Tag Archives: Guest post

Stand out from the crowd

The first thing anyone who wishes to start a business has to do is pull the pull from the back of their head and escape the Matrix. Since we were children, we have been told to sit in our seats, do as we are told, and colour inside the lines.

[M]Y EXPERIENCE OF BUSINESS is radically different from this. Not only do you set your own rules, but usually the path you tread is one you cut fresh for yourself. The biggest business victories I had over the years involved people ardently telling me I was wrong, and then doing it anyway. You have to go the opposite direction to everyone else, but then also be correct.

Starting a business in London

I’m lucky enough to know a lot of London based entrepreneurs, actually, all of my close friends are self-employed or founder / CEOs. This gives me a fantastic opportunity to observe commonalities between entrepreneurial types. Each one of them is rebellious and sees the rules as an optional factor entirely open to being negotiated with. Despite this, they are each intensely interested in helping their community and oriented to serving others. All of the directors I know to talk of charity often and put time and money into charitable projects.

Read, discuss and listen

Every single entrepreneur I know takes personal development extremely seriously – they all read regularly, listen to podcasts and openly enjoy discussing principles of personal development. Actually, when I and my friends are together, half of what we discuss is the nuances of how to better ourselves. Every entrepreneur I know exercises regularly and intensely and keeps to a well-researched diet.

Starting a business is hard, hard, hard. In the beginning, I arrogantly thought I could get around the hard work principle – how painfully wrong I was. I believe this hard work principle is just as important in London as it is anywhere else in the world. As a business owner, you must accept that you are going to work harder and longer than everybody else. The funny thing is that most of these long, hard hours are actually fun! It’s a completely different kind of energy when you are working towards a worthy goal that you set yourself then if you are cajoled into doing a task to build someone else’s dream. Yes, you will work longer hours than everyone else, but those hours will be fun.

No boss to blame

Running your own business is an excellent antidote to complaining. At some point in every entrepreneur’s career, he realises that the activities he fills his day with are all there by his own planning. Without a boss, there is no one to blame for your failures and pain but yourself, and once you realise this, it becomes one of the most empowering insights of your life. If you’re stressed, tired, underpaid, uninspired, or unappreciated, you have the power to fix it. How good life gets becomes limited only by your imagination and capacity to master yourself.

There are two ways to climb a hierarchy – by ability or by privilege. Growing up in a relatively poor family, the privilege card was never in my hand. If I wanted to climb society, I had to leverage my ability. As a business owner, you can’t hide behind status, either you deliver or you don’t. Entrepreneurialism encourages people to develop their ability. This is a magnificent blessing for the individual and for society.

When people start a new business, I notice they put almost all their energy into the fantastic product they want to offer. After spending a decade as an entrepreneur, I realise that most of the success of a business comes down to things like marketing, recruitment, management and IT. Yes, making a fantastic product is important, but it’s actually far less important than an understanding of how to sell it. In a way, this is sad, because the system we are in selects for marketing ability more than it does the integrity of the product.

You can make money doing just about anything. You are most likely to succeed in doing something you believe in and enjoy, and you will enjoy doing something you like. Making money is just one metric of success for the business. You could argue spending your days on something you believe in is much more valuable. Therefore, you must start a business you are passionate about. It’s imperative.

All the tools for success are available

One hundred years ago, most knowledge was locked behind universities, guilds and societies. Today, virtually anything worth knowing can be accessed online at light speed. If you want to learn any aspect of the business, all you require is an internet connection and some grit, and you can learn it fast. Even better, most of the entrepreneurial superstars have days and weeks of videos, podcasts, interviews and blogs where they painstakingly articulate to you the nuances of succeeding in this game. It has never been easier to learn the business, particularly in a developed city like London.

People think starting a business is risky, or riskier than having a job anyway. I disagree. As an employed person, you can get fired or laid off at a flickering whim of your boss or the economy. When you run a business, you can never be fired, and you have the freedom to adapt to the changing winds of the market. Your skill becomes your job security.

Featured image by Adam Duke Photography.

CabbieBlog-cabThis is not a sponsored post. Life coach Richard Harris has written this Guest Post for CabbieBlog. All links here conform with guidelines set out in Write a Post.

Photographing London: Iconic Locations and Hidden Gems

London is one of the greatest cities in the world. There are so many iconic and historical sites that, as a photographer, it can be hard to know where to get started. Whether you’re a tourist snapping on your mobile or planning a trip specifically to take photos, you need to have a plan.

The Photo Team have created this guide to outline so of the top locations in London for photography.
[N]OW THAT YOU KNOW how to prepare for London and your shoot, it’s time to get down to the most important part; what you’ll be photographing. We’ve picked out some of the top destinations in London that you may want to consider:

The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

Perhaps the most ‘English’ view is that of the Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster. The location, next to the River Thames, has been used as a royal palace since the 11th century, but the current building has been in place since 1840. The clock tower of Big Ben is one of the most famous landmarks in the world.
To get the best shot, head to the South Bank and get a wide-angle shot from across the river. If you want to get closer, walk across Westminster Bridge and take some shots down the river.

