It was way back in 1970 that I left school as a fifteen year old. My sixteenth birthday was in July during the school summer holiday. Three weeks after my sixteenth birthday in 1970, I had taken the Oath to serve our Queen, and was on my way to Pirbright, to start the gruelling and soul breaking training programme to become a Queen's Guardsman.
Many people do not realise that these highly trained front line troops, are not just National ornaments who stand outside Palaces wearing Bearskins. These five Footguard and two mounted Cavalry Household Division Regiments, are also feared front line Infantry battalions, and are more often than not deployed along with support from The Parachute Regiment and Royal Marines within minutes of Home Office request, to troubled countries all around the world.
By the time I had joined the army, I had had literally no experience with girls. Two years further on at almost eighteen, I was none the more experienced either. Also, by that stage of my life, and with the effects of the extreme physical training, I was strong, incredibly physically fit, six foot three and built like an outside toilet. I could confidently take care of myself with no problems at all.
In spite of these attributes, there was still one thing missing though..............I still had had no luck let alone opportunity, to find myself a girlfriend.
Now bearing in mind that Taxileaks has a wide readership and worldwide respect, I will refrain from being too graphic in what followed.
That said, you don't need to have too broad an imagination to understand that this strong, young, super fit, strapping Guardsman...........had certain feelings and natural testosterone fuelled desires. Although I was shy and not at all confident with the young ladies, that didn't mean to say that I didn't want to meet one, and my Englishman's red blood was gushing around my body like a fire tender pump.
To make matters worse, I didn't drink or smoke (and still don't) two favourably social habits that probably would have enhanced my quest and chances of meeting people, in the little time that I had off from training. As I had no desire to start smoking or ruin my physique with dreaded alcohol, I decided to pursue a different approach to my target.
Littered around the barrack rooms back at base, and in keeping with all male dominated establishments, were many issues of men's magazines. You all know the ones. And amidst the glossy pages of one of these recreational necessities was an advert for an incredibly beautiful woman. I looked at the picture of her, and even fully clothed she looked stunning. What was even more incredible for me though, was that she was advertising her 'services' for a fee. One of her 'services' was what she described as 'a real girlfriend experience'.
Now was certainly not the time to put my naivety and virginal chastity underneath the microscope. This deal seemed perfect. Now, as you can imagine, I had saved a few quid up in the couple of years of my initial training, so money wasn't an object. It was my confidence and experience that I lacked. I didn't know what to do, what to say, let alone what to do when push come to shove, pardon the expression.
I slept on the idea for a while, and realising that unless something changed in my private life pretty quickly I would probably go through life a unconfident, unfulfilled virgin.
Glancing once more at the glossy photo shoot of this brunette goddess in fine French lace and silk lingerie prompted me to go to the barracks phone box, and make the call for an 'appointment' to meet my new girlfriend.
Although more nervous than I had ever been on anything that the famous Guards training schedule could throw at me, I jumped on the train at Brookwood in Surrey, to make my way to my new temporary first girlfriend's house in London's Sussex Gardens.
Clean shaven, well dressed, groomed and drenched in Brut aftershave, I plucked up the bravado and rang on the bell.
A young Filipino girl answered the door and I announced that I come to see Priscilla.
Smiling and bidding me in, she offered me a seat in a beautiful Chintz chair overlooking the gardens at Paddington.
I heard the young lady say that Steve was in the lounge to meet Priscilla. Still nervous and visibly shaking I heard the unmistakeable click click of high heeled stilettos heading towards the lounge. This is it, I remember thinking. At last I can become a real man. Mentally reminiscing the glossy photos of this womanly vision, I realised that I was seconds away from real love. I hope I didn't blow it, I hope I knew what to do, I hope she would fall in love with me and maybe we would marry, I hope...................."Good evening, Steve, how lovely to meet you."
My facial expression must have surely exposed my utter amazement. "What's wrong darling, have you never seen a real woman before?"
There standing in front of me, was not my first love as I had so repeatedly dreamed about, and most certainly not the same flawless, curvy, feminine cast of perfection that I had drooled over countless times on the photos..............but mate, this 'thing' that was just about to embezzle seventy five quid from me looked like Lenny McLean with a dress on !
I remember my head being in a haze. She offered me a drink and as she walked over to the drinks cabinet, I took off out of that house making Usain Bolt look like Douglas Bader ! The poor Filipino girl went over like a skittle, along with about four pictures hanging on the wall as I came out of that door like an England International Prop. And I doubt many people have made it up the entire length of Sussex Gardens, as fast as I did on that summer's day in the seventies.
I can hear our readers saying, all very entertaining, but this is Taxileaks, how is that story anything to do with the London Cab Trade. I will tell you. Regular readers of my stuff always know I eventually get to the point, and here it comes.
I learnt a lot about life on that visit to Sussex Gardens. But the main thing I learnt...................... was that, sometimes things are not as good as they are made to appear.
I was looking at the Transport For London website today. If you haven't already done so, do me a favour and take a look at it. Full of absolute twaddle. Without doubt, whoever designed it and worked on the pie charts, graphics and list of projections achievements and goals...........did a fantastic job of it. Whatever the website technicians company charged them, it was worth every penny.
If I WASN'T a London Cab Driver and was sitting in say Japan, thinking about coming to work for TFL in London, I would be absolutely over the moon with excitement, just as I was over the moon with excitement waiting to meet Priscilla.
