Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Day After The "Night Out"

Hi Folks

I turned up at the bed factory early (5.45am) to make sure I could park ok.

I met a couple of workers who started to explain the whys and wherefores of the job. I basically had to drive a large 7.5 tonne truck full to the brim with beds and mattresses and I had to deliver to 5 different counties namely Cambridgeshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

Due to the amount of mileage involved it would be legally impossible to do all the deliveries in one working day so it would have to be spread over two shifts with an 11 hour break in between. The vehicle would need to be equipped with somewhere for the driver to sleep.

The vehicle I was to drive was a Mercedes Atego and was indeed equipped with a bunk in a very big and roomy cab. In fact I thought it impossible that this huge vehicle could legally be classed as a 7.5 tonner but I was assured it was.

The following is what I and any driver is legally obliged to do every time he's to drive an LGV, the modern name for a HGV. He must get into the cab, turn on the ignition, insert his digital tacho card into the tachograph and do a manual entry to account for other work done when the card was last removed. Then set the machine to "other work" which has a crossed hammers icon whereby then he can commence the all important vehicle safety check. Everything must be checked such as tyres, loose panels, lights, oil, water, fuel, Adblue ( a fuel additive that reduces emissions) and basically everything relating to the safety of the vehicle. Only then are you ready to commence driving.

The truck had been pre loaded with the cargo so after a few last words of advice from the guys I set off for the first destination which was Oundle in Cambridgeshire. The place was called the Talbot Hotel and parking outside was difficult but there was only two mattresses to deliver and I was away in minutes.

From there I had to drive for 86 miles to get to The Pegasus School in Swadlincote in Derbyshire. This was located down some of the tightest country lanes I've ever been down and I would often meet something coming the other way when everything would come to a halt whilst one of us decided who was going to reverse. More often than not it was them but sometimes I would reverse if I'd just gone by a passing place. I got called a few names yesterday I can tell you . Delivering another double mattress at the school was a doddle and I was soon on my way to the third drop elsewhere in Derbyshire.

This place was called Borrowash and I had to call the guy on the phone because the postcode I had was incorrect. When I arrived and opened the back up I saw that his double mattress was of better quality and thus it was heavier. He asked if I would help him upstairs with it and although they told me I had to leave it downstairs I felt I had to help. Well we struggled with this five foot beast of a mattress as we dragged it from the lorry to the house then up the stairs. I was out of breath and sweating, boy was I unfit. 26 years of sitting in a London Taxi will do that to a man. He thanked me and I thought to myself "this is the bit where he bungs me a fiver"....no chance.

Off I went again. It was time for a 45 minute tacho break so I found a suitable layby where I had a cup of coffee from a flask and a banana and watched the traffic race by. I certainly needed the break because the next delivery was gonna really drain my energy.

It was to Nottinghamshire Golf and Country Club in Stragglethorpe on the east side of Nottingham. Here, I had to deliver 18 three foot wide single divan beds and 18 mattresses and also 2 double divan bases with mattresses. The golf club was mega busy and to complicate matters further there was major building works going on there and manoeuvring space was severely limited. I rang the contact number and the lady that answered sent four strapping young helpers out to assist me. Even with all the help it took the best part of thirty minutes to get all the stuff off and stored in a warehouse but there was some fierce banter with the guys and it helped pass the time.

My next delivery took me to "God's Own Country", the county of Yorkshire, home of my beloved Leeds United Football Club. I had to deliver to a place called Kingswood, Dearne Valley in Doncaster which was some sort of youth camp. Security here was tight and I was told to drive as slow as possible with my hazard lights on as there were kids just emerging from the dining hall. I was met at the deliveries area by two staff members who took delivery of the six single mattresses I had for them. With the paperwork signed I was again instructed to drive slowly all the way out.

The time was now 6pm and I had been driving and doing "other work" for the last 12 hours so it was now time to find a stopping place for the night. That proved harder than I'd imagined because most of the prime spots were taken up by lorries who knew the score and had already parked up to bed down for the night. I hadn't eaten all day, just a banana, so I was hoping to be able to park near some sort of eatery. I knew I could park at some of the many Moto services on the A1 but I also knew it would cost me. In the end that's what I had to do and finally parked up two hours later at the Grantham North services. After asking another driver what I had to do he instructed me to go into the W H Smiths to pay for a 24 hour parking permit. I duly did that and the guy in Smiths said I had two choices, just parking or parking plus a food voucher. I had the latter. "That'll be £22.50 please". Well, I nearly fainted!! But then again when he gave me the ticket and voucher I could see that £9 was for food, making the price for 24hours of safe parking only £13.50. So all in all not too bad. On future "Nights Out" I'll just pay for the parking and make sure I have a picnic with me or park where all the old hands park for free.....I'll just have to learn where all these places are first.

