Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Black Cabs - farewell to a classic

Anyone who lives in London will have an affection for black cabs - I know I do and in fact some would say I am too fond of them.  Even when there is a perfectly good tube available I will often jump in a handy black cab, I love them and in a weird way every time I get in one I feel like a Beatle escaping a horde of teenage girls (I know, that's a little weird but I think I will always associate black cabs with fleeing rock stars).  I hate to think how much money I have spent in my 14 years in London on black cabs but I don't regret a single journey - nowhere else in the world are there taxi drivers who know their city so well and can whisk you from Turnham Green to Brixton or Walthamstow to Shepherd's Bush and know all the shortcuts.  On a journey last week where the other half and I had a particularly chatty (and endearingly glum) cabbie, we found out that the "classic" cab - being the Austin FX4 (like the one above that I snapped yesterday above) - is in the process of being phased out as their 15 year life span is up - the last FX4's were made in late 1997.  Even though the subsequent models - the LTI TXI, TXII and TX4 - are similar in shape, they do not have the sturdy familiarity of the TX4.  One of the things I noticed in our journey last week was that the TX4s still have the ashtrays inbuilt and it brought back so many memories of smoking in cabs.  I know, I know it's a filthy killer habit but there was something so louche, so rock 'n roll about smoking ciggies in a black cab.  Countless trips to and from crazy nights out, journeys with friends to dinners and parties, solo journeys staring out at London whizzing by.  But it's not just the ashtrays that make the TX4s more appealling (in my eyes at least) to the new models that make them less romantic - it's a few things, the red leather straps, the chrome headlamps, the lack of that annoying Cabvision TV.  Anyway - apparently the last of the Austin TX4's will be gone by May so take some time to appreciate them as they drive past you and maybe treat yourself to a final journey in what is a classic and iconic symbol of this city.