“Busy night?”

Contrary to the popular perception that all cabbies like to chat, punters are also guilty of asking, well, some pretty banal questions.

“Busy Night?”

The problem for the driver here is two-fold: if he answers in the affirmative the punter might be weighing up the opportunity of mugging him; conversely, if he says it’s quiet the passenger queries the reason why it took so long to catch a cab or thinks the cabbie just wants to moan and soon the conversation will turn to the shortcomings of the current Government/England manager/or London’s Mayor.

“What do you do for a living?”

Passengers sometimes enquire politely about what we do for a living. This is not, as you might expect, a unique occurrence on long, late-night journeys, and sometimes asked more than once by the same passenger.

“What time are you on ‘til?”

Many cabbies work the more lucrative evening shift, so the punter probably feels a degree of sympathy as he clocked off work at five. The supplementary inquiry “Can you pick me up?” at a time and place to get me home like we are going to drive halfway across London helping you get the last train home.

“Where do you live? Or live far?”

Why on earth should that be a topic of conversation with a stranger unless, of course, you want a lift home – see the previous inquiry.

“What chance is there of me getting a cab?”


In Ireland one private hire driver, after being repeatedly asked these futile questions has stuck onto the vehicle’s partition screen a notice reading:

Please Don’t ask futile personal quizzes. I am from Ghana, now an Irish citizen. Yes I like it here. I have a Master’s Degree (MBA) UK. Please show due esteem.

The message went viral on Twitter, at the time of writing had received over 166,000 likes and had been shared more than 12,500 times.

However with over 1,000 replies, inevitably some thought the message was a ‘bit rude’. One comment read:

It’s a bit rude, to be honest. What’s wrong with asking him where he is from originally (presuming he doesn’t have an Irish accent) and whether he likes it here. Having a bit of futile chat is part of what we are.

Another response from Eion Dunning read:

Man in customer service hates customers. Best of luck to him.

John Parsons response was:

As an Irishman living in England for thirty years, I often get asked where I’m from . . . hell, even Irish people ask me where I’m from, they also often ask me if I like England. It’s called fu#king small talk.

Ride-hailing app Uber backed up the driver’s actions saying:

Getting straight to the point is a highly underrated attribute these days.

Others joked that the driver needs a second sign displaying whether he has been busy and what time he finishes.

I know those questions well.


London in Quotations: Richard Rider

It’s brilliant, you can’t ever get bored of London ‘cos even if you live here for like a hundred and fifty years you still won’t ever know everything about it. There’s always something new. Like, you’re walking round somewhere you’ve known since you was born and you look up and there’s an old clock on the side of a building you never seen before, or there’s a little gargoyley face over a window or something.

Richard Rider, No Beginning, No End

London Trivia: First female MP

On 28 November 1919, American Nancy Astor married the 2nd Viscount Astor and became the first woman to be elected in the House of Commons taking her seat on 1 December.

On 28 November 1994 Buster Edwards, great train robber, inspiration for Phil Collins’ Buster, committed suicide in Lambeth

Serial killer Dennis Nilsen once lived at 195 Melrose Avenue, Cricklewood the scene of 13 murders. Nilsen was sentenced to 6 life sentences

The GDP of London is significantly larger than that of several European countries, including Belgium and Sweden

Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg who lived off Farringdon Road predicted there would be a special part in heaven reserved for the English

A white spike at the south end of London Bridge commemorates a practice of displaying traitors heads dipped in pitch on the original bridge

Kenneth Grahame author of The Wind in The Willows and Secretary of the Bank of England was shot at at the bank by a deranged George Robinson

6ft 5in circus strongman Carl Dane in 1926 was the first to pull a London bus with 12 passengers inside using only his teeth

When he was Prime Minister the Duke of Wellington held indoor races along Downing Street corridors with men pulling women seated on rugs

In 2014, not a single 07.29am Brighton–London Victoria train reached its destination on time after failing to roll in at its scheduled time of 8.35am on a single occasion

When Selfridges opened in 1909 their information bureau answered queries on subjects from crossword clues to government stats

The City’s Square Mile is now an imperfect 1.16 square miles following 1990s boundary changes incorporating an area north of London Wall

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.

Europe’s smallest crescent

Keystone Crescent, just a few minutes walk from King’s Cross, reputedly has the smallest radius of any crescent in Europe, and is unique in having a matching inner and outer circle.

This tiny street consisting of only 24 houses is to be found at the southernmost end of Caledonian Road. Robert James Stuckey, whose father was a bricklayer, built the crescent in 1846 and imaginatively called it Caledonian Crescent, its shape was probably chosen to make the most of an unusually shaped site.

The houses would have initially been those of lower/middle class, working families. According to London Living History, in 1851 there were 240 people, of 76 families, living in 22 houses, with many properties rented out by the Stuckey family, with 2A acting as the estate office.

Up until recently, the area has had a reputation for deprivation and prostitution, and in the early 1900’s Algerton Stuckey, Robert’s grandson wanted to redevelop his investment. The plans fell through, however, he did change the name to Keystone Crescent, presumably to make it sound more appealing. Ninety years later, when the Channel Tunnel was being proposed, a new station was planned next to King’s Cross, this would have involved half of Keystone Crescent being demolished to dig the hole required to build the station.

Researching the history of Keystone Crescent, Jack Chesher from Living London History came across a dramatic story about the Stuckey family:

A stash of letters and personal items belonging to Robert Stuckey was discovered by his descendants under the bed at number 2A. They are generally about everyday occurrences, however also reveal a shocking secret: he had a second family!
Robert first married Hannah Bennewith, with whom he had 7 children. He then married Sarah Culver in 1864, with whom he also had 7 children, this time using the surname ‘James’ (his middle name). Hannah died in 1857 but the letters reveal that the two relationships ran alongside each other. Indeed, Robert’s first child with Sarah (the 2nd wife) had arrived in 1841. Whether Hannah knew she was sharing his affections with another woman is unclear but this was all certainly news to Robert’s descendants.

Bob Stuckey has had the letters transcribed and you can buy them here.

Keystone Crescent, King’s Cross, mid 19th century terraced houses in a crescent just off the Caledonian Road. Grade II listed by Jim Osley (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Johnson’s London Dictionary: Walkie Talkie

WALKIE TALKIE (n.) Curious strukture in Fenchurch Street whose fabrick doth cause vehikles to igknit

Dr. Johnson’s London Dictionary for publick consumption in the twenty-first century avail yourself on Twitter @JohnsonsLondon