Category Archives: Thinking allowed

Pale, male and frail

In the early years of this century, it seemed everyone and his dog were writing a blog. So many were written about areas, now referred annoyingly as ‘communities’, that I compiled a page entitled London Links which amounted to over 100 entries. Today many of those links now disappear into cyber-space, or the sites haven’t been updated for years.

Scanning down this year’s top 100 London Bloggers in 2020 I found that CabbieBlog was ranked at 61. Now, here’s what piqued my interest (apart from the vanity trip, and finding that CabbieBlog was languishing near the bottom), by far the majority of these popular sites featured lifestyle and were written by young women, in fact at least 37, and considering many others were corporate, it would seem over half were written for a young, mainly female audience.
Now, most of these gave the name of the author, usually with a picture of a fresh-faced millennial to reinforce its authenticity that the blog was for younger female visitors.

So it would seem this demographic is still interested in this kind of personal engagement, while older men have moved on to another fad.

In London the enduring blogs lasting over a decade or more seem to be written by those who are pale, male and frail, I’m guessing here, also, unlike the younger ladies, many publish under a synonym. Spitalfields Life by The Gentle Author; Diamond Geezer by himself; at CabbieBlog yours truly writes under Gibson Square; Pigeon Blog is cleverly composed by Brian the Pigeon; the Wandering Scotsman waxes lyrical on London is Cool; Ian Visits apparently is named after its author, Ian; and the possible exception is Annie Mole’s London Underground written since 2003, although not recently, by a woman, who clearly cannot by a millennial.

Blogs written by younger women are read by this particular demographic, I can’t for the life of me see myself reading the Heroine in Heels site. So who reads these older sites often written under a synonym? This is the question for today. Is it only the authors who are pale, male and frail, or are also their readers?

One day

Today I will have lived on earth 26,567 days, at some point 637,608 hours will have passed, that’s over 2 billion seconds, and for the seventy-three March the thirds I have experienced, with all those, I can only remember a few events.

On this day last year, my daughter and her family were returning from a skiing holiday in Finland, when the plane encountered severe weather conditions. After a very tricky landing at Gatwick, the pilot received a spontaneous ovation.

My diary informs me that 5 years ago on 3 March I had Oat Crisps for breakfast, a marmalade sandwich with my grandson at the local play centre, and enjoyed a king prawn alfredo for my dinner. I drunk one cup of coffee along with my usual intake of tea.

I can predict with reasonable certainty just what I ate on Tuesday 3 March 1981 as it was Shrove Tuesday, or for the young Pancake Day.

Perusing the internet I discovered that the next year, on 3 March 1982, the Queen opened the ‘wonder of the modern world’, at the Barbican Centre’s inauguration, and given its controversial Brutalist architecture the centre’s administrator was the appropriately named Henry Wrong. The Barbican Centre replaced the 40 acre World War II bomb site of Cripplegate, which had destroyed the thriving rag trade, leaving only 48 persons still living in the area. It was this huge desolate area that I first witnessed when starting work some 20 years previously running errands for my employer.

But one event which occurred on 3 March I can recall with clarity. I know with certainty just where I was during the first six hours of 3 March 1972. It would be the birth of my first child, and just before the main event I had been rather roughly evicted from the ward as two doctors were summoned to extract my reluctant infant who had refused to come into this world via the usual channel.

That night, being the 1970s when industrial action was the default position of British industry, there was an overtime ban. No, I cannot remember the reason for the lack of cooperation, although if you had asked me at the time I doubt that I would have known then. It was Friday evening and my regular shift, and so I reported for a night’s work, much to the surprise of the works manager.

We go through life with the odd highlight or tragedy to remember, but one day you won’t need to keep a diary. One day you’ll be able to take pictures of everything, all the time, everywhere you go. One day scientists will be able to shrink a cheap digital camera small enough to be something you can wear, permanently and nigh invisibly.

Maybe it’ll be part of your clothes, like a lapel badge or something. Or something that hangs out of your ear like a Bluetooth headset or an earring. Or even part of a pair of glasses. It’ll be inexpensive, and affordable, and acceptable. And it’ll see everything you see, and record it all.

One day you’ll be able to record your entire life on video. The price of memory will come down so low that it’ll be feasible to keep a realtime lifelong video stream in the cloud, to refer back to whenever you like.

