yeah yeah, I know, these blog things are supposed to be a running record of what's going on.
Well, since I last posted, quite a lot has happened.
I was calling over the suburb runs leading up to my final appearance last time I wrote. Well, that is now all well behind me. I managed to get up to the PCO in plenty of time for my traditional pre-appearance cuppa and bacon sandwich. Funny how superstitious you become about these things and I kept the same routine that I had done throughout my time on the knowledge. (Lucky pants, lucky tie, left sock on before the right one.. you know, the usual Cup run stuff that football fans go through.)
Well, it must have worked... that and a lot of calling over all the runs til I was sick of them. Was called in by one of the senior examiners and rattled off four runs before being given the congratulatory handshake. That was it. After nearly 3 and a half years I had finally completed The Knowledge of London and could call myself a London cabbie. Well, after parting with my license fee and returning to the PCO later that morning for the presentation of my badge and cab license.
A nice talk from the senior examiner about what to expect once we get out onto the streets, and then off to Bethnal Green to pick up the rented cab.
By the time I'd sorted all that out I was hoping to be able to get on with my first job, but time was pressing and I had to get back towards home to pick up my daughter from school.... IN THE CAB of course! So the first job had to wait until the following day.
That also gave me the chance to get used to driving a cab as well, since I hadn't done that since passing my driving test a couple of months previously.
And so, to Friday morning, and a still-wet-behind-the-ears butterboy was dragging his rented silver TXII towards London, still worrying about what would happen when his first fare came along. (well , that and worrying about getting the cab changed since the first one had no headlights, a heater that wouldn't switch off and an intercom that crackled louder than a pan of bacon with a loudhaler. (eh?)
Cab changed and off I headed towards the city. I tentatively pressed the button on the meter that switched the light on, and almost prayed that nobody would stick their hand out. (What if I don't know the destination? What if I take the wrong route? What if the customer tries to do a runner?)
And then, the moment came. Outside the Hoxton Hotel, and hand goes out and I'm the only cab around with a light on. Guess that's me then. Over I go and in climbs passenger number 1. "Paddington Station please". Yes! I know the destination and I know the route.
Off we go and after a little while we strike up a conversation. Turns out the guy is heading back to Ireland after some business in London, but he lives in Scotland. He's a musician. Not just any musician though, he's the bass player from Snow Patrol, so he's been Chasing Cars before (geddit?). I apologise for not having bought any of his discs and for not recognising him. He's sort of pleased about that anyway, it means that they can get on with a normal life, but still have all the fun of playing in a successful band.
The traffic's bad and the fare soon clicks into double figures, but I tell him of the tradition among new drivers where the first ever fare is given away. He's shocked and seems quite happy that he's somebody's first ever fare, but tells me he will still pay me. I tell him again about the tradition and he offers to pay the value of the fare (and some) to Save the Children.
We eventually get to Paddington and with a handshake and good luck wishes all round my first job is over! Not only my first job, but also my first "guess-who-I-had-in-the-back-of-my-cab" story. A really nice, down to earth guy (he must be, he's a bass player) and a pleasure to chat with.
I rejoined the Paddington rank and picked up an Australian couple who were heading to Waterloo to catch the Eurostar train to Paris. By the time we get to Waterloo International (via a long stop outside Buckingham Palace while a military band marched past) it's sweltering in the cab. Clearly I've got a problem with this vehicle as well so it's back to Bethnal Green to change it over again.
Finally I end up with a cab that doesn't seem to have too many problems and hit the road again to finish off my first short day. All the jobs were fairly short and well within my capabilities so a nice easy day to start my new career.
I've now been a cabbie for one week and I must say that I'm loving it. Apart from all the roadworks that seem to have sprung up in the six weeks since I stopped my bike work. Traffic in town has been awful all this week and the passengers have all been understanding, if a little pissed off the the meter keeps ticking over even though we're going nowhere. I know I would be as well, and must admit to a few pangs of guilt at some of the prices that have to be charged for some relatively short journeys, but I'm sure they'll disappear before too long.
Looking forward to the weekend since I won't be able to do much work next week due to half term holidays, so it'll be a case of see what I can do with the time available between my band's gigs, the Rugby World Cup final and Lewis Hamilton trying to win the F1 title.