Movin’ on up

Test card

After four years in our home we’re moving to a brand new site hosted on this side of the Atlantic, and we didn’t need Pickfords to do the heavy lifting, even though it has been hard at times.

The sparkling new site has as its theme London Live – appropriate for a blog about our capital – which a look that I hope gives more of an impression from the inside my cab. has more animation; and provides easily accessible content; videos and your gratefully received comments have greater visibility.

The new site has allowed me to play with a new ‘boys’ toy’ these last few weeks, even though it has been a steep learning curve developing the site. That is the reason some recent posts have been more truncated.

At the time of writing I haven’t been able to migrate your RSS notifications, and so if we are still to keep in touch (if only to exchange Christmas cards) click on this link to update your RSS feed. Or if you prefer email notifications sign up at the new site.

Thank you all for your support, comments (supportive or not), bookmarks, tweets, Facebook and all the other social media thingies.

It has been my pleasure to share with you my London and a truly humbling journey I’ve travelled with over a third of a million hits.

Thank you and Be Lucky.


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A Marathon read

Just how do they do it? I mean when an actor is given a major part to play, just how so they remember their lines. I only ask because last weekend a mighty 76 page tome thudded on to my doormat. Years in the planning and in less than six days I have to commit it to memory. The publication goes under the catchy title ‘The taxi and private hire information handbook’ and was compiled by the Olympic Delivery Authority.

[C]omprising 23 maps, a dozen graphs and scattered liberally with gobbledegook straight from a script of Twenty Twelve: ‘No taxis or PHVs will be permitted to pass through a VSA without the correct VAPP’. It makes for an interesting read.

Like an inexperienced actor learning his lines in Hamlet we have to make sense of this impenetrable jargon.

SatNavs will be obsolete as so many roads are either closed or had their direction changed. It is going to be hard for us but for private hire with their reliance on technology it will be impossible.

The maps make for interesting reading. Should a spectator require a cab from the Olympic Stadium they will have to walk 1,400 metres (or nearly a mile in old money). Cross a 6-lane dual carriageway, walk under a flyover to find the rank located, if memory serves, behind a caravan park.

According to the comprehensive map only two small ranks service all the major hotels in Park Lane, but that is probably because every 5-star hotel in London is fully booked with the Olympic Family.

Sorry I’d better get back to memorising all this I only have three days to learn my lines.

Life imitating art – a cabbie’s diary

Games Lanes

[W]ith the first Olympian week drawing to a close, with the predictability of a shortage of cabs on a wet Friday night, we have had a bumper week of motoring stories.

In a scenario straight from the script of BBC’s TwentyTwelve, on Monday two buses containing United States and Australian officials were lost for up to four hours as they made their way from Heathrow to the Olympic Park.

That was followed by confusion on the M4 as to who could (and should) use the Olympic Lanes. The ban of all vehicles except black cabs and Olympic vehicles will, apparently be ‘monitored’ by the police but in the main the authorities will rely on the goodwill of motorists to stay out of the prohibited sections – Just tell that to John Griffin at Addison Lee.

In central London in many cases the lanes, with the confusing signage, have been empty all week for fear that a £130 fine will be dropping through one’s letterbox. Again in a rare display of magnanimity an unnamed source was quoted as saying: “If we get to the end of the Games without issuing a single ticket then that will be judged a 100 per cent success, and there was me thinking the fines would fill the gap in the Games overspend.

Tuesday found black cabbies wasting their time protesting at their exclusion from the Olympic Lanes. By circling around Trafalgar Square they hoped to draw the public’s attention to their plight, the square might commemorate a battle victory, but I fear that this is one war that has been lost.

Apparently cycles have also been banned, but who will stop the rickshaws? The sight of a top of the range BMW with a member of the Olympic Family on board, queuing up behind a ropey rickshaw being peddled slowly by a foreign student should make for an interesting interlude while sitting in gridlock.

Speaking of which Tuesday evening gave TfL their finest hour, or to be precise two hours, as Madonna finished her concert in Hyde Park. She had stood on stage brandishing a gun, the precise weapon of choice many motorists must have wished they possessed as Park Lane was closed, along with West Carriage Drive and The Mall. The fare from Paddington to Chelsea Bridge which should have taken a little over 15 minutes took 1 ½ hours and had over £50 on the meter.