Imagine the convenience of being able to rewind to any point in your life and remind yourself of what you were doing. What was that website password you’ve suddenly forgotten? One day you’ll be able to go back and watch yourself typing it in. Hell, why blog? Your entire life and thoughts will be out there for everyone to peruse to their heart’s content. Why spend time watching cute kittens, when you could watch your work colleague or neighbour?

That impromptu sexist remark you made at work will get you the sack because everybody else will have recorded it. If you witness a crime, the police will summon you to court to send the guilty bastard down. Even now when any newsworthy or not newsworthy event happens everybody in the vicinity has captured it on their smart camera.

Just like now, and the minute you leave your London home everything being recorded by CCTV, one day the government will demand that everybody films their own lives and records the results on a biometric chip. The system will be introduced for ‘security reasons’, a secret police department will have the job of downloading the nation’s optical experiences and reviewing them for security transgressions.

If you’ve not done anything wrong, you’ll have nothing to fear. Honest. One day Big Brother will be watching what you see and seeing what you watch.

Statistics 2019

It’s been another eventful year for CabbieBlog.

You have probability noticed yet another change in CabbieBlog’s appearance. As I mentioned previously hosting for all these keystrokes and pictures with CabbieBlog, now in its 12th year in cyberspace, comes at a cost.

A domain name to find your work on the internet; the purchase of back-up support should the site become corrupted; a speed optimization plugin, a selection of typefaces; Patreon as a means for any fans to support the work; the yearly purchase of an SSL certificate to give the domain name an https prefix required by Google in its rankings; and updating PHP, the programming language used to maintain WordPress required for the second time in a year. Added to that protection from hacking, viruses, and malware. This entailed the removal of someone’s nasties inserted within my missives last year, an expensive and a problem which, believe it or not, got CabbieBlog banned from the internet.

Now, excuse me, but with all that protection the site should have been as sound as the Bank of England. Not so! More malware had been inserted by the back door into CabbieBlog.

So with all those excuses, and in part as an apology for the site’s more basic appearance, I have reverted to CabbieBlog’s second incarnation (the first was a defunct platform now no longer lamented), which will be similar, but different.

So with those caveats here are the annual blogging statistics for 2019. As before, with the data amassed over the last year (taken from both sites), I’ve broken it down into bite-sized chunks with comparable figures for the previous year.

Blog visitors and page views

The numbers of visitors has decreased, but and those willing to loiter around CabbieBlog have increased quite substantially, which is been very encouraging. (Average hit rate per visitor: 2018 – 1.737; 2019 – 1.8117).

2018
Visitors – 34,255
Page views – 59,503

2019
Visitors – 22,994
Page views – 41,659

CabbieBlog’s readers from abroad

The different countries whose residents have viewed CabbieBlog again include Jersey and Guernsey as if they were sovereign countries and curiously the European Union with 497, a huge drop from the 1,166 visits last year, presumably the result of us being released from their clutches. The United States leads our curious cousins with 4,773 a fall since last year’s 12,851 hits. The total number of countries who checked into CabbieBlog appears to have dropped this year, but as I’m collecting data across two sites, I might have missed the occasional visitor from a foreign land.

2018 – 137

2019 – 117

Number of comments

The yardstick of a blog must be, how many of its readers decided to metaphysically put pen to paper and comment. To all of you, again a huge thank you for your encouragement or discouragement. Your comments keep me submitting posts for your perusal. Social media is increasingly reactive these days, and a much smaller proportion of people now write long-form posts providing the original material that everyone else comments upon. But at least what comments CabbieBlog receives are intelligent, relevant and insightful. I’m delighted, obviously.

2018 – 124

2019 – 94

Number of ‘likes’

It would appear that some of you have taken to the cyberverse to mark your approval of CabbieBlog in the form of a ‘like’, again a huge thank you for increasing that number by over six-fold.

2018 – 12

2019 – 79

Followers of CabbieBlog

My e-mail updates only include a brief description so many of your will have had to peruse the site to read the full post. I can’t calculate how many times you have taken the trouble to follow these notifications and read my incitful posts, but thanks for following CabbieBlog.

