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Category Archives: Uncategorized

My First Book- ‘The Knowledge: Train Your Brain Like a Cabbie’

I’m very proud to announce that my first book; ‘The Knowledge: Train Your Brain Like a Cabbie’ is now available both in shops and online. 

Holding a copy of my book in Foyle’s, Charing Cross Road!

The book takes readers inside the secretive world of ‘The Knowledge’; the incredibly tough training process which prospective cabbies must undergo before they are licensed to drive a London taxi. 

To see a preview please click below: 

The book’s introduction details the evolution of The Knowledge; how it began and what it’s subsequently morphed into, as well as an account of my own experience of the process- including the terrifying verbal exams (of which I personally had to sit 27!)

Knowledge examiners at the Public Carriage Office, Islington- as featured on the BBC’s 1996 documentary, ‘Streetwise’.

This is followed by 50 routes (‘runs’ as cabbies call them) which are taken from The Blue Book; the official guide which provides the basis for studying The Knowledge of London.

The runs feature an array of London history and trivia and are divided into groups of 10 which come under 5 chapters, each of which showcases a particular brain training technique. These are: 

1) Acronyms and mnemonics.

2) Short stories in which the names of streets and roads are transformed into characters and events with surreal results

3) Common historical threads – such as the run Parliament Street to Golden Lane which traces the flow of the Thames and the river’s key role in helping the city grow.

4) ‘Memory Champion’ techniques- specifically the ‘Method of Loci’ (the use of which can be traced back to the days of Ancient Greece) and the ‘Memory Palace’ which is also many centuries old but has been made famous in recent years thanks to the BBC’s modern adaptation, ‘Sherlock’.

5) The final 10 runs are ones with which I feel a personal connection – for example, Golborne Road to Pennine Drive which involves roads closely connected with my own family history. In other words, as well as the common shared Knowledge of London’s roads and places of interest, these runs demonstrate how each cabbie also harbours their own personal map of the capital.

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The book is beautifully illustrated by artist and cartographer, Jamie Whyte who, amongst many other projects, also created the maps for ‘Young Winstone’; a memoir by legendary Londoner and actor, Ray Winstone. 

An example of Jamie’s work from ‘The Knowledge; Train Your Brain Like a Cabbie’

Readers will also find a glossary of cabbie’s slang terms.

The Knowledge: Train Your Brain like a cabbie is available at a number of online retailers including Waterstones and Amazon.

Thanks for reading!

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Please support the family of taxi driver, Mr Imtiaz Mohammed

Early this morning I like many others awoke to the dreadful news that, overnight, there had been a horrendous six-vehicle pile-up in Edgbaston, Birmingham which has claimed the lives of six people.

Amongst the victims was Mr Imtiaz Mohammed, a taxi driver whose two passengers also died in the tragedy.

Mr Mohammed, who has been described as a “happy, loving and friendly guy”, had six young children.

Imtiaz Mohammed (Birmingham Mail)

Following this disaster, London cabbie Andy Davies has set up a crowdfunding page to raise funds for Mr Mohammed’s family at this difficult time.

If you wish to donate, please click here. 

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“I danced myself into the tomb”… A tribute to Marc Bolan

The 16th of September 2017 commemorates the 40th anniversary of the death of one of London’s most famous sons: Mark Feld– aka Marc Bolan– the flamboyant frontman for 1970s band, ‘T-Rex’.

Marc Bolan

Marc was born at Hackney General Hospital (now Homerton University Hospital) on the 30th September 1947.

His early childhood was spent at 25a Stoke Newington Common and he attended Northwold Primary School and William Wordsworth Secondary Modern, Dalston.

The Feld’s family home, Stoke Newington Common (image: Google)

The Feld’s were a humble family.

Marc’s father, Simeon was from hardworking Jewish stock, driving a lorry from Monday to Friday and running a stall on Petticoat Lane (an institution which Marc would later reference in his 1976 song, ‘London Boys’) on weekends.

Marc’s mother, Phyllis was also a market trader; her pitch was at Berwick Street. As a youngster, her son often helped out on the Soho stall; a job which no doubt helped Marc develop the confidence and flair he’d later become famous for.

