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 Yellow Peril

Call me a naïve cabbie – something I am often accused – but I thought that the yellow police appeal signs were a sensible way of helping to solve crime and not merely a vulgar way to decorate and bring colour to London’s streets.

But it would appear the bright yellow police signs appealing for witnesses to serious offences will no longer decorate London’s streets.

[I]n an attempt to reduce ‘fear of crime’, the Metropolitan Police has effectively banned the use of the distinctive signs in all but exceptional circumstances. Presumably rape, murder, serious assault and armed robbery don’t constitute ‘exceptional circumstances’, because they were the only ones to gaily bring colour to the pavements of Brixton and Peckham.

Now officers can request their use in exceptional circumstances, but any such requests must be authorised by a ‘specialist crime directorate commander’. So I want you all to go down to your local nick and request to talk to your ‘specialist crime directorate commander’. He’s not to be confused with the odd job crime directorate commander who’s in charge minor crimes like dropping litter and allowing your dog to foul the pavement.

Someone in the higher echelons of the Met has become aware that in crime hotspots several yellow signs were being put up at once and presumably thought it showed the police in a bad light, as if crime was out of control.

As a London cabbie I know that the Met are doing their best at preventing ‘specialist crime’, I see dozens of police in yellow high visibility jackets on the streets every night stopping motorists. But doesn’t that make it look that motoring offences are out of control?

Open All Hours

I am bereft; my little corner hardware shop has closed.  The family-owned  Aladdin’s cave for do-it-yourself has served the community for more than 60 years closed after losing its battle against the recession, rising rent – and gangs of youths. Opened just after the Second World War, this little gem of a store has been passed down through three generations of the same family, and has become something of an icon in our town centre.

[T]he owner, who has worked in the store since he was a 12-year-old, attributes its decline with the loss of nearby Woolworth’s store which has deterred customers from shopping in the area and rent rises.

He has also had to contend with gangs of youths, who loiter outside the shop, frightening away many of his older customers. The boys in groups of up to 14 hang around outside the supermarket next door, getting in the way, swearing at customers, asking customers to buy them drink and cigarettes and abusing them if they don’t.

When I had no idea what I needed for the task in hand, a small description to John or Jim, describing it as: “a square gizmo, you know that one that . . .” and they would patiently find the required item, carefully wrap it (in a brown paper bag naturally) and charge me but a few pence for the item, the advice was gratis.

Now if I want a left-handed thingamajig, I’m going to have to drive two miles to an enormous out of town warehouse, park in their car park with its burger van improving the ambience of the retail park by dispensing food, just in case I feel peckish after my long drive.

Nobody around inside to advise me, if I do stumble across my goal, it will be packed in 50s, my local shop would sell one item if necessary and all the time, reverberating around my head are tannoy announcements “will the ‘ardware managa’ come to the front desk”.

An In-Convenience Truth

Westminster Council who aspires to become the most anti-social borough in London must be fearful that it is in danger of losing its ranking.

For not content with pursuing a regime of traffic enforcement that the Taliban would like to emulate, they now have turned their attention to a more basic function than motoring parking offences, namely reducing its provision of public toilets.

[O]ver the past few years public conveniences have been closing at an alarming rate, so critical has it become, that London Mayor Boris has even suggested that private shops and restaurants open their doors (so to speak) to facilitate the public’s needs.

Then recently under cover of darkness, in a clandestine operation, Westminster Council filled the public conveniences at Oxford Circus with concrete. But never mind they provide a text-based service providing you with all the information you need to find a toilet in their borough (80097 TOILET at a cost of 25p if you’re interested). I was told at 9.20 in the evening that I would have to walk best part of a mile from Oxford Circus to use one of their toilets.

The more charitable among you might presume that the time chosen to fill these toilets with concrete was so that drivers were not inconvenienced (sorry again about that) by the lorries. But I would remind you that Westminster Council now collects more income from parked cars than from taxpayers, so they are hardly car friendly.

The Council plans to provide a £5 million diagonal pedestrian crossing at this intersection modelled on the Shibuya crossing in Tokyo, ignoring the fact that, while Japanese assiduously cross a road at the designated points, in London jaywalkers are knocked down on a regular basis in Oxford Street, completely ignoring the correct crossing points.

Westminster City Council’s Cllr Danny Chalkley said while commendably keeping a straight face:

This new crossing, which will transform Oxford Circus and ensure visitors who emerge from the Tube are impressed by what greets them, is part of a whole series of improvements taking place to ensure the West End looks truly world class in time for 2012.

The developers hope to have the new crossing ready in time for the Christmas lights switch-on in November. It is just a pity no-one will be able to have a pee.

As a footnote, in 200 years time when archaeologists are excavating these Edwardian toilets they might be surprised to find mummified corpses down there encased in concrete, caught having their last ‘comfort stop’ before Westminster poured concrete down the staircase.

Quotations in a Cab


[W]e were told recently that drivers on the London Underground will use their Tannoys to read passengers quotations from Goethe, Gandhi, Sartre and Dostoyevsky. The idea was to help commuters keep up morale when the Tube comes to a juddering stop. Could we cabbies, not known for keeping our opinions to ourselves, take a leaf out of the TfL quotation guide? More roadworks, courtesy of Thames Water and stuck in gridlock, your fare in need your well timed quotation.

On the two London Mayors:
“That history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce”
-Karl Marx

On learning The Knowledge:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge”
-Albert Einstein

On why the fare is so expensive:
“Life is like a taxi. The meter just keeps a-ticking whether you are getting somewhere or just standing still.”
-Lou Erickson (American cartoonist)

If the passenger complains you have taken the wrong route:
“Little do ye know your own blessedness;
for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.”
-Robert Louis Stevenson.

Or we could resort to the tried and tested “Did you see the game last night?”

Nil Penile Carborundum

Every learned institution needs a motto and CabbieBlog is no exception, for I have decided that the above quote is a suitable choice for this blog. Then no sooner had this site got going following your humble scribe was nobbled, but I won’t be gagged.

Thieves have stolen 300 yards of pristine BT telephone cable between the exchange and my laptop causing a crisis with no internet for five days.

[W]ith no Wikipedia to plagiarise this piece has been produced using, heaven help us in this day and age, a pencil and notepad. I am now beginning to suffer withdrawal symptoms through a lack of internet surfing, no Facebook, Bebo or Flickr.

Telephone cables are often stolen for the copper within them. At Oregon Caves National Monument, America thieves hacked up and hauled away three miles of telephone and Internet cable along the twisting mountain road leading to the remote location, apparently to sell on the thriving scrap market for copper costing $3.2 million.

Oh! Yes and for all of you without the Latin, my motto translates as:

Don’t let the pricks grind you down.