2018 – 1,252

2019 – 1,248

Posts written

Much of this year’s output is re-publishing old posts. Many are now being read for the first time and I have received many compliments. So the total posts and number of words do not reflect new writing. Having said that, included are 52 new trivia posts, published on Sundays. For years my Journal has lain undiscovered as a page. As an experiment, starting January 2020, every Wednesday I’m publishing the The Weekly Whinge partly from my Journal along with new material; in addition, taken from my old site, will be London in Quotations, published every Monday.

2018– 156

2019 – 157


Most viewed and least viewed posts and pages

It has to be said that some subjects take on a life of their own while others just sit in cyberspace minding their own business. At the bottom of the table lie many posts with only one view a year, and some I suspect just sit there patiently waiting to be noticed.

2018
Highest post
London’s top secret tower – 1,440
Lowest Post
London Trivia: Bear fight– 1
Highest page
Green cab shelters – 2,328
Lowest page
Time Out – 34

2019
Highest post
London myths debunked – 2,295
Lowest Post
Queen of Hell – 1
Highest page
The Knowledge – 4,536
Lowest page
Time Out – 12


Pages written

Last year due to having to comply with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) a number of new pages had to be written, this year no new pages have appeared on CabbieBlog.

2018 – 3

2019 – 0


Number of words written

As I mentioned before I have written substantially less this year so the word count includes new material and re-published work, I have also recalculated the words written on Sunday’s trivia.

2018
Words – 71,329
Characters – 415,241

2019
Words – 80,757
Characters (with spaces) – 468,385
Characters (without spaces) – 386,545
Paragraphs – 2,335


Referrers

If you ignore the search engines (with Google clocking up an impressive 19,103 hits). The next highest referrers are Twitter at 443 and behind them is Facebook at 255.

2018
The Hackney Hack – 48
The Telephone Box – 46

2019
Spitalfields Life – 46

The Hackney Hack – 12


In conclusion

This post is, of course, my highlight of the year. Unfortunately my readers don’t share my enthuiasm. Last year only 47 of you bothered to click on to read Statistics 2018.

Why won’t the blog just write itself?

In two days’ time, CabbieBlog will be 11 years old. It’s the time of year that I compile my yearly statistics, at the same time I also try to do a little housekeeping on the site.

Those of you who are more curious will have found the London Links page. It’s the sort of project that takes hours to compile, only to be ignored by the author, and it would seem the rest of the world with only 48 views this year.

When CabbieBlog first appeared in cyberspace blogging was all the rage, but over time the long-form post has been subsumed by opinions and information being disseminated in 140 characters.

Since then some of my London favourites have fallen by the wayside. A Peace of London, The Londoneer and the excellent The Accidental Londoner are no more, curiously the domain name The Accidental Londoner now gives you Ian Visits, a comprehensive commercial London site.

With other commitments, it’s not surprising that some are now defunct, and many more haven’t been updated for a long time, including the hilarious Pigeon Blog, written in the first person by Brian the pigeon.

I’ve entitled this post: Why won’t the blog just write itself? After a year when health and other commitments prevented me from writing many original posts, here I am scratching my head staring at a lone cursor blinking in the middle of a blank white screen.

So why do bloggers put themselves through this?

When I started, as a little light distraction and after trying various platforms and blog names within a relatively short time, I realised that not only did I have something to say about London, you, dear reader, were willing to contribute with comments, likes, suggestions and occasional guest posts.

The attraction of blogging is writing about a subject you love – in my case, it is London – and sharing your passion with others from around the world. The problem is exacerbated if your chosen blog is about an unchanging subject – say chewing gum through the ages. But for London, which seems to reinvent itself every 10 years, the opportunities for writers are endless, except, that is, for when I’m trying to think of an idea.

So why would anyone want to put themselves under pressure to write regular posts? As I mentioned, many just start a blog with a few well-chosen pieces which become less and less over the first few weeks and then after a month the passion to communicate goes away and becomes another dead digital spot which even the author seems to forget exists.

For others – myself included – writing is a feeling of catharsis. It costs nothing to put pen to paper and even the most obscure topic will be read by someone in the world who might even reply.

During the time I’ve been writing, I have learned a few things about blogging which I will share with you, whether you are a seasoned blogger, in which case please post your opinion of my summation, or if you are just thinking of starting down the rocky road of blogging then hopefully I can point you in the right direction.

