Monday, May 29, 2006

A few days R+R

I've had a couple of days off and have been busy watching the rest of Season 2 of Lost (Yeah I know, sad or what?). But now that mental block is out of the way I can get back to other things.

I started at 18.45 Sunday night and got my first job guessed it Maida Vale. It's a public holiday here tomorrow or later on today and according to the calendar it's to celebrate Pentecost or Whitsun which is the seventh Sunday after Easter, commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and the birth of the Christian Church. Anyhow, it felt like a Friday or Saturday night and there were lots of clubbers out and about. I'm doing a couple of evenings but intend to be back out during the day from Tuesday.

I picked up an Irish couple. Both of them were half cut, They wanted O'Neills in Wardour Street. They must have kissed the Blarney Stone at some point in their lives because they sure could talk. Incidentally it's something I would like to do too before I meet my maker. When we got there they wanted me to park up and come in for a drink with them but I gracefully declined their offer. He gave me a fifty pound note for the 9.20 fare and told me to keep the change. When I thanked him profusely he realised he had worded it wrong and said "sorry, I meant keep the coins and give me the notes" I knew it was too good to be true. There was a long queue at O'Neills and his partner suggested going somewhere else but he said he knew someone on the door and they'd get in no problem. As I sat there putting the money away I watched him go up to the doorman and say a few words to him. The doorman shook his head and they ended up joining the queue with the twenty odd other people.

It must have been gay night tonight because the best part of my fares were all to or from gay clubs. Fabric is a club next to the Smithfields Meat Market and I went there no less than four times. I would rather have a cab full of gay men than a cab full of drunk straight men anyday because they know how to behave themselves and the conversation is always more interesting, I also got my best tips from them.

Last Thursday I did a job up to Walthamstow in north London and feeling peckish got myself a Donner Kebab from a place in Hoe Street. Within an hour of eating it my guts were churning so bad I had to go home. The meat must have been rotten or something. I must remember to stick to my regular eateries.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


I’ve been watching Season 1 of Lost over the last few nights. It’s very addictive when watched back to back and I’ve had to ration myself to 6 episodes a night. I’ve now seen the whole season and have to find a way of getting the next season without waiting months for it to come out over here.

I started late today due to watching a double dose of Lost. I was out and about by 1pm. One of the first jobs I had to do was to take a lady whose car had run out of juice to the garage to fill her petrol can.

My passenger at the pump

She brought the can back to the cab full to the brim and all the petrol was leaking everywhere. I made her go back into the pay booth to get a couple of carrier bags to put it in then drove her back to her Mini.

Fuzzy but back at her car

I needed to buy my son a universal remote control for his TV so I stopped at Argos in Victoria. My brother in law Lloyd rang me at the same time and said he was on his way over Vauxhall Bridge so we met up by the shop and had coffee and a Cornish Pasty in Victoria Station. The remote control worked without putting a code in and has apparently got thousands of codes pre-loaded so it will be handy when one of our other remotes disappear as they do on a regular basis.

It was “Cab Rent” day today. Another £180. That’s the third lot since I sold my cab. The weeks seem to come and go so quickly. There was no crack (banter) at the garage today. Everyone was lost in their own little world and nobody wanted to check my levels so lost out on the tip. I needed a few things doing on the cab such as those vibrating wings and those lights on the dash but gauging the mood I thought it best to leave it till another time.

I’ve been updating my Venue Database on my Palmtop handheld and it helped me out a couple of times today with a restaurant and a hotel. Andrew Edmunds (restaurant) 46 Lexington Street W1 and The Ramada Encore London West. 4 Portal Way W3 off A40 Westway.

My Palm Tungsten C, I love it dearly

The rest of the jobs I did today were completely uneventful. There was a bit of rain and the traffic wasn’t too bad. On my way home I decided to put some diesel in rather than do it tomorrow and was greeted by a sign on the pump. It’s a sign of the times when garages have to resort to these measures and I think it’s gonna get a whole lot worse.

Sign of the times

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Good Start

I had a cracking first job yesterday from what’s fast becoming the place to pick up. A man flagged me down in Maida Vale. I seem to trap here every time I start work. It’s quite an exclusive area with many well-known residents. I live just a few hundred yards from the main Maida Vale road but in a different borough so my street is nowhere near as posh. Anyway, this guy was all flustered and obviously under extreme pressure to run some errands for whoever paid his wages. First stop and most importantly was a cash point to get my money. From there we went straight into the West End to Massimo Dutti on Regent Street. If any of you know Regent Street during the day it’s impossible to park there let alone wait for any length of time while people nip out to do a spot of shopping. He expected me to simply pull up outside the shop and wait. I told him he had Bob Hope and no hope of me doing that and I would have to wait a couple of streets away. He wasn’t too happy about that but it was the only option. 20 minutes later he returns weighed down with bags and more stressed out than ever. Next stop was Russell & Bromley, a shoe shop in Conduit Street. A bit easier to wait here but still busy with wardens lurking. He was in and out in 2 minutes empty handed. Gucci in Sloane Street was next. He spent 15 minutes in there and I had to drive round the block twice due to being moved on. I was getting a bit stressed myself but consoled myself in the knowledge that this would be a good earner.

