Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy New Year

Are you all ready for the next round of celebrations? Not me. I’m not a great lover of Christmas and even less for New Years celebrations. It’s an annual annoyance I have to put up with as I have others to consider. Were I a lonely old man (it’s looking extremely likely that I’ll end up that way) I would give it all a miss and head off somewhere to escape it all. Bah Humbug!!

Continuing on a downer, I frequently read the Wikipedia page on recent deaths. I may not look for a while, say a month or two then I’m checking every other day. Sometimes I’ll check and think “Fuck me, he’s died or she’s died” and if the reason for death is mentioned I’ll follow the link and spend quite a long time learning of the various ways that someone can die. All very morbid I know but it just goes to show that no-ones immortal. The three that stood out for me this month were Mike Dickin, a DJ that I’ve been listening to for as long as I can remember, Charlie Drake, an English comedian I grew up watching on TV, and lastly James Brown who I’m sure the whole world knew. When your time’s up there’s nothing you can do about it so it’s probably best to live each day like it’s your last. But therein lies another problem. To do that you need money and in this age of stress and debt and “not enough hours in the day” it’s not possible. What’s the answer? I’ve no idea. Try putting a few extra quid on the lottery.

I’m still getting requests to reveal my face completely. Why the hell would some people want to know what I look like? To those of you who have, during the course of your blogs, revealed your faces: do you get recognized? Do you like being recognized? Do you sometimes wish you hadn’t revealed your faces? I know I couldn’t stand the extra scrutiny and all the questions that would probably go with it. I suppose you’re either introvert, like me, or extrovert. Luckily living in a big city is a help. There are lots of London cabbies that look just like me and often people get in and ask if they’ve already been in my cab that day. Well sorry to disappoint but I’d rather stay faceless for a while longer.

In spite of being a humbug the 25th and the 26th were good days. Christmas Day was spent at home with the kids and their grandparents on their mother’s side (my ex-in-laws, who I get on great with). The 26th or Boxing Day was spent at my parents house in Harrow, North London with my brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews brothers-in-law and sister-in-law and a few family friends. The total attendance at my parents’ modestly sized terraced house was 29 and a good day was had by all.

I was back at work the following day, the 27th. The sales start immediately after Christmas and you wonder where all the extra money comes from as the main shopping areas become swamped with bargain hunters. I was kept busy for ten hours solid and took plenty of money. The only sour note in the whole day was when I picked up a couple of dodgy looking blokes who were obviously on a drug run. I hate these jobs and if I get the opportunity to drive off after they’ve gone in to get the stuff I do. These two led me in to the Brunel Estate in Westbourne Park. One of them asked me to break a fifty to which I gave my rehearsed answer as it’s happened before. “Sorry mate I’ve just come out and I’ve only got a fiver”. Who starts work at 11pm? They were probably trying to launder a fake £50. It happened to me about 12 years ago and I changed it for them. I knew it was fake but didn’t want the confrontation but vowed never to do it again. I actually used the fake fifty in a post office to buy my road tax and got away with it so I never lost out. Who needs the hassle? Anyway, they both got out to go get the stuff and off I went nearly cracking my rear axle on the speed bumps on the way out.

Today’s shift was a little slower but I still managed to make the money I needed. I nearly lost my rag at a Polish bird who took me to Victoria Coach Station from Victoria Station (a few hundred yards!). I’d waited longer than usual on the rank and was already agitated as the beggar had caught me by surprise and tapped on my window, startling me. You’d think he would know me by now or maybe he never recognized the TXI. All the same he got told to “Fuck Off!!” and guess what he said to me? “Happy New Year brother!” I never felt bad as I’ve learned to isolate my emotions when it comes to beggars. Charity begins at home and I need all the charity I can get at the moment. So straight after that happened the Polish one gets in and says she’s in a hurry and she knows its only a short trip blah blah and I’m boiling up inside but decided to exercise a bit of restraint. By the way I couldn’t be 100% sure if she’s Polish but that’s what she sounded like.

The last job of the night took me out to White City so it was handy for my way home.
This cab has a radio/cassette and I’ve been playing a lot of my old tapes. I came across a Neil Young compilation I’d done a few years ago. I noticed I’d written “tape fucked” on the label but decided to put it in all the same. For about 15 minutes I heard all the classics such as Harvest Moon, Down By The River, Cinnamon Girl and Heart of Gold. It was while Southern Man was playing that it became evident why I had written that label as the tape warbled and whined and finally cut off. I must do a fresh tape for tomorrow.

That’s all for now folks. Have a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Seasons Greetings

We're almost at the end of another year. It's a time to share with friends and family. To watch the kids faces as they open their presents and to reflect on the past 12 months. As I look back over this last year I can be content with many things. After the terrible year my Dad had in 2005 he has gone from strength to strength and is doing fantastically well, more than we could ever have hoped for. My mother in law, a fantastic lady, beat cancer and is also enjoying her life to the fullest. My kids are all strong and healthy and I'm proud of each and every one of them. All my brothers and sisters are doing well in their chosen fields and their kids are doing fine also. I am doing OK. Like I said in previous posts I'll never be a millionaire but I'm content to get by as I do. I'll have to try harder to look after myself health-wise but it's a constant battle. I'd like to thank all the people who contributed comments to my blog and to those that read it but don't feel like commenting, which in turn keeps me interested in writing it. I will endeavour to post often and hopefully I will have more interesting tales to tell you as and when they occur.

All that remains is for me to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous and Happy New Year 2007.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Not A Lot Of People Know This

Break out the Champagne! One of my sons has a job. My eldest has started work today as a meter reader and after a few days of training and being given a bag full of equipment he has just left to meet up with a guy who will show him the ropes over the next few days.

A cabbie mate of mine, who is currently out of commission due to an op on his upper leg, and I have a friendly rivalry when it comes to who’s picked up someone famous. At some point after setting down that famous person we will text eachother with a message along the lines of “Just had so and so in my cab. Where does he come on the scale?” The answer is nearly always jokingly “he’s a c***” but deep down there’s always an element of envy if the person is an A lister. I sent him one of these texts last night after I was flagged down by the doorman of the famous Scotts restaurant in Mayfair, I never saw who got in but as we headed for Chelsea Harbour the voice became unmistakable. I listened to their conversation which was about London restaurants. 99% certain of who I was carrying I deduced that the lady accompanying him was his wife Shakira. I’m of course talking about the one and only Sir Michael Caine. As he was in company I decided I wouldn’t attempt to talk to him. I tried to talk to David Gilmour once but he’d obviously been having a bad day and wasn’t in a talking mood. Anyhow, it was a 15 minute trip and he tipped extremely well and all that was left was to send that text. I never got a reply until this morning and it was the reply I expected. My mate once picked up Roger Moore and has it in his head that no one can top that. “007, nuff said” is how he settles the argument.

Michael Caine and Shakira

The rest of the night went extremely well. Earlier in the week I thought that it was all over as the work seemed to dry up but it has picked up again nicely as I put the finishing touches to my Christmas preparations.

I picked a drunk guy up in Kings Road and he asked for Beaufort House which is a newish trendy bar on the same road. When he got in he sat on the edge of the seat leaning forward playing with his phone. Inevitably, I had to whack the brakes on as someone pulled out across me and the guy in the back shot forward, cracked his head on the partition and ended up a crumpled mess on the floor. When I looked round he wasn’t moving so I quickly pulled over and jumped out to see if he was alright. He was slowly coming to and was rubbing his forehead. All the newer cabs have a sign up saying that the law requires passengers to wear seatbelts but fewer than 30% ever bother and it’s not up to me to tell them. He was OK and we arrived seconds later at his destination. I waived the £3.60 fare as a sort of apology.

I have to go over to my cab garage this morning to part with the first payment of £200 for the weekly rent. When they fixed the glass on Monday they must have left the speaker wire off as I’m only getting sound from one speaker so they’ll have to sort that out as well as the hydraulic fluid problem I’m having. It’s taking 5 minutes for the cab to shift to second gear when starting first thing in the morning. I know this happens to a lot of cabs but it can be quite annoying when there’s a line of traffic behind you and you’re putt-putting along at 10mph.

I should squeeze one more post in before Christmas Day so I’ll leave the greetings until then.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A hell of a day.

