With it being half term week, it's a little difficult to get out working, so despite still having the cab at home it's not earning me any money this week (unless I manage to get out at the weekend). I did manage to work on Monday after my daughter took a trip into London with one of her friends, but only after I'd taken my mum out for a little drive.
That did give me a chance to practice putting the wheelchair ramp and step into place, the first time I've done it since having to take the DSA Hackney Carriage driving test. All London cabs have to be wheelchair accessible and a driver needs to demonstrate how to do this (and secure it in the cab). The ramp itself is a fold out flap built into the floor of the TXII, unlike some older models where two ramps are stored in the boot.
The rest of the driving test is pretty much the same as a normal driving test. Around 45 minutes of driving an examiner around, performing the same sort of manoeuvres that you'd do in any other driving test; reversing round corners, parallel parking, emergency stops etc. My favourite "taxi assessment" has to be the U-turn. With a 25' kerb-to-kerb turning circle it's really easy to make the cab face the opposite direction, something that's already been useful several times while out working.
Of course, U-turns don't exist on The Knowledge, and we need to learn which roads will get us facing the opposite direction, known as "turnarounds". Some of these are still useful when picking up in one way streets or streets with barriers or no U-turn signs, but are nowhere near as much fun as giving it full lock and spinning the cab round on something smaller than a sixpence.
Most of Monday's jobs were straightforward enough, and again, the stuff I'd learned on The Knowledge just kicked into place, apart from one side street in Fulham which I'd never heard of, and one hotel which I knew but couldn't find once I'd got into the right street. In the first case, the passenger gave me the main road I needed and then told me where to turn off. The second one was a hotel near Paddington which doesn't even have the name on the outside, and is in a road that is made up of three separate parallel roads. I drove past it three times before getting onto the phone to my old callover partner Brian to see if he could give me a fix on it. As usual with these things, as soon as I'd got through, I found the hotel. The passenger was very understanding about the situation once he saw how badly lit and badly signed the hotel was, even having a joke about "how good the knowledge is". I offered to knock a couple of quid off the fare because of the stuttering end to the run, but he declined and gave me a nice tip on top, saying with a smile that he'd just tell the people he was meeting that "the bloody cabbie didn't know where he was going".
On the subject of my callover partner, he's finally got his badge and done his first couple of nights work. It seems he's enjoying it as well, so we're planning to meet up some time next week for lunch... that's if we can tear ourselves away from the travelling public who insist on giving us money.