A Life in the Front of a Black Cab

By London_Simon Last edited 143 months ago
A Life in the Front of a Black Cab

If you could release a spoken word album of cabbie stories you would have to advertise it in a K-Tel Hit Parade LP style. It would sound something like this:

New from K-Tel, it’s the 100 best Cabbie stories coming to all good record stores!

Who could forget such classics as;

“You’ll never guess who I had in the back of my cab the other day…”

Or the mercurial:

“The trouble with Blair is …”

Or the good old standard social commentary preceded with …

“What people fail to realise is that England had an Empire once….”

The cheeky quip;

“Women Drivers eh? They’ll want the vote next.”

And the all time favourite:

“South of the river this time of night, mate! You’re ‘aving a laaaarf!”

Ah, good old fashioned, outmoded stereotypes. As reassuring as they may be, this Londonista knows when to stop and present a balanced and up date view of the most trained and insured cabbies in the world. Most experiences of London’s hackney carriages are tremendously positive. There are some genuinely witty, knowledgeable people steering us to obscure places with the scantest of instructions and every now and again there are even altruistic stories of selflessness and going 'beyond the fare' that warm the cockles of your heart and remind you to treasure the heritage and history of the Green and Gold medal holders.

Therefore, it was with anticipation that Londonist saw that one of the faithful had decided to put down his 40 years worth of experiences into a book; 'London Cabbie: A Life's Knowledge'. The Author, Alf Townsend, who is 72 and full of lust for life, gained “The Knowledge” at the age of 29, no small feat in itself as you can be tested on any route within a 6 mile radius of Charing Cross. The book includes all sorts of strange and wonderful tales with great characters, almost all with good old London nicknames such as Mr Whippy, Violent Pete and Claude the Bastard. Will Self, whose “Book of Dave” was about a cabbie’s descent into madness, has called the book required reading. Alf has also been a de facto spokesman for the trade since winning the “Taxi Driver of the Year” in 1978 and gaining minor fame with International TV appearances.

Image taken from Jim Callendars Flickr stream.

Last Updated 22 May 2007