There’s still a huge audience

According to WordPress, nearly 409 million people view more than 20 billion pages each month.

Blogging is proper writing

It is not easy writing, well not for me it isn’t, each post has to be researched if necessary, it has to be thought out and, before publishing, should be reasonably grammatically accurate.

Blogging is rewarding

It reaches out to regular readers and unlike regular writing or journalism you get responses instantly, the comments on your blog mean a lot, reply to them all.

Blogging is not a guilt trip

You shouldn’t put pressure on yourself to write regular posts if you are uncomfortable with that kind of discipline. A London Inheritance, one of the best London bloggers posts only two or three times per month.

Don’t mess around with your website

You are just wasting valuable time rather than writing. However, change it when there is a good reason. CabbieBlog was changed last year after over 7 years with roughly the same design.

Don’t get into blogging to make money

It’s hard to make money just from writing a blog. But sometimes quite unexpected things turn up. I have done work for the BBC, been paid for running a commercial blog and been given a book deal. Unless you are prepared to work full time on the blog, treat it as a hobby. Focus on integrity. Be happy about what you publish, not what you think will attract readers. Forget the articles you read telling you how to ‘write killer posts’, they don’t exist.

Offer something worthwhile

Will your readers take something from your writing? If they do they are more likely to return or share you on social media.

It’s not all about you

Share your personality. It should be a bit of you with some context of the blog’s author. Making it personal is more engaging, but your readers don’t want to read the minutia of your life.

Find a routine

I write regularly because I need some kind of discipline to my work, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t, one good post is worth ten poor ones.

Keep your posts short

I’m sorry to say that dear reader but most of you on the web have short attention spans, it’s just the way it is – 500-2,000 words are sufficient. If you want to go into greater detail make a separate page with a link so readers can check it out if they wish.

Don’t worry about the stats

Worrying about stats again leads to writing ‘killer headlines’ and will reduce the quality of your writing. I check my stats every day and all the search links. Don’t do as I do, do as I say.

Branch out

Write guest posts for others and invite them to write on your site. I occasionally publish London Grill inviting others to share their views of London, and I’m always open for submissions.

Collaborate with others

Send out emails inviting them to write something for your site.

Don’t give up easily

As I found many blogs are lying there redundant. It could be that the authors are dispirited by a lack of readers, but it takes time – persevere and try different things. Write for yourself.

Be nice to people

Reply to all comments, write with constructive criticism, Boris has his faults, but we don’t have to bang in about them.

Don’t get jealous

Everyone seems to be bigger and better. Blogging is an ego trip – get real. A few regular engaged readers are better than thousands of casual hits.

But be controversial

Give an opinion, people like to read views based on facts and good research, they don’t want polemical tirades.

Remember real life

Don’t get obsessive, much of what you write about will be from real life, but there is still life beyond the internet.

Other opportunities

You might not make much money, but in addition to work already mentioned I have collaborated on two books, one for the 2012 Olympics and another for a French travel guide to London. Your blog is your window on the world and leads to other projects.

Use your blog

It says a lot about you, remember prospective employers might just check it out, use your blog wisely.

Go back to school

Try to write without spelling mistakes, and improve your grammar. Your readers will soon tire of trying to decipher your work. I use Grammarly in an attempt to improve my work.

Most importantly

Enjoy your blog, it is a creative endeavour, take pride in what you produce and how it is designed.

Now back to that blank screen with its immobile cursor, awaiting my thoughts for the latest incisive missive.

London’s lost letters

London’s Least Used First Letters

Flicking through the alphabetical list of London postal districts, there are countless entries for certain letters, but very few for others; and these eight are absent: I, J, O, Q, V, X, Y and Z.

Unsurprisingly there are no locations in London beginning with X, according to Wikipedia’s strangely comprehensive List of United Kingdom locations there are no places in the entire United Kingdom beginning with X. In London’s case, that’s no suburbs, no stations, no roads . . . perhaps the odd nightclub and a dozen Chinese restaurants, but nothing of any geographical significance.

That said, the index at the back of a London A-Z isn’t completely blank for the letter X. There is a single entry, which is Xylon House in Worcester Park.

