you can never have enough statues….

….or, if I was in a Monty Python mood; just one more wafer thin statue.


I’ve included the notes I had to write just now to help myself make sense of what I’d seen and tried to record yesterday; the inordinate number of statues in Parliament Square. Not content with the 7 statues that were already there in the middle of the square, commemorating the great and good of Britain (and elsewhere), it was decided to put Nelson Mandela there as well in 2007. Great to have a statue of Mandela, absolutely no problem with that, but it seems a shame to see him right on the SW edge looking a bit like he’s permanently trying to cross the road. And then you have some other characters floating around the outside of the square looking a little bit uncomfortable, like they’ve arrived at a party where they don’t know anyone. But the full list of those in the inner sanctum (the island in the middle of the square) goes something like this, from the NW corner;

As I mentioned before, there are more statues in the square, the most prominent of which are hanging around outside Middlesex Guildhall waiting for the big boys to invite them into their gang, desperate for a bit of attention are Gerorge Canning & Abraham Lincoln, see below for photos.  And that’s it, lot’s of pictures of statues taken on a beautiful sunny day in London as I wandered around like a tit in a trance while the cab is in the garage.  Some more photos from that walk will crop up here soon no doubt.  Careful out there in the heatwave, London is on the point of melting don’t you know……..

I want to be famous enough to have a roundabout named after me

I want to be famous enough to have a roundabout named after me

Some dusty old colonial

Some dusty old colonial


places in wot I ‘ave aboded in that there London….

…..or how I’m desperate to prove that I’m a proper Londoner.  Partly prompted by a “conversation” with Mrs Cabbie over who was the mostest London out of the two of us, which of course I won, I decided to map out where I have lived in our great metropolis.  I will need to revisit that “conversation” with Mrs Cabbie properly at some point, as it brought up some interesting questions about what counts as “proper”.  Is it being born and/or raised in a London postcode?  And do the all parts of the London Boroughs count?  Because you can be in a London Borough, but not have a “London” postcode, just look at parts of Brent, Barking & Dagenham, Redbridge, Richmond and pretty much all of Bexley and Bromley. (and despite not really being London, they are the ones I blame for having Boris the Buffoon as Mayor)  I feel a long post about this subject brewing and I haven’t even mentioned the weighting that should be given over where you were born over where you have lived.  This could get messy.

But back to the main subject for today; places where I have lived in London.  And it seems I’ve covered a fair bit of south London, doing that young persons thing of moving from shared houses to first flat with girlfriend, to finally settling down in SW17.  If you can be bothered to click on the “View larger map” link at the bottom of the map, you’ll get a better view of my pan-London living and be able to see the list of places I’ve lived, to which I may add some photos and words at some point.  Starting in Pimlico, where I was born in Johnson House in 1968, we then went to Beckenham and lived next door to David Bowie before my sojourn in Surrey began, before finally heading back into town from the early 90s onwards.  I’m not going to talk in any more detail now, as I plan to revisit the more exciting places I’ve lived (have I mentioned that I lived next door to David Bowie??) over the coming weeks/months/years.  But for now, I’ll leave you all with (another) may to peruse and, possibly, enjoy.

cabbieTrack (TM) builds the map of my city…

31-Mar-09 to 23-May-09

As the geeks (sorry Blacko) behind cabbieTrack keep processing the data, so the map of London, as guided by my cab, builds nicely.  Click on the images for a larger version and you might be able to follow the bigger white line from the southern part of the map (cabbieTrack gets wider and brighter the more I use a road) you’ll see the route that I take into town 99.9% of the time.  Those of you that know SW London will be able to make out the outline of Clapham Common as I head north, the bend under the railway bridge in Queenstown Road before I head over the river at Chelsea Bridge.  The outline of the river is starting to take shape, and you can also make out some of the major landmarks as well, particularly the parks.  I can immediately see Battersea Park, St James’s Park, Green Park, Hyde Park and Regent’s Park.  The other major blank space in the centre of town is the west side of Soho, proof that unless you absolutely have to, it’s best avoided.  Because of the traffic, of course.  The red marks are where I have stopped, sometimes just at traffic lights but also at the major stations.  You can see concentrated clusters of red around Victoria, St Pancras/King’s Cross and Marylebone.  Off the top of the head the extremes of the map took me too (north) East Finchley, (north-east) Chigwell, (east) Cyprus DLR, (south east) Bromley, (west) Heathrow and (north west) Harrow.