Gucci, Sloane Street, Chelsea

Onto Its’u, a Sushi Bar on Walton Street, Chelsea “to get myself some lunch” he said. I tried Sushi recently and spat it out as it tasted revolting.

Its'u, Walton Street, Chelsea

Next stop was The Conran Shop on Sloane Avenue. It had a cab rank right outside the door but the goods must have been ready for collection as he came out loaded with bags within about a minute. Gordon Watson in Fulham Road was next. He was struggling with a heavy box so I jumped out and gave him a hand. Last pick up was a shop in Kings Road called Guinevere. It was all blacked out so I couldn’t see what type of shop it was but he came out with more bags. The back of the cab was looking pretty full now as we drove to the Old Gasworks behind the Harley Davidson shop where he had an office. Total fare for an hour and a half’s work with a bit of stress thrown in…….£60 including a nice tip. One of those a day and life would be sweet.

As he was getting out there were people waiting to get in. I took them in to Central London and decided to get to a bank before a long job took me out of the area. I found a parking spot on Dover Street and someone had kindly left an hour and a half on the meter. At £1 for each 15 minutes that worked out to £6 they’d left on there. I took the opportunity to get myself some lunch from PrĂȘt a Manger in Piccadilly and sat in the cab watching the world go by using up the previous motorists’ parking time. Can it get any better than that?

The only other fare with anything to comment on was a frail old lady I picked up from Paddington Station. They brought her to the cab on one of those buggies and it took her a few minutes to get in, prompting the cabs waiting behind me to honk their horns. We set off towards Liverpool Street Station and I knew it was going to be a heavy journey due to the cross-town traffic. Half way down Park Lane she pipes up with “Driver, where on earth are we going?” “Liverpool Street” I pipe back. “Why are we going west then?” (We were travelling south east) “You’re obviously not a local so why don’t you just relax and enjoy the ride?” she muttered something unintelligible and we continued on our way. The traffic was bad all the way and I half expected her to comment on the ever increasing metered fare. When we got to Liverpool Street Station I had to go and find the Customer Assistance guys to come and collect her with another buggy (leaving the meter running of course). That added another couple of pounds as they took nearly 10 minutes. The fare was £23 and she gave me £4 on top and thanked me for my help. What a nice old dear!
So, the verdict on my first full week of day work? Hard work but quite enjoyable and profitable.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Where have all the idiots gone?

I did 28 jobs today. You’d think there’d be something juicy to write about but the fact of the matter is that without alcohol inside them people are just normal. I’m still on days and managing pretty well but there are just no idiots out there during the daylight hours. (Wow! That sounded like I wanted there to be idiots to write about) There’s plenty of traffic and plenty of noise. I thought London was under attack again due to the amount of sirens I heard today. There was a fire in the Marylebone area and lots of the surrounding roads were closed off but it didn’t affect me as I was working a different part of town. What I like about days is the constant stream of work that’s available all day long. Come the evening I have to pull myself away from it and head for home. It would be so easy to stay out for 3 or 4 more hours but I would probably burn myself out by doing it on a regular basis.

Most of the runs I did barely reached £5. Like the Royal Albert Hall to High Street Kensington, £3.60 or the Cumberland Hotel to Curzon Street, £4.80 or even Piccadilly to Eccleston Mews, £4.50 but if they come one after the other then the time passes quickly and the money soon mounts up.
Amongst all the short hops came one out to the City Airport. Two Dutchmen catching a flight to Amsterdam, where incidentally, my eldest son Danny is at this moment. They were on the hurry up but I soon burst their bubble when I told them it would be a long and painfully slow journey. Traffic going eastbound during the afternoon has always been notoriously slow. I think it’s simply because the bulk of people working this side of town come from the eastern suburbs and beyond. There are only two major roads heading east. They are The Highway and Commercial Road and they were both choc-a-block. It took the best part of an hour to get them to the airport and they looked really pissed off.

The Highway at a standstill both ways

London City Airport

Lately, I’ve been incurring a lot of bank charges due to late payments. I needed to find a bank to pay some money in and I had about 30 minutes to do it. I’m always leaving it too late and end up stressing my self out. Not good for my already too high blood pressure. From the City Airport I ended up in East Ham close to West Ham United’s football ground. I had to find a parking space and then try to find the bank in an unfamiliar area. The queue was out the door and I thought I would explode but I survived it and chilled out in the local McD’s with a chicken sandwich and a Coke.

The traffic coming back towards town was marginally better than the outbound traffic, but not a lot better. There were some nice views of the Millenium Dome and Canary Wharf to look at whilst stewing in the traffic.

Millenium Dome and Canary Wharf

I got stuck on the Aldgate one-way system without moving for about 15 minutes. It was absolute gridlock. A police car turned on his siren and tried to get through but even he had trouble. When he did manage to get through the whole line of traffic I was in followed him, including me. It’s a cheeky thing to do and I’m the first one to complain if others do it but on this occasion it just had to be done.

