This little anecdote starts at the Hilton Metropole. A family come out and demand Westfield, I take them to Wood Lane, “No this is not the entrance”. Then it’s off to the second entrance in Wood Lane, “No take us to the cab rank”, next it’s on to Shepherds Bush Station cab rank, “No this not this entrance we want – take us back to the hotel”. If they though with £16 on the meter I was going to retrace my steps they were sorely disappointed. I ask them to get out, suspecting it was a ruse used before leaving them – without paying – having to waddle all of 150 yards into the shopping emporium. Driving on to the Hilton Kensington a Swedish woman gets in “Please take me to Hilton Olympia” (there are a lot of Hiltons in London). She has apparently been taken to the wrong Hilton by the private hire driver. “You cabbies are marvellous”, she intones. I drop here off and receive a generous tip. One hundred yards later a hand goes out and two ladies ask for Gibson Square, it’s the first ‘run’ of The Knowledge. You could say it was: The Ugly, The Bad and The Good!
According to a new study – with all the ‘improvements’ TfL have made to London’s roads – research has found 73 hours a year are spent in traffic jams, which ranks London the seventh worst city in the world for congestion. Two of the six ahead of London are South American cities with little spent on their infrastructure. You couldn’t make it up, after spending many millions of pounds, causing gridlock with numerous roadworks to encourage cycling in London and presumably better health. It is now more dangerous to sit on a bus due to pollution than at any time since the ‘pea-soupers’ of the 1950s.
In November 2008 I joined Twitter using the handle @londoncabbie, adding @cabbieblog the next year, and for a time both accounts hung around in cyberspace untroubled by my interaction.
Later I started tweeting trivia on an old Nokia handset to the @cabbieblog account, and without the Twitter app, did I realise that you’re supposed to join in with strangers who, with others, are minded to engage in a pointless conversation.
Today that daily trivia has been ‘tweeted’ uninterrupted for well over a decade, but it was not until I had an i-phone that I’ve realised that people actually bother to comment on both my accounts.
The Sun and Guardian newspapers had tried to contact me, as did the BBC World Service, although I still don’t really understand how you can monitor the mass of messages received, and take the time to reply, but there again, I was born half-a-century too early.
Looking at the replies that my ‘followers’ have been minded to bring to my attention, I have discovered a plethora of well-meaning, and not so informative information, regarding the trivia on @cabbieblog and links to blog posts on @londoncabbie.
The favourite that I’ve unearthed takes me to task with my ability to compose acceptable prose in 140 characters:
funnily enough no
1 last try….
Pathetic you still cant get it right, your lucky the cab trade saved you and gave you a job….not the sharpest are you
While this table dancing venue made me an offer it seemed churlish to ignore:
Thanks for your twitter add,looking forward to your tweets-we offer 100% of ££ customers you bring us pay at the door
My hippocampus was at the centre of a discussion between a professor and someone undertaking a post-doctorate:
@hugospiers, the professor
Why choice to do the Knowledge training? – that is I think because they love the joy of problem solving a massive jigsaw of London. The freedom to operate and roam London they really enjoy. @CabbieBlog & @EvaGriesbauer might have more to add…
Isn’t it hugely time-consuming and costly though? Maybe this isn’t right, but I thought drivers had to just drive around for weeks unpaid to learn the streets.
@hugospiers the prof clarified
its about 2-4 years! Its crazy and hugely expensive to train. It does pay reasonably well at the end and you are your own boss, so it is attractive to many still.
But you could still have licensing but not necessarily based on the knowledge? I would never challenge that acquiring the knowledge isn’t an impressive feat, but is the benefit for the industry worth the cost for individuals who have to take it? How do people think about this?
Apart from getting my day in the Sun newspaper, these opportunities were missed:
EXCITING NEW C4 GAMESHOW WITH PADDY MCGUINNESS WANTS YOU- CHANCE TO WIN THOUSANDS!
To become a zombie cabbie:
New BBCThree series I SURVIVED A #ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE is CASTING NOW. Go to bbc.in/1v63ZNF to apply. PLS RT
Or as a tour guide:
Hi guys, I’m putting together a visitors/beginners guide to London taxis, do you have any tips?
While some were more suspicious:
Wots your blog about?
That link looked a bit dodgy to me…
Others were more gushing with their praise:
Just discovered your blog, its a great read! Added it to my top London blogs
read your blog your quite an asset sir to the trade in my humble opinion
More please, i love this sort of trivia,
You’re too kind, Gibson Sq! If I were not a cabbie though, I would have no inspiration…
Some people just don’t know a visionary when they see one!
@CabbieBlog doesn’t even tweet his own blogposts. Odd, because they’re great.
This driver offered this rather quixotic advice:
If I was u I wouldn’t be able to resist slipping the odd pile of bollocks in. I trust u hv greater resolve than I…
Apparently, a lyricist follows me:
Can you imagine Ray Davis and the kinks singing strand bridge sun rise , it would have fu**ed up a great song
Unsurprisingly, London cabbies did not keep their own counsel on Twitter:
I was always convinced that “keep your feet off the seats” was Spanish for .. “Put your feet up immediately” … Lol
have you seen the signs in exhibition rd? “give way to pedestrians”. Ridiculous. So are we now driving on the pavement?
I apologise mate for my language Iv been a little quite lately it’s just twitter can sometimes ware you down with muppets …
1829 v 1654
So we as a trade have 175 years seniority yet still get treated like ……
you can still turn right but you won’t be able to soon cos its going to be a contraflow bus lane which we cabbies can not use.
And to emphasise his point:
just to make you even happier no left turn from Hampstead rd in to Euston rd, dont you just love tfl?
and the best taxi service in the world gets discarded by @sebcoe and his cronies! I hope you get plenty of stick
thank you, you’re a real gent, and theres not many of us left.# be lucky
Have they moved Manor House haven’t been there for 38 years?
My favourite from an ex-London cabbie, who claims to be part-owner of a Hebridian Island:
I had that Fred Housego in the front of my cab, once . . .
A boutique hotel is to be found at the eastern end of Long Lane, called The Bermondsey Square Hotel; it’s located where London’s largest antique market used to be held. If the market is still held early Friday mornings nearby, will the guests like to be woken at four in the morning to stalls being erected and the smell of fried onions?
Friday in Bethnal Green. Waiting at a red light in Bethnal Green Road a man and two women emerge from a public house. A man knocks the first woman to the ground and is attacked by the second, his punch misses its target. Good to see traditional Fridays in East London are being maintained.