London Trivia: Festival spirit

On 3 May 1951 after the devastation and resulting austerity of the war years, the successful forerunner, of the Millennium Dome, was opened on London’s South Bank, aimed to raise the nation’s spirits whilst promoting the very best of British art, design and industry. It remained open for 5 months attracting 8.5 million visitors in that time. Of the buildings constructed only the Royal Festival Hall remains.

On 3 May 1968 the United Kingdom’s first heart transplant was undertaken at the National Heart Hospital in Marylebone, it was the 10th procedure of its kind in the world

Lady Elizabeth Hatton leaving a ball was found in a yard blood still pumping from her torn body Bleeding Heart Yard commemorates her murder

In the cloisters of Westminster Abbey is Britain’s the oldest door, in good nick, considering it was made in 1050 before the Norman Conquest

In 1739 Thomas Coram supported by Handel set up the Foundling Hospital for abandoned babies it was the world’s first incorporated charity

Christopher Wren built St Paul’s from both ends at same time so funding wouldn’t run out – money would have to be found to join halves up

The Trafalgar Square lions were sculpted from life Landseer used dead lions supplied by London Zoo until neighbours complained of the smell

Elizabeth Taylor spent part of her 7th honeymoon in 17th century Old Battersea House, home of her friend Malcolm Forbes

Wembley Stadium is filled with Middlesbrough FC shirts and scarves. There are also old season tickets, match programmes and various other items of memorabilia, placed in the arch by the steelworkers

And we think everything was so much better back then . . . early Tube maps asked passengers to refrain from spitting in the carriages

When St Pauls Cathedral neared completion its elderly architect Sir Christopher Wren was hauled to the roof by bucket and rope to inspect it

Clerkenwell is named after the medieval Clerk’s Well where Parish Clerks performed Mystery Plays, the well can still be seen

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.

A (very) brave new world

In the 1970s or early 1980s car stickers started to appear on the rear of vehicles, with the wording:

Designed by computer
Built by robot

Driven by an idiot


It was a parody of a successful advertising campaign for a car manufacturer whose model I cannot remember, but no doubt somebody might.

This mantra proved prescient and has stuck with me over the years, never more so, as the digital age has taken over our lives and seeing robots on an assembly line is regarded as the norm, and for the third line ‘Driven by an idiot’ could as easily be applied to many motorists driving in London today.

If you could take humans out of the equation, so the theory goes, the roads would be a safer place, and the subsequent reduction in overheads (the drivers) would be of huge interest to the likes of Uber.

That ambition of driverless cars has now become a reality thanks to the work, over many years, conducted at Warwick University. As soon as next year Jaguar is predicting their ‘Robocar’, a rectangular electric vehicle not dissimilar to the familiar electric cab could hit London’s streets.

With a top speed of 75mph and a range of 190 miles between charges, it can transport up to six people anywhere in London, and beyond.

The recent storms proved that this technology can save lives when two Tesler cars independently braked to avoid falling trees in the recent storm, thus saving the passengers from injury or death. These life-saving events help the argument that autonomous and computerised cars are far safer than human-driven vehicles as robots don’t drink drive, fall asleep, watch the passing landscape, or use their phone or i-pad whilst negotiating London’s complex streets.

Not until artificial intelligence has the ability, will these vehicles be likely to confront other artificial intelligence-led vehicles with road rage.

In the race to become a world-leader in autonomous technology, already the Department of Transport has been tasked with drawing up a digital Highway Code thus enabling self-driving cars on to the Capital’s roads by next year.

As the adage goes: ‘The most dangerous part of any car is the nut behind the wheel.’