May’s monthly musings

Cab News (and for everyone)

Rickshaws are one of the banes of London life, not just for cab drivers but just about everyone other than the rickshaw barons who rent out these death traps. They first started to appear in the late 1980s and contrary to common belief they have never competed with us, any journey undertaken in a rickshaw is invariably only for a few hundred yards and is viewed more like a fairground type thrill than a serious travel option. Fast forward over 30 years and Nickie Aitken, MP for Westminster, brought a Private Members Bill to license rickshaws, the proposals would require DBS checks on riders, difficult for a temporary transient workforce; operator licensing for the rickshaw barons – difficult for many of them; a ban on sound systems and electrical assistance; specific safety standards; and most importantly set fares. Rickshaws do very few rides, paying £75 a day to rent a rickshaw necessitates them charging ludicrous prices to the few passengers they get, a fixed fare will stop the rip-offs and, to many, the only incentive. Now a Rickshaw Bill has been featured in the Queen’s Speech for this session of Parliament. About time, it’s only taken my entire working life as a cabbie to regulate this Third World look for London.

What I’m Listening

For anyone of a certain age, as am I, the moon landing was a seminal time of our life. The BBC World Service celebrated its 50th Anniversary with 13 Minutes To The Moon exploring Apollo 11’s mission and the stories of the people behind its success. The podcast features interviews with the pioneers who made Apollo 11 a success and became the UK’s number one podcast. A nostalgic feast.

What I’m Reading

My daughter took our grandson to the Transport Museum and bought me, from their excellent bookshop, Tube Trivia by Andrew Emmerson, filled with fascinating facts about the Underground, such as Embankment Station once had a gramophone with a compressed air amplifier instructing passengers to stand on the right.

What I’m watching

Or not watching. We have a bird box at the end of our garden, and every May we watch the blue tits tend to their brood and see them fledge at the end of the month.
Fledging dates:
27th May 2021
24th May 2020
May 2019 on holiday so didn’t see them go
26th May 2018
This year none.
We have hardly any breed of bird in our garden, sparrows once we had over 50, now 2 or 3. Is this a trend? Global warming or what?

What else

John Ransley at eBook Versions has been patiently helping with my pedantic requirements, formatting and uploading my book to Amazon, both in ebook and printed versions. The whole process is too complicated for this humble cabbie.

London in Quotations: Automobile Association of Britain

Today’s London is a sprawling metropolis, teeming with energy and seemingly swallowing up all in its path, stretching from Surrey to Kent and Essex and receiving around 16 million visitors annually – over twice its own population.

Automobile Association of Britain, Illustrated Guide to Britain

London Trivia: Oscar Wilde marries

On 29 May 1884 at the church of St James, Paddington, Oscar Wilde, an impecunious poet-playwright, married Constance Lloyd. He quipped that he had told Queen Victoria that ‘in this weather, I asked her to remain at Osborne’.

On 29 May 1922, MP Horatio Bottomley was on this day sentenced to seven years for fraud. His ‘Victory bonds’ had attracted money from thousands of small investors and netted him £150,000

The original indictment of notorious highwayman Dick Turpin (real name John Palmer) is held in the National Archives in Kew, Richmond

The Monument commemorating the Great Fire of London in 1666 is the tallest isolated stone column in the world. It rises to 202ft on Fish Hill, 202ft away from where the fire began in a bakery in Pudding Lane

A fragrance known as Madeleine was trialled at St. James Park, Euston, and Piccadilly stations in 2001, to make the Tube more pleasant, stopped within days after complaints from people saying they felt ill

29 May 2002 Paul Boateng became the first black Cabinet minister when he was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury on this day

In Alfred Hitchcock’s first feature film The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927) featured the director making a cameo on the Tube

London’s first indoor bath specifically for swimming was Lemon (now Leman) Street in May 1742 for gentlemen only at 1/- a swim; 2/- hot bath

The earliest known account of sport in London was written in 1174 by William Fitzstepen, due to translation errors the game described is not apparent

The Necropolis Railway Company transported coffins from Waterloo to Brockwood Cemetery customers chose between first, second and third class

One City firm in the 1950s gave new employees a set of instructions including: ‘You will wear a bowler hat to and from the office’

The Queen Mother started the enduring royal wedding tradition of leaving the bride’s bouquet on the Abbey’s Tomb of the Unknown Warrior

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.