So, armed with my £9 voucher I had the choice of either Costa Coffee or Burger King...all the other establishments had already closed. Burger King it was then. A double Whopper with cheese meal and some apple pie sticks came to the exorbitant motorway services price of £10 so I had to add a quid to my voucher and I was good to go. I ate the food there and made my way back to the lorry. I was now grateful for all the fussing Jane had done last night. I soon had the bunk looking and feeling cosy and after a bit of reading I soon nodded off. I woke several times in the night as other lorries started their engines and drove away but went straight back to sleep. At 7 am I got up and went to the now open Greggs and had a bacon roll, coffee and a triple pack of jam doughnuts. The bacon roll was disgusting and I fed it to these great big black birds who were mooching about outside. They were either crows or rooks, I don't know the difference, but they certainly enjoyed it.

I set off at 8am for my final drop in Sleaford, Lincolnshire. Just 2 three foot bed bases at the Carre Arms next to Aldi and then started making my way back home to Ipswich.

I didn't want to get back too quick so I poodle towards the A1 and maintained a steady 50mph all the way back.

I had been noticing a hissing noise every time I switched the engine off and as I parked up at the bed factory the manager noticed it too. One of the air lines had burst and I was lucky I hadn't lost my brakes. Apparently the truck was due out soon and this problem would have to be dealt with first. He called Mercedes in Martlesham and they told him to bring it straight round so as I still had a few hours left to work he got me to drive the truck, wait there whilst they fixed it and then drive it back.

On my return the bosses were all there discussing schedules and manning problems. I was asked if I knew London at all and I answered "yea I know my way around London". Apparently heavy storms overnight had caused widespread flooding in the south east and the guy delivering to London couldn't  get through so I might have to do it on Monday. They also hinted that I may be required for the next few months as someone was retiring aged 65 so I said I'd be happy to help.

I set of for home and my agency texted me with tomorrows job details which is another 7.5 tonne job delivering gardening products...as yet I don't know where.

I also received another text saying that the bed factory had booked me for the next thirteen weeks and my next job after the London run would be a run up to the Lake District which would require two "Nights Out". Interesting times are ahead for me. Follow all the news right here.

Goodnight folks.



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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Truck Driving and Nights Out

