London Taxi DriverTaxi driver from London
Probably the most challenging test in the whole wide range, the London Taxi Driver exam requires years of studying to remember the 25,000 roads of the maze town and all its shops and attractions. McCabe's goal was the Stour Road, a small road in a dreary part of East London, 20 miles away from his townhouse.
It began its voyage on the A23, a large motorway that connects London with its south suburbs, whose sources are considered ancient: A few kilometres the route follows the line of the Rome dam that extended from London to Brighton. MacCabe left the A23 in South London's Streatham and made his way through the street, reaching an interchange formally known as Windrush Square about 20 min after his departure, but still described by local people as Brixton Oval.
Could he drive more or less ahead to the west and take the London Bridge, or should he turn right into Coldharbour Lane and heading for "The Pipe", the Rotherhithe Tunnel, which winds two leagues downstream under the Thames? Speaking in brief phrases, he is jagged and definite, especially when it comes to London. The Stour Road is located in a particularly secluded part of the city - a few wind-whipped roads bordered by storehouses, sewers and a motorway bridge.
MacCabe had been spending the last three years of his career reflecting on the streets and sights of London and how to negotiate between them. He had covered more than 50,000 nautical miles on motorcycle and on feet, which corresponds to two round-the-world trips, almost all within the inner London Twelve Districts and the City of London Finance Division.
In London he studied as a taxi driver and devoted himself full-time to the challenges that would bring him the "green badge" of the taxi driver and get him behind the steering wheels of one of the city's renowned taxi cabs. Actually, "challenge" is not the right term for the process a London taxi driver goes through to get his qualifications.
Undoubtedly, it is a singular mental, psychologic, and physiological torture that requires countless thousand consecutive listening and learning sessions, for the would-be Kabbys take on the job of remembering the whole of London and proving this dominance through an increasingly challenging series of verbal exams - a procedure that lasts an average of four years and much longer for some.
London Taxi and private Hire (LTPH)'s guide to future taxi drivers monitoring the test summarises the task: In order to meet the necessary standards for being an "All London" taxi driver, you need thorough understanding, especially of the area within six miles of Charing Cross.
They need to know: all roads; residential areas; public and private areas; administrative bureaus and divisions; finance and trade centers; tourist centers; embassies; diplomatic institutions; city councils; registries houses; hospital centers; places of cult; sport and recreation centers; airlines; train stops; train stops; hotel; clubs; theaters; movie theaters; museum centers; arts centers; educational institutions; academies and universities; law enforcement and main building; civic, penal, and law enforcement institutions; and places of tourist interest.
Indeed, anywhere a taxi driver might ask to be taken. Six miles around Charing Cross, the supposed centre of London, indicated by a horseman sculpture of King Charles I, stretches over 25,000 highways. Taxi drivers in London need to know all these roads and how to get there - the way they're going, the way they're going, the blind alleys where they can get in and out of circulation, and so on.
Taxi drivers also need to know everything on the road. Inspectors may ask a potential taxi driver to determine the whereabouts of a London dining establishment. A taxi driver tells me that he was asked for the position of a sculpture that is only one metre high and represents two mouses that share a slice of cheeses.
It is located on the façade of a Philpot Lane property, on the edge of Eastcheap, not far from London Bridge. When you go to the LTPH head quarters where the exams are held, you will see a dark red tape that is not much different from what you might find in a fiscal audit office: jittery test participants wearing suit, mixing in individual meetings with stony auditors.
However, for more than a hundred years, since the first ever verdant patch was given to a taxi driver driving a horse-drawn coach, the test has been known by a name that bears a touch of the occult: the Knowledge of London. By 2014, knowledge will in any case be permeated by regimes and customs that will exist for as long as one can recall.
Taxi driver contestants - known as Wissen Boy's and today more and more also becoming Wissen GIRL's - receive a copy of the so-called "Blue Book". Gutshof Station to Gibson Square, Jubilee Gardens to Royal London Hospital, Dryburgh Road to Viscarage Crescent, etc. This means that he goes to Manor House Station and finds the quickest way that can be taken to Gibson Square and then does the same 319x more for the other Blue Book heats.
However, knowing is not only a question of how to find one's way. All these places "a taxi driver could ask to be taken along." The answer to this question is: "The taxi driver could ask to be taken along. "Young scientists have created a system known by some as a "satellite" in which the contestant moves four quarters of a kilometer around the start and end points of a run, browses around, identifies points of reference and takes note.
