Trevor told me the only Chinese shaggy dog story I ever remember hearing.
To boil it down, a British diplomat who does not speak a word of Chinese goes to visit a Chinese official with his own interpreter in tow.
The official hosts a banquet for the diplomat, who at the end, makes a loooong speech without stopping about the bright prospects for relations between the two countries, gratitude, elaborate quotations from the classics etc, then turns to his interpreter, who says: "Well, time to go!"
Trevor’s delivery of the speech lasted a delightful 10 minutes. I have no idea what happened to Trevor, and the Internet is silent on his whereabouts or fate.
But I digress. Trevor imported a London taxi cab into Shanghai as his official consul-general chariot.
In those far-off days, Shanghai was an unbelievably isolated posting, and there were no more than a few dozen foreigners in the city. The taxi cab, which I seem to remember was painted a charming shade of blue, was a sight to see. Was it left in the city when Trevor finally moved on, or did he take it with him? I don’t know.
Now it appears that Shanghai wants to upgrade its taxi fleets and is looking to London’s iconic Hackney carriages for inspiration.
The manufacturer of the cabs, Manganese Bronze, is reported to have agreed to terms for local production of their vehicle in association with Geely, the largest private auto manufacturer in China, which will hold a 62% stake in the venture.
Production capacity is reported to be around 20,000 of the roomy cars per year, which is potentially enough to supply several cities with taxi fleets within a few years. Including London, where around 2,500 cabs are sold per year.
If Manganese Bronze and Geely get their way with this plan, it will be a bit of a blow to Volkswagen which has had a virtual monopoly on sales of taxis in the city for close on 10 years. Their Santana 3000s are not half bad to ride in, but they could be a whole lot better, and a London cab is definitely much more comfortable.
London cabbies are known for their encyclopedic knowledge of the city streets (and apparently a similar skill will be required of the Shanghai cab drivers).
The London taxis themselves are equally special. They are required to have a really tight 7.6-meter turning circle and a roof high enough to accommodate a passenger wearing a bowler hat. Trevor would have had one. The average Shanghai taxi passenger today does not tend to.