Tag Archives: blogging

Confined to barracks

Last month while preparing to take a short break in Dorset, I started to feel, as my mother would say: ‘Not myself today’. Days later, after developing severe vertigo my doctor diagnosed benign paroxysmal positiinal vertigo. BPPV is fairly common with treatment necessitating having one’s head bent backwards over the edge of the examination table and then jerked to the left and right.

With more details about the health of a senior citizen than is probably judicious, we come to the kernel of this post.

When I started out CabbieBlog I had envisaged putting opinions and knowledge (yes, it’s that word again) over to anyone who felt it necessary to imagine themselves sitting in the back of a cab.

Now nearly one-and-a-half decades later, and finding myself with time on my hands due to my enforced rest, the result of the aforementioned medical condition, it’s given me the opportunity to formulate the direction, or life, of the blog in the New Year.

In the past, I’ve rejected the idea of daily postings as this cuts into life in the ‘real world’, the same reason I steer clear of interaction on social media.

Since its inception, CabbieBlog has been careful to avoid religion and politics – with the exception taken of today’s London Mayor – as this tends to bring out the trolls from inside their cubby holes. However, any genuinely insightful comments are always given the courtesy of a reply.

Looking over the bric-a-brac of writings I’m surprised at its range, although it’s mostly London history and nothing about sport. I’ve always been annoyed by people assuming I know about football.

Slightly inebriated passenger: (cheerfully) So who’s going to win the big match on Sky Sports tonight?

Me: (tetchy, after a bad day) I don’t know, or care, but who do you think is going to win Portrait Artist of the Year on Sky Arts?

However, blogging has taught me a lot.

First, never assume. Readership is diverse and surprising. The median age is almost certainly older for the blog than among my Twitter readers (hence me not interacting with my followers), but is more far-reaching. It has been a brilliant sounding board for ideas, but I feel I’ve run a rather shambolic but democratic exchange of ideas about London and its environs.

Second, answer with thought. Readers have every right to ask difficult questions and deserve respectful and considered answers.

Third, listen to the young, assuming anyone under 40 reads my missives.

And fourth, above all, keep learning. There’s rarely a day when a reader doesn’t teach me something. We cabbies might be, as I’ve described on @johnsonslondon: An accumulation of local information which doth give one granted the illusion of superior powers and wisdom.

But we can still accumulate more knowledge.

Having BPPV left me feeling inebriated, and as everyone knows when they’re pi**ed they think of the best ideas. So after much thought, from the new year, CabbieBlog will get two extra postings a week, making content uploaded 7 days a week.

Well, like much dreamt up while less than compos mentis, the ‘new’ two posts are, in fact, hardly unique to CabbieBlog. Thursday will see the return of Whinge of the Week, but rest assured it won’t be an old man repeating his grumbles.

While on Saturday an item brilliantly titled Previously Posted will be available. It’s not new content but I guess that most of my regular visitors haven’t read, or maybe they were just not interested in reading work composed over 10 years ago.

Only time will tell, insightful comments to the usual address.

Monday: London in Quotations
Tuesday: London Miscellany
Wednesday: Johnson’s London
Thursday: The Weekly Whinge
Friday: London Miscellany
Saturday: Previously Posted
Sunday: London Trivia


We Blog

Blog: (n.)(v.) (A truncation of weblog) A website on which an individual or group of users produce an ongoing regular narrative, displayed in reverse chronological order, so that the most recent post appears at the top, often written in an informal or conversational style.

A blog’s entomology

This inelegant word is derived from Weblog, or should that be we-blog (see the previous paragraph). Blog, its ugly orphan, created by the unholy conjoining of the word log, pertaining to a formal account, to the orphaned B from the word Web, thus ‘Web-Log’ becomes ‘Blog’. Coined by programmer Peter Merholz, incredibly in 2004 the American dictionary-publishing firm Merriam-Webster proclaimed it ‘Word of the Year’.

If it had been invented today, it would have been described as: ‘record on the cloud’ – or reloud.

