I got a delivery job that was based on the edge of the city of London. Derek and Jimmy were two London cabbies that had bought a newsagents shop in Fleet Street as an investment, my job was to deliver bundles of newspapers to their customers using Jimmy’s old cab. The tyres were always on the edge of legality and the brakes were non existent, I raised this point with Jimmy who took great pleasure in telling a knowledge boy that cab brakes were meant to be like that, “cabs aren’t built for speed”. I saw it as an initiation into the trade and kept telling myself that as I stood on the brakes with two feet and a prayer to force the old thing to stop. Jimmy’s cab was to become my template for the future, it had a character of its own and would try to have a lie in by refusing to start in the mornings, Derek taught me a trick that coaxed it into life that involved squirting ‘easy start’ into the air intake and partially turning the key in the ignition to warm things up. It worked every time, with an explosion of black soot from the exhaust and an awful rhythmic banging sound from the engine the old girl would burst reluctantly into life. It didn’t have a radio, the windows were on a spring and so I had to push them up and down manually and the screen wash button was a plunger that produced a watery dribble at best.
It all went along well and I got off to a good start on the knowledge, getting 28 days from my first appearance. I began to enjoy whizzing around on my moped. I had my share of set backs though, like the day I bounced off a group of German tourists on London Bridge and ended up flat on my back in the middle of the road, the really cold day when I smelt burning flesh because I’d accidentally touched the exhaust pipe instead of the engine to warm my frozen hands and even hitting a pothole in Earls Court and hearing my thermos flask smash soaking all my knowledge papers. Yes biking was definitely the way forward until of course the fateful day arrived and I got ‘a drop’. In knowledge terms a drop is when an examiner, in my case the scary Mr Miller, decided that I was good enough to take a step forward and he reduced my appearances to 21 days. This meant I was as good as there, well thats what everyone was telling me. I though, had my doubts, after all it could all still go horribly wrong.
Despite my reservations I took a ‘wangle’ cab from a local cab garage in Bethnal Green. They gave me an ancient cab to practice in on the condition that I would rent a cab from them for a year when I got my badge. Well it seemed like a good idea at the time.