Electronic money

Never one to adopt novelties with unseemly haste, I was nevertheless an early adopter of credit cards. I applied for one soon after they became available in the UK in the 1960s. The card I obtained then I have still and use it for most of my non-cash spending. In fact, I have two from the same company, the first, in my “civilian name”, and a second, in the name of SilverTiger, which the bank, slightly bemused perhaps, was good enough to issue.

Older readers may remember the furore when a group of banks came together to issue a credit card called Access (advertised as “Your flexible friend”), which they then proceeded to send to all their customers without first enquiring whether these customers wanted the card or not. Questions were asked in Parliament about this but as the deed was done and dusted, it was too late to do anything about it.

After a few years of operating as a “free” card, that is, one without a monthly or annual fee, Access decided to start chargng, at which point I ceremoniously cut mine into four pieces and sent it back to the card company.

Compared with today, using a credit card in those early days was a somewhat clumsy process. The vendor needed to fill in a carbonized voucher which was then placed in a machine together with the credit card and the roller run across it. This impressed the card’s embossed details on the voucher which also had to be signed by the customer.

Credit cards could only be used for fairly large sums and most shopkeepers applied a minimum below which you had to pay cash.

The first revolution to disturb this sleepy state of affairs was the advent of “chip and pin”, when cards became activated by means of an embedded mini-processor, capable of communicating through the payment machine and the telephone service with the bank’s computers. The supposedly secret 4-digit PIN (“personal identification number”) had to be typed in to ensure that the person using the card was its legitimate owner.

Every useful invention, of course, spawns illegitimate use. It was no time at all before we were hearing tales of chip and pin cards being “skimmed” by unscruptulous vendors and subsequently used fraudulently. I was caught three times by such nefarious practices – once for over £1000 – though, happily, I managed in each case to convince the bank that these expenses had not been incurred by me and to receive a refund.

The next revolution, “contactless cards”, though possibly of even greater moment than chip and pin, arrived and was taken up by the public with relatively little fuss because they were already accustomed to paying electronically.

As usual, I was slow to take up the new fangled “tap and pay”. Tigger was way ahead of me and was merrily using her card while I was still paying regular visits to the ATM to replenish my reserves of cash. Eventually, though, I tried it for myself and, as the saying is, never looked back.

As an iPhone owner, I of course became aware of Apple Pay and similar systems by which you could use your mobile instead of your credit or debit card. To be honest, I didn’t see the point. Why use your mobile to use your credit card when you could use your credit card directly? It seemed counterintuitive. I was also concerned that as I fumbled to take out my phone, I might drop it, with dire consequences. I asked a few people who used Apple Pay what they thought of it and all were enthusiastic.

To use Apple Pay easily, it’s best to set your phone to fingerpint ID, another advance that I had not yet tried. Then one day, while playing distractedly with my phone, I thought about setting up fingerprint ID, “just to try it”. It worked well and I have used it ever since.

Having done this, the next thought was obvious: what about setting up Apple Pay? Only experimentally, of course, because I don’t Intend to actually use it..

I was surprised how easy it was to set it up. Show the iPhone your card and it does most of the work itself, including engaging in a quick tête à tête with your bank, and – bingo! – it’s done.

Though I had no intention of actually using Apple Pay, I had to use it at least once, just as part of the “experiment”. I did and it worked. Was I smitten? Not quite. To be honest, I made a bit of a mess of things at first, so much so that I decided that Apple Pay was not for me and firmly put it aside.

Meanwhile, Tigger, seeing my efforts, decided to try Apple Pay for herself and set it up on her phone. She did and she succeeded in using it easily where I had got in a tangle. Seeing this, I decided to give it another go. I at last got the hang of it and yes, was smitten! I now use it for all my expenditure except for the rare occasions where cash is still required.

As I now carry my iPhone on a lanyard round my neck, my fear of dropping the phone while trying to pay has left me and the phone is always to hand, saving me rooting about in my handback for my wallet and then opening this to find my credit card. Gone too are the days when waiters and others would grab the credit card from my hand and insert it in the payment machine themselves, even though they are not supposed to do this. Gone too is typing in the 4-digit PIN. I also like the reassuring ping that the phone makes when the payment succeeds and the fact that the transaction amount is listed immediately in the iPhone wallet.

