Tourists it seems, still think of the traditional London cab as an iconic symbol of London. It was rather reassuring to me for when I was contacted by Amandine late last year who was working for a French publisher of tourist guides wanting to include a London cabbie in this year’s French London guide.
My return to London after the New Year break was not to sit on a rank, at this the quietest time of the year, in the forlorn hope of getting a fare. No today I was to be interviewed and spend time being photographed beside my cab.
Amandine, I was relieved to discover spoke perfect English, just as well for I can just about order a coffee in French.
After meeting outside Leadenhall Market we drove to Westminster Abbey and parked in the forecourt outside the south entrance. The Abbey is too large a building to be photographed at such close quarters, but in winter with the trees stripped of their leaves, the Sanctuary, to give it its correct title, is perfectly positioned to photograph Big Ben in the distance.
It was not long before the photographer; Régis and his assistant Caroline were being asked for a photography permit. We were informed that this land was owned by the Abbey.
For a place of worship needing £150,000 a day just to maintain the fabric of the building, one would think publicity would be embraced.
After a short period of discussion it transpired that while the Abbey is trying to forge stronger bonds with Rome, entente cordiale seems not one of their priorities.
With the cost of travel falling year-on-year the tourism industry has found it much tougher to attract to London the much needed Euro and Dollar, and yet no-one seems prepared to support the very unique aspects of our Capital.
The old Routemaster bus was replaced by a German bendy bus seen in many towns in Europe. After much public debate a token route is now maintained.
Drive around central London and every tourist want to be photographed opening a red telephone box. With their demise with the advent of the mobile phone, we are left with a stock of dirty boxes advertising ‘adult services’. How much would it cost to clean them up?
Now we can see on the horizon the demise of the traditional London cab. Its predecessors the Fairway and FX Series are being withdrawn from service now deemed to pollute London’s atmosphere. While the manufacturer of the current model has been placed into administration as a buyer is sought, although many in the trade feel that it is the end for the black cab.
The only current alternative is a converted van from a German manufacturer, the like of which could be seen around the world. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the highly successful 2012 Olympics have shown London in the best light for a generation, now is not the time to sit back and wait for the world to come to us.
We need red buses, red telephone boxes and yes, at this time we should have a colour prejudice – black cabs.