Category Archives: Puppydog tails

The Great Zoo Escapes

Both my father and grandfather were head keepers at the London Zoo, having spent some of my childhood ‘assisting’ Dad at work, I’m always interested in anything zoological related pertaining to Zoological Society of London.

It must have been a quiet news month in February 1965, when Goldie the Eagle escaped and for two weeks London’s press was giving updates of ‘Goldie Sightings’.

When he escaped from the Bird of Prey aviary he was a bird with no name. A newspaper reporter asked a Zoo official, quite reasonably, how was he affectionately known. Not wishing to appear callous he blurted out ‘Goldie’, now London’s population had a purpose. Spotted as far afield as Camden Town, Tottenham Court Road and even Euston. Goldie spotters caused traffic jams in Regent’s Park Outer Circle; the Royal Navy was engaged to use special equipment to effect a capture; veteran BBC presenter, John Timpson played an Ethiopian bird pipe in an attempt to lure him.

Goldie attacked an elderly lady’s two terriers, but was seen off with a well-aimed handbag; he was even referred to in a House of Commons debate, and a diplomatic incident was averted when he was rumoured to have killed and eaten a duck in the American ambassador’s garden.

Goldie was finally caught on 11 March after the zoo’s deputy head keeper tempted him to earth with a dead rabbit. The Zoo’s attendance nearly doubled in the days after his return.

Goldie escaped once again on 15 December 1965 and was recaptured on 19th December 1965.

The roles of the keeper and a caged animal’s dinner were nearly reversed in a well-told Zoo anecdote, which just might have been possibly true. The old lion house had the animals raised on a concrete platform behind bars, with a series of steps to allow spectators to view these large cats (whose faeces are remarkably pungent…I was always amazed at just how many families would bring their lunches to this bit of the zoo, trying to consume a scotch egg with watering eyes within the enclosed and unventilated space of the enclosure).

One evening, after the public had left, the lion’s keeper, who was no stranger to alcohol, was showing his friend, who was also partial to a tipple himself, an old arthritic, virtually toothless, the lioness who at this stage was fairly sober. In his enthusiasm the keeper opened the cage, so his inebriated friend could become better acquainted with the queen of the jungle.

Unfortunately, the old lioness was powerless to stop herself from sliding off its platform. A witness described seeing the two drunks, pinned under an old lion, trying to shove the creature back into its lair.

According to J. Barrington-Johnson’s book The Zoo: A History of London Zoo tells of Cholmondley the Chimp who in 1948 didn’t need an Oyster Card to board a bus:

On one occasion, while temporarily in the Zoo hospital, he managed to escape: he got out of the Zoo, walked across the corner of Regent’s Park, and hailed a bus in Albany Street. Having got on the bus, he sat down next to a lady and put his arm around her shoulders. He then — probably because the lady was having hysterics – bit her!

More recently in 2009, a red panda was spotted during the night sitting in a tree, after spending several hours trying to lure the panda down a tranquillizer dart was used to return it to the enclosure.

In 2014 Belsize Park residents had a year of entertainment, even creating a Twitter account when a peahen escaped when a visitor left a door open to the aviary.

All these tales were nearly eclipsed when in October 2016 Kumbuka a male silverback gorilla managed to enter the service area, allowing him to get into the area used by zookeepers. He didn’t get the chance to explore the rest of the Zoological Gardens.

Featured image: Panthera leo in London Zoo by Pelican (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Johnson’s London Dictionary: Knowledge, The

KNOWLEDGE, THE (n.) An accumulation of local information which doth give one granted the illusion of superior powers and wisdom

Dr. Johnson’s London Dictionary for publick consumption in the twenty-first century avail yourself on Twitter @JohnsonsLondon

We Blog

Blog: (n.)(v.) (A truncation of weblog) A website on which an individual or group of users produce an ongoing regular narrative, displayed in reverse chronological order, so that the most recent post appears at the top, often written in an informal or conversational style.

