I’d finally been awarded the coveted green badge; the small, oval-shaped, metal brooch which allowed me to go out onto London’s streets and ply for hire.
Of course, in order to kick-start my new career, I also needed a taxi.
For over four years, I’d fantasised about driving the iconic London Black Cab, and now, like so many drivers before me, it was time to go out and secure one.
There are two types of London Cabbie. In slang terms, they are known as:
1) ‘Mushers’- those who own their taxi outright.
2) ‘Journeymen’- cabbies who rent their vehicle from a taxi fleet.
Black Cabs do not come cheap (the latest models start at around £30,000) and, when you first begin your career, it is recommended that you rent for some time whilst you get a feel for the job.
So I was about to become a Journeyman.
When renting, although you don’t own the vehicle in which you work, the cash you pay provides an umbrella of sorts; covering the tax, insurance, breakdown cover and any repairs which may be required, so it’s a pretty good deal.
A friend of a friend had recommended a taxi rental garage to me and, after getting in contact, a cab was arranged for me. The day after receiving my badge, I made my way to the depot in the early afternoon.
It seems to be a prerequisite that any garage dealing with vehicles should be located in an arch below a railway viaduct, and this one was no exception.
Although about 30 minutes away from where I currently live, the taxi depot was a stones-throw from the council flat in which I grew up in, and it was a therefore a warm feeling to return to a familiar area; a place which meant something to me, as I sought to begin my new career.
Being December, it was chilly and the last few days had seen unusually heavy snowfalls. For a while I’d feared that the snow and ice would prevent me from picking up the cab and going to work. Luckily, when the day arrived, the snow had mostly thawed to a grey mush, and driving didn’t prove too much of a problem.
Trudging up along the narrow strip which ran alongside the railway arches, dirty grey ice piled on each side, I spotted the taxi reserved for me parked up ahead, tucked up tight against a wire fence, through which weeds grew, despite the bitter weather and criss-crossed metal links.
The taxi was a ‘Fairway’; a model originally known as the Austin FX4; the classic, iconic design which was in production for an amazing length of time; 1958 to 1997.
I’d longed to drive one of these dear old vehicles for years, and now my chance was close at hand.
The garage unit was cluttered with all manner of cabs in varying states of disorder and repair. These vehicles were lined up in a tight zigzag line alongside the railway arches and a few more sat inside; one hoisted up on a sturdy, well-used lift, its radiator absent. The garage echoed to the tinny tones of a crackling radio, tuned into an AM station which blared out golden oldies from the 60s, 70s and 80s.
I entered the garage, not quite sure if I was allowed to or not (health and safety and all that). It appeared that the floor had once been painted red, but it was now flaking, caked in sticky muck and grease. The atmosphere reeked of stale engine oil, as most garages do.
I finally found the proprietor upstairs (upstairs being a balcony, accessed by a steep, metal staircase). He was a short, squat man- not unlike an unshaven Danny DeVito (who, by coincidence, starred in the US comedy drama; ‘Taxi‘), dressed in a grubby, blue tracksuit, his head topped off with a dark blue beanie hat.
The garage owner’s desk was heaving under paperwork, most of which seemed to be smudged with oily thumb marks. The rickety ledge upon which we perched seemed in danger of collapsing every time a Piccadilly line tube rumbled overhead, rattling the brick cavern like a bowling alley.
The proprietor removed a short cigarette butt from his lips and held his hand up in a halting gesture. The fingers and palm were congealed in accumulated grease and oil.
“I’d better not shake your hand,” he said politely.
Even indoors, the air was frigid enough to turn his breath to steam.
Eager to settle the rent, I counted out a wad of notes. They were fresh and crisp from the bank but , like the files on the desk, would probably soon end up besmirched with oily smears.
“Thank you very much.”
Picking up a set of keys and, maintaining his desire to not contaminate my person with engine muck, the garage owner dropped them into my hand from a short height.
“She’s a decent little motor,” he explained we made our way back downstairs. “Mileage’s good for her age. Only one owner- an old boy who had to give the game up, gutted to sell it. Anyway, here we are.”
The taxi’s door was already unlocked. He opened it and I climbed in.
“Sorry I didn’t have time to clean her yet. You ever driven a Fairway before?”
“No,” I replied; “did the driving test in a TX4.”
“That’s alright; she’s simple enough.”
The mechanic lit a fresh smoke and leant in, flicking various switches and levers, the cigarette forcing him to talk out of the side of his mouth.
“Lights, full beam, indicators… hazards… heater. Wipers.”
His demonstration was rapid; too fast to follow. Sooty wisps streamed out of his nostrils as he tapped on the meter and ran through its functions. Again it was impossible to keep up.
I guessed I’d have to work it out as I went along.
“This is a lucky cab, you know,” he concluded, more smoke billowing from his reddened nose. “You do get ‘em. And this is one of ‘em.”
I didn’t know why he was giving me the hard-sell; I’d already handed over the money!
“You want some advice?” he continued.
“Go easy on the hours. I’ve seen it happen before; especially when they first begin. They work all the hours God sends… and end up burning themselves out before long. Thing to remember is- treat it as the best part-time job in the world!”…
It felt wonderful to finally sit behind the wheel of a working cab.
It took a short while to find the ignition point- unusually, it was located in the middle of the steering coloumn- and, upon turning the key, the powerful diesel engine roared into life.
After a few revs, it settled down to a steady, rocking, ticking grumble; the sound so characteristic of a London Cab.
The taxi was getting on in age a bit- it was 18 years old. When it rolled off of the production line at Coventry, I was still in secondary school.
Here’s my first cab in all her glory:
After engaging the automatic gear and releasing the handbrake, I edged away from the garage, concentrating with all my might. It was a narrow area to drive through and, not used to the vehicle’s more ample dimensions, I was rather concerned that I’d chip one of the looming railway arches.
However, once on the main, much broader road, I managed to gain a little more confidence, and was soon chugging along feeling rather proud. Being larger than a normal car, the driver’s seat in a taxi is raised higher than usual, providing an excellent view of the road (after driving a cab, sitting behind the controls of a family car feels rather like squatting in a go-kart!)
Soon after departing the garage, my route required a climb up a steep hill, something which the old Fairway rather struggled with! I was quite thankful when the cab reached the summit and its engine settled back down.
My old primary school happens to be situated on this arduous hill and it was a rather strange feeling to drive past, remembering my first day there whilst considering the first day of my new pursuit in life.
Although eager to work, I’d decided to take the vehicle home first; wanting time to get it all in order, and to make sure I was comfortable driving it before I undertook the terrifying task of picking up my first fare.
The cab had been sadly neglected during its time stored at the garage. The interior smelt musky, the carpet and seats were dusty, and the outer body was pretty filthy. Once back home, my father helped me to scrub the Fairway up. He is somewhat obsessive when it comes to car cleaning- he used to clean cars for money as a teenager, and one of his customers was the late, great, boxer, Henry Cooper! (Our ‘Enery drove a white, Ford Granada at the time in case you were wondering).
Needless to say, my Dad did a fantastic job and, before long, the old taxi was gleaming, in prime, show-room condition.
The following day was to be my first as a working London Taxi Driver.
And it was a date special for other reasons too-
It was 24th December.
I awoke extremely anxious that morning.
My first unofficial job was to drive my girlfriend to Euston Station; she’s Scottish, and was travelling back to spend the festive season with her family. Along the way, she helped to keep me calm with kind words of support and encouragement.
In the dingy, fume-reeking drop off point located deep below the station building, we embraced and I was given a good luck kiss. As my girlfriend disappeared up the stairs and onto the Euston’s concourse, I climbed back into the cab, slamming the heavy door behind me with the distinctive clunk of a taxi door.
I was now on my own.
With a deep breath, I edged the cab up the sloping ramp leading back out into daylight and the main road.
Seconds later, after crossing Euston Road, I was rapidly consumed by nerves. I snapped the left-hand indicator on and pulled over onto one of Bloomsbury’s many picturesque squares. The butterflies taking flight in my guts were worse than ones experienced before the many appearances which I’d undergone whilst studying the Knowledge.
It was now all very real- what if I picked a fare up and I didn’t know where their destination was? What if I forgot the way? What if I failed to remember the direction of one-way streets? I’d done the training, but was terrified about putting it to use!
Thankfully, I still had some ‘Rescue Remedy’ left over from my final appearance exam.
I took the small, yellow canister out of my coat pocket, shook it, and sprayed a good blast of the calming liquid onto my dry tongue. It seemed to do the trick (the brandy-like flavour surely helping), and I pulled away from the kerb.
I didn’t yet turn on the ‘For Hire’ sign though. I decided to carry out that task somewhere symbolic.
And so I headed for Trafalgar Square; the centre of London.
Arriving at the infamous landmark sooner than I’d hoped, I knew that the time had to take the leap. Breathing deeply in and out, I pushed a small rubber button on the meter. The narrow digital readout strip warmed up and, seconds later, little illuminated red words bore the phrase “For Hire.” Outside the cab, just above the windscreen, the yellow Taxi light was now on.
I was live.
Yet nothing happened.
Nobody suddenly shouted, “Taxi!” No arms stuck out into the road.
I drove around Trafalgar Square and through Admiralty Arch; the fine monument which leads to The Mall; the red-tarmac road heading straight towards Buckingham Palace.
I wasn’t thinking straight and, being around 11.30am, this trajectory led me straight into the Changing of the Guard; the extravagant- yet regular- ceremony, in which the Queen’s Royal guard essentially clock in and out for duty.
The roads were jammed with traffic and camera-clicking tourists, as the Queen’s red-coated Royal protectors marched towards the palace, their brass instruments providing a soundtrack to the marvellous spectacle.
Although crawling through this ceremonial jam, I didn’t mind at all. It sent a shiver down my spine, as I realised I’d now become a part of London; one of the established icons which makes the city such a famous and world-renowned place.
The traffic eventually cleared away and, seeing the area as something of a comfort zone, I drove around the Palace, up Whitehall and back towards Trafalgar Square.
I craned my neck up and checked the hire light was actually on.
I returned to The Mall… and it was there that the first hand went out.
Panic seized me but, somehow I managed to pull over safely (as I’d been taught and tested on my taxi-driving lessons of course).
The group who’d flagged me down were a family of tourists from South Africa. Before entering the cab, they stood next to it, posing for photos; something which made my heart swell with pride.
Now, in the London Taxi trade, there is an ancient tradition regarding your first day of work.
And that is you MUST give your first ever fare away for free. To accept payment for your first fare is considered to be most unlucky.
My first job was actually the shortest I’ve ever had to do!
I picked the tourists up on the Mall, beside a building known as the ICA Gallery, and they wanted to go to Trafalgar Square; a distance of about 900ft! I told them that it wasn’t very far at all and it would be cheaper to walk, but they replied that they knew, and just wanted to experience a ride in a London Black Cab!
The group were very friendly and, as I drove the short distance, I announced;
“I’ve got good news and bad news…. The bad news is that this is my first day, and you’re my first passengers; I’m not very experienced. The good news is that, being my first fare, this journey is on the house; the ride is free!”
The group were amazed that they’d hired such an inexperienced cabbie; it was a real novelty to them.