The Shard

From the ancient to the new, another top spot in London is The Shard. As one of the tallest buildings in Europe, you can get an exquisite view of The City from the top. Although admission is pricey (£25.95) on a clear day or evening, you can get some of the most beautiful scenes in London. Head straight up to the 72nd floor and take your photos from here; the lower viewing gallery is double-glazed and will give you reflections. Tripods aren’t allowed, so you’ll need to find somewhere to prop it.

St Paul’s Cathedral

One of the landmarks you can see from the top of The Shard is St Paul’s Cathedral. As one of the most important buildings in London, there has been a church on the site since AD 604. The domed roof of the current structure has been there since 1697. For the ideal angle of the Cathedral, head to the Millennium Bridge and take your shot from there. You can also get a great view of the Tate Modern.

Tower Bridge

Next, to Big Ben, Tower Bridge is one of the most recognisable structures in London. This suspension bridge was completed in 1894 and spans the Thames. Many people confuse it with London Bridge, which is far less impressive. You can get a great picture of Tower Bridge from either side of the river, but from some angles, you can also get some of London’s modern skyline in the background, including The Gherkin.

The Tower of London
The next stop from Tower Bridge is the Tower of London itself. This structure was first built just after William the Conqueror came to the city in 1066. The White Tower is the central structure that holds the crown jewels. However, many parts and angles make for great pictures. Walk around the grounds and see which works for you.

The London Eye

This giant Ferris wheel is the UK’s most popular paid tourist attraction. It was opened to the public as part of the Millennium celebrations and has firmly established itself in popular culture. Not only can you get some great shots of it, but riding it affords some excellent views of London.

Buckingham Palace

The changing of the guard is a tourist favorite. Be sure to get there early to get a good spot to watch the action. Another famous destination is Buckingham Palace, the London residence of the royal family. As one of the top tourist locations, it’s going to be very busy so it can be hard to get that ideal shot. However, if you head to the fountain in front of the Palace gates early in the morning, you might get a lucky shot. If you plan on seeing the changing of the guard, head to the back of the Palace near the gardens.

Natural History Museum
Not only is the Natural History Museum a fascinating place to spend an afternoon, but it also boasts some of London’s finest architecture. If you have a wide-angle lens, you can take in some of the stunning interior views from the top of the main stairs.

London’s Best Areas for Photography
The City has more than just the monuments mentioned above; there are also plenty of stunning areas you can visit if you’re into street photography. Here are some of the best:

Oxford Street
On one of London’s busiest streets, you can find an array of some of the most ‘English’ sights on offer. Everything including Red telephone boxes, red London buses, and black cabs can be found in this bustling location. There are plenty of crossings you can position yourself on to get those essential shots.

Notting Hill

Fans of 90s romcoms will be familiar with this vivid area near Portobello Road. The multi-coloured houses make for some unique and interesting photos, and you’re sure to find all kinds of exciting, curious things in the area.

China Town

China town isn’t quite as touristy as some other areas, but it’s still a vibrant part of London. It’s well worth a visit to find some great shots of everyday life, as well as the largest Chinese gate in Britain. It’s located near Soho and Leicester Square.

Piccadilly Circus

This part of London is often compared to New York’s Time Square. The huge screens and crowded streets are certainly reminiscent of the Big Apple. If you can find a spot a night, the bright neon signs and fountain make for an excellent photo opportunity.

King’s Cross

As one of the busiest stations in the city, King’s Cross is always full of people. However, there are also some great shots to be found. The Light Tunnel which connects the station to St Pancras is an often overlooked part but again makes for some interesting and unique photos.

Canary Wharf

London’s financial district is home to a number of skyscrapers and impressive buildings. If you can get a shot at sunrise, you’re almost guaranteed a good picture. You be asked by security what you’re doing, but if you head to Cabot Square, you can get an amazing view of the Wharf across the river.

Abbey Road

You may have heard of a small band from Liverpool called The Beatles. They had some popularity back in the 60s. One of the most iconic shots of the Fab Four was taken on Abbey Road zebra crossing, near the studio of the same name. If you’re in any way a fan of the quartet, or some of the other huge names who have recorded there, you should definitely take a picture.

Primrose Hill
It can sometimes be hard to get a scale of how big London is. However, by venturing further out, towards Primrose Hill, you can get some excellent shots of the city from afar. If you can time it for sunrise or sunset, you could have a special picture on your hands.

Hidden Gems You Probably Didn’t Know About
Now that we’ve covered some of the main parts of London, it’s time to turn our attention to some of the lesser-known spots. These locations can give you some truly unique and inspired photographs:

St Dunstan-in-the-East
This ancient church has stood on a hill halfway between London Bridge and the Tower of London since 1100. Over the years, it’s been damaged and repaired. Sadly, during World War II, much of the structure was destroyed. However, it has since been opened as a public garden. It’s an idyllic and interesting spot that not many people know about, and it affords some great views of the city.

