A Turkish Delight

2912242032_11bf239b44 If ever a building proclaimed its original function, this is it. Standing in Bishopsgate Churchyard is this Ottoman Hamam in the heart of the City dedicated to Mammon.

The fashion for Turkish baths was petering out a decade after this little curiosity was constructed in 1894 for the king of Turkish baths James Forder Nevill who owned nine Turkish baths in London.

Built on a site so constricted that its entry is via a small kiosk, it was modelled by the architect Harold Elphick on the 19th century shrine at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. This Moorish gem of blue faience, brick, and terracotta, surmounted by an onion dome (to house the water tanks), continued the Alhambra theme inside with three hot rooms, shampooing room, shower bath and plunge bath, all with mosaic floors, tiled walls, marbled seats and stained glass windows.

2912239456_217c4a008d Against all the odds, it survived Hitler’s valiant attempt to destroy it and every other redevelopment scheme, continuing as a Turkish baths until the 1950s. Fighting a lone battle against the pressures of surrounding developers and encircling demolition work a Turkish gentleman; Mr. Mourat saved the building and converted it into the Gallipoli Turkish restaurant.

It is now an Italian restaurant and bar, and at last years’ Open House had Londoners queuing to view this rare surviving Moorish temple in the heart of The City.

Rear View Mirror

I bet you, like me thought the sole purpose of the iconic London Black Cab was to transport its driver and his passengers with a measure of comfort from point A to point B.

Well, how wrong can we be? I’ve had Batman and Robin getting changed in the back in preparation to go to a ‘Fools and Horses’ fancy dress party, and girls constantly risk serious eye damage by applying mascara while in the back of my moving vehicle.

[I]n an idle moment you might have Googled on the internet an ‘adult art movie’ filmed in the back of a cab, while The Mail on Sunday in their You supplement regularly purports to interview stars in a weekly feature entitled: In a taxi with . . .

London cabs are a great choice for city tours (well I should know) and what better place to use a London cab than Christchurch, not that rather genteel town on the south coast, but on the other side of the world, New Zealand.

Another company utilising our vehicles are Justsofilms who over the past two years have filmed dozens of musicians, performing in the back of a London licensed cab. Brian Wilson, Ryan Adams and the Doves are among the clips to be found on their site blackcabsessions. If you dig deep enough you can find a duo entitled The Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs playing while one wears a glittering cardboard box on his head, being driven by a very embarrassed cabbie around London.

White cabs make rather good wedding cars, just a few months ago at my daughter’s wedding a rather splendid cab took us to the church.

As a footnote Will Self has written a novel entitled The Book of Dave about a London cabbie, click the link to watch him using the back of a cab to promote his book.

Mythical Creatures

[T]his Sunday is the start of the Chinese New Year when we enter the year of the Tiger; it is the sign of courage, a fearless and fiery fighter revered by the ancient Chinese as the sign that wards off the three main disasters of a household: fire, thieves and ghosts.

The Chinese have a culture seeped in animal mythology from nine headed birds to numerous dragons, so for today, to wish you Happy New Year and CabbieBlog gives you London’s mythical creatures, starting with a dragon for fire:

dragon The City of London – Dragon or Griffin?
There is some confusion in identifying dragons and griffins in The City of London. Certainly both are mythical winged creatures. A griffin is the offspring of a lion and an eagle, it has the head, shoulders and legs of an eagle, while the body is that of a lion, so think beak and talons on a large cat – with wings. Traditionally, griffins have kept watch over hidden treasure, not much of that left in The City. While a dragon is a ‘winged crocodile’ or scaled creature with a serpent tail, capable of breathing smoke or fire, so for this one think teeth, flared nostrils, scales and a snaky tail – with wings. Symbols of these creatures can be found at: The boundary to the Square Mile either standing or on plinths; at Temple Bar on the top of the Bar; Holborn Viaduct has them incorporated in the bridge spans; while Smithfield Market’s Grand Avenue they are breathing fire; at the entrance to Guildhall, Bank Underground Station and Leadenhall Market; at the Monument and on the weathervane atop St Mary-le-Bow Church – scary.

Cadiz Memorial cadiz Cadiz Memorial
This French mortar mounted on a cast-iron dragon can be found on Horseguard’s Parade. It was a gift of the Spanish government to the Prince Regent in memory of the lifting of the siege of Cadiz following the defeat of the French forces near Salamanca in July 1812 by the Duke of Wellington’s army.

Chindit Memorial Chindit Memorial
At Embankment Garden there is another strange looking beast. The Chindit Memorial statute depicts the Burmese mythical beast Chindit who is the guardian of Burmese pagodas and temples. The statue commemorates the Burmese campaign during World War II in 1943 and 1944 with the Chindit Special Force, their motto features on the plinth ‘The Boldest Measures Are the Safest’, a lesson they should have put into practice in Afghanistan.

CleopatraSphinx Cleopatra’s Needle Sphinx
Having nothing to do with her at all, but still called Cleopatra’s Needle, carved in 1475 BC over 1,000 years before London was named, is by far the capital’s oldest man-made attraction. Standing over 60 feet high and weighting 186 tons. Presented to the British in the early 1800s against its wishes. It was loaded onto an iron pontoon and showed its obvious displeasure at being moved from the shores of the Mediterranean by nearly sinking off The Bay of Biscay. The obelisk was saved but six seamen died in the ferocious storm. We eventually erected it in 1887. It is now the most popular suicide spot on this stretch of the Thomas, come here at night to witness two ghosts who are seen jumping into the river. You cannot help but feel that the needle is waiting for the day when it can return home to stand proud under the hot Egyptian sun.

