World Cup Scenarios

Taking a break from politics and one way streets, here’s look forward to the World Cup next month. No matter what happens as far as England are concerned, someone will say that they predicted it all along. So here’s my shot at making sure I can say that, with a set of the most plausible scenarios for the group stage.

“Just not good enough”

England wilt in the tropical heat of Manaus, with Italy notching up a comfortable 2-0 victory. Against Uruguay England have a better game, and take the lead mid-way through the first half. But goals either side of half time from Edinson Cavani leave England no way back. A fairly routine – and, by now, irrelevant – win over group whipping boys Costa Rica does nothing to improve the mood.

It might not be that bad, of course. It might, instead, be almost as bad…

“If only…”

With neither side willing to exert themselves in the Manaus heat, the opening game against Italy peters out into a nil-nil bore draw. A more open game against Uruguay features plenty of chances but only two goals, one for each team. Results in other games mean England need to win by at least two clear goals in their final game against Costa Rica in order to progress, and they start brightly by taking an early lead. But a goalkeeping howler lets the Costa Ricans equalise from a set piece just before half time, putting Roy’s boys back to square one. Pushing for the required two goals in the second half, England get one of them but just can’t force another breakthrough against a team with no ambition other than to park the bus.

Alternatively, there’s more than one way to make a mess of things:

“Defeat from the jaws of victory”

An opening game defeat to group favourites Italy is put behind them as England record a deserved victory over Uruguay, meaning a win over Costa Rica will see them comfortably through. But it all goes horribly wrong when England lose a defender to a red card following a horror tackle in the 18 yard area. Costa Rica equalise through the ensuing penalty, and England’s ten men can’t force another goal. Four points isn’t enough, as Uruguay grab a last-minute winner over Italy in their final game to put both them and the Italians through with six points apiece.

Then again, if things go the right way in the end…

“Scraping through”

After 0-0 and 1-1 draws respectively against Italy and Uruguay, England need a win against Costa Rica to progress. The game starts badly with Costa Rica taking an unexpected lead in the first ten minutes, and holding that lead until half time. England’s equaliser comes shortly after the restart, but the floodgates don’t open. Instead, a combination of Costa Rica’s backs-to-the-wall defence and some slipshod shooting from England’s strikers means that they enter the last five minutes staring elimination in the face. But Daniel Sturridge shows he’s learned from his Liverpool strike partner by going down just a bit too easily in the box, and Frank Lampard – on as a sub for the injured Steven Gerrard – puts away the penalty to take England into the next round.

And England’s luck can’t be all bad:

“Comfortable enough, in the end”

England get off to a good start against Italy with an early goal, but are pegged back by an equaliser in the second half and the game ends all square. In the second game, there’s a bit more margin for error as England take a 2-0 lead by half time. Uruguay pull one back midway through the second half, and England have some last ditch defending to do as the South Americans throw everything at them in the final 20 minutes. But luck, and the woodwork, is on England’s side and they hold on to the lead. A routine 2-0 win over Costa Rica cements their place in the second round.

And, just to round things off, what if it all works out?…

“You know, we might even have a chance of winning this thing…”

A set piece header by Gary Cahill, very much against the run of play, gives England a one goal lead over Italy early in the second half. With both sides tiring in the heat, England are content to sit back and let Italy wear themselves out first by doing all the attacking. The defence holds firm and England notch up an unexpected, but not undeserved, victory. The good defensive form continues into the second game where another 1-0 win is delivered courtesy of Steven Gerrard’s free kick in the first half. Finally, against Costa Rica, the strikers get their chance to appear on the scoresheet in a comfortable 4-1 win as England end the group stage in pole position.

I’m not going to say which of these I think is the most likely. And. of course, there are plenty of other scenarios as well. But I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these, or something pretty close to it, is what turns out to happen. What do you reckon?

Euro dance

The music has stopped and we’ve all got off the Euro dance floor. The ’kippers are smokin’, the Tories are blue, Labour isn’t quite working and the future isn’t bright for Lib Dem orange. But what does it all mean?

It is, clearly, a good result for UKIP, at least as far as the European elections are concerned – although I bet Nigel Farage is looking enviously across the Channel to where the French Front National has stolen a lot of his thunder and left him with some awkward decisions to make. But, apart from UKIP, who are the winners and losers?

One of the most notable things about the results in the UK is that no party other than UKIP has really succeeded. But, on the other hand, only the BNP and the Lib Dems can be said to have failed.