London’s second least used index letter has to be Z. Again no names of suburbs, boroughs, stations, or postal districts start with Z, but unlike X there is a well known London attraction that instantly springs to mind. London Zoo is as well known as they come and is officially known as ZSL London Zoo, the Zoological Society of London. This ticks all the Z boxes – twice.

It’s arguable whether J or Y comes third in the Least Frequent Initial Letter stakes, but I’m going with J. No London boroughs start with J, nor London constituencies, nor the names of any London suburbs. As for stations, none of London’s tube stations nor railway stations begins with J, but we do have a disused station, namely Junction Road. As for Y only the locality of Yiewsley and Yeading, both in the borough of Hillingdon, carry that initial, alas neither are postal districts.

The Queen is ignored

There are lots of Qs in London, mainly thanks to the fact that we’ve had a queen not a king for the majority of the last 200 years. Surprisingly no one, and I mean, no one has thought to name a postal district after Her Majesty after over 60 years of dedicated service.

You might have thought V was an excellent letter to start a designation after all the nascent penny black postal service was started in Victoria’s reign, but postcodes hadn’t been invented at the time.

As for the last two – I and J – those of you living, like me, in north-east London are now saying: “What about Ilford and the IG code?” Unfortunately, this rather salubrious area is in Greater London; and the nearest O postal district is in Wallingford near Oxford, not to be confused with Walford, BBC’s fictional location in Eastenders, more of which next.

Cracking the code

Does anyone understand postcodes in London? The E20 postcode of Albert Square in BBC’s soap Eastenders (no I don’t watch it either) was merely fictitious, but Olympic bosses applied for premises on the Stratford site to use the iconic postcode, despite the next available East London code being E19.

Postcodes it would seem to have no obvious logic to their designation and no relevance in relation to the adjoining areas.

To complicate life for a cabbie house numbers sometimes have even and odd numbers on opposite sides of the street, while on others the numbers run sequentially up one side and down on the opposite side, in addition, some houses are designated a street and number even though their front door actually opens onto an adjacent road, and to further complicate matters the convention that the lowest number on any street is supposed to be the house closest to Charing Cross is ignored, or is that an urban myth?

If London’s postcodes are allocated alphabetically why is it that E2 is Bethnal Green; E3 Bow; E4 Chingford; E5 Clapton; E6 East Ham; E7 Wanstead; and then arbitrarily E8 Hackney?

Conversely, if the postcode number denotes its position away from the centre of London why is NW1 near Mornington Crescent but NW2 miles away in Cricklewood; and Sloane Square SW1 while Brixton Hill is SW2 and Scotch Corner just yards from Sloane Square near Harrods SW3? How does that work?

You have to ask yourself, just why it is necessary for Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens to be in five different postal districts unevenly divided between W1, W2, W8, SW1 and SW7, with the lines curving and twisting through the parks.

Early simplicity

It all started out so simple; during the 1840s the number of letters being sent in London was increasing rapidly, with many localities having similar street names, letters were often misdirected. So in the 1850s, a committee was instructed to find a way to stop the confusion. They originally planned to rename the streets, but many residents objected, so they decided instead to split the city into various sectors. The two central sectors were EC and WC (East and West Central) and the outer ones were named N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W and NW after the points of a compass. A scheme which involved people adding these letters to their addresses was implemented during 1857 and 1858. In 1866 in author Anthony Trollope, then a surveyor, who also introduced our red pillar boxes, suggested that NE be merged into E and then S vanished two years later, after being split between SE and SW.

While it is immensely helpful for the Post Office in locating addresses, without a vast knowledge of the postcode system it is of little use to the man, or cabbie, on the street, except to perhaps point people to a general area, say within 10 miles from their destination. If you want to find where you are going don’t rely on a postcode; use a map or better still jump in a cab and let him figure it out.

Some notable postcodes:

SAN TA1 – Father Christmas
GIR OAA – Girobank
RM1 1AA – Royal Mail Customer Service
E20 – Walford (Eastenders) or the Olympic Park
SW1A 1AA – Buckingham Palace
SW1A 0AA – House of Commons
SW1A 0PW – House of Lords
SW1A 2AA – 10 Downing Street
SW1A 2AB – 11 Downing Street
W1A 1AA – BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place