Berwick Street, Soho in the 1950s

In the early 1960s the Feld’s moved south of the river to a prefab at 27 Summerstown, a stone’s throw from Wimbledon stadium. The former home is now covered by an industrial estate.

The site of the Feld’s former home, Summerstown (image: Google)

Marc enrolled at Hillcroft School, Beechcroft Road (now Ernest Bevin College) but after gaining a reputation as a daydreamer who lacked concentration he was expelled at the age of 14- although he’d later recall that “They were very nice about it.”

Marc Bolan in his teens

Marc’s true passion was music.

He received his first guitar and record player aged just 9 and his father would often bring home vinyl discs which he’d picked up on Petticoat Lane. Marc’s idols were Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Elvis Presley and the then fledgling Bob Dylan.

As he entered his teens, Marc took to busking outside the former ‘Prince of Wales’ pub on the junction of Summerstown and Garrett Lane (which is now sadly a Tesco Express).

The former Prince of Wales pub, Summerstown all boarded up (image: pub history.com)

Southwest London in the early 60s however wasn’t exactly happening, so Marc would often head to Soho’s coffee bars; the ‘2is’ on Old Compton Street (now a branch of ‘Poppies’ fish and chip restaurant) was a particular favourite.

It was during this period he befriended an equally young David Bowie.

Marc was also passionate about clothes and began to cultivate his unique look with regular visits to the former ‘Bilgorri’ emporium on Bishopsgate.

By the age of 16 he’d adopted his first stage name- Toby Tyler– and was soon gigging at the ‘Middle Earth’ club on Covent Garden’s King Street.

It was in 1967 that Marc formed ‘Tyrannosaurus Rex’- later simplified to ’T-Rex’- and, after a turbulent start, the group achieved their first hit- ‘Ride a White Swan’- in the autumn of 1970 (please click below to listen):

After that, commercial success quickly followed as the group spearheaded the Glam Rock movement.

Please click the images below to hear T-Rex’s other hits which include:

Jeepster (1971)

Get It On (1971)

Hot Love (1971)

Children of the Revolution (1972)

20th Century Boy (1972)

…and ‘Metal Guru’ (1972)

With this success came numerous television interviews.

In one particular appearance with Russell Harty, Marc was asked how he considered the future; the idea of being an older man in his 50s or 60s.

Ominously, Marc shook his head and replied “I don’t think I’ll live that long.

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On Thursday September 15th 1977, Marc dined at Morton’s Restaurant, Berkley Square with his girlfriend and fellow performer, Gloria Jones; the American singer best known for her song, ‘Tainted Love’ which was famously covered by ‘Softcell’ in 1981.

Marc and Gloria

In the early hours of the following morning, the pair left the club and climbed into their purple 1275GT mini. Gloria was at the wheel- Marc had a morbid fear of driving- and they headed for their home on Upper Richmond Road West.

Just before 5am however, Gloria lost control of the car on Queen’s Ride, Barnes; a particularly dangerous stretch of road which, unusually for London, has a distinct country-lane feel.

Queen’s Ride, Barnes (image: Google)

The mini careered off the tarmac, smashed through a fence and came to rest at a tree.

Gloria was severely injured. Marc died instantly.

He was 29 years old.

Marc Bolan (image: Planet Rock)

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Marc Bolan’s funeral took place at Golders Green Crematorium on the 20th September 1977 where the centrepiece of his floral tribute was a large white swan crafted from chrysanthemums.

The tree in Barnes where Marc’s life was cut so tragically short, remains in place and has since become a major shrine for fans.

Flowers at the crash site where Marc Bolan died (image: Google)

Marc’s parents, Simeon and Phyllis both died within 9 months of each other in 1991 and their names now appear alongside their son’s on a modest memorial plaque within the peaceful grounds at Golders Green Crematorium.

Plaque commemorating Simeon, Phyllis and Marc at Golders Green Crematorium

Please click below to watch Marc perform his classic, ‘Cosmic Dancer’ which was filmed live at Wembley in 1972:

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