Hi folks

so, since my last post I have indeed "jacked in cab driving" and via various agencies around Ipswich have  driven vans and 7.5 tonne lorries in my pursuit of meaningful employment.
It all started around about 6 weeks ago when I applied for a driving job via my iphone whilst on one of my weekends in Ipswich visiting the wife ( that statement alone justifies what I've done). I received a reply the following day and the guy was desperate to provide staff for the courier company Interlink. I turned up the following day and was put to work with one of the old hands, Glyn, who showed me the ropes. The work was very fast paced and there was only a few minutes allocated for each parcel drop of which there was around 70 to 80. After the deliveries were complete there were collections to make from various companies all over Ipswich. After 2 days with Glyn they put me out by myself and I felt I coped extremely well although they gave me more time and less parcels than Glyn. The following week I was sent out all over the place.  One mishap was when I locked the keys in the van and the big boss man had to come out with the spares. He was not amused and told me so. On the third week we had a Bank Holiday Monday followed by a quiet Tuesday where I wasn't offered any work. I went in on the Wednesday and carried on where I left off. On Thursday morning I was getting ready for work and a text from one of the supervisors informed me my services were not required that day. My agency guy did some checking and got back to me with news that work had severely dried up and might improve in the coming days. That proved to be the end of my working time at Interlink and I was left with the dilemma I had last year when a similar thing happened and I ended up returning to cab driving. I decided to persevere and spent the next few days applying for all types of jobs such as Lidl, Argos and Ipswich Buses to name a few.
Whilst all this was going on, Jane decided she needed a break from her work as a carer and I felt it was as good a time as any to take a break. We spent a very relaxing week at a caravan park in Dymchurch in Kent. Whilst there, ironically, another agency I had signed up to started offering me work so I had to put them off until I returned to Ipswich. On returning I was offered 7.5 tonne work immediately and spent a great three days working at a logistics company called Debach. I drove a Mitsubishi Canter truck around Suffolk delivering palletised goods to private houses and Industrial Estates alike. Some places especially the private house never had fork lift trucks so I had to use a pump truck and the tail lift to get the pallets off. Gravel drives proved difficult to manoeuvre  the pump truck as close as I'd like and more often than not the pallet remained on the pavement where I would then have to offer my apologies. This brings us to this week where on Monday I was offered a 7.5t job at another logistics company called Magnus. They also use a Canter truck because they're easier to get down country lanes and tight areas. My journey took me towards London where I dropped pallets off at Swanley and Merton before heading into Central London to South Molton Street. Before I got there I had to take a compulsory Tacho break of 45 minutes. Finding somewhere to stop safely and legally proved difficult but I finally found a space on Prince of Wales Drive next to Battersea Dogs Home. As I sat there drinking my coffee and eating my sandwiches I saw a steady stream of volunteer dog walkers taking their charges towards Battersea Park and then return them 15 to 20 minutes later. With my break over I headed in to the centre. I parked on Brook Street and had to walk the full length of Great Molton St before I found no 43. There were workmen working away and I had to pull a few of them away with me to help take the pallet off my truck. Unlike the Debach truck this one had neither a pump truck or a tail lift so unless a fork lift was available the goods would have to be removed from the pallets and carried by hand (Handballing). From Central London my final drop was a clothing warehouse on an industrial estate in Enfield. It was owned and staffed by Chinese workers and when I got there they refused to unload me because they were on their lunch break. It looked to me like they were all eating bowls of steamed white rice and I thought how tasteless that must be but they seemed to be enjoying it. From there I drove the hundred or so miles back to base in Great Blakenham, Suffolk to end my shift.
Today I worked at yet another logistics place called Bacton Transportation. I drove yet another Mitsubishi Canter truck and did 8 deliveries in the Bury St Edmunds area and also in Thetford. At one delivery place I jumped up onto the truck, lost my balance and fell off. I tried to break my fall by spinning in the air and managed to land against a fuel tank injuring my shoulder. I quickly got up and looked around to see if I had been noticed and thankfully not but even as I type this my shoulder is smarting and will probably stiffen up overnight.
My agency called me to discuss tomorrows job. Normally they just text but needed to ask if I would do an overnight job or a "night out" as its known. I was in the middle of deliveries and just said yes to everything but when I had a bit of time I called them back. The job is for a company that makes quality beds and I have to take a truck load of them up to Derby in the Midlands. I'm not sure what else I have to do once there but after my shift up there I have to bed down in the truck which apparently has a bunk, and do another shift starting in Derby and ending up back in Ipswich. It's all quite exciting and Jane's been clucking around preparing a bag with everything from a duvet and pillow to fresh clothes. I told her I'm going to look like a right wally turnig up with all this stuff but I'll probably be glad of it in the wee small hours as I bed down on some obscure industrial estate.
Whatch this space for the write up on what happened but as I have to get up at 5 am and it's now 10pm I'm off to bed so goodnight all.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I'm off again!

Hi folks
Back again!

Since last posting here my cab has had its annual overhaul. This involves an MOT Test first which normally highlights problems that will need to be rectified before the main test is carried out a day or two later. I found the MOT Fail certificate in the glove box which stated that the cab failed due to a broken coil spring and a faulty windscreen washer system. Both these problems as well as others were rectified and in all fairness the cab feels like its had quite a bit of tlc to get it passed and plated for another year.
One problem I have been having a lot recently is that after leaving the cab parked up for several days (5 days over Easter) the battery goes flat. A quick jump start with my son's Christmas present is normally enough to get it going again but today it refused to charge up. On closer inspection I could see that the earth strap was falling apart thereby failing to provide sufficient connection between the battery and the body of the cab. An RAC guy once showed me a way around that which was to clip the black jump lead onto the engine. She started up first time and I was soon on my way to the garage where they replaced the earth strap and topped up my steering fluid which is also leaking from the steering box.
The Easter holiday has had a negative effect on the work and two weeks on its still giving us cause for concern. I think its just a matter of time for me to finally give this job up for good. (2week gap since I wrote these words) In fact the work is practically non existent on the streets so unless you're prepared to wait for ages on the oversubscribed station and hotel ranks you may as well give up. Last week, for instance I totalled £450. Deduct my cab rent and diesel and theres not a lot left over for anything once I've paid a few bills. I've applied for a few jobs in Suffolk and am waiting to hear from them.
It's a crying shame whats happening to our trade and I cant see a way back for it with so much technology out there offering cheaper transport.
I guess my next post will relate to whatever job I manage to secure in Suffolk so I'll keep you posted.
Take care out there.
LC.