Crystal Palace Sphinx Crystal Palace Sphinx
The Great Exhibition of 1851 was the expression of a society at the zenith of its prosperity and power. Paxton’s Crystal Palace was a huge iron goliath with over a million feet of glass, containing such industrial exhibits as the jacquar loom, courts depicting the history of art and architecture from ancient Egypt through the Renaissance as well as exhibits from imperial territories like India and Australia. Major concerts were held in the Palace’s huge arched Centre Transept, which also contained the world’s largest organ. The central transept also housed a circus and was the scene of daring feats by world famous acts such as the tightrope walker Blondin. The Crystal Palace itself was almost outshone by the park in which it stood, which contained a magnificent series of fountains (the water pumped through a set of towers designed by Brunel) and the park’s original trees. Today, it is a rather different matter, moved to Crystal Palace after the exhibition it burned down in the thirties; all that remains are a set of empty terraces, with headless statues gracing the steps and Sphinxes guarding the entrance way to nothingness.

Driven from your drive

Knowledge Point




Knowledge students
at the Knowledge Point School
in Caledonian Road,
parking their bikes on private land


[B]efore reading this post I should warn you that sitting or preferably lying down might lessen the risk of injury to yourself when reaching the end of this sorry tale.

Dr. Richard Dawood is the sort of conscientious doctor we would all like to have as our own. Anxious to be able to negotiate the congested streets of north London quickly should an emergency arise, he purchased a scooter.

He could park the scooter on the tarmac forecourt adjacent to his property, but to draw attention that this land was owned by him, and therefore private property, and not part of the adjacent flagstone pavement, he affixed to his wall a notice which read:

This forecourt is private property and is not dedicated as a public footway

So far so good, indeed in 2001 when he received two parking tickets, although his scooter was parked on his own property, the chief executive of Camden Council wrote to the good doctor apologising for the error admitting the doctor’s scooter was parked on private land.

Then 2 years ago he received another ticket while parked in the same place and assumed another mistake had been made and wrote asking that the penalty be struck off.

After several letters (and more parking tickets) he was appalled to receive a reply informing him that Camden Council had reconsidered the matter and decided that his forecourt was part of the public footway, whether private or not, and would enforce the penalty notice.

When Dr. Dawood decided to take the case to a parking tribunal, the tickets were mysteriously cancelled just prior to the appeal dates. But five tickets were overlooked by the council and became the subject of a parking tribunal where the adjudicator reserved judgment, siting the case White v The City of Westminster, this test case is regularly used by councils to penalise motorists on private land, but crucially if one wheel of their vehicle is on the public pavement.

Dr. Dawood then applied for a judicial review of his case, and at this point I would earnestly advise you to hold on to something.

Lord Justice Sedley ruled:

That Dr. Dawood did own the land or rather, the subsoil marked on his deeds, but the Tarmac surface above was subject to public access, and because there was no physical barrier between the road and the Tarmac strip, parking restrictions did apply.

This ruling means in effect that unless you erect a physical barrier at the point where your drive abuts the highway it could technically be accessed by the public and therefore is now fair game for traffic wardens, and you just know that the Traffic Taliban of Camden Council will at every opportunity use this loophole to milk the motorist.

London’s Eco Warriors

According to most politicians if we don’t cycle everywhere (leaving our electric car in the garage), buy our food at ‘the farm gate’ and live like a Hobbit in a woodland setting, heating our homes from what we have gathered you’re not eco friendly.

From this they extrapolate that living in the countryside benefits the environment, while we urban dwellers are virtually killing polar bears with our bare hands.

[T]his perception of Londoners could be set to change as a result of a recent book by David Owen entitled Green Metropolis. The American urbanologist proposes you move to a city, the biggest you can find, if you want to save the planet.

Building of new eco towns with zero VAT and the opportunity to show their green credentials might be an attractive proposition to many builders, but David Owen asserts that building new in the form of energy-guzzling steel and glass boxes, which are usually unadaptable for later re-use, on Green Belt land, has a carbon footprint that’s a disaster.

For we Londoners on the other hand, have a carbon ‘sink’ of buildings, many dating from the Victorian era needing only central heating upgrades or new windows and a lick of paint to transform them into houses, flats, schools, shops or offices that will last for years, and as these long ago constructed buildings share walls, roofs, ceilings and heating systems they are more economical en masse than stand alone structures in the middle of a Norfolk field.

Our politicians with their ‘green’ credentials have all but obliterated public transport from rural areas, forcing the population to use a car for almost every journey, many making two journeys each way to drop children at school or fetch a partner from the station.

Londoners cycle, walk or use public transport to get around the capital; we have more buses in the capital than you can shake a stick at, while after work we crowd into local shops, restaurants, pubs or theatres without having to travel vast distances to enjoy our leisure pursuits, and as I keep telling my customers, Londoners are blessed with the world’s finest taxi service, taking up to six people per vehicle, making it one of the most green public transport vehicles on the road, but then again I would say that.

Taxi Talk Without Tipping

%d bloggers like this: