you can never have enough statues….

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

Notes

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

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Useless London #3 – The Tower, Colliers Wood

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H TOW R - sums it up really

Originally called The Lyon Tower but known throughout my childhood as the Brown & Root Building, this monstrosity is now known simply as THE TOWER.  A slightly menacing name for what can only be described as a menacing presence on what is soon to be called Colliers Wood Island, but in reality is a crap one way system.  On a couple of occasions over recent years, Mrs Cabbie has seriously suggested we move to Colliers Wood, one stop south of my beloved Tooting Broadway on the northern line.  But really, why would you want to?  At the risk of adding Colliers Wood residents to the legions of Ronan Keating fans that already hate me, why on earth would I want to move just down the road to end up in the shadow of that thing?  Many of you may have seen it on the Channel 4 programme Demolition or the feature on BBC London News where THE TOWER got voted London’s most hated building.  And in a survey by the local borough, Merton, 86% of residents described it as the worst thing about living in Colliers Wood – quite what was worse for the other 14% doesn’t bear thinking about, but I think I’m on safe ground having a bit of a dig at THE TOWER.

the-tower-iii1A bit like St Pancras Station, but for completely opposite reasons, I’d avoided talking about this place as it is so obviously crap and didn’t seem to need my help to advertise that crapness.  But after Mrs Cabbie inadvertently locked out the whole Cabbie Family yesterday, we went for our planned bike ride along the Wandle to meet our saviour, aka father-in-law Cabbie, at Colliers Wood Station to get a spare set of keys.  And there it was in all it’s glorious crapness on a slightly chilly, slightly damp bank holiday Monday.  What self respecting blogger could ignore it’s inverse charms?  And so here it is in all it’s, er, glory.

If any of you have clicked the link above that takes you to the Colliers Wood Island development website, you will see that plans are afoot for this building.  I just don’t hold out a great deal of hope that it will ever quite happen.  This is one of those sites in London that will be forever blighted, my mood of pessimism not being helped by learning that The Lyon Tower when first built had to be knocked down after it got 3 storeys high because of a design flaw.  Just a shame they bothered building it properly again at all really.

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useless london #2 – Tobacco Dock

Following my visit on Monday morning, I’m still feeling slightly depressed. If you include me, the site manager, cleaner, statue of bear and the statue of tiger and boy, you still can’t reach double figures for visitors. There is only one shop that isn’t completely empty – Frank & Steins sandwich shop – but even that seems to have ceased trading. The extremely clean toilets are a sign of the suspended animation that Tobacco Dock (TD) finds itself in. Absolute radio is piped through the excellent tannoy system, but for who to listen to? Howard Jones’ “What is Love?” setting just about the right, slightly downbeat, tone. On the surface, life appears to carry on here as though it was still the bustling shopping centre it had briefly been. TD is waiting for something, or someone, to come and rescue it, like a billionaire freezing himself until science can bring him back to life.

I’m sure, some time in the late 1980’s, I visited this place in it’s “heyday”. There was Next, the Body Shop and Monsoon representing the thrusting new 80’s vision of retail perfection. But on Monday morning that seemed to be nothing more than a dream of a previous me, in a previous, more optimistic life. With no firm plans in the pipeline, the immediate future for TD cannot be good. It’s owners have spoken about redevelopment for a few years now, but nothing concrete has been put in place. And who, in the current climate, is going to pump money into a site that seems to define the term white elephant? And I haven’t even mentioned the faux pirate ship that is, well, just rubbish. It has turnstiles built into the side of the ship to control entry, more than a trifle optimistic me thinks. It’s a shame as Wapping is such an interesting area, excellent pubs on Wapping High St, and more history than you can shake a stick at. Even my Flickr photos show that the surroundings of TD are not all bad. The path that runs along the dock, the imposing TD gates, both have a certain appeal, but until something is done to TD itself, there is no reason to go there. None at all. But I’m going to leave it to Howard Jones to leave us on a more upbeat note – from “Like To Get To Know You Well”;

People wanna talk about the future
Don’t wanna linger on the past
Just wanna reach to the real you inside
Forget cold glances and rejections
Leave the things that separate
Build on a trust that we can stand on

So, Tobacco Dock, forget those cold glances and rejections, and build on that trust. A golden future may still be just around the corner. It’s probably a very big corner though.

