Tuesday, August 29, 2006
I saw another random act of robbery tonight. This time I was driving down Earls Court Road. Actually I was at a standstill in heavy traffic so I got a ringside seat of these two young lads smashing the passenger window of a parked car, grabbing something of value and making their getaway on bikes. The street was full of people but everyone one just looked on and walked away as soon as the deed was done. There must have been something of value in plain view for them to have done what they did so I don’t really have sympathy with the victims as “Out of sight out of mind” has got to be rule number one when walking away from your car.
Another little incident that happened at Victoria was as I was approaching the taxi rank feeder in Wilton Road there was a cab stopped there when he could’ve pulled on to the main rank. I then noticed two policemen, a guy with a cycle and what eventually turned out to be the driver of the cab. As I’d pulled up behind him and other cabs had pulled up behind me I was stuck so I just sat and watched. They eventually concluded whatever it was that they were doing and the cabby walked over to me and said “What a fucking joke!!!” . “What’s up?” says me. “That cunt on the bike is pissed out of his head and he’s just scraped all down the side of my brand new cab. I grabbed hold of him and called the “Old Bill” and they reckon they can’t even knick him for driving his bike whilst under the influence” (is that true? Any coppers out there?) He ranted on and on and his cab was indeed only a month old as I could tell by his Hackney Plate and I could also see the scrape down the off-side of what was otherwise an immaculately gleaming new cab. But what caught my attention more than anything else as he was speaking inches from my face was that his breath stank of alcohol. I would even go as far as to say he was himself pissed as a fart and how those coppers never smelt it or noticed how he was acting is beyond me. I know lot’s of professional drivers drink and drive and the sooner they get caught and banned the better for all other road users. I also think it’s high time that some sort of legislation was brought in regarding cyclists. They basically do whatever they want and don’t have to answer to anybody because there’s no way of identifying them. They should at least need insurance for when they damage other cars with their handlebars. However I can’t see it happening anytime soon. It’s so fucked up!!
PS. The beggar has started making an appearance at Victoria after being conspicuous by his absence for the last few months. I never missed him one bit and look forward to giving him nothing in the future as it may mess up the masterplan!!
The Notting Hill Carnival has been and gone again. I managed to stay on the periphery of it and make some good money this weekend. As far as I know there was no trouble this year. Other years there have been murders, muggings and even rapes. I once picked up an off duty copper who told me that we never get to hear about the bad stuff because somewhere down the line the news is suppressed, I don’t really know how true that is in this day and age but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.
The first two jobs today gave me a fifty-pound note to change and I actually managed to change them. Both jobs were for £5 or less and normally they would be told to go forth and multiply but as I’d had a good night before I had plenty of change on me. Normally I’m lucky if I have a couple of fivers and a couple of tenners and I’m always running into difficulties giving change. I have a little sign in the partition asking for change or the correct money but nobody seems to take a blind bit of notice of it.
As Monday was a Bank Holiday and a National Holiday here the banks re-open later today and there will be long queues. My bank has a paying in machine that actually scans the money and credits it to the account immediately. People haven’t caught on to it yet and I always breeze in and out of the bank whilst others chose to queue up and get frustrated at having to wait in line. Some people huh?
Saturday, August 26, 2006
After work I had to sort out the stuff they would need to take with them paying careful attention to the current regulations for flyers. I was still astounded when we were queuing at United Airlines at Heathrow Airport at the amount of people being pulled out of the line for having more than one piece of cabin luggage. There was also a table where people could leave prohibited stuff that they had overlooked such as lighter, scissors, BOTTLED DRINKS for God’s sake!!! Don’t these people watch the news? One guy who looked Japanese or Korean was pulled out because he had on a massive backpack and was holding on to another bag he planned to take on the plane. He was asked nicely to step out of the line and refused. Bad move! Security were there in seconds and he was dragged away protesting.