Having finally caught up with modern technology, I am wondering what advances will come along next. For they surely will. I read that the first credit and debit cards that work with biomettric ID, instead of the fallible PIN, have been issued and the first credit cards without any data – card number, expiry date, CVV – on them, cards that are blank except for the bank’s name.

Wonders are surely just around the corner and I await developments with interest if also with a touch of trepidation.

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Hornsey and back

I had an appointment this morning at the clinic in Hornsey that I mentioned in Holloway and Crouch End. Tigger waited for me in the same coffee place and afterwards we went for a stroll along Hornsey Road, which is a very long thoroughfare.

The district, like the road, is called Hornsey. While there is general agreement that Hornsey and Haringey both derive from the same Anglo-Saxon original, there is some uncertainty about the exact meaning of this. A plausible etymology joins the proper name Hæring and the word hæg, “enclosure”, to give “Hæring’s enclosure”. We might note that hæring also meant “herring” (the fish) but that is probably irrelevant.

Part of Hornsey Road
Part of Hornsey Road

As I said, Hornsey Road is very long and no single picture can give a true impression of it. Here we are looking back along the way we have come.

The Glass Shop
The Glass Shop

In passing this shop (which seems to be closed), I noticed an amusing detail. It has an unusual way of indicating its name.

Shop name
Shop name

They have had a name panel made that imitates the official street name panels in London. Here is a genuine one for comparison:

Street name panel
Street name panel

We passed through a tunnel that is part of a bridge crossing the road.

Railway bridge
Railway bridge

That this is a railway bridge is obvious but more than that I cannot say as I have not so far found any useful references to it. It is also in a somewhat neglected condition to judge from the plant life that has taken root on it.

Emirates Stadium
Emirates Stadium

Nearby is one of the area’s landmarks, the Emirates Stadium. The local football team is a well known one: Arsenal. Needing a new home ground, they obtained sponsorship from the Emirates airline for the building of a new stadium, which was duly completed in 2006. That’s about as much as I know since I find following football about as interesting as watching paint dry.

New wall, old gate
New wall, old gate

We noticed this intriguing anomaly. The wall is obviously modern and yet the gate bears a date of 1896. The most likely explanation, I think, is that, having demolished the Victorian wall, the builders rescued the stones of the old gate and incorporated them into the new structure. How exact a recreation is it? The uneven ends of the lintel suggest to me that the original gate was wider than this one but that could be a misapprehension on my part.

Blue apartment blocks
Blue apartment blocks

I noticed this row of drum-shaped apartment blocks because of their unusual blue colour which shone in the sunlight. Their round shape is also a little uncommon and they remind me of a row of kitchen canisters marked “Flour”, “Sugar”, “Coffee”, etc.

An old pub, perhaps?
An old pub, perhaps?

By now, Hornsey Road had given way under our feet to Benwell Road. On a corner, my attention was attracted to this building. Was it perhaps an old pub, now repurposed?

Once the Montague Arms
Once the Montague Arms

A view around the corner dispels all doubt because there the name still survives, the Montague Arms. The pub’s history goes back to at least the late Victorian period. When it closed down, I do not know, but it has been converted as a residential property.

The Montague name, as you probably guess, came to Britain with the Normans, the original settlers having come from Montaigu-Les-Bois in Coutance, in Normandy. The name of course means “sharp (i.e. pointed) mountain”.

Upper Street
Upper Street

We now caught a number 43 bus which carried us back to the Angel. We left the bus at Islington Green, beside which runs the long and busy thoroughfare called Upper Street. (If there was ever a Lower Street, it no longer exists.) It is lined with shops but particularly with cafes and restaurants, making it in the evenings a haunt of diners, a fact that caused some wag to call it “Supper Street”, a nickname that has gained general currency.

Islington Green
Islington Green

I took the above photo over the railings of Islington Green, a popular green oasis and also the location of the Islington War Memorial. In the background is the building that now accommodates the Waterstone’s Bookshop and was once the site of Collins’ Music Hall.

