Waiting for the bus into town this morning, I found myself asked for directions by two separate people.
blame them I suppose. The fact that I was standing at a bus stop in the middle of Nowhere Special suggested I was a local, one who might be expected to know her way around the immediate vicinity. Except that this was me, who – sadly - has Very
Little Sense of Direction. I can usually find my own way to places, you understand, without going wrong too often (especially if I’ve been there before) – but I am very, very bad about providing directions to other people.
Even when I do vaguely know where they want to go (as was the case with the second of the poor lost souls (PLS) who approached me today) I can never explain the route to be taken
with anything approaching clarity. Instead of simply stating “At the next roundabout, take the first turning on the left which will be clearly sign-posted Field Place”, I find myself waving my arms about to indicate (in my own, Arm-Waving Sign
Language) “straight on” and “turn left.”
None of this is helped by the fact that I have difficulty telling my left hand from my right hand.
Or, as I prefer to call them, “Wristwatch Hand” and “Not the Wristwatch Hand.” It would have been so much better for the PLS if Mr B had been with me. Mr B is ace at giving directions. He will happily tell anyone where to go. Whether
they want to or not. Only joking, Mr B! But it is true, the PLS would have been in much safer hands, had they asked him, not me, the way.
However Mr B is
not accompanying me on my trip to town. This is partly because he needs to be at home in case the garage calls to ask our permission for Extremely Expensive Repairs needed on our car if it is to pass its MOT. Mostly, however, it’s because he knows I
am planning a visit to the wool shop in a bid to find some speckled wool for my latest knitted bird. Yes, it’s a thrush – aren’t you clever? How did you guess? Mr B hates the wool shop with a passion. I have no idea why, bearing in
mind that I could happily spend hours there among the knitting patterns, the buttons, the rainbow shelves of wonderful, woolly bundles...
If it’s directions
you need and you find yourself in Good Old London Town, then the person you need to ask is my Son-in-Law, husband of the Middle of the Darling Daughters. Today, I am delighted to say, he passed “The Knowledge”, that fiendishly difficult test
which all London cabbies have to pass before they can take to the wheel of one of London’s world-famous black cabs. To pass the Knowledge you have to know 320 routes (or “runs”), 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks or places of special
interest. The mind, literally, boggles – apparently a recent study into the brains of 16 cabbies who had spent an average of two years learning the knowledge, found they had a much larger hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with memory.
When studying for The Knowledge, you don’t take tests, you have “Appearances” before an examiner who will do his level best to catch you out. You
need more than the ability to explain the shortest route from Point A to Point B, with all the landmarks on the way. You also need to demonstrate that you can stay calm under stress, keep your cool, and not allow yourself to get rattled. There’s a hilarious
film, based on a play written by the late, lamented Jack Rosenthal, called “The Knowledge” which traces the lives of a number of would-be cabbies. Nigel Hawthorne, in the film, plays what appears to be a completely over the top examiner –
side-splittingly funny. The Son-in-Law says this depiction is not nearly as far-fetched as we might think...
His last Appearance was today and we were all
on tenterhooks for him. And he’s done it! We are all so very proud of him. Nobody deserves to succeed more than he does, hippocampus and all. And, if you happen to hail a black cab in the future and it’s driven by a charismatic Algerian
with a ready smile and an uncanny knack for recounting the history of the most obscure of London landmarks, that’ll probably be our Massi. Make sure you give him a big tip – he’ll have earned it.
Congratulations to our Knowledge Boy!