Limousine for Lords
I started Cheam Limousines in January 1990, with a Daimler Limousine. This was a huge vehicle, at the time the only purpose built limousine, not a large saloon stretched, and I paid £5,000 for a thirteen year old version.
Desperate for work, I approached various agencies, and in May 1990 was offered a job to collect from one of the Inns of Court at the far end of the Strand, take the clients to the House of Lords, wait for a couple of hours, and then return. Pretty straightforward.
Not too sure of the situation nowadays, but then the Clerk to the Chambers organised the limousine to take his principle and family for the promotion ceremony from being a barrister to being a Silk, otherwise known as Queen’s Counsel. The clerk sat in the front, ensuring that the right route was taken, correct drop off, and return time confirmed.
The black limousine immaculate inside and out, I waited nervously outside the Chambers, smart in my chauffeur’s suit, gloves, and hat with cockade. The family trooped into the back of the limousine, not even deigning to give me a glance, I dashed round to the front passenger door for the clerk, and then we were off.
There is a very narrow alley between the Inns and The Strand, coming out opposite the Law Courts, with huge wooden doors. These were opened, and with only about six inches either side to spare, the commissionaire stopped the traffic so I could join the throng. Such importance, I could get used to this.
In 1990, the outside of the House of Lords was a giant car park, with a dropping off area, and very little security, just a couple of tall policemen to direct the traffic. No-one was allowed to park in this area, so I followed a couple of other limousines round the corner into Smith Square, parked at a meter, and then followed the chauffeurs into a cafe.
We stayed for an hour or so, and then I was aware that other drivers were leaving, so I jumped up, returned to my vehicle, and drove round to the front of the House of Lords. A police sergeant directed me to the only vacant parking spot, in a corner. I was just in time.
The hole was not a large one, and by this time all the other drivers were standing around, chatting, boasting about all the high money jobs they had been on, watching me reversing into my allotted parking space.
The police were watching me as well. I didn’t disappoint their entertainment.
The Daimler limousine is almost twenty feet long, huge boot sufficiently large for a big man to get lost in, and a long overhang over the rear wheels extending the limousine by a further four feet from the rear passenger seats. That was hazard number one.
Number two was the corner space had an old fashioned metal street lamp right on the edge of the kerb unseen by yours truly. The gap was narrow to enter, large at the rear as it was on the said corner. I confidently reversed, using my door mirrors, but forgot those two crucial factors. The result? Loud bang as bumper met street lamp.
Such an audience, right outside the House of Commons, and I had bumped my new Daimler limousine. Lots of amused grins as I emerged from my driving seat, with about thirty chauffeurs and constabulary starting with a low whoooooah!, ending in a crescendo. You have to be on the receiving end of an embarrassment of this nature to appreciate just how stupid you feel.
I examined the bumper, to discover no dent. I examined the lamp to discover no mark.
Conversation with other laughing drivers was out of the question, so I resumed my seat and listened to the radio. At the allotted time my clients emerged, unaware of my humiliation only a few minutes previously.
We drove back to the Inn, I opened the door and as again, ignored, with the clerk pressing a £10 tip as reward for excellent service. Little did he know.