First of all, I like to thank Vaughan Williams and Steven M Levy for their hospitality yesterday at the press showing of "The Knowledge", at the Charing Cross Theatre. (Yes I did find it thank you).
The play has finally found its way back to the very centre of the six mile radius around which the knowledge is firmly based.
I'd also like to take the opportunity to give Maureen Lipman, Simon Block, the cast and crew a standing ovation for the immense work that's gone into adapting Jack Rosenthal's masterpiece from screen to stage. The story works so well set in the seventies because doing the knowledge back then, was seen to be the golden ticket, that would set you up for life.
Having 'done' the Knowledge of London myself in the same decade in which the play is set, I felt closer to the story line than most. Leaving school at 15 with no qualifications, I trundled my way through a succession of different jobs knowing full well that one day, I would follow in the footsteps of my paternal and maternal granddads, my uncles and cousins and finally become one of London's finest.
The old Public Carriage Office was a formidable place, housing not only Taxi administration and the Metropolitan Lost Property Office, but also the inspection centre, where every Taxi in London was plated (licensed). All contained in a purpose built 'state of the art' building, a huge step upwards from the dark days of the dungeon, located in Black Prince Road, Lambeth.
But.... it could also be a very frightening place, especially on appearance day.
No one can fully explain the feelings of nauseous anxiety, students experienced building up to an appointment.
Every examiner back in my day, were ex 'Old Bill'. Finlay, Rance, Wicks, Hedges and Miller, all having the ability to reduced grown men (and women) to trembling wrecks with very few words.
Sitting in the waiting room (which had paper thin walls), you would sometimes catch the occasional mumbled point from a knowledge student in the adjacent office. Everyone would breakout in a cold sweat, feeling as if Darren Brown had suddenly walked into the room and emptied their brains.
We were fully aware of what we were taking on before we started....the hardest Taxi test in the world, one that no one fails. You either 'do' the Knowledge or you jack it in.
Seventy percent of all applicant fail to complete and as Steven Pacey, who plays Mr Burgess says:
"There's only one way to pass the Knowledge, and that's to go out and do the bugger".
Taxi drivers have so much to learn, that it actually increases the size of their brain. Science has shown, London Cabbies have a larger hypo-campus than most other professions.
Also let's not forget, back then the game was dead, we knew this because ever Cabby we spoke to told us. But we carried on regardless.
I'm not going to give out any spoilers from the show, as I feel most of Taxi Leak's readers will have already seen the film, but the cast under the directorship of Maureen Lipman have done an incredible job bringing Jack's characters back to life, transporting us back to the 70s.
The shows wonderful soundtrack, performed by none other than our very own multi talented saxophonist, John Cox (ParkerCabbie)
We all know how hard the knowledge can be, but we should never forget our partners, family and friends who, in a supportive role, do the knowledge with us.
I must finish by saying there is not another feeling on this earth (career wise), liken to getting your Green Badge, or the first time you hear the words from another cabbie "Be Lucky Son"
Taxi Leaks Extra:
Doing the knowledge once is hard enough, but I have a good friend (Dave Smith) who has had to do the knowledge (albeit in a reduced capacity) three times. I believe that's possibly a record.
Having got his badge months before me, he suddenly decided to sell up and went to live down under in Australia.
A few years down the line, he decided to come back. Dave applied to get his bill back but was told he would have to do the knowledge again, which he did.
Some years later he had a head on collision and was quite badly injured, putting him out of the trade for a few more years. Again to come back, he had to resit the knowledge a third time and is still working as a cabby today.