Barbican Conservatory
Another hidden gem is the Barbican Conservatory. It is home to a wide assortment of tropical plants and animals and is usually quite quiet. The main conservatory features some fascinating angles and architecture that contrast wonderfully with the lush plant life, meaning you can capture some excellent images.

Strand/Aldwych Station
This might be a hard location for you to access; you’ll likely have to pull some strings to get on one of the rare tours. However, if you manage to, you’ll be able to explore the now abandoned platform of this tube station. You can’t take a tripod, but you can take photographs for personal use.

Neasden Temple
London is a multicultural, multi-faith city. Along with many churches and mosques, there are also Hindu temples. Few are as spectacular as the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, or Neasden Temple. It was constructed using traditional methods and is absolutely stunning. Visiting provides you with a chance to capture a spot that not many photographers know about.

Isabella Plantation
This 40-acre woodland garden is situated in Richmond Park. It’s a tranquil spot that is simply gorgeous when in full bloom. It was planted back in the 1830s and is home to many rare and unusual trees and plants. There are some fantastic spots for photography, particularly on a clear day.

London Tours
With the wide variety of locations we’ve listed, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed. However, there are plenty of fantastic tour companies that can help you explore. We’ve listed a few below to get you started:
Blue Badge Tourist Guides
British Tours
It’s Your London
Sandemans New London Tours

London Photography: Be Prepared
If this will be your first time visiting England’s capital, you’re in for a treat. It’s a diverse and bustling city with plenty to see and do. However, it’s also massive and sprawling, so you need to know how to get around. Below, we’ve covered some of the essential information you need in order to properly prepare. This includes some travel tips, what equipment you need, and some quick advice for different camera types. We also share some of the most iconic locations in London, as well as some lesser-known hidden gems.

London Travel Tips

One of the most famous elements of London is the Tube, the underground transit system. An intricate network of trains forms the very lifeblood of the city. It’s fairly easy to navigate once you get used to the fact a lot of the lines interconnect. Buy an Oyster Card for contactless travel and cheaper fares. The Underground isn’t the only way to navigate the city, and it’s not always the quickest. Many top destinations can be walked between. For example, from Borough Market to the Tower of London takes just over 15 minutes, and gives views of The Shard, Tower Bridge, and the Tower itself.

Alternatively, you can take on of the Santander Cycles. These bikes cost just £2 and can be ridden for half an hour at a time before changing. They’re dotted all over the city, making it a great way to get around. And of course, the iconic London buses run all across the Big Smoke.

Travel Photography Tips
When it comes to using your camera in London, you’re almost spoilt for choice. There are so many locations that make for great shots. With such an array of riches, it’s vital that you plan your travels. As we’ve mentioned, London is big, and it can take a while to get from point to point. If you’re planning on taking a trip to London to take photos, you’ll want to plan ahead. Not only should you choose a route that covers the major attractions you want, but also set up with proper gear.

How to Choose the Right Photography Gear
Aside from knowing where you’ll be going, you’ll also need to have the right equipment with you. Depending on how much of a priority you’re placing on photography for this trip, you loadout will differ somewhat:

Smartphone Photography

Modern smartphones have cameras that are good enough to take some breathtaking shots. As such, it’s never been easier to take up amateur photography. There are still some essentials that you should bring with you though:
Extra lenses. Many companies now offer smartphone-specific lenses for a range of purposes. They can give you a real edge in your photography.
A tripod. Whether it’s to stabilise your video or take an awesome landscape shot, a portable tripod is essential.
A case. This is something you should have for your smartphone regardless of whether you’re a budding photographer or not.

Camera Photography
Your loadout will depend a great deal on the type of photography you’re planning on. However, some essentials that you should have in your camera bag include:
Lenses. Aim for a wide-angle zoom as well as a 50mm prime or something similar. If you’re most comfortable with a kit lens, bring that too.
A tripod. You’ll want to keep your shots steady, particularly if you’ll be shooting in low-light conditions. As such, a tripod is a must-have.
Spare battery. The last thing you want is to be caught short when it comes to battery life. Bring a spare.
Extra memory card. Again, you don’t want to have to worry about deleting pictures to make room when you’re shooting.

In this article are listed 21 photography spots in London. Are you feeling up for a challenge? The Photo Team are offering our readers the chance to get involved and capture all 21 locations and share them with us. They will feature your photography and share it on our social media channels.


CabbieBlog-cabThis is not a sponsored post. The author has allowed CabbieBlog to reproduce this post. All images are subject to copyright. All links here conform with guidelines set out in Write a Post.

The Ripper’s Route

It’s a sure bet that anyone visiting London during Halloween season will be grabbing a chance to take part in the capitals most infamous dark history tour . . . Jack the Ripper.

