The Anonymous Widower

London’s Swedish Black Cab Driver

I found this article about London’s only Swedish black cab driver.

I wonder what other unusual or unexpected nationalities drive London’s black cabs.

I remember years ago, when we lived in Suffolk, our postman was Californian. He’d come in the USAF, married an English girl and he’d stayed.

He actually preferred the climate, just like the Swedish cab driver says he does.

December 27, 2012 Posted by | Travel, World | , , , | Leave a comment

What Disaster Will We Get This Year?

I can’t say I’m looking forward to Christmas.

Usually, C and I used to go away on Boxing Day or soon after to somewhere nice and warm. But this year, both my son and myself, have the builders in, which makes things difficult.  At least, I can get through the door of my house and live comfortably.  So we’re going to a Christmas lunch at one of his friend’s houses.  It should be a good party, but I don’t like relying on the hospitality of others.

Why can’t Christmas, be like it was in my childhood?

In those days, the Christmas Day tradition was to go to White Hart Lane to see the football and then come home to Christmas lunch. I could skip the lunch and the awful Christmas television, but at least it’s reliable these days.  I can remember watching High Noon one Christmas and the power was fading, so just before the gunfight we lost all the pictures.  Those were the days. I think one year, life was so boring, that I took my father’s car out of the garage, put mine in there and then washed and painted the wheels a fetching shade of blue.  In fact, it is the same colour, that I’ve chosen for my new carpets.

I’ve just noticed the date on the carpets post.  Have my builders taken nearly three months to get virtually nowhere? Such is life!  Or should it be such is builders?

But what worries me about Christmas is it’s always a time for disaster. If I look back on my life, I can remember invasions, tsunamis, earthquakes, sto,rs, floods and probably even some pestilence. With me, the worse disaster was that awful year, the AGA went AWOL on Christmas morning.  And mother-in-law was here. I seem to remember one of the biggest rows between C and her mother.  But we survived, as we always did.

Personally, my worse Christmas could have been 2007, the year that C died just two weeks before.  I helped out at the old peoples Christmas lunch in Bury St. Edmunds and had a good time considering. Then I ate my own Christmas lunch alone on Boxing Day.  That is something, I’ve not done since.

I will though follow those who believe that the year will end this Christmas and make sure I have some food in.

After all, my son and I have no transport between us, So I’ll be relying on a taxi on Christmas Day. And if it doesn’t come, I’ve got to make sure I don’t starve. As to drink, I do live bext door to a pub.

December 21, 2012 Posted by | Food, Travel | , | Leave a comment

My Moan Of The Week

The Richard Bacon Show on BBC Radio 5  has a weekly moan-in, where people vent their moans.

My moan would be about the number of people who moan generally about the cost and problems of having a car. If it’s not fuel costs, it’s about traffic jams, congestion charging, insurance or finding somewhere to park.

I don’t have these problems any more, as since my stroke I haven’t driven and don’t have a licence any more  And I reckon my bank account benefits by several thousand pounds a year. That would buy lots of taxis, if I wanted, but I prefer trains and buses, as you see more of life and don’t get the driver complaining about the sad state of the taxi industry.

November 21, 2012 Posted by | Health, Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Why I Don’t Use Taxis

Coming back from Ipswich yesterday, the 141 and 21 buses had gone walkabout and the stop was missing.  So I took a black cab.

But the driver was well past his best and got rather lost, so the fare cost me £4 more than it should. And I still had to walk about a kilometre at the end.

Is there a retirement age for taxi drivers? If there isn’t there should be!

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Travel | , | 6 Comments

Greek Travel Costs

I found this article, entitled Is it cheaper to put Greek train passengers in taxis? on the BBC’s web site.

They come up with figures that show if there are more than two passengers, the taxi is cheaper.

And these figures ignore the fact that Greek Railways have borrowed €9 billion, which is all guaranteed by the Greek government.

May 13, 2012 Posted by | Finance, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

The Unwelcoming Face of Addison Lee

I’ve never used a mini-cab in London, as usually when I need a taxi, I’m in a place where I can flag an empty black cab down.  I also live close to the route back to the City, that is usually taken by black cabs.  So when it is raining and say I need a black cab for the theatre, it’s only a few seconds before one appears.

So I doubt I would ever need one of the forthright John Griffin’s mini-cabs from Addison Lee.

A few days ago, he was urging his drivers to use bus lanes. As a very regular bus user, I am against this and am pleased to see that Transport for London is taking action according to this report.

Now he has had a go against cyclists. Again it is reported on the BBC. The comments here are mild compared to some sites I’ve looked at.

As some of their mini-cabs sometimes hang around my area, I had thought about possibly using them.  But not now! How could I be sure, that I would get what I paid for?

