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!!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Losing Control

I made some good money on Friday night and had a pretty uneventful evening until I pulled on to Marylebone Station rank. After a short wait I finally reached the point of the rank and wondered where I would get off to. I was engrossed in a game of Solitaire when there was a tap at my window. A young lady, probably in her mid twenties asked to be taken out to Ealing Broadway in west London. From Marylebone Station the journey is pretty straightforward. You drive due west on the A40 Westway and after a few lefts and rights at the other end you’ve made it. All started well as I set off from the station. She was rummaging through some M&S (Marks & Spencer) shopping bags and eating crisps, hopefully not making a mess in the back. We were motoring along the Westway at a fair pace when all of a sudden, as I crested a rise, the traffic stopped dead. Only then did I notice the roadwork signs. Whoever is responsible for the signs had decided not to give motorists a chance of avoiding the road works by turning off early. So we were stuck. Up to this point my passenger had been occupying herself by eating and rummaging through her bags. With the cab at idle I could hear her making some sort of groaning noises. Shit always happens when you’re stuck in traffic. As the traffic crawled along I was trying to monitor my passenger through the rear-view mirror whilst driving and listening to the soothing sounds of Magic FM (Virgin has gone to pot lately). There was a break in the traffic and I managed to get a burst of speed going at which point I was sure I could hear her puking and coughing in the back. I looked round but as she was directly behind me I couldn’t see much but I was sure she was doing it into one of the M&S carrier bags. The traffic stopped again and what should’ve been a nice job was turning stressfull. Had the roadworks sign been placed a few hundred yards earlier I would have been able to avoid all this.
“Bang Bang Bang” on the partition followed by “Where the hell are you going?” broke my train of thought with jolt. “Don’t fucking do that ” I automatically responded “you could’ve caused an accident”. The fact that we were only travelling at 2mph never came in to it. “Where are we going?” she asked a lot less aggressively. By this time I was totally fed up at being stranded in traffic and now that I had a stroppy passenger as well I was ready to inflict pain on someone. Trying to control myself I said “We’re going to Ealing Broadway like you told me to”
Her “But why are we going this way?
Me “What other way is there?”
Her “I don’t know but not this way”
Me “You’re only saying that because we’re stuck in traffic, if it had been clear you’d be home now”
Her “Why have you come up the A40?
Me “Are you mental or something? Listen love, forget the money on the meter, get the hell out of my cab and walk home.”
Her (rapidly coming to her senses)“I was just saying. They don’t normally come down the A40.
Just out of curiosity I asked her where I’d picked her up and she answered “Victoria Station” As I thought.
Me “well you're either more drunk than you look or on something stronger because I picked you up at Marylebone Station and the route to Ealing is straight down the A40. So, are you gonna let me get on with it or do you want to walk home?” I think I’d partially if not totally lost it but I didn’t care anymore, I’m sick of picking up idiots.
There was another burst in the traffic and I took off not waiting for a reply. She must have been working things out in her head because she never said anymore. The bilking incident from the other night was still fresh in my mind and I was thinking how I was going to play this one if she got argumentative at the other end. One thing was for sure, she was going to pay me in the cab and any bullshit would result in her being locked in and the police being called. As I approached the turn off for Ealing I asked her if she knew where she was. She started directing me and in three turns and a few hundred yards she told me to stop. Braced for a row I quoted the price. “That’ll be £28.80 please”. She handed over a 10 and a 20 pound note and said “thanks, goodnight” in a cheerful voice and walked away leaving untold amounts of crap on the back seat and on the floor. Normally I’d say something like “Oi!! This ain’t a skip, can you take your rubbish with you?” But I thought it best to clear it out myself. I wasn’t wrong about the sick either. She’d vomited into the M&S bag (better in the bag than on the floor I guess), which was also full of tissues that had absorbed most of it. There were also the entire contents of a packet of salt and vinegar crisps on the floor and various other items of packaging. The dirty cow, but pretty though.

Saturday never went according to plan. I dropped my son off at work and fully intended to make an early start. The thing was that England was playing Andorra in a Euro 98 qualifier and I wanted to watch it. I ended up watching Scotland’s game against the Faroe Islands before the England game as well and then had a long nap waking at 10pm. I went straight to work and it was buzzing out there. The only job of note was when I stopped for two “women” in Bayswater Road and realised that they were transvestites or is it transsexuals? One of them had massive tits and the other had tight jeans with no “dick bulge” (you notice these things when you’re a cabby!!) so I guess they were the latter. But in all other ways they were men. It was to be a nice ride to Tower Hill. On the way there I couldn’t help but notice how other cars driven by men would notice them and honk the horn. One car was cruising along side me as I drove down Upper Thames Street. I slowed to a crawl to let him get ahead but he slowed too. He followed us to Charlie’s Bar in Crosswall where straight away I noticed that there was a Tranny Night called Wayout on there. The two guys that had followed us were looking for a parking space as I drove off and I pulled next to them and said “Ere, you know they’re blokes dontcha?” “That’s a gay bar with a tranny night” “Whaaaat!!!” and they sped off with tyres screeching.