A blog’s purpose

I’m well aware that most blogs – with, of course, the exception of CabbieBlog – are egocentric areas where tragic people waffle on and on with their dull scribblings because they genuinely believe the reader is interested in their extremist political views, uninspired recipes or some dull apparel they are wearing. This is usually because the author believes that the person who reads ‘his/her blog’ actually wants to find out more about them, when in fact the vast majority of viewers have just stumbled into their corner of cyberspace looking for cute kittens or young ladies showing parts of their anatomy.

A blog’s timeline

When is the optimum time or day to post? For getting backlinks for your blog posts, the study by Kissmetrics suggests that Monday and Thursday are the best days. It further went on to reveal that publishing early morning on these two days around 7 am will increase your chances of getting the most inbound links.

The more observant reader will have noticed that CabbieBlog posts long-form pieces on Tuesday and Friday at 1.50 pm, close to those time-slots, but not those optimum time slots.

A blog’s length

In the last five years, the average time for writing a post has steadily grown from 2:24 hours to 3:28 hours. The blog post length for the same period rose accordingly, from 808 to 1,151 words on average.

There are roughly 1.9 billion web pages at this moment making one trillion, nine hundred billion words out there to be read. With 2 million posts uploaded daily, we will be hitting 2 billion posts in less than a year. Who knows, this post could be the one to hit that milestone, also adding an additional 425 words.


How I Blog

This has to be a question on many of my readers’ lips. Well, to answer that, most of my long-form posts have been written on my iPhone.

This is not so crazy as you might imagine, London author Fiona Mozley, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2017, secretly wrote her debut novel on her phone while commuting on the Tube, that in addition to studying for a PhD at York University about late-medieval towns and ecopolitics.

So coming back to the less academic CabbieBlog and my long-form posts written using Apple’s Notes app on my old iPhone 5S.

Apple in their wisdom updated their operating system which excluded my trusty old phone, this resulted in some of my apps not working correctly, and in addition, my phone had only 16Gb of Rom so it was feeling pretty well stuffed.

In a heady fit of profligate spending, largely predicated upon the fee received from a piece I wrote for This England Annual (more of which later), in May I bought a shiny new iPhone SE with a heady 128Gb of storage from that icon of middle class retailing – John Lewis.

Safe in the knowledge that I was backing up everything to Apple’s excellent iCloud what could possibly go wrong? Well as Bill Gates memorably argued, there are two types of computers: those which have crashed, and those that will crash.

Compared to nearly 7 years of faultless service from my old phone, my all-singing all-dancing new phone barely lasted 7 weeks before it took into its head to scramble the image on the screen.

The helpful customer service person at John Lewis reassuringly told me that I was the second person that day with the same fault on their iPhone SE and briskly re-directed me to Apple’s technical support.

A word of warning here, it’s easier to get an audience with the Pope, than talking to an actual living human being at Apple.

Once eventually being connected, the highly competent service assistant could have been instructing me in ancient Sumerian.

One of the solutions tried was to re-install the operating system, but before starting I had to reassure them that I had backed up my device. No problem iCloud has everything. Wrong!

Some apps back up, others don’t, including my Day One journal that I’ve maintained for a decade.

Ultimately all the experiments proved was the device needed the intervention of an engineer.

The procedures necessary to send a phone to Apple are many and varied: turn off find my phone app; disconnect the phone from Apple device ID list; remove SIM card; fully charge phone; turn off device; enclose in a special bag and tape shut; place in the reinforced cardboard box provided; write addressee’s name on an outer bag, seal and take to the post office; oh yes, back up!

You cannot fault Apple’s service. I dropped my phone off at my local post office (at least they call a desk at the back of a value for money general store the Post Office), on late Friday afternoon. Monday morning I had confirmation of delivery and at 8.32 in the evening was informed it had been repaired and dispatched. Before lunch next day, my repaired phone arrived and was up and running by the evening.

Our mobile phones have become the most important gadget in our lives, the window through which we see and interact with the world; camera, newspaper, retail outlet, record player, diary, and for my typewriter. They allow us to share everything we’re up to, and to receive instant feedback from people we’ve never, or are unlikely to meet. They nudge us relentlessly to that magic rectangle which grabs our attention throughout our waking hours – increasingly the master rather than the servant.

