Category Archives: Puppydog tails

Keep on the right side

The Savoy overlooking the River Thames and one of London’s best-known hotels since it opened its doors in 1889, where the dry martini is thought by some to have been invented in the American Bar and where a murder took place back in 1923, opens soon after a £100 million refit. Apparently the building with its distinct Art Deco style is to be restored to combine its former glory with modern amenities.

[U]nder the new plans the hotel will be divided into Art Deco and Edwardian areas and the style in each will be distinct. In 1910 the external balconies were enclosed in order to add bathrooms to each room. Many felt the best views in the building were lost, including the view that Claude Monet painted while staying there.

Last year much of the original internal fittings were auctioned including 200 beds, curtains, a large oak parquet dance floor and an early 20th Century mahogany and gilt metal bureau from the Monet suite in addition the signature pink and white Savoy china also went under the hammer. So CabbieBlog will be interested if this is an improvement, or some tacky expensive makeover.

As a footnote Savoy Court, pictured, is the only street in the United Kingdom where vehicles are required to drive on the right, and in addition the small roundabout needs a turning circle of 25 feet, this is still the legally required turning circle for all London cabs. For more than 100 years now vehicles, be they horse drawn or mechanical, have entered and left Savoy Court on the right-hand side of the road.  When approaching and leaving the hotel it is easier to do so while driving on the right-hand side of the road. Savoy Court is privately owned property. It is not a public thoroughfare as it leads only to the hotel itself. Therefore driving on the right-hand side of the road does not contravene British traffic regulations.

Finally, it may be of interest to note that when being chauffeured in a horse-drawn carriage the lady or dignitary would traditionally sit behind the driver. By approaching the hotel on the right-hand side of the road, either the chauffeur or the hotel’s doorman was able to open the door without walking around the car. This would allow the lady to alight from the carriage and walk straight into the hotel.

Wish you were here

If you go on holiday to London don’t, I repeat, don’t buy me a souvenir as a memento of your visit. The poor tourists who come to these shores face a bewildering array of souvenir crap to purchase. But it doesn’t end with the legitimate shops which proliferate on our capital, walk across Westminster Bridge and you are confronted by the delights of figures made from bent wire, a busker playing the bagpipes or whistles to imitate birdsong.

[D]o you want a T-shirt with the worn joke on the front ‘my Dad went to London and all I got was this lousy “T” shirt’? Well, if you received that, thank your lucky stars. You could receive a cardboard policeman’s helmet, or how about a Union Jack umbrella. If you really want to stand out in the crowd try wearing a fur top hat in red, white and blue.

If this is not to your taste, go upmarket to the Buckingham Palace gift shop there are expensive reproductions of the Queen’s china, just like she uses at 4.00 every day for afternoon tea. There is something to be said for receiving a tea towel, naff, but useful, if only to mop up after the cat, and admittedly some Buckingham Palace gifts are tasteful, even if of dubious practicable value. They at least have the virtue of giving one a warm Regal glow, when partaking of one’s afternoon tea.

But who would treasure a gift of this rubbish. Forget receiving a postcard of Big Ben; send them a 20 year old picture of a spotty punk rocker.

These shops are so revered by the middle classes; they even had a competition instigated by The Institute of Architects to design a replacement souvenir shop when Hungerford Bridge was being improved.

But London isn’t the worst, not by a long shot, I recently went to Italy, and coaches have to pay over €200 just to park for a few hours in these tourist traps. At Pisa (of leaning tower fame) you run the gauntlet of dozens, and I mean dozens, of Africans selling fake designer goods, and the authorities had the temerity to put up a sign that read ‘it is illegal to purchase fake goods; offenders are subject to a €1,000 fine’. Maybe London isn’t so bad after all, anyone want a die cast model of a taxi, going cheap?

A Festival of Litter

With this deepening recession I was talked into going ‘South of the River’ recently, times really are that hard these days. Just imagine my surprise after passing the hinterland of Vauxhall and Stockwell when eventually we reached Brixton to find them celebrating a Festival of Litter. Citizens had taken time off from their busy activities to add crisp packets, empty cigarette boxes, and carrier-bags to this otherwise bland and neglected landscape. They fluttered gaily in the bushes and brought colour and texture to pavements and gutters. And to think that elsewhere we stick these objects in rubbish bins.

[T]he city fathers of Brixton must have puffed out their collective chests with pride as their town hall was officially opened by King George V and Queen Mary on the 29th April, 1908 becoming one of the grandest town halls in London. Victorian Brixton was the epitome of suburban living. Fine houses abound, some with servant’s quarters, with grand doorways proclaiming their owner’s wealth and influence.

The fine late Georgian church of St. Matthew’s was one of the four new Lambeth parish churches built in response to the growing population in the early 19th century. Consecrated in 1824, and has an imposing façade created by its architect C. F. Porden and sits opposite the town hall. It also has the ubiquitous Victorian cast iron monument donated by the most prominent family in the area.

So how has this fine borough come to the sorry state? The green outside, what was once a prestigious cinema, the Ritzy, in strewn with drunks and a fine collection of empty cans.

The gutters are gaily decorated with yellow and red McDonald’s boxes.

Don’t any of the residents of Brixton have an iota of their Victorian forebear’s civic pride?

Brixton Town Hall, London
© Copyright Stuart Taylor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Pooh and the pig flu

pooh

Save Little Green Street

I recently had a job up to Highgate and it gave me the opportunity to see the folly of local council planning departments. Not content with allowing a vast expanse of ugly housing at the end of this gem of a street, developers in their insatiable greed now want to build 20 houses, 10 flats and an underground car park on derelict land behind Little Green Street. Little Green Street has found itself, through no fault of its own, turned into the only access road for the developers.

[D]espite its size, the developers insist that this Georgian street is big enough to carry all the cranes, diggers, and lorries they need to carry all the waste away from the forty foot deep excavation they need to dig to build their underground car park. Some of the lorries and cranes weigh up to 49 tonnes and some are 2.9m wide. It’s a pity they didn’t measure Little Green Street, because the carriageway of the road is just 2.5m wide.

The street remains a very real threat of being turned into a truck route which would see a vehicle pass within inches of the front doors of these homes every three minutes, all day every day for up to four years down this delicate cul-de-sac.

So a little history is required at this point of the blog:

Little Green Street off Highgate Road in Kentish Town is one of the oldest streets in London.

It’s not very big, just eight houses on one side and two on the other. The houses were built in the 1780s are Grade ll listed and remain one of the few intact Georgian streets in London. They have stood unharmed through train crashes, the London Blitz, and survived two hundred years of wear and tear from the generations who have raised their children in the narrow cobbled terrace.

Although, after eight years of campaigning by more than fifteen thousand people, many visitors to their site, planning permission has lapsed, Camden Council are still vacillating about whether the construction work on a gated community with an underground car park should continue.

Little Green Street Mad, isn’t it? I made the mistake of driving my cab down this cul-de-sac and had to do a 9-point turn at the end in a vehicle famed for its 25 foot turning circle.