Who remembers the characters of London?

It was a question asked recently on a Black Cabbies’ Facebook Group, because driving around London one would encounter more than a few.

Does London have more per-capita than other cities, are those who are ‘characters’ or have mental issues attracted to the capital, or is this number normal?

  • The guy who lived under the A4 flyover. The ‘birdman’ under the A4 passed away 18 months ago R.I.P
  • The man who prayed at Tyburn.
  • The sandwich board man on Oxford Street.
  • The man at Victoria Station, who was selling the Big Issue and always doing a charity bike race.
  • How about Jimmy King on the corner of Clerkenwell Road and Rosebury Avenue who directed the traffic.
  • Badge man outside Sainsbury in Garratt Lane.
  • What about the scouse man at Harrods selling the Big Issue at the side door been there years, or the Big Issue seller on Southwark Bridge juggling the latest issues.
  • The guy in Fleet Street preaching the Bible in a suit with a bowler hat!
  • The black gent from Notting Hill with the cross over his shoulders who frequented outside Selfridges.
  • The fella from Kennington Lane who rides a bike around the West End at night with all the red flashing lights on his helmet, shouting at anyone who talks to him.
  • Or the guy always in the Holborn area walking about in shorts and no top nearly all year round resplendent in bright colours.
  • Not central London, the old guy on A10 Church Street N9, white hair, suited up, loads of make-up on, waving at the traffic.
  • The fella that pushes a shopping trolley about Marylebone filled with carrier bags.
  • Stanley Green upon retirement from the civil service decided against taking up golf but chose to spend 25 years warning of the dangers of protein. ‘Less Lust From Less Protein’ his leaflets printed in his front room: Eight Passion Proteins with Care went through 84 editions and sold 87,000 copies over 20 years.
  • Pat who helps keep the traffic moving normally at Blackwall Tunnel or Tower Bridge.
  • The Banana Guy at Kings’ Cross who turned out to be a wrong ‘un.
  • Gold Lamé Man, an individual who could still be found, after over 15 years outside White’s Club in St. James’ Street, resplendently dressed in a gold jacket and gold shoes. He divided his time between a certain Lord of the Realm’s club, who he claimed had ruined his business. He blamed Her Majesty for not supporting his one-man crusade but boasted proudly to me that once he saw the Queen watching him from behind her net curtains as he stood outside Buckingham Palace regaling he for not supporting him.
  • About 4ft tall, bus inspectors hat, a jacket ten times too big for him, with the cuffs turned up and sometimes he’d stand in front of you and take your number.
  • Short shorts man.
  • Olive Oyl down the Baze, or also Boots outside a second-hand shop with pimp just around the corner. They were all over that area back in the day.
  • And the old girl that used to hang out of the window on Vernon Street, North End Road, touting her questionable wares and working Notting Hill.
  • The fella with all the overcoats…saw him on a bench today in Talgarth Road, he loves a purple coat and was spotted at St. John’s Wood Road, until he had a punch-up, but was spotted on Victoria Embankment.
  • What about Mary on the bike, the cab driver’s best friend?
  • F**K TAXI cyclist who had his opinion of cabbies (or their vehicles) tattooed on his calves, hasn’t been seen for a good while. The irony of irony is he’s only gone himself run over by an Uber.
  • A blind man outside Selfridges playing the violin very badly.
  • The young fella with the petrol can at Albert Embankment, used to be in Shaftesbury Avenue as well, I haven’t seen him in years, I was told long ago he died from a drug overdose.
  • What happened to the taxi driver that went round singing with a speaker on his cab?
  • What about the old chap with long grey hair that used to run barefoot and just shorts around Knightsbridge/Brompton Road?
  • There was a guy a few years back who used to just sit in the middle of the road in Piccadilly. Still around? ….or squashed?
  • ….and the greatest character of all was Norman Norris, the tap-dancing Busker who lived to the ripe old age of 96.
  • Crackhead at Stockwell Station asking for spare shrapnel any time a cabbie was stuck at the lights. Barely any teeth called by cabbies Ruthless Toothless – he’s not bad.
  • Not forgetting the Paddington Plater on her bike.
  • Had a thought there was a guy that use to tap dance outside Harrods and dressed in a union jack suit, for quite some time…
  • Apparently, there was a bloke who used to stand on the corner of Wormwood Street and Bishopsgate every Friday night to get a cab home to Southend. And he was so well known in the trade, that he didn’t even bother putting his hand up. Don’t know if true.
  • The man with the tattooed face used to open the cab doors for punters at Waterloo rank at night and frighten the life out of you.
  • Remember the bloke with the black crash helmet pushing a green pram, used to see him around Buckingham Palace Road.
  • Does anyone remember paint man? Fella covered in white paint, pushing a trolley of crap, used to sit around Seymour Place area.
  • But my all-time favourite for endurance and cocking a snoop at authority has to be Brian Haw, who on 2 June 2001 decided to begin camping in Parliament Square in a one-man political protest against war and foreign policy. Unfortunately for Brian, the second Iraq war overtook events making him a cause célèbre and preventing him from ever giving up his one-man protest against the forces of the State. Westminster City Council then failed in their prosecution against Brian for obstructing the pavement, later his continuous use of a megaphone led to objections by Members of Parliament. Then in a glorious twist, a House of Commons Procedure Committee recommended that the law be changed to prohibit his protest as his camp could provide an opportunity for terrorists to disguise explosive devices. The Government then passed a provision to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act banning all unlicensed protests, permanent or otherwise, however, because Brian’s protest was ongoing and residing on Parliament Square before the enactment of the Act, it was unclear whether the Act applied to him. He died in Berlin of lung cancer in 2011, no doubt still regaling the authorities.

