Category Archives: A window on My World

November’s monthly musings

🚓 What Cab News

Recently in just one week the Public Carriage Office issued just seven new taxi driver licenses and plated 32 new black cabs. Conversely Transport for London licensed 539 new private hire vehicles and 400 aspiring drivers in this one mammoth week of licensing in London netting over £125,000 in new private hire licensing fees. The Capital’s traffic congestion can only get worse.

🎧 What I’m Listening

Goldsmiths have produced a series of street sounds titled London Street Noises, compared with those made in 1928, which at the time, drew attention to London’s rising noise levels. Leicester Square in 1928 has horses, noisy vehicles and many horns sounding, Goldsmiths’ recordings taken at the same location, day and time have people enjoying their leisure in 2018 and only the sound of pigeons during the lockdown in 2020. Fascinating.

📖 What I’m Reading

With all the razzamatazz of the opening of Battersea Power Station, I’ve revisited Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station by Peter Watts. Well-researched and effortlessly entertaining Peter Watts tells the whole, long sorry story of the site, from its industrial past to its future as a gated millionaires’ reserve. Saved from demolition by Michael Heseltine who gave it a heritage listing to annoy Margaret Thatcher who hated the edifice. So big you could, should want to commit suicide, accelerate a car from 0-60 within its walls. He relates how four owners over many years saw their best-laid plans frustrated by the sheer scale of the project they’d taken on. This is the story, not only of a building but of a city.

📺 What I’m watching

Fellow blogger BeetleyPete pointed me to the BBC’s London Collection, a personal compilation by Simon Jenkins comprising old documentaries. First transmitted in 1996, Modern Times: Streetwise looked at the tough training regime undertaken by black cab drivers as they prepared for one of the hardest examinations they will ever take – The Knowledge. It was filmed during my last year on The Knowledge, so I knew many of those featured.

❓ What else

For years FeedSpot has been devising tables from data on the number of ‘hits’ that a website receives. On their 100 Best London Blogs and Websites, CabbieBlog has usually languished around 50ish pushed into that place by all the female ‘influencers’, even Diamond Geezer has rarely made it into the top 20. Now recently I find CabbieBlog at number 26, probably due to the fall in long-form blog posts with influencers moving on to Instagram and their ilk. Another table, the World’s 60 Best Taxi Blogs and Websites finds CabbieBlog at the heady position of number five. Blimey!

Where you can still touch the glow of the past

When blogging was in the ascendancy we bloggers were asked by Time Out (it was printed then) to write about things to do in London during autumn. I chose to see the gas lamps being lit with their ethereal glow:

See Victorian London blaze into life There aren’t many places left in the capital where you feel like you may be in Dickensian London, but Kensington Palace Gardens is one of them. At night you’ll notice the soft glow emanating from the street lights: they’re a handful of the 1,500 Victorian gas lamps remaining in the city. Just five lamplighters maintain them – it’s a job so popular that vacancies are rarely advertised by British Gas. As dusk falls and the birds start to roost in the trees, a clockwork device inside each lamp turns on the gas jet, which is ignited by the continually burning pilot light. The flame then heats a silk casing coated in lime oxide which turns white-hot and gives off that misty glow. For a short time, modern-day London is but a memory.

About 300 of Westminster Council’s 14,000 streetlights are gas-powered, now for various excuses, the council is looking at plans to convert them to electric. The council had argued that the gas lamps, dating from the 1890s, were expensive to maintain, don’t provide suitable lighting, caused a serious obstruction to traffic, that the council needed to address the climate emergency even though 40 patio gas heaters, in widespread use in the borough, used the same volume of gas. Only 0.63 per cent of Westminster Council’s 45,000 tonnes of carbon emissions were taken up by these street lights.

Under mounting pressure, Westminster City Council has now decided to halt the proposed conversion of 174 gas lamps which include 138 Grade II listed gas lamps and 36 non-listed gas lamps. However, 94 non-listed gas lamps will still be converted to LED.

However, the future of the remaining gas lamps isn’t safe, the Council made a proviso that: ‘where they face lengthy delays to repairs or it becomes too costly or unsafe’, they will destroy our Victorian heritage.

So my favourite London street, Goodwin’s Court, has been spared for the immediate future.

Metrodle

Sad though it is, I’ve been on Wordle almost every day this year and usually, I can identify the day’s word within 4 minutes, in fact, if it takes me much longer I’m not likely to work it out.

Wordle is very American-centric, I’m still waiting for color, humor and center to come up.