I finally got a TXI on Friday. As I said before it was the one I drove for two years before I bought my own cab. Since I gave it back in 2003 there has been a double team working it day and night and it feels that way too. I’m sure the gearbox is on its way out. I’m getting a very peculiar smell every time I pull off, I’m sure it’s the gearbox fluid leaking onto the exhaust pipe. Apart from a few signs of age it’s still a more comfortable cab to drive and has a decent sound system, aircon, electric windows all round and is in better condition. Having said all that, I had a bit of grief with it today whilst I went for a coffee and a slice of cake at one of my hangouts in Baker Street. These cabs are fitted with an immobilizer and in a few areas of London the remote thingy just will not work (I found this out later). So I’m sitting in the cab having my refreshments. I put the key in the ignition, press the immobilizer which should then prepare the cab for starting. Nothing. I try again, and again, and again. Nothing. I take the key out. Lock and unlock the doors with the central locking button to try and free up the immobilizer. Nothing. I get out and lock the doors with the key. I try and unlock the door, guess what? It won’t unlock. I’m standing in Baker Street with an icy wind whipping down the street, locked out of my cab and my steaming cup of Bene Bene coffee is on the dash staring at me. Now where did I put the other key that was given to me? Oh there it is sitting by the gear lever! Bollocks!!
The key in my possession was the ignition key and by chance it also locks all cabs as do most Ford keys. But one thing they don’t do is unlock all cabs, for that you need the correct key which was sitting inside my nice warm cab whilst I stood outside scratching my head and debating what to do next. I rang the garage and the owner picked up the phone. I explained what had happened and it was decided that I would have to somehow get into the cab and punch a code into a keypad that was concealed behind my visor. I had the owners’ permission to smash a window, start the cab and then drive over to the garage where someone would fit a new window. D’you think I could find something to smash the window? I couldn’t get the wheel brace out of the boot as I had the wrong key. Last resort…..ring supermechanic. He was empty in Knightsbridge and was with me in 10 minutes. After a quick evaluation of the situation he said there was nothing he could do mechanically so out came his tyre iron and after five wallops the window finally smashed. People stopped, stared and walked on with a “what the hell is going on” look on their faces. There was shattered glass every where. All over the driver’s seat, all over my stuff in the luggage well, everywhere. My coffee was intact albeit luke warm but seeing as I was frozen stiff I guzzled it down in one gulp. I retrieved the key that had caused the whole problem and got my handbrush from the boot. I swept out as much glass as I could onto Baker Street, sat in my seat and rang my garage for instructions on how to enter the code into the keypad. After two attempts the cab started. I thanked Supermechanic for his help and let him get back to work. I drove over to my garage with the wind howling through the broken window. I had the heater on full blast so it wasn’t too bad. Once at the garage two mechanics got straight to work on it. One of them vacuumed the glass out of all the nooks and crannies while the other one started dismantling the door panel to get to the window mechanism. The owner was milling about and looked like he had the hump. Maybe he thought it was my fault, which it most certainly wasn’t. How was I to know that there were two keys to do the job normally done by one? I thought the other was the spare. And how the hell would I know that in certain parts of town the immobilizer cacks out? Apparently Greater London House in Hampstead Road and Holborn are two other areas where I'll have problems. Has anyone else ever experienced similar problems with their cars? Anyhow, it only took them 30 minutes to get it all fitted and working and I bunged them a fiver each to keep them sweet. I’d left home at 3pm and it was now fast approaching 6 and I hadn’t earned a bean yet. I drove home first to sort out my daughter's dinner. The other two had eaten in a cafĂ© earlier. I finally got out at 7pm and started setting up all my bits and pieces in the cab. I turned on my satnav. Nothing. What now? Somehow the battery had drained from my ipaq wiping the internal memory clean of all my data. (Ipaq owners can confirm this happens when a battery goes completely flat) All my data had vanished but luckily I had it all backed up on my PC. Back indoors I went, put the older more reliable battery onto the ipaq and transferred all my data, maps and satnav back on. After the day I’d had so far I was in no mood to go to work but with Christmas just days away off I went for the third time.

Nothing really spectacular happened. I picked up a few drunks. I got stuck in a mega traffic jam whilst en route to Brentford as there were road works just after the Hogarth roundabout and basically in six hours I made some decent money. Now I’m off to bed as I have to be up in four hours to drop my daughter to school. Night Night.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A decent 5 hours

The photo of a disguised me in the last post was taken a couple of weeks ago at my parents house where we all gathered to celebrate my sister’s birthday. The mask belongs to my nephew and as some of you have gathered, it is a replica of the one worn by Rey Misterio, the WWE wrestler. That’s about as much of my face as I’m willing to reveal so you’ll have to use your imagination for the rest of me.

I stayed in to watch the Spurs match with my son so I never started work until 10pm.
London is absolutely heaving with work at the moment and it was “one in one out” everywhere.

3 incidents of note happened tonight. The first was when a couple got in at Knightsbridge and asked for Barons Keep in West Kensington. No sooner had I pulled off when the lady decided she needed to puke. She pulled down the window and stuck her head out and I could see it all spraying from her mouth through the door mirror. Having just had a pleasant few weeks working days with not as much as a bad word to say about anyone I instantly got annoyed and vented my anger on these two people. I probably over reacted considering that the puke was outside instead of in but I reduced the woman to tears and the man must have been a pussy because he never said a word to me. When we arrived at their destination he gave me a fiver on top of the fare and they both hurried away from me as quick as they could.

The second incident happened in South Kensington. A passenger needed to stop to get some cash and while he was at the ATM a scruffy loser type came over to the cab. I thought he was going to ask me for money and I was getting ready to tell him to go fuck himself. He asked me where the nearest hospital was and I started directing him. The passenger came back from the ATM and decided to pay me and walk the rest of the way. The loser type was still standing by the cab and was having trouble understanding my directions. I noticed that he was holding his right arm and had a pained look on his face. I asked why he needed a hospital and he said he’d fallen and he thought his arm was broken. Time for me to do a good deed. I told him to get in and I drove him the mile to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on the Fulham Road free of charge. He never thanked me or said a word to me but I’ll just put it down to him being in too much pain.

Incident 3 could happen 10 times a day but what struck me was how, when I cut up a lady driver in an Audi TT, she honked the horn and kept it going until she could get around me. We ended up side by side in the traffic of Brompton Road and I was in a relaxed mood with the music playing and my window shut. She had her window down and was screaming obscenities at me, none of which I could hear. All I could see was her mouth opening and shutting which made me laugh. It’s an occupational hazard to be cut up in London so I don’t know why she was getting so aereated. In the end I gave her the finger and she started honking the horn again totally frustrated as I pulled ahead of her and finally turned away from her into Beauchamp Place.

For the sake of this blog I should probably stay on nights as far more stuff happens.

The last job of the night turned out to be a good earner. A bunch of people on the wrong side of Edgware Road. One of them came over and said they needed to go to East London. The other lot were taking their time getting across and the lady who’d crossed started screaming at them to hurry up. A few minutes later two more of the group ambled over the road and said that they’d be taking my cab and that “Gary” wanted her back across the road. “Oh for God’s sake” she said storming off. My two asked how much it would be to Hatch End and Hertford. I badly needed this ride so I had to be careful I didn’t scare them off. One of them said “it shouldn’t go more than eighty quid should it?” You better believe it will I thought to my self. Saying that it would go “slightly more than that” the one who’d asked said “OK go for it” Off I went without a clue as to how to get to Hertford from Hatch End in North West London. The Hatch End part of the journey came to £45 so Hertford was seriously going to dent the remaining passenger’s wallet. I asked for her postcode so as to enter it in to the satnav in case she went to sleep. I set off from Hatch end after agreeing with her that I would need the M25 and the A1(M). I was also really low on diesel but knew I would just about make it as the satnav was telling me I had 26 miles to go. She never went to sleep but sat rigid all the way looking at the meter and making me feel uncomfortable. She finally piped up as we were going through Hertford town centre. “We’ll have to make a detour via a cash point as you insist on charging these ridiculous prices” Me? It’s not my fault she lives where she lives and that they decided to go to Hatch End first. We arrived at her house and the meter read £144.80. She handed over £150 and asked for a receipt. Not knowing if I was getting a tip (I wouldn’t expect one in this case) I started getting her change ready. “You might as well keep that as you’ve had all my other money” she said. I felt like I should say something but thought to my self “she’ll be gone in a few seconds, don’t say anything” I gave her the receipt and she said “good night” in a frosty voice. Was I bothered? Nah.

I was told by my garage last week that I would be getting a TXI this week. The same one I had for two years before I bought my own cab. It’s due up the PCO today for it’s annual overhaul so I’ll be getting a passed and plated cab with everything in perfect working order, I hope.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bloody Cyclists

As is probably happening the world over, the Christmas/office party season is upon us. Just when I seemed to settle for working days I find myself staying out longer to cover the night work. These last few weeks have seen me putting in some 12 to 14 hour shifts hence the lack of posts. I have literally been getting in and dropping straight in to bed, falling asleep in about 5 minutes and waking up in what seems like a few minutes without even having had a dream, that can’t be healthy but the bills have to be paid somehow.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, working during the day finds me sitting on ranks that I’d never use at night. A few favorites are the rank at the London Eye on the South Bank which has provided me with a steady supply of work whenever I’m in that area.

