Category Archives: Thinking allowed

You talkin’ to me?

You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?

So said Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver brilliantly played by Robert De Niro (arguably the greatest movie actor of his generation). But maybe we should look at another genre of film.

Have you nothing to do on a wet Sunday afternoon?

[M]ay I commend to you any Fred Astaire’s 1930 black and white movie? There on screen men are actually treating people with civility. Opening doors for women, allowing ladies to sit-down first and rising when a lady comes into the room. And wait for it – saying please and thank you.

As a sometime working cabbie I’m amazed at the number of people who can’t even stop talking on their mobile phone to give me their destination. They will then hold out their hand without even looking at you for their change, usually while still talking crap into their mobiles.

While on the roads the habitual use of the car horn makes London sound like downtown Cairo, and if you don’t pull away from the lights at amber some idiot behind will remind you that you are impeding his progress.

While some drivers think it is a badge of courage to block my cab from proceeding through a road junction when they are stuck in traffic at an intersection.

When you go to that temple of consumerism, Lakeside, have you noticed families, dressed in the regulation strip of their football team, will walk four abreast forcing you to move out of the way of their fat arses?

It gets no better in garages, while waiting in a queue, some idiot who cannot wait in line with the rest of you, will walk to the front and drop his (and it’s always his) money on the counter very un-English.

If I have the temerity to take a route in my cab not to my passengers’ liking I will get a rude rant of how I am “trying to rip them off by going the long way round”.

This is the dictionary’s definition of rudeness (also called impudence or effrontery):

The disrespect and failure to behave within the context of a society or a group of people’s social laws or etiquette. These laws have already unspokenly been established as the essential boundaries of normally accepted behaviour. To be unable or unwilling to align one’s behaviour with these laws known to the general population of what is socially acceptable would be considered being rude.

No it’s not; it is just being an oaf!!

Well this cabbie is trying to raise the bar for politeness, when asked rudely by someone:

“Do you know where Trafalgar Square is?”

I will reply in my most mannered way

“Yes I do, thank you very much” and drive off.

“Say Cheese!”

There are up to 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain – about one for every 14 people – making this country one of the most watched places on earth.

London alone has 10,000 crime-fighting CCTV cameras which cost £200 million.

While England has the distinction of
owning 20 per cent of the world’s CCTV

[B]ut an analysis of the publicly funded spy network, which is owned and controlled by local authorities and Transport for London, has cast doubt on its ability to help solve crime.

A comparison of the number of cameras in each London borough with the proportion of crimes solved there found that police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any.

In fact, four out of five of the boroughs with the most cameras have a record of solving crime that is below average.

A recent piece of research found that during a journey across London 300 cameras recorded your movements. Police now say they can track potential suspects on their entire transit across the Capital. We have cameras for police detection, red routes, traffic lights, council by-law infringements, monitoring customers in and out of shops, and yes we even have them in cabs.

So with all this monitoring of our movements I was concerned recently when the Government announced the publication of a White Paper which proposes now to monitor all our telephone calls, texting, e-mails and internet activity, to ‘combat terrorism’.

Now please correct me if I’m wrong but these terrorists seem to have done far less than the IRA, and even at the height of the IRA atrocities when they were killing members of Parliament, such draconian measures were not proposed.

Recently one such ‘terrorist’ has been found guilty after blowing himself up in an Indian restaurant toilet, giving a whole new meaning to having a dodgy curry.

The proceeds from traffic cameras go to National Government and Swindon Borough Council have said it is a blatant tax on motorists and have proposed removing these devices as the borough does not receive any financial benefit from them.

Surveillance now comes in many forms: 4.2 million CCTV cameras in England; 300 CCTV appearances a day; Registration plate recognition cameras; Shop RFID tags; Mobile phone triangulation; Store loyalty cards; Credit card transactions; London Oyster cards; Satellites; Electoral roll; NHS patient records; Personal video recorders; Phone-tapping; Hidden cameras/bugs; Worker call monitoring; Worker clocking-in; Mobile phone cameras; Internet cookies; Keystroke programmes, even in his wildest imagination could George Orwell have dreamt this up. In fact you are probably recorded on over 700 data bases each.