I left the airport after the kids had gone through where I couldn’t and debated whether to go to the Taxi Feeder Park and queue up for a job. I hadn’t been to sleep yet but didn’t feel in the mood to work either. I went to my parent’s house as they were expecting a satellite engineer at 9am to re-align their dish, as their pictures were pixelating, and I had to be there to tell him the problem. He came at 8.30am and sorted the problem. A new LNB was fitted and the picture and signal were perfect. I got talking to the guy and he was telling me how lucrative the job could be. I always fancied trying something like that but just never did. I went home to sleep but first I logged on to one of those Flight Tracking sites to check on the progress of my kids’ journey. They took off for Chicago at 8.20am and by 10am when I checked they were over the Atlantic. After a 7-hour sleep I checked again and they had landed at Chicago. From there on I had no idea if they would make their connection for the flight to San Diego on time but have since found out that they are now safely with their mother in San Diego. If you’re reading this D+K, Hi kids!!!
Summer is well and truly over. The rain has been falling continuously for the last week with a brief respite here and there. I’ve always managed to make money during the evenings in spite of the odd bad night. London is so diverse and full of people that if you can’t make a decent living at this job you must be doing something wrong. On the other hand if your heart’s not in it then I suggest you pack it up and try something else.
Something occurred tonight that made me think of my daughter. I picked up a very pretty lady of Asian origin. It looked like she had been out on the town and had a great evening. She had on very trendy and modern clothes and had make-up on although she probably never needed it. By the time we got to her destination a totally different girl got out of the cab and paid me at the window. Gone were all the trendy clothes and gone was all the make-up. In front of me stood a fully kitted out Muslim woman with mask who was probably going into a very strict house where her Muslim parents or a Muslim husband awaited her. I thought it was quite sad that in modern day Britain people who obviously enjoy all the freedoms this country offers have to tip-toe around other people who don’t allow them to be themselves. Something in the way we looked at each other said that she knew what I was thinking and vice versa but I never spoke a word to her.
I only did half a shift as I was still a little tired.
This weekend is Notting Hill Carnival weekend and there will be ample opportunity for me to make up the money I never earned tonight.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
I had a terrible night tonight. I went out looking to earn serious money but it just wasn't out there. To cap it all I got bilked for £16.40 by an Aussie bird. I picked her up at Parsons Green and she asked for Clapham South. 100 yards down the road she realised that she'd left her phone in the pub she'd just left. She asked to use my phone to ring her phone and when someone in the pub answered she told them she'd be right there to pick it up. We pulled up outside the pub and she ran in and emerged smiling a few seconds later, phone in hand. We carried on to Clapham without incident.
She directed me down a couple of streets and then told me to pull up at the end of another street. All of a sudden she said "Oh my god, I can't find my wallet. I'm sure I just had it." I just sat there with a "here we go" look on my face while she proceeded to look here there and everywhere to no avail. Was she acting? Who am I to judge? She looked genuine enough and I suggested that she could send me a cheque to which she redilly agreed. I wrote out my name and address for her and she promised me she would send the money to me straight away. I jokingly said that I had her number, as she had used my phone, and she again stated that I'd get the money ASAP. As I drove off I thought how I could have done with the cash but £16.40 wasn't a vast sum and I could wait for the cheque to arrive in a few days. I decided to send her a text reminding her that the fare was £16.40 as I hadn't written it on the piece of paper and also added that I hoped her wallet would turn up and finished with a "Take Care". I sent it and recieved a "Message Delivered" report on my mobile. Three minutes later my phone recieved a message so I thought it would be her re-stating her intention of paying me ASAP and maybe a nice little note along the lines of "Thanks for being so kind and understanding". As I opened the message it read "Wrong number". Fucking sxxx!!! I rang the number and some guy answered. I asked to speak to the "Aussie bird who'd just got in" and he said there was no Aussie bird there. I explained how she had used my phone to dial that number but he wasn't having any of it. There was nothing left but to slag him and her off. I said "I know you're covering for her and I'd probably do the same but just tell her from me she's a no good fucking sxxx and if I ever see her walking down the street I'll run the cxxx over" at this point he said "Fuck you" and cut me off.
The thing is I hadn't seen which house she entered as she walked round a corner so basically I was stuffed. One day I'll do the name and address thing right and get some sort of collateral before allowing non-payers to just walk away.