And below, for good measure, is a close up of Hyde Park Corner, proving that it really is the hub of central London.

Hyde Park Corner

the london compendium guide to my week – Day 5

Time flies when you’re having fun don’t ya think?  Well this week has for me, and here we are at the weekend already.  Friday, Day 5, has thrown up a lot more places & stories from TLC and I even made it further east than the West End.  As those of you who’ve been keeping up with my movements this week, you’ll know that I started from Heathrow yesterday, and a jolly good start to the day ot was too;

Heathrow Terminal 3 to Gatwick – nothing to report, apart from the £20 tip.

Elizabeth Street, SW1 to Marney Road, SW11 – nothing to report.

A young Karl Marx. No, really.

A young Karl Marx. No, really.

Harrods to Radisson Grafton Hotel, Tottenham Court Road, W1 – ‘ London’s most prestigious, and Europe’s largest, department store, it’s motto omnia, omnibis, ubique (everything for everyone, everywhere), opened as a small grocry store, run by Henry Harrod in Stepney, in 1835, moved to Eastcheap in the City, and then to Belgravia in 1849.’  Tottenham Court is now best known for it’s ‘intense concentration of hi-fi and computer shops’,  but I prefer Ed’s anecdote’s about Karl Marx a lot more; ‘Karl Marx, walking along Tottenham Court Road one day in the 1850s, attempted to solve a row between two people after hearing a woman crying out "Murder! Murder!".  He waded through the crowd to find a drunken woman arguing noisily with her husband, but the sound of his German accent caused the protagonists to turn on him as an interfering foreigner.  Marx and a German companion later took a pub crawl along the road, visiting the Rising Sun at No 46, the Roebuck (No. 108) and the Northumberland Arms (No. 119), after which they ran down the street throwing stones and smashing a street lamp with several policemen giving chase.’  Who said socialist types are no fun?

Tottenham Court Road, W1 to Gerrard Road, N1 – hailed about 50 yards from the previous drop off (very rare these days).  When Marx wasn’t rampaging through the streets, Tottenham Court Road was originally well known for it’s links to the furniture trade.  Which explains why Heal’s is there. ‘…founded by John Harris Heal in 1810 at Rathbone Place, Heal’s moved to TCR in 1940 and through the work of Ambrose Heal, one of John’s sons, played a leading role in the development of the Arts & Crafts movement in England.  The rebuilt store, the work of Smith and Brewer in 1916, alarmed the leading modernist architect Le Corbusier who said: "The existing plan of the dwelling…is conceived as a furniture store.  This scheme of things, favourable enough to the trade of Tottenham Court Road, is of ill omen to society"’.  Blimey mate, it’s only a building.

Farringdon Street, EC4, Cannon St, EC3 – Between Fleet Lane and Ludgate Hill was Fleet Prison, ‘The first purpose built prison in London, the Fleet was opened here in c. 1170 on what was then a small island in the Fleet River that flooded when it rained and was used mostly for debtors, who were obliged to pay for the irons that shackled them.  The money raised went to the Keeper, who, according to hereditary principle, was always a member of the Leveland family, and abuse of the system was common, with some prisoners going missing for several days at a time, if bothering to return at all.’  At No. 111 is the London Stone mentioned in William Blake’s Jerusalem, but possibly the most disappointing thing to look out in the whole of London.  But I’ll let Ed talk it up a bit for you; ‘London Stone, a block of Clipsham limestone embodied in the wall of 111 Canon Street, and previously in the wall of St Swithin’s church on the same site, may have been a Roman milestone for all British distances, the sacred pagan centre of the town, or even the ancient stone from which King Arthur pulled Excalibur’.  Whatever it was, nothing can quite prepare you for how rubbish it looks.

