Every London Cabbie Should Know How to Find This Peculiar Coat Hook

5 Great Newport Street, London
5 Great Newport Street, London
Stephen Richards, geograph.org.uk // CC BY-SA 2.0

At a large intersection near London's Leicester Square, sharp-eyed pedestrians will be able to spot a mysterious coat hook drilled into a building façade near 5 Great Newport Street. According to Atlas Obscura, the hook was placed there for a very specific group of people—traffic cops.

London's first motorists didn't trust traffic lights. The city installed its first red-yellow-green signals at the junction of St. James's Street and Piccadilly only in 1925, and most major intersections still employed Metropolitan Police officers to direct traffic. At the junction of Great Newport Street, Garrick Street, Long Acre, Cranbourn Street, and Upper St. Martins Lane, cars and carriages depended on a bobby to tell them when to go ahead.

At the time, police officers wore woolen uniforms with capes, even in the hottest months of summer. One of the traffic cops at the intersection, whose name is not recorded, noticed a nail protruding from a construction site near 5 Great Newport Street and hung his cape on it. His fellow officers followed suit as temperatures climbed. When the construction work ended sometime in the 1930s and the nail was removed, the officers petitioned the building's owners to install a permanent fixture.

Today, the ornate iron hook remains drilled into the wall, along with a metal plate reading "Metropolitan Police." It's unclear whether those who are not police officers can drape their jackets on it.

The unique piece of street furniture has outlived the need for traffic-directing bobbies, but it remains a beloved part of London's transportation history. Allegedly, the hook is one of the 20,000 points of interest to be memorized for The Knowledge, the infamously difficult test one must pass to become a London cab driver.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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Florence’s Plague-Era Wine Windows Are Back in Business

A wine window in Florence's Via Santo Spirito.
A wine window in Florence's Via Santo Spirito.

Many bars and restaurants have started selling takeout cocktails and other alcoholic beverages to stay in business—and keep customers safe—during the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, 17th-century Florentines are surely applauding from their front-row seats in the afterlife.

As Insider reports, a number of buildings in Florence had been constructed with small “wine windows,” or buchette del vino, through which vendors sold wine directly to less affluent customers. When the city suffered an outbreak of plague in the 1630s, business owners recognized the value of these windows as a way to serve people without spreading germs. They even exchanged money on a metal tray that was sanitized with vinegar.

Wine not?sailko, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Things eventually went back to normal, and the windows slowly fell out of fashion altogether as commerce laws evolved. This year, however, they’ve made a comeback. According to Food & Wine, there are currently at least four in operation around Florence. Osteria delle Brache in Piazza Peruzzi is using its window to deliver wine and cocktails, for example, and the Vivoli ice cream shop, a go-to dessert spot since 1929, is handing out sweet scoops and coffee through its formerly dormant aperture.

Apart from the recent resurgence of interest, the wine windows often go unnoticed by tourists drawn to the grandeur of attractions like the Uffizi Gallery and the Florence Cathedral. So in 2015, locals Matteo Faglia, Diletta Corsini, and Mary Christine Forrest established the Wine Window Association to generate some buzz. In addition to researching the history of the windows, they also keep a running list of all the ones they know of. Florence has roughly 150, and there are another 100 or so in other parts of Tuscany.

They’re hoping to affix a plaque near each window to promote their stories and discourage people from defacing them. And if you want to support their work, you can even become a member of the organization for €25 (about $29).

[h/t Insider]