The work was still plentiful and as I said in the end I had to drag myself away from it as I didn’t want to wear myself out.
I ordered an Indian meal for the kids and me and went to collect it nearby my house.
The TV was on and the latest Big Brother was just starting, I think it’s BB7. The housemates were being introduced one by one and as usual there’s an assortment of normal and freaky people. One of them is called Pete and has Tourettes Syndrome so that should keep things interesting in the house.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Gherkin

I’m working days at the moment. I can’t make my mind up whether I prefer them to nights. It’s nice to be home in the evening but the days are much longer for the same or less money and I still have all the chores waiting for me when I get home.

I was out by 10am today. I trapped almost immediately on Maida Vale and took her to the Eastman Dental Hospital in Grays Inn Road. When she got in she asked if I minded going a particular route. I always prefer passengers to name their route so that if we hit traffic then it’s their fault. She rattled off the name of every single street she wanted me to take, about 15 in all. I would have taken her a completely different way and avoided the traffic we hit on three of the streets she requested but the passenger is always right.

What I like about days is that there’s plenty of work. The rides are much shorter on the whole but there’s more work out there than evenings. Also the banks are open, all the nice sandwich bars and eateries are open and the shops are all open so I can park on taxi ranks and do a bit of shopping.

We have a building in The City called 30 St. Mary Axe but it is affectionately known as “The Gherkin” due to its shape. Today was the first time I’ve ever been asked for it by its nickname. I was too close to get a photo so here’s one off the web.

30 St. Mary Axe, aka The Gherkin

Since I am now renting my cab I have to make a weekly visit to the garage to pay the rent. It’s in Kentish Town a bit off the beaten track but there’s always a bit of banter to be had with the lads. They also check that the various fluid levels are topped up and it’s customary to tip whoever does it one or two pounds so there’s always a scramble to be the one who checks the levels. Today the discussion was about all the drivers getting fines for various traffic offences. The garage manager, Jim, a genial Irishman, had a stack of summonses for various drivers who had been caught by the dreaded cameras breaking some law or other. There’s a new law being introduced as we speak that gives priority to cyclists at the head of a traffic queue. They have their own box marked out and cars stopping inside these boxes risk a fine and three points on their licence. 12 points and you get a six-month ban. I’m on six points at the moment but I’m really trying to behave myself. The points last for three years so I still have two years left.

The “For Hire” light on the top of my cab is very dim and during the day people seem to have trouble deciding whether I’m for hire or not. I’ve been getting blank stares from would be passengers and have seen them in my rear view mirror flagging the cab behind me. I forgot to mention it at the garage so I popped into Halfords in Battersea and bought a couple of stronger wattage bulbs. I fitted them straight away and guess what? It made no difference whatsoever. I think that the lens on the “For Hire” sign isn’t refracting the light properly. I’ve tried cleaning it inside and out but it’s still the same. I’m sure it’s costing me fares; in fact I know it is so I may even pop back to the garage tomorrow.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Attack of the Bluebottles

We’re under attack by a plague of Bluebottles. I don’t know why it’s happening but there are thousands of them. I have an idea that something has died behind the toilet, possibly a rat, and flies have laid their eggs. I’ve spent the last few hours spraying fly killer in all the cracks and crevices but if it doesn’t solve the problem by tomorrow I will have to open up the pipe housing for a closer inspection. I’ve often seen the odd rat scuttling about and some have even ended up in the toilet bowl. These houses are only about 6 years old but for some reason attract a variety of insects and animals. You’ll know if there’s a creepy crawly about when you hear my daughter’s piercing scream, a trait she has inherited from her mother. I think I’ve got them all for tonight so we’ll see what’s what in the morning.

I spent a pleasant day at my parents’ house where we had a barbeque to celebrate my son’s 21st birthday. There was plenty of food and drink and all the family were there.

I worked last night (Saturday) and as usual it was a busy shift. The FA Cup final was played in Cardiff so there was a steady stream of West Ham United fans arriving back at Paddington Station from 9 o’clock onwards. I thought I was bound to get a job to East London but managed to stay fairly local all the evening. I did pick up a couple of extremely drunk fans but they were in an OK mood considering their team lost the cup. A few years ago I picked up four West Ham fans from Victoria and took them out to East Ham. They were each holding a case of beer and had already had a skin full. When we got to the other end they simply walked away without paying the £25 fare. So naturally I was weary about these two but it turned out OK.

I sat on the South Kensington rank a couple of times. The many restaurants in the area such as the Indian restaurant, Khan’s, provided a steady stream of work

Khan's, South Kensington

My daughter was home alone as the boys were out doing their own thing so I decided to cut the night short and keep her company. I rang her to ask if she fancied a bite to eat and we both settled on KFC. I use the KFC in Harrow Road and in the evenings it can be a rough place. There’s always an argument going on in there. I think the lady who’s always there working loves the confrontation. I’ve used this place for years and I’ve seen her have screaming matches with untold men and win. She gets called some terrible names at times but takes it all in her stride. You daren’t get involved as it could all turn against you in a flash. The bloke in there last night was arguing about the size of one of the pieces of chicken she had given him and how she had also skimped on the chips. I must admit it has happened to me a few times but I never say a word. She was reluctant to change the chicken so he told her to stick it in her pussy. She in turn told him to stick it up his arse and the exchange carried on like that for a few more seconds. After much name calling, insult hurling and yelling the situation resolved itself and we were all able to get on with our lives.

