Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Starting Out

OK, a first attempt at writing on the web.

Actually, not really the first time, having published a football fanzine for a few years, along with its website. They say, there's a book in everyone. Well I certainly hope mine comes out soon. It's been really uncomfortable riding that scooter around London for the past three and a half years with that inside me.

Why ride a scooter for so long? Quite simple really.. the answer, not the author, although some might argue otherwise.

After having spent 7 years at home as a stay-at-home dad while our daughter grew up, I decided to think about a career for when she got a bit older. The prospect of going back into and office and selling things 9-5 (or for however many hour the job takes, as my last couple of contracts so quaintly phrased it) filled me with horror. To put all that work in for little return just didn't seem to suit me.

So, what job could I do where the hours are totally flexible and where I wouldn't have to be shut inside an office environment for the rest of my working life? I enjoy driving... yes, even in London... so why not think about becoming a cabbie.
To become a licensed hackney carriage driver in London, an applicant needs to demonstrate that he or she can find the shortest route between any two given places within 6 miles of Charing Cross Station in the centre of London. And all without the aid of map or sat-nav system.

The process of learning and demonstrating all this is known as "The Knowledge of London".

On average it takes a knowledge-boy or -girl, around three and a half years to complete the knowledge. All at their own expense, and all in their own time.

A list of 320 routes forms the backbone of The Knowledge, but is far from all you'd need to know. Once you've learned the routes, you also need to find places (known as points) on those routes. These can be restaurants, bars, museums, offices, stations, pretty much anywhere a passenger might as to go to.

The easiest way to find these points is simply to get out there and find them. It can be done on foot, or by car, but by far, the most popular way is to use a scooter or moped. You'll recognise a knowledge boy in town. Their bike usually has a perspex screen on the front normally with a map or a list of roads and points that they need to find.

And so for several years, in all weathers, a knowledge boy will be pounding the streets searching for somewhere that the examiners have asked in previous exams (known as "appearances"). Once all that bike work is done and you've worked your way through the appearance system you then have to learn 132 routes from the edge of the six mile radius out to the London Suburbs.

And that is the stage I am now at. I've managed to drive all of the routes adding another 1500 miles or so to the 24,000 I've already done (I suspect it would have been quicker and easier to have become the pilot of a 747). The next couple of weeks will be spent revising these runs before I go back up to the Public Carriage Office (PCO) where I will have to recite a few of them at the examiner's choosing.

Providing I'm successful, I'll then be given a final talk, presented with my badge and I can then start work once I've picked up my cab from the rental company.

And that, in a nutshell is what I've had to go through in the past three years. I'm sure these pages will tell you more about some of the details as I recall them once I'm in the job. Or perhaps it'll all just fall out of the already full dustbin that is my brain. Who knows?

Right! Revision beckons.

1 comment:

Geoff said...

OK then Butterboy, nice start to the blog, with no wrong turns yet. But hey, the journey's only just begun so plenty of time yet! Two questions for you. Firstly, what's a 'musher' in cabbie parlance? Secondly, do you want to buy a well thumbed workshop manual for an FX4?