January’s monthly musings

🚓 What Cab News

Transport for London has increased the number of private hire vehicles on the capital’s roads by 2,505 in just one week. If the newly licensed minicabs were all lined up together in three lanes of road space, it would stretch nose-to-nose between Paddington and Kings Cross Stations.

🎧 What I’m Listening

I was sad to read the death in November of Andrew Nickolds who wrote the long-running quirky comedy sitcom Ed Reardon’s Week on Radio4, drawing on the ups and downs as a freelance hack. Well worth a second listen.

📖 What I’m Reading

Leadville by Edward Platt, in 1995 the author stopped his car and took a stroll down Western Avenue. In the 1920s it was a tree-lined suburban boulevard but now it’s an urban nightmare. The book focuses on the lives of the people who live there, of suburbia, the dreams of its inhabitants, and of our senseless and all-consuming love affair with the motor car.

📺 What I’m watching

A favourite piece of trivia of mine: When on 23rd June 1951 Soviet spy Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean fled to Moscow they enjoyed a leisurely lunch at the RAC Club just ahead of MI5. So when ITVX screened A Spy Among Friends starring Damien Lewis and Guy Pierce I just had to watch the box set.

❓ What else

Here’s something that I didn’t expect to write: Westminster City council has painted some walls in Soho with a water-repellent layer designed to stop people pissing on them. Apparently a council source explained: “outdoor urination is on the rise post-Covid, but if anyone tries it on these walls then they will get ‘soaked’ in their own urine”.

London in Quotations: Henri Misson

Then as to Bankruptcies, and other Villanies of that Nature, the City of London is so full of privileg’d Places, where such Thieves may take Shelter, that upon the whole it must be Confess’d there is much less Danger in being wicked at London than at Paris.

Henri Misson (c.1650-1722)

London Trivia: Death by visitation

On 29 January 1842 the body of PC Nicholls, ‘his face much bruised and disfigured as if from severe violence’, was found on South Lambeth Road. At the time his demise was attributed ‘death by the visitation of God’. 140 years later a Kennington policeman re-investigated this death by visitation and concluded the culprit as a fellow police officer moreover the relevant page in a police register of the time was missing.

On 29 January twelve bombs explosed in the West End, one person a taxi driver, was hurt. A 13th device was discovered later in an HMV record store

The Blind Beggar was the scene of a murder when thief Bulldog Wallis stabbed a man through the eye with an umbrella later Ronnie Kray killed George Cornell by shooting him through the eye in the same pub

Shoe Lane, EC4 is named after the ancient Sho well that was situated at the north of the street. In 13th century it was Showell Lane

On 29 January 1820 Britain’s King George III died insane at Windsor Castle, ending a reign that saw both the American and French revolutions

On 29 January 1857 Queen Victoria introduced the Victoria Cross with its inscription For Valour, two thirds of all awards have been personally presented by the British monarch

On 29 January 1942 the BBC first broadcast Desert Island Discs its presenter Roy Plomley went on to host the programme 1,791 times

Tradition has it that Pimlico is named after Ben Pimlico, a 17th Century Hoxton brewer who supplied London with a popular Nut Brown ale

In 1577 John Northbrooke’s Treatise deplored blasphemous swinge-bucklers, tossepots, loitering idle persons and the governing of football

The Underground’s longest continuous tunnel is on the Northern line and runs from East Finchley to Morden (via Bank), a total of 17.3 miles

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his first symphony in 1764 as he and his family lived at 180 Ebury Street, Belgravia

On 29 January 1959 dense fog brought road, rail and air transport in London to a standstill-chemists reported a boom in the sale of smog masks

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: Not in my name

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.

Not in my name (12.01.2010)

We all like to complain and if really aggrieved, protest to make our point, in fact sometimes it seems that CabbieBlog’s raison d’etre is to whinge on all things in London.

But for having protesters with the greatest tenacity, London would appear to lead the way, we have of course our regular Saturday weekend protesters, who spend their week in comfortable City jobs, or living off the State and who like to spend their weekends walking around London with a banner.

Taking those aside, an entrepreneurial spirit has at times been commendable with some individuals, for example Stanley Green who upon retirement from the civil service decided against taking up golf, but chose to spend 30 years warning of the dangers of protein. “Protein makes passion” his printed leaflets exclaimed, so reduce your consumption of fish, bird, meat, cheese, egg, peas, beans, nuts and well err . . . sitting, and the world will be a happier place.

Or take the charming chap with a loud megaphone who 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 , forcing him to relocate to Piccadilly Circus. Then every evening illuminated by the neon signs revellers could hear him chastising them, until that is, a second ASBO was served preventing him from loudly proclaiming his faith.

A third lone individual can still be found, after over 15 years outside White’s Club in St. James’ Street resplendent dressed in a gold jacket and gold shoes. He divides his time between a certain Lord of the Realm’s club, who he claims has ruined his business and Buckingham Palace around the corner. He blames Her Majesty for not supporting his one man crusade, but boasts proudly that once he saw the Queen watching him from behind her nets.

For a far more spiritual demo, go to Portland Place, there opposite the Chinese Embassy since June 2002, protesting against an oppressive regime, sympathisers of Falun Gong practise Tai Chi, 24 hours a day, commendable but utterly fruitless, since China hardly feels threatened by the slow movements of the protesters. But of course if you want free Tai Chi lessons CabbieBlog recommends the pavement outside RIBA.

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 prosecute Brian for causing an obstruction on the pavement, and his continuous use of a megaphone have 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 on-going and residing on Parliament Square prior to the enactment of the Act, it was unclear whether the Act applied to him. He now is in the position that he simply cannot give up his camp site as only he is allowed to protest in Britain any more without a licence, it would seem we are now a long way away from the days of Stanley Green and his protein protest.

They’re big, red and back

Hands up all those who remember fondly travelling in a Routemaster. Well, the last one seen in London was on Sunday, 29th September 2019, when Transport for London abandoned any pretext to showcase London’s heritage and stopped the Number 15H Route between Trafalgar Square and Tower Hill.

Now a new kid is on the block, or several blocks, which runs from Cab Road at Waterloo close to the station’s main pedestrian exit, buses then turn left into York Road over Westminster Bridge, around Parliament Square and up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square and Pall Mall with a right into Waterloo Place ending in Regent Street for Piccadilly Circus. Buses return via Haymarket. The timetable allows 20 minutes from end to end, with 14 stops. The operator is London Buses running every 15 to 20 minutes between 09:00 and 17:00, charging £5 an all-day ticket for as many rides you’d like that day.

The excuses Transport for London gave for curtailing their heritage routes, you could talk your pick: not well used, losing money, not step-free or accessible for wheelchair users, oh yes! there’s a pandemic on didn’t you know?

Who is the service aimed at? Firstly Oyster Cards, Travelcards and Concessionary Passed aren’t valid, only contactless and if you insist – cash. Clearly, they have missed the summer tourist season, and the open platform can be draughty in winter, surely there can only be a finite number of anoraks – sorry enthusiasts.

Apparently, they expected the service to start in July, but protracted discussions with TfL, Westminster Council and the Department for Transport over various demands regarding, among others accessibility, delayed the launch.

Whatever Prime Minister we have at the moment ensuring Sterling is approaching parity with the Dollar, London could be flooded with tourists. With London Buses employing enthusiastic staff and passing many of the ‘must see’ spots in London, I can see them making inroads into the existing tourist bus routes.

London Buses could have found a viable business model, and I wish them well. May I suggest employing tour guides on board – possibly retired London cabbies?