Black Cabs – London’s Taxis

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Any visitor to London cannot fail to notice that aside from the usual array of private cars, bikes/scooters and delivery vans that the streets are punctuated with two of perhaps the World’s most recognizable and iconic vehicles. The red London Bus – see our previous post here that features the New Routemaster Bus – Thomas Heatherwick – and the Black Cabs – London’s Taxis or more properly “Hackney Carriages”.

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It may be just an impression but certain parts of the West End, that are not already bus and taxi only, but fall within the Congestion Charge Zone – and a daily rate of £11.50 – have taken on a new character. They seem to flow better and are sparsely occupied by private vehicles but are dominated by well managed public transport provided by Transport for London (TfL) – see here our piece on the iconic London Transport Roundels –  London Transport roundels  – and the Carriage Office – the body responsible for the Black Cabs.

The Black Cab is undergoing a revolution. The streets are a battleground where private mini-cabs, recently licence-reprieved Uber cars and Black Cabs vie to secure a ride but they reflect a clash of cultures. The Black Cab driver knows where he/she’s going having successfully completed the Knowledge see our previous post here – London A-Z street atlas – The Knowledge  – whilst the mini-cab or Uber drivers world is linked to one of the many digital street services following pre-selected routes that guide the driver to the chosen post code. Simple but not foolproof!

Price is an issue but I tend to prefer the comfort of Black Cabs. However, with respect to those Uber drivers that I have met, the London Cabbie is often overall much better “value”. They tend to be better informed about London, its Mayor and its political life, the perils of supporting one of London’s eleven football teams, the most recent celebrity they carried and the best route to avoid congestion.

Cabbie’s opinions matter. In a recent and highly effective Twitter piece, Robert Wood “Woody” Johnson, the US Ambassador to the UK – probably as a result of looking for someone to go “Sarf of the River” to the new US Embassy in Vauxhall – toured several of the thirteen remaining London’s Green Cabbie’s shelters. The driver’s opinions on Brexit and the US President seem very welcome. US Ambassador Cab Shelter Tour 

A new Black Cab appeared on the streets of London at the end of 2017 competing with the most recent diesel version of the iconic Black Cab, the TX4, that was produced between 2007 and 2017. Called the LEVC “TX” and seen below next to an older TX4, the cab is built in a new Chinese owned factory outside Coventry and combines a 1.5l petrol engine with a 110kW lithium battery driven electric motor. Conforming perfectly to the zeroing of diesel emissions and the promotion of the recharge economy.

 

A recent journey in the new cab, that tend to be rented by Cabbie’s for under £200 per  week on a five year deal, suggests the comfort is still very much there. The new cab’s driver explained the electric motor delivered around 70 to 80 miles on one 50p electricity recharge and whilst the TX leasing arrangement is slightly more costly, the fuel saving is expected to be around £100 per week. Will this bring cab fares more in line with Uber’s prices?

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Other cities around the world have their own distinctive cabs, the canary Yellow Cabs – Medallion Taxi – that have superseded their checker forerunners – in New York, the Black Body and Yellow Doors in Barcelona but in its own right London’s iconic Black Cab – a vehicle designed and built for a single task – should be seen a beacon of security in an unfamiliar city. Just don’t try and flag on done if its yellow roof light is not illuminated – its occupied!

Images used with grateful thanks – Transport For Londons, Daily Telegraph and LEVC TX.

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Iconic Surf Brands

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I love surf/hippie/beach culture. Whilst it may be a complete mare to get to in July and August the realm of Tarifa, on Spain’s Costa de la Luz, is a Mecca for those who get their kicks on a kite, surf, SUP or boogie board – see our previous post here on Morey Boogie Boards – Morey Boogie boards.

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This is a lifestyle, available to all adherents. Whether you are a weekend hippie with a real job in corporate finance, benefit from a distant relative having invented some practical gizmo that makes life easier even today, a vacationing student or a “Crusty”, who sees the conventional pressures to earn a living, have a mortgage or to otherwise conform to some dated middle class ideal of the perfect life, as pointless, then there’s a welcome for you on the beach.

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For core participants of this tribe, whose transient existence may be complemented, if they have the funds, see previous references to those in the City and/or being a Trustafarian – by a VW bus – see our previous post here – Volkswagen Kombi – as the perfect transport for your kites and boards, their careful devotion to their appearance on an off the sand is crucial. Indeed being able to take the beach with them as they return to their other life is made possible by several wonderful and iconic surf brands who shroud the faithful when the smell of the salt air is a fading memory.