However, when I arrived at Trafalgar Square (a tricky place to stop for my first job), they insisted on paying me. The fare was around £2.60, and I begged them not to hand the coins over, insisting that it was tradition to provide the journey gratis.
However, they were adamant that I should receive something for my troubles, and proceeded to place a handful of change on the dish- £1.96 in total. Luckily, the cabbie’s tradition states that, if the first punter insists on paying, you can donate the fare to charity, so I managed to avoid plaguing my career with bad fortune!
After my first job, I decided to head towards St Paul’s.
As I approached the beautiful Cathedral, an elderly cabbie passed on the opposite side, nodding his head at me and jabbing his thumb behind him. As he had passengers on board, I guessed he was indicating a potential fare he’d been unable to pick up, but I wasn’t too sure, not yet entirely being au-fait with cabbie etiquette.
Sure enough though, a few seconds later, I was flagged down by a group of elderly French people. They were on the other side of the road, so it was time to use the London Taxi’s famous turning circle. Checking the road was clear, I spun the wheel around; turning the cab with ease- no need for a strenuous three point turn.
The group climbed in, all smiles and very amiable. The elderly chap checked a directional message on his phone and, through the partition, asked rather hesitantly for… “Saint… James’s… Square?”
Still a nervous-wreck, I rejoiced at being asked such a straight-forward point.
“Certainly Sir.” I replied.
As I pulled away from the kerb and began the journey, I began to realise just how effective the Knowledge system of training was. Upon hearing the words, “St James’s Square,” something in my mind clicked, and I immediately knew which direction to head, which route to follow. My brain has been conditioned to London and her streets.
Upon arriving at the required destination, I spoke to the group in the extremely limited, very poor French that I know, somehow managing to wish them a happy Christmas. They were lovely people, and waved me off with a smile as I left.
The next fare was just around the corner; on St James’s Street- an area dense with exclusive gentlemen’s clubs (by gents clubs of course, I mean ones of the red-leather chair, brandy sipping, cigar smoking variety. Not the pole-dancing, nudie kind- they’re to be found in other parts of town!)
These passengers consisted of a father and his two, grown-up sons; a fantastic bunch, decked out in tweed suits and boater hats.
The group wanted ‘Simpsons in the Strand’; an exceptionally posh restaurant located next door to The Savoy Hotel. I panicked a little with this journey; several routes presented themselves to me, but I wasn’t sure which one would be best at avoiding traffic.
Luckily I didn’t need to worry; being Christmas Eve, many people had finished work, and the roads were rather quiet. The chaps were also tremendously civil and friendly, and we had a good chuckle along the way.
When I dropped them off, the father gave me a nice tip and shook me warmly by the hand.
I was sorry to see him go.
Before departing, he told me to head for the law courts a little further up; “bound to pick a fare up there!”
I acted on the advice and, sure enough, met my next fare. However, it wasn’t a judge, but a young fellow, lugging his Christmas shopping along Fleet Street. He wanted ‘Finchley Road; just past the O2 centre.”
This passenger was rather quiet and, for part of the journey, he actually nodded off! Seeing him in the mirror, head tilted back, eyes closed reminded me of the appearance I’d had when an examiner had feigned sleep…
Thankfully, by the time we neared his destination, he’d awoken from his slumber. Passing the O2 shopping centre, he said
“Just up here on the left, please.”
“Lithos Road?” I responded.
The passenger seemed rather surprised that I knew the place; a small street off of Finchley Road, and it made me extremely gratified to know that the long time I’d spent on the Knowledge had not been in vain.
I had a few more fares, and the final passenger that day was a young gentleman from Kuwait.
I picked him up on Holborn, and he needed to get to a bicycle shop on High Street Kensington. As we set off, he told me that the journey may be a problem, as he’d seen police shutting off a number of roads due to an incident.
Sure enough, as we approached the junction where High Holborn meets Kingsway, a blue and white striped police cordon was in place. Once again, the Knowledge of London etched into my mind kicked in, and negotiating a new route around the blockade was no problem.
I don’t wish to sound arrogant or bombastic, but working my way around London’s pitfalls whilst other people peered over their steering wheels looking lost and bewildered made me feel immensely proud.
It was only my first day on the job, but I already adored it.
It was an odd feeling being my own boss and, if truth be told, it didn’t even feel like working at all. As Winston Churchill once said; “if you find something you really love, you’ll never work again.”
Turning off the ‘for hire’ sign, I switched on the cab’s ageing radio, barely capable of picking up the FM frequency. To top the day off, the crackly station I managed to tune into was in the middle of playing, “I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day”; the 1973 hit by Roy Wood and Wizard; one of the greatest, cheeriest festive hits of all time.
My new career as a London Cabbie had begun.
I’d enjoyed a wonderful day at work, and was heading home for Christmas behind the wheel of an iconic Black Taxi, smiling all the way as I realised that the trials, pain and anguish which I’d suffered on the Knowledge had truly been worth it.
Thank you so much for reading.
I hope this series has given you an idea of what becoming a London cabbie involves- and, consequently, has helped in someway to explain why so many drivers hold such a deep pride and passion towards their job.
Very well written 🙂
It’s my first day today and can honestly say you’ve made me a bit less nervous !
Hope everythings still going great for you…
That’s very kind of you; many thanks.
It’s your first day today?! Best of luck; you’ll be fine. Just take it easy and get a feel for the job; above all, enjoy it! You’re going to meet some very friendly and interesting people…
As we cabbies say; be lucky 🙂
Just wanted to thank you so much for what you’ve written regarding the process of becoming a London taxi driver.
I’ve literally decided to start this new year, i did start about 5 years ago for 6 months but then foolishly gave up. It’s so interesting and inspiring reading your story and i can’t wait now to get out there and start learning.
Thanks once again.
Thank you so much for your lovely comments, makes me very happy to know that I’ve been able to inspire someone 🙂
Just remember, if you stick at the Knowledge you will get there in the end… and will then have the opportunity to become part of a wonderful city that brings inspiration every single day.
Stay safe and be lucky
A real inspiring read. Well done on becoming a black cabbie. Well deserved. I can’t wait to be there.
Really appreciate that; thank you. Keep at it and you will get there 🙂
Great Blog…I have really enjoyed reading all of your articles especially about doing the Knowledge..
I am on 56’s and you describe the nervousness and feelings when on appearances perfectly.
I should of been calling over my Blue Book but reading your blog is still like doing the K. (l looked up some of those points you we asked on your first req!!).
Please keep up your interesting articles about London.
Thanks for those really kind works.
Sorry my site’s kept you away from your studies! Doesn’t hurt to take a break though every now and then!
Keep at it and you will get there eventually….
Really enjoyed reading that!
Got my first day in a couple of weeks and i am absolutely terrified. At least now i know I’m not the only one that feels nervous about it. It doesn’t seem so bad.
Thanks for the kind words, David.
The first day is a bit nerve-wracking; especially the moment you put your light on for the first time! But don’t worry; you’ll be amazed how quickly you’ll fall into it.
If you need any help or have any questions, please ask; I’m more than happy to help.
Thank you for your lovely blog: full of information.
Full of inspiration for someone wanting to learn the knowledge,(like me) Makes me feel like “yes I can do it.” you’ve brought back my joy of wanting to get out there and learn, many a hurdle to cross but with people like you encouraging others and keeping it real makes me smile.
Thank you loved your story.
That’s really kind, Fay thank you 🙂 Best of luck with your studies.
great read as usual, i started to read your blogs about three weeks ago ,just before i got my req.
I hope to in my cab ,all being well in 8-10 weeks.
After reading your first day nerves ,at least i know what to expect.
thnaks for the read
Cheers, Jon. Very much appreciated. Hope you get your cab soon! Let me know when you do.
Thanks for that,
Do you know where i can get a cab from, as you got one already.
Im in east london. word and mouth and all that.
Well finally my suburbs and the knowledge was finished, i started work on the weds of this week.
My first free fare was , charing x station to the corner of druy lane and grt queen st.
what a nice way to start five minsites up the road,all in the name of charity.
My first day only lasted five hours,my head was pounding with all the anxiety of passing my finals,and having to earn some money.
fours days in and i must say all the freedom of when i want to work is brilliant. go to work when i want ,no boss to tell me what to do.
Early days i know ,but from what we learn on the knowledge does make the job a lot easier.
I will write in a week or to ,to let you know how its going.
Well done, jonn- hope you’re enjoying it! You’ll get the hang of things before you know it!
very interesting blog indeed, sent out my application form today. I cant wait to start the runs, was it challenging doing the runs in the car/? I heard that some points might be be a bit tricky and you might need to have a little walk around to spot them.
Many thanks for your kind words. I apologize for the delay in getting back to you; I’ve been in France without the internet for a few weeks!
It can be a challenge doing the runs in the car, but I managed to do my studying late at night when the roads were clear- it’s perfectly doable (and, in many cases, safer). In the West End and City, I did spend some time going around on foot; a great way to discover the city!
Best of luck and let me know how you get on.
Many thanks for the response, hope you had a nice time off. I still haven’t decided on the mode of transport for the runs. I am the proud owner of a fairly economical clio 🙂 and recently done my cbt which will enable me to ride a moped but i much prefer the former.
I am looking to doing it full time, I live out in harrow and everyone that I spoke to think I must be mad for wanting to do it in a car. Did you follow knowledge point or wizann?
I’m glad to have stumbled upon your blog it’s quite motivating.
A most enjoyable read. I went to the Acceptance Interview in Penton Street nearly 30 years ago but never started. My life would have been very different if I had but I have no regrets.
Just read your bio. I took the late, great Ian Dury from Frith Street to Hammersmith Bridge once around that time. Lovely fella.
Really appreciate your kind comments; many thanks.
A friend of my fathers once met Ian Dury in a lift. Upon discovering that he worked for ‘Rentokil’, Ian said in his deep accent, “Ahhh… we’ve got the old rat-catcher in!”
Great Site!! I had watched a documentary about ”The Knowledge”, traveled to the UK (from the US) a number of times, and thought I was familiar with the knowledge expected of a London cabbie. I learned how amazing that knowledge was/is one day when my travels included a taxi ride from Heathrow to an address on ”Draycott Place”.
The cabbie acknowledged Draycott address and asked if I knew which end. Me: ”No, sorry, I’ve never been there.” Him; ”No matter, it’s only a few blocks long.” Truly impressive, you London cabbies. An obscure street across a fair bit of city and he knew where it was, how long it was, and how to get there. Wish we had a few of you here in the US to ”show’em how it’s done”. Thank you all for the quick, safe, and friendly rides you’ve provided!
Side note: You may find ”Life on the Mississippi”, by Mark Twain an interesting read. In it Twain describes the process of ”learning the river” as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River circa 1850. Great story by one of the best story tellers of all time.
Many. many thanks for your lovely comment.
I’m a big fan of Mark Twain but didn’t know about ‘Life on the Mississippi’- I’m going to take your advice and have a look at it, sounds fascinating! The great man lived in Chelsea for a while (on ‘Tedworth Square’) and I often think of him when I drive near his old address.
Thank you so much again; I truly appreciate your kind words and readership.
Only today I travelled along Draycott Place to Franklins Row as part of run 136…what are the chances!
