Category Archives: Thinking allowed

No litter matter

Imostly write about London as any regular – or casual – reader of CabbieBlog would have realised. I’m also in the fortunate position to be able to walk every day in suburban London and have reached an age to be categorised as a ‘grumpy old man’.

My greatest bugbear, in a closely contested long list, is litter. Brought up in post-war suburbia when any waste was considered a crime, dropping anything in the street was punishable by the loss of privileges.

During lockdown I’ve taken to walking around the local roads, only to be greeted by the overly familiar sight of litter-strewn streets. This has been exacerbated by our local London authority’s inability to source brooms, at best once a month they now stroll around brandishing a grabber and plastic bag which enables them to remove any large items.

Once it took over two weeks of correspondence between me and a local councillor and then a direct notification that I instigated to the refuse department to remove rubbish [ pictured below]  which clearly couldn’t be lifted using a hand grabber.

Bottles and wrappers lie but feet away from bins – the extra few steps it would take to throw the rubbish away being evidently one step too far for many.

Beyond simply ruining my walks, and allowing my dog to supplement his diet, should I not be looking, it has had many grave environmental, economic and social repercussions.

In my opinion, the worst outcome is the damage done to animals, LitterGram claims that 70,000 animals are killed or injured annually by litter in the UK, whilst the RSPCA receives 14 calls a day regarding animals affected by litter.

Out of a total of 7,200 sites surveyed by Keep Britain Tidy, 14 per cent were found to be at an unacceptable standard for litter. While 48 per cent of respondents admitted to dropping litter, this number is only increasing, with a new incident of fly-tipping occurring every 12 seconds.

Beyond the cost to life, the financial cost is also shocking. Litter-strewn roads on average have been found to decrease the value of a property by 12 per cent, although looking at the rubbish in front gardens of many who have bought a house around here, rubbish-strewn streets seem to be an attraction.

Picking up litter is estimated to cost local authorities in the UK on average £1 billion a year, but certainly not by my council.

Another piece of research has found that if a company’s product is often seen on the street as litter, it is estimated that this can result in a 2 per cent drop in the company’s turnover, clearly McDonald’s where not included in the findings.

As was espoused by Rudolph Giuliani, New York’s mayor in the late 1990s, litter can be attributed to a lack of general safety. Dealing with minor crimes like dropping litter helps to reduce larger crimes and improve public safety, in addition, litter can damage a local sense of pride and worth, resulting in further anti-social acts.

So there you have it. Is dropping litter an ageist propensity, cultural trait or just my geographical location?

Amy Winehouse

It seems hardly possible that it’s been 10 years to the day that Amy Winehouse died.

She was one of the most talented singers of her generation. The daughter of a London cabbie, himself also a musician, she went to the local Susi Earnshaw Theatre School before attending the famous Sylvia Young Theatre School.

Her debut album Frank, mostly co-written by her was released on 20th October 2003, with the record going on to be nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and achieving platinum sales.

She was subsequently nominated for the Brit Awards in the categories of British Female Solo Artist and British Urban Act. In 2004 she and her co-writer Salaam Remi won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Contemporary Song, for their first single together Stronger Than Me.

Three years later, she released her album Back To Black, featuring the singles Rehab and You Know I’m No Good, and it went on to become the biggest selling album in the UK in 2007 and to win the Grammy for record of the year for Rehab.

In the early hours of 23rd July 2011 her bodyguard found her unresponsive in her London home in Camden Town, she was pronounced dead at the scene, having, it was subsequently discovered, more than five times the legal drink-drive limit. A shocking waste of a colossal talent.

Spam Update

Beetley Pete recently posted about the spike in spam he was experiencing, so I thought I could update you on the recent missives from those algorithms who have been kind enough to post a comment on CabbieBlog.

