Category Archives: A window on My World

Caveat Scriptor

 

pen-and-paper It is humbling and to be frank a little frightening to acknowledge today that CabbieBlog, the web log that seeks to celebrate and criticise London in equal measure, has passed a quarter of a million hits, in fact a ‘click’ for every word in the English language.

The Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words, to this may be added around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries. Over half of these words are nouns, about a quarter adjectives, and about a seventh verbs, added together this suggests that there are, at the very least, a quarter of a million distinct English words.

[T]he title of this post translates to Let the Writer Beware for when writing in the world’s first language it’s all too easy to commit to electronic ink the equivalent of a written faux pas and by allowing comments my shortcomings are all too visible.

So apart from reasonably legible English, what is the reason CabbieBlog’s hit rate has reached this milestone? First is the high tech equipment used to write its posts, as illustrated here, but its principle reason is your curiosity, comment and contact via e-mails and contribution to its comment section.

For this I thank you one and all, and also my profound thanks to those among you who have allowed me to plagiarise their work. And for what’s it worth, an anagram for this post is vicar spectator, silly I know.

In just 18 months your humble scribe has been amazed by the number of hits this site has received from you all out there in Cyber Space. Total hits to date wordpress com stats

This list is by way of a thank you to everybody who has commented on my posts, in praise or otherwise, and those linking their site to CabbieBlog. Just think of it as a spot of mutual back scratching.

The Cabbies Capital; Silver Tiger for his many comments; The Londonist; Crafty People; I Am London; Cabbie Blog; Diamond Geezer; Evening Standard; Channel 4; Europe a la carte; House Price Crash; London Leben; Warm Tea and Sympathy; London Bobby; The Robinsons Music; Jazamatazz; Shenelles Blog; Mellor; Rachel-Catherine; Patrick Hamilton; Dave; Lucey Rigatti; Glen; John; Melissa Buron; Bugbugs; Sam Lombard; Homeland Tour; George; Jock McKay; David Backhouse; Kent today and yesterday; Electric Gate; Jason Standing; Greg Watts; Ophelia Bottom; Michelle Y; Alistair Gleave; The Accidental Londoner; Nathan; Bob Smith; the london cabbie;  I’m going outside now; and a special thank you to Kieran Meeke for allowing me to copy more than I should from his excellent site Secret London.

If I have omitted any of you out there and you want including please post your site address on the comment button above. Or maybe you’d like to click on a few of these links to see what you’re missing.

Building bridges

What’s the difference between the public and private sectors, well apart from hours worked, pension benefits, and sick leave taken? The attitude of these two employee groups could not be more starkly highlighted when looking at the East London Crossing. The public sector has prevaricated for a decade now, with various politicians breaking promises made while wringing their hands in helpless submission.

_39718777_thames_gatemay_b_map203 Compare and contrast this with the private sector, having lost patience with our political masters and their minions to reduce the traffic chaos in North East and South East London, recognising that funding for the new crossing IS the problem, they have recently proposed a toll at the Blackwall Tunnel during morning and evening peak flows by using London’s congestion charging that is already in place. By imposing a toll on the Blackwall tunnel, they argue only the people who stand to gain from the new crossing would pay the toll.

[T]hey propose charging £1 to travel north in the morning and a similar amount when travelling south in the evening’s rush hour, with the amount of revenue raised annually easily predicted, borrowing against this revenue stream to commence building the new bridge in the near futue. CabbieBlog would suggest that monies taken from the Dartford Crossing, now that its construction cost have been repaid could also be directed to the new crossing. Unlike the interminable years to pay the toll on the Dartford Crossing, the business group propose charging electronically in the same way as London’s congestion charge is taken.

It’s a pity that London is mired in the climate charge debate and hasn’t the vision and forward planning that Londoners desperately need. It’s this sort of vision and forward planning that London desperately needs if we are to avoid a future of gridlocked roads and poisonous air; at the moment it looks like instead of innovation and conception all we are getting is hesitation and reluctance.

Smooth Operators

 

[I]n a recent consultation document it would appear that our Mayor ‘Bicycle Clips’ Boris has all but given up on trying improving the average speed to transverse London, with an average of 10 mph it has hardly changed since the days of horse drawn transport in Victorian London.