The London Eye

Another favourite is the Waitrose rank in Marylebone High Street. This particular area has many well known people living nearby and BBC London radio is also just a few seconds away from the rank so one can see a constant passing of well known faces walking past and even taking cabs from the rank. I spotted Ally McCoist, ex-footballer for Glasgow Rangers and team captain on the BBC’s A Question of Sport walk past me the other day closely followed by Andy Townsend, another ex-footballer and soccer pundit. He asked me for directions to Marylebone Station and when I told him it was a “slap from here” he decided to jump in and be driven there. We were there in minutes so there wasn’t any time to strike up a conversation, not that I would have instigated a chat with a celebrity as I get quite squeamish at the thought of it.

The downside of days is the traffic. Yesterday the Victoria area was in total gridlock and I had various passengers get in whilst I was stuck in traffic only to get out a few minutes later when they realized they weren’t going anywhere. After about the fourth set of passengers had gotten out I decided that drastic action was needed in respect of my positioning. I turned off Victoria Street and went down the side of Westminster Cathedral only to get caught in a fresh gridlock in Francis Street. A man asked me to take him to Paddington and I made sure I primed him up by telling him it was going to be a heavy journey. He said that “it beats walking” and would leave it up to me to make the right choices. I duly obliged by taking a seriously longer route which avoided the troubled areas and added three or four pounds to the fare. He was pleased, I got more money and everyone was happy.

Depending on where you are in the world you may or may not have heard of the tornado that cut it’s way through the Kensal Rise area of London yesterday (Thursday). About a hundred homes were affected mainly with roofs being ripped off but some were seriously damaged with walls collapsing exposing rooms to the elements. Apparently we have 40 to 50 tornadoes a year in the UK but the only time you sit up and take notice is when one passes through your neighborhood. I drive my daughter to school through the affected streets every morning so I count my self as lucky not to have been caught up in it just an hour or two earlier. The streets in that area are still closed off as we speak as engineers assess the building for safety. Some will have to be pulled down altogether. Many families are sheltering in the British Legion hall a few hundred yards from where I live and will probably be homeless for Christmas. I wonder if their home insurance covered Acts of God?

I nearly flattened a woman cyclist yesterday. I was in Knightsbridge heading towards The Old Bailey with two lawyer types onboard. As I pulled away from the lights on to Hyde Park Corner she came out of the park and cut across me. I swerved out of the way almost colliding with another cab on my right and managed to pull away. The next lights were on red so I stopped and contemplated the near-miss, mentally storing it in the appropriate section of my brain with all of the others I’ve had in my 24 yeas as a driver. Bang bang bang on my window. It’s the lady cyclist, and she’s not a happy bunny. I partially lower my electric window. “Didn’t you see me, you almost killed me” she started screaming at me. “You’re dangerous” she continued, and then turned to my two bewildered passengers and repeated “he’s dangerous, I’d be careful or even take another cab” My turn. “I’ll tell you what I saw shall I? I saw a stupid bitch come flying out of the park, cut across me without as much as a signal. It’s a wonder you’re still alive. Have you got a death wish or something?” She couldn’t answer that, the lights changed and off I went catching a glimpse of her in the door mirror giving me a hand signal. When are cyclists going to realize that most motorists don’t care for their antics and that they can get seriously hurt or worse if they don’t have their wits about them? They should ban all cyclists from the roads in my opinion as they never abide by the rules; well 99% of them don’t anyway.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I got a club!

The rain is lashing down outside and the bucket catching the drips from the skylight is slowly filling up. I’ve reported this problem to the landlords but they always send out cowboys to patch it up. Once it dries out I’ll try and fix it myself with a roll of flashband and a blowtorch.

Yesterdays rain was a big help with the work. I started early to make up for not working on Friday night as I was just too fed up to care. The morning fares are so different to the night ones. I even managed to trap a fare out to Heathrow, first one for weeks. They were catching a British Airways flight from Terminal 4 to Seattle, Washington. I had to go into their house in Onslow Gardens, South Kensington to bring out their luggage and as per usual when I over-exert myself I thought my ticker was gonna give out. Why must people opt for oversized luggage? The journey to the airport was practically traffic-free but about one mile onto the M4 the skies darkened and the rain pelted down so fast that my two female passengers started shrieking “Oh my God!!!” and asked me to slow down and even to pull over. I re-assured them it would be OK. I had to slow down to a crawl anyway as the whole motorway had done the same. The squall lasted about ten minutes then, as often happens, the skies cleared and the sun appeared. It provided conversation for the remainder of the trip. We arrived at the Terminal 4 drop off and I scooted round to get them a trolley and put their humungous luggage on it. The fare was £49 exactly so a fifty would be an obvious amount to hand over if not fifty five? I got two twenties, a five, three pound coins and two fifty pence pieces. Tight C….

We have various gentleman’s clubs dotted around town that pay a commission to the driver for bringing them customers. Some of the pay outs start at a fiver, those clubs are widely avoided. Then there are some that pay huge amounts, like £50 per head. Whilst finishing work one night last week I decided to duck down Walton Street in Chelsea to see if I could add to my measly night’s takings. A couple of guys had just come out of the Art Bar and flagged me down. They were both well hammered and one of them came to my window and asked “we want to go somewhere dark” I said “dark as in the lighting or dark as in sexual?” “yeah, sexual” he replied. Kerching!!! It doesn’t happen often but it’s nice when it does. It makes you wonder how much these places charge the customers if they can afford to give the cabbies so much commission. I once took a four hander to the New Georgian Club in Mayfair and the lady came out after they’d paid the entrance fee and gave me £110. With that in mind then no guesses as to where my first stop was gonna be. As I pulled up out side the club the lady appeared and I directed one of the guys to go and speak with her. After a few moments he got back in the cab and said “that place is no good, we want somewhere darker”. Now I know where places are situated but not being a sexual deviant I have no idea what goes on inside. What were these guys looking for? Some sort of torture club? Do they even exist? At this point I was thinking that the “easy money” I was about to earn wasn’t gonna happen at all. The next club on my mental list was the Kabaret Club in New Bond Street just a few blocks away. I pulled up here and they both got out and entered the club. Not having taken anyone here in years I didn’t know what the protocol was and some of the doormen con you out of the money by saying stuff like “they’ve pre-booked” or “they’re meeting a party inside” which I knew would be bullshit as these two didn’t have a clue and I had chosen this club. I waited patiently outside and could see the doorman inside the front door looking over at me and then back at someone inside behind the reception desk. One of the two passengers I’d taken there then walked out and paid me the fare. £11.80 (no tip). He then walked away from the club and my heart sank. I watched him approach a cash machine and I thought “yes, it’s all good”. He got some money out and walked back to the club. I made sure I faked being on my phone as he looked at me. I didn’t want to arouse suspicion. After what seemed ages a pretty blonde came out of the club with one of those big golf umbrellas (it was still raining) and tapped on my window. “here’s £60 but you have to give the doorman £10” She’d already included two twenties and two tens to facilitate me giving her the ten for the doorman so I handed it over and thanked her and drove off homeward bound. £50 plus the £11.80 fare wasn’t bad for a twenty minute fare.

As my body clock is set to days I’m just off out now. With the rain and it being a Sunday it should be a very profitable shift. Catch you later.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I hate writing titles......

as I can never think or decide on what best to say, so today you're getting this.
I’ve spent the last week driving my daughter to school and meeting her somewhere for the journey home. My two sons are job hunting without much success and Christmas draws ever nearer. My football team is at the lowest position it’s ever been in its history and even a new manager can’t seem to change the losing trend. The years are definitely coming and going much faster and the worlds problems seem to grow and grow. Where will it all end? All I know is that there doesn’t seem to be much time for fun and laughter lately. All I seem to do is work and work. It’s all quite depressing. I have managed to watch a bit of TV though so it’s not all bad. I managed to get copies of Lost - Season 3 Episodes 1 to 6 which were great and also Ricky Gervaise’s Extras which is a must see.