Now forgive me for asking a rather stupid basic question . . . isn’t the tired motorist always being told to take a break on long journeys? A young woman recently thought she was doing the right thing when she pulled into a motorway services at midnight on the way home from London to Preston. Good so far, but then she made a horrendous mistake and caught some sleep. After dozing off in the car park, she awoke at 1.30 a.m. and drove the remaining 35 miles of her journey – only, wait for it, to be sent a £50 fine a few days later. She had been caught by the service station spy cameras, which had snapped her number plate for overstaying the two-hour parking limit at Lymms Services on the M6. The CCTV shows her fast asleep in the car. All motorists who wish to stay longer than the free two-hour period have to pay a flat rate of £15 for up to 24 hours . . . sigh and goodnight!

All look at the camera now, say “Cheese”!

Pick and Mix

[P]aying homage to the much lamented demise of Woolworths here is CabbieBlog’s own London Cabbie pick and mix:

Celebrities with Cabs

Who on earth would want to own a London Black Cab apart from a working cabbie? Well it would seem there are quite a few well known people who are prepared to put up with its many faults. Uncomfortable, poor braking, rattles, high tyre wear, unless heater and yes some go up in flames. Oh, I could go on ad infinitum.

People who are easily recognisable like the anonymity that a cab gives you in London, coupled with its 25 foot turning circle.

Here are a few unlucky owners. Kate Moss’s cab was given to her by friends, whom according to reports included Sadie Frost, as a gift appreciation for the lavish gifts that Moss gave them over the years. It is entertaining to learn that a popular and glamorous model like Kate now owns one of these vehicles. But research the net and you will find Kate Moss is not the only celebrity owning the ubiquitous London Taxi Cab.

Amongst them are: the California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who has purchased a fleet of London Black Cabs to be exported to California for his own personal use and entrepreneur Larry Smith who has bought the exclusive rights to the vehicles after they caught his eye during a family holiday to England in 2000, film director Stanley Kubrick, Ian Butcher, Stephen Fry and even Prince Philip.

As you never know now times are tough, we cabbies could face some competition from them.

Cab Shelters


Looking like overgrown garden sheds; these distinctive buildings can still be found on the streets of London, offering shelter for the drivers of hansom cabs and hackney carriages (taxis) since 1875.

Because cab drivers weren’t allowed to leave their vehicles when parked at a stand, it was difficult for them to get a hot meal while at work, so The Earl of Shaftsbury (God bless ‘im) and a few philanthropic chums decided to create a cabbie’s charity in 1874.

Entitled the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund, the charity set out to construct and run shelters to provide cabbies with ‘good and wholesome refreshments at moderate prices. Between 1875 and 1914, a total of 61 shelters were built at cost of around £200 each.

Because the shelters stood on a public highway, the police stipulated that they weren’t allowed to be any larger than a horse and cart. Even with those restrictions, the huts still managed to wedge in a working kitchen and accommodate between ten and thirteen men. The shelters came with seats and tables and were stocked with books and newspapers, usually donated by the publishers and other benefactors. Gambling, drinking and swearing were strictly forbidden.

Still maintained by the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund, thirteen of these shelters still exist (all now Grade II listed buildings).

The surviving shelters can be seen at:

Chelsea Embankment; Grosvenor Gardens; Hanover Square; Kensington Park Road; Kensington Road; Russell Square; St George’s Square; Temple Place; Thurloe Place; Opposite the Victoria & Albert Museum; Warwick Avenue and Wellington Place



If you happen to be in Japan and constantly fretting over the high cost of taxis there, then a tiny plastic gadget called Taxi Walk might just deliver peace of mind this winter. Costing about £13, Taxi Walk is a belt-style pedometer that measures how far you’ve walked in any given period and converts it into the equivalent taxi fare.

The idea is that next time you fancy a taxi ride in Japan you should set off on foot instead and then gloat at how much you’ve saved when you reach your destination.

It couldn’t take off over here, could it?

Your number’s up


[N]ow all of you from countries that take pride in your national identity take note. It is now officially illegal to have British, English, Scottish or Welsh flags displayed on your vehicle number plate or for that matter French, German or Italian flags displayed – but it goes without saying that you can have the European Union flag.

Thousands of ordinary motorists have been unwittingly breaking the law after this mendacious Government back tracked on a promise to legalise the display of National flags on vehicle number plates. Ministers had said they would take action to exempt British drivers from European Union inspired legislation, which also outlawed the Cross of St. George, the Scottish Saltire and the Red Dragon. But of course that promise was never kept and it is only now that the true purpose of this legislation has been revealed. This absurd fiasco means that for the past seven years motorists with national flags displayed on their number plates have unknowingly been risking prosecution, a fine of £1,000, an MOT failure for their vehicle or a stop note and an overhaul failure on their taxi if they have the temerity to display a national flag on their number plate and indeed some motorists have been successfully prosecuted for this.

