Recently I was contacted by the BBC London Arts Unit with a view to my contributing to a documentary they were making to be transmitted in the run up to the 2012 Olympics. Entitled ”A Picture of London’ the assistant producer/researcher explained to me over the phone that they wanted to feature a number of people who work and live in the capital, who would relate their favourite places in London.
Meeting with the documentary’s producer in of all places the Museum of Childhood – would that be a reflection of childhood memories – he explained over a cup of coffee that they were filming about nine individuals and some would eventually end up on the proverbial cutting room floor.
Filming was scheduled for a Sunday evening a week or so later to rendezvous in a car park near Tower Bridge. My cab had a camera mounted on its bonnet by the grips man Garth (I had always wondered what grips were) and after about half an hour we were driving to Battersea via Tower Bridge.
One of my favourite spots in London is the beautiful Georgian church of St. Mary’s perched above the Thames in Battersea. It is said that Turner painted some of his rivers cape studies of light from the vestry window of the church and was rowed over every day by his servant in order that he might paint.
While taking numerous zoom shots of the cab approaching the water’s edge we were scrutinised by the River Police inquisitive of our intentions. It was explained to me that this was an occupational hazard of film units and they had already been stopped more than once that day.
Next was a drive across the capital with a camera pointing into my left ear with me trying to negotiate London’s traffic while commentating of what life was like for a London cabbie, not as easy as it looks with everybody cutting you up.
One arrival at the London Zoo (where both my father and grandfather worked) it was pitch dark but that didn’t stop them taking another round of rolling shots of the cab, which again drew the attention of this time the Zoo’s security staff, hardly surprising as the main entrance by now was illuminated by their floodlights. A short piece of commentary by me as an audio recording rounded off the day.
Would I be contacted again by the BBC? Could this mark a career in broadcasting? These thoughts ran through my, by now, exhausted head.
Two weeks later I picked up a copy of our trade’s newspaper, there inside was a full page article written by the doyen of cabbie journalism – Al Fresco – writer, raconteur, sometime editor and a cabbie of some 40 years, describing how on a Sunday morning recently he was filming for the BBC.
How could I compete? Here was an erudite part time journalist, old fashioned Jewish cabbie who had more tales of London’s East End after the war, a place where most of the cabbies hailed from at the time, featuring in a documentary entitled A Picture of London.
Oh well! My Andy Warhol moment will have to wait.