Crowne Plaza Hotel, Kingscote Street, EC4 to LSE, Houghton Street, WC2 – ‘Henry Hunt Hutchison, a Fabian socialist who committed suicide in 1894, left instructions in his will for Sidney Webb and other trustees of his estate to establish an institution "to promote the study and advancement of Economics or Political Economy, Political Science or Political Philosophy, Statistics, Sociology, History, Geography and any subject cognate to any of these".  The college was founded later the following year at 9 John Street, south of the Strand, moving here in 1902…..’

st-pancras-ii24 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2 to St Pancras Station, N1 – ‘Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London’s largest square, was used in medieval times for sports and jousting and was where in September 1586 the fourteen Babington Plotters who had planned to murder Elizabeth I and install Mary Queen of Scots on the throne, were hanged drawn and quartered’.  When it comes to St Pancras station, let’s finally clarify one thing first.  The bit you seen at the front facing out onto the Euston Road, is not the station itself, it’s the Midland Grand Hotel, finally being refurbished and scene of THAT video by The Spice Girls.  I’ll let Ed clarify this further; ‘St Pancras’ enormous iron and glass roof, spanning 240ft, stood alone until 1873 (my note, having been built itself in 1867), when it was joined by George Gilbert Scott’s extravagant red-brick Midland Grand Hotel, a riot of catallated fringes, dormers, pointed arch windows and steeply pitched roofs, which incorporated 250 bedrooms and all the latest facilities – gaoilers, electric bells, lifts and rubber surfaces in the roadways to deaden night-time sounds’.  I was once told that Scott’s design had originally been submitted as plans the new Houses of Parliament but having failed to win that contest, was then used for the Midland Hotel.  This story may not be far from the truth, as Ed quotes Scott thus; "that it is possibly too good for it’s purpose, but having been disappointed of my ardent hope of carrying out my style in the government offices (the Foreign Office), I was glad to be able to erect one building in that style in London".

St Pancras Station to Henriques Street, E1 – I won’t push your tolerance for St Pancras Station related stories, so am moving staight on to Henriques Street, location of the 4th Jack the Ripper murder. ‘On 30 September 1888 Elizabeth Sride, a Swedish woman, was found with her throat cut and the blood still pouring out in the entrance to Duffields’s Yard by No. 40, a spot where prostitutes regularly took their clients.’  As part of the Knowledge, some of the examiners would ask you for the locations of all 5 murders and to this day I can still tell you that the other 4 were committed in the following locations; Mitre Square, Hanbury Street, Whites Row & Durward Street.  Someone will probably tell me I’m wrong and that there were more than 5 murders blah, blah, blah…..

rooooarr, I'm a tiger!

rooooarr, I'm a tiger!

Commercial Road, E1 to Smiths of Smithfield, Charterhouse Street, EC1 – ‘ In 1875 a tiger which had escaped from Jamrach’s the exotic animal shop on Ratcliffe Highway, made it’s way along Commercial Road where it picked up a small boy by the collar and made off with him, doubtless with lunch in mind.  The sight of the tiger, with attendant unwilling child, walking along the road caused much alarm, and led to one passer-by to fetch a crowbar, but in trying to prise the child from the beast’s jaws the man struck the boy a fatal blow’.  Oops.  And, I’ve just discovered, the tiger in question is the one commemerated in this statue at silly old Tobacco Dock.  Charterhouse Street is, of course, the site for Smithfield Market; ‘The market for which the area is best known has stood here since 1174 and was originally a live cattle market, slaughtering and leather tanning not being tolerated in the centre of the City.  Until 1855 trade climaxed on the Monday before Christmas when some 30,000 animals where crammed into the market prior to mass slaughtering, the ground "covered nearly ankle deep with filth and mire; a thick steam perpetually rising from the reeking bodies of the cattle", as Charles Dickens explained in Oliver Twist.’

