I got lost on the way to the Lost Skills support group, but I had become very used to getting lost in recent weeks. My sense of direction had once been my key skill. I’d spent four years studying the Knowledge, pouring my living savings into it, and had got my req without ever getting a grade lower than a B. I’d spent three years working my living in a TX4 Elegance, the one with the classic look, until one day a Chinese guy stepped into the taxi at Canary Wharf and asked to be taken to the Angel, and off I went, but when I popped out of the end of the Limehouse Link tunnel I realised I didn’t have a clue where to go. Not the slightest idea. The map of London I carried in my head had slid right out of it. I dropped the poor guy in Wapping, and went to drink myself stupid in the Prospect of Whitby. I sold the TX4 a fortnight later, and went to work for Uber a week after that. I was miserable. I was, in all senses of the word, Lost.
I’d stumbled upon this support group (I only ever stumbled upon things these days) in a Facebook group someone had set up for London cabbies who’d fallen out of work for one reason or another. It was in the Richmond adult education centre, the one in Twickenham, but I went to the one in Richmond first. Because, as I said, I got lost.
But I found it eventually. A peeling print-out blu-tacked to the glass said Lost Skills, and in I went. A dozen or so faced turned to me.
‘Sorry,’ I said. ‘I got lost.’
‘How appropriate,’ said one vinegar-faced woman. I sat down, as a man who had been speaking (I supposed) carried on.
‘I used to sell things,’ he said, and looking down he flicked some crumb of something off the lapel of a suit that must once have been smart. ‘Now, I can’t persuade someone to give me directions.’
‘I used to run,’ said a small, thin woman. ‘Miles and miles and miles. Then one day I fell over, and I couldn’t run anymore.’
‘I used to write stories,’ said a nondescript man with a large head. ‘Little stories, and longer ones. But one day I found I couldn’t write endings anymore.’
Then they turned to me.
‘I used to be a black cab driver,’ I said. ‘A good one, too. I made a fine living for three years. Then one day I lost my sense of direction. I couldn’t do it anymore.’
‘Well,’ said the vinegar-faced woman. ‘You’ve come to the right place this time.’
The nondescript man with the large head wrote himself a note.