All posts by Gibson Square

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

No Room at the Bin

walle

I don’t know how it happened, but I used only to put out the rubbish once a week, a simple task which took but a few minutes.

Now I have been promoted by Cabbie Wife to Chief Recycler. I spend a lot of time every week recycling rubbish. Newspapers and plastic bottles have to go in one box, but yellow pages for some inexplicable reason are unacceptable, wine bottles to go to the glass bank, not to mention leaves, cut grass and other garden waste collected separately. In the busy life of CabbieBlog it eats up between half an hour and an hour a week spent recycling.

Apparently I’m only member of the household who can perform this important task. If asked to get rid of a carton or bottle, which seldom happens, my family peer at it as though they have never seen such an object before.

[M]illions of us have to recycle and we live in daily fear of being fined by officious council representatives for getting our bins in a muddle, putting out rubbish on the wrong day, or just putting the bins in the wrong place.

I still harbour a distant hope that in doing so I may somehow be helping the planet by ensuring that too many nasty tins and bottles aren’t buried in Britain’s green and pleasant land and thereby stopping polar bears drown in the Arctic.

According to Peter Jones, an expert on waste, who advises the Mayor of London, “the global warming impact of putting material through an incinerator five miles down the road is actually less than recycling it 3,000 miles away”.

So there you have it, fewer greenhouse gases are produced if you burn rubbish locally than if you sort it and send it halfway round the world. Now as a result of the current precarious state of the world’s economy, there is a collapse in the market value of recyclable waste and many waste disposal firms are having to stockpile paper, metals and plastics in vast warehouses because they are unable to sell them on. This means that the rubbish I spend hours struggling to sort out every day may, in fact, never be recycled because it is not economic to do so.

The Government and local councils are fully aware of the shortcomings of recycling, and yet they do not share their reservations with us. They seek to impose ever more draconian penalties. We have to do what we are told, whereas many councils do as they choose by collecting kitchen rubbish once a fortnight, as opposed to once a week, as used to be the rule. So we are bullied and intimidated and threatened by the authorities who, meanwhile, have the nerve to set aside their own traditional obligations. I have recently received a letter with a veiled threat of prosecution under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Yet they know that recycling is a very imperfect process, and use the law to ensure that we carry it out on pain of a fine, one can only conclude that they love ordering our lives to the tiniest degree.

Most of us would cheerfully give up our time to recycle if we thought it was beneficial to the environment. But it is impossible to respect a Government which privately acknowledges the shortcomings of recycling – and whose adviser openly expresses his doubts – while it treats a small infraction in our kitchens as a crime.

Bring back FOXhunting

Now here is a very gratifying site, a Foxton’s car bites the dust.

You see for all of you out-of-towners F***ing Foxtons have all but taken over this City.

First almost every house in upmarket areas now has one of their sale/let boards pinned, like a badge of achievement, to their outside wall. Now as the market collapses these boards are springing up like mushrooms.

[F]oxton’s shops (I refuse to call them offices, after all they’re only selling things) resemble the foyer of an rather tacky trendy hotel, with massive plasma screens showing continuous news channels, a bar serving coffee/mineral water (Perrier naturally) and an army of inattentive personnel all under 20 years of age.

What has all this to do with your humble CabbieBlog I hear you ask?

Well, I would refer you back to the aforementioned picture. These pimply youths drive round town in these minis which are covered with dopey insignia including what shop they come from, and it would seems that the sole purpose of these vehicles is to drive erratically and annoy everyone else on the road, drawing attention to their company as they do so. I have yet to see a prospective customer sitting in the passenger seat.

Some would argue that along with the banks and building societies these ruthless people have helped to push up house prices remorsefully by telling owners to ask inflated prices for their properties. Now we are all paying the price for increasing estate agents yearly bonus.

So disliked are these people there is even a web site to vent your spleen about this company.

Now Foxton’s have come up with a great brainwave. At night a bank of screens shows in great detail videos of the interiors of properties on their books, including any valuables, with useful floor plans and the location of the property. I can visualise now burglars perusing these images, deciding which property they fancy entering.

