Tag Archives: Musings

January’s monthly musings

🚓 What Cab News

Transport for London has increased the number of private hire vehicles on the capital’s roads by 2,505 in just one week. If the newly licensed minicabs were all lined up together in three lanes of road space, it would stretch nose-to-nose between Paddington and Kings Cross Stations.

🎧 What I’m Listening

I was sad to read the death in November of Andrew Nickolds who wrote the long-running quirky comedy sitcom Ed Reardon’s Week on Radio4, drawing on the ups and downs as a freelance hack. Well worth a second listen.

📖 What I’m Reading

Leadville by Edward Platt, in 1995 the author stopped his car and took a stroll down Western Avenue. In the 1920s it was a tree-lined suburban boulevard but now it’s an urban nightmare. The book focuses on the lives of the people who live there, of suburbia, the dreams of its inhabitants, and of our senseless and all-consuming love affair with the motor car.

📺 What I’m watching

A favourite piece of trivia of mine: When on 23rd June 1951 Soviet spy Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean fled to Moscow they enjoyed a leisurely lunch at the RAC Club just ahead of MI5. So when ITVX screened A Spy Among Friends starring Damien Lewis and Guy Pierce I just had to watch the box set.

❓ What else

Here’s something that I didn’t expect to write: Westminster City council has painted some walls in Soho with a water-repellent layer designed to stop people pissing on them. Apparently a council source explained: “outdoor urination is on the rise post-Covid, but if anyone tries it on these walls then they will get ‘soaked’ in their own urine”.

December’s monthly musings

🚓 What Cab News

Rishi Sunak has said the so-called ‘golden era’ of relations with China is over. His speech, at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet, came after a BBC journalist was arrested, beaten up and kicked by police while covering a protest in Shanghai. The Prime Minister told the audience: “We recognise China poses a systemic challenge to our values and interests, a challenge that grows more acute as it moves towards even greater authoritarianism.”

Website Taxi Leaks then asked: So where does that leave the Taxi trade in regards to the LEVC TXE, the only London Taxi on the market produced by the Beijing company Geely?

Geely is already struggling after losing £118m last year, forcing them to lay off 140 of its staff. It’s also been reported in ‘Wired’, that the company may concentrate on manufacturing an electric vehicle for Uber, which it sees as a much larger market, compared to the Taxi trade.

With the danger of a monopoly, London’s regulator was asked: “What plans have TfL in place should Geely stop production of the only available London Taxi? So far, no reply!

One alternative would be converting ‘classic’ taxis from diesel to 100 per cent electric, which is what Clipper Cabs does, but this has not been approved by TfL.

🎧 What I’m Listening

London Undone is a podcast about City of London churches. Twice a month journalist and Blue Badge Guide Catherine Cartwright takes you to a church and gives you an in-depth tour.

📖 What I’m Reading

The Hidden Lives of Taxi Drivers: A Question of Knowledge by Ruth Finnegan. As an anthropologist, Emeritus Professor of the Open University, Finnegan takes a detailed look at the intriguing subject of taxi drivers’ lives, considering work practices, life stories, immigration and their social mobility. The work is claimed to be the first piece of research into those behind the wheel hidden in plain sight.

📺 What I’m watching

Mark Monroe on his Secrets of London YouTube channel has made a video titled ‘London’s most famous taxi driver!’ It is a great watch featuring among others Fred Housego.

❓ What else

This year on 1st January, for reasons that now escape me, I decided to blog every day. Now at the 364th day I’m nearly there, despite also taking the decision to self-publish my memoir with all that entailed. In fact it wasn’t until I read Cathy Cade’s piece: My Fourth Mini Bloganuary in late January I realised WordPress were encouraging one to daily blog. So here it is, my penultimate post of 2022

November’s monthly musings

🚓 What Cab News

Recently in just one week the Public Carriage Office issued just seven new taxi driver licenses and plated 32 new black cabs. Conversely Transport for London licensed 539 new private hire vehicles and 400 aspiring drivers in this one mammoth week of licensing in London netting over £125,000 in new private hire licensing fees. The Capital’s traffic congestion can only get worse.

🎧 What I’m Listening

Goldsmiths have produced a series of street sounds titled London Street Noises, compared with those made in 1928, which at the time, drew attention to London’s rising noise levels. Leicester Square in 1928 has horses, noisy vehicles and many horns sounding, Goldsmiths’ recordings taken at the same location, day and time have people enjoying their leisure in 2018 and only the sound of pigeons during the lockdown in 2020. Fascinating.

📖 What I’m Reading

With all the razzamatazz of the opening of Battersea Power Station, I’ve revisited Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station by Peter Watts. Well-researched and effortlessly entertaining Peter Watts tells the whole, long sorry story of the site, from its industrial past to its future as a gated millionaires’ reserve. Saved from demolition by Michael Heseltine who gave it a heritage listing to annoy Margaret Thatcher who hated the edifice. So big you could, should want to commit suicide, accelerate a car from 0-60 within its walls. He relates how four owners over many years saw their best-laid plans frustrated by the sheer scale of the project they’d taken on. This is the story, not only of a building but of a city.

📺 What I’m watching

Fellow blogger BeetleyPete pointed me to the BBC’s London Collection, a personal compilation by Simon Jenkins comprising old documentaries. First transmitted in 1996, Modern Times: Streetwise looked at the tough training regime undertaken by black cab drivers as they prepared for one of the hardest examinations they will ever take – The Knowledge. It was filmed during my last year on The Knowledge, so I knew many of those featured.

