It is 11pm on a Thursday. Drizzle is falling just as the pubs turn out in Soho. Getting a cab will be impossible. Then, out of the blue, a black cab arrives, lurching towards my raised hand with the signature shrill of grinding brakes. 'How much to Islington?' I ask. 'About GBP15 ($221), guv,' he replies. 'Make it a tenner?' With that, the dumbfounded driver manages a smile, shakes his head and lurches off - without me. The two universal accepted truths in life may be death and taxes, but in London, with the use of a good accountant, it is more likely to be death and taxis. London black cabs conform to type. The driver is always a salt of the Earth, Caucasian, East-End type, with a fond love of right-wing radio phone-ins and a grudge against the European Union; he will smoke if you do not, or rant against it if you do. Like police officers, you can never find one when you need one, but when you cannot afford one, they leap out like January sale signs. While most cabbies support ne'er-do-well London football teams such as West Ham, nearly all live in the cabbie republic of Gants Hill, northeast London. The cab itself is always spacious (there is more room to be flung about in); the windows will stay shut in July and are jammed open in January; and while cabs with a lit-up yellow 'for hire' sign must take you wherever you ask within central London, most will not let you in until they wind down the window and inquire: 'Where to?' Still, there is no point arguing with a cabbie. Like the schoolboy who owns the football, he is always right, be it on A to B via Z, politics or nuclear science. What is more, while its chassis turns on a sixpence, the fare will mug you for your last shekel. But it no longer has to be this way. In return for an inflation-busting rise that virtually doubles in five years the average cost of a 5km trip to GBP9, cabbies will now have to accept haggling, after the Office of Fair Trade ruled that meter rates should be a 'maximum', not a mandatory price. But will cabbies accept this? Probably not, according to the Public Carriage Office. Maybe, says the Licensed Taxi Driver's Association, although only on big fares, which often happened anyway. Meanwhile, I remortgaged the flat and awaited a black cab driver willing to haggle. Within seconds a cab pulled up, a shock in itself. 'Sure, I'll do Islington for GBP10,' the driver said, 'as long as you don't mind me stopping for fuel.' A shocking development, perhaps, but not as surprising as the driver: a well-spoken woman, possibly of Indian descent and enjoying a discussion about arts funding on BBC Radio 3.