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

London by numbers

1Taxi exam

The Knowledge

2National nature reserves

Richmond Park and Ruislip Woods

3Black investment bankers

Last July the Financial Times reported that only 3 out of more than 650 senior investment bankers in London were black

4Aircraft holding stacks

Bovingdon, Biggin Hill, Lambourne, Ockham

5Michelin 3-star restaurants

Core by Clare Smyth, Hélène Darroze at the Connaught, The Lecture Room and Library at Sketch, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester

6Ferries across the Thames

Woolwich, Canary Wharf-Rotherhithe, Hammerton’s Ferry, Hampton Ferry, Shepperton-Weybridge, Hammersmith (proposed)

7July 2005

Known as 7/7, four Muslim extremists attacked London on this day starting at 8.50, within an hour the explosions had left 52 innocent people dead and over 700 injured

8Royal Palaces

Buckingham, Hampton Court, Kensington, Kew, Lambeth, Palace of Westminster, St. James’s, Windsor

9The number of days Lady Jane Grey was Queen

The luckless monarch managed just nine days before she was charged with high treason, on 12th February 1554, Lady Jane was beheaded, along with her husband, at Tower Green. She was 16 years old

1

0Cathedrals

St. Paul’s, Southwark, St George’s, Westminster, Orthodox Cathedrals: Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Georgian Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox

1

1Underground lines

Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, Waterloo & City

1

2Buildings over 200m

The Shard, 22 Bishopsgate, One Canada Square, Landmark Pinnacle, Heron Tower, 122 Leadenhall Street, Newfoundland, Crystal Palace Transmitter, South Quay Plaza 1, One Park Drive, 8 Canada Square, 25 Canada Square

1

3The number of people NOT allowed to dine at the Savoy

Superstition at The Savoy Hotel has it that 13 diners are unlucky. If your companions make up that unlucky number a 1920s three-foot-high black wooden cat is introduced to a 14th chair, a napkin is placed around his neck and he is served with each course by a diligent waiter

1

4Railway terminus stations

Blackfriars, Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Euston, Fenchurch Street, Liverpool Street, London Bridge, King’s Cross, Paddington, Victoria, Waterloo, Marylebone, Moorgate and St Pancras

1

5Restaurant

Fifteen Restaurant in Westland Place opened in November 2002, inspired by Jamie Oliver, a social enterprise providing young people with the opportunity to have a career in catering. It closed in May 2019 after training 15 young people a year at £40,000 each

1

6City farms

Mudchute, Vauxhall, Surrey Docks, Hackney, Spitalfields, Deen, Stepney, Newham, Freightliners, Brooks, Kentish, Forty Hall, Crystal Palace, Hounslow, Lee Valley, Belmont Children’s Farm

1

7The number of mosaic murals at the entrance and tunnel to Leytonstone tube station depicting Alfred Hitchcock

Installed to commemorate the centenary of Alfred Hitchcock’s birth, the designs capture the star or the feel of the film, from Psycho to Catch a Thief. In a strange coincidence, one of them is for an Alfred Hitchcock film titled Number 17

1

8Blends of tea at the Ritz

The Ritz is the only hotel in the UK to have a certified Tea Sommelier, Giandomenico Scanu, who travels around the world to various tea plantations to source the 18 different types of loose-leaf tea to choose from at their famous Afternoon Tea in the Palm Court

1

9The highest number of buses you can catch from a single stop

Stop K on Hounslow High Street, go there and try catching every bus in order, then return home and think about what you’re achieving with your life

2

0Minutes equivalent on the Northern Line to smoking a cigarette

According to a 2002 study air quality on the Underground was 73 times worse than at street level, with 20 minutes on the Northern Line having the same effect as smoking a cigarette

Johnson’s London Dictionary: Cabbie

CABBIE (n.) (colloq.) Erudite Fellow much given to express anti-Whig opinion who upon exchange of monies will, by Hansom carriage, convey a Person within London’s northern environs

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

The London Grill: Elizabeth Steynor

We challenge our contributors to reply to ten devilishly probing questions about their London and we don’t take “Sorry Gov” for an answer. Everyone sitting in the hot seat they will face the same questions ranging from their favourite way to spend a day out in the capital to their most hated building on London’s skyline to find out what Londoners really think about their city. The questions are the same but the answers vary wildly.


