by Jeanette Ng
Where to, guv?
Though give the cab door another slam, would you? I didn’t hear it click. Just give it a good one. It’s allright for my cousin, she’s got a proper black cab, much more space for the horns and the doors a less dodgy. Yes, do put the brolly in the corner. Don’t want that dripping everywhere. Weather’s been like this all week.
Where to again, guv? I didn’t catch that.
Of course I know where that is. London may be a labyrinth, but a minotaur never gets lost. It’s in our blood.
That said, I don’t do south of the river this time of night. So hope you don’t mean the one in Wandsworth.
Oh good, buckle up then.
No, it’s not to do with the wizard strikes. It’s just hard to get fares back north. Bad for business, to be stuck down there all night.
I heard they’re going to keep going. Don’t understand it meself. Wouldn’t’ve thought you could do more’n one full moon rite a month. I mean, it’s the moon, innit? But I’m not the old esoteric sort, me. Don’t know nuffink about that.
Well, yes, that is a protection charm tied to my horns. It’s a glorified air freshener, if you ask me. My niece is studying wizardry and she caught me on the way out. Too cute for her own good that girl. But you know how these things go, we’re proud of our traditional crafts. And at least this one jangles less that the last one she got on me. I’ll take it off to show you at the next lights.
Sorry about that. You all right? Didn’t mean to slam the breaks so hard.
You clutching that umbrella awfully hard. You won’t need it ’til you need out of here there again. Hope the rain breaks by then, eh? Looks a nice big one from here, at least.
I could turn into the dragon’s city, but it’s not actually faster. And my cousin says that corner’s haunted. Oh, right you wanted to see the Square Mile? We can go, I’ve paid my tithes this month.
Don’t worry, I can make a turn here. Ignore the sign. And it’s not too sharp. This old thing can turn on a sixpence.
I’m a true Londoner, meself. I was born near Elephant’n’Castle. The old man moved here when he was but a calfling. He’d heard there were jobs going for someone who could feel their way around a maze. True now as it’s true then, I suppose. Could barely speak a word and certainly couldn’t read the blue book, but he had the Knowledge. He knew the runs inside out in a month. Took me a bit longer to know the ropes.
Sharp turn up ahead. Just to give you good warning. You nervous, guv? You seem mighty nervous. What’s at the other end of the journey? Some woman, I bet. Should have bought her flowers. Like the old pot’n’pan used to say, always bring flowers when you’re about to talk to a woman. Means she’ll be hitting you with something soft if she gets upset.
No? Sorry, didn’t fink you were a tourist in that gettup.
Something you have to take care of? Bloody ominous, that.
Well, give that a good butcher’s hook, guv. Lean out if you need to. If you can see through the rain. That’s the dragon’s mark on the bridge. Mark of the City of London proper. You won’t see no place like that where you’re from.
Where you from again?
Greece, you say? Athens?
I’ve never been.
My pa’s from Knossos, I think. Don’t know if that’s close. He keeps saying he’ll go back someday. See the old sights. Walk us down the street he grew up and all that. Imagine it’s quite different now.
I suppose some things never change.
Those some things aren’t London, though. Don’t expect you’d recognise the old Labyrinth if last you were here a decade ago. Except the protected sightlines. Those’re protected. Thirteen of them in London. Thems say it’s not for magic, but thirteen is a very magical number, isn’t it? Sacrosanct, you might say. But it’s not all about that old cathedral.
You can see all the way from the centre of the bridge over the Serpentine to the Palace of Westminster. And from Parliament Hill, all sorts of places. The Cheesegrater’s that stupid wedge shape because of the sightlines, so you can see St Pauls from Fleet Street. The Shard is bound left and right with the lines, but there’s power in those lines. There’s power in looking, after all.
I s’pose you could call this the heart of London. I wouldn’t, but you could.
Looks like the rain’s drying up. Good thing too. You can keep that brolly of yours closed. Careful with the tip, looks quite sharp. Wouldn’t want to scratch the paintwork.
Here we are.
Didn’t know there was a pub here called the Bull’s Head.
It’d be twenty-three and five, Mr- What did you say your name was again?
Jeannette grew up in Hong Kong and now live in Durham. She’s profoundly boring, except when she’s pretending to be other people. She designs costumes and occasionally runs a company that specialises in the stylish prevention of nudity.