I hope it's not just wishful thinking, but I get the feeling that maybe our trade has realised that this really is our very last chance to defend our livelihoods.
I have spoken to many of our colleagues, and the support appears encouraging. Whether it will transpire that the support actually materialises on the day however, is another question. Especially when it concerns our normally fractured trade. Let's hope my optimism is founded.
Just before Christmas, I was delegated the task of going to a leading supermarket for some last minute bits and pieces. On the list that I was given, were fruit and nuts. I just got a selection of everything I could see. Amongst them were two nice big hands of bananas.
I arrived home, unloaded all the bags and my beautiful wife displayed all the fruit and nuts on the table, decorating them with Christmas holly, tinsel and stuff.
The next morning, I'm on the phone and notice the bananas on the table. I took one off the bunch, the skin was perfect. Not green, not deep yellow, just right.
As I peeled it, I was gutted to see that the whole thing was rotten as a pear inside. No biggy I thought, I will get another one, there's plenty there. Same again. Jank! Absolutely rotten !
I've got the hump now, so topped up peeling the lot, and everyone of them were rotten. Hold that thought for a moment.
Our eldest daughter is 31. She is a Senior Civil Servant and works in our National Intelligence for the Government. We are very proud of her. It's all she ever wanted to do, and she has been there since she was 16.
Just before Christmas, she told me that she had saved up a few quid, for a pair of Jimmy Choo heels, which as a matter of shocked interest, cost her more than the deposit for our first house. Would I mind taking her to New Bond Street whilst she went in and chose them. Naturally I agreed and enjoyed the chat with her on the way up to the West End. I'm driving down New Bond Street, and slowed down on the near side, pointing to Jimmy Choo's on the left hand side. I explained I was unable to wait there, so would go and do one or two jobs until she came out. No rush, I said, take you're time.
Now picture this scene folks. I drive a TX4. My daughter is sitting in the back of the cab, also on the near side. I am stationery outside Jimmy Choos, pointing my finger to the shop door way. The entrance to the shop is six feet from where she's sitting. She is nodding that she has seen it and thanking me. What do you think she did next ? As you imagine it, please bear in mind what she does for a living.
She shuffled over, and to my utter astonishment and complete bewilderment........ GOT OUT OF THE OFFSIDE DOOR !!!! Colleagues, if it were you that was driving down New Bond Street in the Vito, and my offside door made you swerve and nearly turn your cab over, my utmost apologies mate ! I could see by your face you were annoyed, and absolutely understandably too ! Can you imagine the language in my cab ? "Effing National Intelligence? My arse! No wonder we're in trouble! And they have the effing presence of mind to give you a gun........eff me !!!" She had already got out and gone before my rant ended, she knew she had upset me !
The following week, to attempt to make amends for her blond moment I think, she invited me up to accompany her to the firm's Christmas bash in the City. Sadly my lovely wife was too unwell to attend, our youngest daughter sat with her, as I accompanied my eldest daughter to the party.
Knowing that she was going to invite me, my details and credentials had to be submitted to the Home Office security scan, some three weeks earlier, for perfectly understandable reasons.
We arrive in the City at the venue. I was well turned out, with regimental blazer, regimental tie, cufflinks......in fact, everything barring my bearskin.
I am always 100% respectable and polite to everyone I am introduced to, as all our four kids are. So the evening's introductions to our daughter's working team was no different. If I saw they had rank, I would refer to them as Sir or Madam, until a more relaxed conversation had developed. As the night progressed and the champagne began to kick in, the formalities had diluted down to Christian names.
Not long after we arrived, my daughter introduced me to a man. Although I had never met him before, I recognised his face, name and important professional remit immediately. And I must be honest, i had admired the way that he had carried his brief out, and how professionally he deals with it. As you can imagine, I held the man in awe. He has a very difficult and responsible brief, and although never having met him, I respected him a lot.
After chatting in depth about my military roles, the chap asked what I was up to these days. I explained that I still train detection dogs which I love, but just before I left the army, I also completed the grueling London Knowledge and become a Green Badge London Taxi Driver. My daughter interjected at that stage that I was very proud of it too. I'm quite good at psychology and human body language, and could tell by the smirk on his face that I was about to get some unwelcome stick from this fella.
After I told him about it, he got great satisfaction in saying " I thought old Livingstone had got rid of you buggers for ever. I know he said he would ! Surely you are just a tourist attraction now ? Uber are the proper taxis now, aren't they ?"
Folks, can you imagine how I felt ? My daughter's blood drained from her face. She knew only too well that our celebrity friend may just as well have called my dear late mother a prostitute and a whore. My brain scanner went into mode and I remember thinking that , considering the company we were in, if I only got one punch in, what side of his jaw did I think I could do the most collateral damage to before being bundled ? Or maybe even a perfectly aimed head butt on the bridge of his nose. Would that hopefully cause more pain ?
