Born and bred Londoner Graham Greenglass went through the famous course, the Knowledge, to become a black cab driver. Combined with his history degree, he has an extensive knowledge of this city which he shares through tours in his cab. They have different themes like music and horror and are one of the most popular London activities on Trip Advisor. Graham has offered a free one to a lucky LLO reader (details at the end) and has taken the time to answer a few questions about how London has changed since he was a child, what it was like to go through the Knowledge which is famously gruelling and a fun London discovery in Dollis Hill.
LLO: Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your interests. Which part of London is home for you?
GG: I’m from north west London, man and boy. Like most Londoners, I think that I live a quite unremarkable life. But like a lot of Londoners, I know that I live in a truly remarkable city; and I love it and it never ceases to interest me and almost every day I discover something new to read about or visit or find.
LLO: How long have you been a black cab driver? What was it like to study the Knowledge?
GG: It took three years of doing the Knowledge for me to get my green badge in 2000, which is about average. They say that two thirds of people who start the Knowledge never finish. The Knowledge was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
A Knowledge student eats, sleeps and drinks the Knowledge. It’s all encompassing and takes up almost every waking thought of every day. I may never be a millionaire but it’s scientifically proven that my brain is bigger than your brain.
LLO: You’re running your own London Cab Tours, which are number 3 out of 516 activities in London on Trip Advisor. Impressive. What prompted you to start doing this? How long are the tours and where do they start?
GG: Sometime in 2001, I thought I’d like to be a London tour guide, using my London taxi for tours. I’d done a history degree in the early ‘80s, but had never actually used my love of history in any job I’d had. It dawned on me that I could show people London icons, from a London icon.
Each tour lasts for two to three hours and we can cover quite a bit of ground in the taxi. We make lots of stops too and go for the occasional short walk.
I’ll pick customers up from anywhere in central London and drop them off anywhere central too.
LLO: Tell us about the themes of your tours. Which is your most popular? Which do you most enjoy and why?
GG: My tours cover various themes: London Highlights; London Rock’n Roll; London Horror; London of Dickens & Shakespeare.
London Highlights is the most popular tour, but I enjoy them all.
LLO: As a born and bred Londoner, what are the biggest changes in the city since you were a child?
GG: The architecture and London’s built environment – there is both a lot of imaginative use of space and some quite hideous monstrosities. This is a very clean city (which is nice), but I do kind of miss the grime.
LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery?
GG: Churchill’s spare war bunker in Dollis Hill. It’s only open during Open House and I managed to go a few years ago during its first ever re-opening. Hard hats and wellies required. Once you’re forty feet underground you discover why it was never really used. No toilets.
LLO: Tell us the story of your most memorable passenger.
GG: I’ll always remember the British Museum academic who told me that he’d just finished inspecting some old, rare Tsarist paper money. He had to tell the owner/dealer that they were fakes. Only worth a few thousand pounds, instead of the hoped for tens of thousands of pounds.
LLO: Share a piece of London trivia that passengers would hear on one of your tours.
GG: In 1972, a man was arrested after driving into a lamp post one night near Cockpit Steps. His defence at his court hearing was that he’d swerved to avoid the ghost of the headless lady of Cockpit Steps. He was acquitted.
LLO: What kind of music do you listen to when you drive? Or do you prefer silence?
GG: I’m a bit of a music freak. But right now, anyone called Hank from south of the Mason Dixon Line.
LLO: When you think of London, what comes to mind when you hear each of the following:
Sight – The Houses of Parliament (corny, but true)
Sound – Sirens (horrible, but true)
Smell – Fish & Chip Shops and Indian Restaurants
Taste – Fresh challah
Texture – The mottled rubber of my taxi steering wheel
Check out Graham’s London cab tours on his website, www.londoncabtours.co.uk.
Graham has very kindly offered to give one lucky LLO reader a free London tour in his cab! The tour will last two hours. Graham will pick you up and drop you off anywhere in central London and you’re welcome to choose any of his tour themes (which you’ll find on his website). The tour can take place any day time, which will be decided between Graham and the winner.
I’m trying to spread the word about my new blog, Little Observationist. To enter, please share the link (http://www.littleobservationist.com) on any of your social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blog, etc). For each place you share, leave a comment here on this entry and let me know where you shared the link. Extra entries for Facebook page likes.
Entries will be accepted until the midnight GMT, Sunday January 26. A winner will be selected at random on Monday January 27th and notified by email. The winner will be put in touch with Graham directly to make the tour arrangement as above.