However hard I try, I just can’t help picking up nutters. I’d just dropped a fare off in Holland Park when a stunning blonde walked over to me whilst I was waiting at a red light. It was raining pretty hard and she had on a white blouse/top. As she reached the cab she turned her back towards me and her back made contact with the cab and she started talking in a seductive way and rubbing her back up and down the side of the cab. I can be quite lazy when it comes to washing the cab and as I mostly work nights the dirt doesn’t show up. Add pouring rain to a dirty cab and chuck in a white blouse and you have a right old mess. The whole of the back of her blouse was now grey to black. I don’t think she was aware of that and I certainly wasn’t going to tell her. She was asking me if I fancied running her out to West Ealing and could we agree on a price by shaking hands. She also had a few other stipulations such as would it be ok to smoke, again, we shook on it. She also wanted to be able to talk to me en route; once again, she insisted we shake on it. Get the picture? A nutter. My first instinct was to drive off but I’m a sucker for a pretty girl and she was extremely pretty. She got in and started talking and smoking straight away. It was mostly bullshit but she did let slip that she was PA to a top billionaire who shall remain nameless. I asked her if she did what she said she did why she would need to negotiate a price to which she answered that she was careful with her money and that she’d worked her arse off to get where she was blah blah blah. All of a sudden she changed her demeanor and started calling me rude and impertinent or words to that effect and I thought “what did I say?” The best way to handle these people is to completely ignore them and that’s what I did. She decided to lie down on the back seat and I thought “Oh no you don’t”. I called to her to give me her address including door number. She refused to answer me. No problem, I simply pulled over and told her to get out. She started protesting. I asked her again for her address. Isn’t it crazy how a job can deteriorate into this sort of bullshit just because a person has a few drinks in them? I eventually got a street name and a number and proceeded to the destination whilst she slept it off. Outside her house I had to raise my voice a few times before she woke. She opened the door and got out and started walking to her front door. I called her back and asked for my money and it took a few seconds for her brain to click in to gear. “How much is it?” she asked. “How much did we shake on?” says me. A distant look changed into a knowing one and she suddenly remembered the handshake and started rooting through her overcrowded handbag for my money. We’d agreed on £26. The figure had started at £30 and we’d gone downwards pound by pound until I refused to go any lower. She produced a twenty and carried on rummaging for the rest. She handed me her keys and a small makeup bag to hold while she dug deeper. She suddenly announces that there’s no more money and that I’d have to settle for the twenty. Really? I told her we’d shaken on it and that she was going back on it. She was adamant that there was no more money. I told her “no money, no keys” as I closed her bunch of keys in my fist, “possession is nine tenths of the law” springing to mind. “Give me back my fucking keys” she shouted “or I’ll call the police”. “Why don’t you do just that, I guarantee you they’ll be on my side and I’ll get my money”. “I haven’t got any more fucking money on me” she screamed getting a little hysterical now. I told her to calm down and have another look in her bag. She passed the bag through the window and screamed “here, you have a look” All I could see in the bag was crap, crap and more crap. Why must women have so much crap in their bags? I persevered and found a ten Euro note. That would be good enough. I shoved the bag back at her, put the makeup bag on top and finally handed over the keys telling her to get her drunk useless arse indoors before someone mistook her for a prostitute and roared off leaving her standing there with a stupid look on her face. Oh the joys of working nights.

The two weeks cab rent were due on Monday but I’ll be going to the garage later on today to settle the bill. I was told by a cabby pal of mine that his friend was renting his cab from a particular garage and that the owner had TXI’s for rent at a very reasonable price. He gave me the number and advised me to give the guy a call. There was no answer so I left a message. Nobody returned my call so I forgot about it. It turns out that my call had been received but that the owner was reluctant to hire any more cabs to drivers recommended by my pals pal as someone else he’d recommended had recently gone missing owing at least £2000. Mystery solved.

I will drop a fare any where they want but will seldom pick up a fare if I’m out of my element unless the job is going back into my area. On Saturday I dropped a couple in Balham, South London and was turning round to head back to town when five people caught me at the traffic light and asked for a runaround in that area. I told them I wasn’t overly familiar with South London and they said they’d direct me so I thought “Fuck it, it’s money”. We stopped at a few places where they picked up some booze and soft drinks. From the look of it they’d already had a skin full but the night was young and they sounded in the mood for a night of heavy partying. The party was to be held at the destination, Gleneagle Road in Streatham. I had an idea where it was and was also following the instructions on my satnav. One of the passengers then told me to turn in a completely different way, throwing me. I asked if he knew a short cut as my original route was the most direct and he said he did. One of the women then piped up in an incredibly posh English accent “Oh darling, are you sure you know a short cut?” to which the guy said he did. We ended up in a tight alleyway-type dirt track with trees and plants scraping the side of the cab. Had it been my own cab I would’ve refused as I wouldn’t have fancied scratches all down the sides. Next, the posh one pipes up again “Oh this is so exciting, we’re off-roading” producing roars of laughter from the other passengers. It was indeed a short cut and with in a few seconds we had pulled up outside their house on Gleneagle Road. They paid me well and I kept the “For Hire” light off until I got back to civilization.
(Was gonna post pics but Blogger playing up)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Losers, Nice Girls and Horrible People

My daughter recently got set upon by four girls whilst traveling home from school on the bus. They asked her for her phone but she’s learnt from the last time this happened and told them she had been “jacked” by someone else recently. They said a few nasty things to her and generally terrorized her all in plain view of other passengers who sat idly by and did nothing to help. As she went to get off the bus the four girls got off at the same stop. My daughter stepped back on the bus and went a few stops ahead where she then got off and rang me in tears to come and pick her up. Luckily I was nearby and not miles away as would normally be the case. As a result I now have to take her in to school every morning as she’s scared she might see the girls again. It a pain in the arse as it disrupts my sleep and the Harrow Road has road works on it at the moment which has caused severe traffic problems all week but I’d hate for her to get jumped because I couldn’t be bothered. I also have to watch out for her in the evenings but that only involves watching her get off the bus across the road from our house. There's some horrible people out there.

My cab rent is always due on a Monday but rarely gets paid on that day. Lately I have taken to paying two weeks at a time and use the Friday Saturday and Sunday of the second week to get the £360 together. Last weekend my front brakes started scraping and grinding and I knew I wouldn’t get through the weekend. Rather than not use the cab and lose those days because my garage was closed until Monday I decided to change the brake pads my self. I rang my brother in law to see if he had the pads I needed and he did. I would normally leave a job like that to him but I thought it was about time I attempted stuff like that my self. I met him in town and got the brake pads from him and drove straight back home. I’m not geared up for major mechanical work but I only needed the jack, the wheel brace and a screwdriver and had the brakes changed in under 30 minutes. I was quite chuffed with myself for having done this for the first time on a cab and took the cab out for a road test just to make sure. They worked perfectly and bought me more time to earn the two weeks cab money I need for this coming Monday.

As I was driving along Fortess Road in Kentish Town the other night a cabby coming the other way signaled me to slow down. He told me that there were a bunch of losers on my side of the road and two nice girls on the opposite side. I thanked him and cast my eyes back on the road ahead. A hundred yards ahead I could see a bunch of guys jumping up and down and waiving at me frantically on the left and the two nice girls frantically waiving at me on the right. It’s a funny thing how one person’s interpretation can be seen in a completely different way by someone else. As I neared the “three losers” my instinct told me that they weren’t losers at all and just three guys who wanted a cab. I decided to stop for them much to the chagrin of the two nice girls. As I pulled up level with them I could see that one of them was none other than Gary Crowley a well known BBC Radio and TV presenter. The other two looked like “somebodies” but I couldn’t place them. They’d just been to see Paul Weller in concert at the Forum in Highgate Road. Crowley asked me if I liked Paul Weller and I had to admit to knowing a couple of his songs but was no great fan. They were going to Soho Square so I concentrated on getting them there safely whilst they got up to all sorts of antics in the back. The final few streets on the approach to Soho Square have long term road works installed but any cabby worth his salt should know how to navigate around them. That’s exactly what I did and this brought a complimentary comment from Crowley. “Cabbie, you are “the business” mate, I’d have gone all round the houses” They all got out and shook my hand in turn and gave me 30% on top of the fare. Not bad for three “losers”.

I was clicking away with my camera phone yesterday when I bumped into the car I was photographing. If you’re going to bump into a car it may as well be the best!! The driver didn’t even get out. Probably thought it was a car jacking or something! Well it could happen!!


Friday, November 10, 2006

Some People

Well, I’ve been furiously clicking away with the new camera phone and can’t really decide if any of the photos are worth posting at all. I’m sure someone will like some and others not so I’ll put a few in as this post develops.

To answer a few of the comments from the last post now.

Anonymous said...
You should never sold your tx2.

I had to sell it for my sanity. Some people are cut out to be Mushers (owner drivers) and some are more suited to being Journeymen (renters). You have to be good with money or have someone to help you out. Neither of the above two apply to me. It’s so much more uncomplicated renting, you pay your rent and the garage has all the stress. I know I’ll eventually end up with a decent cab but I have to moan about the one I have until that day comes.

onzon said...
Some great stories here, only found your site yesterday. If you hear anything about the new TX4 in your travels, please let us all know.

The new TX4 is available to buy now. I have only seen one on the road and apart from a few design changes, looks identical to the TXI and II. It will take a good few months for any horror stories to materialize but I’m sure they will. I was talking to the owner of my garage and he said he’s going to wait at least a year before he buys any because by then any problems they have will have been ironed out. I’ll try an get a picture of one on the road although you could probably Google TX4 and get a picture.

Anonymous said...
Why do taxi drivers rent their cabs for (180 -200 plus per week) Surely it would be cheaper to buy a brand new one and finance it. 30k loan is cheaper then 200 a week. What are the extra cost you have to consider when you buy your own cab.