I still find the roads around there really fiddly 🙂
Great read, loved that blog, I can’t wait to finally get there. Just finished my runs friday night. Will start pointing this weekend, any tips on pointing? only get out at weekends as work long hours all week. Work in a post room in the city so can sneak out now and then to look at some points!!!
Thanks for the kind words, Rob. The best advise I can give with pointing is to keep them as organized as possible as soon as you start- and try to hammer them home like your runs (perhaps use a ‘flash card’ system for example).
Best of luck and keep at it- as long as you stick in there, you will pass eventually. Above all, try to enjoy it; exploring London can be great fun if you keep your mind open!
Thanks for your advice I shall look into that. I do enjoy the knowledge, it’s very intesting, I wish I could afford to do it full time. Take care Rob
really enjoyed reading about your experiences you should publish a book would surely be a great success you clearly have a knack for wrting. i just started the knowledge last week when doing the first few runs iv’e been ok getting from point to point but when i do go astray i find it extremely difficult to get back on route and end up all over the place, it seems like i dont have a very good sense of direction it really gets me down, do you think some people just will never get to grips with it or can anyone crack it if they dont give up?
Hi Telboy, thanks that’s really kind of you.
Whatever you do at this early point in the Knowledge, don’t ever worry about going astray or getting lost! Everybody does that at first- I myself felt so frustrated one night driving around Islington I wanted to throw in the towel! Every road I encountered seemed to be blocked or one-way in a direction I didn’t want to go; had me ripping my hair out!
I stuck with it though and in time it became second nature. I often like to compare it to starting secondary school- when you first start, you’re faced with a huge building, unlike anything you’ve had to cope with before with rooms and corridors all over the place. However, in time you grow used to it and soon know the big layout like the back of your hand.
Many people do give up on the knowledge. When I was doing my training, I was informed that the vast majority quit during the early stages. The early stages are by far the toughest because everything is new- stick with it and it will grow easier I promise. Stick at it and you will get there. Just treat it as a marathon rather than a sprint and you can’t go wrong 🙂
Thanks again for your readership and kind comments. If you ever need any advice, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Stay safe and be lucky.
Hi, great site really enjoyed reading….I’m looking to start knowledge in new year in a very economical smart car, I also was looking to do this on a night shift can you tell me what sort of time you started and finished?
Did you choose the nights due to the fact roads where so much quiter which I’m hoping? Look forward to hear from you and any other tips you may have for K in evening!
Thanks for the kind words.
I usually studied the streets between around 10pm to 2am. The roads were indeed a lot emptier; deserted in most cases. However, the West End is obviously always busy at night… I used to go and look around there during the early hours of Sunday morning when it felt like I had the place to myself!
Best of luck and stay safe.
Thanks very much for getting back to me, sorry for picking your brain further but how many runs did you tend to get done in this 4 hours? Also when did you call them over (by this I presume you didn’t do them when you got home at 4am) did they stay in memory ok?
Hope alls well and business is good!!
I didn’t do more than two runs at a time as I didn’t want to overload my brain! It takes a while, but you do absorb it. Some people are different though and can managed more runs in one go. The main part for me was studying the start and end points; they’re really important and require time; it’s like putting a big jigsaw puzzle together.
I revised the runs every morning after I’d woken up! As I progressed, I also called over using points sheets.
Would you advise learning the blue book runs in order or does it not matter as long as i do them all?
It’s certainly best to learn them in order. The runs have been very well designed; the end point of each run always merges with the beginning of the next.
You’ll also find yourself returning to areas later on which you’ve already visited; this really helps to maximize your learning.
Thanks very much for getting back to me it’s really appreciated.
Any regrets with doing K?
Not at all. It enabled me to explore London at an intimate level and I’m now self-employed, working in a city I love and meeting interesting people on a daily basis.
roughly after how many runs did things start falling in place for you? great site by the way!
Thanks for the kind comment. It was a gradual process, but I started to feel more confident towards the end of the second book. It’s probably different for each person though.
Good site, very enjoyable!
I have purchased the blue book runs from ebay and iv’e done 18 runs, they are published by a company called NAKUK. My friend has the wizaan books, all the runs are obviousley the same but with some variation in roads on particular routes so there’s no problem there but my book does not include the 1/4 mile radius maps at the end and start points, does this really matter?? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for the kind comments.
NAKUK must be quite new, I don’t remember them publishing material whilst I was on the Knowledge. The 1/4 mile radii are very important as they merge together like a jigsaw puzzle.
As long as you know what the run is, you’ll know what the start and end point are… just use an AZ map to assess the 1/4 mile area you need to study.
Also without being to intrusive or rude or asking figures? is it still financially very beneficial?
Stay safe man
It is, but you have to put in the hours and work weekends and evenings to make a decent wage.
What a cabbie can earn is really like asking how long a piece of string is; it differs from person to person depending on how many hours they do, how reliable their cab is and so on. There is also a lot of luck involved! You’ll get slow days which will have you ripping your hair out and the job is also quite seasonal- times such as January and August are exceptionally quiet. But you do get plenty of good days and will never be out of a job; you have 24 hours at your disposal to go out and earn. It can be a lonely job though and you have to be comfortable with your own company.
Best of all though, you’re your own boss!
Thanks for getting back, I’m used to long lonely hours was a surveilliance copper for years till like you the red tape killed me!!!…can’t be rude to a criminal you know!!
I was looking at doing nights, especially thurs, fri, sat 12hrs when the clubs are kicking out.
Thanks again hope you didn’t find that Q to personal I’m just hoping there’s a good chance I can make some good dough, not afraid of work!
No worries, Del- best of luck.
sorry for picking your brains but i dont know what to do with the 1/4 mile radius maps, it’s a bit baffling to me as i dont know what to do with them? thanks for the site great insight into the life of a London taxi driver, shame there’s not more sites like it.
The 1/4 mile area maps outline the particular area you should study at the start and end of each run.
You drive around the small area indicated, noting down the roads, restrictions (one ways etc- and how to work around them) and points of interest.
Hope that helps!
yeah thats great thank you. so in theory do you end up spending more time on the 1/4 mile radius than the actual runs?
You do, yes. The runs are important too, but the 1/4 mile radii are what’s really vital as they build up the map of London in your mind. Study the areas and recite your blue book and you can’t go wrong 🙂
Hey fantasic blog,
You should really think about writing a book, you do have a talent there.
Iam myself currently studying the knowledge folder, but not Londons, iam studying Birmingham as this is where I live.
I have my test soon. Had to learn 1600 2 point location and 350 runs. I have to answer 80 randomly selected 2 points and twenty runs, and must score at least 90% to psass. Its hard and when I first looked at the folder I thought to myself how can anyone ever remember so much. But as you say you do get there its just a large intricate Jg Saw. Thanks again for your blog I really enjoyed reading it.
Many thanks for the kind words. I lived in Birmingham for a while a few years back, great city 🙂 Best of luck with your training.
Thanks very much for the previous advice mate.
I’ve done 25 runs so far and can call over 21 of them fluently without any problems but from 22 to 25 i’ve seem to hit a brick wall and really struggle to call them whilst getting roads from other runs muddled. What i want to ask is if i can’t call the runs is there any point moving on and driving further runs or shall i wait till the runs stick then move to the next? Do you think i have crammed in too much inside 6 weeks and suffering from overload or am i progressing at a normal rate? I would be hugely grateful for your advice once again. many thanks once again.
Hi Terry, no worries.
Don’t worry, there are always going to be a number of runs which you’ll struggle to recall. IF you can, try and devote a little more time to them; concentrate on calling them and it may help to drive them again if you’re really stuck. 25 runs in six weeks isn’t unreasonable, but don’t go rushing ahead if you can help it. Make sure the ones you’ve done so far are sticking! With runs I found tricky, I usually wrote them down separately and looked at them whenever I could.
Hope that helps and don’t fret too much!
You will never remember clearly driving the runs, don’t beat yourself up about not seeing the runs when calling over. When all of my colleagues had finished the knowledge we all agreed that the best way to do the knowledge was to get the runs out of the way quickly first and call over every day repetitivly . Then go back out studying the points, don’t write nothing down your photographic memory is all you will need. As you drive around London roads studying points all the roads of London will eventually stick.
Loved the read great stuff my man. i started the k 4 months ago and done 54 runs, i can call them all very well but i still feel a bit clueless of to get from one place to another if it is not a set run i’m worried that i wont ever be able to navigate my way around london even after doing all the runs. is this possible or will i eventually get it after completing the runs?
Hi J.B, many thanks for the kind comments.
Don’t worry; it is perfectly normal to have doubts at your stage! I felt the same; I’d look at the map and wonder how I could ever grasp it. It looked like a big bowl of spaghetti!
But don’t worry, after time it starts to sink in. On the later runs, you re-visit areas. The more map-work you do, the more familiar it becomes. As long as you stick at it and put the work in, you will get there.
Stay safe and be lucky 🙂
When you consider it takes on average 4 years to complete the knowledge, you have been doing it for only four months, don’t worry every knowledge person never sees all the runs in his head when calling over it takes years. You will be driving down those roads hundreds of times back and forth like a yo yo, eventually you will be able to close your eyes and see yourself driving down those roads.
Thanks for your advice once again, i guess i just worry i’ll complete all the runs and still not have a clue how to get around London and will have wasted alot of time in the process. Anyway i’m gonna keep cracking on with it and hopefully one day something will click and i’ll look back at these comments and have a little giggle. Best wishes and have a great christmas and new year pal.
No worries, Terry. Happy Christmas to you and stay safe out there.
what a delightful story. Congratulations on surviving your first day and if you are still new to this…I wish you many years of enjoyment as a Cabbie. 🙂
I am a South African living in London so reading that your first fare were also from South Africa was a delightful surprise to me and I can so identify with them…just a short ride is enough just for the fun of riding in a London Taxi….although of course I have since ridden in a cab may times since then.
I can see you really love London as do I, so much so that I blog about our fair city on http://www.3daysinlondon.info I could picture all of the routes you mentioned in my mind’s eye as I read and delighted in knowing the places. Thanks for a great blog, I will be sure to post the link to my facebook page. Have a wonderful Christmas and if you are no longer new to this….I wish you many happy years anyway. Bon voyage.
Hi Cindy, thank you so much for the wonderful comments. A very merry Christmas to you too 🙂
Hi – ditto what’s been said – really enjoy the site! I’m currently a teacher and have toyed with the idea of doing the Knowledge for a while and think that now I’m going to crack on with it. I’m looking to do about 3 runs/week during term time and 6/week in holidays – do you think that this is feasible if I’m putting in 2/3 hours a day study?
Thanks for the kind message. I imagine studying the Knowledge whilst teaching in a school at the same time would be very intense but, if you’ve got the commitment, you will be able to do it. Many people on the Knowledge work full time in other jobs. 2/3 hours a day should be perfectly feasible- just remember, it’s a marathon rather than a sprint and every student will have their own pace and time frame. Be lucky 🙂
Just wanted to say….Great story!
I am starting the knowledge soon and I have all the same concerns as the people above. It is nice to hear the re-assurance from yourself and im just hoping that the dedication and commitment will get me there in some way or another. Currently working for the police at the moment and likewise iv had enough of the red tape and politics! Maybe see you out there one day!