Monday, August 21, 2006
I thought that little outburst would calm me down but it hasn’t helped at all so I’m going to leave this for an hour and have a cup of tea and something sweet.
(One hour thirty-five minutes has elapsed since above outburst)
I’ve worked continuously since Tuesday apart from Saturday when I took two of the kids and the dog on a nutty to Southend. A nutty is when I do something on the spur of the moment and it normally involves a road trip and some sort of nourishment when we get there followed by a quick look around and then the journey home. In the last few years I’ve done nutties to Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and more often than not the east and south coasts of England. Saturdays’ one to Southend was all because we had a craving for fresh donuts, the ones they make by the seaside. As far as I know you can’t get them anywhere in London (if any body knows different let me know). There was some sort of carnival on when we got there at 10pm and all the roads were closed so we had to park a long way from the town and walk back. The only one that seemed to enjoy it was the dog. The rest of us wished we’d stayed at home although the donuts were pukka, as usual.
On Friday night the non-driving mugs were out in force and I had to drive off in a hurry a few times almost taking a few hands with me as they tried to open the locked doors. That particular manoeuvre is always followed by an outburst of “you wanker” or “you fat cunt” and if they have the time a kick to some part of the cab or a thumping of one of the windows. Sometimes I get caught at a red light and they come running up after me, they never catch me if you know what I mean.
I was on the Charing Cross Station rank when the cab in front broomed a job back to me (yes fellow cabbies I’m not the only broomer out there, there are plenty of others). This guy had a cut on the bridge of his nose and was definitely on something stronger than alcohol. He asked for Priory Lane in Roehampton, a very nice job. There was no way I was in the mood for being mucked about so I came straight out with it “ Mate, you’re looking at twenty to twenty five quid and I want the money up front” to which he replied “yeah no probs, sweet as a nut” He produced the money and I had to endure about twenty five minutes of his bullshit all the way there but I didn’t care as I had the money. He was so out of it that when we got there he’d forgotten that he’d already paid me. I told him he’d already paid me and he had difficulty understanding that. As he was already out of the cab I just drove off leaving him scratching his head. The meter was on £24.60 so I only made 40p on top.
Back in The City a guy trying to impress a couple of girls flagged me and asked for Woolwich and “somewhere else”. One of the girls didn’t seem to be in the party mood and asked to be dropped at London Bridge Station. He told her he was “seeing her safely home and that was that”. We had to pick another girl up who had walked on ahead and I eventually found out that the two destinations would be Welling in Kent and then onto Mottingham further to the south, a very nice run indeed. I don’t think the guy realised just how much money it was going to cost him because as the two girls started chatting he put his face in to the partition and asked “ ‘ere mate, how much is it gonna cost me?” I replied “the best part of sixty quid”. “Fuckin hell!!! You better stop at a cash point then” That was probably a big chunk of his wages he was about to blow on a “not so sure thing”. He got the money and we dropped the first girl in Welling. He immediately went to work on the other one, which was just as well because they weren’t watching the route I was taking. I was lost out in the suburbs. I hadn’t set up my satnav but soon dug it out of my bag and set it to take us to Mottingham Station. They in the mean time were getting down to some serious snogging in the back and I had to interrupt them as I approached the station for final instructions. The guy ended up getting out with her and must have thought it was money well spent as he had an enormous grin on his face and handed me the exact amount I’d quoted him including a nice tip.
As I made my way back towards town I did a few local jobs here and there but had to be quite selective about who I picked up. Girls on their own or in pairs is normally the safest bet but not groups of four and five as they get quite bold and can get quite saucy towards the driver. I find that groups of girls like to try and embarrass me by talking dirty amongst themselves knowing full well I can hear what they’re saying. They’re also prime candidates for getting sick so I try and avoid large drunken groups if I can.
As I was heading towards Victoria Station there was a fire engine outside the Victoria Park Plaza at 1.30am and all the quests were there too in various stages of dress including PJ’s. There’d obviously been a false alarm or someone in the hotel had set the alarm off as a drunken prank.
