Ha! I’ve tried to avoid politics for a while, but sometimes you just can’t avoid it. No sooner have I rejoined the Labour Party to try & help that nice Sadiq Khan stay as my MP, than I’m seeing politics everywhere. There I was minding my own business in N16 having dropped off a very nice lady in Foulden Road (a rare and exciting event in itself), and as I cruised down Stoke Newington Road I couldn’t help noticing the poster(s) you now see in the picture to your left. And I had to stop and take a picture. Well, when I say stop, I actually mean I did a u-turn to annoy local drivers, then another one just in case I hadn’t annoyed enough of them and then got quite a few strange looks from the people at the bus stop while I took a couple of photos. Well I knew that some of you would enjoy the poster, whatever your political allegiance, and I pride myself in having the common touch with these things. See what I’m doing here, I’m going all electionspeak on you. Much as it might annoy some of you, it’s going to be pretty difficult to avoid this whole election thing for the next month or so, so in amongst the “you’ll never guess who I had in my cab posts”, I’m warning you now, you’ll also be getting some stuff about the election. I’m not going to talk about what I believe in, thats not for this blog, but I think it would be remiss of me not to bring things like this to your attention. I hope you agree.
As a cab driver well, as this cab driver anyway, you start off each day wondering quite what your day will have in store for you. On particularly anxious days, you might wonder if there will be any work at all. Perhaps London has suffered a 28 Days Later style exodus or that people have just suddenly stopped taking cabs altogether. You might start your day with a few displacement activities, dressed up as essential pre-work tasks; fill up with diesel, have a large Americano from Cafe Nero, that kind of thing. But at some point you have to point the cab in the direction of town and wonder at which point you will get that FJOTD (First Job Of The Day) and quite where the Taxi Gods are going to send you today. Will that first hand up be a flyer? Or will it be Clapham Junction to West London Magistrates Court? Luck plays a big part of course, but I am a great believer in Cabbie Karma and that if you do the little ‘uns, the good ones will eventually come your way. And with all that in mind, I decided to fully record the jobs I did one day last week from FJOTD to LJOTD, to try and give myself (and indirectly you folks) a better understanding of the kind of flow you can get into and a little insight into the people that come into my life every day. So on this particular day, having travelled in from deepest SW17 with no sign of a job (pretty typical these days) I was north of the river heading for Sloane Sq before;
- FJOTD – Lower Sloane Street to Seymour Walk, SW10 (1.7 miles). Easy first job, no worry about route, just a quick check exactly where Seymour Walk is. Then a slightly tricky reversing manoeuvre passed an Ocado van and I was back on Fulham Road heading east and not long before;
- Fulham Road (junction with Cranley Gardens) to Saatchi Gallery (1.5 miles, but only coz Kings Road was solid and I went Oakley Street and around the back) . Man and his 2 sons were standing at a bus stop, so I had that moment when you aren’t sure if they are trying to stop you or the bus behind you, but in they got and off to the Saatchi Gallery for a bit of culture and lunch.
- Sloane Street to Kensington Church Street (2.3 miles via Harvey Nichols and a close encounter with 2 fire engines). Nice Italian man wants to go to an antique shop but first must “rescue” his wife from Harvey Nichols. Which all sounds easy enough, but when 2 fire engines suddenly appear on the scene, the already slow traffic at the north end of Sloane Street becomes stationary and rescue of wife is a little more tricky than than expected. But eventually we find her and they are safely delivered to the north end of Kensington High St. And before they get out a man in a rush appears at the window to go from….
- Kensington Church Street to Kensington Court (0.7 miles). Now some of you may be asking why this gentleman would make such a short journey. He was middle aged, seemed capable of walking his own way there if needs be and wasn’t a mentalist. Turns out his office had a power cut and he was going to a mates office to send an urgent fax. Fax?? Do people still send fax’s? So a quick u-turn and a right out of Kensington Court and it’s nearly all the way down to Hyde Park Corner before the next hand goes up…
- Knightsbridge (west of the Mandarin Oriental) to Piccadilly (junction of St Jamess’ Street) (0.9 miles). No idea why this gent needed my services, as he got out before his stated destination (Fortnum & Mason’s) and walked off towards Mayfair. But if enough shorts jobs come along one after the other, who cares?