Thanks for the kind comments. As long as you stick at it, you’ll get there. I’d also say the main thing to do is actually enjoy the studying; exploring London inside out can throw up many surprises 🙂 Be lucky and stay safe.
Just finished reading this – if I needed some inspiration I definitely have it now! Like yourself, I am a teacher and after 20 years jacked it all in last summer and since then have been in a daze as to what to do next. I have dithered but no more! Going to start the long journey and hoping my brain can take it. Cheers!
Many, many thanks for your wonderful comments. If you stuck teaching for 20 years, you have my full respect- and your long experience will help you immensely when it comes to studying the Knowledge and working as a London cabbie.
Thanks again 🙂 Stay safe and be lucky
What a well written piece, I plan a change of career from a Driving Instructor to a cabbie, hope to start the knowledge summer 2013, read many articles on the web but this was a really honest and descriptive insight, many thanks.
Many thanks, Jerry really appreciate your comments.
Really enjoyed your article on completing the knowledge it touched me and reminded me of my time spent studying. I decided to buy a new tx4, On the way into work on the very first day I must have turned my light on and off several times as the nerves were getting the better of me. Not many people could understand the commitment a knowledge boy or girl goes through to receive that green badge.
Thanks for the kind comments, Chris.
I wonder if you have any tips for revising and making the routes and 2 points stick.
Thanks in advance
It’s mainly about repetition; like calling your times tables when you were at school. Repeat, repeat, repeat 🙂 Before long, you’ll know which runs you’re good at and which ones require a little more work. Mark your tricky ones and devote a little more time to them. Map work is also vital; don’t let the plan of London out of your sight!
When I did the knowledge I never wrote anything down, like no right or left turns no entry etc.
I think it just complicated things, your photographic memory is the most important tool.
Put the hours in, study, it will eventually click.
Been following your articles for a while now and they are brilliant. Very inspiring and they provide a detailed insight into the KOL. The humourous stories and anecdotes are kin’ brilliant…An uncanny resemblance to that of Alf Townsend! Good work.
I’ve been on the knowledge just under a year with 170 odd runs under my belt. I also use four wheels to plod around town and my trusty little motor has served me well so far! (Touch wood).
I’d like to pick your brains on a few things;
When studying the blue book, how many runs would you complete per week?
Did you go to school or have a call over partner? If so, at what stage did you require schooling or a call over partner?
Would you call over everyday? If so, how many runs would you call?
How did you find studing the K in a car?
Lastly, any revision tips?
Obviously, horses for courses and all that. Although its always good to get some advice. You’ve gotta make hay whilst the sun shines!
Keep up the good work.
Many thanks for your kind comments.
With the blue book, it depended on how much time I had and how tricky the runs were. Generally, I used to aim for around five a week.
I went to school during the early stages and they really helped put me on the right track. I started calling over as soon as I could. Although I had a call-over partner, it wasn’t always easy to meet up- so I’d often used a dictaphone (in other words, I’d call my run into the recorder and then play it back, penning the run up on my map to see how I did!)
I called over everyday at first; one book each morning. Towards the end though, I concentrated on point to point from the sheets. A lot of people call over right up until they get their rec though; it’s all down to what you fell comfortable with. Trust your instincts and what your mind is telling you; everyone learns differently.
Studying in the car was fine, although for certain areas like the West End, I’d sometimes point on foot instead.
All I can say is that you have to immerse yourself in it.. and do try to enjoy it!
Thanks again, Jay. Stay safe and be lucky 🙂
Hi, great insight to the knowledge! I really enjoyed reading it.
I feel like its something I would enjoy doing as have always struggled with the right career path. I love living and working in London.
I,m just wondering how much money I need to go through the whole process. Ideally I can commit 100% to it and give up my work, but could perhaps continue part time.
Thanks for your consideration and advice
Thanks for the nice comments.
It’s very difficult to give an answer as to how much the Knowledge costs. It depends on your circumstances; bills, rent and so on that you may have to pay to support yourself. The main costs are the equipment- a vehicle, maps, safety gear and so on (if you’re on a moped) and of course, fuel. There are other fees to pay too- medical, criminal record check, map-test fee and a one off payment before you begin the appearances. It can all add up! To be honest, I’m not sure how much it cost me in the long run. Was certainly several thousand over the four and a half years.
It’s worth it though; at the end of it you’re self employed and get to work in a city you love!
Hi, Found this blog last night, great insight into learning the knowledge, really well written and inspiring. Was hoping for some advice with regards to getting started if that is ok. I currently work full time in Ldn, am looking at spending 3-4 hrs per day learning the runs, then going out for 12-15 hours over the weekend (start at 4am). Would really appreciate advice with regards to would this be enough commitment and also which type of vehicle to buy? I have had scooters but am thinking would it be possible to learn the routes in a small car? Thanks again for a great blog, any advice would be greatly appreciated. Jamie
Hi Jamie, thanks very much for the kind comments.
The hours that you list are certainly commitment enough. Just remember; it’s a marathon so there is no rush; just stick with it and you will eventually make it. You’ll need to make time at home for revising too.
With vehicles, you should go with your instinct. Scooters and small cars are both good options. A scooter is much better for getting around and is a lot cheaper to run. A car is safer, but is subjected to the congestion charge at certain times and is only really good for the Knowledge when studying in the small hours.
Hope that helps 🙂
Great blog really enjoyed reading it.. I was wondering what your opinion is on the yellow badge option… is there any money to be made
In the current climate I imagine the yellow badge is a tough way to make a living… You’re best bet is to have a word with some yellow badge cabbies and see what they reckon.
Best of luck.
Found your blog via Google and have to say it’s a fantastic read…
Here’s one you probably haven’t heard though. I’m considering doing the knowledge over the next couple of years – and I can’t even drive yet ha… Seriously!
All seems very daunting at the moment but was wondering would I be able to do some of the runs on foot? Good exercise and keeps the VERY early stages fresh in my mind and sees whether or not further down the line I could/would want to do it properly.
Or is that absolutely ridiculous?
Thanks again for a fantastic read – echo the thoughts you should write a book. Give up the cabbying ;o)
Thanks for the kind comments; very much appreciated!
I did know of somebody once who couldn’t drive… they had to pass their test before they could drive a cab!
In theory, it is possible I suppose to walk the runs. You would have to be very, very fit though and have an awful lot of time on your hands.
I did do some walking whilst on the Knowledge; mainly around the City and West End, looking at points. You can take in a lot this way.
You could always try the Knowledge on a push bike too. Until about the early 1960s, this seems to have been the Knowledge student’s vehicle of choice! My Grandfather, who came to London from Ireland in the 1950s, says he always remembers seeing Knowledge Boys going up and down on push bikes around that era! If you do opt for that option, please do take care though.
Be lucky and let me know how you get on.
Thanks for taking the time to reply. Yeah I wouldn’t fancy riding a pushbike round Millwall at 4am somehow.
Or 4pm come to think of it.
Think driving – smart car might be the way to go! Scooter just doesn’t appeal to me.
Couple of my friends are doing it but purely for the money… I can earn more where I currently am than I probably could cabbying for a lot less hours but it’s purely being my own boss and the flexibility it affords that attracts me. Obviously this can work both ways but I just think after 12 years of office life it’s really not for me…
Excellent blog I really enjoyed reading it. I am an IT engineer have a decent job but i hate my job :-(, and i started thinking of doing the K, i submitted my application and i dont know where or how to start studying the runs, what run i need to do first ? and is there’s any tips please help.
Hi Alex, thanks for your kind comments.
With your runs, there is nothing to stop you starting them before your application has been accepted (unless you have a criminal record or medical problem which you think may prevent you from being taken on). The best way is to start from run one and work through them in order; the way in which they are ordered is very structured and designed to get you learning as much as possible.
Best of luck!
Nicely written, it feels like I know you personally. Well, I’ve decide to become a London cabbie as well and your insight has calmed my ever increasing nerves. Thank you.
Thanks, Saqib- best of luck 🙂
I have really enjoyed reading your blog. I have just this week decided to learn the knowledge. Thank you for putting the fear of god in me when thinking about my appearances (laughs) but at the same time you have given me a great insight to what to expect. I know it is going to be a long hard slog but the thought of earning (in my eyes) a decent salary and being my own boss will hopefully give me the motivation and determination to be one of the 30% of people that complete it. Hopefully one day our paths/taxis will cross. Congratulations to you for receiving your green badge.
Thank you for the lovely comments. Best of luck with the Knowledge and don’t panic too much about the appearances! I can already tell you’ve got the motivation to succeed. Best of luck.
What a brilliant blog, loved reading all the comments etc..
Im off travelling on friday for 4 months and once i return the plan is to start the k. After reading your story and everyones thoughts and worries im abit more relaxed!
Bring it on now im very excited to start!!
Thank you so much for those kind words. Hope you enjoy your travels and best of luck with the Knowledge when you get back.
i submitted my application and received the acceptance letter to do the K, (thanks to you for your last advise) i bought my self scooter and started so far i,ve done 30 runs and i registered with local knowledge school, my question is how do i know when is my first appearance as all what ive received from the pco is welcome packages including blue book and acceptance letter. please help
As far as I remember, you let the PCO know when you’re ready. You pay the one-off appearance fee and they then send you your first appointment.
Hey mate, what a fantastic and insightful read, particularly the appearances and formalities that are involved, i swear id have turned up in jeans and trainers if i hadn’t read your blog/site, lol
Anywho, I’m considering this huge marathon of the Knowledge as I’ve had enough of my current job which, just so happens to be driving in and around london (all over the gaff) for past 10-13years, albeit relying on a satnav for the most part but i have a great sense of direction and by that i mean, for example, if i’m driving up say, Shaftesbury Avenue (from Trafalgar Square) i know i got soho on me left, oxford street further over, charing cross up ahead and holborn/kinsgway ect ect ect, do you think this is an advantage to starting the knowledge or could hinder me? my job involves going to various offices/buildings of all sorts so may have an advantage on POI too? Im not going to ask you how to do the knowledge cos we all got diff ways of what works ect as long as we learn it all, what i wanted to know was how do you retain 30k poi and have you had a fare ask you to go somewhere you don’t know and how did you overcome that? Satnav as i’ve seen many, many cabbies with satnavs in their cabs.
Obviously next questions are the daily/weekly/monthly costs of being a cabbie (rentals, diesel, insurance ect as id be going from a kushdy little 24k p/year driving job with very little hassle from bosses and hardly any stresses (seriously, me jobs that good(crap pay), but i want more for my family and what not). so, based on my figures, obviously dont expect or want you to reveal your figures but, is the knowledge worth a punt, for me? I also have OCD and i’m very stubborn and determined, gotta be worth a punt, right? lool
Last question, for know, once you get that green badge do you still have to pay to licence yourselves every year or few years and do updated crb checks ect ect? i see some cabs with the taxi licence and an expiry date so i guess the cab needs to be re-licenced every years or so?
Anyways, all the best, sorry for all the questions and that long ass essay.
Be lucky fella 😉
Thanks for your kind words.
If you’ve been driving in London for so many years then that will certainly be an advantage! You probably already know a lot more than you realize…
A lot of cabbies have sat-navs in their taxis, but they are mainly there for longer trips beyond the Knowledge area. I don’t know any cabbies who use them in town. Once you’ve done the Knowledge, you’ll know central London inside-out.
