include the April Fool visit to the church under the forecourt of Charing Cross Station. That was a cracker! Good to hear that you are now back living where you belong and are a bit more financially stable and, as others have said, if you ever find yourself a bit short again, don’t hesitate to ask.

  33. Ms Fitz says:

    Happy Anniversary. Love your posts, love the photos. Remember almost all the above, especially 4 and 10, and wish you well. Spare room in Wembley with only occasional spiders and inside loo if ever required.

  34. Spencer Richards says:

    Congrats on 10 great years, it is always a highlight of the week to read!

  35. Gregg says:

    Too good to be called a ‘blog’. Living in a garden shed with an outside loo. Sounds like the makings of a film to me.

  36. Steve Ehrlicher says:

    Every town should have one. I have now left London but your blog is a strong link to my times there and encouragement to return. It is a privilege to receive your weekly news and I wish you many happy returns. Long may you dig and delve for our enjoyment.

  37. Paul Baker says:

    Congratulations, Ian. I’m so glad I found your site, which is clearly a labour of love as well as sweat for you, and a source of many unusual and rewarding events over the years for me, which I wouldn’t have known about had it not been for your all-inclusive efforts. Thanks very much indeed, and I hope you keep it up for the next ten years … and beyond.

  38. Graham says:

    Congratulations, Ian, and thanks for lots of interesting information and visits to places and events I wouldn’t otherwise have known about.
    Here’s to your continuing good health.

  39. Nicholas Bennett says:

    Congratulations Ian on reaching ten years. I’ve recommended your blog to a range of friends and like me they are enormously appreciative of variety events and news you’ve brought to our attention. I’ve lost count of the events I’ve attended after seeing them on the blog. As a transport and London enthusiast your blog is a ‘must read’ each week. Many thanks for all your work, keep on posting!

  40. Undercover5051 says:

    10 years of pro-cyclist propaganda and agenda. I don’t know how you do it but congratulations.

    You never seem to post about when cyclists ignore red lights, how their lanes take up road space for motor vehicles. I wonder why?

    Yet you are very quick to how cars contribute to pollution and completely ignore the fact that cyclists damage the road through their tyres and through respiration (releasing CO2).

    Anyways. Congratulations. Hope you have another great 10 years.

  41. Sheila says:

    Thank you: I look forward to the newsletter every week and have found many exhibitions and lectures in it. And thank you for the blogs.

  42. Patience says:

    Congratulations on the pleasure you provide….I still remember meeting you at the bridge where I was hoping to watching the barges race. Recently I saw the sheep on a bridge. My favourite so far is still the huge tithe barn practically adjacent to Heathrow. Let’s hope the proposed 3rd runway doesn’t bring it all tumbling down.

  43. Howard says:

    Well done. My wife and I are avid fans and your posts have helped me in my “interest” (some would say unhealthy!) of the tube map and Harry Beck, it’s original creator (who used to live 2 doors away from me here in Finchley).

    We met at the Dollis Hill secret bunker open day, you are such a modest fellow!

  44. Alice Sanders says:

    HAPPY HAPPY IAN VISITS BIRTHDAY. Have made my trips to London (I live in Slough) very interesting & it’s somewhere to look forward to reading immediately & pick out where to visit every week. Am very greatful. Thank you.
    Alice

  45. Thank you, Ian, for your wonderful writing and this blog!

  46. Joanna D says:

    Many happy returns of the day, Ian! I’ve been enjoying your blog for quite a while. Thank you for this personal post.

  47. Darren S says:

    Congratulations!

    I’ll add my thanks for your always interesting content,

    Also, as mentioned above, well done for producing some of the better April Fools posts on the web, and the only one to actually fool me (the Charing Cross one) 🙂