The Greens have gained an MEP despite a small drop in their share of the total vote, while Plaid Cymru and the SNP have effectively trod water. Labour has posted solid gains, something which would have been a very good result were it not for two things: UKIP did even better and Labour didn’t beat the Conservatives by a big enough margin to be worth crowing over.

Everybody else lost ground. The BNP were wiped out, the Lib Dems came close to it and the Conservatives came third in what turned out to be a surprisingly tight race between the top three parties. But at this stage in the electoral cycle you would expect the incumbent party to suffer, particularly given that Labour was starting from a very low base and was always going to pick up more votes. A drop from 27.7% of the vote to 23.9% would not normally be seen as a disaster – under normal circumstances, a close second to an insurgent mid-term challenger would be a good defensive position. But UKIP’s win changes that.

But I’m just repeating here what you can already read in the media. Is there anything else we can draw from the results?

One of the things that hasn’t been commented on elsewhere, as far as I can see, is that the total share of the vote gained by the Conservatives and Labour combined actually went up. The Lib Dem meltdown almost certainly contributed a lot to that, as many of their former votes will have gone to Labour. But there’s more to it than that.

Percentage vote share is a zero-sum game. If there are only two parties, and one gets 60% of the vote, then the other must get 40%. If one party gains 5 percentage points, then the other must lose 5. It gets more complex, of course, with more parties, but the basic principle remains the same: gains and losses always balance out.

In this case, only two parties gained significantly: Labour and UKIP. So those gains must have come from other parties. But where?

It’s tempting to say that UKIP gained mostly from the Conservatives. But they clearly didn’t. UKIP were up by 11 percentage points, with the Conservatives down by just 3.7. Equally, Labour gained 9.7 percentage points, but that can’t all have come from the Lib Dems’ loss of 6.8. With the Greens and Celtic nationalist parties holding steady, those gains must have come at least partly from elsewhere.

I’m speculating here, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that the majority of the lost Lib Dem votes went to Labour, while the lost Conservative votes were split between UKIP and Labour (remember that not all Conservatives are committed to the centre-right; a fair number of them are floating voters who will vote Labour or Conservative as the mood takes them). That accounts, pretty much, for Labour’s gains, allowing for the inevitable fuzziness caused by some people switching one way at the same time as others switched in the opposite direction. But it doesn’t explain UKIP.

So where did UKIP’s votes come from? Remember, they made gains of 11 percentage points, and only a relatively small proportion of those will have come from the Conservatives. But who else lost votes?

The three biggest losers in this year’s European elections were, in order, the Lib Dems, the BNP and “other”. I’ve already made the assumption that most of the lost Lib Dem votes went to Labour, and the electoral maths supports that assumption. Which leaves the other two. In total, the BNP and the other fringe parties lost 9.6 percentage points of the vote share.

The mainstream parties probably got a bit of that. But the figures suggest that the vast majority of it went to UKIP. Which, together with a smallish number of defectors from the Conservatives to UKIP, gave them an 11 point gain and the top of the poll.

What that means is that UKIP are not making major inroads into the core support of the mainstream parties. Instead, they are hoovering up protest votes that previously went to other fringe parties. In particular, they have almost certainly benefitted from the collapse of the BNP vote.

That isn’t particularly good news for UKIP. It means that, far from being an unstoppable bandwagon, their support may well have peaked. In the council elections that was also apparent, with their projected national share of the vote being down from 2013. I’m willing to stick my neck out and predict that UKIP won’t win the Newark by-election, even though they did well in the nearest equivalent European count district. And I’m also willing to predict that they will find things a lot harder come next year’s general election. But we’ll have to wait and see what happens there.

Anyway, that’s enough politics. For the benefit of anyone who started at the title and was disappointed by the rest, here’s some classic Euro dance. Enjoy.

How Facebook is killing language

Lots of things are accused of killing language. Texting, for example. Or, to give its more common name, txtng. It’s quite easy to find articles in the popular media complaining that schoolchildren are using abbreviations such as ‘ur’, ‘gr8’ and ‘b4’ in their essays.

Twitter gets a bashing, too. Its 140 character limit means that it’s all too common to find yourself in the position of composing a witty and intelligent tweet, only to find yourself with -1 characters left and having to choose which spelling or grammar solecism to commit.

But no. Text and Twitter are not the worst offenders against language. Txtspk arises from the sheer awkwardness of using a phone keyboard as much as anything else. In many ways, Twitter’s limit forces you to think carefully about what you are writing. Neither of those are bad, even if they can sometimes accidentally give rise to bad habits in other contexts. The worst offender is different. The worst offender is Facebook.