By the way, I forgot to put the lottery on so I’ll never know if that guy’s prediction would have come true. I had too much on so never had the opportunity to get to a shop.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Singing to myself

I haven’t posted for a couple of days because I’ve been in the process of turning my body clock around. I did two shifts yesterday but on the second stint the old eyelids started drooping and I had to go home before I crashed into something. And typically I was miles away when it happened so I had to drive home from Claygate in Surrey singing to myself to stay awake (not pretty!!). When my head hit the pillow I was out like a light and never woke till eight this morning. I decided not to waste the day and went straight to work at 8.30am after dropping my daughter at school. These fads never last long and I will probably be back on nights within a few days.

Now, the weather is really hotting up here and with this older cab I’m driving there’s no AC. I really miss it. I was sweltering in the saddle today and what’s more I actually did a twelve-hour shift, the first time for at least a year. I have to take my hat off to all the cabbies that do twelve hours a day every day; it’s dam hard work.

I’m compiling a growing list of faults that I will give to the garage when I go there on Monday to pay my weeks rent. I did a job out towards Heathrow today, which meant a trip down the M4 motorway. At 60 miles per hour both the wings on the cab were vibrating so bad I had to slow down to 50mph, it was actually pretty embarrassing but the passenger never said anything. Also there is a strong burning smell coming from somewhere probably the engine, which will need sorting ASAP. One of the passenger interior lights isn’t working and I have a couple of warning lights on my display that are constantly illuminated. One is telling me that the passenger door is not shut when it is and the other light is supposed to go out when I’m driving along to indicate that the doors are locked. It’s a child safety feature to stop kids trying to open the doors as we’re driving along. It wouldn’t do to have my child passengers falling out at 60mph now would it?
When I collected the cab it was the only one they had available at short notice but they will give me a better one as and when one becomes available.

I did nineteen jobs in total today. Most of them were just short hops around town but a couple of them had a bit of distance involved. The best of them was a couple of businessmen I picked up in The City. One went to Crawford Street near Baker Street and the other went out to Feltham near Heathrow which is how I discovered that the cab was a “Boneshaker”.
An Oriental bloke gave me a two-pound tip today. He told me to put it on the lottery, as he’s sure I will win on Saturday. I can be superstitious at times and will make sure I put his tip on the lottery and do five or ten pounds of my own as well. If you don’t see any blog updates in the next few days then I will probably be sunning myself on a beach somewhere with my winnings. It’s good to dream.

Today is my eldest son Danny’s 21st birthday. It just seems like yesterday that he was born and he has never given me a day’s trouble, apart from driving my cab into the kitchen wall that is!! That goes for all my kids, I’m proud of the way they’re all turning out. We’re having a barbeque in Danny’s honour at my parents’ house on Sunday so I won’t be at work. I’ll still have Saturday to write about so hopefully something interesting will occur. Until then…then.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Coming To Terms

I'm slowly coming to terms with the fact that I don't own a cab anymore. It's great not to have to worry about anything cab-related as the garage take care of all that. I just pay my £180 every week and go to work (I still have to pay for diesel though). Unlike New York and other US cities I get to keep the cab with me 24/7. The front is slightly longer than my other cab as it's a different model and I wacked the post as I got on my drive last night, no damage, just a scuff mark on the bumper.

There's not really a lot to comment on as it was another short shift due to me going out around 10.30pm.
I did get one comment from an American asking me how come I was driving on the right instead of the left. I picked him up at the Savoy Hotel. It has a private approach road called Savoy Court and traffic enters it on the right side and is still on the right when they depart. It is the only road in London where this happens. This link will explain it a little better.

One little niggle I have with this job is the way people ask you how much a particular journey is going to cost. I generally tell them that it will be a metered fare and next they ask for an approximate figure. Some times I get it spot on other times I don't and some people try to hold you to the original figure quoted if it was cheaper.
This happened last night with a female passenger from Victoria Station to East Dulwich. I quoted her between £15 and £20. She wasted time trying to get money from 2 different ATM's. All the time the cab is waiting on the night rate the meter goes up pretty quick so by the time she got back in it was almost at £20 and we were still a couple of pounds away. She said "I thought you said it would be £15?". I replied "No I said it would be £15 to £20 and that wasn't including all the faffing about with the cashpoint". The job ended at £24 and she was "squealing like a pig" so just to shut her up I swallowed the £4 which I really shouldn't have done. Regular cab riders know how much fares go but there's another breed of cab rider who generally use minicabs which are an inferior mode of transport and often charge a lot less. I think she was one of those.