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Founded in Tarifa in the 1990’s by designer Andoni Galdeano and entrepreneur Herbert Newman, the El Niño brand of surfwear is defined by a passion for the perfect wave and embraces much of what our tribe of surf worshippers love. It’s colourful, expressive and almost all pieces bare the distinctive El Niño logo that my family has always called “the Angry Sperm” – the little discontented drip. In fact the name comes from the “levante” wind of the same name that blows from the East  over Tarifa.

For Adults and Children – add an El Niño shirt to your summer collection by clicking the Amazon link after the image

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El Niño The Child 11102 T-Shirt, Men, Men, 11102, Grey (Stone Grey), Medium

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El Niño The Child 0128013101 T-Shirt, Children, 13101, Orange (Fiesta), 12

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Quiksilver was founded in Torquay (Australia) in 1969 by Alan Green and John Law. It is now a multi-million dollar business, one of the largest manufacturers of surf and related sports goods, operating many stores worldwide. The company developed the successful young woman’s wear brand “Roxy” – who’s logo is a duplicate of the Quiksilver wave doubled to form a heart – it also owns the DC brand of skate shoes.

After a difficult period of trading in 2016 and restructuring the majority shareholder is now Oaktree Capital Management. In 2017 the company’s name was changed to “Boardriders” and is now based in Huntington Beach, California.

Quiksilver, along with Rip Curl – also founded in 1969 in Torquay (Australia) and still owned by co-founders Doug Warbrick and Brian Singer – and Billabong – founded on Australia’s Gold Coast (Queensland) by Gordon and Rena Merchant in 1973 and now co-owned by Oaktree Capital – are regarded as the “Big Three” Surfwear companies.

Add a pair of Quiksilver nubuck flip-flops to your beach collection by clicking the Amazon link below the image

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Quiksilver Men’s Molokai Nubuck Flip Flops, Multicolour (Brown CTK0), 42 42 EU

Or a pair of cool DC low top shoes….

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DC Shoes Trase TX, Men’s Low-Top, Blue (Navy/Camel Nc2), 8 UK (42 EU)

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Orange County on California’s Pacific Coast is the home Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach each with their own distinctive surf communities. In the 1984 Shawn Stussy – a young surfboard manufacturer – who signed his boards with his distinctive signature – founded his eponymous surfwear brand with Frank Sinatra Jnr (unrelated to the singer) in Laguna Beach.

Stussy surfwear became a favourite of the hip-hop scene of the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. The brand is now a favourite of Drake and A$AP Rocky.

In 1996 Stussy left the brand selling his holding to Sinatra’s family who still own it.

A piece by Stussy is a must ….how about this signature cap? Click the Amazon link below the image

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Stussy Stock SP18 Snapback Hat Teal

Images with grateful thanks – El Niño Tarifa, Quiksilver/Boardriders, DC Shoes and Stussy.

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Antoni Gaudí

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Living in Southern Europe I embrace a regular tendency to want to visit those national memorials celebrating the icons of local culture. One of the finest examples of this is the work of the Catalan Modernist architect, Antoni Gaudi. I am not talking solely about the trophy building, the outstanding and outrageous – if a little claustrophobic if you’ve ever tried to climb one of the spires – La Sagrada Família – but whilst magnificent there is much more to his wonderful work.

Gaudi’s place in the history of Architecture and his influence in a pantheon of modern art, including the likes of the fourteen year old Picasso, who moved to Barcelona in 1896 and into Gaudi’s circles, was immense. Gaudi’s work – much of which is now classed as World Heritage Sites stems from an era of the Renaixença (or Renaissance) in Barcelona of prosperity and vision. His work remains much appreciate by the likes of the writer Lorca and the artist, and fellow Catalan, Salvador Dali, as a vibrant legacy to this era.

Born 25 June 1852  the son, grandson and great-grandson of boiler workers from the Baix Camp (Catalonia). Growing up appreciating the fusion of copper and iron enabled Gaudi to claim that when he imagined in three dimensions, which became core to his fluid and evolutionary work. Indeed, he rarely created detailed plans preferring models of his proposed buildings. Similarly, he was enraptured by the perhaps conflicting mysteries of nature, especially that of his beloved Mediterranean coast, vegetarianism and his profound Roman Catholic faith.

