Johnson’s London Dictionary: Old Oak Common

OLD OAK COMMON (n.) A sprawling stagecoach stop with neither oaks nor common land, hopefully becoming a station when William VI ascends to the throne.

Dr. Johnson’s London Dictionary for publick consumption in the twenty-first century avail yourself on Twitter @JohnsonsLondon

One giant step

Seventy years ago today three papers were published in Nature which, it’s no exaggeration to claim, changed the course of all our lives.

Three articles were published in Nature’s 25th April issue, dealing with the structure of deoxyribose nucleic acid: DNA to you and me. The authors of one paper, Watson and Crick from King’s College, London have become household names. Few remember Franklin and Wilkins, the senior authors of the other two papers. The irony is that Watson and Crick based their model almost entirely on the experimental findings of Franklin and Wilkins.

Watson and Crick’s article contained a mere 842 words. They were not the discoverers of DNA, but rather the first scientists to accurately describe this molecule’s complex, double-helical structure. Thanks to this and other research, we now know a great deal about genetic structure, and we continue to make great strides in understanding the human genome and the importance of DNA to life and health.

Meanwhile, my DNA results informed me that I’m from Kent, the ignominy of finding myself from sarf of The River.

London in Quotations: Sir Nikolaus Pevsner

The essential qualities of the city are closeness variety, and intricacy, and the ever-recurring contrasts of tall and low, of large and small, of wide and narrow, of straight and crooked, the closes and retreats and odd leafy corners.

Sir Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-1983)

London Trivia: Are you sure it’s safe?

On 14 May 1856 the Old Bailey heard that Dr. William Palmer had poisoned with strychnine his friend John Cook. Heavily in debt to the tune of £4,000 due to his love of gambling on the horses he had taken out insurance policies one many of his victims. His mother-in-law, wife, four of his children, his creditor, brother and housekeeper had all met with premature deaths. Convicted he was hanged at Stafford prison on 14 June 1856. Stepping out on the gallows he asked “Are you sure it’s safe?”.

On 14 May 1932 the BBC made their last transmission from their Savoy Hill headquarters transferring to the new Langham Place Broadcasting House

Serial killer Dennis Nilsen once lived at 195 Melrose Avenue, Cricklewood the scene of 13 murders. Nilsen was sentenced to 6 life sentences

The GDP of London is significantly larger than that of several European countries, including Belgium and Sweden

Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg who lived off Farringdon Road predicted there would be a special part in heaven reserved for the English

A white spike at the south end of London Bridge commemorates a practice of displaying traitors heads dipped in pitch on the original bridge

Kenneth Grahame author of The Wind in The Willows and Secretary of the Bank of England was shot at at the bank by a deranged George Robinson

6ft 5in circus strongman Carl Dane in 1926 was the first to pull a London bus with 12 passengers inside using only his teeth

When he was Prime Minister the Duke of Wellington held indoor races along Downing Street corridors with men pulling women seated on rugs

In 2014, not a single 07.29am Brighton–London Victoria train reached its destination on time after failing to roll in at its scheduled time of 8.35am on a single occasion

When Selfridges opened in 1909 their information bureau answered queries on subjects from crossword clues to government stats

The City’s Square Mile is now an imperfect 1.16 square miles following 1990s boundary changes incorporating an area north of London Wall

CabbieBlog-cab.gifTrivial Matter: London in 140 characters is taken from the daily Twitter feed @cabbieblog.
A guide to the symbols used here and source material can be found on the Trivial Matter page.

Previously Posted: Smooth Operators

For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.

Smooth Operators (11.05.2010)

In a recent consultation document it would appear that our Mayor “Bicycle Clips” Boris has all but given up on trying improving the average speed to transverse London, with an average of 10 mph it has hardly changed since the days of horse drawn transport in Victorian London.

His traffic boffins have come up with an idea called “Smoothing Traffic Flow” which it is claimed can make journey times more predictable but not any quicker. With London’s streets now gridlocked for most of the working day due to roadworks.

Your journey times are pretty predictable now albeit at walking pace.

The scheme has some good initiatives, such as Pedestrian Countdown which is a timer telling pedestrians crossing the road how much green time remains, it is a pity those same lights are ignored by pedestrians already.

Another is lane charging where it is hoped to charge utilities a fee every time they dig up the road, unfortunately legislation brought in when London was given its own mayor 10 years ago, the then (unelected) minister for London, John Gummer, capitulated to the privatised utility companies in their outrageous demand for unrestricted access to the ground beneath London’s streets. That dreadful decision, leading to Oxford Street being dug up 176 times in a single year and the Strand 154 times and has remained to this day. With this situation Boris almost thrown in the towel on his promise to charge utilities per hole in the road.

The Mayor has also ordered a review to identify which, if any, traffic lights may be unnecessary and could safely be removed, which sounds great until you realise that in the last 10 years over a 1,000 additional sets have been installed and that newly planned signals will be exempt from the review, so just to stand still they are going to have to get very busy removing some old ones.

With London’s population predicted by some to reach over 12 million in the next 15 years and with increasing wealth giving many the opportunity own a car, London is set to become as bad as Mumbai.

The majority of roads are not controlled by Transport for London and local boroughs are continually harassing motorists with the zeal of a religious convert. Not content with having a small army of traffic wardens, The People Republic of Camden (a nuclear free zone, in case you asked) is building kerbs out into the road to reduce lane capacity. While the Guardianista’s of Islington are working flat out (sorry for the pun) to ensure they have the tallest road humps in town, and with a mandatory 20 mph speed limit on all its roads, chance would be a fine thing to be able to travel beyond walking pace.

The previous Mayor’s initiatives to improve air quality have, it would seem, come to nothing. Scientists are baffled why despite vehicles being cleaner due to legislation forcing owners to install systems that reduce PM10 particulates. If they had cared to ask me I could point them in the right direction, one monitoring site is opposite Madame Tussaud’s where traffic moves at a snail’s pace along the Marylebone Road, another is located at Tower Hill near where by selling a 3-lane road to private developers they have created a daily 12-hours gridlock.

Taxi Talk Without Tipping

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