Category Archives: A window on My World

My Favourite Things

[I]t is that time of year when the media is crammed full of trivia, so in the Christmas tradition, here is CabbieBlog’s London favourites:

Neighbourhood: Clerkenwell; I had my first job in London in this small district populated at the time by Italians giving us great delicatessens, a catholic church and an introduction to their beautiful language. The principle industries there were watchmaking and typesetting.

cardinals-wharf-st-pauls Building: St. Paul’s is obscured by other buildings, so the best place to see it is from Bankside on the other side of the Thames, then cross by Millennium Bridge and climb to the top, and don’t forget to visit the crypt.

Open Space: Hampstead Heath, the highest point in London, with its varied landscape and nutcases swimming in its famous ponds.

odcjxtbluspkxdpo_GetAttachment-23_odcjxtbluspkxdpo View: No problem choosing this one, Waterloo Bridge in the evening. Wordsworth got it wrong, when he wrote Upon Westminster Bridge:
Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
Nice sentiment, wrong bridge. But to be fair to Will, Waterloo Bridge wasn’t built then, Ray Davis was right though.

32953 Bar/Pub/Restaurant: Bar Italia on Frith Street, Soho, for the best cappuccino north of the Alps, their espresso machine is over 50 years old and still going strong. Open 24 hours a day, they just kick you out into the street when they want to clean the place. Or for a slightly upmarket tea try Claridges, good value, superb service and no tourists.

London book/film/documentary: London Sight Unseen by Snowdon. I was bought this book a few years ago. Snowdon travelled all over the capital photographing anything unusual or fascinating that caught his photographer’s eye. Or watch the play ‘The Knowledge’ by the late Jack Rosenthal, a brilliant comedy about becoming a cabbie.

oldshop Interesting Shop: Pollock’s Toy Museum and shop in Scala Street near Goodge Street. A fascinating collection of toys from a bygone era.

London street/road/square: Queen Anne’s Gate. Unlike her statute outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, this exquisite little turning which takes its name from the aforementioned queen, encapsulates Georgian London, go there and be amazed that there are still places left in London like this, just don’t tell those modern architects, they’ll want to develop it.

200px-William_Hogarth_053 Londoner: Thomas Coram although born in Lyme Regis and spent much of his early life at sea he’s an adopted Londoner. He later became a successful London merchant, as a great philanthropist Coram was appalled by the many abandoned, homeless children living in the streets of London. In 1739 he obtained a Royal Charter granted by George II establishing a “hospital for the maintenance and education of exposed and deserted young children.” Visit the Foundling Museum near the children’s playing fields which take his name, just don’t go into the playground next door, you must be accompanied by a minor.

Period: 1650-1720 This is the time when London was brought to its knees after the Great Fire of London, yet within decades London was reborn as the greatest city in the world, in addition surviving civil war, plague, drought and bankruptcy. It’s a time when London gave rise to a generation of extraordinary men: Sir Christopher Wren, Robert Hooke, John Locke, John Evelyn and Nicholas Barbon.

CabbieBlog’s Milestone

taxi post  big ben In February of this year I started CabbieBlog, a bi-weekly compilation of thoughts and observations from a London cabbie. Along the way I have touched on subjects as diverse as Gordon Brown to Human Lavatories (maybe there is a link to be made here).

Little did I realise at the time that before the year was out over 100,000 people would visit my site, and with satisfying number taking the trouble to leave a constructive comment on over 100 posts.

[L]ooking back on the posts the first on 23rd February is all about roadworks, well after last weeks’ debacle when the Blackwall Tunnel was closed with the result that East London was still gridlocked long after midnight, it would appear that London is now worse than when I first started writing.

So it looks as though I will just have to keep on whinging, but thank you all for helping me let off steam.

My wife has recently put up a fridge magnet which reads:

Everyone is entitled to my opinion

Should I now make this the strapline to CabbieBlog?

Best Before Cabs

When John Major, that grey man of politics, brought in the Food Labelling Regulations 1996, which compelled manufacturers to place an ‘appropriate durability indication’ on items, he unleashed a tide of bureaucracy. How can Deep Heat embrocation, candles and salt, that great preserver need a use by date? Now we have just have the Copenhagen summit where Climate Change Junkies have said we have just 40 days to save the planet.