Maggie Thomas who revels in the name ‘Homepage’ was complimentary stating:

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Robbin Macker commented on London Trivia: The Sun hits the streets, and quite what the comment has to do with the launch of a red top tabloid, I’ve no idea:

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I had considered stopping CabbieBlog but Alda Frankiewicz gave me more encouragement, and so I think I’ll now change my mind:

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So there you have it for another year, my thanks to all those nearly 60,000 of you who have been blocked, but keep trying one day Akismet will not stop your compliments find their way into my comments box.


The World’s Longest Taxi Ride

Last weekend it was the longest day, I had anticipated writing a post about London’s ‘longest’. You know the sort of thing: London’s longest one-word street name – Straightsmouth; London’s longest-serving male MP – Jeremy Corbyn (since 9 June 1983); London’s longest drought – 73 days (Mile End, spring 1893); London’s longest period of continuous rain – 59 hours (13-15 June 1903).

That was until a request from Adelaide arrived in my inbox

A competition was held in London and Sydney to select a cabbie from each country, with a new Fairway cab donated by Manganese Bronze with the aim of raising money for children’s charities by driving from London to Sydney. Guy Smith was selected in London and Kanelli Tsiros selected in Sydney.

Guy Smith

On 27th October 1988 London cabbie, Guy Smith and Kanelli Tsiros arrived outside the Sydney Opera House after completing a 14,148-mile journey which had started outside Buckingham Palace on 19th August.

Driving a black cab (with two meters running, one calibrated for London cabs, the other calibrated for Sydney’s cabs ) they travelled through Europe, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore before crossing into Australia.

The 69-day odyssey titled the Canon Great Taxi Ride propelled them into the record books, the pair had been visited by Prime Ministers, seen the Taj Mahal and had 59-year-old Guy claiming to have had half an elephant as a passenger, which sounds a fair description of some of my customers.

The whole trip was the brainchild of John Morgan, a Welshman living in Sydney. He first had the idea in 1968 while watching the London to Sydney marathon cars leaving the UK. He had to wait until 1987/8 to make it happen. The journey had been timed to coincide with Australia’s bicentenary, it was at the time, the longest and most expensive London cab ride in history, having raised AS$320,000 for children’s charities, with the sponsors having to guess the final metered fare.

The cab is still in Australia (clearly Guy had no intention of driving home after the job) and although the trek was recorded on celluloid at the time, plans are now for a new film to be made to feature at Australia’s National Motor Museum.

The purpose of the email was to try and contact Guy Smith or anyone with knowledge of his achievement, so if anyone can shine a light on this journey over 30 years ago, please contact me.

And the final fare? A$53,346, with the London final price,  double the Aussie amount!

©All images courtesy of Mike Bennett who is working on a plan to put the cab and the film of the journey on display in the Australian National Motor Museum.


Smeed’s Law is maintained

With a name like Reuben Jacob Smeed, one could be forgiven for thinking that he was a character in a Dicken’s novel. In fact, Professor Smeed devised a formula that advanced a theory, much derided at the time, of how London’s traffic would always travel at nine miles per hour.

Using the formula Smeed’s Law calculates that when traffic speed falls below this magical number of nine, drivers’ patience evaporates and alternative modes of transport are sought.

It was Smeed we can now blame for the Congestion Charge when he chaired a committee which recommended road pricing in 1964, finally introduced in London in 2003 when average speeds in the capital rose from 8.7mph to a blistering 11mph, but only for a short duration before it declined to its optimum nine miles per hour.

Now for over 50 years, his theory has stood the test of time, with pre-pandemic average speeds of 7mph with drivers wasting an average of 227 hours a year stuck in traffic, with the A406 from Chiswick Roundabout to Hanger Lane, part of the North Circular, topping the list as the most congested road in the UK, with the average driver spending 61 hours a year stuck in traffic.

The pandemic lock-down speeds in London increased, but not for long. Ensuring Smeed’s Law could still be valid, Sadiq Khan’s cycle lanes have worked wonders at bringing down average speeds to the optimum of none mile per hour.