- Selfridges (Duke St rank) to Euston (1.6 miles). So no joy in St Jamess’ or Mayfair before finally settling on the rank at the side of Selfridges that, if you can squeeze onto it (only room for 3 cabs), is always good for work during opening hours. Didn’t have to wait too long until 2 ladies what lunch emerged needing to get to Euston. What with their scouse accents and too tight facelifts it was quite difficult to understand where they were headed but after an initial furrowed brow from yours truly, Euston it was.
- Euston to Hallam Street (1.0 miles). There’s a pattern emerging here isn’t there? Only one job so far over 2 miles & that wasn’t exactly a roader. But this man was late for a meeting, was extremely nice and gave a decent tip. My patience was being tested, but not too badly.
- King’s Cross Station to Highbury Grove (3.1 miles). Ooh, based on my previous jobs, heading to King’s Cross paid off. A job over 3 miles and into double figures £ wise, things are looking up.
- Selfridges (Duke St rank) to South Quay Station, E14 (8.8 miles). As I said, things were looking up. No job between Highbury Grove and getting back to Selfridges, but I had stopped for a coffee and to stretch my legs. And after a 10 minute wait at Selfridges 2 young Japanese ladies ask for South Quay. Just about able to not spill my coffee all over myself in the excitement, I check that they mean South Quay on the Isle of Dogs, and off we go.
- Bank Street rank, E14 to West Hampstead (12.0 miles). Now Canary Wharf is a funny place all in all, in general as well as for cabbies. Once a goldmine (especially if you were on a radio circuit) the work that you get “on the wharf” (or “on the Island”) is a real mixed bag. And generally a pretty cruddy kind of bag and many drivers won’t even bother stopping there and just head straight back to the City. But, in my experience anyway, as the City isn’t a lot better these days, so I tend to stay on the Island even if it’s just to make use of the facilities and a have a break. So I got on the rank at Bank St (when I tell you it’s opposite the old Leman Brothers building, you might get the irony of that) and patiently waited my turn. Lot’s of people approached the rank with a variety of freight (luggage/bags) which almost certainly means a City Airport (alright job but wrong way) or if the “freight” is a Waitrose or M&S carrier bag they almost certainly are a “local” down the Westferry Road. So on point, I have 2 people approaching the rank, one with “freight”, one without. The chap without gets to me first and asks if I’d mind taking him to West Hampstead. Luckily my coffee was long gone by this point as I may well have choked on it. But my decision to stay put and not wait too much diesel looking for that next job paid off big time, and within an hour (and a visit to cashpoint) I was heading back towards town with a spring in my step.
- West Hampstead to Springfield Lane (1.2 miles). Nice to see a hand go out so quickly after dropping someone off. Not so good when after your punter says Springfield Lane Kilburn, you head off in completely the wrong direction, then manage to go speeding past the turning he is telling you to turn left into. Still, he seemed happy enough.
- Maida Vale to Fellows Road, NW3 (2.2 miles). Another short hop before another hand goes up, this time just down Maida Vale towards the junction with St John’s Wood Road. Bit of a rude bugger, clearly running very late for something or other, but it’s only a short journey to the Chalk Farm end of Fellows Road, and I’m off again hunting for a job, hoping to keep my good run going.
- Chalk Farm Road to Praed Street (4.1 miles). And my good run did keep going. Couple that had clearly had a long day shopping (and arguing) desperate to take the weight off their feet and get back to their hotel in Paddington. So from a slow start my day was getting better & better.
