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

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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

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Pedometers

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

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[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 ‘W’ Word

wedding It’s the ‘W’ word

There comes a time in every fathers life which he anticipates and dreads in equal measure. With just six words, your little girl grows up and your bank balance changes irrevocably.

“Dad, I’m going to get married” whoosh 30 years of your life has flashed by and it will never be the same again.

First came ‘the dress’, my luck was in, I would not be required during this part of the process, and only cabbie wife accompanied my daughter to choose said garment.

“The dress has cost double what we budgeted for” was the opening gambit as they returned from their shopping foray. My head snapped up with such force from a quiet read of my newspaper, that at first I feared a trip to an osteopath would be required.

“But never mind, we can economise with some of the other items”, was the solution for my wallet.

[N]o limousine for my daughter as she wants a white taxi just like Dad’s. Great thinks I, pick up from house off to church then on to the reception. Two hours work on tariff 2, £40 tops.

And this is where the ‘W’ word comes in. For whenever the word that dare not speak its name is mentioned (WEDDING) you add a nought at the end of the price.

“One white cab, flowers and ribbon £400, but to you Squire with a trade discount £360, do you require chilled champagne at £40 a bottle or a release of white doves?”

“We need a function room for late afternoon and evening, considering we are in a recession what’s your best price?” was my opening gambit on the phone. “Is that for a wedding? Then its £2,000”. “Oh! Yes and the meals we serve in the public restaurant costing £12.50, we will charge you £27 plus VAT.

The organist at the church you would have thought a rather charitable chap helping out on Sunday, his fee for 45 minutes graft . . . £100.

Now I’m the sort of husband that occasionally, just occasionally buys his wife flowers. So I know a thing or two about their cost, with when the ‘W’ is said 60 carnations wrapped in silver foil – £3 each! Vases on the tables, cost in IKEA £10 for six, “Well Sir, we can rent you the vases for £7.50 each plus VAT”.

Now, does anyone want a cab, I promise not to mention the ‘W’ word.

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 . . .

Survival of the Fattest

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When Charles Darwin proposed his thesis that breeding selection was predicated on the most able of a species wanting to mate to the exclusion of less developed members of their species to cope with the rigors of life he could not have foreseen today’s Homo sapiens.

Well I think that the time has come to re-examine Darwin’s hypothesis. You see the most successful country ever to have existed on the planet is America, and the first thing you notice on arrival there are bums – they are enormous. Also the most successful television programmes from that country is full of fat people, just think of Opera Winfrey’s guests.

[N]ow come back to England (because that is what this blog is about). Who is the most successful at breeding? Is it the stick thin models, the City career people spending their spare time in the gym? No, its chavs, fat mum, frail looking dad and very fat kids, loads of them. Oh! And the pit bull terrier looking about the brightest of the bunch.

In fact if this current trend continues within a generation only the fat will be left. And that neatly bring us back to Darwin.

Scientists (or would it be twitchers) could sit in their hides observing the behaviour of the overweight chavs and study their unique language, almost unintelligible to anyone outside their sphere.

Unfortunately this also has a more serious side that the Karen Mathews trial has brought to the public’s attention. She watched Jeremy Kyle and not Opera.

While those with a body mass index of under 18.5 would be put on the at risk register and would slowly fade away going the same way as the dodo.

Taxi Talk Without Tipping

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