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Thursday, February 04, 2016

Things are looking up

Hi folks

We're now in week 5 of the new year and the work is slowly but surely picking up...not a lot, but still better than it was.

I have another cabbie mate called Chris whose taxi has just reached its 15 year limit. He's decided to rent from my garage and is now driving around in a similar liveried cab to mine. The garage owner buys old taxis for parts and has offered Chris a derisory amount to take the taxi off his hands. Chris has litterally just called me on his way to pay his cab rent to say he's gonna try and get a bit more for his cab so I might hear something before end of post.

My own cab continues to earn me my daily bread but its not without its faults. A few weeks ago I picked four guys up at Paddington and took them to the World Darts Championships at Alexandra Palace. When I hit Highgate Hill the cab almost refused to climb it. It was extremely embarassing and the burning smells it was emmitting pretty toxic. The cab has since been de-coked but I've yet to take four people up Highgate Hill so we'll see how I get on.
Another problem the cab has is a loose connecton on the electric windows. I'm booked in to see the electrician next Wednesday but until then I have attached a piece of string around the wiring loom and have to pull it when the windows dont work. You couldn't make this stuff up!!

Just passed the Ecquadorian Embassy next door to Harrods where Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been holed up for the last three years evading capture. Lots of press gathered there. Perhaps he's had enough and is about to give himself up? A clip from globalnews.ca says "LONDON – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he will accept arrest by British police if a U.N. working group investigating his claims decides that the three years he has spent inside the Ecuadorean Embassy doesn’t amount to illegal detention."
So it could all be over pretty soon. Its been costing a small firtune to police that situation.

Chris just called me to say he's managed to get a few bob more for his old TX1 and payment will be in the form of three half weeks rent on the cab he now has so he's gone home relatively happy with that deal.

I have a diabetic review next week so I'm trying to abstain from eating too much crappy food before my blood test. I'm eating salads from Prêt à Manger and am trying to avoid carbs, which are like instant sugar to a diabetic.

So, another high profile death to add to those mentioned in my last post is the death of the much loved Sir Terry Wogan. He's just always been there for most people my age and by all account the nicest bloke you could ever meet. One of his last tv shows was called "Terry and Mason's Food Trip" where he drove to various places around Britain with London Cabbie Mason McQueen sampling the local cuisine and meeting loads of interesting people. RIP Terry.

So I'm sitting on the cab rank at London Zoo awaiting my next job. I think it's about time I got a decent fare!

Take care.

L.C.




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Friday, January 22, 2016

A rainy Friday




You'd think rain would make it busy right? But as I sit here on the rank of the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington after having driven here all the way from Bloomsbury I'm starting to wonder. I go to Suffolk tonight to spend the weekend with my wife so a fruitfull day is always preferable.
Yesterday was a different story. Wherever I went I found work.
I started with a Hailo job from Maida Vale to the science museum. Harrods proved a happy hunting ground as long as you avoided the over zealous traffic warden trying to prevent us from over-ranking. To them "the kipper season" means nothing just an increase in taxis looking to illegally queue for work. A bit of sympathy for our plight wouldn't go amiss!
The V&A has also given me regular pick-ups. Strangely, more than half always want to go to Fortnum & Masons in Piccadilly....there must be an exhibit in the museum with a link to that iconic British store.
I grabbed a bite to eat at the Astral Cafe where I've known the owner Tony since his days at the Piccolo in Mayfair. I have one of the Astral melts with chicken escalope cheese gherkins tomatoes and mayo. Very nice indeed.



I recently ordered an android tv box to watch sport and films on it. My daughter texted to say the oackage had arrived so after work I had a new toy to play with. It took 3-4 houurs to set up but by 2am this morning it was up and running and ready for my viewing pleasure from Monday.
The only problem is I've only had 5 hours sleep and the effects are being felt as we speak 💤💤😲
Take care out there.
LC

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A cold Wednesday in January

I've just been to pay the £200 rent on my taxi. I'm left with five £5 notes to my name after a particularly terrible week.