- Paddington Station to Crowne Plaza Shoreditch (5.4 miles). Bit of a queue of cabs on the bridge at Paddington, but all seemed to be moving so I joined the back and was soon picking up a couple of Japanese businessmen going to Shoreditch. Nice job, easy route down Marylebone /Euston Road etc.. and over “the hump” to Shoreditch High Street. A continuation of what is turning into a really great run of jobs.
- Liverpool Street Station to Crowne Plaza Shoreditch (0.7 miles). What are the chances of that, eh? Straight back to the Crowne Plaza and back to the local jobs. But I’d seen a man on the other side of Shoreditch High Street be ignored by all the cabs heading south & he was still there when I’d dropped off. So I turned round for him and off we went again…..
- Shoreditch High Street to Southgate Road (1.7 miles). Nice chap and slightly narked by all the cabs that had ignored him before I turned up. But no wait between jobs is fine by me and it made the previous job seem a bit better. By now it’s about 8:30pm and we are heading for the quiet time between 9 & 10 and I get all the way back to Mayfair with no sign of a job. So I had to the new discovery (for Tweeting cabbies anyway) of the rank at Quaglino’s.
- Quaglino’s to Goring Hotel (1.2 miles). Not a great job, but didn’t have to wait to long and then completely transformed by events at the other end of the journey.
- LJOTD – Goring Hotel to Hilton Heathrow (T4) (16.1 miles). Not normally a place I ever pick up The Goring unless, like on this occasion, you have a group of people milling about looking for cabs and the doorman getting himself in a right state trying to sort them out. A cab in front is filling up and then 3 men come to me with one getting in the back. “Heathrow OK driver?” in a thick German accent. “No problem” of couse, but then another man is at the window asking how much it will be, will I do a FP so that he can pay for his colleague up front? Quickly deciding that this will be a great LJOTD and wanting to make sure I don’t lose the job I agree a price of £50 and the man duly pays up front and get’s a couple of blank receipts for his trouble.
And so ended my day, a day that can truly be described as a day of two halves. The early, daytime, local jobs gradually building up into better and better jobs and finishing in grandstand style with a flyer. Job done.
So, having broken through the blogging dam that had built up for 3 months & realised that there is nothing to stop me penning the odd post from my iPhone, here I am waiting for the next Eurostar train. Attached is a picture of the industrial wasteland around Kings Cross looking rather nice, amazing what a bit of sunshine can do, eh?
Anyway, rank is moving and I get closer to that plum job that awaits me a hundred yards or so away. Or Premier Inn Kings Cross, Argyll Sq or other suitably frustrating destination……here we go….
I wrote these words some time ago, there was even talk of them being published in Time Out’s Big Smoke section with a few well framed photos (not mine I should add). But events conspired against both me and Big Smoke and I’d sort of forgotten about the words I’d already written. I’ve also found a timeline I kept of my progress through the feeder park one morning, but I’ll inflict that on you another time. But for now here are my own photos from the feeder park to accompany those words. Me hope you like.
Next time you get a black cab from Heathrow and your driver has a slightly haunted look on his face, heightened if he hears the dreaded phrase “Renaissance Hotel please”, please do try and have a bit of sympathy for him. He’s probably just spent several hours waiting to get to the front of the queue of cabs that patiently wait their turn in the Heathrow Feeder Park, and he’s paid £5.50 for the privilege. I’m not a ‘face’ at the Feeder Park, but I’ve been there enough over the last few years to understand the strange allure it can have for a cab driver and equally understand why, sometimes, drivers get frustrated at getting a bit of a rubbish fare when eventually they get to the terminal. That’s not excusing some of the stories of drivers abusing punters but I hope that by giving you all a view of the other world that is the Heathrow Feeder Park, you might all understand what makes us cabbies tick a little bit better.
