TAXI caught up with Graham Pike to talk pandemic cabbing and find out all about his work with the Taxi Charity...
How long have you been a cabbie?
Graham: I have been a cabbie for eighteen years and have experienced some hard times, but I have never faced anything as bad as the impact that the pandemic has had on the cab trade – not only in London but across the UK.
How have you coped?
Graham: It’s been a really difficult time for the cab trade, so I decided to look at what else I could do. I wanted to do a job that involved driving so looked at supermarket deliveries and I was very lucky to be taken on by Waitrose as a customer delivery driver. On the day I went for my interview there were about six other cabbies being interviewed – it was like being in the Heathrow feeder park! I guess we are a huge asset to Waitrose especially on the London delivery rounds as we know how to get around the capital and they can rely on us to get from A to B, whatever the traffic conditions, and get the job done.
What do you think to the Pandemic Road Map?
Graham: I am so glad that Boris’s Road Map gives us cabbies the light at the end of the tunnel that we all need. London will reopen again soon, and we can hopefully see the trade return to pre-pandemic levels. It’s been a tough year for all of us but with non-essential shops scheduled to reopen in April, the reopening of restaurants and theatres in the early summer and people beginning to come back into London to work again, we will hopefully see thousands of commuters, day trippers, families, tourists and groups coming back into London and needing a black cab to get around.
What did you think to the Uber Court Case verdict?
Graham: I was delighted by the result. If all the Uber drivers now get workers’ rights, a minimum wage and holiday pay, it’s great news for the cab trade. Uber surely can’t afford to pay for the thousands of drivers working in London, and less Ubers hopefully means more fares for taxis.
How long have you been volunteering for the Taxi Charity?
Graham: I started volunteering for them back in 2002 and joined the committee in 2013. I will carry on supporting them for as long as they want me! I was in the Cadets as a youngster and in the Territorial Army for three years and I have always had a love of anything to do with the military. I particularly love spending the day with the veteran fundraising collection team at Tube stations. The group gets so much from these days. It’s not only about being able to collect funds for the charity, but a wonderful way for them to have a good catch up with each other and as one of them said to me – it gives them a reason to get out of bed in the morning. They are a fantastic group of guys, with some amazing stories, who love a chat with the commuters over a pint and some food at lunchtime.
Now that we are on the road to recovery what plans do the charity have?
Graham: I think that until we know that we are safely through the worse of the pandemic our plans will primarily be to arrange events in the UK. Our veterans have not been able to meet each other for a year and the Charity wants to ensure we can get them together, probably in smaller groups so that they can reconnect and begin living a richer life once again. The volunteer cabbies have been busy taking the vets for their Covid vaccinations so when we can all meet again; they will have some protection from this awful virus.
What impact has the pandemic had on your veterans?
Graham: The pandemic has been hard for everyone but particularly for the older veterans that the charity supports. Our annual trips to the Netherlands and Normandy for veterans to pay their respects to those who didn’t come home and spend quality time with each other are major highlights and last year it was difficult for everyone to have to stay at home. They missed participating in events to mark the important 75th anniversaries of VE Day and VJ Day which they had been so looking forward to. We have done all we can to be there for our boys and girls with regular cards, newsletters, and phone calls but for those who don’t have family living close by it’s been a very difficult year. Sadly, we have also said goodbye to quite a few veterans this past year. Our WWII vets are in their late nineties or older, and it is heart-breaking that we have not been able to attend their funerals en-masse. The charity prioritises taking veterans to their friend’s funerals, forming guards of honour and showing our respects by attending in large numbers and not being able to say final goodbyes has been tough.
If any drivers are thinking of volunteering for the Taxi Charity what would you say to them?
Graham: Do it!