Ten things Londoners never do

As we start the season of ‘budget tourism’ here are some hints of how not to look like you’re a visitor to London. Well, apart from that old chestnut of what side to stand when travelling on an escalator.

Converse with a cabbie

If you decide to take a ride in a black cab, don’t ask the driver’s opinion of that precocious Swede Greta Thunberg. At £55,000 the electric cab is near twice the price its predecessor was a few years ago. In an attempt to make London the world’s greenest city, perfectly serviceable cabs are being ‘retired’ and replaced by luxury electric limousines.

Join the queue

That popular tourist hot-spot, the waxwork emporium on the Marylebone Road where thousands queue outside waiting for a chance to take a selfie with Michael Jackson or David Beckham, not with Rolf Harris who curiously is now absent. Those possessed with forward-planning have even stumped up extra to bypass the queue, little do they realise the highlight of the visit is mingling with others while standing in the most polluted place in London. This busy road has three-and-a-half times the EU limit for nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas linked to asthma, lung infections and other respiratory problems, in fact, the Baker Street/Marylebone Road junction has no equal, it’s a chance to really take home a long-lasting London souvenir – emphysema.

We’re just are not interested

Don’t ask what the Royals are up to, where they live or ask if they have met. The newspapers talk of little else, as Harry and Meghan changed their domicile to the cooler climes of our colonial cousins, insisting we don’t mention them, or their Instagram posts.

Eat 1960 culinary delights

Described in the Guardian by David Mitchell as “rarer than the Siberian tiger, all that we have left of a proud heritage of serving shoe leather with béarnaise sauce to neon-addled out-of-towners”. Only tourists would be wooed by that red light district-esque glow, order a very OK ribeye and have the whole of Leicester Square ogle you through your floor-to-ceiling glass cage, followed by that perennial favourite, Black Forest gateau, go there to experience the last vestige of the British tradition of culinary incompetence.

Enjoy the authentic London climate

Queue up to get an upper seat on a tourist bus. Sit in the rain in your complimentary, and monogrammed, thin plastic cape, whilst advertising the bus operator, enjoying the bracing rain driven by the latest hurricane with a curious moniker.

Experience Magnificent Desolation

Buzz Aldrin’s description of the moon could be a metaphor for the Emirate Air Line, that Boris vanity project offering overpriced cable car trips from one deserted east London location to another wasteland. But tourists can use it to get away from the crowds.

Walk on the wrong side of the street

Look, Londoners never walk down the east end of Oxford Street. Most locals probably don’t know about the pop-up shops that proliferate this end of the street. Bootleg counterfeit perfume, Union Flag suitcases, Beatles condoms and Harry and Meghan mugs, or for the less discerning, Prince Andrew pizza cutters.

Take selfish selfies

Whatever do not try to have your picture taken beside the Queen’s Guards. They have a job and tradition to maintain. At the most inappropriate moment could start walking over you should you impede their progress. At Trafalgar Square, there are floating Yodas just waiting for the hapless tourist to be photographed for the price or their next beer.

Be taken for a ride

So you’ve been to see Mama Mia! Now you need to get back to your hotel. There are a plethora of choices: cab; bus; tube; walk; or a Boris bike. But there is one Londoners would never use – rickshaws. These Chinese takeaways have absolutely no regulatory checks, but I suppose these would be of little use when experiencing fission of fear being transported up a one-way street against the traffic flow.

Enunciate correctly

Cockneys might be famous for not having an ‘H’ in their vocabulary, but for everyone else its ‘CE’ that’s absent. All the words that contain it: Leicester Square, Gloucester Place, Worcester Park. Nope, those two letters don’t really exist.

Courtesy isn’t dead

I was outside the Howard Hotel, before being demolished in anticipation of the unlamented Garden Bridge. A guy with lots of heavy photographic equipment wanted to be taken just quarter of a mile up the Victoria Embankment to a ship. I help him carry said equipment on board and he tells me a previous cabbie, a woman at that when asked to do the job told him to f**k off. It was good to see courtesy is still alive in our trade.

Bang went my back-up

The notice said: Recovery:

Your PC/Device needs to be repaired. Error code: 0xc0000605

I had only turned off the laptop and started it in anticipation to load a pending Windows 10 update when the notice informed me of a serious problem with my machine or just a peripheral, but no amount of switching and unplugging worked.