While on the subject of property, have you seen the monstrosities being built along the Thames?

To site a few examples:

st-georges

St. George’s Wharf, south side of Vauxhall Bridge (looks like something designed by an Eastern European dictator).

montevetro1Montevetro, bland wall of glass towering over the exquisite Georgian church of St. Mary’s.

city-hall

City Hall, not even aligned with the river and looks like a wobbly blancmange.

. . .

But I have saved the ‘best’ until last.

tower-bridge-house

Tower Bridge House, this monstrosity on the north side of Tower Bridge is facing a World Heritage Site. If ever there was a reason to bring back public executions on Tower Hill this is it, starting with the architect.

tower-place

Tower Place, if you want to see how to construct an unobtrusive modern building adjacent to the Tower of London look no further than the Sterling nominated Tower Place built just west from the Tower.

The Saddest Building in London

Unlike its smaller sister in Bankside which successfully transmogrified into a galley for modern art, this iconic industrial building has remained empty for over 25 years. Both power stations were designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the man who gave us the red phone box. Bankside was completed in 1945 and its larger sister was completed in 1955 making Battersea the largest brick building in Europe.

[W]ith its Art Deco exterior Battersea Power Station was given Grade II* listed status in October 1980 but only three years later on 31st October 1983 it was closed and the Central Electricity Generating Board launched a competition to find a future use for the building.

This building appears to have The Sword of Damocles hanging over it. Every development seems to go nowhere. First the winner of the competition the Roche Consortium was quickly taken over by John Broome who announced plans for a Disneyland style theme park costing £34 million. However, costs quickly escalated and work stopped in March 1989 leaving the Power Station in its present semi-derelict and exposed state. Since then, the Power Station has languished without a roof, the steel work exposed to the elements and the foundations prone to flooding.

A brave group of individuals The Battersea Power Station Community Group was formed in November 1983 to provide a forum for the local community to air its views and to find a future use for the Battersea Power Station and the large site.

But now it looks like the Phoenix might rise from the ashes of failed dreams, an Irish company named Treasury Holdings, run by Richard Barrett and Johnny Ronan want to redevelop the Power Station.

Their company has come up with a £4.5 billion scheme to restore the Grade II* listed industrial landmark which have been approved by Wandsworth Council. But now an objection has been raised by City Hall. The centre piece of this development is at tall tower, which officials claim will overlook The Houses of Parliament, also for some perverse reason the chimneys will have to be shortened by 50 feet.

Centre Point Fountains
centre-point-fountainsI’m as mad as Hell about this one. In another ‘redevelopment’ site on the western side of
Centre Point, to make way for the Crossrail project,
some modern iconic fountains are being
removed.

The Grade II* listed fountains, built in 1963, are to be removed and replaced with huge ventilation shafts and an underground ticket hall for the new Hawkins Brown-designed Crossrail station at the busy intersection of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street.

But heritage groups and architects have demanded the fountains be incorporated in the area’s redevelopment amid claims of a wider threat to 20th century public art and sculpture. They are unconvinced the fountains have to be removed as they are integral to the building.

Quite how a listed fountain can be removed without any suitable plans to resite it remains an anathema to CabbieBlog.

Just keep you eye on Trafalgar Square, just in case those fountains get in the way of ‘development’.

The road less travelled

It has now become the norm for local authorities to close roads for weeks, months and even years on end to allow private developers to get rich quick (well in the current economic climate not quite so quick) to the detriment of council taxpayers and just about everyone else.

This trend was started by Westminster City Council when a few years ago they closed off the south side of Berkley Square and then followed with their piece de resistance, the closure of Edinburgh Gate, along with large swathes of public highway around Scotch House.

[I]f you were thinking that we had reached the limit of audacity that even the property developers and local councillors thought they could get away with, then you would be wrong. There cannot be a cab driver in London who has not, at some time in the last few months, been stuck in the catastrophe that was until recently the Aldgate gyratory system.