[D]id some cavers go into an unknown void and find the inscription: ‘Manufactured 4.54 billion years ago; Best before soon after the end of Pleistocene Period’?

Now Mayor Boris Johnston has waded (if that is the correct term with the melting icecaps) into the debate. In an ‘inverted pyramid of piffle’, he has commissioned a consultation document on how long should a London black cab remain licensed.

According to Boris, all cabs should have a finite life of 10 years. Never mind that some of the newer vehicles have very low CO2 emissions and that building a new cab produces far more damage to the environment than merely patching up the old droshky.

In a separate but not unrelated dictat those Bumbling Bureaucrats of Brussels intend to foist the working time directive on self employed cabbies.

The Directive provides a definition of the types of activities that should be included in the calculation of working time. These are: driving; loading and unloading; assisting passengers boarding and disembarking from the vehicle; cleaning and technical maintenance; and all other work intended to ensure the safety of the vehicle. It also covers the times during which a worker cannot dispose freely of their time and are required to be at their workstation. The Directive also regulates maximum weekly working time, breaks, rest periods and night work which at present amount to a total of 48 hours a week.

So there you have it, assuming I work 48 weeks a year the maximum life of my vehicle will be just 960 days, some of that time will be sitting on a rank, maintaining the vehicle and other sundry chores and the rest driving at the London average speed of 12mph.

Sorry can’t say that it must be expressed in kilometres, whatever that is.

Going Japanese

Five million quid doesn’t go very for these days it would seem. When they saw Westminster Council approaching them and asking the question, “Can you change our crossing to . . . a crossing?” the contractors must have rubbed their hands with glee.

Now after 8 weeks of work, enough concrete to build the Hoover Dam and gridlock on all the approaching roads, the Shibuya crossing at Oxford Circus is complete.

[I] am considering turning CabbieBlog into a conspiracy theory site, if I didn’t know better you could be forgiven for suspecting some of the road ‘improvements’ taking place in London are designed to hold up traffic. You don’t have to possess a degree in traffic management to realise that if you cut a road’s capacity in half it’s going to take twice as long to pass a given point.

The newly completed Shilba crossing at Oxford Circus that CabbieBlog has commented on in the past is a £5 million mad scheme on a gargantuan scale and rivals Trafalgar Square as the worst traffic scheme ever imposed on London?

After removing the protective railings, the kerbs and filling the underground toilet with concrete, the pavements have been widened, not with smart paving slabs in keeping with this allegedly prestigious shopping area, no they have just been filled that space with concrete.

This now benefits the drug dealers, leaflet distributors and disorientated tourists who were always the biggest annoyances at what was and is still the worst intersection in London.

Now that other band who inhabit this quarter of London, the hordes of pubescent girls scrambling to get into Top Shop. Inevitably gaggles of them would meet ‘by the railings’, where they would stand for 20 minutes, texting each other while flicking their hair and adjusting their micro skirts, these little darlings are now spilling into a road which is devoid of either railings or kerb.

But apart from these vacuous creatures, who is going to shop in Oxford Street this Christmas next to a stationery line of traffic stretching for one mile, all pumping out CO2 because they can’t go anywhere?

Say No to NoHo

My dream of immortality has been dashed, CabbieBlog’s birthplace has been demolished and the old Middlesex Hospital site is being redeveloped.

In a re-branding exercise unmatched since Datsun decided to pick Cherry as their new car’s name (either you were driving a small red fruit or making a statement on your virginity), there’re calling the development NoHo.

[S]ituated a quarter of a mile north from Soho the title presumably comes from being ‘Not Soho’. Soho derives its name from the cry given by hunters in the forest originally situated there, when their quarry had been spotted. Similar to today’s cry of Tally Ho!

So NoHo must have the opposite connotation ‘no quarry spotted’, presumably for disappointed property hunters.

The residents in the area are enraged at this blatant attempt to rename this area known as Fitzrovia.

The old hospital has now been demolished, except for a range of buildings on Nassau Street. Now the development is currently on hold after Candy and Candy, the interior developers, left the development, leaving the site in the hands of the Kaupthing Bank.

In its place a perimeter hoarding in black has been erected, giving both colour and texture to this otherwise featureless area, a marked improvement to the elegant Edwardian building that it now replaces.

Walking past the site, I noticed recently a further twist to the areas’ gentrification, the name NoHo has been removed from the sleek black hoardings. But at least the black looks cool.