London Trivia: Festival spirit

On 3 May 1951 after the devastation and resulting austerity of the war years, the successful forerunner, of the Millennium Dome, was opened on London’s South Bank, aimed to raise the nation’s spirits whilst promoting the very best of British art, design and industry. It remained open for 5 months attracting 8.5 million visitors in that time. Of the buildings constructed only the Royal Festival Hall remains.

On 3 May 1968 the United Kingdom’s first heart transplant was undertaken at the National Heart Hospital in Marylebone, it was the 10th procedure of its kind in the world

Lady Elizabeth Hatton leaving a ball was found in a yard blood still pumping from her torn body Bleeding Heart Yard commemorates her murder

In the cloisters of Westminster Abbey is Britain’s the oldest door, in good nick, considering it was made in 1050 before the Norman Conquest

In 1739 Thomas Coram supported by Handel set up the Foundling Hospital for abandoned babies it was the world’s first incorporated charity

Christopher Wren built St Paul’s from both ends at same time so funding wouldn’t run out – money would have to be found to join halves up

The Trafalgar Square lions were sculpted from life Landseer used dead lions supplied by London Zoo until neighbours complained of the smell

Elizabeth Taylor spent part of her 7th honeymoon in 17th century Old Battersea House, home of her friend Malcolm Forbes

Wembley Stadium is filled with Middlesbrough FC shirts and scarves. There are also old season tickets, match programmes and various other items of memorabilia, placed in the arch by the steelworkers

And we think everything was so much better back then . . . early Tube maps asked passengers to refrain from spitting in the carriages

When St Pauls Cathedral neared completion its elderly architect Sir Christopher Wren was hauled to the roof by bucket and rope to inspect it

Clerkenwell is named after the medieval Clerk’s Well where Parish Clerks performed Mystery Plays, the well can still be seen

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.

A (very) brave new world

In the 1970s or early 1980s car stickers started to appear on the rear of vehicles, with the wording:

Designed by computer
Built by robot

Driven by an idiot

 

It was a parody of a successful advertising campaign for a car manufacturer whose model I cannot remember, but no doubt somebody might.

This mantra proved prescient and has stuck with me over the years, never more so, as the digital age has taken over our lives and seeing robots on an assembly line is regarded as the norm, and for the third line ‘Driven by an idiot’ could as easily be applied to many motorists driving in London today.

If you could take humans out of the equation, so the theory goes, the roads would be a safer place, and the subsequent reduction in overheads (the drivers) would be of huge interest to the likes of Uber.

That ambition of driverless cars has now become a reality thanks to the work, over many years, conducted at Warwick University. As soon as next year Jaguar is predicting their ‘Robocar’, a rectangular electric vehicle not dissimilar to the familiar electric cab could hit London’s streets.

With a top speed of 75mph and a range of 190 miles between charges, it can transport up to six people anywhere in London, and beyond.

The recent storms proved that this technology can save lives when two Tesler cars independently braked to avoid falling trees in the recent storm, thus saving the passengers from injury or death. These life-saving events help the argument that autonomous and computerised cars are far safer than human-driven vehicles as robots don’t drink drive, fall asleep, watch the passing landscape, or use their phone or i-pad whilst negotiating London’s complex streets.

Not until artificial intelligence has the ability, will these vehicles be likely to confront other artificial intelligence-led vehicles with road rage.

In the race to become a world-leader in autonomous technology, already the Department of Transport has been tasked with drawing up a digital Highway Code thus enabling self-driving cars on to the Capital’s roads by next year.

As the adage goes: ‘The most dangerous part of any car is the nut behind the wheel.’

London cab quiz

With work on London’s streets almost non-existent most cabbies are finding other ways to occupy their enforced sabbaticals. Today’s quiz is a reminder of the halcyon days when cabs were in demand. We start with the easy one, and if you don’t get this one you shouldn’t be wasting your time reading CabbieBlog.

Questions

1. All licensed taxi drivers in London need to pass a comprehensive test before they can ply for hire. What is the test called?

(a) The Knack
(b) The Knowledge
(c) The Opinionated


2. Where was London’s first cab rank?

(a) In Piccadilly
(b) In the Strand
(c) In Oxford Street


3. When a cabbie is awarded a license, he is given a Bill and Badge. His badge is then displayed whenever he is working, but what is his Bill?