New Bridge Street, EC4 to Paddington Station, W2 – I don’t know, those Victorians and their grand plans, first we had a Channel tunnel, now this; ‘…..originally a simple wooden building north of Bishop’s Bridge Road and was rebuilt in the 1840s by Matthew Wyatt and Isambard Kingdom Brunel.  Paddington was part of Brunel’s grand vision of a route from London to New York via Bristol, where people would board his liner, the Great Western, and journey across the Atlantic in fifteen days’.  You certainly can’t accuse the Victorians of having no ambition can you?

Bishop’s Bridge Road, W2 to Charing Cross Station, WC2 – Another where the front is really a hotel and masks the station proper behind. ‘At the front is the Charing Cross Hotel, built to entice travellers taking the boat train to stay in the station the night before.  Facing the hotel is A.S. Barry’s Eleanor’s Cross, often mistakenly described as Charing Cross, a replacement of the cross that Edward I erected nearby in 1293 to mark the funeral route of his queen, Elanor of Castile, which was pulled down in 1647 by the Long Parliament’.  The site of Charing Cross, the point from which all distances to and from London are measured, is a bit further west I believe.

Aldwych, WC2 – The River Cafe, Rainville Road, SW6 – ‘The street, which takes the form of a crescent at the southern end of Kingsway, dates back only as far as 1905, but the name is considerably older, Via de Aldewych being the name by which Drury Lane was known in 1398 when the surrounding area was called Aldwic, "the old settlement".  When Aldwych was built a number of small streets in what was the densely packed Clare Market area, as well as a number of theatres, including the Gaiety and the Opera Comique, the first home of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, were demolished’.

Fulham Palace Road, SW6 to Winchester Street, SW1 – nothing to report, and the end of my working week.  Light off and quickly back over Chelsea Bridge to the sanctuary of South London.

And that, London fact lovers, is that.  A hugely enjoyable exercise for me and certainly one that I may revisit in the future, but not for a whole week.  Hope it helped with your London learning……

yesterday, I went to the zoo and saw……

……meerkats, otters, lemurs, loris’, jumping rats, bearded pigs, prairie dogs, warthogs, giraffes, zebras, okapi, african hunting dogs, tapir, gorrillas, snakes, servals, red water hogs, monkeys, red panda, anteaters, lions, parrots, lizards, penguins, pelicans, sheeps, goats, fruit bats, seahorse, various fish, a peacok and probably a few more I’ve missed out.  But I liked the giraffes best, there is something very calming and regal about them, I could have just sat and watched them for hours.  And here are the photos I took of them (plus one of those weird old Okapi);

the london compendium guide to my week – Day 4

This post is brought to you live & direct from my Office at the Feeder Park; here are a couple of photos so you can get a proper of idea of my working conditions.

officeoffice II

Yesterday was a slightly strange one, what with FJOTD taking me, more or less, back past my own front door, and then not getting further east than Euston station for the whole shift.  A nice tour of west London turned an average working day it quite a good one.  Jobs to Twickenham, Chiswick, Acton and then a final one from Hammersmith to Clapham Junction was just the icing on a delicious West London flavoured cake.  Here’s the day in full;

Balham Hill, SW12 to Tynemouth Road, CR4 – weird to get this kind of job and TLC doesn’t go anywhere near this area, but it did allow me to get this next job on account;

Arthur Road, SW19 to Queen Street, W1 – unfortunately, neither are mentioned in TLC.