That may seem a strange assertion. After all, Facebook imposes no overly-restrictive limit on message length. You don’t find yourself having to cut out words or abbreviate others. And, if you’re using it on a real computer, it doesn’t have the awkward keyboard problem of SMS. So what’s the problem?

The problem, quite simply, was Facebook’s decision to remove the “post” button and make the Enter key post instead. That may seem innocuous, but what it also did was remove the ability to insert newlines and paragraph breaks the way you normally do – by pressing the Enter key.

Facebook does still allow you to insert newlines by pressing Shift-Enter. But that’s non-intuitive and it isn’t well documented, and I’d hazard a guess that most people aren’t aware of it. It’s certainly true that most people don’t use it.

I’m not really sure why Facebook did this. Comments from elsewhere on the web suggest that Facebook were trying to encourage short posts, in order to make the news feed more Twitter-like. If so, it hasn’t really worked.

To be sure, a lot of posts are simple one-liners or single sentences. But they always have been. There doesn’t seem to have been any noticeable reduction in average post length since the change.

What has happened is that most people no longer craft lengthier comments, possibly going back over them and checking for typos and maybe reformatting them, before posting them. Instead, Facebook’s newsfeed and comments under a post often read more like a stream of consciousness. Instead of well-formatted text with paragraphs where appropriate, people just keep on typing until they’ve finished and then just hit Enter.

I don’t know about you, but I find this really irritating. It makes it a lot harder to read longer posts and comments. Facebook’s rather small and closely spaced regular font size (a fixed 12 pixels) doesn’t help here, either – both Twitter and Google Plus have larger, easier to read text.

The reason why this is particularly bad, though, is that unlike Twitter and SMS, Facebook’s lack of a short text limit means that habits learned on Facebook do transfer to other situations far more easily. People who write 140 character comments on Twitter don’t restrict themselves to 140 characters elsewhere. But people who write long screeds of unformatted text on Facebook do write long screeds of unformatted text elsewhere.

I’ve been on the Internet a long time – nearly twenty years, now – and I’ve been involved in a lot of online discussion forums, including mailing lists, Usenet newsgroups, web forums and now social media, in that time. I’m not a net-Luddite; I don’t think that everything was necessarily better back in the early days and I’m very much a fan of social media in general. But, over the past few years, I have noticed a distinct decline in the quality of writing on many of the online discussion forums I inhabit. And, in most of those cases, the decline is specifically into the type of unformatted, un-crafted text encouraged by Facebook.

So, what can be done about this? I don’t really know. I do make a point of using paragraphs in any longer content that I post on Facebook, in the (possibly vain) hope that it might encourage others to do the same. But what I’d really like is for Facebook to reverse this particular change. Maybe I should start a Facebook page about it.

Are UKIP up or down?

There has been much media coverage of how well UKIP have done in the local authority elections that took place at the same time as the European elections on Thursday. If you listen to the BBC, it’s been a triumph for Nigel Farage and his motley crew.

But has it? Labour commentator Eoin Clarke posted this useful chart on Twitter:

UKIP vote

That’s right. UKIP’s share of the vote has actually dropped since this time last year. Not that you’d realise it, from the media coverage.

So how come UKIP gained council seats? The answer to that is fairly simple.

Unlike a general election, not all councils have their elections at the same time. Local authority elections take place every May, so each year there is approximately a quarter of all council seats up for grabs.

The reason that UKIP gained seats this year, despite polling lower than last year, is that the seats they were contesting this year are ones which were last contested in 2010. And UKIP didn’t do particularly well in the elections that year, so any decent showing this time round would mean a gain. In fact, UKIP would have gained seats even if their share of the vote had dropped far more than it actually did.

2010 was also the year of the most recent general election, in which both the Conservatives and Lib Dems did well at the expense of Labour. So, assuming that the local election results reflect the national opinion polls, both of those parties were always going to lose seats.

This cannot, however, go on forever. Eventually a full cycle of local elections will have completed and UKIP will be fighting to hold their previous gains as well as aiming to make new ones.

On current trends, that’s going to start happening in around two or three years time. UKIP’s high water mark in local elections was last year, so unless they can reverse this year’s drop and start gaining again then they will start losing seats in 2017, or possibly even in 2016.

This is a very long way from representing a breakthrough in UKIP’s electoral prospects. On the contrary, this year’s results suggest that UKIP’s growth has stalled. Which, of course, is precisely what any thoughtful person would expect.

