Test Your Knowledge: May

This month’s quiz is rather eclectic. I’ve posed these questions before so that should give you a fighting chance. As before the correct answer will turn green when it’s clicked upon and expanded to give more information. The incorrect answers will turn red giving the correct explanation.

1. A performance of La Traviata at Sadler’s Wells theatre in 1952 had to be abandoned, but what was the reason?
Smog drifting into the theatre obscured the stage from the audience
CORRECT It was The Great Smog of 1952, coal fires and industrial emissions had reduced visibility in London to inches, lasting from Friday 5th December to Tuesday, 9th December in those few days over 4,000 would die.
The tenor in mid-aria collapsed with a heart attack
WRONG It was The Great Smog of 1952, coal fires and industrial emissions had reduced visibility in London to inches, lasting from Friday 5th December to Tuesday, 9th December in those few days over 4,000 would die.
The Sadler’s Well overflowed flooding the auditorium
WRONG It was The Great Smog of 1952, coal fires and industrial emissions had reduced visibility in London to inches, lasting from Friday 5th December to Tuesday, 9th December in those few days over 4,000 would die.
2. At the junction of Kensington Gore and Exhibition Road is known by cabbies as ‘Hot and Cold Corner’. Why?
Either you are inundated with work or there’s nothing
WRONG The Royal Geographical Society building has a statute of Shackleton looking towards Exhibition Road by Charles Jagger, a sculptor best known for war memorials and Livingstone setting his sights on Kensington Gore by Thomas Bayliss Huxley-Jones.
The statutes of David Livingstone, explorer of Africa and Ernest Shackleton hero of the Antarctic is to be found there
CORRECT The Royal Geographical Society building has a statute of Shackleton looking towards Exhibition Road by Charles Jagger, a sculptor best known for war memorials and Livingstone setting his sights on Kensington Gore by Thomas Bayliss Huxley-Jones.
Cold air rolls off Hyde Park, while the Albert Hall shelters you from the icy blast
WRONG The Royal Geographical Society building has a statute of Shackleton looking towards Exhibition Road by Charles Jagger, a sculptor best known for war memorials and Livingstone setting his sights on Kensington Gore by Thomas Bayliss Huxley-Jones.
3. You probably see it every day, but what is Johnston Sans?
The typeface used on London Underground
CORRECT Edward Johnston took the popular Gill Sans and re-designed it for all signage on the Underground, apart from slight changes it has remained the same since it was first used in 1916.
The design of a street waste paper bin
WRONG Edward Johnston took the popular Gill Sans and re-designed it for all signage on the Underground, apart from slight changes it has remained the same since it was first used in 1916.
French for an Oyster card
WRONG Edward Johnston took the popular Gill Sans and re-designed it for all signage on the Underground, apart from slight changes it has remained the same since it was first used in 1916.
4. In a little courtyard off St. James’s Street lays Pickering Place, it once housed an embassy, but which short-lived nation-state was represented?
The Republic of Crimea
WRONG Britain was one of the first nations to recognise the Republic of Texas when it broke away from Mexico in the 1830s, it would later become the twenty-eighth state of the United States.
The State of Somaliland
WRONG Britain was one of the first nations to recognise the Republic of Texas when it broke away from Mexico in the 1830s, it would later become the twenty-eighth state of the United States.
Texas
CORRECT Britain was one of the first nations to recognise the Republic of Texas when it broke away from Mexico in the 1830s, it would later become the twenty-eighth state of the United States.
5. The Russian word for a railway station is also the mainline terminal in London, which one?
Vauxhall
CORRECT One theory is that a Russian parliamentary delegation visited London to view a fabulous new invention, the railway. Their hosts from the House of Commons took them over the river to the nearest station, Vauxhall in South London. When the Russians asked what it was called, meaning the type of building, they got the reply ‘Vauxhall’. So vokzal to this day means railway station in Russian.
Waterloo
WRONG One theory is that a Russian parliamentary delegation visited London to view a fabulous new invention, the railway. Their hosts from the House of Commons took them over the river to the nearest station, Vauxhall in South London. When the Russians asked what it was called, meaning the type of building, they got the reply ‘Vauxhall’. So vokzal to this day means railway station in Russian.
Marylebone
WRONG One theory is that a Russian parliamentary delegation visited London to view a fabulous new invention, the railway. Their hosts from the House of Commons took them over the river to the nearest station, Vauxhall in South London. When the Russians asked what it was called, meaning the type of building, they got the reply ‘Vauxhall’. So vokzal to this day means railway station in Russian.
6. London has experienced many ‘Great Storms’, but one in 1703 dislodged a well-known icon, what was it?
The lantern on the roof of St. Paul’s just recently completed