The Feeder Park occupies quite a large space on the Northern Perimeter Road, just a bit further east from the aforementioned Renaissance Hotel. From the satellite view you can clearly see the lines of cabs in the main section (to the south) and the overflow section slightly to the north. The whole place is like a dysfunctional Village, where the houses are the cabs, the Cab-In (where all the admin is done) the police station and the canteen the community hall. The mechanics of the Feeder Park are fairly straightforward. You get an electronic card & tag that debits your account each time you use the park, you join a line of cabs, either in the overflow car park or the main car park, and then wait your turn to get allocated a terminal to pick up from. Depending on demand at the terminals, this can be anything from half and hour to 4 hours! You do get to claw back £2.00 of the feeder park fee from the punter, and if you get a ‘local’ job you have an hour to get back to any terminal you choose without having to go through the Feeder Park again. But it’s a bit of a lottery as to what sort of job you’ll get and if all the waiting will be worthwhile.
I waited over a month (curses to that new fangled Heathrow Express) after getting my badge to catch my first Flyer (job to the airport) and immediately headed for the infamous feeder park. After signing up for my tag and getting a cup of tea, proper strong tea from a big metal urn you understand, I was told by an old boy that working out of the airport was “like heroin”. Slightly perturbed that my new profession would turn me into a junkie, I’ve since come to understand precisely what he meant. On a high from the previous days Canary Wharf via Brighton & Tunbridge Wells? Next day you pay for your fix and end up with a Renaissance Hotel, followed by a Brunel University and the traffic is against you in your race to be back at a terminal within the hour. Not being an addictive personality, I can take the feeder park or leave it, but I also completely understand how it might actually turn some cabbies onto hard drugs.
It’s a not every day you can paraphrase Duncan Norvelle is it? But when you run your own blog there are times when you just want to stick two fingers up to the world, and there’s no better way of doing that than invoking a bit of Norvelle.
Those of you that do follow me on Twitter should have seen on Friday that there were more than one mentions in my stream of @tweetalondoncab, which I’ve helped @londontaximan take from his original idea to reality and a launch of the service on Friday. The full details of what tweetalondoncab is all about are here if you click, needless to say it sort of does what it says; send a tweet to book a cab. It’s very early days, and we have only completed a couple of jobs using the service, but we’ve proved it can work and once we make more people aware of what it’s all about we can start getting some regular users. I was at Tuttle when we launched tweetalondoncab, a sort of drop-in centre for roaming social media types, and ended up having some really interesting chats about the potential of an idea like tweetalondoncab. Initially viewed by us, the cabbies, as a one way service where people just send a request that we respond to, the brains at Tuttle quickly saw the greater potential that could happen here. (WARNING; to those not disposed to Twitter, look away now) Rather than it being a one way service, how about if all the people that follow @tweetalondoncab looked out for any requests that might get them home? So if someone in a bar in Mayfair requests a booking for 11pm to go to Tooting, all followers of tweetalondoncab can see that request, and if someone who is also in Mayfair lives near Tooting, they might could contact the person who requested the cab to see if they wouldn’t mind sharing. Then the request could turn into a Tooting via Wandsworth, the driver gets a better fare and the punters get to reduce the cost of getting home. If we could get that side of it going as well, that really would be something pretty (and I make no apology for the word I’m about to use) cool. And then there’s the holy grail of cab driving; a job to take you home. Rarely acheived in my experience, but tweetalondoncab might be able to help with that too. When a driver is ready to go home, there’s nothing to stop him putting a message out saying that he’s soon heading north/south/east or west and is there anyone looking for a cab in that direction? All this is further down the line, we still need to get a head of steam up with ‘normal’ jobs and turn the amazing amount of goodwill we’ve had into work. Watch this space for more news and to see how we get on over the next few weeks & months. I’ve no idea right now if this will really work, but it won’t do us much harm if it doesn’t. In fact, the drivers have already benefited by creating their own little Twitter community , one that can help each other with really useful real time information about where work is, where the worst traffic is and who’s turn it is to get the teas in. That’s got to be good, right?
If you do use Twitter and hadn’t picked up on tweetalondoncab, then please have a look at the website, and think about us next time you need a cab.
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.
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…..’
24 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…..
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……
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.
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?
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.