There are very high overheads when it comes to driving a taxi. If you rent, you can expect to pay between £150 to £250 a week, depending on how new a cab you want to drive. Diesel of course is very dear too. I own my taxi and maintenance can be a pricey hassle. The job is worth it, but you have to work long hours to make it pay off. Weekends and evenings are more lucrative.
The best thing with the job though is the freedom and flexibility. Being your own boss is worth it, as long as you’re prepared to put the hours in…
As for the licence itself, that gets renewed every three years. Once you pass the age of 50, you have to have a medical once a year.
Hope that info is of use!
I think you will find medical for over 50’s every 5 years, as for the knowledge, experience for driving in central London will be a benefit for you. Regarding sat navs usage, got one for my birthday, and used it once in London, never again, it takes you on the most ridiculous routes ever, and adds more money on the meter.
Hello! Absolutely loved reading this article and I have a few questions for you! 🙂
I’m 17 myself and looking for a nice car to drive, preferably one that I can fit my bike in, go on road trips, one that’s reliable and will do me for a long time, cheap to run and comfortable to drive. Then I came across a few Black Cab adverts for sale and they seem to be ideal. I was just wondering if you could recommend anything to me? Whether or not buying a black cab is suitable? It will be used for everyday journeys to work and college, as well as some casual trips.
I have fallen in love with the Fairway London Taxi, especially the more dated versions and if I can save up enough money it would be such a privilege to be an owner of one!
Thank you very much! Hope to see you around some day!
Thanks for your kinds words.
A traditional London Fairway Taxi certainly has a lot of space in it! You can pick them up very cheaply now too. Plenty of people do use them as private vehicles.
They are very sturdy vehicles but I would recommend purchasing one only if you know a little about mechanics. Due to the nature of their working lives, Fairways inevitably have a lot of miles on the clock. Their bodywork can be a bit of a problem too. Fairways can also struggle a bit when going up steep hills!
However, if you feel comfortable with vehicle maintenance, go for it! It’s wonderful to know that there are people out there willing to give these old workhorses a new lease of life. And you couldn’t ask for a more unique vehicle 🙂
Best of luck.
Brilliant! Thank you very much and I will definitely look further into it, problem is the insurance is so high for me, what with being 17, that I’m not too sure there is any point in me getting a car at all until I leave uni (If I ever get the chance to go). Thank you for replying so fast!
Stay safe 🙂
Insurance at 17 is horrendously priced! Don’t worry though, it will come down within a few years 🙂
Hi mate, thanks for quick reply!
That certainly helps, thanks!
I’ve decided to def do it and have dl wizann first few runs from bb1. Went out in my car to run the first 3 routes and was quite surprised that I knew them (not by name tho)
Here’s what I’ve found and how I’m going to learn and commit to memory…
I’ve realised from looking at maps and following these lest 5 routes that I can see the roads and landmarks in my mind (based on certain jobs and sites I goto for my current job…bonus!) here’s the thing tho, if I can see the roads and picture it all in my mind is it worth still doing the routes on motorbike?
Example: bb1 run 9 Ponton Road (sw8) to Camberwell Grove (se5)
I do work in the south London mail centre and return home vauxhall cross/Durham street/kennington oval/camber well new road ect but turn off left into Medlar street right camberwell road forward Denmark hill ect so I know these roads very well. I know the council is re-doing the road layout on and around ponton road/ post office way/nine elms lane so maybe this route has changed or soon will be?
Same for bb1 ins 7/8 and 10, I see it all in my mind. I know there will be many I don’t see and will obviously get out and do the runs.
I’m really enjoying the challenge atm, but ask me again in a year hahaha
No worries, Richard. Sounds like you’re on the right track! Just go with whatever vehicle you’re most comfortable with; trust your instincts. If you ever need any advice, just ask.
Stay safe out there and be lucky.
I think if your doing the knowledge you should do on a motor bike, when you get further down the road doing the knowledge, and there is lots of traffic, you need to at times to look at all your exit and entry points, for me doing it on a bike I felt I could take more observations in.
I really want to thank you for this amazing blog. I have been on a look for information about the Knowledge and I can say that your blog by far is the most entertaining and insightful blog I have ever red. Great work mate!
I would like to ask you about the future of this trade. Since I am planning on doing the Knowledge in a few years time I wonder aren’t you threatened about the satellite navigation and the growth of minicabs?
Thanks for your answer in advance and best of luck!
Thanks for your kind words.
People have always been pessimistic about the trade from day one! There have always been things to worry about, just like any business. At the moment, the main problem is the cost of fuel and the downturn in work due to the ongoing financial climate. Of course, these things can be worked around to some extent by putting in more hours.
Minicabs are a huge source of competition but recently the black cabs have responded with phone apps like ‘Hailo’ (which I use). This has had very positive results and is very popular with customers who use it. I recently spent one evening working solely around the South London suburbs with Hailo; in areas which are considered minicab territory.
As for the Knowledge, there are no signs of it changing at present. Sat Nav has been around for a good few years now but it has not had an impact on the way we’re trained. This is a huge topic in itself, but all you need to know is that you’re better off KNOWING where you’re going rather than being TOLD where to go. Sat Navs have many problems which are not compatible with central London driving.
Hope that’s of use…
Thanks again Rob, top man!
My penny’s worth in sat navs, for what it’s worth.
I started working up in the city before say navs using maps, pulling over every turn or junction to make sure I was going the correct way, then sat navs came onto the market and I have to say they have helped me enormously in my day to day job driving around London BUT, you drive into a built up area for enable Bishopsgate with high rise offices and the sat nav loses signal, go in a tunnel (London wall) and it loses signal, you get in a road with road works or diversion and sat nav will still try and route you into the road with the road block/road works, council changes or improves a road layout (one way or no right turn) sat nav needs to be updated, my sat nav (tomtom) doesn’t always start/end my route(s) on the exact road number (if I want to go for example, 125 London road, it may not recognise nos 125 and suggest 121, for example). Then it will occasionally try to route me down closed roads and all sorts of problems.
Another great example; I come from south east London up through camberwell new road and my sat nav tells me o turn right at into Kensington park road which is a no right turn and the council have traffic cameras on that junction so if you follow sat nav you’d def be getting a fine in the post!
You also have the issue of “what if 2 people get in cab and want 2 diff routes and 1 dropped off at so and so and other person to go to so and so” that takes up time to input into a satnav, which is ok if your not a cabbie but a paying customer won’t wait.
As I understand it our current sat navs use American satellites up I space but Europe are launching their own satellites which is ment to improve things, it’s just a matter of time, they have traffic alerts, not sure how accurate and immediate they are tho?
But IMO having driven in city before sat navs, with say navs and now learning the knowledge, is say the knowledge is far better for many reasons although a sat nav is a great tool but don’t 100% rely just on your sat nav.
I still use my sat nav for the little side roads and obscure roads I’ve never heard of.
Hope that helps others understand what it’s like using asatnav in the city!
The sat nav is a tool, and like any craftsman you need knowledge and. As a cabbie the knowledge prepares you for that very first day out on your own. The customer gives you an address and you will see that run in your head immediately.
Truley inspirational story !!. You fully are my hero dude !
2 questions if you dont mind ..
Wizann or knowledge point?
And what advice would you give me as a young 20 year old
Just starting it full time?
Thank you very much for your wonderful words!
Personally I used Knowledge Point, but that was only because they were easier to travel to! Both will get you through the Knowledge; at the end of the day you have to study the same roads and points no matter what. Have a look at each school’s materials and see which you feel most comfortable with. Trust your instinct.
The Knowledge is a marathon, not a sprint so be prepared for a long journey. Never get downhearted. Red-lines and bad appearances are all part of the training; take them in your stride and know that, as long as you stick with it, you WILL get there. You never fail the Knowledge, you just give up.
Above all, try your best to enjoy it. London is a fantastic city, and the Knowledge is one of the best opportunities you’ll ever have to get to know the wonderful place inside out. If you love London, you will pass….
Stay safe, be lucky and if you have any questions, just ask.
What an excellent blog, excellent photography work too!
I own an old Fairway myself as a private car, and I feel like I’m driving around in a piece of London’s history as they slowly come off the streets due to the 15 year rule.
Reading this post has really made me appreciate and wonder about the life our Fairway and it’s previous owner had lived, and the stories they must have had, such as their first day working the streets of London in 1992. Sadly the one time owner driver of our taxi had passed away so we shall never find out, but I’d like to think that it was at least half as interesting and fulfilling as yours.
I know it’s not ‘proper’ for non cabbies to say this to cabbies, so this is coming from Percy (the retired taxi). Be lucky.
Thank you so much for the kind comment. It’s really good to know there are people out there keeping the Fairways going. I’m sure Percy has a lot of stories to tell!
Can you make a good wage from being a Cabble? I hear you need to work longer and harder than ever.
It won’t make you very rich but you can’t beat the freedom. It all depends on how many hours you’re willing to do. Best of luck.
Love the blog, I have a question as I’ve just passed my final on Monday 8th April 2013 a day I will never forget. Mr Wilkin gave me the final handshake and it was such a relief. These last 7 weeks I’ve have run and revised every suburb route until the 6 mile radius has become a bit of a blur so my question is now you’re out in the real world do you still refresh your knowledge with the Blue book? Or does the day to day work a a cabbie mean you simply have no time for that and no need for it either?
Thanks for the nice comment. Don’t worry, once you’re out it will become second nature. Everyone has nerves at first. It’s a bit like passing your driving test; once you’ve done it you can’t believe that you were once a learner! And to be honest, you won’t have time for calling over once you pass 🙂 You’ll be fine.
Do what I did, use all your books to start a nice barbecue, you want be needing those anymore, well done, don’t forget to start using Hailo, Addison lee are taking a beating.
I am a registered childminder, my daughter is now 8 and I have been trying to think of a job that I can do, where I can earn some good money and have the freedom of being self employed as I can dictate my hours/days of work. I considered hairdressing, as they say it’s a job which makes you happy as you meet new people often and you always get a ‘thank you’. But I can’t help thinking that the money is just not good enough and there is very little in the way of progress unless you get a salon. So, being a black cab is beginnining to look like a very good idea. I have sent off for an application form this afternoon. Thank you for the blogging, there’s more to cabbing than meets the eye. I like he idea that you really get to know London in a more interesting way. I have been driving for 22 years and have lived in North London all my life. Happy cabbing/blogging. 🙂 :):)
Thank you so much for your kind comment, I really appreciate your readership. Best of luck with your application; if you need any help please feel free to ask.
Be lucky and stay safe 🙂
Hey buddy genuinly loved ur journey , truley inspirational.
Iv done about 15 runs on my bike and i get frustrated when i get lost
Does everything fall into place after iv done all 320 runs?
And isit very crucial to know the reverse run for all 320 runs.
Thank you rob!!!
Thanks for the kind words.
Don’t worry; the earliest stages are always the toughest. I remember driving around Islington during the early days and being utterly frustrated by the one-ways and blocked off roads… had me ripping my hair out and thinking I couldn’t do it! It’s all part of the process; totally natural. Before long, things will start to click.
As for knowing the runs in reverse, I don’t think it’s crucial to be honest. I didn’t learn the runs in reverse- the thing is, you return to each area many times and approach it from different directions, it’s not necessary- you’ll pick up on everything in time.
