In reply . . .

In November 2008 I joined Twitter using the handle @londoncabbie, adding @cabbieblog the next year, and for a time both accounts hung around in cyberspace untroubled by my interaction.

Later I started tweeting trivia on an old Nokia handset to the @cabbieblog account, and without the Twitter app, did I realise that you’re supposed to join in with strangers who, with others, are minded to engage in a pointless conversation.

Today that daily trivia has been ‘tweeted’ uninterrupted for well over a decade, but it was not until I had an i-phone that I’ve realised that people actually bother to comment on both my accounts.

The Sun and Guardian newspapers had tried to contact me, as did the BBC World Service, although I still don’t really understand how you can monitor the mass of messages received, and take the time to reply, but there again, I was born half-a-century too early.

Looking at the replies that my ‘followers’ have been minded to bring to my attention, I have discovered a plethora of well-meaning, and not so informative information, regarding the trivia on @cabbieblog and links to blog posts on @londoncabbie.

The favourite that I’ve unearthed takes me to task with my ability to compose acceptable prose in 140 characters:

poor grammar

funnily enough no
1 last try….

and finally:
Pathetic you still cant get it right, your lucky the cab trade saved you and gave you a job….not the sharpest are you

While this table dancing venue made me an offer it seemed churlish to ignore:
Thanks for your twitter add,looking forward to your tweets-we offer 100% of ££ customers you bring us pay at the door

My hippocampus was at the centre of a discussion between a professor and someone undertaking a post-doctorate:
@hugospiers, the professor
Why choice to do the Knowledge training? – that is I think because they love the joy of problem solving a massive jigsaw of London. The freedom to operate and roam London they really enjoy. @CabbieBlog & @EvaGriesbauer might have more to add…
@vikbladh replied
Isn’t it hugely time-consuming and costly though? Maybe this isn’t right, but I thought drivers had to just drive around for weeks unpaid to learn the streets.
@hugospiers the prof clarified
its about 2-4 years! Its crazy and hugely expensive to train. It does pay reasonably well at the end and you are your own boss, so it is attractive to many still.
But you could still have licensing but not necessarily based on the knowledge? I would never challenge that acquiring the knowledge isn’t an impressive feat, but is the benefit for the industry worth the cost for individuals who have to take it? How do people think about this?

Apart from getting my day in the Sun newspaper, these opportunities were missed:

To become a zombie cabbie:

Or as a tour guide:
Hi guys, I’m putting together a visitors/beginners guide to London taxis, do you have any tips?

While some were more suspicious:
Wots your blog about?
That link looked a bit dodgy to me…

Others were more gushing with their praise:
Just discovered your blog, its a great read! Added it to my top London blogs
read your blog your quite an asset sir to the trade in my humble opinion
More please, i love this sort of trivia,
You’re too kind, Gibson Sq! If I were not a cabbie though, I would have no inspiration…
Some people just don’t know a visionary when they see one!
@CabbieBlog doesn’t even tweet his own blogposts. Odd, because they’re great.

This driver offered this rather quixotic advice:
If I was u I wouldn’t be able to resist slipping the odd pile of bollocks in. I trust u hv greater resolve than I…

Apparently, a lyricist follows me:
Can you imagine Ray Davis and the kinks singing strand bridge sun rise , it would have fu**ed up a great song

Unsurprisingly, London cabbies did not keep their own counsel on Twitter:
I was always convinced that “keep your feet off the seats” was Spanish for .. “Put your feet up immediately” … Lol
have you seen the signs in exhibition rd? “give way to pedestrians”. Ridiculous. So are we now driving on the pavement?
I apologise mate for my language Iv been a little quite lately it’s just twitter can sometimes ware you down with muppets …
1829 v 1654
So we as a trade have 175 years seniority yet still get treated like ……
you can still turn right but you won’t be able to soon cos its going to be a contraflow bus lane which we cabbies can not use.
And to emphasise his point:
just to make you even happier no left turn from Hampstead rd in to Euston rd, dont you just love tfl?
and the best taxi service in the world gets discarded by @sebcoe and his cronies! I hope you get plenty of stick
thank you, you’re a real gent, and theres not many of us left.# be lucky
Have they moved Manor House haven’t been there for 38 years?

My favourite from an ex-London cabbie, who claims to be part-owner of a Hebridian Island:
I had that Fred Housego in the front of my cab, once . . .

London in Quotations: Bill Bryson

Much as I hate to agree with that tedious old git Samuel Johnson . . . I can’t dispute it. After seven years of living in the country in a sort of place where a dead cow draws a crowd, London can seem a bit dazzling.

