Category Archives: Previously Posted

Previously Posted: Memory Men

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.

Memory Men (20.10.09)

Memory Men (20.10.09)You have to feel sorry for high achievers like Lord Winston.

They work hard all their lives and reach the top of their respective professions. Then they find themselves sitting down to dinner with a London cabbie, possibly sharing a table on a cruise or at a hotel.

The conversation around the table goes something as follows:

Table Chatterbox: turning to Lord Winston “and what do you do Bob”?

Lord Winston: “Well I am a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, I am also a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the Institute of Biology. I also hold honorary doctorates from fourteen universities. In addition to being a British medical doctor and scientist, I’m a television presenter, and sit on the Labour Party benches in the House of Lords.”

Table Chatterbox: stifling a yawn, “Oh, really”. With that, he turns to me. “Do you have an interesting career, Gibson?”

Gibson Square: “Well actually I’m only a London cabbie.”

Table Chatterbox: “Well how interesting, I’ve always wanted to know, just how is it you manage to remember all those roads?”

Just what is the fascination with the Knowledge? I notice you are among the many who have chosen to read this blog on all things cabbie. We are not as well educated as many graduates, and contrary to popular opinion we’re not as erudite as we would like to think ourselves. We are reputed, incorrectly, to have narrow Right Wing views, with a propensity to favour the British National Party.

Yet I have shared a table with a nuclear physicist, a director of Unilever and a National Health Service consultant, but all the other diners want to know is, just how it is that I could have done the Knowledge.

If I was clever enough to remember 11,500 roads in central London plus all the theatres, hospitals, clubs, public buildings and all manner of miscellanea and could then take the shortest route between any two of them, I would have the brains to be a barrister and wouldn’t be pushing a cab around London.

If you are reading this Lord Winston, and you find yourself in CabbieBlog’s vehicle, just to help your self-esteem I’ll donate the fare (with a generous tip) to the charity of your choice.

Got to go now, I’m halfway through reading Blackstone’s Criminal Practice 2010, it’s a riveting read.

Previously Posted: In Memoriam

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.

In Memoriam (16.10.09)

In Memoriam (16.10.09)At the risk of unleashing a river of vitriol I want to address roadside memorials.

As drivers we are told that nothing should distract our attention, so no mobiles, loud music, or if the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has their way, no smoking.

In the past Eva Herzigova’s advert for Wonderbra caused a string of accidents caused by male drivers being distracted by her female charms displayed on very large hoardings around London.

The appearance of these shrines in England is all the more surprising since the tradition is alien to Protestant cultures. They are contrastingly common in Spain, parts of Austria and much of South America. But I’m getting fed up with seeing these mounds of flowers, soft toys or football shirts placed at the side of the road.

Understandably relations and loved ones of the deceased will get some solace and closure from these shrines, but they are messy and distracting. You crane your neck to try to find out who the victim might be and if there are toys around the base you lose your concentration momentarily.

And what’s the point? Surely you pay your respects at the resting place of your loved one not a lamppost beside the A40. Councils will now remove any homemade signs attached to street signs, so what do they let this clutter remain at the roadside?

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents believes there are important safety messages to be drawn from the trend. “The increase in the number of shrines just highlights how dangerous our roads are,” said a spokeswoman.

But the Society is concerned that the shrines may themselves increase the risk of accidents. “It isn’t something we would like people to stop doing but it’s important they take extra care. The same applies to motorists because it’s easy for them to take their eyes off the road for even a second.”

The ghost bike memorials by Steve Allen work by just reminding drivers of the need to “think bike”. Usually these comprise of a white bike and the victim’s name. But some of these shrines are just mountains of wilting flowers.

How about a small plaque in a distinctive colour placed where people have died this could serve the dual purpose of a modest memorial and with its distinctive colour a gentle reminder to motorists.

Previously Posted: The lunatics have taken over the asylum

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.

