When I first remember city taxis they were not so common as they have since become. In Norwich the prime taxi firm was called Beeline which is still a name among the taxi firms of the city. Mr Minns – a distant relative who lived about half a mile from us down Caistor Lane – was a taxi driver. The idea of mini-cabs – taxis which you could not hail from the roadside but had to order in advance – did not then exist. Before most people had easy access to phones such a system was impractical. Minicabs first appeared on the streets of London in the early 1960s. Although this meant all cabs in Norwich in the 1950s were official taxis I do not recall that the number of London style taxi cabs in the city was very great, if they existed at all. I think most were large cars of the time like the Humber Snipe or Wolseley 6/80. Having said that I do ever remember being in a taxi myself. My father had a car and my journeys were either made in that or by bus.
By June 1988 Norwich had caught up to a certain extent with the capital in the provision of taxis at least and London cabs were the norm. I had been married over two years and had just bought a semi-detached bungalow in Costessey. Our eldest child Peter was nearly 18 months old and my wife Molly was expecting our second child. (Although we did not know it at the time of course this would be our daughter Polly.) We had just one family car, a red VW beetle which my wife used to take the baby about, so my journeys to and from work in the city centre were done by bus. My bus home was the number 20 and its route took me along Dereham Road as far as the Oval pub, and then a turn right down Norwich Road New Costessey. I got off near the bridge over the river Tud, where the road becomes Townhouse Road Old Costessey.
The bus routes and numbers have changed a little since then and so has the name of the pub. After being called the Oval since its construction which was probably just after the war its name was changed briefly to the Wagon and Horses. It is now the Cherry Tree, but at least it is still a pub.
In Norwich it was a short walk from my place of work in Surrey Street to the bus stop in Theatre Street, and in Costessey in was an even shorter walk from the main road to our house in Meadow Close, so the journey wasn’t an arduous one. The bus was a double-decker, and being fairly young (well 39 anyway) I mostly travelled on the top deck.
After leaving Theatre Street the bus continued along Chapelfield and then turned down Grapes Hill. At the traffic lights at the bottom it turned left into Dereham Road. It was along this stretch of the way home, between Heigham Street and Bowthorpe Road that we passed the Ideal Plaice fish and chip shop. This is still a fish and chip shop, though it is now called the Ocean Fish Bar. This was the era for puns on the word plaice; a few years earlier the fishmonger’s shop outside the Market Cross in Bungay (now an estate agent’s) announced it was the Plaice for Quality fish. On this occasion I was rather taken by the sight of a cab driver sitting on the floor of the cab eating his evening snack of fish and chips outside the shop.
If I had a camera I might have tried a shot, but so many things can go wrong with a photograph; you can miss the moment entirely or the view is all wrong. In those days you got one try before having to wind the film on by when the bus would certainly have moved on. Luckily I have quite a good pictorial memory and I spent the next few minutes sketching the scene. It wasn’t the first time I had tried to do a picture of a street scene, but I think this was quite a successful one. This is the sketch you see illustrating this blog.
This is all well over 25 years ago and signifies nothing much, and if I had not done this sketch I would have forgotten all about the occasion.