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Some stories to tell…

In 1978, after winning the Taxi Driver of the Year competition, which involved answering questions and completing a driving course, Alf became a minor celebrity. He appeared on TV shows and quietly became the public face and spokesperson for the whole trade. Spending some time in his company it is not difficult to see why he is such a natural for the role.

From his numerous celebrity encounters both in and out of the cab -"Les Dawson was the funniest. Swore like a trooper." - to the drunk and philandering politician, Alf Townsend has a treasure trove of amusing tales that he has accumulated during his 40 years of service.

His favourite story, and his wife's, goes something like this:

"One evening many, many years ago at Paddington, two American ladies, real southern belles, get in my cab and say they want to see London before they go home. They want to see Buckingham Palace and the Royal Family. I thought 'I've been driving a cab in London for 20 years and I've never seen the Royal family!'

"So we're going down Constitution Hill, just opposite Buckingham Palace, and out stops Mr Plod and puts his hand out for me to stop. Was I speeding? Am I in trouble? And then out of the side entrance comes a limo with the Queen and the Prince Philip. So I say, 'And if you look out the window, you'll see Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh' and he waves at them!"

"They couldn't believe it; they were like 'Thank you, driver, thank you so much.' I said no problem. A bit later on we passed another limo with the Queen Mum and Prince Charles inside! They asked me for my address and phone number because they were going to tell their friends that they knew the driver who could show them the Royal Family!"

Inside Alf's cab

Unsurprisingly, Alf has written a book, 'London Cabbie: A Life's Knowledge' full of similar anecdotes. Will Self, whose novel 'The Book of Dave' is about a London cabbie, has called it required reading. But Alf is far from a one-trick writing pony – he has also published a book called 'Bad Lads' about RAF National Service and has another book coming out about his experience as an evacuee during WWII. Since he started writing seriously just eight years ago, he has now written four books.

A working cabbie, a writer and a regular golfer, there are few signs that Alf Townsend has lost his lust for life. And he'll even go south of the river.

'London Cabbie: A Life's Knowledge' by Alf Townsend is out now in paperback.


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