Category Archives: Puppydog tails

Capital Letters

Looking at the index of my Collins Superscale London maps I noticed that each section commenced with a capital letter. As I worked my way through the list I found, incredibly, four streets in London appear to have unique names. So, without further ado, here is the first street in every letter in London.

AAaron Hill Road (E6) 400 years ago Aaron Hill was a poet and dramatist, renowned in London for his adaptations of Voltaire, and successful enough to be buried in Westminster Abbey.

BBabmaes Street (SW1) Founded in 1872 the Naval and Military Club, known as the In and Out Club has its premises in the house once owned by Britain’s first female MP – Nancy Astor. The club’s old location in Piccadilly had an in and out drive, hence its nickname. Now its doors are located in St. James’s Square and 7-9 Babmaes Street. In and Out indeed.

CCabbell Street (NW1) Jack ‘Spot’ Comer was an East End gangster attacked outside his home in Hyde Park Mansions on Cabbell Street in 1956. Son of Polish immigrant parents and born into grinding poverty in Whitechapel, Jack Spot joined his first gang at an early age. Comer rose to rule the criminal underground via protection and gambling rackets, by the late 1940s he was making a fortune at the racetrack working in partnership with another famous gangster, Billy Hill.

DDabin Crescent (SE10) Dabin Crescent is only 157 yards long. There is only one street named Dabin Crescent making it unique in Britain.

EEagle Close (SE16) This cul-de-sac of only a few yards long is but a stone’s throw of the last entry here, Zampa Road.

FFabian Street (E6) This short close with only a couple of dozen houses has the advantage of a footpath at the end giving access to the Greenway, a 4.3 mile-long footpath and cycle highway mostly in Newham which at its easterly end runs along the embankment containing the Joseph Bazalgette Northern Outfall Sewer.

GGables Close (SE5) Not many gabled properties here about, the flats do provide easy access to the Camberwell College of Arts counting actor Tim Roth, musician Humphrey Lyttelton and designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen amongst its alumni.

HHaarlem Road (W14) This short street at 94 yards long can boast that it is one of only 3 similarly named Haarlem Roads in Great Britain.

IIbbotson Avenue (E16) There is only one street named Ibbotson Avenue making it unique in Great Britain.

JJacaranda Grove (E8) Properties here, despite the large number of council flats nearby, sell for more than £1 million. At least the local female MP lives in the adjacent road.

KKassala Road (E13) Approximately 120 yards long, this is the only street named Kassala Road making it unique in Great Britain.

LLaburnum Close (SE15) Unsurprisingly there are 84 other streets named Laburnum Close in Great Britain.

MMabledon Place (WC1) UNISON union once had their headquarters at the junction of Mabledon Place and Euston Road.

NNag’s Head Court (EC1)
There are a plethora of Nag’s Heads in London, but it’s hard to imagine a boozer being squeezed into this minute street near the Barbican.

OOak Crescent (E16) Although you have to pay over £350,000 for a flat here the street is yards from the Canning Town Flyover.

PPace place (E1) Could this be the shortest street on this list? So small the postcode E1 2NA was terminated by the Royal Mail in December 2016.

QQueen Elizabeth Street (SE1) The expensive apartments a short walk from Tower Bridge has outside Jacob a life-sized statue of a dray horse as its centrepiece for The Circle to commemorate the history of the site. He was flown over London by helicopter into Queen Elizabeth Street to launch The Circle in October 1987.

RRabbit Row (W8) Rabbit Row is a mews predominantly one-sided, with only 4 properties. The original purpose of the Mews was to provide stable/coach house accommodation for the larger houses on Kensington Mall.

SSabbarton Street (E16) It’s a pity this very short street off Silvertown Way is industrialised, as at its end is a view of Bow Creek as it flows into the Thames.

TTabard Street (SE1) Part of the one-way system at the Borough, I can only think it takes its name from the Tabbard Inn once famous for accommodating people who made the pilgrimage to the Shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral

UUamvar Street (E14) The entomology of this strange name could be derived from Uaighmor, also anglicised Uam Var, the name means ‘Great Cave’, referring to a large cave in the cliff face which was a hideout for brigands into the eighteenth century.