(a) An invoice detailing his expenses up to that date
(b) A police mentor, as in the nickname ‘old bill’
(c) His licence


4. Frederick Hitch was once London’s most famous cabbie, but for what?

(a) He was awarded the Victoria Cross
(b) He was a music hall entertainer
(c) He was also King George V’s chauffeur


5. Who or what was The Resistance?

(a) Cabbies who once fought alongside the Partisans in German-occupied France
(b) Harley Street
(c) Spoken ironically about poor brakes on early cabs


6. When were licences first issued to London cabbies?

(a) 1654
(b) 1754
(c) 1854


7. The passenger compartment is jolly spacious, but what are the origins of the roof height?

(a) A gentleman didn’t have the inconvenience of removing his top hat when boarding
(b) With any lower head height, passengers would hit their heads on the roof when the vehicle hit potholes
(c) So that up to three hay bales could be stacked inside to feed horses


8. How, or where should you not hire a cab?

(a) Outside one of those cabbies’ green shelters
(b) Emulating a scene from your favourite black and white film by shouting “TAXI” while simultaneously waving in a frantic fashion
(c) Poking your head into the nearside window of a stationary cab at traffic lights


9. What is the entomology of the word taxi?

(a) The word comes from the penal rates once charged to the proprietors of vehicles
(b) It comes from the taximeter now found on all legal cabs
(c) Queen Victoria didn’t like Joseph Hansom the inventor of the famous Hansom cab and always referred the classic horse-drawn vehicles as ‘taxites’, her term for unaccountable


10. When boarding a licensed London cab, apart from your destination, what must you tell the driver

(a) If you have the bubonic plague
(b) If you are registered disabled
(c) That you might change your mind as to the destination


Answers

1. All licensed taxi drivers in London need to pass a comprehensive test before they can ply for hire. What is the test called?

(b) The Knowledge
To gain the coveted Green Badge that allows them to work anywhere in Greater London, all cabbies must learn 320 routes and everything in between. It can take between 3 and 5 years to pass. You can read more about it HERE.


2. Where was London’s first cab rank?

(b) In the Strand
Charles Bailey, a retired mariner, in 1635 placed four hackney coaches for hire at the Maypole in the Strand where St. Mary’s Church now stands. Later, blue posts denoted cab ranks, hence several pubs by that name. You can read more about it HERE.


3. When a cabbie is awarded a license, he is given a Bill and Badge. His badge is then displayed whenever he is working, but what is his Bill?

(c) His licence
Who would guess that a cab driver’s licence, referred to as his ‘bill’, is short for ‘bill of health’? This is ironic considering that most Victorian cabbies worked until they died, or ended in the workhouse if they couldn’t continue working, despite the efforts of the Cabmen’s Benevolent Association. You can read more about it HERE.


4. Frederick Hitch was once London’s most famous cabbie, but for what?

(a) He was awarded the Victoria Cross
Most would not know of the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879 if it wasn’t for the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, and its popularisation by Michael Caine’s first major film, where 155 British soldiers repulsed 4,000 Zulus warriors, resulting in 32 British killed or wounded against nearly 900 Zulus. After the conflict medals which everybody would have heard of – the Victoria Cross – were awarded to 11 men one of which was Frederick Hitch. It was the largest number of gallantry medals ever given to a single regiment, for actions on a single day. You can read more about it HERE.


5. Who or what was The Resistance?

(b) Harley Street
The Resistance was a derogatory nickname given to Harley Street as it was populated by doctors opposed the formation of the NHS after the War. You can read more about it HERE.


6. When were licences first issued to London cabbies?

(a) 1654
Oliver Cromwell ordered the Court of Aldermen of the City of London to grant licences to 200 hackney coachmen. A 6-mile limit was imposed as London’s chain of defences, that had been erected during the Civil War in 1642, only extended to that perimeter and beyond it was considered unsafe. You can read more about it HERE.


7. The passenger compartment is jolly spacious, but what are the origins of the roof height?

(a) A gentleman didn’t have the inconvenience of removing his top hat when boarding
By law, taxicabs had to be tall enough for a passenger to sit comfortably while wearing a top hat, especially important during Ascot. Additionally, at one time, hackney carriages were required to carry a bale of hay for the horse. This law was held over for a time even after motorised cabs began to operate. You can read more about it HERE.


8. How, or where should you not hire a cab?
(b) Whilst emulating a scene from your favourite black and white film by shouting “TAXI” while simultaneously waving in a frantic fashion
Technically, it’s against the law for you to yell “Taxi!” to get their attention. If you see a cab with a lit sign, just hold out your arm to signal them, and if you’re not drunk he will stop. You can read more about it HERE.


9. What is the entomology of the word taxi?
(b) It comes from the taximeter now found on all legal cabs
The term ‘taxi’ comes from taximeter, the counter used to measure miles travelled and fare. ‘Cab’ was short for ‘cabriolet’, a French verb for ‘to leap’, which was a type of taxi and what one did to exit them. You can read more about it HERE.


10. When boarding a licensed London cab, apart from your destination, what must you tell the driver
(a) If you have the bubonic plague
It was also once supposedly illegal for people to hail a cab while suffering from the bubonic plague. This is still partly true, as the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act of 1984 requires a person suffering from a notifiable disease to inform the cab driver, who may then decide whether to ferry the passenger. If he does so, he is then required to notify the authorities and disinfect the cab before taking another fare. You can read more about it HERE.

Taxi talk without tipping

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