Well that's all I can manage for now as I need a nap before my shift.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A last look.

A Last View Of My Cab
I took this picture as I walked away from my cab for the last time.
I sold my cab yesterday and have gone back to renting. I had been toying with the idea for a few months. With renting I don’t have all the headaches of repair bills, new tyres and the biggest expense of all, the annual overhaul. Now I just pay my money every week and let the garage take the strain. Instead of the modern TXII I am now driving an older Fairway Driver but I found it much smoother over the bumps and just as fast.

I only did a half shift tonight as I had spent most of the day finalising the sale and having to go to a few different places. Once I sold the cab I had to take a cab to the place where my rental was. I used to rent from them before and when I arrived a few of the mechanics greeted me with “Welcome home!” which was quite touching.

The few jobs I did were pretty uneventful but the last guy I picked up from a casino looked a bit shell-shocked and said he’d just lost three grand. That’s a lot of money to lose in one go.

I picked up the next 2 episodes of the Sopranos and have just watched them. Episode 6 is hilarious, 7 was ok. I’ll have to wait a couple of weeks now for the next two, as they haven’t even come out in the States yet.

I’m dead tired and am going to bed but I just wanted to say about the cab.
Night Night.(Normal service will be resumed tomorrow night)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Season 6

It’s 10am on Sunday morning and I haven’t been to bed yet as I have been sitting with my two sons watching the first five episodes of The Sopranos Season 6. They haven’t come out here yet but someone I know is obtaining them from a third party and letting me watch them. I plan to go out in a few hours to buy some blank DVD-R’s to copy them before I have to return them.

I started late again last night at 10pm but there was loads of work going here there and everywhere. It had been raining all day so the air was chilly and damp, which I think drove people to take cabs instead of walk. Most of the jobs were average runs to and from nightclubs. My cab is licensed to take five people. Three on the back seat and two people facing backwards on pullout seats called, by most people, jump seats. Often, people ask if I can squeeze in a sixth person and most times I say yes but if another cab pulls up with me I say no as I have been called greedy by other cabbies for taking six. Tonight I wasn’t even asked, they just piled in on Tower Bridge and asked for Tottenham Court Road in the centre of town. 2 women and 4 men all in high spirits, all American. From what I could gather some of them had recently been to China and they were amazed at the influence Chairman Mao still has there. One of the conversations went something like this: (the guy was gay as I heard him refer to a boyfriend so imagine a gay American accent with this one) “I could not believe the way Chairman Mao still influences these people I mean they were like, “Chairman Mao said this and Chairman Mao said that” so I went to a gift shop and bought Chairman Mao fuckin ashtrays, Chairman Mao fuckin postcards, Chairman Mao fuckin ornaments. I even bought Chairman Mao fuckin Chop Sticks. I thought shit if it’s good enough for Chairman fuckin Mao it’s gotta be like fuckin cool man” The rest of the group were in stitches and I have to admit I was secretly laughing too. He was a very funny guy.

When those six got out there was another guy waiting to get in and we went back the way I had just come to Bethnal Green. When we got there he wanted a printed receipt but my cab hasn’t got a printer yet as I managed to by-pass the new law stating all cabs must have a printer. He was Eastern European and couldn’t understand why I never had a printer and all the other cabs he’d ever ridden in had one. The hand written receipts I give out were not acceptable by his boss but that was all I had. He kept on and on about printed receipts until I blew my stack and said “I ain’t got a fucking printer mate so how the fuck can I give you a printed receipt are you stupid or something?” He sat in the cab for a few minutes trying to absorb the information. In the end I turned the engine off and when I opened my door to get out he got out himself and started walking away and calling me names in Bosnian or something similar with plenty of hand gestures thrown in for good measure.

I made my way to Old Street as there are lots of clubs and bars there and soon had a nice ride westwards. About half a mile on the guy looked like he was about to throw up so I pulled straight over and he just made it in time. Onlookers jumped out of the way as he puked up all over the pavement. He produced a hanky, wiped his mouth and got back in. We carried on to Gloucester Road with out any further emissions.

Gloucester Road is a favourite stopping point for me because they have a late night Burger King, a 24-hour Tesco convenience store and a Bureau De Change where I can change up all the Dollars and Euros that I have accepted as payment for fares. There’s a special cab driver rate here and it’s open all night. I took advantage of being in the area to grab a Whopper with cheese meal with a coffee from the BK. After being approached by half a dozen would be passengers I drove a few hundreds yards round the corner and ate my meal in peace.

Back on duty, I drove past the nightclub/bar Eclipse in Old Brompton Road where 2 or 3 illegal minicab touts (unlicensed taxis) where trying to tempt people into their cars.

I was immediately flagged by five revellers wanting to go to Clifton Road by Warwick Avenue, close to home again. I often get jobs going towards home when I’m not ready to finish just yet but as long as I’ve taken a certain amount of money it can be very difficult to resist the temptation to call it a night. On this occasion I gave in.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Are all Aussies the same?