VVale, The (SW3) Just how many Vales are there? This one-off the King’s Road is the cabbies’ cut-through to Elm Park. A turning off The Vale is Mulberry Walk once home to Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and actor Laurence Olivier.

WWadding Street (SE17)
Close by was the Heygate Estate, a massive concrete warren containing 1,100 homes. Quite why post-war architects thought such grimly functional structures embodied the progressive, honest and classless fresh start we needed after the war.

XNone now There used to be an XX Place, off Globe Road E1, it was a narrow street, first on the left off Globe Road from Mile End Road, serving ten small cottages on the north side.

YYabsley Street (E14) There is only one street named Yabsley Street making it unique in Great Britain.

ZZamba Road (SE16) The most famous road of this list as at the end of its 200 yards is The Den, Millwall Football Club.

Red and Dead

The old red telephone box is an icon of Britain from days gone by, used nowadays only by tourists and Japanese girls modelling bridal wear. They were very popular if only because they were the only method we had to have a distance conversation but believe me, I can recall the time when most households in Britain never had a phone anyway.

Is There Anybody There?

One of my earliest memories is standing in a kiosk in a cold Saturday night, trying to persuade a doctor to come and look at my infant son who had a high fever.

Numbers Game

It wasn’t all numbers back in those days either. Phones were given acronyms depending on where they were. So if you lived in Barnet, that town came under a series of districts. The first three letters would make up part of the phone number, so you would call BAR 123456. That’s why the dial had letters as well as numbers.

Morse is your Man

Decades before digital, the telephone system had a rotary dial which interrupted the line current repeatedly, very briefly disconnecting the line 1 to 10 times for each digit. When the receiver was placed on the cradle a bar at its base disconnected the current until the receiver was again lifted by a new caller.

Kids these days don’t know the half of it, said with a big smile on my face. Lifting the receiver and emulating the wireless operator on the Titanic by tapping the bar would mimic the dial turning, so to phone my friend for free on Enterprise 5041 all that was needed was to quickly depress the bar in a series of bursts, each corresponding to the numbers on the dial.

It all sounds a million miles from today’s technology with Zoom, Facebook Messenger, Skype and with mobile phone contracts costing up to £93 a month.

Button A or Button B

Assuming you actually were prepared to pay for your call, then you had two large silver pushbuttons, namely, Button A and Button B. You put four copper pennies (some showing Queen Victoria in her prime) in the slot and when someone answered your call, you pushed Button A. If they didn’t answer, you pushed Button B and you would get your money back.

Then there were the pips. Your hard-earned four coins would last maybe two minutes if you made a local call or one minute if it was a long-distance call. Upon hearing the pips you had seconds to fumble about finding coins before you were cut off. If you are under 40 I hope you are keeping up!

K6 is King

Now everyone in the world owns a mobile phone, making the famous K6 phone box redundant. There are even subsistence farmers in Africa sharing a mobile so they can know when to sell their crop to get the best price.

Some towns and villages have kept their red telephone boxes and turned them into libraries or for storing defibrillators for emergencies, the majority of phone boxes though have been sent to a scrapyard in West Yorkshire where the general public can buy them.

Expensive shed or very small office

Purchasing one of these icons is expensive, anywhere between £1,500 and £2,500, but it’s good to see recycling rather than scrapping.

And on that note – and bear with me on this – I return to London. William Stanhope, 1st Earl of Harrington built Harrington House in Craig’s Court in 1702 hoping he would be adjacent to Whitehall Palace once the palace had been rebuilt after a disastrous fire. Unfortunately, Whitehall Palace was never reconstructed. The royals migrated westward, depriving Stanhope of the opportunity to call the monarch his neighbour and rendering his grand home an isolated white elephant (although the family remained there until 1917).

Today, the 18th-century building houses a telephone exchange and allegedly harbours an entrance shaft to a large, top-secret government bunker dubbed ‘Q Whitehall‘. Now I wonder whether I am on their watch list for defrauding the General Post Office, BT’s predecessor?