Best of luck 🙂
Hey there, I hope this helps you , I am a new Green Badge licenced Taxi Driver, when I did the Knowledge I started trying to work the run in reverse but, it was time consuming and I discoverd some of the BB runs that later followed covered a lot of the areas coming from the opoosite direction although because of one way streets they were not cabon copies of the earliers ones.
I would give this advice to you, its only my opinion and you need not follow it but it did help me: if you are not doing so already, try linking the end of one run to the beginning of the next (I dont mean you have to learn it all) but by way of Example: the link between Fithardinge Street and Arlington St is a resonable distance so on that one I used to call “The Wallace Collection” Manchester Square to “La Caprice Restaurant ” Arlington St or “Quaglinos” in Bury St, that put me nicely on to “Ritz Hotel” To “Battersea Park Station” it made it smoother for calling my BB and the line I cottoned I have used time and time again on appearances and on the road.
Lv on L & Comply Manchester Sq
LBy Hinde st
F Bentick St
R Wellbeck St
L Henrietta Place
R Vere St
F New Bond St
L Clifford St
R Old Burlington Street
R Burlington Gardens
L Old Bond St
R Duke St. St James
R Jermyn St
L St James’s St
R Bennet St
L Arlington St
Le Caprice Rest on R
From Duke St. St James
R King St
R Bury St
I only did it on a couple of longer links as most of the links when you finish your BB’s are close and easy to see, it will all fall into place. The only other link I called regularly which I wont bore you with bacause when you pen it uo on the map it is half of your first run
Hariingey & Green Lanes Station to the Edgar Wallace PH which puts me in Aldwych for the start of BB two “Aldwych to Gloucester Road Station.” This is only a suggestion that worked for me I found the reverse runs a little bit confusing and you will cover those areas and to be honest mate, you will have enough on your plate with the 320 & if you are doing your quater mile radiuses thats plenty enough.
Mr Swires once said to me “dont try to walk before you can crawl and dont try to run before you can walk.” and I found him to be a fair minded examiner and a wise head.
Good Luck & God Bless
I always try my best to help, I know what it was like for me with so many questions and so many voices saying diffrent things as I said it’s only my personal opinion.
@ knowledge boy
I’m on run 18 but went out last night and done a further 6 runs.
I use the big lamifold map with a black marker pen and draw every route and leave it on, you can see the areas covered. As you’re on run 15-ish you should notice the runs linking up and that you rejoin on roads you’ve been on already, but from different direction??
Example: run 1 uses St Paul’s Road then Highbury Corner and run 17 uses St Paul’s Road then Highbury Corner.
Remember run 7?? Fitzjohns Ave to fitzhardinge st? That uses Regents parks Outer Circle and Baker Street! Run 17 also uses Regents Parks Outer circle and you pass North Gate/Macclesfield bridge (from run 7). Run 18 is Baker Street station to Halkin st and again you use Baker St and pass Fitzhardinge st.
Do you are how it links up and you touch on old roads you’ve been in already?
Here’s my method and what I’m doing to learn it:
Write out the runs I’m going to do in my car on a big a4 pad (highlight the names and page numbers in a-z knowledge map book), go out and do them runs, next day I highlight the runs in knowledge a-z map book, highlight each run in lamifold map, (this will refresh your memory on runs done night before) then I commit each run to memory and visualise the run in my mind, sometimes it’s easy to memorise a run but most times for a long run its harder so I break the run up and memorise the first few roads, then the next few and so on, if I forget I start again until its memorised then move onto next run. Keep repeating the runs. I’m calling the runs over in blocks of 10 atm so I start calling over from run 11 upto where I’ve memorised, sometimes I start at run 1 and call them all but when I’m on run 204, I’m not gonna call over 204 runs in one go, sod that lol, so break it all down then it’s less tedious and boring but go over old runs to refresh memory.
Btw before I write out the runs I check them out in the map briefly to see if I can end a section close-ish to home cos I don’t want to end a section in west London then drive home to s.e. London to then start back in west London again. Last night I some 6 runs starting in sw1 going around west and sw London to finish in balham, so I pick up next lots of runs in that area, the previous run ended in hammersmith so I done an extra run cos going from my house to hammersmith is a pain in the ass, lol. So a bit of pre-planning will make life easier.
Another tip/thing I do is when calling over a run, I say the postcodes: manor House Station N4 to Gibson Square N1. That way I’m learning the postal codes and where the areas are. Make sense??
Sorry for the essay but hope it helps you and others out. Remember to treat each journey back home from your last run as a run, try to remember roads/areas and poi, if you can.
And yes, I miss turnings and have to turn around and pull over all the time to check my map and where I’m going, it’s all part of the “fun” and it can help when visualising a road when memorising a run “oh yeah that’s the road I missed by the pub and had to go down a bloody one way” ect hahahaha
Loooooool cheers for the essay
And yes i do notice going past roads iv previously been through like st pauls rd
I went mad going on run15 maze hill station to west ham lane just off blackwall tunnel i missed the manor rd exit it was a nightmare & your right its all part of the “fun”
During this journey were bound to pick up fines and speeding tickets along the way , do you think this will affect our chances in getting that green badge!!
Hey guys! Was wondering if any1 can share any words of wisdom ..
Im doing the wizann and i start pointing after 320 runs
Was just wondering what am i looking for at these points
For example ” charring cross hospital ” on fulham palace road
Iv got to the point iv seen the point i know where it is but should i be looking for
I did the knowledge without writing anything down, just relied on my photographic memory, for me that was all that was required.
you will be going up and down charring cross road many many times, searching for points, don’t over complicate the knowledge, keep it simple. when i got to a point like the hospital, i always went to the top of the road and then back to the bottom to see were the roads linked if i did not already know. Keep it simple.
Cheers chris i shall definatly take your advice on board
An 80 year old cabbie said to me one day when i was out on my bike one sunny day, after a brief conversation he said to me , ” the slower you go the more you see” those words stuck with me, all through my time studying and even today.
I suppose most of you have heard Addison lee have sold to an american company for £300 million
our main rival out there, i can’t help feeling this sale was forced on the chairman by the amazing growth by Hailo, A black cab app i have used from the beginning, it now counts for around 80% of my work, and is still growing steadily.
I know I said it’d be breakfast reading matter, but I took a quick peek at about 2am and read the bloody lot! A fascinating read, well written and engaging – I felt a sense of pride when I read that you chose Trafalgar Square to light up! Well done you!!
Many thanks, Ray that’s really kind. Glad you enjoyed it.
Hey guys isit advisable to go do a few runs then come home and memorise them..
Learn the runs FIRST at home then go out and do them?
Read your story a week ago really inspiring and was just getting my paperwork in order to start, then the wife’s small
Intestine burst, op did not go well could be six to eight months before I could start my runs, as she will need constant care.
Do you no of any sites that have the runs in full not just start and finish points, I no I will have to physically drive the runs when she is well but I don’t want to waste this time, and maybe some of it will stick, financially this will be even more important as I will have to leave work to care for her, any help much appreciated, be lucky
Hi Jony, thanks for your kind comment.
I’m so sorry to hear about your wife’s illness, I hope she gets well soon.
If you go to either Knowledge Point or Wizzan schools, you’ll find their books provide the full runs. You will have to drive them as you know, but if you can start learning them by heart now you will certainly be doing yourself a favor. I often tried to commit each run to memory before driving it.
Kind regards and the best of luck.
I just read through all nine parts of your experience of learning the Knowledge and becoming a London cabbie.
Firstly, thank you SO much for such an exhaustive, beautifully and honestly written account of your experience.
I’ve been contemplating embarking on this road (of learning the Knowledge and becoming a cabbie) for a few weeks now, and have already armed myself with quite a bit of information about the process and knew it was a long-drawn and difficult process. Frankly, I don’t know if reading your amazingly candid and detailed account has actually managed to make me doubt this whole idea of trying to become a London cabbie further. The appearances and all the horror you had to endure sound truly terrible. I admire you for your perseverance, well done!
I shall have to contemplate this some more – I don’t want to end up rushing into it, and then giving up (I know you only give up the Knowledge, you don’t fail it). I have to know I’m commited before I begin.
Again, thank you so much, this was incredibly informative, and even emotional.
All the best!
Thank you so much for your wonderful words.
Once you’ve passed the Knowledge, you can look back at certain aspects which were once awful and have a good smile at them; it’s all character building! Don’t let anything daunt you.
If you do decide to go ahead with it, stay safe and the very best of luck- and please be sure to keep me up to date on your progress 🙂
Thank you for the encouraging words Rob. I am so close to deciding to go for it…
From your account, it sounds like you didn’t use one of the Knowledge schools? What do you think about them? Do you think their main advantage over just doing it on your own are their detailed Blue Book runs books (which, if I understand it correctly, list each run together with a complete route one should take/learn, as opposed to the standard Blue book which only lists the starting and ending point)?
Also, a question for you. You’ve now been doing this for a couple of years? What are your feelings about the job, now that you’ve been doing it for some time?
Thanks so much again,
I did use a school but only during the first half of my training. It was Knowledge Point and they really set me on the right course. I chose them purely as they were the closest to me. If you can get to a school, they are a great source of support. Whatever you do though, make sure you use runs which have been drawn up by one of the schools.
The job is fine but you have to put the hours in. The cab can be expensive to run and the job is surprisingly seasonal- months like January and August are very slow indeed. However, if you need the money, just put a few more hours in. The best thing by far is the freedom; you can’t beat being your own boss. And the vast majority of passengers are as good as gold; you get to meet some very interesting people.
Hope that helps… but remember, that is only my personal opinion!
Best of luck.
Thanks for replying so quickly. You’re right, of course, I forgot you mentioned using this Knowledge school initially.
I was just reading some of your other posts, and saw you grew up in South Harrow. I live in Northolt, just south of the Target roundabout. Small world, eh?
Do you think it’s a good idea to go and attempt to do a couple of runs from the first Blue Book and see how I get on, and then go ahead and do the CRB check and the medical and officially apply? I’m a motorbike rider, so will use my motorbike for this. I’m also fairly familiar with driving in London, having done it regularly for the last 13 or so years, so I hope this might make it (at least a tiny bit) easier for me to learn The Knowledge. One more question, if you don’t mind. With regards to having to learn the 1/4 mile radius around each starting and ending point of all the runs in the Blue book. How do you go about doing this? I mean, you don’t really know exactly where this radius ends (with your start or end point being the centre of it). Do you just randomly drive around and hope to absorb all the streets, one-ways, points, etc. Do you have any tips on using the Internet, mobile devices and technology? I’m thinking, Google’s street-view might be quite useful. Are there any apps you’re aware of which might be helpful in some way? I was even thinking I could use my GoPro camera mounted on my motorbike, and record all my runs, for reviewing later (although this might turn to be very time consuming, having to sort, index and edit all the footage later).
Thanks very much, and I hope you don’t mind all my questions!
What a very insightful and interesting read, you should definitley write a book of your experiences.
I have recently graduated from university and have been toying with the idea of starting th K for a while.
In your experience do people have full time jobs when doing the K and how many hours a week do you have to put in. i am trying to work out whether it is a viable option while still working full time or whether i will have to get a part time job instead.