I left the garage in the Cricklewood area with my hire light on (well, half on, as one of the bulbs have fused!).
I drove as far as West End Lane where a dingaling sound from the phone indicated I had a job via the Hailo taxi app which I happily accepted. It was a couple and their baby going to the Royal Free Hospital. As I drove ahead the bright sunlight highlighted the fact that my windows needed a good cleaning with Mr Muscle.

From the hospital I have driven through Belsize Park, Chalk Farm, Camden, Primrose Hill and all the way to the taxi rank at St Johns Wood tube without getting anymore work.

I took a detour after Camden through Gloucester Crescent to look at number 23 which is the subject of the Alan Bennet story "The Lady In The Van". I was hoping to spot the blue plaque unveiled at the end of the film but it was no doubt fictional.

So, as I sit here awaiting a "dingaling" or a "walk up" and listening to Heaven must be missing an angel" on Smooth FM I wonder if fate has decreed a life of struggle for me and the missus.
It sure feels that way but we acknowledge there's people much worse off than us so we try and think positive.

4 deaths of note in the last month. Lemmy, David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Glen Frey. All have played a major part in my life and all gone way before their time. They will be sorely missed. May they all rest in peace.

Take care out there, its icy and cold.

LC

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Happy New Year 2016

Hi Folks

Happy New Year to you all!

Leading on from my last post where I was wondering where my one day of driving a 7.5 tonner would take me. Well I had to report to Magnus Group at Great Blakenham in Suffolk and I was told to take their Mitsubishi Cantor truck out for five pallet drops in and around London. The first drop was in Thurrock then onto Swanley. From there I had to drive up to Merton. The next destination was an industrial estate in Chessington where I had to deliver a racing cycle belonging to the MD of Magnus Group for some alterations. I was to wait for the alterations and then take the bike back to Suffolk with me so as it took about an hour so I went off in search of a burger van for my lunch. As I was on tachograph rules I had to watch my driving time. From Chessington I had to drive to Slough but there had been an accident on the M25 and my mandatory rest time was fast approaching. In fact I was due to stop for a 45 minute break as I sat at a complete standstill in the traffic so by the time I finally managed to get off at the next junction and find a suitable stopping place I was well over my time and liable for some sort of punishment, possibly in the form of a fixed penalty. After my drop off in Slough I had a final drop off in Waltham Abbey.  The drop off was a very muddy industrial estate where the fork lift truck couldn’t reach me.  The pallet I was delivering had some sort of air conditioning unit and several other boxes all shrink wrapped together and weighed at least a ton. The guy receiving the goods decided to drive a transit van round to the side of the lorry and handball the stuff off (remove manually bit by bit). Everything except the air conditioning unit was transferred to the van but the unit itself was way too heavy even for two of us so I had to call the office to see what needed to be done and they said to just bring it back. I set off for my 2 hour drive back to the yard. On arrival one of the office workers came running out asking if I had the boss’s bike and promptly took it. I had to report to the office to sign off and was questioned about the last delivery. They said they guy who’d helped me unload the pallet had called to say that there were parts missing and did I know anything about it. No I did not…and I didn’t care for this questioning as if I was responsible for some sort of pilfering. I left there with a nasty taste in my mouth.

My agency had informed me, previous to that 7.5 ton job, that I would have four days of work at UK Mail delivering parcels in the Newmarket area. I reported at 7am on the Tuesday morning to be told that I wasn’t required. I called my agency but there was no reply. I drove back home and called them a bit later to be told that there was some mix up but that they would get back to me with some work. That was on the sixth of October. I was fobbed off for the next few days and by Friday the ninth of October I had decided to ring up my old taxi garage to see if I could rent a cab for a few weeks. They had a cab available so I drove back to London and started work. I spent the next few weeks taxi driving, sleeping at my London home and returning to see Jane in Suffolk. The taxi I was using belonged to a guy on holiday so eventually he needed it back and there wasn’t a spare cab for me so I decided to go back to Suffolk to try the agency again. No work was offered so I signed up with another agency and waited for work. After another week of lounging around the house I’d had enough and rang a different taxi garage.  I’ve since  rented an 05 plate TX2 with an all over livery for £200 per week. Work has been pretty thin on the ground but I’ve scarped a living together and have managed to get home to see Jane twice a week.

Christmas has just been and gone and my first week back has been abysmal. Another week like the last and I’ll be in the poor house.

Take Care Out There


L.C.