Incidentally, the thumbnail image at the top of this post is my own suggested UKIP logo, made a couple of years ago. I do feel ever so slightly smug about how prophetic it turned out to be.

Two-way access across Workman Bridge – a modest proposal

Pretty much everyone who lives or works in Evesham thinks that the current traffic arrangement between the High Street and Workman Bridge, with it only being possible to travel from the bridge to the High Street and not in the other direction, is undesirable and needs to be fixed. The question is, how?

The reasons behind the current layout are many and various. Swan Lane was first made one-way as far back as 1964. Since then, it’s been two-way again, and then back to one-way, but in the opposite direction. I’m not going to go into the details of how and why it ended up the way it is now, other than to comment that it isn’t the result of some Grand Design for Evesham’s traffic, but rather a sequence of independent decisions that, individually, all make sense but, cumulatively, have had a very suboptimal outcome. Here’s what we have now:

Current One Way system

So, what do we do? I’ve got a suggestion. Before I make it, though, I want to first take a quick look at two of the most common proposals, and explain why I don’t think they’ll fly.

Firstly, making Swan Lane, Chapel Street and Mill Street (or Mill Bank, as some maps have it) two-way all the way through. That would be the simplest solution, but it runs into several problems.

The most obvious is that if those streets weren’t considered capable of carrying two-way traffic in 1964, then they’re hardly likely to do so now. There are too many pinch points on that route for it to be suitable for two-way traffic, unless you exclude all long vehicles – but then that cuts off delivery access for Aldi, the Co-op and several other shops and businesses as well as diverting some key bus routes.

Another problem is that this would mean removing all the on-street parking on Swan Lane and Chapel Street, and this in an area where residents have little enough parking as it is. So, while superficially attractive, I really don’t think this will work.

The other commonly made suggestion is to make just Mill Street two-way, and reverse the flow in Oat Street, Swan Lane and Chapel Street. This has the advantage of avoiding almost all of the problems inherent with the first idea, but unfortunately it creates a couple of its own.

The first is that Swan Lane is currently two lanes wide for most of its length, while Oat Street just has one. What that means is that as traffic approaches the High Street along Swan Lane, it can queue at the lights in both lanes, and then when the lights go green two vehicles at a time can exit – one going left, the other going right or straight on. If you reverse the flow and send High Street bound traffic along Oat Street, then only one vehicle at a time can exit when the lights are green, meaning that the outflow capacity is halved. At peak times, that’s going to cause significant delays.

A second problem with the “reversed flow” approach is that it requires a second set of traffic lights on the High Street, just yards from an existing pedestrian crossing as well as the existing lights at the Swan Lane/Avon Street junction. That’s too many traffic lights close together, the pedestrian crossing would almost certainly have to go and it’s doubtful whether the other two sets would be far enough apart to meet DfT requirements (and, however much we may wish it were otherwise, a scheme which doesn’t meet national regulations is, and always will be, a complete non-starter).

So, given that I’ve just poured cold water on two of the most popular suggestions made by other people, what’s my idea?

My solution is simpler than the ones I’ve mentioned so far. There is, in fact, only one short stretch of road which needs to be made two-way in order to allow access from the High Street through to Workman Bridge. If you look at the map above, you can see it: the lower section of Mill Street. Make that two-way, and people can get to Workman Bridge via Oat Street, Chapel Street, Conduit Hill and Mill Bank. It’s a bit of a convoluted route, but it avoids all of the problems associated with either making Swan Lane two-way or reversing the flow in Swan Lane and Oat Street. And I think that being a bit convoluted is actually a good thing in this context, because it means that the only people who are likely to use it will be those who would genuinely benefit from it – people who are heading for Port Street and roads accessed from it, or who are heading to the Riverside Centre car park. For everyone else, it will still be quicker to go via Abbey Bridge.

That’s an important consideration, because one of the other objections to allowing traffic to reach Workman Bridge from the High Street is that Port Street is already congested and, in particular, has very poor air quality. Any changes which significantly increase traffic along Port Street, therefore, are likely to be strongly opposed. But my proposal, by making it possible, but deliberately awkward, to get to Workman Bridge from the High Street means that the traffic using it to reach Port Street will overwhelmingly be the traffic which already goes along Port Street, but at the moment reaches it from the High Street via Abbey Bridge and Waterside. There will be insufficient benefit for traffic headed elsewhere to switch to this route.