I also find mini-cabs and some may be from Addison Lee a nuisance in the West End, when I’m trying to get my bus home from the theatre. Some tend to block the pavements and junctions, when they are waiting for their passengers.

I would not be bothered if wardens decided to clamp down on this illegal practice.

So I’ll stick to the reliable 38 bus and the occasional black cab.

April 20, 2012 Posted by | News, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

The Rising Cost of Fuel

I can’t say I’m bothered, as I don’t drive anymore after my stroke. I think though, if I still lived on my stud in Suffolk in the middle of nowhere, by now I’d be thinking of getting an electric car or at least a small hybrid.

The trouble is that people are unwilling to change their lifestyles to suit the circumstances we all live in.

I don’t regret not having a car anymore.  I don’t get ripped off by fuel costs, insurance scams, unfair parking rules and congestion charges and I get to most places just as quick as if I drove. My monthly expenses have dropped drammatically!

And of course, if I need too, I can always use a taxi.  I haven’t used one in London for someting like six months.

November 15, 2011 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

92 Clubs – Week 4 – 11 Clubs – 18 Trains

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3  Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7

Day 22 Day 23 Day 24 Day 25 Day 26 Day 27 Day 28

This was a rather poor performance on my part, but it had got off to rather a bad start on Day 22 and I did take three days off.

Here are the awards.

Heroes of the Week

These have to be Peter, who at 84, guided me across Manchester to Oldham and the unknown driver of the 14:06 out of Paddington to Penzance, that I took to Plymouth.

Most Surprising Stadium of the Week

It has to be Port Vale, as it shows how a small club can create a stadium of whom any supporter can be proud.

Best Stadium of the Week

I’d give this to Port Vale as well, if it wasn’t so difficult to get to. I might give it to Norwich, but then I can’t, can I? Both the Nottingham clubs have good stadia, which are easy to get to, but the others with the exception of Peterborough, are public transport nightmares.  So I think I’ll leave the award! in a few years time or on a match day, it will probably go to Port Vale.

Best Signposted Stadium of the Week

Portsmouth virtually has its own station at Fratton and even has separate signs to the ground for Home and Away Supporters, so it wins by a country mile.

Worst Signposted Stadium of the Week

Peterborough virtually lacks signposting and as it is fairly close to the station, some signs would help.  But as I said on Day 27, the stadium is very much a work-in-progress, so perhaps it will be very much better in a few years time. I think I’ll give it to Northampton, as with a bit of thought, they could probably make a nice walking route to the ground.

Dump of the Week

After a couple of near misses Manchester finally gets the rewa4rd it deserves.  It is a city with bad maps, no information and a completely indecipherable bus system. Perhaps some of the billions, they are spending on the new trams could be used to make sure the buses work or that the maps are correct.

Sign of the Week

It just has to be the one at Port Vale.

Best Train of the Week

The High Speed Train to Plymouth, where I sat on on the floor.

Worst Train of the Week

The two trains to Oxford, where there was no tables in the back of the seats in front. How can I do my Sudoku?

Worst Bus of the Week

The one I took from Boundary Park to Oldham Bus Station.  If you were in a wheelchair or had a baby in a buggy, you ewouldn’t have been able to use it.

This was rather a dissappointing week, in that I could have done much more. I could make the excuse of my hay fever! So I will!

October 30, 2011 Posted by | Sport, Travel | , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

92 Clubs – Day 27 – Oxford, Peterborough, Plymouth

If I’d chosen different trains to go to Oxford, this day could have been subtitled a day of six HSTs or Inter City 125s, but time was tight, if I was to get back to London at a reasonable hour.

Oxford, must surely be one of the most difficult stadia to get to from the town centre, even if you have a car. And if you do, you have to actually drive along the by-pass where there are queues of traffic. Of all the taxis I have taken to get to and from grounds, Oxford was by far the most expesive.

Oxford United’s Kassam Stadium

Oxford‘s stadium is just a rather anonymous pile stuck by the Science Park. I will not be sad, if I never ever go there again. It should be said, that Oxford is not noted for its wonderful traffic systems, as every time I go, it always seems to be totally gridlocked. A couple of years ago, I went there to play real tennis and walked to the court from the station. It would appear that or a bicycle is the only sane way to get about.  If ever a city needed a second or parkway station it is Oxford.

Peterborough was a very different kettle of fish and it was just a short run in a High Speed Train to the city and then about 15 minutes walk.

Peterborough’s London Road Stadium

I should say that the walk could be made easier, but I suspect that as the ground is still not finished, that this will come later.

I was soon back on another HST to Kings Cross and then it was on the Circle Line to Paddington for Plymouth.