According to theories, a science learner can use this technique not only to remember the roads, but also the street scene - the bend of the street, the chemist's shop on the street corners, the mouses gnawing at cheeses in the Architrav. Most of the young men of learning did their races by bicycle a few years ago. By 2014, there will be a thousand men and woman on two bikes populating the roads of the town, at any time, in any kind of climate, on slopes and meeting places.
It' a omnipresent view in London: a knowledge guy on a bicycle, with a card or notebook attached to his Plexiglas windshield. By the time the nominee has finished his 320 Blue Book races - and his 640 quarter-mile companion radius focused on exploration - he will have reached the entire center of London.
Simultaneously, he will take a short test in writing, move on to the first step of the verbal test procedure and the test will begin seriously. At the LTPH Bureau, the test is held in a number of " manifestations ", personal meetings between the knowledge candidates and the examiners. Participants are asked to "call a run": to locate the position of two points and to smoothly elucidate the briefest path between the points by identifying all the roads along the way.
To a knowledge youth 56 day are given at first between the apparitions to meditate; then, as he advances, 28 day and 21 day. Meanwhile, the issues are becoming increasingly difficult as nominees are asked to find more arcane points and chant longer, more Buddhist trips across the streets of London. Their overall scores will bring you a note, from AA to D. (AA's are extremely scarce; D's are not.) Those who earn too many poor marks will be pushed back - "red-lined" from apparitions every 28 to 56 dates back, or from 21s to 28s. See the list of those who are "red-lined" from apparitions every 28 to 56s.
There'?s no such thing as the "failure" of knowledge. mccabe' lived his whole career in construction. Working as a taxi driver seemed to be an appealing option. Taxi riders in London are self-employed business people who establish their own timetables. Taxi fare is high and the driver keeps what he deserves.
Expenses - the costs of petrol and ownership or rental of a taxi - can be high, but taxi riders who plan the lessons can make a good job of a livelihood. While there are no formal stats, the driver himself will tell you that London taxi riders can make about 65,000 a year, about $100,000, while keeping an enviable timetable.
McCabe, as a taxi driver, thought he could work seven, ten, fifteen uninterruptedly - and then take four off to hang out with his girlfriend Katie, a barber, and their kids Archie, four, and Lulu, three.
He said McCabe was dreaming of the Knowledge: sometimes exciting vision of zoom through the London streets, more frequent bad dreams about unknown routes or catastrophic LTPH performances. There were three cards in his dinning room: two huge London road layouts - one laminate on the dinning desk and one fixed to the walls - and an enhanced version of the postal code W1, the busy area stretching from Marylebone to Piccadilly just South, and Soho to the east.
He said his home had become a knowledge-base. It' s enticing to see knowledge as a unique UK institution: an embodiment of nation's passions for order and authority, and a democratisation of what P. G. Wodehouse blindly termed the feudal mind by launching an army of hyper-efficient Jeeves willing to be crushed by every Bertie Wooster by.
However, knowledge is less a result of the British nature than of the painful London countryside. Being in London means at least half the fun, having no clue where the hell you are. Any trip to London, no matter how trivial, carries the danger of an epic twist:
Since London first expanded beyond the ramparts of the ancient Rome, it has continued to expand outwards, absorbed towns, enlarged the spider's web of small streets, and multiplied the labyrinth. Have a look at a London citymap. Manhattan and Chicago designers controlled havoc with grid patterns; Baron Haussmann wiped out winding mediaeval Paris with its extensive avenues, turning the town into a string of vantage points, squares and park.
London doesn't make much sence. This was the capitol of the largest kingdom in our time, but it does not look or touch like an emperor. Kilometres of lonely passivity are not disturbed by splendour but by frugality - the beautiful white painted houses and imposing plazas in the well-attended parts of West and North London.
St. Paul's Cathedral is located at the back of a small semi-circular square, which is marked by the offices and winding roads of the finance area. Christopher Wren, the arquitect behind St. Paul's, almost became a London househusband. Only a few working days after the disastrous Great Fire of 1666, Wren drew up a reconstruction project for London into an Italian-style town with broad avenues ending in plazas and elevated rock docks.