Recently I’ve come across Metrodle, which is not only for the British but it’s for Londoners.

Metrodle gives you a close crop of the Tube Map, with most of the information like names and line colours removed.

You have six attempts to identify the correct station, an incorrect guess shows the names of any nearby stations and will colour in any lines that appear on the zoomed-in section of the map. The guess output will also show how many stops you are from your destination and in which direction the correct station is from your guess.

Having hardly used the Underground for decades I’m hopeless, maybe you will be more successful.

Everyone Is Entitled To My Opinion

In mid-life David Styles started a journey of discovering London, embarking on a five-year journey learning The Knowledge of London and unearthing facts along the way unknown to many Londoners. Once qualified he would meet, among others, Grayson Perry dressed as Little Bo Peep and the Archbishop of York on the eve of a Royal Wedding.

Part memoir with useful tips on increasing your memory; part manual on how to pass The Knowledge enabling you to join the ranks of the world’s finest cab service; and part London tourist guide. Everyone Is Entitled To My Opinion takes you on a cabbie’s journey from working in an ancient industry facing redundancy to confronting Knowledge examiner, the feared, Mr Ormes.

He discovers how trees were planted in 1399 specifically to repair Westminster Hall’s roof some 500 years later, discloses that a Tory MP confused the Liberal Club with a public toilet, shows why maps are a work of fiction and advises that, for the sake of your health, you really shouldn’t queue outside Madame Tussauds. Where, should you wish, buy American postage stamps, finds Dick Whittington’s cat and seeks out the ancient London Stone.

Boris Johnson gets to be interviewed and the book explains why all London cabbies are obliged to carry a health certificate, at any time, not just when Boris is a passenger, and just what is behind those cabbie green shelters.

A London cabbie for over 25 years, David Styles, writing under the pseudonym Gibson Square (the first ‘Run’ on The Knowledge), has written about London on CabbieBlog.com since June 2008, and his blog has been read by over 1.4 million; he was features editor at Radio Taxis; he has contributed to Time Out, Metro, Evening Standard, Mail on Line, National Geographic; and The Spirit of London, a book presented to Her Majesty the Queen and given to all athletes competing in the London 2012 Olympics. He also appeared in the BBC documentary A Picture of London.

Everyone Is Entitled To My Opinion is his first book, available free on Kindle Unlimited or may be downloaded for £4.49, the paperback is modesty priced at £8.99 should you prefer that rather quaint method of reading.

Gavin from New Zealand writes:

I am a Kiwi and served in the London Ambulance Service from 1980-85. I used the cabs regularly. When I came back for a holiday in 2014, I got all our party to use them. Convenient, cheap and took you right to the doorstep of your destination. But the best part is the banter. If you were in David’s cab and he was giving you a commentary like in this book, I wouldn’t want to leave his cab. “The Knowledge” study and test have some intrigue and romanticism about them. David finally sets the record straight in a most enlightening and humorous manner. London is one big history book, far too big to ever be published. If David was my history teacher, I wouldn’t have given up. His explanations of maps, beehives on hotel roofs, trivia and where cabbies go to pee and eat, are all in this book. I couldn’t put this book down. Cheekily written from the heart and the brain.

Win a copy of my book

After nearly four years of work, at last, the big day is here. In a shameless piece of self-promotion to celebrate the publication of Everyone Is Entitled To My Opinion, I’m holding a competition to win a signed copy of my memoir.

To enter, all you have to do is guess the number of days it took me to complete The Knowledge.

Entries should be sent via CabbieBlog’s Contact Page (I’ll only need the number of days at this stage).

You may make as many entries as you like.

The closest guess receives a signed copy and a £20 Amazon voucher.

If anyone manages to give the exact number of days, as a bonus prize, a facsimile copy of the original A-Z will also be included.

The competition is open until 23.59 GMT on Sunday 20th November 2022. The winner will be contacted by Saturday 26th November 2022.

Good luck!

Cabbieblog’s decision as to the winner is final. If there are two correct entries CabbieBlog reserves the right to decide the winner. The competition is not open to those in receipt of the digital version of my memoir: Everyone Is Entitled To My Opinion, which has been offered free for review. Apart from notifying the winner, no correspondence relating to the competition will be entered into. Up to the closing date, there is no limit on the number of entries a person can make. Cabbieblog reserves the right to cancel or alter or amend the competition at any stage, if deemed necessary in its opinion, or if circumstances arise outside of its control.