A blog’s entomology

This inelegant word is derived from Weblog, or should that be we-blog (see the previous paragraph). Blog, its ugly orphan, created by the unholy conjoining of the word log, pertaining to a formal account, to the orphaned B from the word Web, thus ‘Web-Log’ becomes ‘Blog’. Coined by programmer Peter Merholz, incredibly in 2004 the American dictionary-publishing firm Merriam-Webster proclaimed it ‘Word of the Year’.

If it had been invented today, it would have been described as: ‘record on the cloud’ – or reloud.

A blog’s purpose

I’m well aware that most blogs – with, of course, the exception of CabbieBlog – are egocentric areas where tragic people waffle on and on with their dull scribblings because they genuinely believe the reader is interested in their extremist political views, uninspired recipes or some dull apparel they are wearing. This is usually because the author believes that the person who reads ‘his/her blog’ actually wants to find out more about them, when in fact the vast majority of viewers have just stumbled into their corner of cyberspace looking for cute kittens or young ladies showing parts of their anatomy.

A blog’s timeline

When is the optimum time or day to post? For getting backlinks for your blog posts, the study by Kissmetrics suggests that Monday and Thursday are the best days. It further went on to reveal that publishing early morning on these two days around 7 am will increase your chances of getting the most inbound links.

The more observant reader will have noticed that CabbieBlog posts long-form pieces on Tuesday and Friday at 1.50 pm, close to those time-slots, but not those optimum time slots.

A blog’s length

In the last five years, the average time for writing a post has steadily grown from 2:24 hours to 3:28 hours. The blog post length for the same period rose accordingly, from 808 to 1,151 words on average.

There are roughly 1.9 billion web pages at this moment making one trillion, nine hundred billion words out there to be read. With 2 million posts uploaded daily, we will be hitting 2 billion posts in less than a year. Who knows, this post could be the one to hit that milestone, also adding an additional 425 words.


Johnson’s London Dictionary: Mini-Cab

MINI-CAB (n.) A Sedan with oriental provenance of indeterminate age used to convey the Inebriated by its Driver whose paucity of English is matched only by his geographical knowledge

Dr. Johnson’s London Dictionary for publick consumption in the twenty-first century avail yourself on Twitter @JohnsonsLondon

One of a kind

You know how it is, ordering something online and when ready to enter your address you are invited by the algorithm to start typing.

Now if you live in High Street or Park Road you will have to type much of your address before being able to ‘click’ on your order’s correct destination. For you it’s better to give your postcode, that way there’s only a couple of dozen sharing that six- or seven-digit number.

But here’s a little window on my world, my street has a unique name commemorating if anyone needed reminding, that the second queen to Henry IV died here in 1437. So within five keystrokes, my address pops up. With 360 miles comprising 60,000 streets, surely London must have many similarly uniquely named thoroughfares.

First I tried London’s shortest named street – Hide. Yes! That was unique, nowhere in the UK is there a Hide; Hide Street, Hide Road even the definite article – The Hide.

At the other end of the road-naming scale is St. Martin-in-the-Field Church Path. No prizes for guessing how many of those are to be found in Britain.

What about London’s shortest street – Kirk Street at 50ft long? Here 28 are to be found of various lengths in the UK. London’s longest road at 7.45 miles is Green Lanes, curiously only 8 are to be found, despite its rather seemingly common name. Next, I tried London’s longest street, which is Rotherhithe Street at 1.5 miles in a wide arc just south of the Thames, that one was satisfyingly unique.

The oldest house to found in the City is medieval, having survived the Great Fire of London, and situated in the wonderfully named Cloth Fair, surely fairs of all kinds have taken place in Britain. Nope, just one.

As streets go, at 15 inches wide you have to give it to Brydges Place for the title of London’s narrowest, and the only one of any width, to be found in the UK.

Other unusually named unique streets are:

Crutched Friars, EC3; Bleeding Heart Yard, EC1; Shoulder of Mutton Alley, E14; Hanging Sword Alley, EC4; Trump Street, EC2; St. Mary Axe, EC3; French Ordinary Court, EC3; Wardrobe Place, EC4

And obviously Maggie Blake’s Cause, a short alley near Tower Bridge, is unique.