I could leave it there. But I think that it would work better with a few more tweaks.

The first is to make Conduit Hill and Mill Bank themselves one-way. This would effectively result in a figure-of-eight rotary system, with Chapel Street being the crossover. Here’s how it looks on a map:

Proposed One Way System

This does still have a few potential issues, but I think they are relatively minor and can be solved. The first is that Chapel Street becomes a potential choke point. It will carry more traffic than it does now, and that will include traffic merging in from two directions at the Oat Street end. That could lead to what’s known as “weaving” problems, where cars coming from the right and wanting to turn left interlace with cars coming from the left wanting to turn right. To avoid that, it would probably be necessary to repaint the lanes at the junction with Oat Street/Cowl Street to make it clear where priority lies in the traffic flow. I’d also like to open another entrance into Oat Street car park directly from Oat Street, so that traffic heading for the car park doesn’t have to go onto Chapel Street. That will tend to offset the additional volume of through traffic on Chapel Street.

Incidentally, although it looks tight on a map, the junction between Conduit Hill and Mill Bank is not a problem. It looks awkward as it’s a greater than 90 degree turn, but the radius of the curve is easily large enough even for long vehicles. Making those streets one way also means that on-street parking can be retained, which is very much needed here and would be threatened if both streets had to continue carrying two-way traffic at greater volumes.

A second genuine issue is that the additional traffic along Oat Street will make it less attractive to pedestrians. To address that, I’d put in a “road table” – that is, a large, flat hump of the type currently used in the High Street at the Bridge Street junction – in between Wallace House and the library, to slow traffic down. If guidelines permit, making it a zebra crossing would be even more helpful.

Finally, the junction between Mill Street, Bridge Street, Monks Walk and the Workman Bridge approach may need attention. With traffic coming from the High Street wanting to then turn into Monks Walk to get to the Riverside Centre car park (or even, for delivery vans, right into Bridge Street), it may need traffic lights to keep things moving. But this would also have the benefit of also improving the exit from Monks Walk and the car park, which can be awkward at peak times. Any lights here could be synchronised with their counterparts the other side of Workman Bridge, at the Port Street/Waterside junction, so as to maximise traffic flow.

There are possibly a few other places on the route that would need some relatively minor work, such as adjusting the kerb line in a few places. And, of course, white lines would need repainting and signs installed, as well as a set of traffic lights. But, overall, I think it would be a reasonably cheap option; something else which is also very important. Whatever we do has to be doable within the county’s highways budget. And a large proportion of that budget, don’t forget, has just been spent on Abbey Bridge. There isn’t an awful lot left in the kitty, so more grandiose schemes – even if they are workable – will be very much on the back burner for quite some time.

So, that’s my suggestion. What do you think?

Evesham parking concessions – some figures

Wychavon District Council have kindly provided me with some figures for the number of parking tickets sold in in district-run car parks in Evesham during the period that concessionary rates were in operation, compared with the same period the previous year.

The concessionary period ran from September 2013 to April 2014. Over that time, 418,151 tickets were sold, compared to 358,021 in the equivalent period the previous year. That works out at an average of around 2,020 a day during the concessionary period, compared to 1,729 a day previously. Or, to put it another way, Wychyavon sold an average of 290 more tickets during the concession period than normal.

So, does that mean it worked? Well, maybe. On the face of it, an extra 290 cars a day in the town is an improvement. But, on the other hand, 290 isn’t a lot. It’s an increase of just over 16%.

More importantly, other statistics obtained by Wychavon have shown that there was not a significant increase in footfall in the town centre during the concessionary period. So that 16% increase in cars doesn’t seem to have translated into a 16% increase in people.

How can we explain that? There are a number of possible reasons. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few:

People who would normally have walked into town, or taken a bus, chose to drive instead, because the parking was cheaper.

People who would have scoured the town centre for free parking were more prepared to pay for it instead, as it was cheaper.

People, particularly those only parking for a short period of time, who might previously have tended to keep an eye out for the parking attendant and not buy a ticket at all if they thought there was a low enough risk of ending up with a fine, decided that the risk wasn’t worth it for 20p and bought a ticket instead.

People used the town centre car parks, but didn’t visit the town centre shops.

There may, of course, be other reasons. But it doesn’t take many different reasons for them all to add up to enough to explain the difference between the extra cars and the lack of extra people.