Thanks in advance.
Thanks for your kind comments, Chris.
A lot of people do have full time jobs whilst doing the Knowledge, but this can make things understandably tough. When you’re on the Knowledge, you pretty much have to devote all of your spare time to it if you want to get through it relatively quickly; you have to eat, sleep and breathe it! It is entirely possible though to do it with a full-time job, you’d have to give it a go and see how you get on.
Best of luck!
The Birmingham Knowledge where there are 1600 2 points and 360 runs to be revised.
3 stabs at the test fail and you have to then wait 12 months before you can retake the test.
I set myself a task to pass within 1 year of studying – bearing in mind I hold down a full time job a big ask I know! I took the test in January just under 1 year of studying, and FAILED! although I did manage 76% the required mark is 90% I had to answer 20 routes shortest route and 80 2 points.
I felt gutted failing but achieving 76% spurred me on. So back to studying and rebooked the test today and hey I passed. I am so pleased its such a relief.
I hope you don’t mind me sharing this on your blog, as I did post my fail last year where you wished me luck.
Many thanks for the update. The Birmingham Knowledge sounds very tough! Sounds like you’re nearly there; keep at it and be lucky 🙂
Thank you so much for your blog, really insightful, I have only recently started learning and reading what you’ve written has given me a great understanding of what’s to come. Loved the video and picture inserts.
Thanks so much for your kind comments. Best of luck 🙂
Wooow that was am amazing read i’ve only just bought the blue book about a month ago, reading this has given me a lot of motivation to get my head down and study the knowledge. I was only searching the web to find useful tips before I go head in. i’ll have to read your other blogs now from the start thanks
Many thanks for your kind comments. Best of luck with the Knowledge… keep at it, enjoy it, never give up and you will get there. 🙂
First of all what a great read. I’m also thinking of doing the K in my car. To be honest I just don’t have the bottle to ride a bike/moped. I am planning on doing 3 runs a night for at least 5 nights a week ( well that’s the plan for now anyway ). I wanted to know out of curiosity how many miles you covered in your car on the K and also did you have a knowledge board or something in the car that you could easily glance at the map/run whilst driving? Any help/advice is greatly appreciated.
Hi Paul, thanks for the kind comments.
To be honest, I have no idea how many miles I covered! It was certainly many thousands… I used to keep a clipboard for notes and maps on the passenger seat beside me.
Nowadays, you can get the A-Z map on devices like ipads and iphones which I’d recommend using if you have access to such things.
Best of luck.
I passed out about a 7 years ago and the knowledge was tough. I have heard various stories from different people regarding examiners at the carriage office resigning because of differences with Transport of London upper management. I wonder if they are diluting the knowledge from within and appointing examiners who have little or no knowledge of what the London cabbie is all about.
It so important that an experience London cab driver is only able to become an examiner because he or she knows what is required. If they appoint these jobs to people who have not been London cabbies, people from different walks of life , that would be disasterous.
I am also beginning to question if the knowledge has got easier since Transport for London took over when it moved from Penton street. I recently spoke to a knowledge boy who had completed the all London knowledge and was studying his suburbs, i asked him two standard turnarounds around clapham and he did not know. I suppose I should speak to dean at wiZan to see if he has noticed a change. Please do not interpret this as a slur on all you hard working knowledge people, my main concern is that we London cabbies are known around the world as the best taxis in the world and i don’t want to change that.
As a very proud London cabbie who drives a new TX4, black, with no advertising at all, and it will always stay that way. On a regular basis I am told by many tourist, how they love sitting in the back of an iconic London cab, being driven by a Londoner with good humour and good knowledge of London history. Americans in particular comment on our expertise as they often ridicule their own yellow cabs, stating there clueless were there going, and can hardly speak english.
Is there any study materials for sale from X Kol people, if so please let me know I am prepared to buy.
Could someone give me some info regarding Merc Vito and new TX4?
I Rob… great blog and great information on what the K takes to pass..
I like many others am considering starting the knowledge / marathon. I am considering going part time so i can dedicate the correct amount of time. Before i do i was wondering if the best place for me to start is at Knowledge Point before i even apply for the Introductory Pack etc.
I see that Knowledge point have all the resources i need. Did you get all the books and maps etc from Knowledge point??
I am trying not to waste money getting things i don’t need or things that i may end up having twice one i apply etc
Any guidance here would be very much appreciated.
Thanks for the kind comment.
I used Knowledge Point who have a small shop with everything you’ll need. They’re not the only school though; it may be worth looking into the one which is nearest to where you live.
Best of luck 🙂
Thanks for the reply….
I live in St Albans and the knowledge point is only 20 miles away.
I will be attending one of there ‘Green Badge Knowledge – FREE Introductory Sessions’
Can anyone give me advice on what is the best scooter/moped to do this knowledge on.. i already have a full motorbike licence so engine size is not a problem.
Thank you in advance
Like everybody else, thank you very much for your insight into the different stages of learning the Knowledge.
I have one question which is can you do the runs on a bicycle?
It is possible to do the Knowledge on a bicycle. In fact, up until around the 1950s, it was the main way of doing it.
Traffic today is of course a lot heavier, so please stay safe and keep your wits about you if you do chose to do it this way.
Hi there great blog, I’m after of bit of advice/peace of mind!
I have started the first 80runs I’m doing it full timeish! with a friend, I have completed 48 runs to date which has taken me 14 days over the last 3 weeks. I recite them every morn and eve and revise for an hour or so on runs I have completed that day. I can remember all runs but keep forgetting a few roads here and there on some of the runs. I try to revise and remember them but still carnt. as soon as I see them in black and white Itnfront if me I know that it is the wright road but the next day I forget them . Although this happens I have eventually remembered a few that I kept forgetting, is it still early stages will I suddenly just get them!?what are your thoughts please…?
Thanks for the kind words.
What you describe is perfectly normal! The earliest stages of the Knowledge are the toughest… as you go along, you will become more familiar with your runs; you will also return to each area more than once.
If you have any runs that you struggle in calling over, just spend a little more time revising the tricky ones; you’ll soon notice a difference 🙂
Above all, stay safe out there and keep at it- you will get there.
Do you think that being 50 as to old to start down this career path.
I have been a builder all my working life and as I get older, I love the freedom
of working as and when I want.
love to hear your thoughts.
Once again great site.
Best regards Dean.
Thanks very much for the kind comments.
50 is not too old at all! There are plenty on the Knowledge around that age… it’s never too late to start. There are cabbies out there well into their 70s and 80s too.
Best of luck.
I just turned 54 and have been a cabbie for 7 years, like rob said its never to late to start the knowledge.
I am a plumber myself for over 35 years. Having two jobs is a definite positive, i believe that cabbies who have other interests or careers, make for better cabbies.
Cheers Gents, I,ll let you know how I get on.
Great job dear Rob
I’ve read all your memories and stages
you have been through you are the best!
I am planning to start doing the knowledge
I had no idea where to start and has louds of
questions on my mind as a starter , but your blog and
comments helped me alote . Thanks for
your time and effort 🙂 god bless you be lucky all the time .
Thank you so much, Aqil. Good luck in your journey which lies ahead and please feel free to ask if you have any questions.
Hi there amazing blog very inspiring
I’m currently working as a mini cab driver in my local town. Application has been accepted to start the k which is good news, just tying a few loose ends before i begin the journey ahead. I know what suits me might not suit someone else but out of curiosity how many hours a day would i have to put into the k? i’m 26 now hoping to be out by 29, part time is that possible?
Kindest regards lee
Thanks very much for your kind comment and congratulations for getting onto the knowledge!
It is just about possible to do the knowledge in three years but you’d have to put in a ferocious effort. At the moment the average time to do it is around 4 to 4 and half years. If I’m honest, I couldn’t estimate the number of hours you’d need to put in each day to pass within that time frame. You’d certainly have to treat it as a full time job though.
Whatever happens, just stick at it and don’t worry if it takes longer than you planned… you’ll still be very young by the time you pass.
Best of luck.
Never thought I’d be writing to a Cabbies blog! I started despatching in Jan. 1976 with Pony Express after five years on the buses including Green Line through Central London from Aylesbury to Chelsham, and as a rookie despatch rider probably became one of most cabbies nightmares! But all the struggles and panics that I had in my early days and months are all replicated here in those knowledge days and first day live. Most riders back then were considered ‘old hats’ if they lasted more than six months, not so much due to accidents but breakdowns and suffering the weather – most gave up. No education, no ‘licence’ or badge, just a controller screaming “Where now?” with cold rain soaking your nether regions and your A-Z losing its pages!
I gave up in the end, but not until 28yrs later. I loved London, and I come from three generations born in Shoreditch and Islington. I soaked up the streets and the history, and revelled in finding all the short cuts and alleyways that led to where you wanted to be quicker, and found myself almost privileged to be allowed into certain buildings that most off the street would be kept out of, and a few places that you didn’t want to go – slippery delivery bays, post rooms adjacent to the kitchen waste skips, and officious ‘security’.
Now retired, I still occasionally have nightmares of getting lost with parcels on board, the clock running away with itself and not enough time to ‘get there’, finding I’d forgotten a drop, or just trying to work out what order I could most efficiently use the one way streets to my advantage for deliveries to sixty provincial newspaper offices. Thank heavens I wake up from that!!
Todays London is but a shadow of that I remember, even from just thirty years ago. You just can’t get about like you used to. I loved London, but will never return. The view across the Shropshire Hills from my little house is all I could want now.
Brilliant blog, and all the best for the future.
Lovely comment, Derek really enjoyed reading it. I lived in Shropshire myself for a while; really miss it….whereabouts are you based? Thanks again 🙂
Just outside Much Wenlock, in one of four dwellings and surrounded by fields and views. Side gate from the garden straight into the field. A large percentage of traffic is tractors and Landies with Sheep trailers!
Hi Rob, Thanks to your wonderful website, full of inspiration and all other real things that one faces to finally becoming a cabbie. I know what the challenges are and yet this prepares me mentally. I love all your bloggers specially yourself. By your actions you have made a forum where all can gather some comfort and encouragement to do what I wanted to do for nearly 4 years. I was wondering if you could tell me if it best to from Knowledge Point or Wizann? I live near Camberwell Green and want to work towards getting a Green Badge. Also is it better to do runs first and then points like Wizann or do things like Knowledge Point where you do the run but then points at the start and end of the run. Which one of the two in your opinion gets done the learning quicker? Your help is greatly appreciated. I would not mind if you wish to e- mail.
Wizann seemed to be the best choice for me even though caledonian school was much closer.
I would suggest doing the runs first to get them out of the way and study the points after and only chase main points but more importantly points that are called at the carriage office, don’t chase points that are not being called at the carriage office.
Remember the slower you go the more you see.
Many Thanks Chris St John
Hi Rob. Have just finished reading your 9 part blog about how you achieved your green badge and it’s such an inspirational read, i thoroughly enjoyed it! I felt so sorry for you when you were red-lined near the end and really wanted you to get through it. I have decided to try to do the knowledge (again) as i did try a few years ago but gave up after only a few months. I’m a train driver and so do shift work and have time to do the knowledge, although i don’t think i can really appreciate just how much time and effort is going to be needed. I’ve bought myself a moped and have bought some runs and points from The knowledge school. I thought i’d give myself a few months grace before i actually applied just so i’d know if i was going to go through with it this time. Having read your blog, it has filled me with encouragement and i feel determined to do it and to achieve just what you have. Thanks once again for a great article and i hope to emulate your spirit and dedication in time. David.
