Brexit: Your number’s up

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Now all of you from countries that take pride in your national identity take note. It is now officially illegal to have British, English, Scottish or Welsh flags displayed on your vehicle number plate or for that matter French, German or Italian flags displayed – but it goes without saying that you can have the European Union flag.

Thousands of ordinary motorists have been unwittingly breaking the law after this mendacious Government backtracked on a promise to legalise the display of National flags on vehicle number plates. Ministers had said they would take action to exempt British drivers from European Union inspired legislation, which also outlawed the Cross of St. George, the Scottish Saltire and the Red Dragon. But of course that promise was never kept and it is only now that the true purpose of this legislation has been revealed. This absurd fiasco means that for the past seven years motorists with national flags displayed on their number plates have unknowingly been risking prosecution, a fine of £1,000, an MOT failure for their vehicle or a stop note and an overhaul failure on their taxi if they have the temerity to display a national flag on their number plate and indeed some motorists have been successfully prosecuted for this.

Under the current regulations in their original form, the only insignia allowed is the 12-star circle of the European Union. Motorists have to choose either a plain plate without a symbol or one with the European Union emblem and the letters GB on the left-hand side. Of course, these so-called ministers, who think they are speaking for the whole country, claimed the move was justified, like English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland symbols would only confuse the police forces of other European Union countries. How can these Ministers even contemplate this thinking? Do England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland not exist then? This shows you how far the corrupt European Union has intruded into the workings and laws of ordinary citizens all over Europe.

When the entire population has been given a criminal record and is on the National Register Database, will our wonderful politicians finally be happy and sleep peacefully? Is this some sort of master plan to stamp out any last vestige on national identity or pride?

European bureaucrats’ should note that people want a national identity, going down this long slippery slope increases jingoistic feeling and an attitude of Little Englanders. Stop it now before it is too late because across Europe we have some serious identity problems, your well-paid gravy trains are not worth it.

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 13th March 2009

London Trivia: First cheque

On 8 December 1660, the earliest extant cheque held by the Bank of England Museum is for £200 and was drawn by Vanacker on his account with Clayton & Morris. They were the leading bankers of the Restoration, with offices at Cornhill, their business was centred in the private market of lending money to landowners, a unique contribution to banking history integrating the mortgage as a form of long-term security for banking loans.

On 8 December 1995 head teacher Philip Lawrence was stabbed to death outside St George’s Roman Catholic School, Maida Vale, while protecting a pupil who was being assaulted

Watchhouse Coffee Shop, Bermondsey Street is a room where Victorian police once spied on grave robbers it overlooked an affluent graveyard

At 103 Borough High Street once stood the Queen’s Head Inn owned by the Harvard Family, the ones that set up Harvard University in the USA

Inventor of the pedestrian refuge Colonel Pierpoint left his club in St James’s Street stepped back to admire his work was run over by a cab

At the base of Big Ben is a cell to incarcerate any agitators causing trouble in The Houses of Parliament last used for Emmeline Pankhurst

On 8 December 1660 a Mrs. Hughes scandalised the public becoming the first woman actor to take to the stage in London

From 1934 to 1971 with the blessing of George V 1,500 bargeloads of sand were dumped by Tower of London creating at beach attracting 100,000

Laid out in the 1980s the Wood Lane Estate, Sudbury Hill has 11 streets named after sportspeople: Lilian Board Way; Mary Peters Drive etc

Maida Vale was the first Tube station to be manned without men – opened in 1915 with an all-female staff because of the First World War

The Greenwich Time Ball has several dents after renovations, builders assumed the historic ball was for the skip and played football with it

On 8 December 1954 a huge tornado ripped through Chiswick, Gunnersbury, Acton, Golders Green and Southgate

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.

You either love, or hate it

Today we expect the West End’s shopping streets to put up a show at Christmas, but during the 1960s this wasn’t the case, with only Oxford Street entering into the festive spirit.

The Regent Street Association realising their less prestigious cousin was taking all the compliments were not to be It’s that time of year when we expect Oxford and Regent Street to display for their customers a version of Christmas, and this year, for Oxford Street’s 60th anniversary, we’re promised an ‘environmentally-focussed’ event, reassuring their customers that no polar bears have been harmed in its production.

In the past we have been treated to some seasonal favourites: Marmite that much loved Christmas dinner treat and Regent Street was once given over to the soft drink Tango, which showered the area with bright orange bulbs and banners bearing the message “Tis the season to be Tango’d”.

Today advertisers hold sway, but during the 1960s this wasn’t the case. Only Oxford Street entering into the festive spirit, the Regent Street Association realising their less prestigious cousin was taking all the compliments were not to be outdone. They hired a well-known Italian designer charged with producing a ‘tasteful’ display to rival their competitor.

His solution was to produce giant white flying angels made out of papier-mâché posed with their faces looking down serenely at the crowds below.