The other issue here, though, is revenue. I don’t know how exactly much Wychavon earned from parking over the respective priods, but we can estimate a minimum. Assuming that everyone only paid for the shortest possible time, then during the concessionary priod the revenue was £83,630.20, while previously it was £179,010.50. In reality, both figures will be higher, because not everyone will have paid for the shortest time possible. But the additional income from longer time tickets will be much greater in the normal rates than during the concession, because normally the minimum price only buys you 30 minutes whereas during the concession 20p bought you three hours.

What that means, therefore, is that Wychavon’s revenue during the concessionary period was definitely slashed by at least 50% compared to normal, but in reality probably by far more. It would not surprise me if revenue was less than a quarter of normal.

That’s an unsustainable loss, and illustrates why the prices had to go back up again once the bridge had re-opened. It also illustrates why the argument that “cut prices, and more people use it, and you’ll make more money overall” is flawed. There’s an upper bound on the number of people using car parks in Evesham, partly limited by the number of available spaces and partly by the number of people who want to use them.

It also illustrates that tweaking parking prices isn’t necessarily the answer to increasing footfall in Evesham town centre. What’s more important is giving people a reason to come. And that’s an entirely different problem to solve.

If it aint broke…

Remember the Apple Maps fiasco? Google clearly didn’t.

I’ve previously blogged about how Google has managed to get the colour scheme horribly wrong in the latest redesign, but the latest change plumbs yet new depths of inanity.

You may have seen media reports of how Google managed to rename Basingstoke, but when my Maps were suddenly “upgraded” to the new version I noticed an equally glaring error right here in Evesham. Or, as Google now calls Evesham, “Raphaels”. Here’s a before and after screenshot:

Old Google Maps

New Google Maps

Actually, Evesham itself hasn’t been misnamed (unlike Basingstoke, which really was). What’s happened here is that a local business, Raphael’s Restaurant at Hampton Ferry, has, for some inexplicable reason, been given more prominence than the name of the town. If you zoom further in, or back out, then “Evesham” reappears on the map.

But why do this? I initially thought it might be a bodged attempt at personalisation, as I happen to know the owners of Raphael’s and eat there often. It’s not beyond the bounds of plausibility that, somehow, I’ve created enough of a digital footprint via social media that Google knows that, and is therefore highlighting it to me. But then again, neighbouring Pershore also shows up as “Holy Redeemer RC Primary School”, and I have no connection with that institution at all. In fact, until earlier today, I didn’t even know it existed.

So, what is the connection? My next thought was that it’s because Raphael’s Restaurant has a Google+ page, and a couple of generally positive reviews (currently rated 4/5, which is pretty good, really). But no, the Holy Redeemer RC Primary School doesn’t appear to have a Google+ page of its own yet. (It has an auto-generated Google one, but not a “real” one, if you know what I mean).

So I’m still none the wiser. And, while I’m not going to say anything negative about Raphael’s Restaurant (you should try the Sunday carvery, it’s excellent), I can imagine that other business owners in Evesham are somewhat less than chuffed about this. Why should Raphael’s be the first food outlet to appear on the map as you zoom in to Evesham? And why should the Evesham Pizza and Kebab House, in Port Street, be the second? (Other than the fact that I am a regular customer of theirs as well!). Why do St Richards First School and St Mary’s Catholic Primary School show up on the map of Evesham before the considerably larger Prince Henry’s High School? Why does the Vale of Evesham Christian Centre show up before Evesham Methodist Church? Why is Bonk the first shop to show up in the High Street (which is wrong now, anyway, as Bonk is moving to Port Street), and Phones 4U the first to be visible on Bridge Street?

I could go on. The entire selection of businesses on the new Google maps seems utterly random, and bears very little relationship to what people are likely to be looking for. If you want a primary school, a riverside cafe and a skate shop then it’s not a bad selection. But, realistically, how many people are going to care about these things?

I said in my previous post that Google seems to have stopped considering Google Maps to be first and foremost a map, and instead sees it primarily as a kind of geo-located business directory. That in itself is a bad move, of course. But it’s compounded by the fact that Google Maps is an absolutely atrocious business directory. It’s missing 90% of the businesses and organisations that people actually use, and of those it does include, it ranks them in an entirely arbitrary order of priority.

Anyway, enough ranting. There are three important things you need to know:

1. To opt out of the new Google Maps, click on the question mark icon at the bottom of the screen, and select “Return to classic Google Maps”.

2. Raphael’s Restaurant is definitely worth a visit if you’ve never been there before, particularly the Sunday carvery.

3. Buy your skate stuff from Bonk. Kim does a lot for the town, and needs all the business she can get.