However, I AM a London Taxi driver, and I DO know better and DO know what is happening on our capital's roads and streets. And me and my mates and ordinary Londoner's know only too well, that the well designed, colourful glossy photos and projections on TFL's website......................are as deceptive, dishonest, misleading and as delusional, as the very ones I had hoped would rid me of my virginity stigma and frustration, all those years ago.
Notwitstanding, and also very similar to the Sussex Gardens rendezvous, Transport For London have become a very seedy, murky, sleazy organisation haven't they ?
Taxileaks have only today published a report stating that TFL themselves use Uber in their day to day business for traveling to and fro London.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not implying that TFL are doing anything illegal by using Uber to drive them about. But its a bit off isn't it ? London has a taxi service who are repeated winners of World Taxi Industry Awards, and yet their own Government Regulators choose to use an inferior dubious, controversial, foreign and morally questionable company.
That said, the two are perfectly matched aren't they. TFL & Uber go hand in hand to me. They are both untrustworthy, they both punch above their weight, they are both deceptive and they both exist day to day up to their necks in controversy. They are both too, run at the top by people both past and present, who I wouldn't trust with my Oystercard slippers or silk kimono. Know what I mean ?
Have a look at Uber and TFL's websites and glossy photos though, and you will get an image of desire and satisfaction, just like I had of the pictures of Priscilla !
I don't mean to be unprofessional or disrespectful, but Mayor Khan has started off pretty useless hasn't he ?
I predict he will go into the history books as just another 'grey' bloke. Just like Obama. Barack didn't really do anything of any outstanding achievement did he ? Just filled in a period of time until somebody comes along with half an idea, and cashes in on the back of a nonentity like Mayor Khan. John Major was the same. I've met him several times. A lovely man. Warm, sincere and humorous, but achieve much professionally ? Not really.
To be fair to myself, I warned well before the election that Khan would do nothing for London, let alone our trade. His brief appears to get the best deal for Muslims, Human Rights and the difficulties of Islam. Nothing wrong with that at all my learned friend, and all very commendable, except that London is at gridlock out there at present, Sir, and people are dying because of toxic poisoning. Look after your own by all means, but the London Mayor seems to be extremely complacent in many matters of extreme importance outside his own priorities, as far as the ORDINARY Londoner is concerned.
That very same imaginary Japanese student that I mentioned earlier who was bursting with excitement at starting with such a monolithic, renowned organisation, would be devastated when he or she come to London and the reality doesn't match the website !
Since Transport For London were appointed by The Greater London Authority almost seventeen years ago, the global image of our once Great English Capital has been ravaged, raped and pulverised.
Look back at any old film footage of our City in the 50's and 60's. You will see an image of decency, honour, bowler hatted gentlemen, London Taxi Cabs and Big Ben. London Red Buses with uniformed drivers and conductors, professionally trained and wearing starched white collars and smart ties.
Now look at the state of it. Corruption at the very pinnacle of Hierarchy, Government and Law & Order. A Transport Regulator themselves officially using a controversial American company based in Holland with questionable operating models and mysterious licensing criteria. A City Regulator who are convinced that cheap, cheap, and cheaper still is of benefit to travelling Londoners, despite the appalling safety record of mini cab operator Uber, and despite having one of the most safest and professional Taxi Trades on the planet at their disposal.
A Bus Service whose safety record has never ever been as woefully abhorrent. Buses slung around London's roads by inexperienced foreign Nationals, dangerously driving these huge specialist commercial vehicles dressed like rappers and totally aloof of what is happening on the road around them.
Pollution is at a dangerous level, killing people and causing irreparable damage to everyone who ventures or works in our capital.
It is people and Organisations such as Transport For London who are everything that are bad, sad, seedy and cheap for our once Great City. Their mere existence is artificial, unprofessional and clear to everyone who works or travels to London...............Its just not working. TFL's logo and catchy phrase that " Every Journey matters" is quite frankly utter bollox. Every journey does indeed matter, but despite the glossy website, despite the optimistic pie charts, despite the ludicrously deceptive claims and projections..............TFL are making every journey 100 times worse ! That is not my opinion. It is a fact.
40% of the £11 Billion going through TFL's hands are derived from fares. That alone is all the information you need to know as to why they want shot of us. We are nicking their Revenue, and they don't like it.
In my dreams, I have a little scenario that I often play in my mind to myself. A Foreign student as excited as could be about working in our fantastic London, lands at Heathrow. It is a young woman. She is about 23. She is so impressed at TFL's website and talk of Opportunity, Overall Objectives, Delivering More For Less, Every Journey Matters, Educating, Inspiring and Opportunity, Dedicated To Customer Service, Performance Indicators, Reducing Nitrogen Dioxide Achievements, Plans and Promises and loads more nonsensical meaningless shite.
I pick her up at Heathrow, and drive her blindfolded to City Hall. Once there, she is invited to watch TFL Promotional videos, look at charts, shake hands and listen to the spiel.
And now for the best part ! After all this, and just as our young student lady is almost bursting with admiration, excitement and respect at how amazing London is and how incredibly efficient Transport For London are, I take off her blindfold, lead her to my cab, drive her from City Hall into the West End in my Taxi, and as I do so, pay particular attention to the look on her face.
44 years previously in London's Sussex Gardens, I was sitting on a beautiful Chintz chair in the lounge of a plush apartment. I had seen the glossy photos, and I had read the inviting spiel. However, the vision of reality was about to contort my face into involuntary muscular spasms of shock, horror and disappointment. I often wonder what my face actually did look like as Pricilla appeared around the door.
In my dream though, I need wonder no longer. For our Foreign student in the back of my cab is showing me.
And I know exactly how she feels !
Be Lucky All.