Thursday, 1 November 2012

Restlessness and Dissillusion 2

So, after several weeks of deliberating and being busy doing other things, I finally traced the origin of my dissatisfaction with the wonderful country known as the UK. It was early one August morning in 2003.  At around 5.o'clock I had just returned from a trip to what is known as 'deepest Surrey'.  For those outsiders in the provinces,this is the land that lies to the south of Dorking.  In the early hours... in the blackness of single track roads, this land possesses a mysterious character that, despite its proximity to London, seems at least a world and a half away.  Behind the darkened windows of detached houses city bankers are slumbering before their daily onslaught on the financial markets.
I was sitting, parked near Raynes Park Station SW20, just as the first light began to fill the air. I had been up and working since 3.15 a.m., when it suddenly came to me that I might be doing this for another 13 years until retirement age, should I live that long.
Business was good in those days. We were in between recessions and buoyancy was bubbling through the City and the country.  On this morning though, in the manner of those thoughts that come to us when we wake in the middle of the night, which consume our mind until we might fall asleep again, then wake up too late, I began to muse over the creeping control coupled with the ineptitude, that in my view had become to smother London.
The London Taxi Trade is known world wide for its excellence.  It has been in existence since 1654 when Oliver Cromwell instigated the beginnings of 'The Knowledge'.  I 'got out' as they not prison...I received my licence after passing 'The Knowledge' in 1984 and became a tour guide many years later.  Just before 'day one' I was already aware that there was a constant battle in progress between the trade, its representatives, the authorities and interested parties.
Transport for London was inaugurated in 2000 and later took over the administration of the Taxi Trade from the Public Carriage Office. This opened a platform for all the opposers of the the Taxi Trade, who were fired by self interest for a bigger slice of the London Transport business to lobby Tfl and many of the local authorities (particularly the City of Westminster).  Minicabs were licensed in due course, quite rightly for the safety of the public and I believe that overall Tfl do a good job. The more controversial aspects of their administration I shall discuss next time.  Just to mention one failing however by Tfl and the City authorities, is to have allowed the presence of Pedicabs on the streets which are certainly a danger to anyone who rides in them. The usual pussyfooting around by the authorities is typical. This has continued to the extent that pedicabs have been literally peddling their illegal trade 1998 and they are still on the streets. They now have a very large foot in the door thanks to the weakness of those such as the City of Westminster and the Borough of Camden. Of course if they are ever licensed, it will be then that they will face the wrath of control. Wouldn't it have been better to rid the city of these things before they became common place?
I have always though had a bone to pick with those who sit in ivory towers, who have job security, a salary at the end of the month, paid holidays and pensions paid for by us. They just do not know what it is to strive to maintain a profession. Yes, it is the individual's choice whether to attempt to become a London Taxi Driver, but why should there be attacks on the trade as I have witnessed for many years ? Those in authority are sitting pretty in my view and I have little respect for their inherent, haughty attitude.They also forget that they work for us ! Unfortunately they also seem to be unaware that they could be viewed as compromising themselves by not acting in the obvious proper manner from the beginning.
So.... a few more things to air. Political Correctness has infiltrated London to a ridiculous level. Another name for it is Positive Discrimation. I have always believed in a Meritocracy. The London Taxi Trade is open to anyone, if they have the competence to complete 'The Knowledge' and pass a stringent driving test. It is traditionally self funded. Some years ago Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London instigated easier opportunities for ethnic minorities and women to become LondonTaxi Drivers by funding, which included providing applicants with the moped or scooter, the traditional way to learn the London streets. In other words a completely unfair practice which not only angered just about everyone in the Taxi Trade especially the ethnics and women who had previously qualified by their own effort and finance. They also saw it as an insult to whatever were their ethnic origins; as though by birth they were deemed to be incapable of achievement. It was discussed at length on LBC Radio at the time.
All this came on top of what was known as a watering down of The Knowledge so that it was easier to pass. Computer tests were devised and the number of 'Knowledge Runs' or routes was reduced. Reducing necessary effort and messing about with tried, trusted and respected disciplines has done nothing for the Taxi Trade's respect.I find it typical of the UK today. One example being the school examination system, but that is another story. Passengers have remarked that since these changes it has been noticeable that Licensed Drivers are now using satnavs in the cabs. I was told more than once that at least I knew where I was going whilst newer drivers did not.
I hope that this does not sound like me griping. What I have said already underpins a further dissatisfaction which I find more sinister and totally against the UK way of life. To be continued..............

1 comment:

  1. Hi your blog is very interesting, the combination of your career as a taxi driver in London and life in Bulgaria speaks out so loud to me.

    I have been studying the knowledge hoping to get out of it so that I could earn enough to start a life in Bulgaria but lately considering just making the move.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences.