July 13, 2013

Who is going to drive you today?

“Took me three years,” said John. “Only three or four years ago. Before that I worked for my dad.” We approach Shepherd’s Bush, go round the roundabout with the white and blue water tower. “I couldn’t get decent work. The pay’s not great doing this, but the freedom’s all right.” I say the hours must be good; you can work when you want to. “But I never see my wife. I’m always out in the nights, ’cos the fares are much better. The days, I prefer. Better when you get a long fare.”  I’m coming from Heathrow to town. “It’s easier at night. Less bloody idiots.”  A minute later, two schoolgirls run blind across the road, shrieking with laughter. “Apart from them, mind,” he shouts, shoving his hand on the horn. “Watch yourselves, ladies!” And he shrugs. “But what can you say? We’re all young once.”

What’s your favorite thing about London?

“It changes by the week. It used to be Whitehall, down there. I like Smithfields right now. Not much fare up there, though. You’ve got to keep that in mind.  Waterloo Bridge, you see everything – Westminster at night, all the City, Canary Wharf at the north side.  Albert Bridge lit up like a fairy. And it’s on the way home.  The passengers who chat to you like you’re a proper human being. Thank you for that, love.”

You're welcome. 

(See Sherlock, you should have paid closer attention.)


Tartanscot said...

Thank you. Nice thought.

Johnny come lately said...

Amazing stories you have!
This is another great slice of London life. Perhaps more than any other city in the world we literally have 'allsorts' in London.

Syl v O said...

A little bit of History.
Horse drawn carriages such as 'hackney' have operated, for hire, since the 17th Century in London. In 1636 the number of these was set at 50. The first taxi stands (ranks) started in the same year in The Strand (which means 'beach' but that's another story). In the 19th century the heavy, cumbersome hackney carriages were replaced by cabriolets (cabs for short).
In 1875 the 7th Earl of Sheftesbury set up cab shelters for the taxi driver. These are all green and no larger than a horse and cart as they are on the public highway. These provide shelter and hot food and drink for cabbies. They accommodate between 10-13 men. There are seats, tables, books and newspapers. Gambling, drinking alcohol and swearing area forbidden. There are still 16 of these shelters which are all Grade 2 Listed, all of which are in use.
Modern hackney carriages (taxis) I don't mean the psychopathic like in ASiP. I do mean the REAL London 'black cab' drivers.
These can be flagged down on the street or hired for a taxi rank (mini-cabs cannot be hailed from the street). These are known as 'black cabs' (although other colours are available and they may have adverts all over them). All black cab drivers are licensed and must have passed an extensive training course (the Knowledge). In London there is no limit to the number of black cabs allowed. They operate within a set radius of Charing Cross Station.
The Knowledge
A London black cab driver must be able to decide routes immediately at a passenger's request or altered traffic conditions. The driver should not have to refer to a map, a satnav or ask a controller by radio. In order to enable a driver to do this they have to pass the Knowledge a series of exams which originally started in 1865. It is the World's most demanding course for taxi drivers.
Candidate drivers are required to learn 300 routes or 'runs' of London as referenced by their guidebook the 'Blue Book'. Would-be cabbies follow these routes around London on a motorbike. They must have no criminal record, totally clean drivers licenses. On average it takes 34 months for candidates to pass the Knowledge.
Before they pass the Knowledge candidate drivers have to make a set number (at least 12) of 'appearances' or exams in front of a Public Carriage Officer Examiner. The work that goes into 'chasing the Knowledge' is equivalent to a 3-4 year University Degree.

When the candidate has successfully passed all the 'appearances' they gain their license. The physical formalisation of certification is the 'green badge' which is proudly worn (Jeff wears his badge in ASiP). Their first aim when passed is to save up money to buy their own cab.
The Brain Development of Cabbies
Dr. Eleanor McGuire received a Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2003 for her research into the function of cabbies brains (clearly I am paraphrasing here!). There is strong evidence that the training cabbies undergo measurably alters the hippocampus of trainee cab drivers. (The hippocampus is the area of the brain used for spatial memory and navigation). It is generally larger in taxi drivers than the general population. This does however seem to come at a cost to new memory and learning; specifically associative memory.
Finally, a word of advice. When in London ALWAYS use a licensed taxi! NEVER get in a mini-cab hailed from the street. (Hotels will advise reputable mini-cab firms and will call one for you).
Thanks for the post!

Ms. Edna (squared) said...

And thank you for the comment Syl.