I refer this commenter to the answer I gave the other anonymous person above.
The extra costs include the servicing, the annual overhaul, and the tyres and basically anything that isn’t covered by the warranty during the first three years. After the warranty expires it’s all fun and games as spare parts are grossly overpriced and taxi garages can’t wait to shaft you.

Whilst out working today I was in the right hand lane waiting to turn from Marylebone Road into Baker Street. There were a few cabs in front of me and one of the cabbies recognized a pal of his and got out to have a chat while the light was red.
The thing with that junction is that you only get a few seconds before the light changes so it can take three or four light changes to get through. This guy got out three times and caused us all to wait twice as long. By the third time everyone started honking at him causing him to give everyone a two-fingered salute.

They’ve installed a monitor on Wilton Road taxi rank so that cabs can see if the main rank on Victoria Station has room. They’ve done this because they’ve removed another portion of the rank because it used to interfere with the workings of the bus stop. It’s causing all sorts of problems because during busy periods cabs get stuck on the wrong side of the road and other cabs, possibly unaware of this new system, drive straight on to the main rank. I’ve already witnessed a couple of “scream-ups” between cabbies. The resident beggar has also relocated to this side of the road but, as ever, I carry on blanking him.

I had a 3 hander job tonight that involved taking two people home, collecting their babysitter, taking her home with the other passenger still in the cab and finally dropping him at his home. They’d obviously had an enjoyable night out and ate and drank plenty. The conversation amongst them was jovial and intelligent. Whilst the couple got out at the first address to go and get their baby sitter the remaining passenger transformed into an obnoxious arsehole and started slagging them off in extremely colourful language. When the baby sitter got in the cab he reverted back to mister nice guy and was completely charming to her. As we arrived at her address he offered her some advice “watch out for the n*****s” he said to her. She hurried into her house and then he launched into a racist tirade that, quite frankly, I’m embarrassed to repeat on here. But it went along the lines of how he used to be in the National Front Party and how he still donates to them and how he hates all races and indeed religions apart from his own. For all he knew I could have belonged to one of the things he was ranting about and if he can so readily give vent to his prejudices to a complete stranger it’s a wonder he’s still walking or living. Some people!

It’s always a good idea to have a brolly handy when stopping to go to the bank or get a coffee. I recently parked up on a rank in Baker Street, paid a few bills and went to grab a coffee. Whilst in there the heavens opened I had to wait a good fifteen minutes before the torrential downpour stopped. A few days later someone left me a present….

Here are a few random photos that I've taken. What impresses me most is the quality of the shot.

A cluttered workspace

Marylebone Road

My cab parked in Battersea

The Raft (Victoria, Gatwick Express)

The Raft sans passengers!!

My new satnav

Victoria Plaza

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Not enough hours in the day.

I try to post at least once a week these days but I seem to have overdone it. I haven't died and I haven't given up the fight I just ain't had time to sit here and do this.

I am still waiting for a decent cab and the one I'm driving is falling apart. I ask every time I'm in the garage and always get the same answer that I'm next on the list.

I recently upgraded my satnav to one that is pocket-pc based. I had an ipaq that my brother Joe kindly let me have after my Palm was stolen and I always meant to get the software for it but just never got round to it. So recently I bought the Tomtom Navigator 5 software from eBay and also a Bluetooth gps unit and it all works fine. One gripe I have is that the maps of the Docklands and Canary Wharf are out of date. I bought what I thought were the latest maps from the Tomtom site but they turned out to be the same ones that came with TTN5 so, always needing to have the latest stuff, I went back onto eBay and came across a seller who was selling Tomtom 6 for £30 on "Buy it now". I bought it immediately thinking I would be up to date in a few days. Next I get an email from eBay saying that the listing has been removed because there was some funny business going on and they advised me not to go ahead with the purchase! Problem is I've already paid the guy. I emailed him with my concern and he's assured me the software will be sent as promised so hopefully I might have it installed in the cab over the next few days. I'll let you know the outcome.

I almost picked up Rod Stewart and his latest “lurve” recently but missed them as the cab in front of me got there first. They were coming out of a designer shop on Sloane Street in posh Chelsea and were immediately swamped by paparazzi. Just as well really as “The London cabby” ain’t ready to grace the pages of the world’s glamour mags just yet!!

Sometime last week I picked up three guys from La Famiglia restaurant in Kings Road and dropped them at various places. The last one was American and looked quite distinguished and rich and I couldn’t help but think I’d seen him possibly on TV somewhere. Once the other two got out he started talking to me about my job and was interested in how much I make and what I pay for the cab. He was telling me how the New York cabbies have it really tough and have to work all the hours under the sun just to break even. I told him I’d picked up a NYC cabbie a few months back (I forgot to mention it in my posts) who said the same thing and he informed me that he himself had once been a New York cabbie. I asked if he still did it, half knowing that he didn’t, and he had a little titter to himself and said not anymore. I caught his name when they were all talking as Jonathan so wondered if anyone out there that knows of a 50 to 60 year old Jonathan who was once a New York cabbie who has made good and is possibly on TV or in the public eye.

I picked up a nutter (nut job, fruit loop) yesterday. A mad woman who started ranting at me because three cabbies before me had drove off almost taking her hand with them as she tried to get in. I felt like doing the same but was in need of money so decided to see this one through to its conclusion. First of all she directed me to stop outside WH Smiths on Notting Hill Gate while she ran in to look for a friend of hers. I told her that it wasn’t possible to stop let alone wait where she wanted me to and that I’d have to stop a little further away. She started screaming at me and called me a useless bastard and opened the door and stormed off into the shop leaving her handbag and various carrier bags on the back seat and the door wide open. I knew she had a screw loose and never took offence at the insults; I’ve been called a lot worse things in my time. I jumped out and shut the door and pulled forward a touch so that the buses could get round me. Had there been no bags in the back I would probably have driven away but obviously had to wait for the mad bitch to come back with her buddy. It was rush hour and it seemed like every bus in London was coming round the corner. They all honked at me as I was blocking the approach to their bus stop. At this point a traffic warden decided to make himself busy and asked me to move off. I’d had enough. I got out, opened the back door and took the woman’s stuff out and threw it at the warden’s feet. I told him that when a crazy looking lady in a black and white checked coat came back to this spot he should give her her stuff back. I got back into the cab and drove off and noticed that the warden was also walking away from the bundle on the pavement. On reflection I was probably out of order but the stresses and strains of trying to do your job when so much is against you can sometimes cause you make such rash decisions. I’d like to think she was on her way back to the cab and managed to pick up her stuff before someone stole it but I’ll never know now.

I received my new Sony Ericsson K800i mobile phone this morning. It has a 3 mega pixel camera and I intend to use it to start posting more pics as you’ve probably noticed I haven’t posted any recently. I should have another post for you in a few days.

Sony Ericsson K800

Monday, October 16, 2006

Best night ever

And there was I all happy and stuff because my son started work last week. Three days later he quit, all because his boss was an A1 prick. From the first moment Michael entered the garage his boss was angry. He never cheered up once. The second day proved to be the best as they shared a bit of banter but by Wednesday he was hurling full scale abuse and insults at my poor boy who is simply not used to being treated that way. He rang me in tears of rage for advice during his lunch break. I told him to go have it out with the crazy man. He texted to say it was all sorted but within and hour he was back on the phone saying he was at it again, worse than ever. I told him to get his tool box and wait for me outside the garage. At that point I trapped a job to Heathrow (my first in ages) and the traffic was solid all the way there. He had to wait an hour and a half for me outside that garage. The boss and his daughter, who was also nasty to him, walked past a few times and never spoke a word to him. It was probably for the best. It baffles me as to why they hired him at all.

I had my best day ever yesterday. Over the last week I’d had a few days off and had failed to check my diary to see what bills were due. I suddenly realized that pot-loads of money needed to be earned to meet payments today. I started at around midday on Sunday. Traffic was light and there was plenty of work at all the stations. Within a couple of hours I had already made my first hundred and it was at this point that I went home to feed the hoard. Some of us had steak pie and chips and the others had pork chops and chips. I watched the Newcastle Bolton game on TV and was feeling extremely tired but knowing if I went upstairs for a lie-down it would be fatal I got up and went straight out to work. It was still mega-busy out there. One in, one out everywhere. By midnight I was £10 short of £300 and was making my way home when four lovely ladies flagged me down on Tower Bridge and asked me if I fancied a long ride out into “the sticks”. I was really tired by this time but knew this ride would really help the cause. They asked for an approximate price to Hatton, Datchet and finally to Langley. After a quick bit of mental calculation I came up with a price of “at least £80”. They seemed ok with that and all piled in. Can somebody please tell me what it is that makes women able to talk incessantly for hours on end? These women never stopped. In the end all the sounds sort of merged and sounded like hens in a coup. The one to Hatton got out first and the noise level dropped a tad. As I dropped another off in Datchet the meter was already above £80 and an uncomfortable silence set in. I started preparing an answer for the inevitable question, the question of why it was more than the price I’d quoted. Although the meter decides what the final price will be some people like to know more or less before the journey starts. I can sometimes quote them to the penny or in the case of longer jobs out to the suburbs I can get it terribly wrong. They never asked me why but the atmosphere was tense. As I dropped of the final two in Langley the meter clicked up to £107. There was a bit of silent debate in the back whilst the money was being found but finally it was all handed over and they got out without saying a thank you or goodnight. Was I bothered?