Fitzmaurice Place, W1 to Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, W8 – ‘it is named after the Kensington Gore Mansion, built in 1750, which was occupied from 1808 to 1821 by the slavery abolitionist William Wilberforce.  Bought in 1836 by Lady Blessington, it was where she established a literary salon that was visited by Benjamin Disraeli, Louis Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington, who was amused by the houses’s talking crow’s shrieks of “Up boys and at ’em”.  The house was converted to a restaurant for the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park and demolished in the 1870s.’  What Ed doesn’t tell us is that restaurant was opened by one Alexis Soyer, the Gordon Ramsay of his day, and whose book of his life – Relish; The Extraordinary Life of Alexis Soyer I can heartily recommend.

Princes Gate Court, SW7 to Nottingham Place, W1 – nothing to report.

Marylebone Station, NW1 to Eamont Street, NW8 – Forgive me this slight cheat, but having given you the full entry for Melcombe Place & Marylebone Station already, I’m going to pop just round the corner for today’s entry – Balcombe Street, NW1. ‘Four IRA gunmen took hostage the elderly couple who lived at 22B on 6 December 1975, after police had chased them here from Scott’s restaurant in Mayfair. The gunmen barricaded the occupants into the living room and phoned the police to demand a car to take them to the airport so that they could escape to Ireland, but Robert Mark, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, stated on air that the only place the hostage takers would be going was Brixton Prison and after a week the men surrendered.  They were later found guilty of bombing two pubs and were given lengthy prison sentences.’  London in the 1970s, much more exciting wasn’t it?

bruce reynolds

Bruce Reynolds

Euston Station, NW1 to Coptic Street, WC1 – I’ll leave Ed’s comments on what he calls the ‘pure vandalism’ of demolishing the original station and content myself today with this little gem – ‘In 1963 the Great Train Robbers Gordon Goody and Bruce Reynolds, worried that the driver of the train they planned to rob might not co-operate, decided to steal a train so they could practise driving it.  They waited at Euston until midnight, boarded an engine standing in a siding, and after several attempts managed to whirr it into motion.  But finding the locomotive not as easy to stop as to start, they jumped off, leaving it to continue down the track unmanned.’

Berkeley Square, W1 to North End Road, W14 – And so began my journey to all points west from, possibly, London’s grandest square, where ‘Horace Walpole, the novelist and gothic revivalist, moved into No. 11 in 1747 and was so taken with the view that he compared the statue of George III to the work of Athenian Phidias, something of which he would have been barely aware, having failed to reach Greece on his Grand Tour.  A later tenant, the Earl of Orford. staked his house on a game of cards at Almack’s in 1770 and lost.’  Silly man.

Olympia, W14 to Twickenham High Street – Opened as the National Agricultural Hall in 1884 and best known as home of the Ideal Home Exhibition, Olympia has also been used for other purposes; ‘On 8 June 1934 the British Union of Fascists held their first ever major rally at Olympia, an event they hoped would be attended by middle-class voters as well as the usual working-class foot soldiers who mostly made up their attendance figures.  There were also 2,000 opponents, who had spread out inside the hall and were heckling party leader Oswald Mosley, and many of them were beaten up by BUF supporters.  Two protesters then climbed a gantry and began walking along a narrow ledge high above the auditorium while the crowd below held it’s breath.  The following day, a furore in the newspapers and the House of Commons led members of the establishment who had previously been receptive to Mosley, such as Lord Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail, to withdraw their backing.’

Then I disapeared into the depths of West London, barely pausing for breath, only to find on my return that none of the following places are mentioned in TLC;

Thames Road, W4 to St Alban’s Avenue, W4

Chiswick High Road, W4 to St Elmo Road, W12

Dalling Road, W6 to St John’s Hill, SW11 & Mallison Road, SW11

And so, my friends, only one day of TLC keeping me company while I work.  Hopefully I’ll be busy, might even make it a bit further east, and end up with plenty to talk about tomorrow.

the london compendium guide to my week – Day 3

Heywood Hill - No. 10 Curzon Street, W1

Heywood Hill - No. 10 Curzon Street, W1

Another short shift, this time planned due to a very important breakfast appointment in Mitcham that stretched out until lunch time.  But the few jobs I did get round to doing had a much better hit rate in TLC.  Seat belts on, here we go again;

Victoria Station to Wright’s Lane, W8 – nothing to report.