Passing on to Wednesday I noticed that in Russell Square one set of markings gives motorists the choice of either driving in a bus lane or an Olympic Lane – the choice of fine is up to you. An interesting diversion that night was accomplished after the Strand and Waterloo Bridge was closed, and why has the Aldwych underpass been changed from northbound to southbound?

Thursday saw the recreation of medieval London Bridge traffic chaos as Waterloo Bridge was closed southbound and Tower Bridge had been raised, it might have taken two hours to transverse old London Bridge but it was still taking half-an-hour, this could be an idea for Danny Boyle for the opening ceremony – art imitating life.

Soon I should have the answer for these conundrums and others for we have been told that the Olympic handbook detailing everything we need about the Olympics was posted on 9th July to all licensed London taxi drivers and private hire operators. But most documents have been in the post for 11 days, we can only hope that the Royal Mail vans have not been held up in traffic.

A Nation of shopkeepers

My daughter came home the other day enraged, her favourite Indian restaurant in our high street had closed. It was being replaced; she informed me, with a note of incredulity in her voice with yet another fast food outlet.

The offending newcomer this time was one selling pizzas with a name sounding like an Italian version of a game played with black tablets with white spots.

Just how many fast food outlets does one small suburb need?

Well the answer somewhat surprised as I spent 15 minutes making a survey of our high street.

[O]nce the street provided all the usual outlets for sustenance and comfort: butcher, baker, greengrocer, fishmonger and my hardware haven.

Our local authority in an attempt to give us a balanced retail experience has given us: 13 fast food outlets; 7 hairdressers; 4 nail bars/sun tanning studios; 3 charity shops and 3 estate agents.

Napoleon Bonaparte once famously described the English as ‘A Nation of shopkeepers’, this at a time when the rich would eat at home the food prepared by their staff. While the poor, because they had no choice would eat at the local pie shop.

Danny Boyle’s plans for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics are said to be reflecting the customs and values that made Britain. Well this should include having unique local shops each with their own identity where your daily needs may be purchased.

Within a few years not only will every high street peddle the same products, only those retailing fast eating or your coiffeur will be available.

Facts of life

I’m not looking forward to the day I have to have a man-to-man, you see I will have to explain a few things to my grandson.

At six weeks old he is already looking at me with questioning eyes.

In a few years I’m going to have to explain why grandad cannot spend much on treats because the insurance company where he saved for his pension was operating a scheme promising inflated returns to new investors and using this new money to pay existing members when they retired.

[W]hen the Government’s promised compensation for the maladministration that the Financial Services Authority had overlooked his grandad received little over £1,000 for the loss of much of his savings.

And when his grandad went to buy an annuity with what remained of his savings quantitative easing had decimated the rates by 50 per cent.

At that young age all this will probably go over his head, but later, when he wants to go to university somehow I will have to try to explain how my generation only had to pay for their beer money throughout their education while he will have to borrow well over a year’s salary just to finance his education.

But the hardest thing to explain away is why when grandad was young Britain was the 2nd largest economic powerhouse in the world and by the time he hopes to get a job we will be languishing near the bottom ten.

He will be right to question why we allowed the banks to lend money to prospective homeowners whose salaries didn’t match the loan which in turn inflated the price of property to the extent that his generation will be lucky to afford a roof over their heads, except if they rent from private landlords as all community housing has been sold off.

And my generation had put in power politicians who just looked the other way as bankers in pursuit of bonuses loaned money to people who couldn’t afford it to buy things they didn’t need.

This on our watch was so endemic that these loans rose to such a level they potentially could have brought down our biggest banks.

He no doubt will have an incredulious look when I try to explain that all those worthless investments have been taken off the banks’ books in the form of quantitative easing to stop the banks folding and that he will have to explain to his grandchildren why they are still having to pay back trillions of pounds for these useless debts.

All this is going to be very embarassing for an old man speaking to a younger generation. His father has the easy part, he has just to explain about sex.