Fortunately for me (and most certainly him !!) the champagne as good as it was, hadn't totally wrecked my sensible and professional judgement, so I put my damaged pride aside. Notwithstanding, I wouldn't dream of embarrassing my daughter, not to mention bringing the London Cab Trade into disrepute.
The pain was further fired over during the evening and inflicted on me with vigor, because as I was introduced to other members of my daughter's team, this numbskull gained huge satisfaction by shouting out "Taxi ! Taxi !!" on each and every occasion that he saw me.
Noticing my embarrassment, my daughter whisked me to the other side of the room, where I was introduced to some genuinely interesting and facinating people, many that I had heard of, but never seen. My confidence was somewhat restored when the lovely daughter of the aforementioned pillock, Jessica said " Take no notice of my Dad, Steve. I've just reminded him of the roles you played in your service, and it must only be out of decency that he's still got a pulse ! Thanks for sparing him. I have recommended that he locks every window in his house tonight !"
I laughed, my daughter laughed, pillock's daughter Jessica laughed, and we carried on enjoying the evening, despite the shouts of "Taxi, Taxi !!" each and every time the fool set eyes on me.
On the journey home, I hailed a cab and the charming, professional colleague of ours took us safely to the door. It wasn't a bad job either. £152 on the meter. I paid him, gave him a tenner tip and just as he was thanking me and about to pull away, I showed him my badge in my pocket. He couldn't believe it ! He tried to give me £40 back bless him, but I was having none of it. I didn't mention that I was one of his own during the journey, as I always feel that I am asking for mates rates. It's hard enough out there as it is. During the ride, I was talking to my daughter about the evening, and in particular, her work friend, Jessica's Dad. She said she was so shocked to see him like that, as he is always so professional and efficient. The fact is though, champagne or not, he was a very rude man. Professionally capable, but his people skills and decorum were hugely lacking. He had obviously taken my politeness for my personal weakness, a flaw that is rife within the corridors of the Civil Service, MP's and Government. Fortunately for him, I was in no place to defend myself, either verbally of physically so took his childish continual onslaught on the chin.
I have written as a trade scribe for around thirty years now. My very first guest publication was for the LTDA glossy magazine 30 years ago in 1986. It was a small A4 size magazine then, I think I remember. I was also still in the army at the time, and writing a piece about the knowledge. Since then, I have written for many of the trade orgs. The LCDC when it was under the stewardship of Alan Flemming and Alan Howes and various other orgs, including the more newly formed UCG.
I get a lot of satisfaction from writing, I enjoy it. But I must admit, and please believe me, I am not fishing for compliments, but if there was ever a trophy for the most boring trade scribe out there, I would surely win it ! The thing is, and as most of the readers that skip my articles will agree, it's only really the titles that I change ! The contents of my articles are more or less all the same. I try to put a bit of comic relief into them, I try to incorporate everyday situations whilst attempting to get to a point and I always write about what I know, a cardinal rule in writing. But as I say, ever since the first days, I have been repeating the same thing over and over again. I knew they were trying to kill us years ago, I knew we were short of trade unity, I knew TFL were dodgy, I knew the enforcement had been deliberately wittled down, I knew Uber should never had been licensed and I knew we would need to do something about it. I also knew that NONE of the so called MP's and Civil Service trade friends........would be of any value to us.
So that is all I have ever written about. I've tried to put a few jokes in here and there, write about my personal goals and hopes for our trade, but other than that, its the same old tosh, and I don't know how our great friend and Editor Jim Thomas, hasn't barred me ! But what else can I write about ? We are in trouble, we are dying, we need to unite ! ZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
That is why I get frustrated when I hear and see really good, respected Trade stalwarts of ours say stuff like, we are so grateful that so and so MP is on board, a certain Government Minister is fighting our corner, so and so from the Civil Service is on our side. Or a particular MP is worried that they will lose our trade forever.
NO THEY'RE NOT !! NO THEY AIN'T !! ARE THEY BOLLOX WORRIED !!!
Folks, the only people who are worried about our trade is US LONDON CAB DRIVERS and the families of London Cab drivers ! Mark my words, none of them would give a toss if we died out tomorrow !! Why on earth do so many of us listen to their balony time and time again ? It's ludicrous, honestly it is !
The Government, TFL, The Civil Service.........the lot. None of them give a monkey's about us, so please stop letting the stooges play for time, using classical deflection tricks and inviting us up for meetings. We are so far down on the pecking order it's a wonder we are not under the ground level !
PC Yvonne Fletcher was only 25 when a 9mm bullet tore into her stomach, on that dreadful April morning in the North East corner of St. James Square.
