Saturday, April 29, 2006

Calling all hot dog vendors

The London food scene is as diverse as anywhere in the world. We have it all here, or do we? Since I have been getting more into this blog thing and reading many many others from all over the place, it’s got me thinking. Now, digressing a little, for some years I have had this craving, urge, call it what you will, for all things New York. I went there many moons ago when I was just 16 to join a ship in Newark. I was flown to New York and had to wait for the ship to arrive so I spent 3 days in a hotel out by JFK (the Riviera Inn, Jamaica…anyone know it? Is it still there?) and each day me and some of the others took a cab from the hotel in to Manhattan to see the sights and sample the food. It’s just a distant memory now but the longing to return and do it bigger and better is still with me after all these years and I will do it one day soon. Often, while watching TV, there’ll be a scene somewhere in New York of someone buying a hot dog and smothering it with a variety of toppings and sauces. That’s what I’m getting at. Where in this great city of mine can I get a decent hot dog while out working? There’s no way I’d buy those excuse for hot dogs off those late night guys you see pulling their carts around the West End avoiding the police, especially after I saw a documentary on the subject where this one guy was being filmed with a hidden camera and, to say the least, his hygiene standards left a lot to be desired. So, I’m on a mission to find out where, if one exists, is the best place to get me a quality hot dog. So after thinking about it for a while my mouth started watering for something resembling a hot dog and I made my way round to Finsbury Square in the City where there has been a snack bar serving cab drivers for, to the best of my knowledge, at least 10 years. There you can get a jumbo sausage with onions in a long bread roll for a couple of quid. So together with a cup of tea I had to settle for the best London had to offer me on this particular night, but I’m looking for better in future. If any one can suggest a place I’d be grateful.

Finsbury Square Snack Bar

Suitably nourished I carried on with my nights work and found myself heading towards Victoria Station where I was flagged by a group of young people. One of them came to the window and I recognised her as a relative by marriage (to those that know me and read this blog don’t ask me who it was as I said I wouldn’t mention it to anyone and here I am going global!!). It took her a while to twig it was me and when she did she got a bit animated but was more concerned that I might tell her parents that I had picked her up in an inebriated state, so I promised her I wouldn’t say a word. Then came a dilemma I haven’t had for a while. Do I take her money? They went to Covent Garden and I decided en route that I wouldn’t charge her but when we arrived she insisted and gave me a £5 tip as well.
The West End was manic, as are all Friday nights, and I really wasn’t in the mood to pick up idiots so I made my way to Victoria again. On the approach to the rank all the cabs were swerving away from these 2 girls who were completely rat-arsed. As I swerved away one of the girls dropped her phone and I heard it crunch under the wheels of the cab and all I heard was her shouting “you bastard, you’ve killed my phone” as I sped off. The last time something similar happened was in broad daylight when passing some road works one of the guys dropped a plastic box containing his lunch and I flattened it. All I could see in the rear-view mirror was this guy waving a flat piece of plastic at me and giving me a recognized hand gesture with thumb and forefinger.
I pulled into the station itself and there was a long queue of people. My job was a couple going up to Highbury in north London. The route took me through some ridiculous road works where a massive detour would be necessary to get around. Of course, the couple had been busy snogging and when they surfaced for air couldn’t recognise the diversion and started “piping up” as I call it. I put them straight with a few choice words and they re-joined lips for some more snogging. The guy asked me to stop at a shop to buy some drink and when he got out his chick started asking me questions about this and that. It turns out she was from Honduras and gave me a chance to practice my Spanish on her which really gave her a thrill. The guy came back and she introduced me to him like a long lost friend but he didn’t look too impressed. Two minutes up the road he puts his head in the gap of the partition and says quietly “ I forgot to get some rubbers, can you stop again?” which I duly did and instantly got interrogated again by Miss Honduras (she might have been as she was really pretty). “What did he say to you?” Diplomatically I answered, “Oh, he forgot to buy cigarettes at the other shop” “Yeah sure” she said suspiciously but left it at that. He came back and she asked him the same thing and lucky for me he said the same as I did. I got them home and she shook my hand and said a whole load of nice things to me in Spanish. She paid me, and surprise surprise, no tip. As she shut the door I looked round and there was a £1 coin on the seat. She saw it too. You would have thought it was a ten-pound note the way she tried to get back in the cab to get it but the guy told her to leave it for me. I took a picture of the name of their road just to post something.

The work continued at a fast pace. Rosebery Avenue to Charing Cross Station, Charing Cross Station to Waterloo Station, The Strand to Hammersmith and onto Roehampton. The passengers on this job were three merry ladies and they were telling each other jokes all the way home and although I wasn’t involved in their conversation I could hear everything and there were some crackers in there which had me in stitches. On my way back through Hammersmith I trapped a four-hander on a busy roundabout and held up the traffic to pick these people up which prompted all the cars that had to get past me to honk their horn and shout insults at me, what an impatient breed we motorists are! The job ended up in Finsbury Park in North London and they gave me £35 including a nice tip. That concluded my night’s business and I set off towards the comfort of my bed.


Randy G. said...

thanks for a sneek peek into your world, cabby! I have enjoyed it.

Nicola said...

I love reading what you're up to in your taxi... great stuff... keep it going :)

D. xx said...

one of the best hotdogs i had was in amsterdam, instead of onions it had sauerkraut on it.

Anonymous said...

great blog. great city. found you from a link on New York Hack.

Keep the stories and pics coming!

Joann said...

I do not care for Miss. Honduras or her friend. Hope "IT" broke!

HenvY said...

I can't twig what this thumb and forefinger gesture is...loser? Middle finger, middle and index and choking the chicken are the only commonly used gestures i'm familiar with.

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