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my kind of ToWn ways. despite this age of global positioning and mobile phone mapping systems, The Knowledge is still a necessity. "Gps is a great benefit outside of London. When we would come to a place we didn't know, we'd have to have to find a cab ring or a police station and just ask for directions." still, eddie concedes, "computers can't compensate for The Knowledge in London. [Gps] doesn't always take you the shortest route ­ just the main routes ­ sometimes it will even stick to bus routes. and if there is a traffic jam or road works, it can't help you out there." driving around many of London's old roads is one aspect eddie loves about his job. "When you get to some places, you can see what London used to be like ­ all villages. I love the history of it. I love looking at old maps, seeing where the roads used to be and what used to be there." on a normal day, eddie leaves home around 6:30am, and gets back before 5pm before the evening rush hour kicks in. "The most frustrating part of the job for me is traffic ­ it's a nightmare. I often work nights just to avoid the traffic. Traffic in London for me is so bad that I prefer hanging out at the airport. you'd earn more money working in London, but this is much more enjoyable." When it comes to picking somewher to live, eddie couldn't imagine ever leaving the big smoke. "I've lived in London all me life ­ born in Westminster, just around the corner from big ben and the abbey. Most black cab drivers have grown up in London, and most of us came from other jobs ­ I was a telephone engineer first, but I know blokes who were printers, electricians, plumbers, docksmen. but that was 30 years ago, when you had a choice of jobs." at that time, too, life was different for taxi drivers. "When it would rain your feet used to get wet, the cars used to be drafty and had plastic seats and we weren't allowed to have radios. you couldn't even lock the back doors back then!" one of eddie's biggest bugbears these days is drivers who don't dress the part. "London cab drivers here have become so scruffy. They have the best cabs, the best knowledge, and a reputation for being the best cab drivers in the world ­ and yet many of them dress like they've just come off a building site or just walked off the beach. years ago, if inspectors saw you with a pair of shorts or sandals, they would give you a ticket, ban you from the road for 24 hours and send you home." Today, though, it's not a bad life at all for cabbies ­ one can effectively work as little or as much as one wants. and how about talking to passengers? on that subject, eddie is quite firm. "I never instigate the conversation ­ I always let them start and never speak to them unless they speak to me. some people just don't want to talk." To book eddie's taxi, visit www.heathrow airportlondontaxiS.co.uk or ring +44 (0)7879 250 150. Fares between heathrow and central London start at £40 (47). "I love looking at old maps, seeing where the roads used to be and what used to be there," says veteran London cabbie Eddie Symes. ENG 64 BLUE WINGS JANUARY 2012

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