His traffic boffins have come up with an idea called ‘Smoothing Traffic Flow’ which it is claimed can make journey times more predictable but not any quicker. With London’s streets now gridlocked for most of the working day due to roadworks your journey times are pretty predictable now albeit at walking pace.

The scheme has some good initiatives, such as Pedestrian Countdown which is a timer telling pedestrians crossing the road how much green time remains, it is a pity those same lights are ignored by pedestrians already.

Another is lane charging where it is hoped to charge utilities a fee every time they dig up the road, unfortunately legislation brought in when London was given its own mayor 10 years ago, the then (unelected) minister for London, John Gummer, capitulated to the privatised utility companies in their outrageous demand for unrestricted access to the ground beneath London’s streets. That dreadful decision, leading to Oxford Street being dug up 176 times in a single year and the Strand 154 times and has remained to this day. With this situation Boris almost thrown in the towel on his promise to charge utilities per hole in the road.

The Mayor has also ordered a review to identify which, if any, traffic lights may be unnecessary and could safely be removed, which sounds great until you realise that in the last 10 years over a 1,000 additional sets have been installed and that newly planned signals will be exempt from the review, so just to stand still they are going to have to get very busy removing some old ones.

With London’s population predicted by some to reach over 12 million in the next 15 years and with increasing wealth giving many the opportunity own a car, London is set to become as bad as Mumbai.

The majority of roads are not controlled by Transport for London and local boroughs are continually harassing motorists with the zeal of a religious convert. Not content with having a small army of traffic wardens, The People Republic of Camden (a nuclear free zone, in case you asked) is building kerbs out into the road to reduce lane capacity. While the Guardianista’s of Islington are working flat out (sorry for the pun) to ensure they have the tallest road humps in town, and with a mandatory 20 mph speed limit on all its roads, chance would be a fine thing to be able to travel beyond walking pace.

The previous Mayor’s initiatives to improve air quality have, it would seem, come to nothing. Scientists are baffled why despite vehicles being cleaner due to legislation forcing owners to install systems that reduce PM10 particulates. If they had cared to ask me I could point them in the right direction, one monitoring site is opposite Madame Tussaud’s where traffic moves at a snail’s pace along the Marylebone Road, another is located at Tower Hill near where by selling a 3-lane road to private developers they have created a daily 12-hours gridlock.

Debrett’s for Cabbies

Bertie Wooster awoke with a start from his afternoon nap. The copy of Horse and Hound which previously had been covering his eyes gravitated down his nose to land painfully in his lap. “Yes, Jeeves, what is it?”

Jeeves removed the pain inflicting magazine from his employer’s lap and replaced it with a cutting from that morning’s copy of The Times “I’m sorry to break into your afternoon labours, but one feels that Sir’s attention should be drawn to a recent publication which might provide some assistance to Square”.

“Who the duce is this Square fellow when he’s at home?” Bertie exclaimed.

“Square, you might recall is your chauffeur of some 20 years standing”, replied Jeeves and left His Master to read the following article:

Debrett’s that manual of all things appertaining to manners have tacked the subject of drivers and have come to the conclusion that white van man and cabbies when put behind a steering wheel are, how can I put it politely, downright rude.

It is hard to believe now, but once upon a time going for a drive was seen as something of a treat and in those days motorists would wave to each other and politely nod as other cars gently overtook them.

With road rage on the increase Debrett’s, the authority on etiquette, has published a new 48-page guide to courteous in-car behaviour, entitled Thoroughly Modern Motoring Manners it aims to re-acquaint drivers with the “right and proper way to behave behind the wheel”.

Among the advice for men is to not make clichéd jokes about female drivers (I’ll remember that when a lady is in the back) and respect all women behind the wheel, while both sexes are also advised to avoid too much perfume or cologne.

Debrett’s etiquette adviser Jo Bryant said: “We felt driving is an area where people forget their manners and display aggressive behaviour they wouldn’t show in their everyday lives.”

Among its pearls of wisdom are:

The chivalrous male driver will open the door for a female passenger and close it behind her. ‘He should offer to take her coat, check her seat is adjusted and be sure the temperature’s to her liking.’

