All posts by Gibson Square

Previously Posted: A tale of two cities

For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.

A tale of two cities (23.02.2010)

Our first city is at the cutting edge of information technology providing multi-lingual customer services to the world, while the second is struggling to provide high speed broadband access for its customers. One is taking its population out of poverty with the Globalization and World Cities Study Group ranking it as an “Alpha world city”, while its counterpart has a rising unemployment rate of 9.4 per cent of the workforce with increasing numbers are reliant on the State.

The first city was placed seventh in the list of “Top Ten Cities for Billionaires” by Forbes magazine and first in terms of those billionaires’ average wealth. The other’s economy is not so rosy with the government forecasting its debt will soar to an eye-watering £1.1 trillion by 2011.

The emerging city’s transport has 11 million passenger movements a day on its rail and bus services, in comparison with about half of that number who have to endure delay and breakdowns with the other city’s aged transport infrastructure.

With 24,000 cabs providing transport for the older city’s 7 million population the emerging city’s population of 14 million inhabitants are having their aging fleet of 55,000 cabs replaced, unfortunately in the older city, whose cabbies have been licensed for over 350 years, they have to provide a service with much older vehicles due to their extortionate replacement prices.

Similarly both provide a rickshaw mode of transport. One regulated by price and service provided by operators who know their city like the back of their hand, the other’s rickshaws are vastly overpriced, unregulated (charging what they think they can get away with) and, driven by foreign “students” who’s inability to speak the native tongue is match by their navigational skills around a city founded by the Romans.
Drivers in the city of the sub-continent sound their horn at every opportunity and in some ways this is where there are similarities with drivers in the older city following suit.

As the excellent Channel 4 series of programmes entitled Indian Winter showed, Bombay (or as the BBC insists on calling it, contrary to what it’s known to the inhabitants, Mumbai) has many lessons which we Londoner’s could learn. Could it be that Bombay’s emerging dynamism has positioned it in a far more advantageous place in the world’s economy?

With London appearing in a downward spiral and Bombay’s pulling itself up by their bootstraps it’s only a matter of time until the former colonial power is overtaken by its former colony.

We Londoners consider ourselves to be citizens of the world’s most influential city, true it still has a lot to offer its residents but is now under threat from emerging economies as never before, but at least we have recently adopted the curry as our favourite meal.

Previously Posted: Driven from your drive

For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.

Driven from your drive (09.02.2010)

Before reading this post I should warn you that sitting or preferably lying down might lessen the risk of injury to yourself when reaching the end of this sorry tale.

Dr. Richard Dawood is the sort of conscientious doctor we would all like to have as our own. Anxious to be able to negotiate the congested streets of north London quickly should an emergency arise, he purchased a scooter.

He could park the scooter on the tarmac forecourt adjacent to his property, but to draw attention that this land was owned by him, and therefore private property, and not part of the adjacent flagstone pavement, he affixed to his wall a notice which read:

“This forecourt is private property and is not dedicated as a public footway”.

So far so good, indeed in 2001 when he received two parking tickets, although his scooter was parked on his own property, the chief executive of Camden Council wrote to the good doctor apologising for the error admitting he was parked on private land.

Then 2 years ago he received another ticket while parked in the same place and assumed another mistake had been made and wrote asking that the penalty be struck off.

After several letters (and more parking tickets) he was appalled to receive a reply informing him that Camden Council had reconsidered the matter and decided that his forecourt was part of the public footway, whether private or not, and would enforce the penalty notice.
When Dr. Dawood decided to take the case to a parking tribunal, the tickets were mysteriously cancelled just prior to the appeal dates. But five tickets were overlooked by the council and became the subject of a parking tribunal where the adjudicator reserved judgment, siting the case White v The City of Westminster this test case is regularly used by councils to penalise motorists on private land, but crucially if one wheel of their vehicle is on the public pavement.
Dr Dawood then applied for a judicial review of his case, and at this point I would earnestly advise you to hold on to something.

Lord Justice Sedley ruled that Dr. Dawood did own the land or rather, the subsoil marked on his deeds, but the Tarmac surface above was subject to public access, and because there was no physical barrier between the road and the Tarmac strip, marking restrictions did apply.

This ruling means in effect that unless you erect a physical barrier at the point where your drive abuts the highway it could technically be accessed by the public and therefore is now fair game for traffic wardens, and you just know that the Traffic Taliban of Camden Council will use every opportunity to use this loophole to milk the motorist.

Previously Posted: London’s Eco Warriors

For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.

London’s Eco Warriors (05.02.2010)

According to most politicians if we don’t cycle everywhere (leaving our electric car in the garage), buy our food at “the farm gate” and live like a Hobbit in a woodland setting you’re not eco friendly. From this they extrapolate that living in the countryside benefits the environment, while we urban dwellers are virtually killing polar bears with our bare hands.

