Article type Event
Published 30th May 2014
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Mike Olone is a Greenwich-based taxi driver with a popular Twitter feed, where he tweets under the handle @greenwichcabby.
I grew up a couple of miles away, but I work in Greenwich all the time and it’s always been a favourite of mine. I think I spend more time in Greenwich than I do at home in Bexley.
It’s a fantastic lifestyle being a cab driver – I’ve been doing it for four years. Before that, I worked as a technical commercial surveyor for the drinks industry, designing systems to deliver beer and soft drinks from pub cellars to the bar. I’ve always had a customer-led job. It’s interacting with people that I enjoy the most.
One of the great things about being a cabby is the freedom of choice. You can work when you want, rest when you want. We get lots of colourful characters in the cabs: regular customers, people going to concerts at the O2, people gigging at the O2, film crews.
I’ve had quite a lot of celebrities in my taxi. When The X Factor finishes, they come to rehearse at the O2 after Christmas, and for the last few years we’ve been driving them around. I’ve had One Direction, Rebecca Ferguson, Jedward and Matt Cardle. Everyone gets the same treatment, famous or not, and the celebs seem to appreciate the good old honest chit-chat. In fact, last year we had Mike Tindall and Zara Phillips in for the Olympics and they were just brilliant. The fabulously wealthy and famous are normally the most down to earth.
I’m completely awestruck by what’s happened on Twitter. I was having a cup of coffee and talking to someone who said, ‘Why don’t you put that down on Twitter?’ I wasn’t a social-media type of guy, but now the Twitter feed has been going for around 18 months and I’ve had this explosion of followers.
It’s been a complete joy and surprise to me – when I put a tweet up on a Sunday afternoon saying, ‘I’m now drinking beer and am about to tweet even more random gibberish than normal,’ it gets retweeted dozens of times. I don’t try to impress people, it’s never contrived. Whatever pops into my head turns up on Twitter, and people tend to pick up on that. I love to tweet about and support local businesses and traders.
One of my best-known followers is Huey Morgan from Fun Lovin’ Criminals. He agreed to do an impromptu charity gig at The Pelton Arms for Help for Heroes, and I said I’d throw in a cab ride home. He tweeted back saying, ‘We’d love to meet you, come and pick us up.’
I also got a message from a Russian TV network. I thought it was a wind-up, but they filmed four hours about the life of a Greenwich cabby. I talked about the history of Greenwich and the Royal Observatory, and the bomb that just missed it in the Second World War, and for some reason Russia loved it.
Twitter is great for all the little local things of interest – Up the Creek comedy club may tweet about who’s on that night, or something will be going on at the Cutty Sark. I like to talk about architecture, which shops to go to, which bars. I love all of Greenwich: the side streets, the weird and wonderful places, the food and drink. Greenwich Park is beautiful – it doesn’t have to be sunny; it can be the rainiest day and it’s just the same.
People come to Greenwich knowing about the Cutty Sark and GMT, but they don’t always know that St Alfege was murdered by vikings here, or that Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were born in the Tudor palace on the banks of the Thames, or that Raleigh, Drake and Cook sailed from Deptford.
I tell my punters about this stuff whether they ask for it or not – it’s one of my favourite parts of the job. An American customer I had now sends friends and relatives to me for tours whenever they visit London.
When Christmas iscoming up, I look forward to the atmosphere at Greenwich Market. When you see the queue of people outside Drings picking up their turkeys, you know it’s Christmas – Greenwich has a very Dickensian feel to it.
I love Greenwich and London, and more importantly I love the people I meet here, who I hope would agree that I’m not your stereotypical Daily Mail-reading, footy-obsessed, Magic FM type of cabby. Just like Christmas in Greenwich, I’m a little bit different!