Sitting in Style on a First Great Western HST

I had been unable to get a seat online, so I just bought an Off Peak Return and made the best of what was available, as the picture shows.

I should say that it wasn’t that uncomfortable and I got a seat from Taunton, when the train started to clear. I wouldn’t like to sit like that in a Pendolino, as they certainly don’t ride like forty-year old HSTs.

It did look like it was all going to go pear-shaped, as the train had been delayed at Paddington for about fifteen minutes by a fault and this meant it had got stuck behind a stopping train along the Devon Coast. We were nearly thirty minutes late at Totnes and it was starting to look like I’d miss the 18:00 back to London. But then driver got a clear line and let the HST go, so much so that it was only twenty minutes late at Plymouth, giving me just ten minutes to get to the stadium and back.

Outside Home Park

As you can see I made it.

I did get a seat all the way back, but the train was late due to someone falling under a train at Reading West station.

But if the day did prove one thing, it was that the stopgap Intercity 125 is a superb train.  But then I know that, having been through the Highlands at 90 mph.

There are plans to make sure these trains continue for a few years yet. Who’s to say that in the 2060s, they won’t be a tourist attraction in their own right, as they speed passengers to the West Country.  Probably to the consternation of politicians, who can find all sorts of reasons to not use a what would be then be a nearly ninety year old train. After all, I doubt that electrifying this line to Plymouth will ever be done.

October 30, 2011 Posted by | Sport, Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Getting Between Kings Cross/St. Pancras and Euston

London’s three major stations that serve the North and of course the Continent; Kings Cross, St. Pancras and Euston, are all close together on the Euston Road.

The first has been superbly rebuilt, the second is approaching the end of a major redevelopment and they now share probably the best Underground station in London. But Euston is rather isolated from the other two, with several ways to get between them.

  1. You can take a rather unpleasant walk along the busy Euston Road.
  2. You can use the Metropolitan or Circle lines, but this means a walk to or from Euston Square at the Euston end.
  3. You can dive into the Underground and take the Victoria or Northern lines, but it is not step free at the Euston end, and not recommended with a heavy case. Both deep stations are also easy places to get lost or confused.
  4. Going from Euston to Kings Cross or St. Pancras is quite easy by bus 30, 73, 205 or 476, which you catch in front of Euston station, but the reverse journey means you have to cross Euston Road twice.
  5. There are of course taxis.  But not everyone can afford them.

As I had time to spare at Kings Cross, before I caught my train to Hartlepool, I decided to investigate and found a map which showed there was a fairly simple direct walking route that avoided the pollution and traffic of the Euston Road.

I started by walking through St. Pancras station and exited by the cab rank onto Midland Road, with the intention of going down Brill Place.

Crossing Midland Road

There is a light controlled crossing, but it is rather blocked by badly placed railings and the cab rank. Brill Place, which is the start of the road to Euston is on the left.

Brill Place is flanked on one side by the new Francis Crick Institute and on the right, there is a small pleasant park, which could provide an oasis from the crowds in the stations.

Brill Place

Brill Place itself, is not a grotty dusty road lined by parked cars, but a wide tree-lined avenue that leads on to Phoenix Road.

Towards Pheonix Road

At the end of Phoenix Road, you just cross Eversholt Street on one of the two pedestrian crossings and you walk down the road to Euston station.

The advantages of the route are as follows.

  1. The route is virtually flat.
  2. It would be easy trailing quite a large case.
  3. There are only two major roads to cross and both have light-controlled pedestrian crossings.
  4. There is the park, which would as I said before, be a better place to eat a packed meal than the station.
  5. You do pass a few shops and a reasonable-looking pub.

But there are disadvantages.

  1. The route is not signposted.
  2. The barriers at the St. Pancras end are wrongly placed.
  3. The side entrance to Euston station could be better.

So how would I make it better, so that in effect we had one super station for the north.

  1. I’d start with sign-posting. The posts are there at the St. Pancras end already.
  2. Perhaps, it should be marked on the ground, as a Kings Cross/St. Pancras to Euston walking route.
  3. You might even provide some eco-friendly transport along the route, like an electric shuttle bus or bicycle rickshaws.
  4. A couple of suitably placed Boris bike stations would help too.
  5. Shops and cafes should be developed along the road.  There are some already.

To me though, this is one of those things that will happen.  But probably first in a very unofficial way, as how many of those that work in the Francis Crick Institute will commute into Euston and walk there? It won’t be a small number.

It took me about fifteen minutes to do the walk and I just got a 205 bus back to Kings Cross for my train from the front of Euston station.

October 15, 2011 Posted by | Health, Travel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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