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Kaspar the Savoy Cat – London, England

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Black cats are world-renowned for being the harbingers of bad luck and misfortune. However, in some cultures, they are seen as talismans or good luck charms. The latter may be said of the darkly colored feline who resides in London’s premier purpose-built luxury hotel, The Savoy. Kaspar, as they are affectionately called, can be seen perched on a table to the left of the reception desk until their unique services are required.
Kaspar has the remarkable and one-of-a-kind task of being asked to attend any dining function that necessitates an additional dinner companion. The cat’s origins date back to an incident that took place towards the end of the 19th century.
A wealthy South African businessman named Joel Woolf was holding a dinner party at the hotel. The meal was to be attended by 14 guests, but one of the diners had to bow out at the last minute. This left 13 people at the party. Word went around that whichever guest was to depart from the meal first would have an unfortunate deed befall them. Woolf, not being a superstitious fellow, decided to tempt fate and was the first to leave the party. Just a few weeks later, the mining magnate was shot and killed in Johannesburg. When word of his demise got back to the hotel, plans were put in motion to prevent any future mishaps involving the auspicious number of participants.
At first, a waiter would be roped in to act as an alternate. But this proved impractical because it denied the dining room of a server. Towards the end of the 1920s, an architect by the name of Basil Ionides was redesigning one of the dining rooms and came up with a solution to the hotel’s unlucky dilemma. He carved a statuette of a black feline, out of a single piece of wood, that could act as the 14th guest.
It is anybody’s guess as to why Ionides chose the figure of a cat and named it Kaspar. But anytime when there is a function, where an extra body is needed, this lucky grimalkin is put into service, complete with a napkin tied around their neck. They might not add much in the way of conversation, but they are given the same impeccable services as all the other attendees. This also includes an extra saucer of milk for their fortuitous presence.
The abdominal curse seemed to have been lifted, as no such inauspicious events were ever recorded. The same cannot be said for Kaspar, as they were cat-napped during World War II. Winston Churchill would often use the Savoy as an alternative war room. During one military meeting, Kaspar’s presence was required. At the end of the gathering, the charmed totem went missing,  purloined by some drunken servicemen. Churchill was not amused and ordered that the feline be returned.
When not “in service,” Kaspar can be located to the left of reception in the lobby. As one walks up to the front doors of the hotel, from the Strand, they will encounter one of the few places in Britain where cars drive on the right hand of the road. This dates back to the era of stagecoaches and remains to this day. Cab drivers are often given their test using this unique roadway.

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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties – Church Times

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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties  Church Times

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The dwindling case for living in London

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The recent debate around ‘levelling up’ may be missing something. I would argue that there is another way to consider geographical inequality – and, by this alternative measure, a levelling has been under way for more than 20 years.

I’ve spent three decades working in advertising, so it’s unsurprising that I tend to view economic life through the lens of consumption. By contrast, mainstream economists tend to view disparities through the medium of earnings or wealth. To me, measures of wealth should include not only the quantity of money you have but the breadth of worthwhile options available in choosing how to spend it.

Let’s put it another way. If you live in a boring village, and suddenly a great pub or café opens on the high street, then by my measure you have become richer; by the economist’s measure you have not.

Things that would once have been available in London decades before the provinces now appear everywhereat once 

There was undoubtedly a time when you were richer in London in two ways. You had more money, but you also had a far more exciting range of ways to spend it. Now not so much.

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London is a great city but, in terms of consumption quality, it has not improved markedly in the past 20 years. Over the same period, many smaller cities and even towns have advanced rapidly, significantly narrowing the gap. The kind of things that would once have been available in the capital decades before making it to the provinces – like sushi – now appear everywhere at once. Consider Turkish barbers, who seem to have taken over the country in only five years. (I can remember a time when it was enough just to get a haircut without having burning methylated spirits flicked in my ears. Back then I just didn’t know any better.)

This levelling is especially true of anything in the digital world: Amazon gadgets, Netflix films, Asos fashions and PlayStation games hit Aberystwyth the same day they hit Islington. But it also applies to the physical environment, as anyone over 50 can attest. I went to Manchester and Sheffield for the first time in 1989. Compared with London, they were then, let’s be honest, utterly rubbish. Now, when I visit those same cities, I experience mild ‘northern envy’. There are interesting places open everywhere. Northerners have better cars, because they have more money left over after paying for housing. And they are much better-looking, because they can nip home to get changed before going out.

Relatively speaking, London has improved far less dramatically than these provincial cities have. (New York, many aficionados argue, has got worse.) OK, the Tube is better than it used to be. Uber is a handy addition. But some things are awful – the last pleasure of driving in London ended when they put speed cameras on the Westway. Accommodation costs for the young wipe out any salary gains.

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By my measure, high property prices won’t just hit Londoners once – they’ll hit them twice. Not only do high rents wipe out what you earn, they also put at risk London’s once unassailable advantage as a great place to spend what money you have left. Creative businesses of any kind require space at a price which allows them to take risks. For a time, London found this space by moving its heartland from west to east. But suppose the people supporting what Douglas McWilliams calls ‘the flat white economy’ flee altogether? In my own experience, Kent suddenly seems weirdly full of fascinating restaurants founded by London exiles. If more of these people leave, the case for staying weakens further.

Londoners always say things like ‘Yes but there’s the theatre’. Let’s face it though – even Shakespeare left London for Stratford in his mid-forties. As he no doubt found, the theatre is all very well, but it’s nothing like being able to park outside your house.

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Gentrification is not a sin

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Gentrification is not a sin – UnHerd

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