Total for the night was £397 and the best night’s work I’ve ever done in all my seventeen years behind the wheel.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Victoria or bust.

I managed to get my son some size 13 boots at the place I mentioned in Cricklewood and they only cost £20 which was amazing value. Thanks to Jackie for recommending the place in Hampstead, I had heard of it but haven’t tried it yet.
So later on today Michael starts his new job as a trainee mechanic. Once he knows his stuff there’ll be plenty of customers needing his services in my family. Good luck for today son!!

I started work at 7.30 pm today (Sunday). I wasn’t in the mood (am I ever?) but I had to make an effort as a late start on a Sunday can often spell disaster as the work dries up fairly early.

Seeing as the other cabbies are listing their jobs for the shift with comments I’ll do the same but I don’t have the times and I’m not putting the amounts as a cab driving colleague of mine gets the hump when I give out the totals.

I picked up fare #1 in Maida vale. An Asian man wanting to go to George Street.

For fare #2. I went on to the rank at Paddington Station. The Heathrow Express arrives here and the queue was about 200 strong. I took a lady to The Renaissance Hotel in High Holborn. As we drove along Oxford Street she commented on how the shops were still open on a Sunday. I said it was only the two-bob shops that stayed open and that the respectable ones adhered to the Sunday code.

Fare #3. As she got out there was a Japanese guy waiting to get in. He told me to wait for a couple of minutes for his lady friend. I was blocking the forecourt and the cars behind were getting impatient. As the first car honked his horn the lady came running out and directed me to a new restaurant in West Street called L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon.

Fare #4. was a guy who flagged me down in Haymarket and wanted to go to the City Inn at John Islip Street.

Fare #5. I made my way over to Victoria Station. The line was moving so fast that the beggar had positioned himself to catch the cabs that had to stop at the traffic lights by Argos. As I came round the corner I spotted him. The lights were about to go red so I stepped on it and went through them. From Victoria I picked up a fare to Davies Street.

Fare #6. I Drove all the way back to Victoria without a street hail and timed it so that I missed the beggar again (isn’t it sad when you have to take these measures to avoid being asked to hand over some of your takings?) From Victoria I got another short run up to Albion Gate on the Bayswater Road. I was longing for a run I could get my teeth into instead of all these little short hops.

Fare #7. As I was nearer to Paddington I thought I’d try my luck up there again. A medium range run to the Jury’s Hotel in Queens Gate was what I got.

Fare #8. The South Kensington Rank is near the Jury’s and I only managed another short hop to Tite Street by the river.

Fare #9. No messing about. Straight back to Victoria (beggar gone home) and another crappy run up to Gilbert Street off of Oxford Street. I can’t drop them where they want because of restrictions so I chuck them out at the junction of Weighhouse Street and they have to walk with their luggage. Not best pleased.

Fare #10. Paddington is closest so off I go again. Finally a decent run to the Guoman Tower Hotel. As long as I’ve been cab driving this hotel has been called the Tower Thistle but as happens a lot it has changed ownership and is now named as above. The problem arises when a passenger gets in and says “The Guoman Hotel please”. There are a few of them in London and all have been renamed from something all cabbies know to something we’ll just have to get used to and learn. These guys wanted to pay by credit card but I no longer accept them as I’m not affiliated to any radio network hence no credit card equipment.

Fare #11. As they got out 2 Indian guys were waiting to get in for a shortish journey to Long Lane in Bermondsey.

Fare #12. Still in Long Lane I was flagged by a guy pushing a buggy and who also had two little girls with him. I took them to Arbour Square in East London and he paid me all in pound coins after reading my sign.

My eyelids were closing so I decided to get a coffee and a chicken sandwich at the McD’s drive-thru in Commercial Road. The coffee was fine but the sandwich had “done a bit of bird” and was disgusting. I lobbed it out of the window as I was driving round the Aldgate one-way system.

Fare #13. I never picked up again until I was northbound on Tottenham Court Road. A strange one this. She asked to be taken to Wardour Street. I cut back through to Oxford Street and then asked her what end of Wardour Street she wanted. She was out cold after only about three minutes. I asked her several times, each time raising my voice. She eventually opened her eyes and said she wanted the Leicester Square end. Once there I pulled up sharply which jolted her awake. I told her the amount and she offered me a lighter. I told her I needed money instead. She handed over a twenty and started crying. I asked her what was the matter and she said nothing. I gave her the change and she got out of the cab and stumbled into a group of tourists who caught her. The door was still open so I jumped out and closed it and drove off.

Fare #14. Unusually, I never picked up a fare in the West End so I headed yet again for Victoria. Pay back for what I did the other night or just the long job I had been craving for? My passengers had been broomed by the guy in front and I ended up taking them all the way to Sydenham in South East London. They complained about how some cab drivers were pig-ignorant (present company excluded they said!) whenever they asked to be taken to that part of town. They won’t accept the explanation that when it’s busy in town it’s more profitable for us to do shorter journeys.

Fare #15. There was no street work anywhere at this time so it was simply a case of getting back to Victoria for the next four rides. Another short one to Blandford Street.

Fare #16. A lovely Italian lady from Victoria to Harcourt Terrace in SW10.

Fare #17. A grumpy old Irish woman from Victoria to Cranworth Gardens near The Oval. She’d stated her destination as if every cabbie in London knew it. She got miffed when I asked her what part of London she wanted as it was a “terribly big place my dear”. She didn’t like that one bit.

Fare #18. I was getting a bit pissed off at having to keep driving back to Victoria from the various drop-offs. There had to be a quality ride for me in there somewhere.
As the cabs in front got occupied I could see my passenger in the queue. A balding man of about fifty with two cases. He waited until he was in the cab before stating his destination which turned out to be another short ride up to the Hilton in park lane. Some nights it goes like that and on others you can’t put a foot wrong, every job is gravy.

Fare #19. Deciding to call it a night as it was fast approaching 2am I turned northbound into Park lane and was surprised to get a hail on the park side at that time. She only wanted Gloucester Terrace near Paddington but at least it was on my way home.

Inspite of all my moaning I still made some decent money tonight and over the last few days have caught up with all my payments. This is normally a signal for me to slow down and take things easy, even have a few days off. Or maybe I’ll keep up this pattern of work and get ahead of myself. What would you do?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Short Shift

One good thing about this blog from a family point of view is that it keeps them informed where otherwise they wouldn’t get to hear things until much later in the week or month, such as the job my son recently got. I have to go out with him later today to buy him a pair of work boots with steel toecaps. He has quite big feet and will need at least a 13 or 14. I know of a place in Cricklewood that opens on Sundays but if anyone knows of any other places around town that sell work wear and safety boots please let me know asap.

About the getting out later and later thing, mentioned in my last post; tonight I never started until 10.45pm. I just got in 10 minutes ago at 4.20am. Not quite six hours but a good night all the same.

The first two jobs were £30+ jobs and made for a good start. The second one of those nearly never happened. A bunch of 5 kids flagged me down in St Johns Wood and usually I drive straight past kids. Tonight I pulled over, locked the doors and spoke to them. They were well mannered and well spoken and were going to various addresses in Hampstead and Golders Green, good affluent areas of town. They couldn’t have been more than twelve or thirteen and in fact I overheard one of them tell another he was just that, thirteen. The reason I don’t usually pick up kids is because I have had problems over the years whereby they direct me in to a housing estate and then all run off without paying. Probably a great laugh if you’re a kid but not so great if you’re the driver trying to earn a crust to feed his kids. These five were perfect passengers. I dropped one of them at a huge mansion in Sheldon Avenue, another two along the Finchley Road and the last two in Woodstock Avenue in Golders Green. They even gave me a £1 tip, at their age. There’s nothing that gives me greater pleasure than seeing kids with good manners, it costs nothing to be polite.

The work was plentiful and I was never empty for long. There was a function at the Royal Lancaster Hotel and the doorman was out in the road hailing anything and everything. I pulled in for him and he loaded two passengers, a couple, bound for Hounslow. They were loaded down with flowers and party stuff such as joke bowler hats and those things that uncoil when you blow in to them and make a noise. They were both in high spirits and the woman had a very infectious laugh. It wasn’t long before they had both windows open and were tooting at all the passers by who in turn would wave back at them. Amongst some of the stuff they had with them were little boxes of sugared almonds. I went to a wedding recently where they also had these so I guess they too must have been at a wedding. The lady offered me a sugared almond which I readily accepted, unbeknownst to her, they are one of my favourite sweets. Once there were no more passers by to entertain they both settled down for the trip out to Hounslow. As I got nearer I had to wake them as a day of drinking and eating must have finally caught up with them. The lady offered me one of the little boxes of almonds as she was getting out as she said she’d taken four or five off her table. Guess what I’m eating as I type this?