This is by far the single worse traffic scheme to be imposed on London since some idiot decided it would be a good idea, to allow a few backpackers and economy tourists to eat their packed lunches in the road outside the National Gallery, closing off the entire north side of Trafalgar Square.

At Aldgate the surrounding areas of Whitechapel and Spitalfields are now gridlocked for virtually the entire day and the queue of stationery traffic spreads throughout all the small residential streets around this area.

The Aldgate East gyratory was built in the Seventies but has been criticised ever since for creating a ‘racetrack’ mentality among motorists, terrifying pedestrians and cyclists. The word racetrack in this context is a euphemism for no traffic jams, and about the only road left in London where you can travel at 30mph.

Under an £8 million engineering scheme due to take the rest of the year,

Whitechapel High Street will be returned to two-way traffic.

Braham Street, which runs parallel with Whitechapel High Street to the

South will be transformed next year. Pavements will be widened and a new entrance to Aldgate East Tube station will be created.

The project, overseen by Transport for London, is being funded by developer Tishman Speyer, which plans to build a commercial development at the eastern end of Braham Street. In return, the company will be given the parcel of land, currently the highway, free.

This commercial development, which will no doubt remain empty just like the dozens of others within a few hundred yards, is being built on what was a public highway. Even after The Great Fire of London much to the annoyance of Sir Christopher Wren, people rebuilt their houses on the same footprint so the road layouts remained untouched.

But now quite how somebody ‘buys’ a four lane stretch of public highway has yet to be explained, but it’s happened. What next? Why not close the Victoria Embankment under the guise of making it more pedestrian friendly and then sell it off to build a mile long block of luxury flats with river views?

In Praise of the C90

So you’re thinking of starting The Knowledge and are making a list of essentials:

180px-knowledge_boy_143

Map check; Pen and paper check; List of routes across London check; Book of places to find check.

But there is one essential that no self respecting knowledge boy (or girl) can do without: A Honda C90.

Stick a clipboard on the handlebars, affix a map to it and you’re away.

So successful are these bikes that the Honda Cub is the most successful motorcycle model in history, with more than 60 million sold worldwide this little bike has made a huge contribution to Honda’s sales and profit. Honda used the slogan ‘you meet the nicest people on a Honda’ as they broke into the English speaking world (say that to a Knowledge student on a wet Sunday afternoon). It’s hardly surprising so many have been sold, with its simple 4 stroke engine, and only the most basic of controls, Honda have produced a machine that’s cheap, reliable, and easy to repair. As long as you keep the oil topped up (as cabbie.blog learned to his cost) this bike seems to go on forever.

But the beauty for your Knowledge student lies in the bike’s manoeuvrability. Stop anywhere while checking a particular place, you don’t obstruct the traffic. Hey! You don’t even have to worry about the gears, its automatic. With its neat little white box behind the seat for sandwich/thermos (you’ll certainly need that) and other essential paraphernalia.

Believe me, a day spent on The Knowledge you could easily travel 100 miles, all for less than one gallon of petrol.

These machines work everywhere: London in the rain, in Delhi sometimes with 2 or 3 passengers, and in the heat of the African desert.

Knowledge students sometimes put clipboards the size of a kitchen table on the handlebars; I have even seen some with reading lights attached to assist night study.

But these ubiquitous little machines have the road holding of a blancmange balanced on ice, brakes with the efficiency of a child’s tricycle and can go from 0-60 in about 5 minutes with a tailwind. But the worst fault of all is they are invisible to drivers of 4x4s. These cretins of the road think these machines are push bikes and pull out in front of you as you travel at 30mph towards them, and they do not hear you coming, as one courier with a 400cc bike once said to me “you need a bit of noise to wake up those bastards”.

But for all its faults, your humble C90 will be still in production long after other volume car manufacturers have consumed all the Government handouts thrown at them and then gone bust taking their debt with them. Just like DeLorean.

One last tip: Get some warm clothes it’s bloody cold on a C90!