The lunatics have taken over the asylum (13.10.09)

The lunatics have taken over the asylum (13.10.09)It’s now been four weeks since London’s Black Cabbies protested about the Public Carriage Office (“PCO”) who allowed an unsuitable person to start the Knowledge. The gentleman concerned has now been removed from the course but the public have a right to know if there are any other criminals driving London’s Black Cabs.

As reported extensively in London’s media the PCO have allowed a paranoid schizophrenic with convictions for manslaughter and assault to study for the Knowledge. Even worst when a spokesman for the PCO was interviewed by James Whale on LBC recently he could, or would not give assurances that other criminals with convictions for serious offences were not aspiring cabbies. He even went as far as to state that the whistleblower within the PCO, if discovered, would be subject to a “serious reprimand procedure”.

When I did the Knowledge part of the test was putting the student under pressure to see how they would react. For, how can I put this politely? Some of you can be awkward when you have had a drink, or when we have taken an incorrect route. Unlike other occupations these disputes have to be resolved between ourselves in isolation. If a person with mental health issues has to confront that situation there is nobody around to give them support.

By allowing rickshaws (see previous post) and the blatant touting in the West End every night I’m beginning to lose confidence that this regulatory body has the ability to protect the public. It shouldn’t be cabbies who have to draw the public’s attention these dangers and put pressure on the PCO to do its job.

Previously Posted: Goodbye Piccadilly

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.

Goodbye Piccadilly (06.10.09)

When was the last time you had your inside leg measured? Or for that matter you were asked rather discreetly “and what side does Sir dress?”

One of the last bastions of sartorial elegance is hanging up its tape measure for the last time at the end of the year. Baron of Piccadilly one of London’s quirkier outfitters is to close, as Crown Estates their landlord plans to pull down their block for re-development.

Further along the road was Simpsons of Piccadilly, now a Waterstones book store. Simpsons opened in 1936 in what is now a listed building the Art Deco design was the first shop in Britain to have an uninterrupted curved-glass frontage. This new style was made possible by arc-welding a wide-span steel frame, rather than earlier techniques which involved using bulky bolted joints.

The company built as a quality clothing store specifically for men had the ethos that Simpson of Piccadilly was to be a purveyor of “quality clothes for the well-heeled”. Indeed, the store regularly attracted the ‘tweed set’ including Royals, MPs, dignitaries and country landowners.

During the early 1950s, scriptwriter Jeremy Lloyd was employed as a junior assistant at Simpsons; he drew on his experiences to come-up with the idea for the highly-popular television sitcom Are You Being Served?

At least Fortnums are still in Piccadilly, the store that gave you such exotic foods as Harts Horn; Gable Worm Seed; Saffron and Dirty White Candy, and incidentally were the first in 1886 to stock the entire output of a Mr Heinz’s newly invented canned food.

Previously Posted: Blue Badge Blues

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.

Blue Badge Blues (02.10.09)

A multiple-choice question starts this post today.

Which council is so poor it cannot afford to give unrestricted free parking for the disabled?

Is it:
(a) Corby (struggling to survive without its steelworks)
(b) Doncaster (having lost much of the engineering)
(c) Merthyr Tydfil (now coal mining has ceased)
(d) Westminster (one of the wealthiest places on earth).

The answer is to be found at the bottom of this post.

You see I was reading the information booklet about using a disabled Blue Badge for parking restrictions.

Most councils waive their parking charges for the first 2 hours as a concession to the disabled. The cost in lost revenue must be minute when compared to their total revenue. But for some authorities it would appear that the financial burden is too great.

Statistics show that Westminster Council now collects more income from parked cars than from ratepayers, so they are hardly likely to reduce this income stream. They do, magnanimously, provide a number of bays for Blue Badge holders, and provide a leaflet showing where these bays are located.

The answer is: The London Boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, the City of Westminster, the City of London and part of Camden, just hang your heads in shame.