I started really late today (Friday night) as I had stayed in to watch the 1st leg of the Championship playoff between my team, Leeds United, and Preston North End. We were losing 1-0 when our American player Eddie Lewis scored an equaliser from a free kick. So it ended in a 1-1 draw and the 2nd leg will be played on Monday night. It will probably mean that I’ll be out late again but if we win and get through to the playoff final in Cardiff it will be worth it.

When I did manage to get out at 10.30 it was pretty busy out there. I made it all the way to Paddington before I got my first job, which was an Australian lady all the way to Stoke Newington. She never stopped complaining the whole way there about the cost and how it had never gone as much on the meter before etc. Now I’ve been doing this job for a while and a couple of things I’ve found with Australians are that they are tight with their money and also expect something for nothing. It may not be every Aussie but the vast majority will not part with one penny over the meter and in some cases ask for it to be rounded down. Why is that? On the “something for nothing” statement, I was flagged down by a group of Aussie guys wanting to go to a nightclub and after I’d stopped for them they asked me to wait while they went into a shop to stock up on gum and bottled water as do most clubbers. Naturally I put the meter on and when they came out and got in the meter had clicked up a few times. Well you should’ve heard them complain and kick up a fuss. I said to one guy “would you work for nothing?” It then developed in to a slagging match with me being called all the names under the sun and vice versa. So they ended up walking. But I’ve had similar sorts of run-ins with Aussies more than a couple of times and still ask the question “what makes them act like that?” Someone enlighten me please.

Traffic was light for the whole evening so I was able to whiz around everywhere. There was lot’s of police activity and I often had to pull over to allow them to pass by. One time they came through without sirens taking everyone by surprise and nearly caused a major accident.
After a burst of activity I ended up in Mayfair and decided to catch my breath by sitting on the rank at the London Hilton where I took a few snaps.

A couple came out and asked to be taken to Greenwich in southeast London. I haven’t been there for ages so it was a nice change to be motoring down the Old Kent Road. The couple were kissing and cuddling the whole way there and as we neared I had to interrupt them for final directions. The fare came to £27 and they gave me £30 in Scottish notes. To anyone planning to visit England, Scottish notes are legal tender so don’t think you’re being ripped off if given them in change. There are Bank of Scotland issue notes and also Clydesdale Bank notes both will have the word “Sterling” printed somewhere on them so that you can tell they are legal. The only reason I don’t like taking them is because if you try and give them back as change nobody wants them. I generally use them to pay for my diesel fuel because once the fuel is in the tank there’s not a lot they can do.

I worked until 3.30am. My final job started as two drops from Victoria Street to Paddington and then on to north London but one passenger convinced the other to get out at the first address which left me about 2 minutes from home. Considering I nearly never went out at all I had a decent night so was pleased I bothered.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Disrupted Beauty Sleep

I was happily in the land of nod around 1pm Wednesday when I got a call from my Mum. Her first words are always “Oh I didn’t wake you did I?” To be fair to her it’s impossible to tell if I will be awake or asleep at any given time as my lifestyle habits change from one week to the next. Since I have started posting regularly on this blog I tend to be up most of the night and get off to sleep as soon as my daughter’s gone to school around 8am. So in order to get my full beauty sleep I may still be in bed at 4pm. Anyway, my Mum rang to see if I could go up to their house as my Dad was having some sort of trouble with the computer and she was having car trouble. I got dressed and went up there straight away. On entering my Dad’s office at the top of the house I could see his computer screen and there were a million “My Computer” windows open. He told me he had tried for ages to close them but they never seemed to close. He tried restarting but they just came back. On closer inspection I deduced that his ancient 3-button mouse was causing the problem. Instead of a wheel his mouse has a middle button, which opens “My Computer” and it was stuck. I freed it up and showed him a quick way to shut all the windows (Alt + F4) and left him to continue with whatever he had to do.
My Mum’s problem was that she had been smelling petrol inside the car and the oil light was coming on intermittently. On lifting the bonnet I could see the problem with the petrol smell immediately. The entire air filter assembly, including various hoses had worked loose from the carburettor and was just hanging by a single hose as if ready to fall off at any moment. I put it back on, tightened the jubilee clip and reattached all the hoses and that was that. The oil needed topping up so I had to go and buy some, put some air and water in and the car was sound as a pound once again.

I went home via a supermarket, made us all some food and tried to grab an hours nap before going out to work. I got out the door by 8.30pm, way too late, and got half way down Maida Vale before I realised I never had my phone. I went back, couldn’t find it, someone had to ring it and it was buried under some clothes. Back out I went. I got a job in Maida Vale all the way to Golders Green and had a really interesting chat with an M.C.C. member (he had the tie on) who had just been to Lords Cricket Ground. I don’t think there was a game there so, judging by his demeanour; he was probably just propping up the bar. When we got to his house he gave me a £50 note and I couldn’t find my wallet to give him change so he had to go in and get some money. This meant I had to pass by my house yet again and get the wallet, as I needed the £5 notes I had in there.

