So the day finally arrived when I knew there was a good chance I could get my req.
Friday 13th May!! I sat in the waiting room, same story as before – nervous - knowing today could be the last day I have to go through this feeling. I hear footsteps behind me and then a cheerful voice. ‘Who wants to be Mr Richardson today then?’ I stand up and reply ‘I don’t mind.’ Before we reach the room, Mr Whitehead asks for my card and tells me to take a seat then makes a bit of small talk. I get the sense that this appearance is a bit more relaxed that the previous ones. He then asks me if I struggled to find any points whilst out on my bike. After telling him that I had, but not remembering which ones I particularly found difficult, I jokingly replied ‘Buckingham Palace’. He laughed and said ‘No problem – we’ll go from the Royal Mews to the O2 Dome please’.
After calling two runs with ease, I then struggled with the third, after which he asked me if I wanted to continue. Of course I did! Now I’m starting to panic big time. Why would he ask me that? Had I mucked up so badly he just wanted me to leave? I didn’t think it was that bad! Continuing onto the fourth and last run, he asked me a point which I dropped. I then dropped another. And then another. I dropped 10 points on the spin. I couldn’t even start the run.
I sat there feeling sick that I’d now have to come up to those dreaded offices another day to try and get that elusive req. Mr Whitehead was writing something on a piece of paper and finally said ‘Well you’ve dropped ten points. I asked if you wanted to continue and you said you did. You didn’t have to. I gave you those points to show you that you’ll never know everything but you know enough because you’ve got your req Mr Richardson! Well done!’ With that he stood up, smiled, shook my hand and congratulated me. I hesitated for a moment, in shock at what he had just told me before finally flying to my feet, wanting to jump over the table and hug him.
He then had a little chat with me about what I needed to do to pass the suburbs and about being a cabbie. He asked what I was doing over the weekend to celebrate. I told him that I was in the ring the next evening at York Hall for my second professional fight (I won by TKO in round 3, so it was a good weekend all round). He wished me luck in my career and congratulated me and I left to phone every person that knew I was on the Knowledge.
I cracked on with the suburbs, waiting for the phone call from TfL to inform me of the date for my final appearance. After a few weeks of hearing nothing, I called them, and was advised that the date was set for Monday 22nd August.
So D-Day arrived. For the final time I sat in that waiting room and was called in by Ma’am Gerald which worried me straight away as I had heard plenty of horror stories about her. However, she was lovely throughout the whole appearance, which was even more relaxed than the one when I received my req. I smashed out the 6 runs that were asked from the 130 odd that I had been calling over every day for the last couple of months. I’d even been calling them over while sitting on the beach on the holiday that I had just returned home from.
I’d done it! It was finally over! From getting up at silly o’clock on dark, freezing cold, rainy mornings to getting chased out of Bermondsey by a nutty dog to spending countless hours sat in front of a map of London with a pen. I didn’t have to do any of that anymore. Three years, 2 months of sheer dedication had finally paid off. What a relief.
I received my badge on the Friday of that week. Badge no. 77175. It was a very strange feeling holding that precious piece of gold and green metal in my hands knowing I was now part of a historic trade. A very proud moment indeed.
On my first day at work, I found myself travelling up Gloucester Place when a lady threw a hand up on the corner of Crawford Street. I looked around to make sure that it was definitely for me and my mind started to race as to where she would want to go. ‘New Street Square please!’ No problem. I pulled off and then it hit me. Where the hell was that?! It was worse than being in front of an examiner because I was now being paid to know these places. I then remembered where it was but now I was thinking of all the different routes that I could possibly take to get there. I decided to keep it simple and just get her there. When we arrived at the destination, I pulled over to let her out and proudly told her that the fare didn’t need to be paid as she was my very first customer and it was tradition for newly qualified cabbies to give up their first fare. She was pleasantly surprised and told me I had done well which put me at ease a bit more. I now couldn’t wait for the next person to wave me down.
I’ve been driving a cab for a little while now. I’ve found that its an easy job compared to others, except for the stresses of the traffic and mini cabs not knowing where they’re going and pulling off some of the most dangerous driving I’ve ever seen. When people ask me if it’s worth it, I always reply that it definitely is. Being your own boss and picking and choosing your hours is a big bonus. It’s not physically demanding and is a job that you can do for as long as you are deemed medically fit. For the older generation of cab drivers who say the trade is dead and there’s no money in it, I think the money is there, you just have to work harder for it now. There is more competition out there and less space on the roads so I can see where they are coming from when they’re used to the golden age of the job. I’m definitely enjoying it and it fits in perfectly with my boxing so I won’t be handing my badge in any time soon. To all you Knowledge boys or girls out there - I would say to get your head down and crack on, don’t think you can do minimal calling over and pass appearances, you simply can’t. Good luck to you all. And whether you’re on a bike or in a cab and you happen to see me, give me a wave!!