It was not the first time that CabbieBlog was unable to upload a post, for no sooner had this site got going, on 31 July 2009 your humble scribe was nobbled. Thieves had stolen 300 yards of pristine BT telephone cable between the exchange and my laptop causing a crisis with no internet for five days. With no Wikipedia to plagiarise, sorry research, I was forced to write using, heaven help us in this day and age, a pencil and notepad.

Telephone cables are often stolen for the copper within them. At Oregon Caves National Monument, America thieves hacked up and hauled away three miles of telephone and Internet cable along a twisting mountain road leading to the remote location, apparently to sell on the thriving scrap market for copper at a value of $3.2 million.

Then, three years ago my laptop, after becoming intermittently slow, was upgraded with a solid-state drive. Now I was looking at this blue screen with its ominous notice, so clearly it was time to call Roger my go-to computer expert.

It appeared that one of my pesky peripherals had blown the nearly-new drive, taking its contents with it. No problem, BT Cloud had been mirroring my every keyboard stroke – or so I thought.

Twenty-four hours later, and £120 lighter, after Roger had installed a new drive, I fired up and downloaded said BT backup. But the data was only half complete, much was missing.

The previous year, in an economy drive, I had switched from costly Dropbox to the free BT solution, and clearly, I had set it up incorrectly. In my defence, BT does have a rather confusing and convoluted way of doing things.

Being a belt and braces kind of geek I had also used the sublime Bvckup2 app to make multiple copies and write them onto a number of storage devices, and not to let down readers of CabbieBlog, after the early incident with the copper cable, I now use WordPress’s scheduler to upload and delay posts; in fact, dear reader there are, as I write 694 posts awaiting for your delectation.

So what can you take from this painful, and costly, incident? Firstly: laptops will at some stage die, usually at the most inconvenient moment. Secondly: don’t trust just one method to back-up your work, becoming complacent and assuming that it is always working in the background is a recipe for disaster. Thirdly: you might adequately understand Windows 10, but one day you’re going to have to rely on a guy with a screwdriver, find one you can trust, just in case; and Fourthly, don’t let down your readers.

London in Quotations: William Shenstone

Nothing is certain in London but expense.

William Shenstone (1714-1763)

London Trivia: What’s on the box?

On 26 January 1927 members of the Royal Institution and a reporter from The Times saw in a laboratory at 22 Frith Street, Soho above today’s Bar Italia an invention demonstrated by Mr John Logie Baird called a televisor. It was the world’s first public demonstration of television. It was also the first demonstration of a television system that could broadcast live moving images with tone graduation and with a scan rate of 12.5 pictures per second.

On 26 January 1960 Michael Black pleaded guilty to burglary and stealing jewellery at a house in Acacia Road. Surprisingly he was a company director with assets of £30,000

Bow Street police station had a white light and not traditional blue as Queen Victoria’s Albert died in the blue room at Windsor Castle

The traditional wedding cake design is based on the spire of 17th century St. Bride’s Church designed by Sir Christopher Wren

In the central courtyard of the Victoria and Albert museum is a memorial to Jim, faithful dog of Henry Cole, the museum’s first director

David Cameron was not first Prime Minister to use Tube – Gladstone did it – except he was dead (the coffin was brought to Westminster on District Line)

Beatrix Potter lived near Brompton Cemetery where names on graves include Mr Nutkins, Jeremiah Fisher and Peter Rabbit

The early 1980s Burlington Arcade beadle tells someone off for whistling, they turn round, it’s Paul McCartney – beadle exempts him for life

The oldest surviving regular contest in the is World Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race rowing up the Thames between two Swan pubs: London Bridge to Chelsea

Embankment Station, northbound Northern Line is the only platform still playing the original ‘Mind the Gap’ by sound engineer Peter Lodge

Alexander Graham Bell first successfully demonstrated his device later called a telephone from rooms at Brown’s Hotel, Dover Street in 1876

A ‘pickadil’ was one of those big ruffed Elizabethan collars. Man who made fortune from them built Piccadilly Hall – hence the street name

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.