A couple of jobs later and I found myself on the Eurostar rank at Waterloo. The couple I picked up asked to be taken to New Providence Wharf near Canary Wharf. They were quite chatty and asked about the weather, my taste in music, what I did for fun (write a blog!!) etc. The subject got on to where I go on holiday. When I said Spain they asked if I spoke the lingo and I said I did. I asked if they were Spanish and they said “Venimos del mismo pais que “La Mano de Dios”. So they were Argentinean and we got into a discussion about Maradonna. They of course said they knew him vaguely and spoke about his recent massive weight loss. I’d lost interest by then because I thought they were talking bollocks. Being on this side of town I took the opportunity to take a few snaps of London’s tallest building, No.1 Canada Square.

Back in town now and I picked up a drunk guy from the Dorchester Hotel. He immediately got on the phone for a heated discussion with someone and only paused for a second when I drove over a brand new hole in the road. I was driving around the Hyde Park Corner one-way system when the right side of the cab sank into an enormous pothole. These vehicles being top heavy, the cab tipped over a little, and I heard the guy’s head bang off the window. It sounded like it should’ve hurt him and I looked to see if he was rubbing his head but he just continued with his phone call and he never said a word when he got out.

From there I went straight to Victoria (no beggars at all today) and a gay guy came up to me to ask if I knew Chariots Gay Sauna. I said I only knew the one in the City but he didn’t want to go out that far. I did a Google search for “Taxi Stories” a couple of nights ago and found this page. So once you’ve read it you’ll see why I was able to suggest The Pleasuredome in Waterloo to him. Up until I read that page I didn’t know the place existed so the instance of him asking for somewhere I’ve only just found out about has repeated itself yet again.

Being a Wednesday night it was pretty slow out there. I had decided to start making my way home at around 1am. A last quick peek in St. James’s Street presented me with a fare going all the way to Walthamstow in North London. We had a clear run all the way there and after not speaking a word to each other the whole way she decides to pipe up with “Well done, that was super” then, seeing my satnav was on added “Did you know your way or are we on navigator?” I replied that we were on this navigator (tapping my head) and that the one stuck to my dash was just an AtoZ, which produced a titter and all of a sudden the conversation flowed albeit too late.

A nice run around the North Circular Road, then we hit a few tunnel closures, which forced all the traffic over in to the slip roads. I pulled up behind this Porsche Boxster and thought to myself “What’s the point of having a nice sporty car like that and it not being manual?”

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Spaniards Inn

I got off to a good start tonight with a job from my road up to East Finchley. The guy had been playing tennis at the courts near my house and was weighed down with about four racquets and an enormous holdall. I tried to make small talk about tennis but I obviously didn’t know enough about the sport to hold my own so I decided to say no more. There was still a bit off daylight left as I came back through Hampstead Heath and I snapped this picture of the Spaniards Inn which is a very old and famous pub that goes back to the times of Dick Turpin.

The little building to the left was the toll keeper’s cottage and is a listed building, which cannot be demolished. The two-way road is so narrow here that during peak times the bottleneck causes horrendous tailbacks and is best avoided at all costs. I’ve passed this place a zillion times but only just noticed that the pub provides a “doggy wash” for, presumably, anyone who wants to wash the mud off their dog after a walk on the Heath.

My luck continued as I reached the roundabout after the Spaniards as I picked up a wealthy looking couple and took them to the Royal China restaurant in St. John’s Wood.

From there I started heading towards Paddington Station. It seemed that I was just missing out to the cab in front every time and I tried to hang back a bit to create my own luck. Sometimes it works and other times not. I made it to Paddington but couldn’t get on the back of the rank without fouling (I’ve already mentioned the cameras everywhere) so I thought I’d have more luck in Kensington. I cut through Hyde Park and clicked off a few more photos. Here’s one as I crossed the bridge over the Serpentine Lake.

The rank at South Kensington Station was also pretty full but I managed to squeeze onto the last spot. I waited a good twenty minutes there, took a few photos and then got a fare to, wait for it….drum roll… Sloane Avenue about a minutes drive away. I hate it when that happens. South Ken Station is on the Piccadilly Line from Heathrow Airport and people get the train most of the way home and take a cab from the rank then pull up outside their houses and it makes them look like they’ve splashed out on a cab to all the nosey neighbours. Or am I just being cynical?

South Kensington Rank

Next I headed over to Victoria. There was no sign of the regular beggar but instead there was another one I’d never seen before. I employed my evasion tactics with this guy and so did all the other cabbies and I took a snap of the guy as he contemplated his next move.

Another average job from Victoria and I really did start getting depressed. I love nothing better than a job I can get my teeth into and also because they pay better, but tonight was never gonna be my night so I struggled on as best I could doing whatever job was asked of me. Although short of my target I pulled in a respectable amount but it will mean a few hours during the day tomorrow (or later today)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Where was the rush?

I started later than usual today (Monday night) expecting it to be busy. There was no mad rush back home after the holiday weekend and the stations were no more busier than usual. The only burst of activity came from the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington where a certain Paul Anka had been in concert. I picked up five or six different couples and took them to various railway stations and all of them seemed to be in a state of high excitement due to having seen the show. Whatever turns you on!

