All posts by Gibson Square

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

Don’t ask me I’m lost too

[M]aps define an area in more than the most obvious of ways. They define the landscape and the people that live within it. They allow us to make sense of its complexities. None more so than in London, so here are CabbieBlog’s top three London maps:

a-zThe A-Z
Born Phyllis Isobella Gross in East Dulwich on 25 September 1906 her father was a Hungarian Jewish immigrant and her mother was an Irish Italian Roman Catholic suffragette. She was educated at Roedean School, a private boarding school near Brighton, which she had to leave when her father’s cartographic company collapsed.

She travelled all over Europe from an early age and then became an English tutor in a small school in Fécamp Brittany. Later, she studied at the Sorbonne, spending her first few months in Paris sleeping rough. At the age of 16 she married Richard Pearsall, an artist friend of her brother. They were together for eight years, travelling in Spain and living in Paris, but she left him in Venice while he was asleep, without telling him anything. She did not remarry.

By 1935, she had become a portrait painter, but while on her way to a party, she tried to follow the best available map of the time (a 1919 Ordnance Survey map). She discovered that this map was not up to the task, and ended up getting lost on her way. Following a conversation during this party, she conceived the idea of mapping London.

The next day, she started mapping London. This involved walking the 3,000 miles of the 23,000 streets of London, waking up at 5 am everyday, and not going to bed until after an 18-hour working day.

Throughout the walking, she was also drawing up the first A to Z map. Phyllis did all of the proof reading and design work herself, and drew up the map with the help of a single draughtsman. They founded the Geographer’s Map Company and in 1936, a year after the project begin, 10,000 copies of the first A to Z were printed. Initially, it proved hard to sell, but finally, WH Smith agreed to take 250 copies which she delivered in a wheelbarrow. It was a runaway success.

london-tube-mapHarry’s Map
Prior to Harry Beck’s diagrammatic map, the various underground lines had been laid out geographically, often superimposed on a road map. This had the feature that centrally located stations were very close together, and the out of town stations were spaced apart. Harry had the idea of creating a full system map in colour. He believed that passengers riding the trains weren’t too bothered about the geographical accuracy, but were more interested in how to get from one station to another, and where to change. Thus he drew his famous diagram, looking more like an electrical schematic than a true map, on which all the stations were more or less equally spaced. This form of map has been copied around the world for various transit systems.

Because Harry’s map has no relevance to the geographical positions of the stations above, take a cousin from out of town to Bank station and tell them to make their way to Mansion House using Harry’s map. They will gamely take the Central Line 4 stations to Tottenham Court Road, the Northern Line 3 stops to Embankment and back on the District Line for 3 stations to reach Mansion House.

In the meantime walk the 100 yards down Queen Victoria Street, go into one of the fine cafes in Bow Lane, enjoy a leisurely coffee and then cross the road to meet your exhausted and perplexed cousin.

monopoly20game20boardPass GO and collect £200
The history of Monopoly can be traced back to the early 1900s. The version we see today was born in the early 1930s, and named Monopoly. Sold by Parker Brothers and its parent companies, the first English version featured many of London streets and has come to symbolise the wealth and poverty within London. You can even go on ‘Monopoly’ Monopoly cab tours of London if your pockets are deep enough.

George Davis is Innocent

A change in attitudes has taken place over the past few years. For years graffiti has been the bane for any owner of a suitable wall which is acceptable for tagging. In the 1970s a successful campaign proclaiming on any suitable wall G. DAVIS IS INNOCENT O.K. It was claimed that a Mr. Davis was ‘fitted up’ by the police for an armed payroll robbery and after a long campaign the courts were forced to reprieve him – he was banged up later for a crime he really had committed.

[O]ther well known sayings daubed on walls are: ‘If voting changed anything, they would ban it’; or ‘Jesus Saves – at the Woolwich’.

Now an artistic genius has changed many peoples perception of street art. This person, who revels in his anonymity, goes under the name of Banksy

Banksy’s stencils feature striking and humorous images occasionally combined with slogans. The message is usually anti-war, anti-capitalist or anti-establishment. Subjects include animals such as monkeys and rats, policemen, soldiers, children, and the elderly.

Banksy even smuggled one of his works into Tate Britain art gallery which went unnoticed until it crashed to the floor hours later.


So loved are his anarchic offerings, a parody of a Tesco flag being raised painted on a wall in Islington North London has a Perspex screen put in front of it, as if it needs protecting like the Mona Lisa.

Many people regard Banksy as a generic name for a group of like minded artists, hell bent on changing people’s perception of authority, one of my favourites is the simple slogan: One nation under CCTV. Another image depicted a scene from Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, with Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta clutching bananas instead of guns, alas London transport workers painted over this mural which was estimated to be worth more than £300,000.

So what is to be done to combat vandalism? A recent story of an oik after being given community service was told to wear a high visibility vest while cleaning up public property, he refused to wear the vest as his friends were making fun of him, so he walked away from his duties, jail him or what?

banksy postcard

Answers on a postcard or written on any suitable building please.

An excellent site for graffiti images is to be found at the art of the state

We have heard recently of the death of Rosie, George Davis’ ex-wife from cancer. She was the driving force with Peter Chappell to free George Davis. An excellent article has been written in The Daily Mail of the campaign and Rosie has also written a book recording her involvement.

No Room at the Bin


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

. . .

But I have saved the ‘best’ until last.


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, 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

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’.