Three card trick

Running errands as an apprentice I would be amazed to see how many would try their hand at winning the Three Card Trick.

For those who don’t know, this is where three wide boys con people out of their money in a rigged card game, a scam also known as Find The Lady.

One person has three cards set up on a table or box (something they can fold up and run with should the need arise), you are invited to guess which one is the Queen of Hearts – The Lady.

The second wide boy poses as a punter, naturally, he is doing well at the game and winning lots of money, while a third accomplice will befriend people who stop to watch, pointing out how easy it is to find the Queen and win the pot, suggesting they might like to give it a go.

The card dealer expertly uses sleight of hand ensuring the punter loses as much of their money as possible. With the slightest accusation of the ‘game’ being fixed, the card dealer claims the police are coming and ups and runs.

It would seem human instinct was on the con man’s side, researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London asked 60 people to pick a card from four options and found 66 per cent of right-handed people (representing 9 out of 10 in Britain) chose the third card from the left.

Their conclusion is we have an aversion to ‘edges’ – such as taking items from the centre of the supermarket shelf. Also, we are just plain lazy, choosing the ‘path of least resistance’, being closest to our right hand.

Featured image: An early version of Find the Lady can be found at Tate Britain in part of William Powell Frith’s 1858 painting Derby Day where a version using thimbles is depicted. The man with the smart black boots and riding crop looks like the con man’s accomplice, while to his left, in the green coat the next victim is getting his money ready. The man to the left pointing is the other accomplice – showing how easy it is to make money. He looks like he has convinced the man in the brown bowler and the farmworkers smock, he looks like an out-of-towner who will shortly be losing all his money if he ignores the pleadings of his wife on the far left, the only person with any sense it seems! On the far right, a sheepish-looking victim realises he is now penniless! The Illustrated London news complained of tricksters at the Derby in 1860, who set up their stall at the edge of a wood, so they could melt into the trees at the first sign of trouble.

London in Quotations: Richard La Gallienne

Ah, London! London! Our delight, / Great flower that opens but at night, / Great City of the midnight sun, / Whose day begins when day is done.

Richard La Gallienne (1866-1947)

London Trivia: First blood transfusion

On 25 September 1818, James Blundell became the first doctor in the world to perform a transfusion using human blood at Guy’s Hospital, a feat he first experimented with in dogs. He also made advancements in abdominal surgery as well as in surgical strategies for obstetrics and gynaecology.

On 25 September 1066 the Battle of Stamford Bridge marked the end of the Viking era – Oh really!

During World War I a baker on Chapman Street was jailed for 3 days after selling fresh bread, the rationale being fresh bread is difficult to cut thinly, and people would, therefore, consume more if the slices were thick

Fruit Lines Ltd used to own the wharf at Canary Wharf. It was where they imported fruits mainly from the Canary Islands – hence the name

Herts Shenley mental health hospital like many others was once a stately home with a long curved drive hence the term ‘going round the bend’

Conservative MP Sir Henry Bellingham is a direct descendant of John Bellingham the assassin of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval in 1812

Composer Felix Mendelssohn stayed at 4 Hobart Place, Belgravia, whilst staying here he dined with Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Charles Dickens

In 1736 Fortnum and Mason wrapped hard-boiled eggs in sausage meat and breadcrumbs thus creating the Scotch egg

Polo imported in 1870 by cavalry officers serving in India was first played in Britain on Hounslow Heath and then Richmond Park

Finsbury Park station has murals that show a pair of duelling pistols, harking back to a time when men would visit the park after hours to defend their honour

The first parking ticket was issued to Dr Thomas Creighton on his Ford Popular as he attended a heart attack victim (£2 fine – later rescinded)

When John Noakes climbed Nelson’s Column (removing pigeon poo) for Blue Peter a sound engineer didn’t record the stunt Noakes had to reclimb

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.

Previously Posted: A Phoenix Arises

For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.

A Phoenix Arises (28.08.09)

As part of a series with the imaginative title “Buildings of London” the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom on the south side of Parliament Square is emerging like a phoenix from the old Middlesex Guildhall.

Little did Tony Blair imagine, or care, when he was ingratiating himself with the Americans to guarantee his healthy income stream for when he left office, that copying their idea of a Supreme Court would bring that neglected building to life.

The name Middlesex comes from the kingdom of the Middle Saxons, and has been around for 1,000 years and the Guildhall symbolises that civic pride. The building was built between 1906 and 1913 in an art nouveau gothic theme, and decorated with mediaeval-looking gargoyles and other architectural sculptures. The Guildhall also incorporates in the rear a doorway dating from the seventeenth century which was a part of the Tothill Fields Bridewell prison and moved to the site to be incorporated in the building.

The conversion has attracted much controversy from conservation groups, which claim that the conversion will be unsympathetic to such an important building. The Middlesex Guildhall is a Grade II* listed building and English Heritage classed the three main Court interiors as “unsurpassed by any other courtroom of the period in terms of the quality and completeness of their fittings”. But the conversion works have involved the removal of many of the original fixtures and fittings with a vague promise to display a few key pieces in the basement and find a home for the rest in some other building not yet designed or built.

Outside the building stands a statute of George Canning whose total period in the office of Prime Minister was at 119 days the shortest on record. If only Tony Blair tenure had been so brief, Britain might not be in the sorry state it finds itself.

Why do we only like Fridays?

How many London streets take their names from the calendar? I cannot find a Monday Mews, Wednesday Walk or Sunday Street, nor is there an April Avenue, July Junction or even a December Drive.

But it is only ever the same day of the week, and that’s today.

When it comes to naming conventions for London streets it’s always Friday.

Friday Street in the City of London between Queen Victoria Street and Cannon Street, was once four times longer running up to Cheapside.

So why is it so called? In medieval times this area was the City’s chief marketplace and using little imagination various streets were named after the traders setting up there: Milk Street, Bread Street and Poultry. This particular thoroughfare was the preserve of a weekly fish market, hence Friday Street, because that was the one day of the week the Catholic church discouraged the consumption of meat.

In addition to this central street we have Friday Hill E4; Friday Hill East E4; Friday Hill West E4; and Little Friday Road E4.

Chingford Hatch is the location for this collection of ‘Fridays’ and gets its name from John Friday who owned the land around here in the late 15th century. He built a Jacobean manor on a hillock and with startling originality called it Friday Hill House. The London County Council bought the estate in 1940 and created an estate, again called Friday Hill.

Further out of London is Friday Road, Mitcham. Popular folklore claims Daniel Defoe once lived at nearby Tooting Hall while hiding from non-conformist persecution in the 1680s. Now bear with me on this one, two hundred years later Mrs Taylor started a dairy on a neighbouring pasture and, knowing the literary rumour, decided to call it Crusoe Farm. Her one-cow start-up grew into one of the largest milk businesses in south London, so it made sense that when the area was developed it should be called Crusoe Road, along with Island Road.

Our last ‘Friday’ is Friday Road in Erith said to be named after Alexander Selkirk a pirate who returned to Erith after living alone on an island for four years and four months, sustained by feral goats and wild turnips, before finally being rescued by another pirate. Naming a street after a fictional character in dedication to a real criminal is a bit far if you ask me.

Taxi Talk Without Tipping

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