Elizabeth is a London street name geek, and, after working near Bleeding Heart Yard, has spent decades exploring London’s streets and writing articles and a blog about the stories behind the city’s street names. She hopes one day to turn her hobby into a book. You can read her blog at www.thestreetnames.com.

What’s your secret London tip?

Get lost. Literally. That’s the best and most exciting way to discover London. Walk aimlessly, and remember to look up occasionally and stop to read any plaques, blue or otherwise. If you get tired, jump on a bus for a while.

What’s your secret London place?

When I first visited London I ‘discovered’ Sir John Soane’s museum. It’s not really secret anymore but back then there was rarely anyone else when I visited it. However many times I go there, I find something new to admire.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?

London suffers somewhat now from being too ‘touristy’ so that it is in danger of losing its individual charm and becoming just another homogenised big city.

What’s your favourite building?

St Paul’s Cathedral never ceases to make me stop to pause for breath and look at it. It is such an iconic sight; to me is the one image that says, emphatically, ‘I am London’.

What’s your most hated building?

The London Eye. I enjoyed riding in it when it first opened but I secretly resented the fact that it began to replace buildings like St Paul’s and Tower Bridge as the face of London.

What’s the best view in London?

The view from the Sky Garden in the Walkie Talkie building. Spectacular, panoramic views of London while you’re cocooned in lush greenery. And there is also the option of a cocktail.

What’s your personal London landmark?

Battersea Power Station. I lived nearby many years ago when it was still closed and unused and it always said ‘home’ to me. I thought it would have been great to have a flat in a corner of it.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I like the way that Guy Ritchie makes London one of the characters in the film. Most of his films, in fact.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?

Any family-run, Italian restaurant that is tucked away in a little side street and serves good minestrone and a nice house red wine.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?

Getting lost (see question 1). Walking, hopping on and off buses at random and wandering into museums or street markets along the way, stopping periodically at a café or pub. The geek in me would make a note of new and interesting street names and research them when I got home.

London in Quotations: Aldous Huxley

Proportion . . . You can’t help thinking about it in these London streets, where it doesn’t exist . . . It’s like listening to a symphony of cats to walk along them. Senseless discords and a horrible disorder all the way . . . We need no barbarians from outside; they’re on the premises, all the time.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), Antic Hay

London Trivia: Park Lane bomb

On 5 September 1975, two people were killed and 63 injured when a suspected IRA bomb exploded in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane. A warning was sent to the Daily Mail just before midday, but the police were unable to evacuate the building before it exploded just after 12.15 p.m.

On 5 September 1988 No Sex Please We’re British the West End’s longest running comedy closed after 16 years and 6,671 performances

Thomas Cromwell, Vicar-General for Henry VIII, introduced a scheme where each parish, in the presence of the warders, must record all baptisms, marriages and burials

In 1831 London became the first city in the world to have 1 million inhabitants only overtaken in size by Tokyo 126 years later

When Guy Fawkes was executed hanging broke his neck preventing the drawing and quartering (removing his intestines, arms and legs) while alive

When entering The Houses of Parliament its Members are still banned from wearing a suit of armour under an Act made by Edward II in 1313

Lions of Trafalgar Square were sculpted from life artist Landseer used dead lions from London Zoo until neighbours complained of the smell

The London Eye can carry 800 people each rotation comparable to 11 double decker buses receives on average more visitors per year than the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramid of Giza

After Percy Lambert was killed racing at Brooklands in 1913 he was buried at Brompton Cemetery in a coffin designed to match his racing car

Wealthy oil baron Nubar Gulbenkian had a luxurious taxi conversion. He told friends “Apparently it can turn on a sixpence, whatever that is”

St. Paul’s Cathedral at 365ft high and over 40 years to construct. It took so long to complete its builders had the reputation of being lazy

The only qualification needed to join Edmund Kean’s Wolf Club at the Coal Hole, Strand was your wife had forbidden you to sing in the bath

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.