That is when they work.

The End of the Beginning

Journeys. Everyone is always talking about a journey: Life’s journey; journey of a lifetime; a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. To add to that canon of sayings I give you ‘A blog’s journey’.

My on-line journey has taken in being contacted by three BA students, whose courses somehow covered something of the cab trade, to an MA student using CabbieBlog in part for their thesis. While participating in a French travel guide, I had to sign a consent form in French (I suppose it was, not understanding the language). An American website, devoted to England, featured a piece by me about Green Cabbie Shelters and an international credit card company took it on themselves to feature this humble cabbie.

Naturally, most London centric magazines and newspapers have popped into CabbieBlog’s virtual office requesting information or a quote. The national broadcaster once had me sitting at the side of the Thames in my cab asking for my opinion, something I can supply to my customers for free.

Talking of television appearances, I’ve turned down Tony Robinson twice, nothing personal, I just wasn’t available. And surprisingly for the bible of lost cultures, National Geographic wrote a piece about cabbies after interviewing me I suppose they considered the London cabbie is now on the endangered list.

Her Majesty the Queen was given the benefit of my thoughts when I wrote for a book which was presented to her during the 2012 Olympics. Unfortunately, the wider public has been denied this as my memoir which was due to be published by Michael Joseph will not be seeing the light of day.

CabbieBlog’s journey started with a single step in June 2008 and really has travelled a thousand miles. I’ve turned down as many opportunities as I’ve accepted and my voice has been heard on a podcast produced over 4,000 miles away.

So what is the point of this post, or indeed the reason to blog?

Obviously, vanity, thinking the world wants to know your opinion of London and discover the life of a cabbie. Writing regularly does help you organise your thoughts rather than have random ideas. For me, it has certainly improved my English, although reading this you might wonder how bad it was before I started all those years ago.

The 1 per cent rule

Uploading matter does set you apart from the crowd with the 1 per cent rule. This estimates that only 1 per cent upload new content, while the other 99 per cent merely read or pass it on, this is self-evident on social media sites. Not that this post is all that original much of which regarding CabbieBlog’s history I’ve featured before.

But it does discipline you, here I post three original posts a week and regular posting brings you into the orbit of like-minded souls. You get together, and nerd out about things that only you and a chosen few can get so excited about. You create material and share what you have. You swap stories. It’s also hugely satisfying to introduce people to the culture of sharing and discovering something about London.

The end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?

What I get back from these blogger’s relationships goes beyond the affirmation of my written word, or the occasional piece of well-received advice. It’s a gateway to a community that keeps helping me do what I like doing, furnishes me with the tools and know-how, and supports me to get better at it, so obviously it’s the End of the Beginning.

To me, that’s exactly what a hobby is, and should be.

Featured image: End of Story by Nick Youngson (CC BY-SA 3.0) Alpha Stock Images

On This Day

Twelve years ago, or to be precise, at 13.50 today CabbieBlog published its first post on WordPress. After tinkering around on different platforms the URL had found its perfect spiritual home.

So apart from this momentous event, what else happened on 23rd February 2009?

It was Feast Day of Saint Polycarp of Smyma, who died in 510AD and Brunei celebrated its National Day.

Australia’s bush fire casualty rose to 210 deaths, and perversely American Express offered a bribe of $300 to a limited number of cardholders to pay off their balances and close their accounts.

Considering I was still a typesetter at the time of this first posting, I’m rather pleased that it coincided with when Johanne Guttenberg first put ink to paper on his bible on 23rd February 1455, and just like this blog he didn’t make any money from his enterprise.

But probably the most important event that happened was on 23rd February 1963. Peter Hicks, who sold his produce in Covent Garden market, attached a mechanism to his car, normally used by farmers to electrify fences, as part of a private vendetta against traffic wardens. Paying £30 a week in fines for parking his Land Rover and 50 lorries he was getting parking tickets almost every day.

He electrified his car initially as an anti-theft device and had not had a parking ticket since he made sure all his lorries also were electrified by being parked bumper to bumper behind his Land Rover.