Women should not apply make-up or preen themselves in the mirror, but should keep a pair of flats for driving instead of high heels. There’s also a step-by-step guide on how women should exit a vehicle and retain their dignity in a ‘ladylike’ fashion.

Clearly laying down ground rules all too often ignored by today’s celebrities, it advises: ‘Smooth down your skirt. Keeping your knees together, swivel your body and swing your legs outwards. Place one foot down, keeping your knees together. Dip your head and shoulders forward and slide and glide out of the car.’

Debrett’s insist that a true gentleman is never a backseat driver. The guide states: ‘She’s in the driving seat. A chivalrous passenger is as well-behaved and polite in the car as he is when he’s out and about.’

Transporting dogs is another area where etiquette is crucial and Debrett’s lays down strict guidelines for ensuring one’s pets do not impinge on other passengers. The book suggests dogs should be carried on blankets, in the foot wells or in the boot of an estate car. But if a dog is kept on the back seat the book warns: ‘Forcing a non-animal lover into close proximity with a drooling dog is the height of bad manners.’

One piece of advice appertaining to cabbies has to be: In order to be ‘the perfect host’; drivers are encouraged to choose only music that meets their passengers’ approval and are advised to ‘keep conversation light and refreshing’.

The book also makes it clear that courteous drivers will refrain from singing along to their favourite tunes unless they are a ‘karaoke pro.’

And the book warns: ‘“Blowing your horn is just rude. Remember the white van man whose inner gentleman has lost his way.’

The new guide offers advice on a range of topics as diverse as ‘chivalry’; ‘fragrance fundamentals’; ‘forecourt manners’; ‘passenger etiquette’; and finally teaching drivers the ‘right and proper way to behave behind the wheel’.

It encourages a return to the days when chivalry among male drivers was commonplace and provides advice on how to avoid a litany of embarrassing faux pas.

Priced at £5.99 I’ll have to keep a copy in my glove compartment.

Boys from the Blackstuff

I think that I’m in the wrong game, for according to the trade body for road menders, the average cost of filling in a pothole in London is £71, those guys that you see out in all weathers drive Porches when not behind the wheel of a tarmac truck; No I don’t believe it either.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance, who publish the racy magazine title, yes you’ve guessed it Asphalt Now claim that’s the cost for each pothole which has to be filled, with an estimated 1.6 million of them in England and Wales they extrapolate a total cost will be equal to the Gross Domestic Product of a small African state to get our roads back into the 21st Century and has written to the Department of Transport seeking £100 million of emergency funding.

Unless you drive a very robust off-road vehicle, negotiating the speed humps and potholes in London compares with a skiing slalom, worthy of the winter Olympics.

The worst icy conditions for 30 years have increased the condition known as ‘freeze thaw’. As soon as water gets inside a road surface and then freezes, it expands, thus widening the crack. When the ice melts, even more water seeps inside the crack and the problem worsens during the next freeze. When the crack is wide enough, the surface collapses and you have a pothole. Record lows in temperature mean record numbers of potholes.

And why does water get beneath the surface? Aside from old age, the most frequent cause is road works, usually caused by the utility companies, who it is estimated perform two million ‘utility openings’ on our roads each year For however well a road is mended, its old and new surfaces will have inconsistencies. Experts say that by opening up a road just once, you can reduce the life of a road by up to 60 per cent.

But here is an interest thing, have you noticed that speed humps are never affected by this phenomenon?

If the councils had spent as much money and loving care on the road surface these past 25 years as they have on ‘traffic calming measures’ we may now not have a pothole every 120 yards that is estimated to be the case on London’s roads. The best solution is to resurface all roads on a regular basis, unfortunately for London a fresh topping is applied on average every 37 years.

Unfortunately having roads akin to Zimbabwe is not just an inconvenience to CabbieBlog, these holes are deadly, indeed a friend’s father died when his motor bike’s front wheel hit a pothole catapulting him headfirst into a lamppost. The local council belatedly rectified that particular hole within hours.

The cyclist’s organisation CTC logs reported potholes on its website, and unbelievably the number in one year has rocketed from 699 to 3,508.

London depends on its visitors, so we don’t want them to go the same way as Dr Foster in the children’s rhyme:

‘Dr Foster went to Gloucester in a shower of rain,
He stepped in a puddle right up to his middle and never went there again.’