For the third instalment in our series of London blogger interviews, we approached a new blogger who is documenting a great institution of our city - the life of a cabbie. Richard has a very special view of London through the window of a black cab, so we caught up with him to find out what drives him to write The Cabbies Capital.
If you had to describe your blog in less than 15 words how would you do it?
London through the eyes of a black cab driver with mild aspergers syndrome.
How and why did you start blogging?
Do cab drivers need an excuse to foist their opinions on the wider world? In truth, cab driving is not quite as glamorous as some people might think, blogging has helped give my job a different dimension.
What about London inspires your blog?
Everything, even all that North London stuff.
What would be your dream London cab passenger or journey?
Ken beats Boris, and I have the pleasure of driving Boris back to Eton.
What's your favourite post you've ever written?
My first one "White Lion Hill". I think it perfectly sums up what I wanted to do with my blog. Talking about a bit of London that means a lot to me but other people might not know, without being deliberately obscure.
Would you feel more connected to London, would you have missed out on things without your blog?
Starting my blog has been a real eye opener for me. Cab drivers, and the cab trade, are a pretty inward looking bunch with a "the worlds against us" attitude. I wanted to try and widen my horizons and open up the cab trade to the wider world. It's early days but I've certainly opened my eyes a bit and I'm enjoying the view, the connections I've made are already proving entertaining, informative and useful. Well these weirdos at Londonist.com seem to be stalking me for a start. Generally though, my blog is helping me to connect to all sorts of London people that I would never have come across otherwise. And an unexpected side affect is how much more political stuff I am looking at. Not unnecessarily doing anything with it, but I certainly much better informed than I was six months ago.
Tell us about another up-and coming London blogger you like
Has to be Jane's London. Only discovered Jane's site last week but love what she is doing, she has a great eye and passion for some of the more obscure bits of the city. Who else can make bootscrapers seem kinda cool? And as I had the pleasure of meeting Jane herself this week, I really should give her a plug. Special mention also to Cabbie who gave me some good advice when I first started and lists his interests as whingeing.
Tell us about your best cab job ever?
Happened on Monday this week. About 11:30pm, I’d just done one of the most pointless jobs of recent times - Grosvenor House Hotel to Cumberland Hotel - and I was round the back of Shepards Market thinking about going home. Three blokes hail me - “How much to Brighton & back mate?”. Long pause from me, then short conversation along the lines of “you mean the town” and “I’ve no idea what to charge” and “it’ll have to be money up front” and “I’ll need some more diesel” and “thanks, that'll do nicely” It’s only one of them that needs to go, he needs to drop some money and documents at his “cousins” then get back to the Hilton Tower Bridge before heading home early Tuesday morning. We chat a bit, and four hours later I am home considerably better off than I had been at 11pm. Nice.
And the worst?
I try and be positive about all my lovely punters, but occasionally they really can be a pain in the arse. I recently lost it at a back seat driver but got to use my favourite line "when you go to a restaurant do you go into the kitchen and cook the meal yourself?".
Any good celebrity passengers or stories?
I haven’t had loads of celebs in the cab and certainly no A listers. But Mr Berkhoff is by far my favourite. Picked him up in Covent Garden, or rather nearly didn’t because he looked a bit like a tramp. But I quickly worked out who he was, as that voice is so distinctive. Took him home to Limehouse and he was very good humoured all the way, despite getting caught in shite traffic down Lower Thames St. Kept going on about how he’d just come from the dole office and entertained me with a brilliantly foul mouthed rant against four wheel drive motors. Top man.
What do cabbies know about London that noone else does - what do they get to see?
Cabbies know that you can't get from Liverpool St to City Airport in less than ten minutes - as someone asked me on Friday. And that once you are stuck in traffic in the Blackwall Tunnel there isn't a better route to take. We get to see some strange London traditions, like hotel doormen expecting cab drivers to give them a backhander for decent jobs, like Heathrow, a practice I refuse to get involved in.
What makes a London cabbie happy?
No traffic, a steady stream of customers and the occasional please and thankyou from punters.
Top cabbie bugbears we should know about?
Things you should tell your cabbie at the start of your journey; I may need a cashpoint; I have a preferred route; I may have forgotten where I live. And don't, please, please, please call me "mate", "buddie", "guv'nor". The posher the punter the keener they are on calling me this. Or "driv'" some horrible little oik probably from Epsom who thought he was a proper cock-er-nee, and certainly never say "Be lucky" as that is a cabbie to cabbie greeting. See my top 10 tips for hailing a cab for the good stuff.
And for some general London chat...Where do you live and why do you love it?
I'm from Tooting! It's a favourite phrase in our household, mainly because that is where we live. But Tooting is proper London, not gentrified or Starbuckised just normal. When the opening of Cafe Nero is big news, you know that where you live has it's feet on the ground.
Where's your favourite place in London?
St Paul's Cathedral. I don't do religion but I could spend hours here. I am planning on taking my daughter back to the top as I haven't dragged her up there since she was about four.
Have you ever been sick on the tube?
No. I leave my puking for gutters and, or my own bed.