Featured image: Antoine Motte dit Falisse (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Bridge of Sighs

The Hammersmith Bridge closure continues with only waterborne emergency services allowed anywhere near the structure. This bridge has a long history of curious human activity, or like today, non-activity.

When I was a student at what’s now rather grandly named The London College of Communication we would have to compose type by hand in a typeface called Baskerville. Upon completion and subsequent inspection of the text by the tutor, it was expected that you would diss (distribute the type back into the typecase) it back for the next student.

Some less than diligent students would, instead smuggle their work out of college and ’distribute’ their work into the Thames from whichever bridge they happened to cross on their way home.

I was reminded of this when reading The Gorgeous Typeface That Drove Men Mad and Sparked a 100-Year Mystery about the destruction of an iconic typeface from the parapet of Hammersmith Bridge which took over 100 clandestine nightly trips dropping the metal into the river’s murky depths.

One of the leading figures of the Arts & Crafts Movement was Cobden Sanderson, founder of the legendary Doves Press. Both brilliant and creative when it came to commercialisation he was blinkered. Having designed one of the world’s most beautiful typefaces he was afraid that his partner Emery Walker, upon his death, would mechanise the type which he believed should always be set by hand – in the same way, I learnt as a student half-a-century later.

Lovers of typefaces (or fonts in modern-day parlance) tend to be an obsessive lot. You can, after all, get the name of a typeface by downloading the app WhatTheFont which allows you to take a photograph of a letter or word, the app then tries vainly to identify it. You can go to the type forum MyFont.com where dedicated individuals attempt to identify that elusive font, and have an opinion, often laced with copious bile upon the font’s merits.

Nearly a century later Robert Green a designer who has spent years researching this lost typeface, now available on Typespec managed to get permission from The Port of London Authority to allow divers to look for the missing punches under Hammersmith Bridge. If ever looking for a needle in the proverbial haystack applied, this was it. The bridge had been the target of two IRA bombings one if which had blown water 60ft into the air.

Green had narrowed the search to a small dip in the meandering river, and within 20 minutes despite 100 years of tidal flow, the first punches were found.

Doves Press was founded to preserve a craft that had been in the forefront of literature for hundreds of years, but at that time found itself on the cusp of an industrial revolution much like today with digital typesetting. As with this, the latest way to communicate was bound to accede to technology.

Today this typeface can be bought and used by graphic designers and typesetters using equipment beyond the imagination of its designer. So maybe this crazed perfectionist was correct and the use of his typeface would end up being commercialised.

London eccentrics

The English are known for ignoring eccentricity, or at least humouring those who don’t conform, and London has more than its fair share. I posted about the Mole Man of Hackney and I once had Turner prize-winning potter Grayson Perry, dressed as Little Bo Peep in the back of the cab.

Some self-proclaimed eccentrics even attend the Eccentric Club, formed in the 1780s although there are some earlier references to its conception in London in the 1760s and largely representing that very British tradition of the eccentric aristocrat.

Rainbow George

Anyone who listened to London’s late-night radio stations at the turn of the century would have heard the distinctive voice of Rainbow George Weiss, a serial caller of radio chat shows, who squatted so long in a Hampstead house he became the owner, only to sell the property for £710,000 then spending part of his windfall standing in 13 constituencies in the 2005 General Election and then giving away much of the remaining proceeds.

We all like to complain and if really aggrieved, protest to make our point, but for having eccentric protesters with the greatest tenacity, London would appear to lead the way.

We have of course our regular Saturday weekend protesters, who spend their week in comfortable City jobs or living off the State, who then like to spend their weekends selling copies of the Socialist Worker or walking around London with a banner, the latter becoming the leader of a major political party.

Protein Man

Taking those aside, an entrepreneurial spirit has at times been commendable with some individuals, for example, Stanley Green who upon retirement from the civil service decided against taking up golf but chose to spend 25 years warning of the dangers of protein. ‘Less Lust From Less Protein’ his leaflets printed in his front room: Eight Passion Proteins with Care went through 84 editions and sold 87,000 copies over 20 years.