Yesterdays shift (Sunday) was worst of all. I dropped my son at his girlfriend’s house, did a few jobs and ended up yards from my house. The roads in towns were bad because there were about three major events going on at the same time. The Tour of Britain Cycle race was on. There was also a Spanish themed festival taking place closing off the whole of Regent Street and there was also some sort of race or fun run in Hyde Park. It all added up to traffic chaos with all the road closures so when I ended up by my house the rest was history. I fully intended to go out later but it just never happened. I’m well down on the money I need for Spain so will be looking at alternative options such as a wee chat with the bank manager. In spite of all that there’s still only four and a half shifts to go. Yipeee!!!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Pucker Up!

I started my day at around noon after only 6 hours sleep. Had to pay some bills at the bank and purposely never went into PrĂȘt a Manger on Baker Street as I had other lunch plans. Only did about 3 jobs then went home. Went down the cafe with Michael and Jenny and had a "fat munch" in the form of chicken curry, rice and chips followed by a maple and pecan cake from the bakery in Kensal Rise. Feeling totally bloated I went home and slept for another five hours. The doorbell sounded at 8.15pm and woke me up. It was a neighbour looking for some freebie anti-virus software. I told her I get mine online so have no disks and that she's gonna have to part with £50 to £60 to get a decent one such as Norton or McAfee. She didn't look too impressed at the thought of having to pay so much for something as trivial as anti-virus. I made that mistake once. Never again.

Realised it was after 8 and thought about the masterplan which, by the way, isn't going to plan. The last few days have been so quiet that it's a miracle I made any money at all. I got all my shit together, jumped in the cab and drove out on to Maida Vale looking for my first fare. I made it all the way to Edgware Road and still no fare. I decided to head for the Paddington Rank, at least there I will get a job after a short wait and in the meantime I can set up my satnav and sort my stuff out for the night’s shift.
The queue moved slowly and then a train must have arrived as a flood of people came out in one go. My job was a lady to the Cromwell Tower in the Barbican. The route that takes you there was blocked last night and I was sure that it would be blocked again tonight so I chose another route. She was obviously a regular traveller as she spotted this change in route and piped up. I explained that the usual route had been blocked yesterday and I beefed it up a bit to include other roads that weren't really blocked, as I didn't want to use them. I got her home safely and she was appreciative of the information I had given her and added a nice tip.

The work picked up noticeably after 10pm and I took a fare out to Canary Wharf. Once I'd dropped him off I drove up to one of the many ranks on the actual Wharf and waited my turn. On the way in to the Canary Wharfe Estate the security guard must have been feeling a little bit bored because he came out of his box and asked for my ID and made me open up the boot for inspection. I suppose it's only right and proper that they should do their job but after going there 100 times and not getting searched it's a bit of a surprise when it does happen. Back on the rank people of all description walked past. Some took cabs some had cars waiting for them. I made it to the front of the rank and awaited my fare hoping for something juicy to Richmond or further west. A man and a woman emerged from one of the many bars and stood near the cab talking. She was obviously very drunk and I hoped someone would get in while they stood there chatting. Five whole minutes passed and still they chatted. I took out my iPaq and started playing Solitaire. All of a sudden I felt a thud on the side of the cab and when I looked to my left the woman was sprawled against the cab and then reached for the door handle. I groaned inwardly and thought "why me?"
She was an Australian lady in a business suit. She slurred some instructions at me and I couldn't understand one word of what she said. I made her repeat herself telling her to speak more slowly and eventually understood the destination which turned out to be Cheshire Street near Brick Lane. Not a fantastic job but considering I had an unstable passenger I was glad that she would be out of the cab in around ten minutes. She decided to go to sleep and curled herself into a ball on the back seat. Ten minutes later I was screaming at her to wake up and drew some sniggers from passers by. She eventually woke up and searched for my money. Next she gave me a tenner and said she had to go in for the rest (fare was £13.40). She stood at her front door and started calling through the letterbox. This went on for five minutes and in that time I had nearly decided to drive off forfeiting the £3.40, but kept holding on at the last second. Someone eventually passed her a note through the letterbox and she walked back towards me and gave me a Scottish £20 note and said to take a fiver. Next she leaned right in and planted a kiss full on my lips and said goodnight and thanks. It's been a while since I was kissed on the lips and I have to say it felt really nice but no sooner had she done that the moment was over and she disappeared in to her house leaving me surprised to say the least.

I cruised around after that. Through the West End, through Mayfair and up as far as Marylebone then back down Baker Street towards Marble Arch. Not a hand went up anywhere and things were already looking very dire indeed. There was nothing for it but to rank up yet again so I made my way to Victoria. There were losers everywhere. On the final portion of the three-part rank there was a drunk guy leaning on the railings with his head down. As I drew level with him he decided to start puking up and other passengers had to jump out of the way to avoid getting sprayed. It was at that point that I just felt total despair for the human race and complete disgust for people like him. I was getting myself all worked up and even felt like getting out of the cab and having a go at the guy (I never would though) when my fare walked up to me and asked to be taken to Upper Clapton (as in Eric) in North London. I set the satnav to his road but then asked him what route he preferred. Surprise surprise it was completely different from the satnav so I was glad I asked as he looked like a miserable git who would have piped up had I gone the other way.

That was my last job, as I couldn’t face the drive back to town and possibly a long wait on a rank followed by a shit job. The weekend should mark the end of the slow times and I should be able to get the masterplan back on track. Only seven and a half more shifts to go before my trip to Spain. I can’t wait!