After school, where he excelled in art, in 1868 Gaudi moved to Barcelona to study teaching followed by some time of compulsory military service which was punctuated by ill-heath. In 1878 Gaudi graduated from the Llotja School and the Barcelona Higher School of Architecture having funded his training by working as a draftsman to various notable but local architects.

Gaudí rise was meteoric. His first important commission was Manuel Vicens i Montaner, the Casa Vicens, a Moorish revival palace, which, after 130 years as private home, recently reopened to the public.

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Over the subsequent thirty years his work and Barcelona were synonymous. The City changed, and under the patronage of Eusebi Güell, Count Güell – a Catalan industrialist – fine examples of Gaudi’s best work can be seen including:

The Parc Güell:

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The Crypt at Colonia Güell

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Palau Güell

 

Casa Batlló – commissioned in 1904, by Josep Batlló, Gaudi’s task was to design and renovate this extraordinary property, to create a house like no other. Gaudi completed the project in 1906, becoming a masterpiece on Barcelona’s, Passeig de Gracia.

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The Casa Milà commissioned in 1906 by Pere Milà – a developer – and his wife, Roser Segimon, the widow of a wealthy Indiano coffee plantation owner.

In 1883, at the age of 31 Gaudi was appointed to the Sagrada Família project, after original designer quit, becoming Architect Director in 1894. From 1915 until his death on 10th June 1926, following being struck by a tram at the age of 73, Gaudí focussed his entire creative energy on the development and construction of this amazing building.

See below a model of the finished Basilica. Please also see this amazing video compiled for the UK newspaper The Daily Mail highlighting what the Sagrada Familia will look like at completion – please click the link – Sagrada Familia – Completed

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Said to be the most important piece of Gothic architecture in Europe since the Middle Aged, Gaudi combined Gothic and Art Nouveau forms together in the Sagrada Familia with naturalistic and flowing details of plantlife and cleaver uses of light throughout.

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I am also a massive fan of another Modernist Architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, about whom I posted on Aestheticons before, celebrating his body of iconic work – see here our previous post – Charles Rennie Mackintosh 

One of the few projects that Gaudi undertook away from Catalonia was the minaret-like country lodge – a fine example of his oriental influences – of El Capricho in Comillas (Cantabria, Northern Spain). It was built between 1883-85 as a summer home for a returning Indiano Maximo Diaz de Quijano (The Marquis of Comillas and Father in Law of Count Güell). Atypically for Gaudi’s work the stained glass, wood rafters and metal work are exemplary. The emblematic flowers, oriental and stylised ceramics look like they may have come straight from the pallet of Mackintosh. It’s thought that Gaudi and Mackintosh never met, though they died two years apart, but their naturalistic work replendent with great drama, vision and charm is firmly rooted in the same Modernist and Art Nouveau movements.

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Whilst we learn in Dan Brown’s excellent “Origin”, set almost exclusively in Gaudi’s Barcelona, that the Roman Catholic Church has not funded either Gaudi’s final resting place nor the building surrounding it, the Sagrada Família. The work on this fine building has been halted over the years whilst additional funds were collected. It is anticiapated that construction will be finally complete by 2026 to coincide with one hundredth anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

My hope is to have whetted your appetite to know more about Gaudi and his work. Two very useful resources are the following books, please click the Amazon link below the image in each case.

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Antonio Gaudi: Master Architect

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Gaudi: A Biography

Enjoy Dan Brown’s page-turner “Origin” by clicking the Amazon link below the image of the book 

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Origin: (Robert Langdon Book 5)

STOP PRESS: 

In April 2019 it was reported, after a two year dispute, that the Sagrada Famila, which has seen over 139 years of construction and is visited annually by 4.5m, had now received its final planning permission from Barcelona’s City Hall!

Ironically, the City Hall only agreed to pass the final permission for the Basilica, provided that the Catholic Church, which owns the site in Central Barcelona and has spectacularly failed to contributed towards the development costs of the wonderful Basilica, paid €34m towards local community projects.

The predictions are that 2026 is still an achievable completion date for the iconic UNESCO World Heritage Status building.

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Image Credits – with grateful thanks http://www.archdaily.com/Rory Stott, The Barcelona Tourist Association, The Gaudi Foundation and The Daily Mail