The identity of the world’s most notorious serial killer who terrorised the streets of Whitechapel with a macabre series of murders between August and November 1888, has continued to baffle the world.

[F]OR THE LAST 130 years there has been wide speculation among crime enthusiasts, armchair detectives and an army of authors about who the murderer really was. An insane barber? A deluded medical student? Or even a prince of England. All have taken their turn in the dock.

Whatever the truth, many sites associated with London’s most notorious series of murders can still be visited – and of course Jack the Ripper tours remain the most popular dark themed activities among the traveller. Here are some of the sites and locations associated with the Victorian killer.

Ten Bells Pub
The Ten Bells pub is located on the junction of Commercial Street and Fournier Street in Spitalfields and has close ties with at least two of the Ripper’s victim’s, Annie Chapman and Mary Kelly. It is said both women had their last drink in the pub the night they met their end. So it’s highly possible jack himself drank here in the establishment.

Mary Ann (Polly) Nichols murder site
Mary Ann Nichols, known as Polly to her friends is regarded as the first of the Jack the Ripper victims. Her body was discovered lying in the street by two men on their way to work at 3.30am on 31st August 1888. Her throat had been cut back to the bone and her abdomen mutilated. A chilling calling card of the Ripper. The location was originally called Bucks Row but was changed to Durward Street some years later and can be found at the back of Whitechapel underground station.

The murder of Annie Chapman
Not too far from Bucks Row (Durward Street) the body of Jack’s second victim, Annie Chapman, was discovered in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street in the early hours of 8th September 1888. The site was eventually demolished in 1969, but not before being filmed for the documentary The London nobody knows starring James Mason. The location is now part of the Truman Brewery carpark.

Location of the Elizabeth Stride murder
Elizabeth Stride was the first victim in the night known as the “Double Event”, where the Ripper murdered two women in the space of 45 minutes. Strides body was discovered at 1am on 30th September in Dutfields yard, just off Commercial Road in a street called Berner Street. The narrow yard where the murder took place has now been replaced by a school playground and the street has been named Henriques street.

Location of the Catherine Eddowes murder
The second victim on the night of the Double Event was Catherin Eddowes, a 45-year-old from Wolverhampton. Her body was found in the dimly lit corner of Mitre Square. It was the first and only time the Ripper had moved out of his comfort zone in the East End and committed an attack in the city of London. Eddowes was heavily mutilated and her throat had been cut twice back to the bone. Mitre Square still exists but has been modernised lately and is surrounded by modern office blocks.

The Mary Jane Kelly murder Location
Regarded as the final victim of Jack the Ripper, Mary Jane Kelly was murdered in her small tiny room at 13 Miller’s court. Her room was located only a stone’s throw away from the Ten Bells pub, in Dorset Street. The street saw major changes over the years before being completely wiped out in 2017 with a new office block being planted on top of its location. However all is not lost, a public walkthrough has been made inside the middle of the building and so it’s still possible to come and stand on the site where her room once stood.

CabbieBlog-cabThis is a sponsored guest post for which CabbieBlog has received a fee. Proceeds from these articles help keep the wheels turning on this site offering free content for anybody with an interest in London. All links here conform with guidelines set out in Write a Post.

Caroline Giacometti Prodgers – a Riposte

I have this recurring thought, a nightmare really that, due to pressure from a woman’s group or the #metoo people, Caroline Giacometti Prodgers will be canonised and probably end up on the back of the new £50 note.

I blame Heather Tweed for much of this. True her article, posted on CabbieBlog last week, was well researched and even-handed, in fact, she even described Prodgers’ character as “true awfulness”, so we can agree on something. But there is an air of ignorance in the face of facts when it comes to Prodgers, she is not only a female who took on the over-charging, abusive cabmen but neither was she intimidated by her appearances in court, whether at a magisterial level or the highest court in the country.

[C]AROLINE PRODGERS was born in 1829 in a large house in what is now Brockwell Park, Brixton. At some point in her youth, her family moved to Ayott St Peter in Hertfordshire. Having grown up in Brixton myself and now residing in Hertfordshire, I claim no other link with her.

Often described as eccentric, she was actually admitted to a mental asylum at the age of 24 – which may explain much of her future behaviour. By 1861 she embarked on a tour of Europe, no doubt funded by her £2,000 a year allowance and it was on this tour that she met, and soon after married, Giovanni Giacometti, a Swiss-born officer serving in the Austro-Hungarian navy.

Caroline Giacometti Prodgers

The marriage did not last and her private life was thrust into the public domain by her refusal to allow her husband not only access to his home but access to the marital bed. All of this made Prodgers famous before she began her war with the London cab drivers. In many ways, it was a war brought on by the drivers themselves.

