Welcome back to another week of the “Share Your Story” series. It feels like we have been away for too long with this series! Last time we had Sarah from Life in a Breakdown sharing her story and raising awareness about BPD. If you haven’t read it then do pop over, I hadn’t ever heard of this before and Sarah has shown how important it is to have a good support network. This week we have Simon Scott.
Simon Scott Story
It all started in 1986. Simon and I had gone to school together and had remained friends ever since. He worked in his uncles fish factory in Essex and the whole family were suitable well off. For years I had associated that pink fish with money. So when the phone rang and Simon announced that he had signed up for the ‘knowledge’ and did I want to join him I didn’t hesitate. Before Google we all made calculated guesses and I decided to believe Simons assertion that it would be a doddle. Well it wasn’t but more of that later.
I felt quite lighthearted as I closed my front door and made my way over to the minivan we had decided to start in just in case we got cold and wet. I climbed inside and the salmon smell hit me. I grinned. Simon switched on the radio and off we went. I held the map and the blue book runs Simon had photocopied for me and he did the driving. We made numerous stops for tea, coffee and sandwiches. In fact those journeys felt more like a day out at the seaside than a serious attempt to start the knowledge.
However, it soon became compulsive. I took the sheets everywhere, even the toilet and would bore anyone who would listen to my parrot like repetition of the runs. The blue book, which is actually pink, consists of 26 pages and each page has 18 runs printed very neatly. The first run in the book is Manor House Station to Gibson Square. The aim is to learn all the runs both ways and the points of interest around them.
I wondered about the impossibility of the knowledge many times during my self-imposed sentence. I tried to console myself with the fact that there were many thousands of cabbies in London to prove it wasn’t.
We quickly graduated from the van to mopeds. I bought mine from Southend and rather than take the treacherous journey back to the east end on the A13 I took the train or, to be precise I stood in the guards’ compartment with my new moped, contemplating life on two wheels on the streets of London. I was in a much more serious mood when we arrived at Liverpool Street Station and I wobbled off towards Bethnal Green to compose myself for the next morning’s start.
The moped proved to be far better than the van in terms economy and vision but being on two wheels during that winter was a scary experience. I slipped and slid a few times and being caught in a snow blizzard in Hampstead made me question the sanity of being on two skinny wheels in the dark miles from home.
Simon was joined by Mark, another friend, and the three of us would meet up every couple of days to obsess and argue about details like whether you could turn right into College Place from Plender Street or not, you can’t btw. We agonised over straight lines across London and consoled each other over appearances that had gone wrong. I lived in a Peabody trust flat in Bethnal Green in the east end. It was on the top floor and had a balcony facing Horatio Street. As Nelson proudly surveyed London from his lofty perch I took this as a sign that I would indeed the conquer London and get my hands on a pretty green badge and a black cab.
I managed to get a delivery job based in Fleet Street on the edge of the City of London. Derek and Jimmy were two London Cabbies who had purchased a newsagent shop as an investment. They had secured deals to supply bundles of newspapers and magazines to various businesses, including News International and the various provincial papers that were still in and around Fleet Street.
I had left my job as a messenger boy in Fleet Street in 1982, and had been sacked as a paper boy in 1975. Here I was again fulfilling both roles, and it somehow felt as though I had been primed for this route in life.
I was to use Jimmy’s old cab. Derek walked around with me to the world war two bomb site that doubled as a car park to initiate me into the world of the Austin FX4 taxi. By that stage I had driven Ford Escorts, Capris and Cortinas. I thought I was ready for anything. We crunched across the ground down rubble towards the black cab that was tucked away in a corner. Derek was explaining that cabs aren’t like cars or vans, that they have to be nurtured and cared for. I remember wondering if he was sleeping properly as he lifted the bonnet and walked around to the boot.
He told me to get inside but to touch nothing, he beavered around under the bonnet for a couple of minutes before telling me to start her up. Nothing could have prepared me for the awful bag of spanners like noise and the H-bomb mushroom cloud of exhaust fumes that filled the air. I jumped out thinking something was wrong but Derek was smiling, ‘she started first time’ he said. I looked around at the bomb site and wondered if Jimmy’s cab had produced a bigger explosion than the Luftwaffe had managed. I stepped back and looked more closely at the cab, no rust but the tyres looked worn out. It was manufactured in 1974 and had a gearshift on the steering column. Derek looked content though and I thought it best to go along with that. ‘Drive us back to the shop’ he said as he climbed in the back. The awful fumes subsided a little as I weaved around the back streets of Carter Lane into Ludgate Hill and down the hill to Fleet Street.
Thank you Simon for sharing your story.
If you would like to follow Simon on his social, you can find him on Twitter