The 14 pages warned that an excess of protein was responsible for uncontrollable passions and recommended that you reduce your consumption of fish, bird, meat, cheese, egg, peas, beans, nuts and well err . . . sitting, and the world would be a happier place.

Sinner-Winner Man

Phil Howard, a scruffy, beaming Scouser who hung around from around 2000 bellowing through a megaphone at shoppers and office workers. His catchphrase, ‘be a winner, not a sinner’, would extol the benefits of Christianity at Oxford Circus greatly improving the ambience of the area until he had an anti-social behaviour order served by Westminster Council, forcing him to relocate to Piccadilly Circus. Then every evening illuminated by the neon signs revellers could hear him chastising them, telling people they were going to hell because they dyed their hair until that is a second ASBO was served to prevent him from loudly proclaiming his faith. He then relocated out of the West End popping up at other London landmarks as well as major sporting events across the capital.

Gold Lamé Man

A third lone individual could still be found, after over 15 years outside White’s Club in St. James’ Street resplendent dressed in a gold jacket and gold shoes. He divided his time between a certain Lord of the Realm’s club, who he claimed had ruined his business. He blamed Her Majesty for not supporting his one-man crusade but boasted proudly to me that once he saw the Queen watching him from behind her net curtains as he stood outside Buckingham Palace regaling he for not supporting him.

Chinese whispers

For a far more spiritual demo, go to Portland Place, there opposite the Chinese Embassy since June 2002, protesting against an oppressive regime, sympathisers of Falun Gong practise Tai Chi, 24 hours a day, commendable but utterly fruitless since China hardly feels threatened by the slow movements of the protesters. But of course, if you want free Tai Chi lessons CabbieBlog recommends the pavement outside RIBA.

Make Love Not War

But my all-time favourite for endurance and cocking a snoop at authority has to be Brian Haw, who on 2 June 2001 decided to begin camping in Parliament Square in a one-man political protest against war and foreign policy. Unfortunately for Brian, the second Iraq war overtook events making him a cause célèbre and preventing him from ever giving up his one-man protest against the forces of the State. Westminster City Council then failed in their prosecution against Brian for obstructing the pavement, later his continuous use of a megaphone led to objections by Members of Parliament. Then in a glorious twist, a House of Commons Procedure Committee recommended that the law be changed to prohibit his protest as his camp could provide an opportunity for terrorists to disguise explosive devices. The Government then passed a provision to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act banning all unlicensed protests, permanent or otherwise, however, because Brian’s protest was on-going and residing on Parliament Square before the enactment of the Act, it was unclear whether the Act applied to him. He died in Berlin of lung cancer in 2011, no doubt still regaling the authorities.

The Greenground

After Tuesday’s post, today with a new more gentle tenor CabbieBlog explores a Tube map of parks and how to get between them.

Living on the north-east margins of London with Havering Country Park’s 165 acres a mere 5-minute stroll away the countryside isn’t far away.

The park has an avenue of Wellingtonia trees, dating to when the Havering manor was still present, and are the second largest plantation in the country. It also is on the route of the London Outer Orbital Path, or London LOOP, with sections 20-24 linking the many green spaces on my doorstep.

Given that I was delighted to find a ‘tube map’ showing the parks of London, joined together in ways you might want to walk.

Graphic designer Helen Ilus has designed a verdant version of Harry Beck’s classic Tube map.

The ‘Greenground’ contains eight themed lines: the Thames, Crane, Wandle, Regent (as in the canal), Royal, South, City and North. Places, where you might like to swim, kayak or just walk, are marked.

The map has around 300 parks and open spaces that are remarkably only 10 per cent of the 3,000 parks and green spaces to be found in London.

The map was originally inspired by the London National Park City movement which officially declared London as the first National Park City.

Helen has decided that it is not practical to include all green spaces to one legible map, and intends to produce more detailed local versions.

The map isn’t intended as a detailed navigational aid, but more as an inspiring prompt to encourage exploration.

I look forward to seeing Helen’s take Havering-Atte-Bower as a detailed mini-map.

Helen Ilus can be found here.