Up until the arrival of the taximeter, some forty years away, drivers would pay the proprietor a pre-agreed sum for the daily rental of a cab and one horse, sometimes two (allowing for a changeover mid-shift). The rental price fluctuated throughout the year. If a particular week was expected to be busy, then the proprietor saw no reason why he should lose out and so would charge the driver an increased amount of rental. Typically, and in the case of most proprietors, a cab driver would have to be continually busy throughout the day just to earn enough to pay his master, the proprietor. The drivers became reliant on extras, (charging for extra people and luggage), tips or downright extortion to increase their money. After all, they had to make sure the master was paid, or they would have no cab the following day, they also had to earn enough on top of that to feed and house themselves and their family.

It was the extortionate demands for charging more than the legal fare that many cab drivers were infamous for – and the most susceptible victim was the ‘lone female’. The defenceless ‘lone female’ was a cri de cœur for many campaigners throughout the nineteenth century (in fact it continued up till the arrival of the taximeter). What was needed was a champion to fight the cause for the ‘lone female’ and that’s when Caroline Giacometti Prodgers stepped up to be counted.

To some in the press of the time she was described as a modern-day Joan of Arc, to others she was Britannia personified, instead of a trident she carried an umbrella, instead of a shield, she fended off attackers with her book of fares.

First of all, let’s debunk two myths concerning Prodgers, both of which were alluded to in Heather’s article. First of all, she had not memorised the book of fares as is often alleged. She knew the legal fare for particular journeys but she only knew these from the book of fares. The authorised version at the time was Sir Richard Mayne’s, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. There were mistakes in the book. If a fare was given as exceeding the actual fare, then the passenger only had to pay what they thought was right. If the published fare was under the actual fare, the public only had to pay that amount and the driver lost out. Such one-sidedness was common-place when it came to the cab trade. Mayne’s book of fares superseded Shrapnel’s book of fares which contained 14,800,000 distinct fares, so memorising the book was not really feasible.

Secondly, she allegedly knew the exact distance she could travel and would stop the cab just a yard or two before the driver could legally tot-up the fare. Such ideas are fanciful and are what Charles Dickens has Jonas Chuzzlewit calling the greatest fun that could be had in London (taking a cab for exactly a mile and no further, for the 6d minimum).

So, it’s 1871 and although the press would report that she has summoned several cab drivers to date, the case of William Southwell was the first to be reported on. The dispute with Southwell was over waiting time, not the distance travelled. She refused to pay him what he was demanding and also refused to give her name and address. She even refused to give it to a passing policeman, as well as the inspector at the station where the party went to settle the dispute. In the end, the inspector convinced her to summon Southwell for demanding more than his proper fare, this she did and Southwell finally got her into court.

Southwell informed the court that several cabmen, as well as porters at the railway station where he picked her up, warned him to keep an eye on the time. It seems she had a reputation already. He even produced a witness who would testify to the exact time Southwell picked her up, as everybody looked at the time when Prodgers was around. She lost. Southwell got his fare and costs.
Cab drivers 1 – Prodgers 0

Cab driver Richard Jones had to summon her, again the dispute was over waiting time. It was this case in which the exchange of words between her and the judge, Sir Robert Cardin, were widely reported. She lost that one as well.
Cab drivers 2 – Prodgers 0

Edwin Castro charged her 4 shillings from Victoria Station to Euston Station, she said the fare was only 3s 6d. Fortunately, the official book of fares had no entry for Victoria Station, even though the station had been there ten years by then. It was fortunate because the ground would have to be measured – and Castro was proven right, it was a 4s fare.
Cab drivers 3 – Prodgers 0

By now, and despite these failures, she is being heralded as a champion of the ‘lone female’. It did not seem to matter that she was not winning any cases, just that she was not going to be intimidated by the over-bearing cabmen – even though to date, none had been accused of doing anything wrong.

She summoned John Challis for refusing to take her to Balham. Challis had picked her up but she insisted on keeping the windows open despite the driving rain entering the cab and soaking the cushions. A passing policeman took Challis’s details before informing him that his cab was not in a fit state to continue to work. Prodgers had to make her way home by a different means. In court, her summons was dismissed. Challis had a reasonable excuse to terminate the fare – because his cushions were saturated.
Cab drivers 4 – Prodgers 0

She was forced to concede another case when the driver agreed to have the ground measured, and a summons against another driver for refusal was in itself refused because the cab was in a railway station, and thus on private property.
Cab drivers 6 – Prodgers 0

She summoned Stephen Boucher for charging 6d extra when he was forced to go over Southwark Bridge, instead of London Bridge which was closed for roadworks. She lost.
Cab drivers 7 – Prodgers 0

Just as it looks like its going to be a whitewash, Prodgers gets her first victory – of sorts.