Under the current regulations in their original form, the only insignia allowed is the 12 star circle of the European Union. Motorists have to choose either a plain plate without a symbol, or one with the European Union emblem and the letters GB on the left hand side. Of course, these so called ministers, who think they are speaking for the whole country, claimed the move was justified, as English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland symbols would only confuse the police forces of other European Union countries. How can these Ministers even contemplate this thinking? Do England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland not exist then? This shows you how far the corrupt European Union has intruded into the workings and laws of ordinary citizens all over Europe.

When the entire population has been given a criminal record and is on the National Register Database, will our wonderful politicians finally be happy and sleep peacefully? Is this some sort of master plan to stamp out any last vestige on national identify or pride?

Gordon Brown and his fellow European bureaucrats’ should note that people want a national identity, going down this long slippery slope increases jingoistic feeling and an attitude of Little Englanders. Stop it now before it is too late, because across Europe we have some serious identity problems, your well paid gravy trains are not worth it.

The most dangerous single organism on earth

the-end-is-nighYou have gone back to work to find another round of redundancies being announced; your investments have disappeared with the morning mist; and are waiting for those credit card bills to drop on your doormat.

It could be worse, far, far worse. As a diversion from CabbieBlogs’ Weekly Whinge, spare a moment to reflect on Thomas Midgley an American mechanical engineer turned chemist.

[W]hile lauded at the time for his discoveries, today his legacy is seen as far more mixed considering the serious negative environmental impacts of his innovations. One historian remarked that Midgley “had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth history.”

In December 1921 Midgley discovered that the addition of tetra-ethyl lead (‘TEL’) to gasoline prevented internal combustion engines from ‘knocking’. The company dubbed the substance ‘Ethyl’, avoiding all mention of lead in reports and advertising. Oil companies and car makers, especially General Motors which owned the patent strenuously promoted leaded fuel as an alternative to ethanol or ethanol-blended fuels, on which they could make very little profit.

The subsequent addition of lead to gasoline eventually resulted in the release of huge amounts of lead into the atmosphere, causing health problems around the world. Midgley himself had to take a prolonged vacation to cure him of lead poisoning. “After about a year’s work in organic lead,” he wrote in January 1923, “I find that my lungs have been affected and that it is necessary to drop all work and get a large supply of fresh air”.

In April 1923, General Motors created the General Motors Chemical Company to supervise the production of TEL by the DuPont Company, and placed Midgley as vice president. However, after two deaths and several cases of lead poisoning at the TEL prototype plant in Dayton, Ohio, the staffs at Dayton was said in 1924 to be ‘depressed to the point of considering giving up the whole tetraethyl lead program.’ Over the course of the next year, eight more people would die at DuPont’s Deepwater, New Jersey plant.

Dissatisfied with the speed of DuPont’s production using their ‘bromide process’, General Motors and Standard Oil created the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation in 1924, and built a new TEL plant using a more dangerous high-temperature “ethyl chloride process” at the Bayway Refinery in New Jersey. Within the first two months of its operation, the Bayway plant was plagued by more cases of lead poisoning, hallucinations, insanity, and then five deaths in quick succession. On October 30, Midgley participated in a press conference to demonstrate the “safety” of contact with the substance. In this demonstration, he poured tetra-ethyl lead over his hands, then placed a bottle of the chemical under his nose and breathed it in for sixty seconds, declaring that he could do this every day without succumbing to any problems whatsoever. However, the plant was decisively shut down by the State of New Jersey a few days later, and Standard was forbidden to manufacture TEL there again without state permission.

In 1930, General Motors charged Midgley with developing a non-toxic and safe refrigerant for household appliances. He (along with Charles Kettering) discovered dichlorodifluoromethane, a chlorinated fluorocarbon (“CFC”) which he dubbed Freon. CFCs were also used as propellants in aerosol spray cans, metered dose inhalers (asthma inhalers), and more. In recent years CFCs have been attributed to causing severe damage to the Earth’s ozone layer.

In 1940, at the age of 51, Midgley contracted polio which left him severely disabled. This led him to devise an elaborate system of strings and pulleys to help others lift him from bed. This system was the eventual cause of his death when he was accidentally entangled in the ropes of this device and died of strangulation at the age of 55, and they say there is no justice in this world.

Such is life . . .