I was sorry to say goodbye to my old TX2 taxi last July, but I didn’t really have much choice.
The Covid pandemic meant London's streets were empty and despite the "eat out to help out" campaign, the capital remained a ghost town. In the outskirts we saw disturbing photos of what looked, at first glance, like car parks at a music festival but were in reality fields filled with unwanted cabs that garages couldn't rent out.
Meanwhile, my 14-year-old cab's annual inspection, insurance and road tax were due, and surrounded by uncertainty as we all were, I had little choice, so I cut my losses and sold.
This wasn't the gradual retirement I'd envisioned, but with so many sad and tragic stories all around – and this most certainly wasn’t one – it felt wrong to dwell. Yet feelings of melancholy persisted...
You see, me and my not-always-so-reliable-old-cab have shared many memorable times together with the Taxi Charity, beginning with a trip in May 2014 to the Netherlands for the Dutch Liberation celebrations.
Many other events and trips followed, both big and small, including numerous and equally unforgettable visits to Normandy, the D-Day 75 commemorations in June 2019 among them.
We’d attended a wide range of important events back home, along with countless enjoyable social occasions too.
Gates that are normally closed were opened: Buckingham Palace, the UK’s ambassador's residence in The Hague to name but two. All thanks to my VIP passengers, our veterans.
More recently we parked alongside HMS Queen Elizabeth, my taxi dwarfed by the UK's flagship aircraft carrier. And the list goes on...
So, I was sorry to hand over the keys, but that was 14 months ago and things move on.
Last Saturday 11 September, my wife Anne and I were invited to the Delhi Day Lunch and Reunion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps Association by our friend, WWII veteran Harry Rawlins. A most enjoyable day and a great privilege to attend.
As Anne and I left the Victory Services Club and headed towards Marble Arch Station, there, parked up in front of us was my old cab.
The driver was on a break and kindly let me sit behind the wheel for a final time.
Walking back to the station with us was Normandy veteran and ex-cabbie Dickie Forrester. A remarkable man is Dickie; 95 and as sharp as a pin.
He was a City of London guide and for many years also conducted tours in the Houses of Parliament. He has a deep knowledge of London's history and its streets.
Dickie got his green badge in 1956 – the year I was born – and went on to drive a cab for 50 years.
How befitting it was that Dickie was with us when we stumbled across my old cab.
The plate comes off for the final time today, Thursday 16 September.
I’m not sure what happens then, but I guess it will be broken up for spare parts.
I don’t know how many TX2s remain on London's roads, but today I can tell you there's one less.