Southwark Bridge

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So there it is, looking quite dashing and desperately trying to look busy and important.  But before I go on to slate SB (sorry, can’t be ‘arrised to type Southwark Bridge forever, SB will do.) here’s a bit of ‘istoree (as our delightful Scouse friends would put it) on London’s Bridges in an effort to explain SB’s sad plight.

History

Until 1750 London really only existed north of the Thames, with only the areas around the southern end of London Bridge in any way developed.  After years of planning and prevarication, Westminster Bridge became the 2nd bridge to span the Thames (within the environs of London at the time) in 1750 and Blackfriars Bridge 19 years later.  As a small aside, and relevant to my occupation, resentful watermen were paid £25,000 as compensation for the impact the bridge would have on their trade.  These forerunners to London cabbies were well know for their “colourful” language and were fiercely protective of their trade.  Ring any bells? These bridges and the subsequent road developments that linked them to Southwark paved the way for the remarkable expansion of London in the 100 years from 1750.  To illustrate this growth in a way that I could never get across on paper, have a look at these excellent online maps from MOTCO; 1746 shows just how small in area London was at that time, 1862 shows the expansion of the city aided by the railway bonanza of the 1840’s.  But I digress slightly, so here’s the rest of the stuff about bridges.  Westminster & Blackfriars had both been huge successes and this success convinced others to follow suit in the early 19th century.  It took 2 new acts of Parliament to clear the way for these bridges to be erected and Vauxhall Bridge (originally called the Regent Bridge) was first up in 1916.  Waterloo followed in 1817 (originally called the Strand Bridge but finally named after the battle that took place during its construction) with SB trailing behind in 1819.  Being the last of the three erected it could, literally, have been a bridge too far.  Sorry, very lame.  At it’s conception the developers bottled out of clearing the area south of the river known as The Mint.  A notorious area, know for its poverty and crime, it was named after it’s historical industry.  Southwark Bridge Road, built as part of the bridge development, took a westerly detour at its southern end to avoid The Mint; the bend in the road still exists today.    Squeezed between Blackfriars and London Bridges, SB was always likely to struggle in its attempts to justify its existence.  This wasn’t helped by the fact that SB was a toll bridge.  With thousands of commuters arriving at the southern railway termini every day, they naturally headed for the free bridges, leaving SB quiet and not a little redundant.  The City of London eventually bought the bridge in the later 19th century and removed the toll, thus helping to revive it’s fortunes and self esteem.  But the seeds for it’s slow demise had already been sown.

Present & Future

All in all then, SB has had a chequred past and perhaps I should show it a bit of sympathy.  But it’s useless.  It is defunct.  It is a deceased bridge.  It doesn’t go anywhere I need to travel too.  Driving around town for umpteen hours a week, you’d think I’d be popping back and forth over Southwark Bridge all the time.  But no, I’m not sure I can even remember the last time I drove over it.  The final nail in the coffin was probably the blocking off at Queen St Place as part of the City’s Ring of Steel, so that when traveling north over the bridge you get forced east or west only.  Back in the summer it was closed for the weekend as part of the Thames Festival, and was turned into an excellent pedestrianised food haven.  There were no massive tailbacks, no legions of motorists complaining, and no-one noticed.  Nobody cared.  In 2019, Southwark Bridge will be celebrate it’s 200th birthday, perhaps that will be the time to say thanks for the memories but it’s time to close your doors to traffic?  Let’s go back to the Old London Bridge principle and build some key worker houses on it, or maybe take the food theme further and get Gordon Ramsay to put a restaurant on it.  Failing that, Boris has shown some flair for “out of the box thinking” (brand new airport in the Thames Estuary?) maybe he could come up with a suitable scheme.  Heliport on the doorstep of the City anyone??