❓ What else

For years FeedSpot has been devising tables from data on the number of ‘hits’ that a website receives. On their 100 Best London Blogs and Websites, CabbieBlog has usually languished around 50ish pushed into that place by all the female ‘influencers’, even Diamond Geezer has rarely made it into the top 20. Now recently I find CabbieBlog at number 26, probably due to the fall in long-form blog posts with influencers moving on to Instagram and their ilk. Another table, the World’s 60 Best Taxi Blogs and Websites finds CabbieBlog at the heady position of number five. Blimey!

October’s monthly musings

🚓 What Cab News

The City of London is going to exclude cabs twenty-four hours a day from Bank Junction. Nowadays you can’t drive along Cheapside end to end and you can’t drive down Bishopsgate. Many cabbies already avoid working in the City, but when this goes into place, they’ll stop working the Square Mile completely.

🎧 What I’m Listening

For two years Blue Badge Guides Emily and Alex have been podcasting weekly snippets on their Ladies Who London as a way to (as they say) bring London’s quirky, fun history to everyone in the comfort of their own homes. Having just discovered them I have a lot of episodes to catch up on.

📖 What I’m Reading

For some time now I’ve been a member of NetGalley, which offer books for review. Ex-Home Secretary Alan Johnson now writes novels, his latest is The Late Train to Gipsy Hill. While most politicians turn to novels as a way of showing how inside track they were. Johnson eschews this approach and just gives us a thriller not without prescience given later events in Ukraine.

📺 What I’m watching

Sewage. Pressure group Thames 21 appeared on a BBC Panorama to show reporter Joe Crowley a mound of wet wipes on the Thames foreshore at Barnes. Designed to be a safety valve for occasional use, London’s overloaded sewage system routinely discharges raw sewage into the Thames, on average once a week, discharges have now become regular and routine. Thames21 showed the BBC Panorama team around one of the five Thames sites where wet wipes have accumulated in such quantities they have physically changed the shape of the riverbed and are informally known as the Great Wet Wipe Reef. Incredibly only 7 per cent of Britain’s rivers are in good health, and sewage pollution is one of the major causes. Ignore at your peril.

❓ What else

With the Queen laid to rest the arguments have begun over where to put her statue. Currently, there is only one full-size statue in Windsor Great Park. The bookies’ favourite is, of course, the fourth plinth, but that, according to ArtNet, would mean bringing to an end the “best-known public art commission in the world”. The plinth is not suitable for the memorial for the late queen either, as it sits in an awkward location in front of the National Gallery terrace, and close to the busy public toilets. Some politicians are lobbying for a statue in Parliament Square, other plans include renaming streets, parks, and even Heathrow airport in her honour.

September’s monthly musings

🚓 What Cab News

Bilking, a funny name, for a not-so-amusing practice of running away without paying the fare. Website Taxi Point has collected bilkers who got their comeuppance. Alan Clark said: Had a lad run off, vaulted a 2ft wall and disappeared, he didn’t know it was about 20ft drop on the other side. Cabbie Jason Lake had a guy run on an £8 fare, he picked him up 16+ years later and told him. In all fairness, he paid me £20 plus the fare on the day. I asked ‘what’s the £20 for?… he said interest! Adrian Roberts had a similar scenario: I had a lad who paid me £20 upfront for an £8 fare but paid me as I started driving and said sort the change when we get there. We got to his house and he legged it shouting I’ve got no money!

🎧 What I’m Listening

For years I’ve been trying to get Suggs to submit a London Grill, but it looks like I’m going to have to satisfy myself with his Love Letters to London on BBC Sounds where he shares his fondest memories of the city with his unique wit, charm and musical highlights from his career, celebrating of what it means to be a true ‘Londoner’.

📖 What I’m Reading

Diamond Street: The Hidden World of Hatton Garden by Rachel Liechtenstein. For six years as an apprentice I worked a stone’s throw from this iconic street, home to diamond workshops, underground vaults, monastic dynasties, subterranean rivers and forgotten palaces, and before reading this book little did I realise what went on behind those unexceptional doors.

📺 What I’m watching

Passport to Freedom. Aracy de Carvalho was a young clerk at the Hamburg Brazilian Consulate. For two years during World War II she secretly issued passports to Jews without the dreaded “J” stamp, which not only wouldn’t allow them to travel but doomed them to the horrors of concentration camps. When newly appointed diplomat, João Guimarães Rosa, arrives the two fall madly in love. Loosely based on a true story, the parallel with today’s Ukraine is obvious. Why the BBC didn’t screen it not so plain, leaving its transmission to the niche Drama Channel. Aracy would later be honoured by the Yad Vashem with the Righteous Among the Nations Award. João would be known as the greatest Brazilian writer of the twentieth century.

❓ What else

One of my earliest memories is of my first year of primary school being given a ‘Coronation’ pen set. The pen’s bodies were deep red with a huge crown on their top. The trouble, in those pre-plastic times, was these heavy metal adornments ruined the balance of the writing implement. Today if I’d have found the now lost pen it could have been used to write in Her Majesty’s book of condolence, that’s if the ink hadn’t dried up and Her Majesty’s crown could be removed from the pen’s top.