The Yuletide and New Year period is a traditional time for newspaper folk to kick back and regurgitate some of the most interesting, controversial, or just plain memorable content from the past twelve months into a year-end best-of feature. In that solipsistic spirit, may we present a selection of our most popular posts from 2009:
The year began with the first of several new station openings: the DLR finally crawled out to Woolwich Arsenal, and continuing with the transport theme, a long-forgotten, pie-high plan for a tube train that never needs to stop was discussed. Our inner Loyd Grossman took us on a tour inside Mayfair's £22m squat, we oohed and aahed over what the new Tate Modern extension might look like, and plotted the V2 rocket site maps across the City. On a lighter note, several respected Londonist ladies briefly discarded their dignity at the New Kids On The Block comeback concert. Post-gig munchies could not be sated by a stop at Dionysus: the Oxford Street institution was bulldozed as part of the Crossrail project at Tottenham Court Road.
You'll recall February. It was the month it snowed. A lot, as it happens, causing a transport foul-up for the ages. A good time of year to stay indoors then, and not stomp around London for ten hours following in the footsteps of a peripatetic 19th-century tourist, which is what a (fool)hardy bunch of people did. Some great photos were taken of the Barbican's Frobisher Crescent, but photography and the City was becoming a thorny issue in our hyper-paranoid age, leading to the first of many 'Photographer not a Terrorist' protests. A lighter topic was indulged as we sought out the finest puns in London.
A month of unusual aerial views: we saw the City from the top of Tower 42 after a brave group ran up the stairs for charity, while the launch of Google Street View gave snoops and spies license to saunter the streets incognito. A diplomatic spat was nearly provoked when the lacklustre gifts given to the Browns by the Obamas were criticised, while transatlantic relations weren't helped by the arrival in London of the Westboro Baptist Church, known for their mollifying mantra: 'God Hates Fags'. And late-winter boredom meant silliness was top of the agenda: highlights included an "epically rubbish" screening of Watchmen by the river, a pub crawl around London's lewdest and rudest boozers, and the 'happy cloud' machine on the Thames.
The eyes of the world turned to London as the G20 rolled into town. But the real story was on the streets, where protests led to the police trying to kettle protestors; an aggressive and disproportional tactic, and the Met's methods came under further scrutinity when bystander Ian Tomlinson died, after being assaulted by an officer. When all was said and done, did we really learn anything? In other news, a troubling trend of cancelled or curtailed musical events emerged when both the Rise festival and Stokefest were axed within weeks of each other, and a preview of London's first chocolate festival caused meltdown among chocaholics.
A subterranean theme this month, as we took a trip down Winston Churchill's "secret" war bunker in glamorous Dollis Hill, and a select group of Londoners got to experience Punchdrunk's latest theatrical piece, in the disused Tunnel 228 beneath Waterloo station. Elsewhere, we visited a number of major projects around the capital: the Olympic Park, the new Camden Stables redevelopment, and opening night at Bermondsey Square. For foodies, a gauntlet was thrown down as one confident restaurant declared that it offered the best pizza outside of Italy. And the winners of our inaugural photography competition, Slow Exposure, were announced.
Michael Jackson died. After the memorials, a white-gloved finger was briefly pointed at London — did the stress of all those dates push him over the edge? One artist who did make it to the O2 was Britney Spears: her act — "a messed up millionaire doing a sex show" — got mixed reviews. Blackwells in Charing Cross Road unveiled its weapon in the fight against ebooks: the Espresso Book Machine. Commuters suffered through a 48-hour Tube strike. And the weather continued to be unpredictable, with the Met Office's promise of a BBQ summer fizzling as torrential downpours hit parts of the city.
The height of summer had (ostensibly) arrived, so it was the perfect time for unusual outdoor events: hence a rooftop sculpture park in Peckham, a working mill on an abandoned railway line in Dalston, and a giant cupcake in Covent Garden. It was also the season for extravagant pavilions: we saw them pop up at the Serpentine, the Barbican, Bedford Square, and along the River Thames. In other news, TfL started testing the new Victoria line trains late at night, and a major fire engulfed a building in Dean Street, Soho.
Occasional breaks in the precipitation allowed Londonist to indulge in festival fever: we got blurry-eyed at the CAMRA Great British Beer Festival and tasted possibly the hottest chili sauce known to man at the Horniman Museum's Jerk Chicken cook-off. Antony Gormley's plinth project, One & Other, got off to a dramatic start, and the naked man seen flaunting his truncheon at nearby police proved that exhibitionism was still in vogue. An explosion in Hammersmith prompted suggestions about what neologism we should use to describe a Twitter storm in a teacup, and the Leake Street tunnel got gritted.
That BBQ summer arrived a little late, but was worth the wait, inspiring one Plinther to sunbathe topless. No such inappropriate behaviour by our own two volunteers, who spent a morning and a night up there. Anguish was caused by a major postal strike and TfL's decision to drop the Thames and zone boundaries from the Tube map, a process of "decluttering" that soon reached its logical conclusion. We were amazed by some pictures of London from the 1930s and bemused (and perhaps just a little aroused) by the Ladyboys of Kensington — a clutch of guy-gals almost as well-attired as the models at London Fashion Week.
Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness? Not bloody likely: tempers flared as the recession showed no sign of abating, and a particular flashpoint was the Tube, where a member of staff was filmed verbally abusing a passenger; the employee — a Jedi as it happened — soon resigned. Things were less tempestuous at Londonist's fifth birthday party, where readers helped us put together a map of London secrets. Breakfast At Tiffany's failed to impress, but a more substantive meal was offered by Mia Spencer, the urban foodie.
Fireworks lit up the capital to mark 1,000 days until the Olympics: a screen counting down the days was attached to the BT Tower, and there were rumours that the building's revolving restaurant might re-open. It might not be the only new vantage point come 2012: a bold proposal for a digital cloud was unveiled. November was a month of transport changes: the Circle line extension was confirmed, while the first major plank of the de-bendification of London's buses happened when the 38 became a double decker. We also mapped out the London of Sherlock Holmes, got to know the many lions of London, and watched a ghost forest grow in Trafalgar Square. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson busied himself by rescuing a damsel in distress.
The final month of the year brought more snow and frigid temperatures, not that the inclement weather stopped brave bathers at the Brockwell Lido Winter Swim. We explored the lesser-seen nooks of the capital: a hidden Masonic temple in Liverpool Street, a secret room at the National Gallery, and some unfamiliarly deserted streets on Christmas Day. On the transport front: the new Circle line was unpopular with passengers, an excellent documentary about the Northern line that never was emerged, and more information about the new Routemaster bus was released. Oh, and Londonist, having smirked at all the 'best of 2009' lists that the papers were churning out, dipped a toe into hypocrisy by doing its own.