I stopped at the Shell garage in Battersea to put some diesel in and then made my way back into the fray to see what other nice jobs were available. The light was on at the Berkeley and the doorman was out in Knightsbridge waving me in. He ran back to the hotel while I turned in and pulled up on the drive. I put my meter on and waited. A nice job north would do me lovely. A guy came out smoking a ciggie and said “We won’t be long mate, we’re just having another drink. We’re going to Sydenham in South London”. “Like fuck you are” I said under my breath. As he returned to the bar for another drink I rolled off the drive and called it a night. The last place I wanted to go was Sydenham.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Woman to woman

I’ve been waking up way too late these last few days. Yesterday I was supposed to meet my brother in law for lunch at midday but I never woke till one thirty. That hasn’t happened to me for years, missing an appointment. I rang him to apologise and rescheduled for today at midday. You’ll note by the time this post is posted that it’s early on Thursday morning and I haven’t been to sleep yet so I’ll probably feel as rough as hell, that’s if I wake up on time and go to the meet. So as I never went for lunch I decided to do a spot of shopping after paying some bills. I don’t like going to the big supermarkets because I end up buying too much crap and spending too much money. I generally opt for the Tesco Express stores but lately I don’t know why I bother because they have updated all their stores and only seem to stock food for rich people. Their meat section only has half a dozen choices of meat ranging from sirloin steak, medallions of pork fillet, tiny lamb chops to minced beef and pork chops. Once you’ve been a couple of times in the week there’s nothing else to choose from. I opted for the minced beef and all the other ingredients to make a meat pasta dish.

Half way round the shop my son Michael rang me to excitedly inform me that he’d got the job. He had an interview last week for a job as a trainee motor mechanic. They kept him hanging with a “We’ll let you know”. I told him to ring again as he had nothing to lose and they called him in on Tuesday for a second interview with another person. They told him that they had one more person to interview but that he was the best candidate and that they’d call him one way or the other by 11.30 the following day. He ended up having to ring them again as they hadn’t bothered. Expecting to be fobbed off again it was with great surprise and joy that the lady on the other end of the line told him that he starts on Monday at 8.30 sharp. He hasn’t had much luck with work so I’m hoping this time it will work out for him.

I was out to work by 8pm and as has happened all week there was plenty of work out there. My current rental cab only has a radio/cassette but I managed to dig out a box of tapes I made about 3 years ago and spent the whole night listening to all my favorites

Work wise I went here there and everywhere. Everywhere I seemed to set down I picked up straight away. I spent a lot of time in East London mainly picking up in The City and going out to places like Hackney, Stamford Hill, Stoke Newington and Bow. I drove through the Rotherhithe Tunnel a few times as well after dropping off over that way.

Rotherhithe Tunnel

I was driving through Camden on my way home when I was hailed by three people. The job was going to take me in the opposite direction but it was going to pay well so I decided to do it. There was a bit of a debate about where everyone wanted to go and we sat in Camden High Street for about five minutes until they decided. The first destination was “Vickers Road”. I’d never heard of it but the female passenger said she could direct me. Her directions left a lot to be desired as we drove down, not one, but two dead end streets and went all round the houses before she gave up and called someone on her phone. I’d tried to find it on the satnav but as it turned out it wasn’t spelt Vickers but Vicars. By this time I had pulled over and we waited for a fourth person to find us. Once onboard we set off for the next destination, a club called Cargo in Rivington Street. The conversation on the way there was pretty animated with plenty of swearing thrown in for good measure. Only two people got off here leaving two women to go to the final destinations of Stamford Hill and Stoke Newington. As soon as I’d pulled away from dropping the other two people off the two women locked lips together. There was plenty of slurping noises and moaning coming from the back and I cursed myself for not having anticipated it and positioned the rear view mirror to get a better view. The canoodling went on all the way up Kingsland Road until we reached Stamford hill. They surfaced for air in good time to direct me to turn right into Cazenove Road where one of them got out and said she’d call her in half an hour (they must have just met). The other one carried on for a few more minutes and gave me directions to her address. The job ended at £36 and she got out and paid me at the window. As she was handing over the money she said “Did you enjoy the show?” to which I answered “I’m gutted, I couldn’t see a thing”. I must get one of those CCTV’s installed!!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A good night

I haven’t stopped at all since my last post. The last quarter of the year is always so busy that you don’t have to put in as many hours to take your money. The saying “make hay while the sun shines” has never applied to me, probably why I’ll never be a millionaire.

I spent Sunday re-installing Windows XP on this computer. It had been going slower and slower by the day and I’d finally had enough. It took me ages to back all my files up, an age to re-install and an eternity to get things back to how I like them. I started at around 8pm when I should have been leaving for work and finally put my head down at 7am. I had to take my daughter to school at 8am and finally got back to bed and to sleep by 9am Monday morning. I was in such a deep sleep that I never heard the postman ring the bell to deliver a parcel (he left a card to collect it at the sorting office) and neither did I hear the phone ring right next to my ear but it was nice to have a good sleep which helped me work well tonight.

First thing I had to do before work was to change a wheel as I came out to find it flat. As I removed the hubcap I could see the six nuts were rusty and look like they hadn’t been removed in years. The wheel brace that comes with the cab is completely useless in situations like this and luckily my son Michael has got a tool set from his previous job as a mechanic. With the aid of a power bar, a 37mm socket and a few squirts of WD40 I managed to loosen all the nuts and was able to change the wheel in about 10 minutes. The flat had a screw embedded in it. That’s the second puncture I’ve had in a month luckily I don’t have to pay for the tyres.

My first job was a fare from Paddington Station to the Conrad Hotel in Chelsea Harbour. There was absolutely no traffic when there should have been especially as I was driving through Earls Court, a very busy area. As we pulled up at the hotel the passenger exclaimed “Wow! That was fantastic. That’s the quickest I’ve ever been driven here and also the cheapest”. I always struggle to respond to these sorts of comments and only managed to mumble something along the lines of “It’s nice to get it right from time to time”. His obvious elation at the fantastic journey never extended to a decent tip as he rounded the fare up 40p to £14.

I ranked up a few times at Victoria. The beggar is well and truly back. I blanked him about 8 times in the last week. I see plenty of other cabbies handing over money to him which only makes him think he’s on to a winner and keeps him coming back for more.

I had a spell tonight where I couldn’t get out of North London. Every job took me straight back there. Finally I trapped a job going well south, to Southwark. It was a gay German guy who wanted a club in the Arches on Southwark Street. When I got there it was closed and he looked upset, he must have been looking forward to the night out. I asked if he’d been told it was open and he said he’d simply got the clubs name and address off the internet. He asked if I could recommend a nice gay club and I told him that I knew of gay clubs but couldn’t comment on what goes on inside not being gay myself. I ended up taking him in to the West End and dropped him off at The Village in Soho.
As I drove away from him and turned left into Wardour Street a couple in evening dress waived me down and asked to be driven out to Chiswick, another good paying job. As there are ongoing road works which have closed off Bayswater Road I had to go a slightly longer route (hehe). They were happily chatting to each other the whole way and never batted an eyelid when I asked for the £27 fare. “Thank you very much driver that was excellent. Here’s thirty pounds. Good night” If only all jobs could be like that.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Back to normal

It’s been a hectic week. Lots of family stuff going on and trying to earn a living in between. I’ve managed to get out just about every day except Wednesday when a family gathering at a Chinese Buffet in Park Royal required me and the kids to attend.

I’ve been waiting for the call from my garage to tell me they have a newer cab for me. I was having a nap a few days ago and Jim, the genial Irishman, called and woke me to ask if I could bring the cab in early the next morning (Wednesday). Half asleep I said I’d be there. The next morning, thinking I’d be swapping cabs for a nice updated TXI or even a TXII, I cleaned out the cab and took off all my signs and personalised bits and pieces and even swept it out with a hand brush. I drove over to the garage in Kentish Town and as I drove up the narrow alleyway leading into the garage spotted several newer cabs and wondered which one would be mine. Jim was standing at the entrance talking to somebody and I asked him where he wanted it. He pointed to a guy standing further inside the garage. I drove it over to him and got out. The guy proceeded to stick advertising on the two sides of the cab. I had a funny feeling that’s the only reason that I was there. I went to find Jim to confirm if I was only there for advertising and he said I was. What a bummer. He’s been promising me a better cab for the last few months but says that drivers keep changing their minds and decide to keep their present cabs. He promised me yet again that he would get me one soon but I don’t hold out much hope of getting one this side of Christmas. I could move garages and get one elsewhere but I like my garage and know all the guys there so I’ll just have to be patient. While I was there I got one of the mechanics to fit a new indicator unit to the off side and also to adjust the kick down cable. I reported the accident I had with the Porsche but Jim said to wait and see if the other driver makes a claim. Once my advertising was done I drove home and got back into bed.

