Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Burlington Arcade, London

Running parallel with the much vaunted and frankly obvious Old Bond Street down to Piccadilly is the stunning Burlington Arcade. 

1819 and Lord George Cavendish, who at the time resided in nearby Burlington House (now the Royal Academy), was like any modern man in that he wanted to keep his wife happy, this after she complained of 'drunks and ruffians' interrupting her and her friends shopping experience. Galvanising him to set about and  commission his architect, Samuel Ware, to design a covered promenade of shops that became the Burlington Arcade

Not content with just supplying his wife with one of Britain's first shopping Malls the good Lord went one step further by installing guards to protect the patrons and uphold standards with in the Arcade. Resplendent in their Edwardian frock coats and gold braid, men brought from the family regiment of the 10 Hussar's, became the smallest private police force in the world ensuring there was, and still is, no whistling, singing, busking or even running in what is still the longest and most beautiful covered shopping street in Britain.

These custodians, known as Beadles still watch over the Arcade, though maybe more 'approachable' than in bygone days, in fact feel free to test their knowledge of London as they are rarely proved wrong, are still prepared to eject anyone not respecting the traditions of this historic landmark.

Visiting Burlington Arcade is a must, treading the carpeted, yes carpeted, corridor is tranquil and inspiring. You tend to stroll as if you where in a cathedral or museum, in some ways you are, you can smell the history...that or its the excruciatingly expensive hand bags and jewellery on display behind crystal clear glass. Yes, the Arcade was built by aristocracy and from a shopping perspective maintains the upper class standard. Hancock the jewellers designed and then produced every one of the 1350 Victoria Cross medals and the boutiques including that of Lulu Guinness and David Duggan are generally not for the pockets of the masses but then dreaming and drooling are not, to the best of my knowledge, enforced by the Beadles. 

A visit will put you in good company as Burlington boasts a very famous guest list from the Prince Regent to Ingrid Bergman, Gladstone to Fred Astaire through to Percy the Poltergeist, who in 1952, allegedly, rearranged briefcases and handbags for the residents at No. 42. 

Like all good disclaimer's, 'other Arcades are available' Princes, Piccadilly and Royal to name a few but, in my opinion, non quite measure up to the one built because of one mans love for his wife.

You can book a days travelling in London with Chirton Grange by visiting our website here

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Red Bus Menace

How many people have to be killed or injured before something is done about Double Decker buses in London.
Driving professionally in London for many years I have witnessed many changes, both good and bad.

The London Congestion Charge (although I admit that I raged against the concept) made a positive difference to traffic congestion in the central area and the pedestrianisation of Trafalgar Square a few years ago didn't bring the end to life as we know it.

As a driver you have to be accepting of most of the negative points of driving in this great or any city. For instance Black Cabs will never let you out into traffic, cyclists will 'flip you off' for no reason and pedestrians can look the 'wrong way' before they cross the road. It's London! It happens.

That said, over the last 3-5 years the iconic Red London Double Decker bus has become a menace and danger to the streets of London, or rather its driver has.

All too often they ignore the red lights, I sit patiently waiting at the junction and even as my light gets to green a bus will continue over the junction from the opposite filter, usually at speed, and fly across me. If you monitor Trafalgar Square as it is reaching grid lock you'll see the cause is a bus having blocked an exit. The same with Marble Arch, Scotch Corner etc. Now blocking junctions is frustrating of course (and mocks any attempt at a 'Green-Eco' Mayoral policy) but the real concern is the danger. 

Buses jump red lights and pedestrian crossings all the time, this is not an angry motorist ranting, well not just an angry motorist ranting. I am confident that if you polled other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians most could regale you of a near death and close call experience. You get angry and frustrated as a car driver but a cyclist or pedestrian gets killed.

The thing that concerns me most about all this is the apparent allowing (or ignoring) of these traffic violations. Trust me, London has more CCTV camera's than anywhere else in the World and if I or other motorists were to speed, jump a red light, park, stop or even break wind we'll be caught and issued with a PCN (Parking Charge Notice) and rightly so if we break the law. So how can the bus drivers flout the law so regularly and go seemingly unpunished?. These blinkered lunatics are either working to pay the fines or the 'powers that be' are overlooking and/or even encouraging the practise.

A good idea might be to give buses their own lane, let's call it a 'bus lane' so they haven't the need to speed and hur.......oh, that's right.

Anyone visiting London for the first time has to get a photograph with a Telephone Box, a Black Cab and a Red Double Decker, these beasts are indeed iconic and something the people of London are proud of. Instead they are fast becoming a real danger to Londoners and their visitors and something we really need to be looking both ways for.