Royal Albert Hall, Kensington

There isn’t really much more to report tonight as I only did 9 jobs and they were pretty straightforward. I did give the beggar at Victoria the brush off. I started off a few weeks ago by disguising myself with shades, a woolly hat and my collar turned up but now I just keep the windows shut, pretend I’m reading something and shake my head as he knocks on my window. He normally walks off. If I go into Victoria five times a night I get asked for money by this guy five times it really pisses me off sometimes.

To reply to phasmatrox who commented on my last post about the possibilities of opening a Mexican food establishment in London, there are already quite a few Mexican restaurants in London. We have the Chiquito’s chain, the Nando’s chain, the Nacho’s chain and quite a few individual ones dotted all around town. We did used to have a Taco Bell in Earls Court but for some reason it closed down. That’s not to say your restaurant wouldn’t be successful. My guess is it would be just as successful as long as the food was good and you opened it in a good spot. I love Mexican food and eat it all the time. One of my favourite dishes is Fajitas. I make them at home for me and the kids at least once a week and they always go down a treat.

Updating you all on my hunt for the best Hot Dog in town. I think I found the place. My kitchen! London is not New York. Hot Dogs are not as big a deal here so there’s nowhere that specializes in them. On my way home from work I stopped off at my local Tesco’s and bought some part-baked baguettes, some pork sausages and some onions and rustled myself up the ultimate foot-long Hot Dog. Check out the pic.

So after eating that “Mother of all Hot Dogs” I need to go and lie down.Catch you all later.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Demon Pedicabs

Yesterday (Saturday) was a big blow out. I think I was mistakenly in the comfort zone so I took my daughter to the cinema to see Freedomland with Samuel L Jackson and Julianne Moore. It was a bit hard to follow at first but it all made sense in the end, but I wish I had’ve gone to work instead.

There was still actually some daylight left when I got to work today around 6.20pm and there was plenty of work out there especially as it started raining soon after I started. I got a couple of shots of Primrose Hill when I dropped my first job off.

As Monday is May Day Bank Holiday here it wasn’t a typical Sunday night. Most people have the Monday off and go out clubbing on the Sunday before. The bulk of my runs were taking people too and from various nightspots. The West End was extremely busy around Soho and Chinatown.

Chinatown and Soho

A few years ago pedicabs were introduced over here. The whole taxi industry was up in arms about it and the various trade organisations tried to get them banned by spending thousands on lawsuits, failing miserably. The powers that be saw it fit to allow them to ply for hire and generally drive about unregulated and with no price structure. They can actually charge whatever they can get away with and most often they do. It was while I was waiting at the lights at Oxford Circus when one pulled up alongside me. A couple walked up to the driver and asked him where Cavendish Square was. It was literally three streets away. The driver told them to hop on and he would take them round there and only then would he give them the bad news that they would have to pay at least £10 if not £20 for the pleasure. He then proceeded to turn away from where they wanted and drive down Regent Street in the opposite direction. I couldn’t help myself. I crawled behind him for a couple of junctions and then pulled alongside and asked the male passenger if he knew this guy was taking him away from where he wanted to be and that it was going to cost him an arm and a leg for the pleasure. Long story short, they got in my cab and I took them there for nothing. This sort of thing must go on every day, ultimately, with the blessing of the Government. I think it’s a disgrace.

In between jobs I either listen to CD’s or the radio, mainly
Virgin because they’re the only one that play practically all rock music. Lately they’ve started playing Jack Johnson all the time. To me, that isn’t rock it’s easy listening at best or just out and out pop and I always turn it off when he comes on or put the CD player on. They were doing a Classic Songs segment earlier and sandwiched in-between the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Queen they put Jack Johnson on. How the hell can his music be classic!! And now you’re gonna think I’m bullshitting here but I picked up three girls going to the club at the Baglioni Hotel in Kensington and as I was driving through Hyde Park they asked me to put Virgin Radio on and guess who was on? I swear on my kids it was Jack Johnson singing Better Together and the girls loved it and sang along and asked for me to turn it up, it was torture I can tell you.

Around 11.15pm I decided to stop for some Nosebag. As I was closer to home than my regular eating haunts I decided to try one of my local Chinese’s. As I was getting prepared to tuck in there was a knock on my window. As I opened it a drenched lady asked if I was free. I said that I was about to eat my supper but she pleaded with me saying it was only a few roads away. Not one to turn money away I told her to jump in. She whistled, yes, whistled to her friends who were sheltering in a doorway and they all trudged over and I ended up going to three different destinations (the cheek of some people) and I could hear them all commenting on the smell of the food that was wafting through the partition. Any way I parked up anew and this time managed to eat uninterrupted. I had bought myself Satay Chicken and Special fried rice as per usual and discovered I’d been missing out for all these years. I usually have sweet and sour chicken from this place but I will be changing from now on. I’d practically eaten most of it when I remembered to take a picture.

All in all I had a really good night and if I could manage to get out at least at the same time later on today I should do even better as the meter is on the higher rate for the entire day.