If you have any more you’ve seen please add them in the comments section.

Featured image: Phil Howard, a scruffy, beaming Scouser who hung around from around 2000 bellowing through a megaphone at shoppers and office workers. His catchphrase, ‘be a winner, not a sinner’, would extol the benefits of Christianity at Oxford Circus greatly improving the ambience of the area until he had an anti-social behaviour order served by Westminster Council, forcing him to relocate to Piccadilly Circus. Then every evening illuminated by the neon signs revellers could hear him chastising them, telling people they were going to hell because they dyed their hair until that is a second ASBO was served to prevent him from loudly proclaiming his faith. He then relocated out of the West End popping up at other London landmarks as well as major sporting events across the capital, by Rob Fahey (CC BY-SA 2.0)

15 thoughts on “Who remembers the characters of London?”

  1. The fella who used to play the saxophone in the middle of the road outside Charing Cross Station at night.

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    1. He could almost play that sax! You’d get an earful turning right into Strand, while waiting for pedestrians to get out of the way. Thanks for your comment.

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    2. Sloane Square used to answer phone for you. Most drivers gave him his sixpence and take the call themselves.

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  2. There’s the rich bloke from Wimbledon who cycles around Oxford Street with all the feathers and the eighties music. The Irish dancing leprechaun at Oxford Circus who rebukes the Catholic Church. The black lady with the booming voice at Oxford Circus and Kings Cross screaming Jesus all day.

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    1. I can’t believe how many have checked out this post. Thanks for your contribution, adding a few more to the list.

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  3. There’s a guy in the Temple , very scruffily dressed and a long black unkempt beard. Staggers around the place with a bottle of decent claret taking swigs and talking to anyone he meets – obviously the worse for wear.

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    1. Love the thought of an alcoholic with class drinking a decent claret. Thanks for the comment.

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  4. That’s a big list! I remember the megaphone man at Oxford Circus, the guy who carried the huge cross around from Notting Hill, and Stanley handing out his leaflets about protein.
    Cheers, Pete.

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    1. I’ve been heckled by winner or sinner man, but to my lasting regret, working late shifts, I’ve never seen Stanley Green and his protein protest.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I used to often take Stanley’s leaflets, just to make him feel he was doing some good. I waited until he was out of sight to bin them. 🙂

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