Johnson’s London Dictionary: Constitution Hill

CONSTITUTION HILL (n.) Throughfare that neither is a steep incline nor has influenced England’s polotik. The short highway has seen much assassination attempts.

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

August’s monthly musings

Cab News

When my neighbour surrendered his cab licence, Transport for London wrote thanking him for his service to London and refunding any outstanding licence fee. Roll on post-Covid-19 and when I surrendered my licence some 3 months ago, I find myself still awaiting an acknowledgement. I rang our taxi association and mirth ensued that I should even expect TfL to be working.

🎧 What I’m Listening

Admire him, or despise the man, there’s no ignoring Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. This series by BBC Sounds tells the story, from boy to man to prime minister. In each episode guests who have watched, worked and dealt with him from his early school years at Eton, studying at Oxford University, and later as a journalist, through to his resignation, tell of their interaction with this divisive character.

📖 What I’m Reading

The Mercenary River: A History of London’s Water by Nick Higham is a fascinating account of how, despite incompetence, private-interest greed, double-dealing, political corruption and short-termism, London became the world’s first place in the world to turn reliable piped drinking water supply to the home into a profit-making business.

📺 What I’m watching

I’ve come to the time of my life when TV Drama Channel has an appeal. Spooks a spy drama series that originally aired on BBC One, has wonderfully bizarre visuals, 1970-style split screens and a host of now well-known aspiring actors. The title is a popular colloquialism for spies, and the series follows the work of a group of MI5 officers based at the service’s Thames House headquarters. With an absence of cycle lanes on London’s roads and an abundance of Fairway cabs, it’s pure nostalgia.

❓ What else

Who uses paper maps to get around anymore? And what has using sat-nav done to our brains? These were questions posed by Timandra Harkness who teamed up with cabby Robert Lorden in a BBC documentary to scrutinise a technology that we now take for granted. Are sat-navs changing our brains? Does it affect the way we think? And at what cost for our health and well-being, particularly in mental health and early dementia?

London in Quotations: George Gissing

Like the majority of London people, she occupied a house of which the rent absurdly exceeded the due proportion of her income, a pleasant foible turned to such good account by London landlords.

George Gissing (1857-1903)

London Trivia: Diana loses Her Royal Highness

On 28 August 1996 Buckingham Palace issued a press release regarding the decree absolute of the divorce between the Prince and Princess of Wales. The press release stated that Diana had lost the style of Her Royal Highness and instead was styled Diana, Princess of Wales.

On 28 August 2003, a blackout put 500,000 people in the dark and shut down half the railways in London, lasting 34 minutes it was the biggest blackout in England since 1987

Winston Churchill attended the scene of the Siege of Sidney Street and narrowly escaped death when a stray bullet was fired through his hat

The first revolving public door in Europe was installed at the Midland Grand Hotel St Pancras in 1873 with 3 compartments to allow for dresses

Steve Mars a BMW fanatic, was buried beneath a life-sized replica M3 convertible in Manor Park Cemetery and a parking ticket was affixed

Above Quo Vadis-Dean Street is the bedsit Carl Marx described an old hovel so dirty that to sit down becomes a thoroughly dangerous business

Bizarrely, the film The Siege of Sidney Street (1960) was filmed in Dublin instead of Sidney Street as Dublin was more like Sidney Street

Regent Street was the location of one of the first late-night shopping events in 1850. Shopkeepers let their stores stay open until 7pm!

Bad weather meant the final two events in the London 1948 London Olympics were held at dusk, with athletes illuminated by car headlights

Waterloo Station is the largest Boris bike docking station. In 2015 bike number 16191 was the most ridden, 2nd was 15901; and 3rd 14630

Pure-finders got 8d a bucket (of dog faeces) from Bermondsey tanners But collecting a bucket may take 2 days so you would guard it all night

Rocky outcrops in St. James’s Park for pelicans to alight are artificial Pulhamite created by James Pulham who took secret recipe the grave

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: Open All Hours

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.

Open All Hours (11.08.09)

Open All Hours (11.08.09)I’m bereft; my little corner hardware shop has closed. The family-owned Aladdin’s cave for do-it-yourself has served the community for more than 60 years closed after losing its battle against the recession, rising rent – and gangs of youths.

Opened just after the Second World War, this little gem of a store has been passed down through three generations of the same family, and has become something of an icon in our town centre.

The owner, who has worked in the store since he was a 12-year-old, attributes its decline with the loss of nearby Woolworth’s store which has deterred customers from shopping in the area and rent rises.

He has also had to contend with gangs of youths, who loiter outside the shop, frightening away many of his older customers. The boys in groups of up to 14 hang around outside the supermarket next door, getting in the way, swearing at customers, asking customers to buy them drink and cigarettes and abusing them if they don’t.

When I had no idea what I needed for the task in hand, a small description to John or Jim, describing it as: “a square gizmo, you know that one that . . .” and they would patiently find the required item, carefully wrap it (in a brown paper bag naturally) and charge me but a few pence for the item, the advice was gratis.

Now if I want a left-handed thingamajig, I’m going to have to drive two miles to an enormous out of town warehouse, park in their car park with its burger van improving the ambience of the retail park by dispensing food, just in case I feel peckish after my long drive.

Nobody around inside to advise me, if I do stumble across my goal, it will be packed in 50s, my local shop would sell one item if necessary and all the time on the tannoy announcements “will the ‘ardware managa’ come to the front desk”..

2022 Footnote: It has been transformed into, what else? A Costa Coffee shop.