London in those days was renowned for rain, in fact, you could spot an American a mile-off for they came here prepared for their visit wearing the ubiquitous white raincoat, Columbo style.

This particular November had seen an exceptional amount of rain, even by London standards.
The Italian designer just hadn’t taken in the fact that Northern Europe is considerably damper than the Mediterranean. Soon the press was running the story about Pregnant Angels, no doubt to the amusement of Oxford Street retailers.

Journalist and author Alf Townsend takes up the story:

I noticed a guy done up in heavy waterproof gear and wearing a yellow sou’wester. He was sitting on a cart that Westminster Council road sweepers used in those days and I thought to myself, “this bloke is out late”. He came over to ask for a light and we got talking. He said his job started after the traffic had died down and, picking up this long pole with a wicked-looking blade at the end, he told me that the pole could reach some 40 feet when it was extended. His job was to pierce the angel’s tummies and let the water out – hence his heavy waterproofs! We had a good laugh over it – especially when he said the guys back at the depot called him, “the Holy Terminator”.

The Regent Street ‘Angels’ can be found on the Guardian’s vintage photographs of Christmas in London.

Featured image: Regent Street – Angel Christmas Lights (2016-2018). The theme is angels, inspired by the first Regent Street Christmas lights in 1954, by Oast House Archive (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Sprucing up London

With its 500 white lights and central location, the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree is one of the most iconic Yuletide symbols for the festive season. Since 1947 the giant Norway spruce has been given annually as a gift from the Norwegian government to thank the British nation for their role in providing a safe haven for King Haakon VII and their government in exile, as well as the small matter of eradicating the Nazis from their country.

What few realise is the inordinate care that the Norwegians take to grow the ‘perfect’ tree. It takes 15 years for your Christmas tree to grow to 6ft to display in your home. For Trafalgar Square’s tree 120 years are needed to reach the optimal height.

A group of eight to ten possible trees are selected from forests outside Oslo. These then undergo special preparation for up to eight years. The surrounding trees are cut down so the chosen ones get enough light. The trees are fertilised to help establish the dark green colour and trimmed to the correct shape.

Then finally, when a tree is to be shipped, the best is selected. For the past decade this we vision has been made by Jon Christiansen, he perfect name for Christmas and the chief city forester for Oslo City Council. The selected tree between 70ft and 75ft is then named ‘The Queen of the Forest’.

During the felling Oslo’s mayor, the Mayor of Westminster Council, the British Ambassador to Norway and local schoolchildren are in attendance.

Carefully moving such a heavy and delicate object is undertaken by truck to Oslo, thence by DFDS Seaways, a Danish freight line and finally by a low loader from the embarkation port to Trafalgar Square. Unloaded and positioned by hydraulic crane, then secured by guy ropes it stands erect outside the National Gallery.

On 3rd December each year, the honour of turning on the lights is usually given to a member of the Norwegian Royal Family.

Photo: Trafalgar Square – Christmas Eve 2011 Peter Trimming (CC BY 2.0)

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 2nd December 2016

London Trivia: Hyde Park sold

On 1 December 1652 the Act of Parliament which ordered the sale of the Crown lands, after the execution of Charles I excepted Hyde Park from its provisions, but on this day it became the subject of a special resolution namely, ‘That Hyde Park be sold for ready money’. The Park’s sale realised £17,068 2s. 8d. The purchasers of the three lots were Richard Wilson, John Lacey, and Anthony Deane.

On 1 December 1930 Matt Munro was born Terence Edward Parsons in Shoreditch. He also sang as Terry Fitzgerald, Al Jordan and Fred Flange

Traitors’ Gate at the Tower of London is not the original, in the 19th century they were sold to a Whitechapel shopkeeper for 15/-

Original Waterloo Bridge was to be named Strand Bridge, during construction the famous victory over Bonaparte took place so Waterloo it was

Just below Tower Bridge, marked by a sign, is ‘Dead Man’s Hole’ where bodies thrown into the river from the Tower and surrounding districts were retrieved and stored in a mortuary before burial

The Imperial War Museum has sections of the original Berlin Wall outside in the gardens, a stark piece of history that anyone can visit

London’s smallest statute in Philpot Lane is a lifesize mouse. It depicts the mouse that would regularly eat the builder’s lunch in 1700

You can drink a Churchill Martini at Browns Hotel where the war leader frequented. It’s rumoured they built a bomb shelter for his use

In 1879 rugby club Saracens named after mediaeval Muslim warriors merged with a club called the Crusaders

On 23 December 1865 Aldersgate Street Tube Station opened. It wasn’t until 1 December 1968 that it was renamed Barbican

Threadneedle Street was once part of the medieval red-light district of London and, as the haunt of prostitutes, rejoiced (if that is the right word) in the name of ‘Gropecuntelane’

The Old Kent Road is the only Monopoly property located south of the River and likewise Whitechapel is the only east London property

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.