She took four summons out against Robert Chalk: overcharging, abusive language, not giving a ticket (a kind of receipt with the driver’s details upon it) and not carrying his book of fares. Chalk was going to summon her for the fare she refused to pay but she got to the court first and slapped all four charges on him. He was found not guilty of overcharging and of using abusive language but guilty of not giving a ticket or producing his book of fares.
Cab drivers 9 – Prodgers 2

A driver was summoned for informing fellow drivers at the railway station not pick her up; a bus driver was summoned – by mistake – she believes the railway company gave her the wrong badge number on purpose. Both these cases were dismissed.
Cab drivers 11 – Prodgers 2

By the time she summoned Isaac Gruby, it was believed that she had been to court fifty times. When she heard that Gruby had had the ground measured, and could prove that she was not overcharged, she slipped out of court un-noticed. She may have lost her 2 shillings, the cost of the summons, but Gruby had paid for the ground to be measured and had lost a day’s work in attending court. This case alone shows the vindictiveness of Prodgers. With her wealth, she could easily afford to take a summons out against a cab driver and just walk away if she thought it was not going her way. In all probability, she used this as a weapon against cab drivers who may have thought it better to receive 6d less than spend a day in court.

Gruby was allowed to summon her for his costs and loss of earning. She was fined one guinea in her absence.
Cab drivers 13 – Prodgers 2

Knowing of her reputation, a cab driver demanded the fare up front – something he was not allowed to do. A victory for Prodgers.
Cab drivers 13 – Prodgers 3

She’s on a roll. There was a procedural error over the measuring wheel used in the Gruby case. The ground has to be measured again. Gruby pulls out, Prodgers keeps her guinea.
Cab drivers 13 – Prodgers 4

Perhaps the magistrates were getting tired of her. When Charles Redgrave summoned her for the 2s fare, the magistrate warned her that if she did not pay he would send her to jail for seven days with hard labour. She paid.
Cab drivers 14 – Prodgers 4

Two more summons for refusals at railway stations neither is allowed due to the private property ruling.
Cab drivers 16 – Prodgers 4

Magistrate Arnold, who usually never decided in favour of cab drivers, had to decide on a case where the driver Ben Coombe terminated the hiring after one hour. This he was allowed to do as the compellable distance was six miles and the compellable duration of a hiring was one hour. The parties had to come back the next day whilst Arnold thought about his decision. Coombe was in the right, he could terminate the fare after one hour had passed but he would not allow the cabman anything extra than the 2s 6d fare and the 2s cost of summons. The two days Coombe had been in court were lost. But it was still a victory for the cab trade.
Cab drivers 17 – Prodgers 4

Charles Weedon charged 1s 6d for the fare from Paddington to Queens Grove, St Johns Wood, where she now lived. The book of fares said the actual fare was 1s. Weedon paid the Union to measure the ground, it was 2 miles 90 yards – a 1s 6d fare. But the book of fares was said to be the final arbiter – even, as in this case, when it is wrong. Weedon had to pay Prodgers her 4s 6d in costs as well as losing the 5s he paid to have the ground measured.
Cab drivers 17 – Prodgers 5

Even the Pall Mall Gazette, who was quite happy to put her on a pedestal as the champion for the ‘lone female’ was now beginning to have doubts. Weedon had been in the right but through no fault of his own, found himself on the losing side of a just argument.

A driver named Walker is summoned by her for overcharging, again from Paddington to Queen’s Grove. This time she is made aware that the book of fares will be deemed to be wrong. The ground will be measured and she will lose the case. She leaves the fare of 1s 6d with the clerk to give to Walker and leaves the court.
Cab drivers 18 – Prodgers 5

As this is the exact route taken by Weedon, he appeals. His 4s 6d is returned to him but is paid from the court funds, not Prodgers. Even though he still lost out on the 5s he paid to have the ground measured, it was at least another victory for the trade.
Cab drivers 19 – Prodgers 5

With that, the era of Mrs Prodgers the cabmen’s nemesis was over. It had lasted just four years. It was a week after the Weedon case that her effigy was burnt on Guy Fawkes night, but it is unlikely Prodgers had anything to do with the unsuccessful prosecution of the driver in that case.

From 1875 she began many tours of Europe and the far east. She resurfaced like a dormant volcano in 1886, summoning one driver for overcharging – she was surprised that he asked for her name and address, she felt even after eleven years, every driver should know who she was. Nothing seems to have come of that case. She also summoned John Burgess for abusive language for shouting out “Old Mother Prodgers” as their carriages passed each other. The case was dismissed over questions of identity – Burgess was asleep at home at the time of the alleged abuse. As far as the cab trade was concerned, that was her swan-song. A typical defeat.

Final score. Taking each of the summonses as an individual action and including appeals and failed attempts to obtain a summons we have a final result of:
Cab drivers 20 – Prodgers 5

A resounding victory for the cab trade but despite the drubbing, Prodgers will continue to be seen as a champion of the ‘lone female’ against the overcharging cabmen.

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A London Life with falconer Matt Hoskins

Tessa Paine, author of Blatantly London meets Matt who runs falconry services at Project Multi Pest Ltd.

It’s not every day you turn the corner of a city street to find a gobby falcon perched on someone’s arm.

When I first met Trevor, I had initially mistaken his high-pitched cries for a squeaky trolley wheel in desperate need of oiling.