When Chicago is an embodiment of US pragmatism and Paris an eulogy to symmetricalism, then London is a memorial to British merchantilism and the passion for personal ownership, to the might of middle-class landowners and shop owners who were clinging too much to their small spaces to allow the clearance of Wren's Plan room.
ln London, Lucy overtrumps size. Peter Ackroyd wrote that the people of London are "a people who are getting wasted in their own town. "London's maze-like roads are a symbolic - and perhaps a cause - of Fatalism, which is hanging like a peasoup mist over the Londoner's conscience. In the face of the vertiginous infinity of the roads, your intellect transforms into thoughts of finiteness: the times that pass, the moments that you come too late for your doctor's appointments, the times that pass and can never be recalled, on the Big Clock, the even greater than Big Ben.
It is a jittery man, an apprehensive lady, who searches the skyline for a recognisable symbol, looks for a road shield and quietly asks herself: "Where am I? This is where knowledge comes in. Following your London A-Z St. Atlas half way down Caledonian Road, Islington, you will find Knowledge Point, the biggest of the 10 London colleges devoted to the test.
The motorcycles of the Knowledge Boy's line the pavement forward at all times of the year. In the 90s, for several years in the 90s, something else stood next to the bicycles: the horse of a city police rider on a horse, who imparted know-how on his horse, after and during his working time. "South West London Turnarounds," "Barracks & Military Facilities," "Lambeth & Waterloo."
" The students take up business secret, helper memoirs and abbreviations handed down between Knowledge Boy generation and generation. There is " Cat Eats Well Then Shares Her Beef Gravy ", a reminder that refers to a trail along the northern side of the Aldwych - the crescent-shaped street that winds over the beach - along a series of one-way streets:
In order to reach the C.A.B. - the Chelsea, Albert and Battersea Bridge - take the C.O.B.: Chelsea Bridge Road, Oakley Street and Beaufort Street. There are a number of roads leading through Soho from north to south - Greek, Frith, Dean, Wardour - that are good for filthy people. However, he spends most of a student's knowledge point in two narrow rooms on the basement of the building, where the cards are placed on shallow desks and angular squares.
Every time you enter the Knowledge Point, you'll find student, focused faces, callovers in the lingo of knowledge reviewers. An experienced call-er - a knowledge-long "woosher" - can ring like a slampoet or rappers who turns off road titles and turns in a pleasant synchronized beat as he speeds through the London boulevards before his eyes:
In the Knowledge Point you can often hearken to the noise of the stress: moaning, hemming and folding, swearing. McCabe came to Knowledge Point since he began the test. Meeting McCabe and Vine at Knowledge Point one mornin', watching them call me. Playing in a pattern of run-calling, interrupted by murmured swearwords and other exclaims, they would spend countless long hours shutting themselves off:
London taxi drivers' minds have caught scientific scrutiny. E-leanor Maguire, a neuro scientist at University College London, studied taxi driving and intelligence for 15 years. Her discovery is that the rear part of the back campus, the area of the mind known to be important for remembering, is larger in London taxi riders than in most humans, and that the rear part of the back campus of a winning test participant grows during the test.
It also provides a scholarly rationale for the experience of knowledge learners, the vast majority of whom have never completed higher learning and are shocked by the amount of information they can absorb and store. From a historical perspective, taxi riding was a working-work white classes dominating the East Londoners: first the Irish, later the Cockpites and Jews.
The London Schwarztaxi has been a rising mobile car for at least a hundred years, driving its way into the upper school. Today's knowledge nominees are a new breed of London aspirants. In the Knowledge Point there are almost as many dark and dark faces curved over cards as there are whites, and in the murmur of running sounds you notice a multitude of highlights - Southeast Asian, Western Africa and the Caribbean - mixing with the wide vocals and globe-tops of Estuary English.
The auditors stress that the formalities are important to convey a proper understanding of the codes and to help train prospective taxi drivers for the London world. Knowledge reviewers have used the London nomenclature's poetic power for generation after generation to create bold runs: The snowman's house to the ICE train, Hamlet Gardens to the Globe Theatre, the eye (the Ferris-wheel on South Bank of the Thames) to the nostril ( a small statue, supposedly modelled on Lord Nelson's nostril, nestled in the admiralty arch).
A reviewer, Tony Swire, loves to interview contestants about their life and use this information to collect races that go beyond his mind and display his own huge London knowledge. Upon learning that Matt McCabe's spouse was a barber and that his children's names were Archie and Lulu, Swire ran McCabe from the Mayfair parlour of the famous barber John Frieda, the ex-husband of Lulu, the Scots popular vocalist, to Archie Street, a small cul-de-sac in Bermondsey.
