Meet the Organizer: Robert, of “Hail a Tour!” in London…

Happy Monday, all! We hope you had a great weekend. 

Today we’d like to introduce you to Robert, of the “Hail a Tour!” events in London. Robert is a qualified taxi tour guide and has a number of awesome guided adventures though London up on Gidsy - explore Harry Potter’s London, Murder in the Metropolis, Classic London & London’s American Links in the back of his classic black cab. Keep reading to learn all about Robert, his love for London, and his connection to the Royal wedding…

Hi, how are you?!
I’m very well; thanks for asking! 

So, tell us a bit about yourself, and how you became a London cab driver!
Well, I was born and grew up in North-West London, not too far from the famous ‘Wembley Stadium.’ I studied English Literature at university in Bristol and then spent a few years working in education; mainly with 11-16 year olds who had severe problems with learning and behaviour. I then went onto train as an English teacher in Birmingham, but sadly ended up becoming rather jaded with the system; the curriculum, the paperwork, lack of creativity and so on. 

After leaving education, I struggled to find work, and so decided to enrol on the training course to become a London cabbie. I love my city, adore meeting people and am very happy being my own boss, so it was the ideal choice! The training process (known as ‘The Knowledge of London’) was very intense; it was like doing another degree, and took me over four years to pass. It was very much worth it though!

What do you like to do when you’re not “on duty”? 
My main passion is writing; I love to work on my blog and research the history and characters who have defined London. At the moment, I’m also trying to write a children’s book. The beauty of my job is that I can squeeze such hobbies in; I’ll often work on my novel whilst waiting on a taxi rank. It can be a bit awkward using the cab’s steering wheel as a desk, though!

I also love to explore London on foot; there is always something new to discover, whether it be a new pub or restaurant, a small museum or an interesting piece of architecture. 

Photography is another passion and… you’ve guessed it, my favourite subject to click is, of course, London!

What was your inspiration for organizing your Hail a Tour’s, and what can people expect on one of your tours?
In Autumn 2011, I completed a ‘Taxi Tour Guide’ course, which was designed exclusively for London cabbies. During the training, I was required to give a guided walk, which was great fun. Following my qualification, ‘Hail a Tour’ was a natural progression. I just love sharing London’s history and stories with people, and I think a London Black Taxi is the ideal vehicle in which to do this! 

On my tours, you can expect to see London’ s classic landmarks, mixed in with a good dose of more obscure, out-of-the way sites; the secret places which I’ve discovered on my travels as a cabbie. I’ll give you the history of these places, along with lots of trivia and stories on some of London’s most interesting historical personalities; some happy, some sad, some notorious and some funny. Some of the tales are simply jaw-dropping!

What is your favourite thing about London? What about your favourite place in the city? 
These are very tricky questions to pinpoint as the answer to both is… ‘lots of things!’ 

I love London for her energy, her resilience and diversity, the sheer history and iconic nature of the place. If I had to pick a favourite place, then I guess I would have to go for Waterloo Bridge; the view from there (especially at dusk) is just beautiful; London, pure and simple. 

Your blog, A View from the Mirror, is very informative! When did you start blogging? Any “crazy” stories you’d like to share? 
That’s very kind, thank you! I started my blog quite recently; sometime around summer 2011. To be honest, the craziest story I have is far, far too rude to share here! I meet many interesting people on my travels though, and I try to include as many of their stories as possible on my site. 

Have you had any notable customers? 
I’ve had quite a few, although I’m not too sure folks outside the UK would know who they are! 

Famous people include Ian Hislop (a famous political satirist, TV personality and editor of a topical, yet funny news magazine called Private Eye), Derren Brown (a TV magician who specialises in illusions, psychology and tricks of the mind), Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall (a TV chef), one of the stars from British soap opera, Coronation Street, and David Soul; the American actor and singer who was in the 1970s cop show, Starsky and Hutch!

I’ve also had the Indian Ambassador to Britain in my taxi (along with his lovely family, who were visiting from Delhi) and, on the day of the recent Royal wedding, I picked up one of Kate Middleton’s old school friends from Westminster Abbey! She was with her partner, and I offered to take their Royal wedding programme as payment for the fare… sadly, they refused with a smile!

What’s an event you’d like to see up on Gidsy?
A tour of London’s wonderful, historic pubs would be great… I can’t do such an event of course, as I have to drive!

Okay, final question (a bit off topic): what are you reading right now? 
‘Londoners’ by Craig Taylor; a recent publication and a fantastic read. It’s a collection of interviews covering a vast cross-section of people who live and work in the capital; everyone from street-cleaners to the people in charge of Canary Wharf. Of course, there are a couple of cabbies in there too!

Thanks for the great interview, Robert! We’re so glad to have your tours up on Gidsy!