Thank you so much for your kind comments. I always dreamt of being a train driver when I was a kid, I suppose cabbing was the next closest thing!
It sounds like you’ve got the determination to get through the Knowledge. Remember, stick at it and persevere and you will get there. And above all, stay safe on the road.
Thanks again and the best of luck mate. Please keep me updated on your progress.
Hi Rob, Let me tell you that becoming a train driver is a damn sight easier than becoming a London cabbie! Lol. The training does take a year & you have to know a lot of rules and traction knowledge about the trains. But now i’ve started out on the knowledge again, i think that this will be the hardest thing i’ve ever done, certainly mentally anyway. I can whizz through the runs fairly quickly and memorise them, but when it comes to studying the 1/4 mile radius points, the sheer volume of what’s got to be learnt seems to overwhelm me! Some of the 1\4 mile radius maps have literally hundreds of points on them! You have a great website and obviously love transport, much like myself. It must be in the blood, i think! I used to be a bus driver too! Lol. Will keep you updated and perhaps will see you around the streets of London. Regards. David.
I’m also a cab driver who would rather drive a train! Is it not a good job? As for the Knowledge, it does get easier – but don’t let it get to you and make yourself ill! Personally, I think the runs are more important than the points. It’s more important to know where you are going. Hopefully the points will come later. I was a Knowledge Examiner for a while, and I didn’t trouble myself too much with points then. I wanted to see you could get in and out of train stations – you should be all right there – and know the places that you’d actually be asked for in the cab. I’d ask hotels, restaurants, and my favourite real ale pubs.
Very honoured to have a former examiner here… many thanks for reading!
Haha, thanks for that! Train driving is a good job and a job for life but i like to challenge myself and keep my brain ticking over, and i’ve always loved London (especially the City area with such great Victorian alleyways and lanes with fantastic names like ‘Bleeding heart yard’, Savage gardens & Crutched Friars)! I work out of King’s Cross and am very lucky to have my job but i want to complete the knowledge and get to know London more intimately! Thanks for the tips, and it’s good to get some advice from a former examiner too!
Hi, I see that you did your runs in a car. How did you get on with the pointing? Did you also do that in the car? If so how did you do this in the west end and city with all the parking restrictions?
Hello Phil, I did all of my Knowledge work late at night and in the early hours. Early Sunday mornings were best… for very fiddly areas in the heart of the West End, I used to do some pointing on foot.
This is fantastic, thank you for writing such an entertaining piece.
I have just finished reading your experiences as if it were a short story and the ending is just perfect. I hope to get in your cab one day! Cheers.
Cheers, John! Thanks for your kind words 🙂
I’m up this Wednesday for my finals after completing the Knowledge in 2 years 10 months.
I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story of completing the Knowledge. I can not tell you how much it has helped and inspired me through my journey on the Knowledge. Your stories have picked me up on some of my lowest points and gave me hope when I felt that this long hard process was impossible.
I can’t tell you how proud I am that I soon will be part of the WORLDS BEST a London Taxi Driver.
Thank you again
Hi Nathan, thank you so much for your kind words. It means a lot to me that my experiences were able to help you through. Best of luck on Wednesday- please let me know how you get on.
See you on the road 🙂
Hi Robert, I yesterday passed my finals and I’m proud to say I am now a LONDON TAXI DRIVER….
Once again I cant thank you enough for putting your experience on here as I said it really inspired me and got me over the finish line.
Congratulations! That’s wonderful news. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, I’ve only just seen your comment. Hope you’re enjoying the job… be lucky and please stay in touch 🙂
Hi Nathan, As someone who is just starting out on the knowledge, well done matey! 2 years and 10 months seems to be pretty quick. I’m drowning in points at the moment and trying to categorise them into some sort of order, having learnt all the runs.
Good luck in your new career.
David.(A fan of Rob’s site).
Thanks, David 🙂 Don’t worry, stick at it and you will get there.
I’m so glad I managed to stumble across this site, and theses parts about you doing The Knowledge in particular. I read it all in one go and felt like I was right there with you (my heart sank when you got ‘redlined’, but it lifted again when you passed the req).
I’ve given 15 years in the NHS working on the mental health side and have felt a bit burned out and disillusioned for a while and want a new direction in life.
At work, I’ve been punched, kicked, spat on, had crockery thrown at me, electrocuted; but nothing quite as challenging and as intensive as The Knowledge.
I’ve always fancied driving a black cab for a living, and I think I may just go and start the ball rolling to make myself qualified to do that.
Give yourself a pat on the back for going through The Knowledge, qualifying for the job you obviously love, and coming up with this well written, charming and captivating blog.
I’m looking forward to exploring the rest of VFTM.
Cheers Rob, and all the best.
Thank you so much for your kind comments, they mean a great deal to me.
To be honest, the Knowledge should be a doddle after doing the job you’ve been in for 15 years! I’ve got a lot of respect for people such as your good self; that sort of work is truly tough and those who do it are sadly unsung.
If you do decide to do the Knowledge and become a cabbie, you’ll certainly have no trouble in dealing with people. I sincerely hope you go for it… please keep me updated and don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions.
Take care and thanks again 🙂
Thanks for the reply Rob, and for your kind words.
Well I have to say, I deserve no such credit. I may have made it sound like the rough stuff happens all the time- it certainly does not. I do nights, so 95% of my reality on shift is long periods of nothing happening. No physical work to do apart from a little general tidy up, which takes next to no time at all, the usual observation checks where you have to look through the bedroom door window slats to make sure they’re alive and maybe a bit of one to one chats before midnight. I do have a great opportunity to revise the runs and get paid for it though because of the long periods of inertia, which is what I’ve been doing for my last three night shifts (runs 1 and 2 is tattooed on my brain as if I’ve known them all my life) I get use of the computer too, to look at the runs on google street view so I can see what they look like and the points within and around them. It’s great that Google maps and street view is one of the few things that’s allowed through my NHS trust’s web blocker 😉
Here’s the thing though, I don’t live in London, but me and the missus will be moving there in a couple of years when she’s finished her degree, so google street view and youtube videos of the runs (god bless the folk who take the time to do this for other people) are all I have to work with for now, apart from the odd trip to London for proper runs recon, which alas, won’t be as often as I’d like.
But all that should, I hope, stand me in good stead for when we do move to the capital and I can officially start The Knowledge.
I’m really finding it interesting and I’m loving it.
My decision has been made, I’m definitely going to go for it.
Crikey! Sorry about this long comment mate. I’ll push off now and wish you all the best again and may pick your brains from time to time if you really don’t mind.
Stay safe and be lucky.
Thanks for the post, really enjoyed reading it 🙂
You’re preparation sounds perfect and will certainly put you in good stead. Your drive and enthusiasm will also see you through!
If you’ve got an I-pad or I-phone, another tool I’d really recommend is the A-Z app which gives you the whole map of London on a touch screen.
Take care and please feel free to ask any questions.
What a fantastic read . Ive been doing the Knowledge for 5 months and only I’m halfway through the blue book . Its without a doubt the hardest task Ive ever undertaken but i really enjoy it and reading about your experiences have just given me more enthusiasm too keep plugging away .
I’m also doing it in a car so its nice to hear that it can be done .
Thanks mate ,
Many thanks, Bill. If you keep at it you will get there… take care and the best of luck. And please let me know when you get your badge 🙂
Thanks mate I will do .
Speak again in about another 4 years ( if I’m lucky )
totally inspirational read! got my green badge on friday and starting work today.feeling a bit apprehensive though.
Congratulations! Hope your first day went well, I’m sure it did 🙂 You’ll pick things up before you know it.
Be lucky and thanks for the kind words.
Hello mate, i had to leave a reply as this is by far the best ‘kmowledge blog’ ive read!
Its very genuine, funny and heart warming. Ive read a few blogs by cabbies and knowldge boys and this was excellent. I was amazed to see youve been replying up until this year too.
I have 5 runs left of the blue book then the real work begins. All the best mate, be lucky 😉
Hi Daniel, thanks that’s really kind of you 🙂
Sounds like your doing well with your Knowledge. Keep at it and you will get there mate.
Thanks again and take care.
A bloody good read!
Ive only just began the knowledge, im just finishing the blue book runs..
Its funny because up to a couple of years ago i hated Black Cab drivers, being a cyclist! haha..
But my career took a change, a few friends got there Taxi Badge and
I now find myself really looking forward to becoming a black cab driver!
Hi Alex, that’s very kind thanks 🙂
If you’ve nearly finished the blue book runs then you’re well on your way. Keep at it and you’ll get there. Enjoy exploring this great city and don’t let the appearance stages grind you down no matter how tough it may get; once you pass you’ll realise just how effective the training is.
I used to cycle too- I had a lovely blue Raleigh bike until it was stolen. My philosophy is that it should never be ‘us and them’; London’s a ferociously tough place to navigate wether you be a pedestrian, cyclist or motorist… we should all just look out for each other 🙂
Take care mate and stay safe out there.
Well after 10 years of will i wont i, i am enspired by this so im going to lay down the gauntlet. I already work in palestra and meet the daily visitors inside and now i understand just what those boys and girls outside really do now!! cheers for this , trully inspirational
Hi Gavin, thanks that’s really kind of you 🙂 Best of luck with your studies, please keep me updated and take care out there.
What a great blog. Am on The Knowledge at the moment, this is so well written and so close to what we go through, especially the sections about driving at night. Thanks for taking the time to do this blog.
That’s really kind of you to say, Aitch. Many thanks and keep at it 🙂
I loved your blog posts about your experience with the Knowledge.
I’m wondering how Uber has impacted you?
Would you do it again or does it change the way you feel about the industry?
Thanks for your kind comment. The company you mention has indeed had a large impact on the job. It’s too detailed to discuss here but please feel free to drop me an email if you’re interested in hearing more.
What a great read! Thanks for taking the time to write it up.
From halfway around the world, I had heard of the Knowledge that London cabbies are required to learn. Idly Googling for “the Knowledge” one night, I found the eponymous film on YouTube, along with a number of articles, including your own. I knew that the Knowledge was something quite extensive, but it turned out to be far more onerous than I had imagined. You guys (and girls) are awe-inspiring in what you have to absorb. You’re the rockstars of memory test-takers. May your hippocampi grow and flourish!
I have a query about taxi etiquette. Here in Oz it’s normal for a solo male passenger (but not necessarily for a woman) to sit up front with the driver. You can sit in the back if you like, but the driver may perceive it as a bit snobbish or even impolite. Can you do that in licensed taxis in Britain, or is it a no-no?
Hi Mark, thank you so much for your kind words 🙂 Here in London, black taxis don’t actually have a front seat for the passenger! The space next to the driver is empty; reserved for storing luggage. Although I have had a few people try to sit in it before they realised there was no seat! Thanks again and be lucky 😉
Really enjoyed reading about your experiences. Congratulations on becoming a black cabbie.
In London, hard work in a taxi is very hard to drive….