British History, Culture & Sports, History of Freedom, Heroes, Inventors, Brits at their, English country scene

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An independent point-of-view


London’s black cab has a surprisingly short
turning circle – it can "turn on a sixpence".

It used to be the world was multicultural, and one traveled to Italy, say, to imbibe Italian culture, and to Britain to relish British culture. Nations were a bit like people, fairly distinct, with pleasant or unpleasant characteristics that could be avoided or embraced. I leave it to you to decide whether the mishmash of cultures now found in so many places is an improvement for anybody, while I pay a brief tribute to a British icon, London's black cab and black-cab driver.

Riding in one of London’s black cabs reminds me of my childhood. There is always plenty of room in the back (licensed to hold five, and sometimes six passengers). Luggage travels up front with the black-cab driver, who has passed a demanding test called The Knowledge to demonstrate his intimate familiarity with London streets. The cab is so built that a gentleman can step inside without removing his top hat – or folding up the baby carriage he has been pushing.

The first hackney-carriage (the word hackney apparently metamorphosed from the French word for an ambling horse or hack) was operating in London in 1662. Hackney-carriages became hansom cabs in 1834. Motorised hackney cabs (they ran on electricity) appeared around the end of the 19th century.

My experience of black-cab drivers is that they are tough, knowledgeable, and patriotic. Plying the streets for trade, they are their own bosses, and they are just the fellows (yes, they always seem to be men) you would want to talk to for an independent point-of-view.