I'm no pathologist or surgeon, but she must have been in agony for the next hour of her life, as she bravely fought for survival. The gravity of this horrific situation was made 100 times worse when her poor fiance, also a serving Met Police Officer tried in vain to revive her, on the pavement way back in 1984.
Scum from the Libyan Embassy has recklessly fired a sub machine gone from the Embassy building, killing a beautiful, proud, valued, kind, serving London Copper. I remember my unit being put on red stand by for that incident, as Police Negotiators pleaded for a further week and half, trying to get this filth to come out. How I would have loved to have been deployed to that and dealt with it in the same operational fashion as the Iranian Embassy in Prince's Gate was dealt with.
Sadly, it was not to be. Yvonne Fletcher's murderers were allowed to walk out of the building and onto a luxury private jet back to Tripoli, in the name that it would damage trade embargos with Libya and threaten the lives of six British hostages if Britain resisted.
I can't even begin to think how Yvonne's poor fiance and parents were thinking as the jet took off back to Libyan safety. There is rumour that the actual assassin got away from the back door of the embassy shortly after, but even so, to let his mates get onto a private jet to Tripoli after being surrounded and caught bang to rights, is a betrayal not only to Yvonne Fletcher's family, but the whole of the British Police Service. They ask our Police Officers to put themselves in front of 9mm machine gun bullets, and then dish up a nice portion of betrayal, when they die on the pavement. But that's our Government for you.
How people have the affront to burn Guy Fawkes every year, always amazes me.
My dear old Mum passed away a few years ago now. She was a very gentle, respectful, meek woman. I had hardly ever heard her swear. I therefore never actually believed what came out of her mouth when she had learnt that Sinn Fein had taken possession of their office keys in Westminster. The air was blue ! "They've betrayed us ! The bastard Government have betrayed us !" she screamed. Her anger was not unfounded. Her eldest son, yours truly, had missed having his name etched in stone at the Armed Forces Memorial in Staffordshire, by a whisker. If it wasn't for a swift lift in a WS61 Sea King and the skills and expertise of nursing staff and senior surgeon Rob McFarlane at The Military Hospital in Woolwich some years previous, the IRA would have gained another British scalp to their collection. I am, as you can imagine, eternally grateful.
We all know about Marine A, don't we ? Betrayed by his Government. Trained and ordered to do a job. Paid to do it. Its not a commercial bid, you dont have a choice whether you go on this work as a serving serviceman or woman. You just go. Just like Marine A did. And now he's in the nick, spent Christmas in the nick and most probably many more Christmas's to come. And how about the 75 year old, honoured and decorated Chelsea Pensioner ? Interviewed last week for 5 solid hours ! This former Royal Marine has been accused as a suspect for murder, in the killing of a dangerous armed terrorist, whilst on operational duty in Northern Ireland in 1972. Absolutely outrageous betrayal from the shiny arsed brigade at Westminster.
The same with the charges brought about by the Government's CPS, to arrest the Paratroopers in the Bloody Sunday affair.
Do you know what the Government is doing now ? They are forming an official body and panel, called the Historical Investigations Unit to investigate the British Army's involvement in the troubles of Northern Ireland.
F**king charming, isn't it ? They train you up, provide you with arms and ammunition, pay you a wage, give you a medal, then wait till you are drawing your pension.................then nick you !! You will find the same photograph of HM The Queen on the walls of the barracks where you were trained how to fight, and the exact same photo on the walls of the Court Dock when you get a ten stretch ! Absolutely outrageous, hypocrisy !
My point is folks, if you haven't grasped it by now............................is what chance do you think the taxi trade has, when they can do that to our National War Veterans ? None, mate ! That's what chance.......absolutely none.
The next time I hear one of these MP's calling for British Unity or waving a British flag I think I might punch them. Is it the same flag wavers that fined Fifa and our boys for going onto the pitch with poppies on ? Probably !
Betraying, two faced, lying, hypocritical, bent, corrupt, shiny arsed wrong 'uns.
I almost forgot. Where do the bananas come into it ? Well,the bananas I bought just before Christmas reminded me very much of the MP's who claim to love and support The London Taxi Trade, the hierarchy of TFL and the Government who we are supposed to trust and put our faith in.
They look alright from the outside....................but as rotten as f**k in the middle !
Our last chance is almost upon us folks. Our mates and colleagues of the UCG have asked for our help. Don't blow it. Don't put your head in the sand and don't make out you knew nothing about our stand on the 12th or the UCG's request for back up. If we don't get it right this time, we're dead in the water. As rapper Eminem said :
"Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted, in one moment.........Would you capture it, or just let it slip ? Yo !
Be lucky all. See you out there. Take care.