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London’s top ten cock-ups

Posted at 10:15 am, December 27, 2013 in Fun London

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1 The Wicked Bible Typos

They can be embarrassing at the best of times. So imagine how the royal printers of London felt when in 1631 they made a boo-boo in the Good Book itself. Missing a small but crucial word, one of the Ten Commandments read: ‘Thou shalt commit adultery’, much to the annoyance of King Charles I, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and, we’re assuming, God.

2 The Banksy whitewash

In 2007, TfL staff attempting to smarten up the area around Old Street station painted over a ‘Pulp Fiction’ inspired stencil piece that showed John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson clutching bananas instead of guns. Unfortunately, it was one of Banksy’s most iconic pieces and probably worth enough to bankroll the whole tube improvement plan. ‘Our graffiti removal teams are staffed by professional cleaners, not professional art critics,’ said a TfL spokesperson, in an attempt to brush over the brushing over.

3 The wrong bridge

There’s a strong argument that 2006’s ‘London Bridge’ by Black Eyed Pea Fergie is one giant mistake from start to finish. It’s an abysmal song in which the lascivious wench bastardises a nursery rhyme to create a truly lumbering metaphor for oral sex (‘My London Bridge want to go down’). But the blundering money shot comes in the video, when she’s seen passing underneath not London Bridge but Tower Bridge. Well done, Fergie! That one might go down in history.

4 The bendy bus

In 2002, Ken Livingstone proudly introduced ‘bendy buses’ on to London’s streets. But safety issues and a nostalgic attachment to the ancient Routemaster swayed public opinion against them – much to the delight of Ken’s nemesis. Boris scored quick political points by pledging to remove them in his 2008 campaign and, sure enough, by the end of 2011 they were a thing of the past. In fact, some were sold on to Malta, where busmen on holiday can still enjoy seeing them catching fire and getting stuck in narrow roads.

5 The doomed dome

Perhaps the daddy of all modern cock-ups, the Millennium Dome was a disaster from the start: construction (of what was basically a marquee) went over budget by millions; the promoters and sponsors fell out; and, most famously, the exhibition itself was a total flop. It might be a hugely successful concert venue now, but it began life as the ‘black hole of Greenwich’, New Labour’s ‘white elephant’ and a giant boob in so many ways.

6 The Great Fire

As cock-ups go, the 1666 Fire of London is pretty much the capital’s Titanic. It was rather stupid of Pudding Lane baker Thomas Farriner not to damp down his ovens before going to bed. But it was the response of the Lord Mayor that condemned three-quarters of the city to fiery obliteration. When first warned about the blaze, he famously fobbed it off with the line, ‘A woman could piss it out.’ Needless to say, he didn’t stay in the job much longer.

7 The parachute plummet

In 1837, pre-emptive contender for the Darwin Awards Robert Cocking died when his self-designed parachute failed during a jump from a balloon above Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. Bizarrely, Cocking was neither an accomplished skydiver nor an aeronautical engineer. He was a watercolour painter who fancied himself as a contemporary Da Vinci, and his fatal cock up was to prove his earthbound downfall. It’s hard to find anything amusing about that, surely, apart from the poor sod’s surname?

8 The bubonic blunder

Everyone now knows that the Great Plague was spread by fleas carried by rats. But back in 1665 they weren’t quite so well informed,and actually thought the disease was spread by cats and dogs. So, when people started dropping like flies, it sparked a citywide slaughter of household pets. Unfortunately, these were the very animals that had been keeping the rats in check – and 100,000 people ended up dead. No wonder the British became a nation of pet lovers in the ensuing centuries.

9 The arch enemies

Mid-century architectural mistakes left their mark all over this city, but none was as controversial as the decision to demolish the Euston Arch. Standing at the entrance to the Victorian station, the magnificent doric edifice was a reminder of the might of the railways up until 1961, when it was deemed an obstacle to redevelopment and removed. Its loss turned out to be unnecessary – the new Euston wasn’t as big as plans had suggested. As cock-ups go, this one was monumental.

10 The busted Big Ben

It was the bong-based event of the century – as the new 13-tonne bell made its way on horsedrawn carriage from its casting place at Whitechapel to its home at the Palace of Westminster in 1859, great crowds gathered to cheer it on its way. After a 30-hour winching operation, it was installed at the top of its tower, from where its pure, clear tolling would inform clockless Londoners they were late for work for years to come. Two weeks later, it cracked. The imperfection still exists; like the racket that emanates from the House below, the sound of London remains discordant.

Read other London top tens including:

➢  10 baffling statues
➢ 10 hauntings
➢ 10 movies on the tube
 10 weird shops

 

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