WRONG Upon the restoration of the Monarchy Cromwell’s body was disinterred from its tomb in Westminster Abbey, given a posthumous trial and subsequent execution. His head was then placed on a long spike upon the roof of Westminster Hall. It remained there for over 40 years before the storm dislodged the gruesome remains.
Oliver Cromwell’s head
CORRECT Upon the restoration of the Monarchy Cromwell’s body was disinterred from its tomb in Westminster Abbey, given a posthumous trial and subsequent execution. His head was then placed on a long spike upon the roof of Westminster Hall. It remained there for over 40 years before the storm dislodged the gruesome remains.
The plaque commemorating the beheading of King Charles on Whitehall Palace
WRONG Upon the restoration of the Monarchy Cromwell’s body was disinterred from its tomb in Westminster Abbey, given a posthumous trial and subsequent execution. His head was then placed on a long spike upon the roof of Westminster Hall. It remained there for over 40 years before the storm dislodged the gruesome remains.
7. What is the connection between Dirty Dick’s pub opposite Liverpool Street Station and Charles Dickens?
The famous novelist’s father drank himself to death there
WRONG The original Dirty Dick was a young dandy called Nathaniel Bentley who owned a warehouse on Leadenhall Street. On the eve of his wedding his bride-to-be died, grief-stricken, he gave up washing, neglected his appearance, and rarely would be seen in public for the rest of his days. Charles Dickens edited Household Words, a magazine in which a poem based on Bentley’s squalid life appeared.
The pub’s collection of stuffed cats inspired the novelist to write The Old Curiosity Shop
WRONG The original Dirty Dick was a young dandy called Nathaniel Bentley who owned a warehouse on Leadenhall Street. On the eve of his wedding his bride-to-be died, grief-stricken, he gave up washing, neglected his appearance, and rarely would be seen in public for the rest of his days. Charles Dickens edited Household Words, a magazine in which a poem based on Bentley’s squalid life appeared.
Its namesake provided the basis for Miss Havisham in Great Expectations
CORRECT The original Dirty Dick was a young dandy called Nathaniel Bentley who owned a warehouse on Leadenhall Street. On the eve of his wedding his bride-to-be died, grief-stricken, he gave up washing, neglected his appearance, and rarely would be seen in public for the rest of his days. Charles Dickens edited Household Words, a magazine in which a poem based on Bentley’s squalid life appeared.
8. Norman Balon, the proprietor of Soho’s Coach and Horses for over 60 years, was celebrated as ‘the rudest landlord in London’. Under what name did he often appear in the satirical magazine Private Eye?
Bally Balon, the benign friend of the boozer
WRONG Private Eye’s journalists would lunch regularly in the upstairs room of the pub. At Balon’s retirement, Private Eye’s editor paid tribute to the landlord as: “The only man grumpier than me.” Balon’s autobiography, fittingly, was entitled You’re Barred, You Bastards!
Norman Nice, the kindly landlord
WRONG Private Eye’s journalists would lunch regularly in the upstairs room of the pub. At Balon’s retirement, Private Eye’s editor paid tribute to the landlord as: “The only man grumpier than me.” Balon’s autobiography, fittingly, was entitled You’re Barred, You Bastards!
Monty Balon, the genial mine host
CORRECT Private Eye’s journalists would lunch regularly in the upstairs room of the pub. At Balon’s retirement, Private Eye’s editor paid tribute to the landlord as: “The only man grumpier than me.” Balon’s autobiography, fittingly, was entitled You’re Barred, You Bastards!
9. Since 1820, what has a sailor done each Good Friday at the Widow’s Son pub in Bow?
Placed a hot cross bun in a basket hanging from the ceiling
CORRECT A widow lived in a cottage which once stood on the site. Her sailor son was due to arrive home on Good Friday. She put a hot cross bun aside for him on his return. Each year she kept a bun, but he never returned. The ritual was subsequently taken up by the pub after her death.
Rung the Bow Bell kept behind the bar
WRONG A widow lived in a cottage which once stood on the site. Her sailor son was due to arrive home on Good Friday. She put a hot cross bun aside for him on his return. Each year she kept a bun, but he never returned. The ritual was subsequently taken up by the pub after her death.
Poured a pint to celebrate Christ’s resurrection
WRONG A widow lived in a cottage which once stood on the site. Her sailor son was due to arrive home on Good Friday. She put a hot cross bun aside for him on his return. Each year she kept a bun, but he never returned. The ritual was subsequently taken up by the pub after her death.
10. The Prospect of Whitby in Wapping is London’s oldest remaining riverside inn. What was it originally named?
The Smuggler’s Rest
WRONG Built-in 1520, the Devil’s Tavern was a popular haunt of smugglers. Its current name derives from a ship that traded between London and the North Yorkshire fishing town of Whitby.
The Devil’s Tavern
CORRECT Built-in 1520, the Devil’s Tavern was a popular haunt of smugglers. Its current name derives from a ship that traded between London and the North Yorkshire fishing town of Whitby.
The Damn Your Eyes
WRONG Built-in 1520, the Devil’s Tavern was a popular haunt of smugglers. Its current name derives from a ship that traded between London and the North Yorkshire fishing town of Whitby.

