Category Archives: Thinking allowed

“How much!?”

The Peers Entrance to the House of Lords, to create a more secure portico was supposed to cost around £2 million, but thanks to ‘inflation’ and ‘delays’ it is now going to cost somewhere in the region of £7 million. Just why do you need a burglar-proof front door when you’ve got armed police standing outside evades me, could they not just stick a Ring doorbell on there and be done with it?

Back to black

Pillar boxes were once green, but they were changed to the familiar red to make them more visible. So why is it that London’s Black Cabs are – well black?

The name ‘black cab’ apparently originated as a slang term within the London private hire trade, whose members had appropriated the term ‘cab’ to describe their Nissans with the ubiquitous aerial on the roof with an old plastic bag protecting the paintwork, it was the official term the Public Carriage Office used until 2000 for the taxicabs they licensed.

Regulations by some British provincial taxi licensing authorities specify the vehicle’s livery to denote it as a vehicle for hire. The Public Carriage Office’s Conditions of Fitness has never specified that a London cab has to be a specific colour, in fact, pre-war cabs had coach-built bodies and were painted in a variety of colours.

After World War II the famous Austin FX3 was introduced, they were supplied with factory-fitted steel bodies, and these were painted in a standard colour of black, due to post-war austerity it was the cheapest colour to supply. Different colours were offered at extra cost, but few, if any buyers were prepared to pay for them and so black became the standard colour for London taxis.

Its successor the FX4 was offered in three colours; black, white and carmine red, though black remained the choice of almost all buyers, many of whom were fleet owners.

In the 1970s, Mann and Overton, the FX4’s sponsors and dealers asked the maker, Carbodies to supply more colours. These were not taken up by fleet buyers, but when the finance regulations were relaxed at the end of the 1970s, more cabmen opted to buy cabs instead of renting them and chose from an increased range of colours.

Now London cabs are found in all colours, including special advertising liveries, but in the opinion of this writer, all cabs should be black to differentiate them from the plethora of alternative private hire vehicles.

Incidentally Back to Black is the second and final studio album released in October 2006 by the late singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse whose father Mitch just happened to be a London cabbie.

Your ride is here, get in by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Every cloud has a silver lining

Here’s a question for you: What connects a London Black Cab with Germany’s Leopard 1 battle tanks being sent to Ukraine?

The answer is the German company Reinmetall, it provides key components for the tank, including the turret and the gun. It also supplies automotive parts for the cab, and the war in Ukraine has changed the fortunes of the 130-year-old company. Before the war the company was valued at €4bn, today it is worth €10bn. With the slow automotive market, the company now is estimated to make €70m from sales of shells for these tanks.

A group of mayors

What’s the collective noun for a group of mayors? ‘A magnificence of mayors’, is apparently the answer, well, our ‘magnificent’ Sadiq is hosting a conference next week with ‘mayors from around the world’ for the inaugural Partnership for Healthy Cities Summit. They will be discussing strategies to combat noncommunicable diseases and injuries. Top of Khan’s list is fighting the ‘toxic air’ that causes ‘asthma and stunted lung growth in the young and dementia in the elderly’, and no doubt burnishing his success at getting 160,000 of London’s cars scrapped at a stroke.

Prescient language

Environment Secretary Therese Coffey was at Camley Street Natural Park in north London recently to launch the ‘environmental improvement plan’ for safeguarding England’s rivers. She was quoted as saying, “Actually, I really do give a s**t about water quality,” and that she would “hold the industry to account” and had set “clear expectations” for how much they will be allowed to spill from overflows. But no new money was announced to deliver any of these pledges, nor what punishment would be meted out to water company transgressions.