This perception of Londoners could be set to change as a result of a recent book by David Owen entitled Green Metropolis. The American urbanologist proposes you move to a city, the biggest you can find, if you want to save the planet.

Building of new eco towns with zero VAT and the opportunity to show their green credentials might be an attractive proposition to many builders, but David Owen asserts that building new in the form of energy-guzzling steel and glass boxed and towers, which are usually unadaptable for later re-use, on Green Belt land has a carbon footprint that’s a disaster.

For we Londoners on the other hand, have a carbon “sink” of buildings, many dating from the Victorian era needing only central heating upgrades or new windows and a lick of paint to transform them into houses, flats, schools, shops or offices that will last for years, and as these long ago constructed buildings share walls, roofs, ceilings and heating systems they are more economical en masse than stand alone structures in the middle of a Norfolk field.

Our politicians with their “green” credentials have all but obliterated public transport from rural areas, forcing the population to use a car for almost every journey, many making two journeys each way to drop children at school or fetch a partner from the station.

Londoners cycle, walk or use public transport to get around the capital; we have more buses in the capital than you can shake a stick at, while after work we crowd into local shops, restaurants, pubs or theatres without having to travel vast distances to enjoy our leisure pursuits, and as I keep telling my customers, they are blessed with the world’s finest taxi service, taking up to six people per vehicle, making it one of the most green public transport vehicles on the road, but then I would say that wouldn’t I?

Previously Posted: Rear View Mirror

For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.

Rear View Mirror (16.02.2010)

I bet you, like me thought the sole purpose of the iconic London Black Cab was to transport its driver and his passengers from point A to point B.

Well, how wrong can we be? I’ve had Batman and Robin getting changed in the back in preparation to go to a “Fools and Horses” fancy dress party, and girls constantly risk serious eye damage by applying mascara while in the back of my moving vehicle.

In an idle moment you might have Googled on the internet an “adult art movie” filmed in the back of a cab, while The Mail on Sunday in their You supplement regularly purports to interview stars in a weekly feature entitled In a taxi with…

London cabs are a great choice for city tours (well I should know) and what better place to use a London cab than Christchurch, not that rather gentile town on the south coast, but on the other side of the world, New Zealand.

Another company utilising our vehicles are Justsofilms who over the past two years have filmed dozens of musicians, performing in the back of a London licensed cab. Brian Wilson, Ryan Adams and the Doves are among the clips to be found on their site blackcabsessions. If you dig deep enough you can find a duo entitled The Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs playing while one wears a glittering cardboard box on his head, while being driven by a very embarrassed cabbie around London.

And as a footnote they make rather good wedding cars, just a few months ago at my daughter’s wedding a rather splendid white cab took us to the church.

February’s monthly musings

🚓 What Cab News

In December a cab driver was pulled over in Aldwych by Met Police officers after he was spotted driving whilst rolling what appeared to be a cannabis joint. The cabby then tested positive for cannabis during a roadside test. With a softly-softly approach to drugs in London, I suppose it was inevitable that some idiot would tarnish the Black Cab trade.

🎧 What I’m Listening

I’m still working my way through the previous Ladies who London podcasts. Sadly one of the presenters, Emily, is leaving. The good news is that Alex Lacey will continue with this amusing and informative podcast.

📖 What I’m Reading

For 10 years I’ve been reading Christopher Fowler’s eclectic London blog, writing about books, films and observations all analysed with his wit and practised prose: “Plastic carrier bags floated around the traffic lights at the end of the Strand like predatory jellyfish.” Advance cancer has now put pay to writing for this consummate wordsmith.

📺 What I’m watching

My favourite London hotel is Claridge’s, which for me, has an understated elegance, I just love its Art Deco foyer. A BBC documentary – The Mayfair Hotel Megabuild – follows an extraordinary project to add a five-storey basement, hand-dug by very skilled Irish miners, incorporating two swimming pools and three new floors added to the roof to provide 72 new rooms and luxury suites, all the time keeping the hotel open for guests. Amazing engineering.

❓ What else

Apparently the priciest road in the country is Phillimore Gardens in Kensington & Chelsea, where the average house will set you back £23.8m – or 83 times the national average property price. Just one street outside the capital makes it into the top 20, Titlarks Hill, a private road in Sunningdale, Berkshire, which took 12th place with an average price of £12.3 million.

📆 What date

The Last Post: In 9 years time CabbieBlog will have its last post uploaded. To be precise, on 29th February 2032 at 13.50 GMT. By that date missives about London will have been regularly posted for nearly 24 years. On that leap year day, assuming I’m still alive, I’ll be approaching my 85th birthday, and old enough to take retirement from all this cyberverse malarkey.