Crêpe Affaire, Camden Walk
Crêpe Affaire, Camden Walk

As it felt like lunch time, we went down Camden Walk to this place, Crêpe Affaire. We went in and found a table (number 1, as it happens).

Inside Crêpe Affaire
Inside Crêpe Affaire

This restaurant bills itself as “contactless”. What this means is that glued to each table is a QR code which you use with you mobile to access their website. You first log in with your name and email address (all restaurants in the UK are required by law to keep a short-term list of all customers so as to be able to inform them if it later turns out that an infected person accessed the premises at the same time). Then you consult the online menu and choose your food and drinks items and, finally, use your mobile to pay. The order is then placed. When it is ready, it is brought to your table (so it’s perhaps not quite contactless).

We chose coffee and “Eggs Florentine Crêpes”. The latter were tasty enough but only lukewarm by the time they reached us.

Stall, Antiques Market
Stall, Antiques Market

The Antiques Market still runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays and this stall, just in front of Crêpe Affaire, was part of it.

However, we decided that it was time to return home and so made for a nearby bus stop. Thus ended today’s adventure.

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Here and there in Shoreditch

We went for a short wander in Shoreditch, a very mixed area containing office blocks, apartment blocks, arts and design studios and much else besides. We took a 205 bus to Shoreditch High Street.

There isn’t a narrative with this, just a few photos and minimal comments.

Tower block, Shoreditch High Street
Tower block, Shoreditch High Street

We left the bus in front of this tower block, one of many that have raised their ugly heads in this area in recent years. This one is residential and you might (perhaps with the aid of a magnifying glass!) be able to spot a man on one of the balconies.

Crown and Shuttle
Crown and Shuttle

This handsome pub, the Crown and Shuttle, has existed since the early 1800s. It’s looking rather shabby now and seems to be closed, a victim of the pandemic, perhaps. What does the future hold for it?

Indian lunch
Indian lunch
Photo by Tigger

We went for lunch in an establishment in Bethnal Green Road that is a cinema with bar and restaurant attached. It is known, as far as I can work it out, as Indi-Go at Rich Mix. These days the restaurant also serves pizzas.

Street art dog
Street art dog

This street art dog was partially obscured by rubbish. Shoreditch used to be a very lively area for street art but has quietened down considerably in the last couple of years. Much of the surviving art is old and showing signs of decay.

Red and white stripes
Red and white stripes

This apartment block was probably built in the early 20th century, though that’s a guess. I photographed it because it looked so cheerful and pretty in the sunshine.

Rochelle Street School
Rochelle Street School

We reached Arnold Circus , which, as the name suggests, is a roughly circular “square” of houses with a central garden. The odd thing about it is that the garden is raised and has two levels, reached by two flights of steps. (See comment by Ray Purdy.) Rochelle Street School, bearing a date of 1899, stands nearby.

Red and white
Red and white

On a corner near the school is another red and white apartment block, not quite a match for the first one but similar. I wonder what it’s like living there?

Bandstand
Bandstand

On top of the mound that is the central garden of Arnold Circus is the bandstand. I have no idea of its age. Was it ever used for its alleged purpose? Today it is empty and we walked through it and down the other side.

Shoreditch Church (St Leonard’s)
Shoreditch Church (St Leonard’s)

This is as close as we came to what is known generally as the Shoreditch Church and, more officially, as St Leonard’s. Perhaps we’ll visit it another time. The original church dated from medieval times but its steeple collapsed in 1716 and so the church was rebuilt in 1736-40.

Street art by Stik
Street art by Stik

I don’t know who painted the dog but this piece can only be by Stik. His black and white figures were everywhere in Shoreditch (and beyond) but many have disappeared, often because the building on which they were painted has been demolished.

Rivington Street
Rivington Street

This is Rivington Street which I assume is named after Rivington’s publishers, a multi-generation business running from the 18th into the 19th century.

More Rivington Street
More Rivington Street

For a narrow backstreet, Rivington is surprisingly long. Perhaps that is fitting as it reflects the longevity of the firm.

Great Eastern Street
Great Eastern Street

Rivington Street runs into Great Eastern Street, one of Shoreditch’s main thoroughfares. This was handy for us because a nearby bus stop was for the 205 to take us home.

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