Previously Posted: Waterborne Cabbies

For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.

Waterborne Cabbies (05.06.09)

In the 16th Century the Company of Watermen were the equivalent to today’s cabbies. Created by an Act of Parliament in 1556 and given a grand of a Royal Patient in 1585, their trade like ours today was carefully licensed. They would ply for hire from designated locations along the Thames, with the cry of “Oars! Oars!” which later was forbidden as the cry could be confused by tourists with “Whores! Whores!”

When the watermen were not transporting people they would turn their hand to salvage and found a brisk trade in finding bodies, either suicides or those who’d accidentally drowned or been murdered.

By a curious quirk of history, the origins of which are now lost, bodies were almost always landed on the south side of the river because the authorities would pay a shilling for a body landed in Southwark but only sixpence for one landed on the north bank. Clearly waterborne cabbies were not averse to “going south of the river” in those days.

A nice little earner would be from the City to as far up river as Hampton Court, and by 1700 over 10,000 watermen plied for hire.

The trade was not without its dangers; if you wanted to travel downstream below London Bridge you risked life and limb. A major feature of London Bridge was the effect it had on the Thames. The location of the bridge’s 19 timber pier supports (called starlings) was determined by riverbed conditions and this meant that they were varied in spacing across the river. Consequently, the arch spans varied in size too and boats navigating the arches encountered different currents and river conditions at each one. Some were more dangerous than others. Over the years, boatmen christened the arches with various names, such as Gut Lock and Long Entry.

Navigating through the bridge in a boat could be very dangerous because the closeness and number of starlings backed up the river water, creating rapids. In some places the drop in water height from one side of the bridge to the other was more than the height of a man. Many people lost their lives “shooting” the bridge and “Drowned at the bridge” became a common entry in the registers at nearby graveyards.

Most Londoners took Cardinal Wolsey example. On his frequent visits to Greenwich to see Henry VIII, he would have his barge stopped above the bridge and get out and travel to Billingsgate by mule, where he would rejoin his barge, providing it had successfully negotiated the rapids.

Are there any more Jubilees left?

Crossrail, sorry Elizabeth Line is part of a flurry of openings and renamings commemorating regal anniversaries – Big Ben’s tower, streets, schools, hospitals, new housing estates – all finding themselves getting a moniker to mark the Queen’s important day, it is her 70th year as our Monarch after all.

To mark this important point in our history, and as someone who has had to study road names obsessively, CabbieBlog gives you a tour of London ‘Jubilees’.

Jubilee Hall, The Piazza, Covent Garden, built-in 1904, with its Jubilee Market, is probably the most famous of them all.

Jubilee Avenue E4, near Highams Park Underground Station, is handy if you have a need for the North Circular Road very close by.

Jubilee Close NW10 & NW9 off Nicoll Road, Harlesden, is more a street than a close and so long it has two postcodes.

Jubilee Crescent N9, backing Henry Barrass Recreation Ground, Edmonton this thoroughfare at least lives up to its name, being a perfect crescent.

Jubilee Place SW3, running off King’s Road is probably the most expensive ‘Jubilee’ as it is a short walk from Sloane Square.

Jubilee Street E1, off Commercial Road, runs parallel to Sidney Street, made famous when Winston Churchill directed police in the famous siege of 1911.

Jubilee Terrace, Burlington Road SW6, handy if you are a Fulham supporter, Craven Cottage is a two-minute walk away.

Jubilee Way SW19, those living South of the River must be Republicans as this ‘Jubilee’ near South Wimbledon is the only one in London not located in London’s northern environs. It looks quite long on the map, but being down Sarf, I haven’t checked it out.