Today’s shift was done in two parts. Still trying to make up for what I never earned on my week off I had to get out early to make money to meet a payment that went out from my bank. It was pretty busy out there during the day and I only did a few hours before I had enough. I then went shopping and cooked us dinner (Spaghetti Bolognese and Turkey Escalope) and settled down to watch Tottenham Hotspur (My sons favourite team) beat Slavia Prague 1-0 in the Uefa Cup. I went straight out after the game and being a Thursday night and raining was extremely busy and profitable. Victoria Station was moving all night and I must have gone back there about eight times. I took fares to Dulwich, Clapham, The Oval, Brixton (there was a shooting there tonight in the McD’s) and much nearer to the station. One guy tried to jump in my cab ahead of the queue but I locked the doors and drove onto the rank. He held onto the door handle all the way and nearly started a fight with the couple that were next in line. He didn’t seem to understand the concept of queuing but when the whole line started shouting and abusing him he got the message and joined the line.

Another fare from Victoria only wanted to go local but only had a building name. He said it was near Vincent Square. I got him to Vincent Square and waited for further instructions. I had never heard of the building he wanted so he told me to drive around for a bit and maybe we’d find it. I said it was pointless doing that as it could be anywhere and wasn’t there anybody he could ring to find out the street. It was 2am and he didn’t want to ring the person, as it was late. I asked if when we got there that person would have to let him in to which he said yes!! “So ring him,” I said. Duh!! It turned out that I had been to this building on a few occasions but just never remembered the name.

The last job I picked up from Victoria was four South American guys who wanted the Royal National Hotel in Russell Square. On the way they asked where they could get a drink and some action, it was 2.30am. Although there are quite a few late night places around the ones with all the action are generally clubs. They checked in to the hotel and came back out and I drove them to the nearby Spearmint Rhino Gentleman’s Club in Tottenham Court Road but it wasn’t going to be open for much longer so I took them to the Blue Angel near Great Portland Street which stays open a little longer than the rest and would certainly meet their needs.

The rain was still cascading down as I pointed the cab northwest in the direction of home. I think I’m now back to normal and can even say that I’ve really enjoyed this week’s work………..did I really just say that?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Back to work blues

I’ve found it hard to get back in to the groove since I returned from Spain last Saturday.
I picked up a cab on Monday. I say “a” cab because it wasn’t my regular one and it wasn’t a TX1 or 2 as I was promised. Apparently I’m top of the list for the next available TX but I won’t hold my breath! This cab is another Fairway Driver which has no kickdown and is as sluggish as they come. It has an oil leak that is ruining my drive and it has a dodgy door lock that opens when it feels like it. Other than that you’d think you were driving a Rolls Royce!

I never worked Monday and had to force myself to go out on Tuesday but I only managed a few hours and nothing noteworthy happened. Wednesday was pretty much the same as was Thursday. Friday was another washout as I took another day off and went out in the evening to play darts at my local club. I was in a knockout competition with 8 people including my son Michael and as luck would have it we met in the final. He beat me 2-0 fair and square to claim the £20 prize money and a small trophy.

Saturday started off with me receiving a parking ticket outside the shops at the top of my road. I was only in there for two minutes and the bastard pounced, probably as I entered the shop. Work was really busy and I made sure I got an early start. As is usual for Saturday nights all the usual suspects were out and trouble was never far away. I drove round with my doors locked and only stopped for nice people. I was still not back to “work mode” and was in no mood to pick up idiots. I hate picking up people with food in their hands. Sometimes I get caught at traffic lights but always claim the doors are jammed or something similar until the lights change and I roar off leaving the insults and hand signals in my wake.

Tonight (Sunday) started off with a prang. I’d picked up a fare at Victoria Station and was taking him to Haverstock Hill. As I was traversing Hyde Park Corner, a tricky gyratory system in Central London, a Porsche Cayman clipped me from behind. We pulled over to talk and he was trying to blame me. He had a little scratch on a reflector on his front wing and I had a major scuff mark and paint loss on my rear wheel arch. We exchanged details and parted ways. I’m sure when he puts in a claim he’ll have developed a major trauma with whiplash thrown in for good measure, I’ll keep you posted. I was running out of pound coins fast and went to a few places I know where I can get change but all the machines were out of change so guess what? I called it a night again with only £70 on the meter. I can’t keep doing it all the time I’m just going to put this last week down to the “back to work blues”.

One good bit of news I got this week was that I received a cheque for £20 from a passenger that I’d allowed to pay me when she next got paid. This is not the other one that happened just before I went away but someone who’d asked me before she got in if she could do this. I think it was from Paddington to somewhere in South London. It was about two months late but better than not at all.

Tomorrow is my annual visit to my accountant. I hate these visits as they mean a trip to East London during the day, an hour and a half drive each way. Most of the stuff he asks me could be done on the phone but he always insists that I attend in person probably to justify the money he charges me.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

My week off.

Here is a brief account of my week in Spain for those of you remotely interested. Cab related blogging will probably resume in the second part of next week when there’s something to write about.

I set off for Luton Airport to the north of London with my Mum at 2am on Saturday the 9th of September. My brother in law Tim drove us in his souped up Citroen and we arrived in good time. The EasyJet flight to Alicante in Southern Spain took off on time at 5.30am and was uneventful and picturesque.

The Plane

The sun was rising through the clouds and I took a few shots with my camera phone, which should have been switched off at this point.

Sun in clouds

Sun bursting through

Being extremely early in the morning everyone else decided to catch up on some ZZzzz’s while I sat and listened to my son’s iPod, which I had loaded with about 1200 songs.

Copping ZZzz's

When we arrived in Alicante I left my Mum to get the cases whilst I ran off to get my rental car before the rush started. I rented a Ford Focus, which they had upgraded to an Estate (station wagon). It proved extremely handy, as we had to pick up a lot of stuff from one of my sisters’ places in Torrevieja. Over the next few days I just spent the time lazing about eating some fantastic food and drinking loads of San Miguel beer and a rum concoction that my Uncle specialises in.

Essential supplies

One of many great dishes. This one's Paella Valenciana.

I did quite a bit of driving around (not under the influence), as we had to visit two different places 150 miles apart. One of my other sisters arrived with her husband and kids from her home in Mallorca and we all spent four days together eating, drinking and being merry. The whole object of the week away was to completely disconnect from cab driving and to chill out. I think I achieved that quite well but am glad to be home. The homeward journey was a bit more eventful with a delay of an hour in Spain followed by an hour’s wait at Luton Airport for our baggage to be brought from the aircraft. My brother John was there to collect us and after spending an hour at my parents house sorting out the luggage I drove my sons car home and was in bed by 3.30am. I was awoken a few times in the night by the phone. It was my kids who are still in San Diego until Monday checking to see if I had arrived home safely. All in all, a good week off. I collect my cab on Monday and it all starts again.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

C * * *

The last post was entitled "Losing Control" because during the course of one of my shifts I lost control after picking up one too many.....c * * * s.
I don't know why I'm censoring myself because that's the way I speak. I'm not trying to impress or shock anybody by using that word I'm just committing my thoughts to type. As far as I know the "C" word is widely used in working class Britain (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), the Republic of Ireland and from what I've read on the KuntryKabby blog Australia and probably New Zealand too. What's all the fuss about? How much worse can that word be than for example, a word used day in day out in America, "Motherfucker". That word has to be more disrespectful than any other word around yet it's used frequently on just about every adult TV show that comes out of the USA. Any way I'm not going to dwell on it so if the situation requires that I use that word then expect to see it crop up from time to time. We're a long time dead.

Talking of death I must just mention my sadness and disbelief at the death of Aussie naturalist Steve Irwin. There was a man so full of life and love for the planet that it's hard to believe he's gone forever at the age of 44 the same age as me. I'm sure he probably used the "C" word a few times off camera, especially after being bitten by a snake. R.I.P. Steve, you'll be sorely missed by millions.

Steve Irwin R.I.P

I have my funds for my holiday and have just been taking it easy the last few days. £50 here and £100 there. Today I did a few hours during the day and was extremely busy for the short time I was out. Only nice people during the day. I knocked off early to buy myself a case and to watch another England game. This time we beat Macedonia 1-0.

Tomorrow will be my last shift before returning my cab to the garage until my return. From the cab garage I will have to take a cab home. I always over tip when I take cabs. I overtip everyone for that matter is that good or bad? I don't know. I let an old lady off the fare today. £5.60. Not a big amount but it probably was to her.

Any way folks I 'm just rambling now so I'll say farewell and hopefully I will return from Spain invigorated and raring to go and be nice to my passengers, even the ones that get sick in my cab and don't pay me!!