[M]OST CITY WORKERS, myself included, perform the trudge to work in a personal bubble, blinkered to most of what’s happening around us, only becoming peripherally aware of other pedestrians in order to dodge them.

The falcon burst that bubble – I struck up a conversation with Matt (the falconer), was introduced to Trevor (the falcon) and a week later I’ve gone from awestruck on the pavement to city rooftop falcon flying.

A week later I’ve gone from awestruck on the pavement to city rooftop falcon flying.

Above, Trevor – a handsome boy with a lot to say for himself (he’s the one on the right).

Matt runs his own business as a falconer hired by private companies in the city to keep the gull and pigeon population under control – he’s invited me to ride along and see how he works. “We don’t actually hunt the gulls – hunting them is illegal, so the aim is to keep them on the back foot, discourage them from settling in any one place and if they don’t settle they’re less likely to breed.” It’s a bit like crowd control but with a really cool entourage of hawks and falcons. The gulls, at the moment, are the big problem – mugging and dive-bombing pedestrians on Cheapside, something which I’ve personally experienced.

It’s a bit like crowd control but with a really cool entourage of hawks and falcons.

Below- Matt launches Gary, a Harris’s hawk on his first flight of the morning.

“With a new falcon or hawk, they must get accustomed to flying among a lot of gulls without being intimidated.” I’m climbing a service ladder which leads to the roof, Matt has gone ahead of me, on his arm Gary, a Harris hawk [aka Harris’s hawk], before I even get to the top of the ladder I can hear the gulls going crazy – it’s because Gary’s arrived.

“Part of the training entails bringing them [the working birds] into the gull-mobbed environment and feeding them over a period of weeks before you even fly them – it creates a positive association – it teaches them to be calm, not to get agitated when the gulls build in numbers, it also strengthens the bond and trust between handler and bird.” Glad Gary’s calm, gulls are big buggers and they’re bold too.

Matt explains that gull tactics are to mob a hawk so initially the cry goes up and every available gull in the area will congregate to join the intimidation party. Still perched on Matt’s arm Gary’s stretching his wings. “He knows he’s about to fly and he loves it – he’s excited.” So how do you stop a hawk or falcon from taking a snack on-the-go? “Of course, the odd accident happens but it’s part of the training that they’re rewarded with food after flying.” Also, in the wild Harris hawks hunt cooperatively in packs so today, Gary’s not in hunting mode, it’s more about the exercise. While Matt’s telling me this Gary’s limbering up and the gulls are building up. They’ve now doubled in number since we’ve arrived – less than a minute – Gary hasn’t even flown yet, but the gulls know the hawk’s here.

I thought the idea was to scare them off not bring them in? Matt smiles at my question and I feel like a muggle. “So how it works is the gulls will build up in numbers and try to bully the predator, try to scare him off, drive him away. When the gulls realise that Gary isn’t intimidated they start to fall back, fly higher”. OK, but higher isn’t actually driven off is it? “Once Gary’s been up a couple of times, maybe four or five flights, I’ll take a break for around an hour then come up again with Trevor.” Trevor is the gobby falcon I first met a few weeks ago and unlike Harris hawks, falcons hunt solo.

Hawk or no hawk, flying among a melee of 30 angry, beaked-up gulls takes nerve.

Matt launches Gary for his first flight. The bell on the jess sounds out and the gull cacophony increases. Immediate action, the gulls start mobbing Gary, swooping, diving and targeting him, not making contact but getting as close as they dare. Hawk or no hawk, flying among a melee of 30 angry, beaked-up gulls takes nerve, but Gary is spectacular, he just cruises around effortlessly, ignoring the mob. As we watch Gary, Matt tells me that today is perfect flying weather – blue sky and not much wind. On the roof, there’s a mild breeze but as any crane operator will tell you, the higher you get the stronger the wind becomes. “A strong wind makes it difficult for a bird to manoeuvre and at that height, the wind is much stronger than we’re feeling it down here. The worst sort of weather is rain.” Oh right, so rain makes for difficult flying then? “Not really, it’s just Gary, he hates the rain. It’s hard to get him up and out in wet weather, he’d rather be in his dry box asleep.” Sounds reasonable. It had never occurred to me that birds have preferential flying weather.

Gary lands on a building opposite, some distance away. Do birds just never come back to their handler? Make a bid for freedom? “I once had a bird that disappeared for a week. I was working a building site with him and he just decided not to come back, sat out of reach – there’s nothing you can do. I was there hours and in the end, had to leave him. It took me a week of returning to the site to retrieve him.” So what made him come back eventually? “At the time, I’d only been working with birds for about a year or so, I was really upset about losing this bird, but a more experienced handler told me ‘leave him, after a week he’ll realise he’s not having food or water brought to him and he’s got to do it all himself. Give him a week out in the open, then he’ll come back.’ And that’s exactly what happened. He realised what a charmed life he had – after five days of roughing it on his own he’d had enough.” I know a few parents who’ve told me a similar story.

