All posts by Gibson Square

A Licensed Black London Cab Driver I share my London with you . . . The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Greenground

After Tuesday’s post, today with a new more gentle tenor CabbieBlog explores a Tube map of parks and how to get between them.

Living on the north-east margins of London with Havering Country Park’s 165 acres a mere 5-minute stroll away the countryside isn’t far away.

The park has an avenue of Wellingtonia trees, dating to when the Havering manor was still present, and are the second largest plantation in the country. It also is on the route of the London Outer Orbital Path, or London LOOP, with sections 20-24 linking the many green spaces on my doorstep.

Given that I was delighted to find a ‘tube map’ showing the parks of London, joined together in ways you might want to walk.

Graphic designer Helen Ilus has designed a verdant version of Harry Beck’s classic Tube map.

The ‘Greenground’ contains eight themed lines: the Thames, Crane, Wandle, Regent (as in the canal), Royal, South, City and North. Places, where you might like to swim, kayak or just walk, are marked.

The map has around 300 parks and open spaces that are remarkably only 10 per cent of the 3,000 parks and green spaces to be found in London.

The map was originally inspired by the London National Park City movement which officially declared London as the first National Park City.

Helen has decided that it is not practical to include all green spaces to one legible map, and intends to produce more detailed local versions.

The map isn’t intended as a detailed navigational aid, but more as an inspiring prompt to encourage exploration.

I look forward to seeing Helen’s take Havering-Atte-Bower as a detailed mini-map.

Helen Ilus can be found here.

Meter down

I heard of an app for i-phones today, it’s called Meter Down. Apparently it tells you if you’re being overcharged by your rickshaw driver in Mumbai, India. Using GPS and the time of day it calculates how much you should have been charged for your journey. Now that’s a good idea for London’s pedicabs.

Blogger grumbles

In a city of over eight million people, why should one voice be more important?

London is full of opinions and opinion-makers, indeed, particularly with coronavirus changing our urban world, the future of our capital depends on it. But whereas some opinions have a proper status, for example, because their proponent has been duly elected or appointed to a position of power, others are simply unfounded. Indeed certain people simply pretend to speak for the masses, whereas in truth their ramblings are little more than outspoken anger, based on baseless prejudice and outright negativity. Why should we even bother listening?

An exponent in the past of this hot air is CabbieBlog. This retired London cabbie who publishes five posts, yes, five posts a week at precisely ten to two in the afternoon, speaks out on a wide range of topics. Here, for example, is today’s. The blog does not have Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, TicTok or Snapchat feeds but remains relatively widely read via other means.

London blogs are extremely hard to maintain because there’s not a great deal of financial reward to be had blathering on about trivia, lost rivers or heritage alleyways. Various talented London bloggers, such as Pete Stean’s The Londoneer or Flora Tonking’s The Accidental Londoner have fallen by the wayside over the years, worn down by the pressure of writing words hardly anyone will read, as the tumbleweed of social media indifference passes them by.

In contrast, CabbieBlog has made a genuine attempt to generate a proper sequence of original or plagiarised content and is what a daily blog ought to be. Or was.

At some point, which readers still find hard to pinpoint, CabbieBlog became an outpouring of a cabbie’s whingeing, something any passenger in a black cab could listen to daily.

No petty inadequacy was too small to moan about, no minor failing left uncovered, as his blogging switched from celebrating the capital to pulling it apart.

There’s a fine line between thoroughness and obsession, and many commentators could say the line has now been firmly crossed. So does the stream of bitterness run deep, or is this simply posturing to gain attention, and thereby increase the rankings? What do you think?

To find out, I dug back into the CabbieBlog archives to last August 2011- well before the downward spiral of negativity kicked in. I analysed all the daily posts to see what kinds of things were being talked about, what levels of obsession were apparent, and how biased the general slant of the writing had become.

During that month 13 posts were published, with titles ranging from Bashing the Bishop to Gold Shoulder and James Bond. Only two of which could be regarded as polemical posts: Where do The City’s extremities lie today which argues against putting a ‘road’ in The City of London, and an old trope of CabbieBlog’s: Hidden from View, questioning the whereabouts of the Centre Point fountains. All the remaining posts cover history, hidden sightings and four London trivia posts.