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London in Quotations: Jack Kerouac

Paris is a woman, but London is an independent man puffing his pipe in a pub.

Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), Lonesome Traveler

London Trivia: Blair moves in

On 2 May 1997 at 43 years of age, Tony Blair became the youngest British prime minister since 1812 and moved into Downing Street. By September he attained early personal popularity, receiving a 93 per cent public approval rating, after his public response to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. After winning 3 terms he stepped down on 24 June 2007 for Gordon Brown, after his popularity had waned.

On 2 May 1952 the first jet airliner, Britain’s De Havilland Comet I, made its maiden flight from London Airport to Johannesburg

On 2 May 1905 at Old Bailey brothers Albert and Alfred Stratton became the first in Britain convicted of murder based on fingerprint evidence

English Heritage have recorded over 600 garden squares in London, more than 400 are protected by the London Squares Preservation Act of 1931

On 2 May 1975 Footballer David Beckham was born at Whipps Cross Hospital. He lived at 150 Norman Road, Leytonstone as young boy

On 2 May 1536 Mary Queen of Scots was sent to The Tower she was subsequently executed her little dog was later discovered under her skirts

In 1898 the Gramophone Company opened the first British studio on Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, producing some of the world’s earliest recordings

On 2 May 1953 Elizabeth II attended her first Wembley FA Cup Final as Queen. Blackpool beat Bolton 4-3. In February 2010 the boots worn by Stanley Matthews in the match were auctioned for £38,400

On 2 May 1964 West Ham won the FA Cup but as the Hammers celebrated manager Ron Greenwood and the disguised FA Cup headed home on the tube!

Described as ‘gloriously ugly’, with disgusting toilets and limited parking, Thurrock Services was voted the worst motorway stop in Britain

In 1855 Robert Yeates of 233 Hackney Road give us a dedicated tool for opening the tins. Before that the instructions had read: ‘Cut around the top near the outer edge with a chisel and hammer.’

On 2 May 1933 the Inverness Courier reported a London tourist sighting a strange spectacle in Loch Ness. The legend had begun

CabbieBlog-cab.gifTrivial Matter: London in 140 characters is taken from the daily Twitter feed @cabbieblog.
A guide to the symbols used here and source material can be found on the Trivial Matter page.

The bus that defined London

In 1947, as I lay in my cot ruminating upon what this life malarkey was all about, engineers in Chiswick were chewing their pencils over a new project.

During the war, Associated Equipment Company (AEC) had been given over to the manufacturer of parts for the Hadley Page Halifax Bomber and now this expertise was to be put to use. They copied the riveted aluminium fuselage of the wartime plane to create a bus that was considerably lighter than its predecessors, thus increasing its passenger capacity and economising on fuel. It could be assembled and taken apart with ease, much like Lego. The open platform enabled passengers to hop on and off the vehicle whenever it was stationary. Provision had been made for large pieces of luggage in a cubby hole beneath the stairs, and the conductor (there always was one) could stand in front of this recess away from alighting passengers. An innovation in mass transit vehicles was a heating system, the wheels had independent suspension, much needed with the post-war roads, and there was a fully automatic gearbox.

These vehicles along with the black cab defined London amongst the drab greys of the 1950s.

It was some time before the bus took to the roads, but by its launch in 1956 the years of research, design and planning was borne out and the iconic Routemaster was a great success.

Between 1954 and 1968 they built 2,875, so many vacancies were created to crew them London Transport actively recruited drivers and conductors from the West Indies, thus playing a part in immigration that was to transform and diversify London.

By the turn of the century, hundreds of Routemasters were still to be found on the streets of London, but their eventual demise can be traced back to a decision by the government in the 1960s, to pour money into British Leyland, in the hope of keeping the doomed business alive. The result, as AEC had been swallowed up by British Leyland, who now manufactured the successor to the Routemaster was a bus – as Boris Johnson as Mayor of London put it – having lorry engines and lorry gearboxes, more suited to carry 32 tons of gravel than a complement of passengers.

The Routemaster was the last bus on London’s streets to be built by Londoners, for Londoners, in London, and with specific regard to the needs of London passengers.

As I write this, Transport for London has announced that, due to a fall in demand, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 15H Heritage Route with the last 10-strong Routemasters running between Tower of Hill and Trafalgar Square will be withdrawn.

Featured image: 1959 AEC Routemaster bus – RM140 © London Bus Museum

Taxi talk without tipping

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