As I continue to talk with Matt it’s obvious that this is no easy profession. Aside from the care and upkeep, when a bird decides to ‘have a moment’ and not re-call then there’s time and expense involved in getting it back – not to mention the cost of parking in the City which is more than the national minimum wage per hour. Also, Matt explains, businesses don’t understand that for effective pest control he needs to fly the raptors regularly but not to a set timetable. “Gulls are clever. If you turn up at the same time every week they’d soon recognise that pattern. They’d disappear for two hours then return when you leave, so you need to fly raptors regularly, say, twice a week, but ideally, different days. It’s not just about understanding your own animals, it’s understanding the behaviour of the pests you’re contracted to deal with.”

In order to be effective and get results Matt must also educate the companies he’s working with. “Flying the birds [of prey] is really the only solution for managing the gulls and pigeons and it’s a traditional method.” Educating individuals and companies as to the benefits of traditional pest control methods is Matt’s overall aim and ethos for his company.

“There’s a kestrel nesting nearby if the bird catches a mouse that’s eaten poison the result is a slow painful death from coagulants for both the bird and chicks. That’s why I started using the dogs for pest control.” Gracie, the Jack Russell, is waiting for us curled up on the front seat of Matt’s van.

Matt’s ethos focuses on the traditional methods of pest control.

It wasn’t that long ago that we were finding natural solutions to deal with pests instead of using coagulants to kill rats and mice. Initially, it seems abhorrent to our modern, shrink-wrapped sensibilities to even consider putting a dog to work in such a manner, even though cats are already doing the same job in many homes. A dog as working ratter is a more humane solution than poison – it’s a quick clean ending for ratty without risk to other pets and no dead body to try and find under the floorboards.

We head down to the van to collect Trevor. As Matt is still training Trevor, going through that process of making him familiar with the working environment, he won’t be flying Trev but Matt explains why we’re still taking him up to the roof: “Eventually I’ll fly him, but today it’ll be enough that the gulls see him – they recognise a falcon’s wing shape” and in prey parlance that translates as ‘mob a hawk, run like feck from a falcon’.

Trevor is a characterful bird, he is a tri-bred falcon, half Peregrine, quarter Gyrfalcon and quarter Saker falcon and as soon as Matt takes him from his hold he starts to scan the sky, searching, and also to ‘chat’. Trevor is very chatty, which is endearing, much smaller than Gary but with noticeably larger eyes – all the better to see you with.

It’s now 8 am, more people are arriving for work at the surrounding offices and Trevor gets their attention. People love him and are drawn to him – they start to take photos and ask Matt questions.

Matt is as good with people as he is with his animals, patiently answering questions and I’m convinced that Trevor is loving the attention. I mention this to Matt “Trevor was an imprint, I’ve raised him from a chick so he’s really comfortable around people.”

A woman passing by asks if she can stroke Trevor, Matt laughs and says that she can try if she wants to. The woman takes a tentative step forward and Trevor turns his head and fixes his big eyes on her, an intense stare – the woman changes her mind about petting him. I say nothing but think she made the right decision. Trevor is a sweet looking bird but when he’s staring at you that intently you start feeling less like a person and more like a pigeon – it’s an innate respect for the raptor.

We’re back on the roof, Trev stretches and I’m surprised that I notice, novice that I am, the difference in wing shape from Gary, the Harris hawk – Trev’s wings, to me, look like archetypal angels’ wings. Aerodynamically the perfect shape for diving and attacking prey on the wing, known as a ‘hunting stoop’, reaching astounding speeds of up to 200mph (320km/h). The gulls above us suddenly remember they’ve more important matters to attend to. Elsewhere. Not here. This is not a raptor that requires back-up.

Meanwhile, Trev is happily munching a treat, completely chilled with his chick as the mass exodus, caused by his flap and flex, ensues above. The sky is now considerably quieter. Matt brings to my attention how Trevor faces into the wind when he exercises his wings – he’ll get to fly later at home, but for now, Trev’s work here is done.

Trev does the ‘flap’n’flex’. A bit like bump’n’grind but with feathers.

Matt obviously adores his job but make no mistake this is tough work, dispel any romantic fantasies about falconry – it’s as much a labour of love as it is earning a living. Matt is incredibly knowledgeable and I’m aware that I haven’t put a tenth of the facts he imparted in this brief article – but it’s not all about the facts – Matt knows and understands his raptor’s foibles and appreciates their individual personalities – he has shown me how awesome these birds are, to be so close to them and see them in action was a privilege (thanks, Gary for skimming my head with your wing, I’m not going to forget that in a hurry) and how important it really is that we keep falconers working in the City not only for tradition’s sake but for the pure beauty and joy of it.

© Tessa Paine


CabbieBlog-cabThis is not a sponsored post. Tessa Paine has given permission for this to be reproduced on CabbieBlog. Other articles can be found on Tessa Paine’s Blatantly London. Matt can be contacted at PMP. All links here conform with guidelines set out in Write a Post.