Kensington Road, W8 to South Kensington Station, SW7 – Dropped this punter in Harrington Road, so can tell you that No. 50 housed the Russian Tea Rooms, ‘that soon became the meeting place of the extreme nationalist Right Club, an organization run by Captain Archibald Ramsay, MP for Peebles.  It’s aim was to “oppose and expose the activities of organised Jewry”, for Ramsay believed Jews responsible for communism, capitalism, the Masons and the Vatican.’  Sounds a right charmer doesn’t he?

Brompton Road, SW7 to Spring Street, W2 – At the risk of making this whole series of history snippets about Soviet Spies, I bring you this from Ed’s comments about The London Oratory of St Philip Neri, London’s first large Catholic Church built after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 – ‘During the 1980s the KGB had a dead letter box (a safe place where they could leave secret documents & messages) in a recess behind a column by the altar.’  Those spies where everywhere weren’t they?  Blimey.

Marylebone Station to St Swithin’s Lane, EC4 – Marylebone has always struck me as the poor relation of London train termini and this partly explains it; ‘Marylebone opened in 1899, having been funded by Sir Edward William Watkin, a Manchester cotton magnate who was chairman of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway and the Metropolitan Railiway underground line, and saw Marylebone not as a terminus, but as a stop on a line running from the north of England to France via a Channel tunnel.  Watkin’s grand scheme was curtailed when he suffered a stroke in 1894, and with funds running low the railway company was unable to afford an architect to design the station, which opened with only 4 platforms.’  Those Victorians and their grand plans eh?  A Channel tunnel indeed, how ridiculous.

Salisbury Square, EC4 to Half Moon Lane, SE24 – nothing to report.

Pont Street, SW3 to Stratton Street, W1 – ‘Named after a bridge over the now culverted Westbourne River, Pont Street was developed from 1805, with gabled red brick houses that were derided by the upper classes but sought after by those with social aspirations and were later given the name “Pont Street Dutch” by the cartoonist Osbert Lancaster, a term that came into general use to describe similar properties everywhere.’

Curzon Street, W1 to Sheffield Terrace, W8 – 2nd mention this week for Curzon Street, so today you get to find out that at No.10 is Heywood Hill, Ed can tell you the rest; “The novelist Evelyn Waugh claimed that this long-running bookshop was ‘a centre for all that was left of fashionable and intellectual London” during the Second World War, when the author Nancy Mitford worked as an assistant and customers included the society diarist Chips Channon and the designer Cecil Beaton.  Heywood Hill still retains its period charm, using hand written bills and selling books wrapped as parcels.’

Berkeley Square, W1 to Radipole Road, SW6 – I could bore you with what pain in the arse these punters were and how they wanted “a couple of blank receipts please mate” after giving me 20p tip, but that would be going off topic wouldn’t it?  Back to Berkeley Square then, and at No. 13 the Albemarle Club; ‘Oscar Wilde’s descent into public disgrace began at the Albemarle Club in February 1895, the day before the opening of his play The Importance of Being Ernest, when the Marquess of Queensberry, father of Lord Alfred Douglas, with whom Wilde was having an affair, left at the club a note which read: “To Oscar Wilde Posing Somdomite (sic)”.  Wilde issued libel proceedings and the peer was arrested for “unlawfully and maliciously publishing a certain defamatory libel.”  But when Wilde failed to win the case he was prosecuted for gross indecency – in effect sodomy, as opposed to somdomy – and sent to jail.  The club moved to 37 Dover Street in 1909 and the basement of No. 13 then became one of London’s first nightclubs, Uncle’s, designed as an American speakeasy with “hard liquor” served in paper cups.’

And there you have my short day in all it’s, er, glory.  I need some more jobs in the City, this is a bit West End & West London centric so far, wouldn’t you say?