He is a taxi driver like all inspectors, a knowledge alumnus with many years of experience in taxi riding in his resume. In less than two years, he shared the knowledge. Going further south we crossed the Millennium Bridge, which connects the South Bank of the Thames with the City of London, and then turned eastwards following the pulsating flow of Queen Victoria Street.
Does Queen Victoria Street bend there? Friday Street going south? End of Friday Street - yes, you have a enforced link with a big blu arrow. Candidates for knowledge must make a picture of the street or the arrows there. Those test subjects a hundred years ago who set off on the journey to knowledge by bicycle received an exhilarating reward: not only a verdant patch, but also something that comes within reach of a lifestyle guarantee.
Today's knowledge aspirants rely on this model attitude, but the story seems to be moving in a different direction. What is more, the story of the past is a different one. Today, one individual can enter the LTPH Bureau and, with relatively little expense, obtain a licence to operate one of London's nearly 60,000 minicab fleets, far in excess of the approximately 25,000 cabs.
A Minicab driver does not have to prove knowledge of London; an application only has to undergo a basic examination and take a "topographical test". Taxicab riders refute such allegations by pointing out that in stage racing taxis have won against vehicles with global positioning systems or, as the Brits call it, Sat-Nav.
Kabbies claim that in a thick and vibrant cityscape like London's, a taxi driver's brains are a powerful navigational resource - that Sat-Nav doesn't know anything about the building that was created on Regent Street, and that a driver celebrated in a busy Piccadilly Circus doesn't have enough alone to type in an email addressee and await his dashboard-mounted robotic system to tell him where to drive his vehicle.
However, given the speed of technology advancement, how long will it take to develop a Sat Nav that works better than the most brilliant taxi driver before a voice-controlled or GPS unmanned vehicle can zipper a Pickadilly to Putney passanger more effectively than any other knowledge adept? In the end, the case of providing knowledge cannot be practical-economic (knowledge works better than Sat-Nav) or moral-political (the little man must be shielded from greedy black capitalism), but rather philosophical, spiritually sentimental: knowledge should be preserved because it is good for London's spirit and for the Londoners's.
Knowing represents, well, knowing - the enlightening ideals of encyclopaedic study, the humanistic idea that industrious pursuit of intellect is refined, an end in itself. Supporting wisdom means making the unmodern point that expert opinion cannot be limited to facts, that there is something dystopic or at least oppressive about shifting mankind's hard-won scholarship to a gizmo, even to hand-held hand-held wizmos that are themselves wonders of mankind' imaginations and resourcefulness.
The London Taxi Driver Test anchors wisdom as - to use the word au courant phrase - a craft, a thing that is locally and homemade and thrives perfectly in the personal home, not in the divemind. One could also call it the greatest homage a town has ever afforded, a romance that is more glowing than "I ? N.Y." or anything else a chamber of commerce could invent.
London is Holy Writ, a great secret to think about, and a communal Talmud body must be assigned to do the job. As the mystical stereotypes apply - that London taxi cabmen are London's songline singer and writer of popular saying that carry not only the mysteries of London shipping, but also the profound story of the town and its roads - the loss of knowledge would be an attack on bourgeois memories, a strike, if you will, on monument conservation.
Smart-phone applications and Google Maps can make sure that Londoners never get left in their own cities again, but when knowledge vanishes, something of London itself gets vanished - will part of the place disappear along with all the boys on motorcycles who learn the city's streets and plumb its deepest pockets?
Matt McCabe, like most taxi drivers and learning lads, is concerned about the taxi industry's bright years. So he took the London Express to London, got off at London Bridge and went to the LTPH Bureau at a reasonable speed to keep his pulse constant. Arriving with enough elapsed space, he took a place in the queue with about a dozen others.
MacCabe knew that O'Connor liked to test whether contestants had been around on the bicycle and liked to give races that worked in the middle of the card. "O "O'Connor nodded: The knowledge man had properly ID'd the dots. There was a nearly seven-mile long voyage, northward, from Camberwell to Holloway, in Islington, northern London.
I am happy to tell you that you are now one of the best in London. "It was the first that McCabe came to the LTPH in more than three years that an investigator had named him by his first name. Sitting in his taxi, McCabe keeps his eye open for another London curiosity: the knowledge auditors, his former torturers, now co-workers who may be riding their own cabs or earning new points.
Every working day McCabe makes his way via South London to the centre of the centre and takes his taxi through the confused roads of many a knowledge lad trying to name one of Mr Hall's heats.