Compare and contrast with this August’s posts. The four Weekly Whinges could hardly be described as impartial, while the weekly London in Quotes is, in reality, only plagiarised criticisms and comments.

Apart from five Trivia posts, of the remaining eight posts, one – Comfort Breaks – returns to the subject of a dearth of toilets in the capital and another, I don’t Adam and Eve It, questions the demise of spoken cockney.

In total 21 posts were published this August, ranging from How Conkers Founded the State of Israel to When a Dot is a Diamond.

Let’s also consider tone. Four of the 21 were intrinsically positive, that’s just under 20 per cent of the total. Of the remainder, only seven took a less than unfavourable approach to the topic under discussion, which is barely a third. Of these one was a guest post, so I suppose when writing How Coronavirus Has Affected Taxi Services, they were on their best behaviour.

The blog’s output is now firmly under the influence of unbridled gloom, and I’m surprised how biased the general slant of the writing had become. An astonishing 10 posts launched a direct attack on the subject in question or had some mumbling undertone, which is clearly not a healthy state of affairs and reflects badly on the author’s mental state.

What’s caused this sudden sour shift isn’t immediately apparent. Maybe the author of CabbieBlog, Gibson Square, is having a rough time retired, or getting stir crazy during the lockdown, perhaps he’s been unlucky in love, or maybe we’re simply not giving diddums enough attention.

Whatever the reason, it’s clearly unfair to take out this anger on those who work in our great capital, all of whom are trying the best they can. Let’s hear more about how everything’s great, rather than petty nitpicking at every opportunity, because there’s enough gloom these days in our lives without adding more. London is a truly great city, and no single voice is so big that it deserves our attention.

Unless we focus our attention on the current London Mayor, who has announced the full-time closure of main roads and says he intends to create ‘one of the world’s largest car-free zones’, to encourage more cycling and walking. Bang goes White Van Man, bang goes the black cab trade, already reeling from lack of business because of the lockdown. This Mayor who, due to the current crisis, has managed to get a further 12 months in power, blames the current government for all of London’s woes, rather than offering constructive ideas to resuscitate the capital post-Covid-19.

CabbieBlog, for once, almost managed to get back to its old laudatory ways.

London in Quotations: Natsume Sōseki

London is a city that offers all kinds of temptations, and whenever I go for a walk I discover things that I would like to bring back as souvenirs. But my resources are very limited. I cannot buy anything, and I make a point of taking my walks a good distance from these riches.

Natsume Sōseki (1867-1916), Spring Miscellany and London Essays

London Trivia: Completing Hitler’s work

On 20 September 1991, the church of St. James Garlickhythe, was almost demolished when a 170ft crane crashed through the roof. Having survived the Blitz, narrowly escaping a 500lb bomb which failed to explode. The church’s name ‘Hythe’ is Saxon for landing place it was London’s most important Hythe. Garlic, a vital preservative, and medicine in the Middle Ages was unloaded here and probably traded on Garlick Hill.

On 20 September 2005 Battersea Bridge was struck by a gravel-laden barge causing significant damage and closing it for repair

In the early 1900s police used the ‘Bischoffsheim’ hand ambulance, basically a long handcart, to move awkward prisoners to the station

Westminster Cathedral (the Catholic one on Victoria Street, not the Abbey) contains 12 million bricks – two million more than the Empire State Building

St. Thomas’s, a medieval foundation, had to move to make way for a railway line; its new site was beside the Thames, where the air was now pure

“The dreadful truth is that when people come to see their MP they have run out of better ideas” – Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

The chimes of Big Ben broadcast by the BBC every evening since 1923 are live, transmitted via a microphone hidden behind the famous clock

The Penderel’s Oak PH, High Holborn is named after yeoman farmer, Richard Penderel, who helped King Charles I escape by hiding him in a wood

Before 1914 corner pavilions were common in British clubs. Fulham FC’s ‘The Cottage’ which opened in 1905 is the sole survivor

Victoria Line the world’s first full-scale automatic railway enables a driver to close doors travel to next station at the push of a button

The Swiss Re: or Gerkin Tower’s upper windows can only be cleaned by steeplejacks absailing by ropes from a trapdoor in the roof

A Cockney is defined as being born within the sound of the bells of St Mary-le-Bow Church, Cheapside in The City of London not East London

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.