London Lantern

Putting the Spotlight on London

Our Politically Incorrect Taxi Driver - Part 3

25/03/2001, By Sean Farrell

Reader Rating: 2.9 from 18346 votes


The recent cold weather in London has reminded me of two episodes whilst I was doing the knowledge, in the first instance I was on my motorbike (a Honda 90) in sub zero temperatures. I formulated the idea that if washing up gloves could keep the heat out, they should also be able to keep the body heat in.

This was quite logical to my unscientific mind – and still is. So there I was riding the bike through London looking for obscure places the public never wants, wearing two pairs of trousers, several jumpers, a full set of waterproofs and my marigolds under my motorcycle gloves.

It did not work, in fact my hands were so cold my hands hurt and I had tears in my eyes such was the pain.

My fingers were absolutely frozen and I honestly felt like crawling up and dying.

The real sad thing was that I was less than a mile from my home and could have gone back at any time but I persisted in “collecting my points” for that day.

The second instance was an equally cold day but with the added complication of rain – in fact it was piss-istently raining.

I had to go to a housing estate in Clapham to record the names of the buildings there. The estate was (and is) called the William Bonney estate, why anyone would want to name such a place after Billy the Kid I don’t know, perhaps because they thought nobody but gangsters would live there. They’re probably right.

Despite wearing waterproof clothing I could feel the icy rain penetrating and collecting in a pool between my legs, I know this area of the body is supposed to be cooler than the rest but we are talking cryogenics here.

No matter how often I stood up to let the water run down into my boots, it would only be a few minutes before it would all collect again. It's amazing that I have two children and the fact that they never seem to feel the cold might have something to do with that day.

When I was doing my degree I may have had the odd night where sleep went out the window but there was never as much commitment as when I was on the Knowledge.

The Knowledge completely takes over your life, if it doesn’t then you are doing something wrong.

But now the Knowledge, the one thing which separates London cab drivers from the rest of the world, could soon be a thing of the past.

There are those who suggest that the London cab trade is too elitist, too white male centred and too few.

Anybody can become a London cab driver, providing they do not have a criminal record and they do the Knowledge.

In a recent paedophile case in the courts, two of the defendants were described as taxi-drivers, the fact that they had previous convictions would prevent them from becoming a London cab driver.

The police check up on us as to our worthiness to hold a green badge; these perverts were minicab drivers, who drive normal cars, where no such checks are required.

This is one reason why you should never take a lift from one of these people.

The charge that we are “too white male centred” is still often bandied about despite it not being true for the last decade and a half.

There has never been any restrictions on race, creed or colour, but for many years the London cab trade was white and male – up until the second world war it was predominantly Jewish, a faith which still carries a large percentage within the ranks.

Following the Thatcherite depression of the eighties and nineties the trade has been swelled with women and many from the ethnic minorities.

“Come one, come all,” I say, as long as you’re a 'fit and proper person' and you have done the Knowledge.

Sean Farrell

(to be continued)

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