Bill Bryson (b. 1951)

London Trivia: The wrong finger

On 28 June 1838 Queen Victoria was crowned at Westminster Abbey. The long ceremony was enlivened by the aged Lord Rollo living up to his name when he stumbled and rolled down some steps; further mirth ensued when the Archbishop of Canterbury put the ring designed for Victoria’s little finger on the wrong digit ensuring it would remain wedded to her during the ceremony, the whole coronation service lasted five hours.

On 28 June 1830 PC Joseph Grantham became the first British policeman to be killed on duty after intervening in a fight in Somers Town

On 28 June 1994 McDonald’s sued Greenpeace for alleged libel printed on leaflets, this became longest civil case in British legal history

Waterstone’s elegant premises in Piccadilly was the world’s first steel-framed shop built at the time for Simpsons the previous owner

50 Berkeley Square is reported to be the most haunted house in London, the attic room is haunted by a young woman who died there, and a whole range of deaths followed throughout the 19th Century

The Thames is the second oldest geographical name in the country only Kent pre-dates it. Julius Caesar called it Tamesis, no one knows why

Lilian Baylis, the manager of the Old Vic, cooked her meals backstage during the show and the aroma filled the theatre

The Great Eastern Hotel once boasted two Masonic temples, its own railway siding and weekly sea water deliveries for its natural brine baths

Old English skittles, once popular in pubs across the southeast, but now confined to a single alley at the Freemasons’ Arms in Downshire Hill, Hampstead

A taxi rate of a shilling (5p) a mile was established in an Act of 1662 by King Charles II it was not increased until 1950 nearly 300 later

St. Margaret Pattens Church in Rood Lane has a memorial to James Donaldson, a ‘City Garbler’, and a person who specialised in selecting spices

The Japanese term for a business suit is a sebiro, a simple transliteration of Savile Row a street famous for London’s finest tailors

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.

London has no edges

For a building built 50 years ago, the BT Tower looks remarkably modern, entering the generous foyer it could be any number of offices that proliferate in this corner of Fitzrovia.

It’s only when reaching the central core you realise the structure’s uniqueness. For running up its centre is that only means of reaching the viewing platform, and the only viable way of escaping in the event of a fire.

Seldom seen outside expensive hotels and department stores a lift attendant is on duty as you rise silently at 1,400 ft. per minute as the counter proudly shows. He is also there to help evacuate the building, the only structure in Great Britain allowed using the lift as a fire escape

Lift-speed_thumb The reason I was ascending up the most iconic building in London was as a guest of Secret Spaces. It was the sort of access that Google once gave to their Google City Experts encouraging its members to write high-quality local business ratings and reviews on the lamented Google+, rewarding members who had left at least 50 reviews to date, and who produced at least five new reviews each month. ­

The program took advantage of an old Internet rule which states that only a small group of so-called ‘creators’ generate most of the content on the web, while the majority just consumes what others have produced. These requirements are meant to guard against spammers and others who may be encouraged to write a few reviews in return for free stuff.

BT Tower-2 After a welcome drink we were given a talk about the changing cities by Leo Hollis, who stated that at the beginning of the century we became 50 per cent urban as a global population, by 2050 Hollis reckons urban population will be up to 70 per cent. From that he extrapolates that by the end of the century virtually the entire world’s population will be urban. So up is the only way to develop our urban living and what better place to present those views that at the BT Tower?

This was followed by a short talk of the Tower’s construction and history by BT’s archivist David Hay, who explained that the Tower is now redundant and used only for promotional work. An amazing image of London taken from the top of the BT Tower has set a new record for the world’s largest panoramic photo. The image shows a full 360 degree view of London in incredible detail.

We arrived at the famous revolving restaurant platform which takes 22 minutes to complete its circuit. It was closed in 1980 due to security fears. At the time many diners said that eating while being spun round was disconcerting. Being the highest building in Fitzrovia it has unrestricted views across London, from Crystal Palace in the south to beyond Wembley Stadium in the north.

As a so-called ‘City Expert’ much of London looks so different from 600ft. in fact, I needed help identifying many buildings that I only have known from the vantage point of my cab. From the BT Tower London has no edges for, as Leo Hollis predicts, urbanisation stretches for as far as the eye can see.

Pictures: Aiming At The Sky – London BT Tower; BT Tower (Post Office Tower) – London Skyline by Simon and his Camera (CC BY-ND 3.0)

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 25th March 2014

The smell of fried onions

A boutique hotel is to be found at the eastern end of Long Lane, called The Bermondsey Square Hotel; it’s located where London’s largest antique market used to be held. If the market is still held early Friday mornings nearby, will the guests like to be woken at four in the morning to stalls being erected and the smell of fried onions?