Back on Paddington Rank towards the end of my shift tonight I picked a pretty girl up and took her out to Greenford. She asked for help getting her bag into the cab. It was one of those great big black non-descript holdalls. She said she’d help as it was heavy but I said I had it. Well, I almost put my back out lifting that baby up. It must have been full of books or something as they are the only things that can weigh that much, unless she had gold bullion in there!! It was a little easier getting it back out at the other end and thank God I never had to carry it in and upstairs for her as I think I would’ve had a heart attack.Job done, money earned, home to blog and bed. Nite Nite.
Cabby sought in murder investigation.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
“Take it you don’t like pushing a cab round London!!”
In reply to the above question from the final commenter on my last post, in an ideal world I’d rather be doing something else. I suppose any job is the same, if you’ve been doing it for long enough you’ll get the urge to want to do something else. If you are lucky to get out of one job and in to another you’ll probably get sick of that job given enough time. It’s human nature really. I am currently in my 17th year of cab driving and I’m probably worse off financially than I ever was doing other jobs. A lot of that has to do with being self-employed. I can work when I want and I can take days off when I want. In any other job you’d have to be there because you’d have set times or in the case of self-employed you’d have a job waiting for completion. If I had my time over I would do something different, something where I would have to be there at set times, I think I would work better that way. But until that day comes, if ever, I’ll just have to persevere with the job I do and make the best of it.
We’re getting quite a bit of rain now, which always helps with the work. Sunday was a very busy night for me. I started at 7.30pm and worked almost non-stop until 3am.
As usual, the main-line railway stations were the best places to pick up fares. Paddington was extra busy because on top of all the Heathrow trains arriving full of passengers there was also lots of Chelsea fans were returning from the Community Shield game (which they lost) in Cardiff.
I picked up this sweet little old lady of around 85 years old with a great big suitcase from Paddington and she asked for a Mews off of Kensington High Street. I put the case in the cab for her and checked the mews on my satnav and set off. On the way she was commenting on various buildings and shops. One building was being renovated and was completely covered with tarpaulin. When she spotted it she said “Oooh what a funny building, it doesn’t have any windows”. I never had the heart to tell her it was covered and said something like “yes there’s lots of strange buildings about these days”. When we arrived there was nobody home. The rain was pouring down and she would have had to stand there until somebody came home. I suggested dropping her at a nearby McD’s where she could wait in the dry and have a cup of tea but she had something else in mind. She asked me to drop her at the nearest pub where she could have half a pint of Guinness. Never judge a book by its cover.
Back at Victoria Station I picked a guy up with two great big suitcases. He asked for an address on Grosvenor Road by the river. Part of Grosvenor Road has railings down the centre of the road. He wanted the other side of the railings so I suggested driving up the road, turning round and setting him down on the right side. Rather than spend maybe 60 or 80 pence more he chose to get out on the wrong side and climb the railings with his two cases. He paid me off and I pulled forward a bit and decided to watch him. Anyone who knows Grosvenor Road will testify how busy it is. The whole exercise took him about five minutes and the funniest part was when he got stuck on the railings for about a minute and a half probably crushing his balls in the process, tight git!!
The last job on Sunday saw me take a guy out to Boston Manor in west London. En route I got a call from my daughter at 2am to collect her from her cousins house 12 miles away in Mitcham, south London, totally the opposite way I wanted to be going but what can you do?
I started a little later tonight (Monday) and in complete contrast to Sunday it was almost a waste of time being out. I had one of those crap nights Paradise Driver often talks about but I had to at least put the time in and hope something juicy might come along. I did 10 jobs in total and took just £108 before calling it a night. Of those 10 jobs 3 of them had something to write about.
The first one was an Irish guy who flagged me down in Fulham Road and asked me to run him out to Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire, a £60 ride. I set off and was mentally breathing a sigh of relief at having obtained a decent job when he calls out “Sorry driver, cancel that, there’s nobody there (he’d been on the phone)” I had to pull over and let him out with the meter just clicking onto £3. We have a word for how we feel when that happens to us. Gutted!!!
The very next job walked up to me as I sat on the South Kensington rank. He said what sounded to me like “Mitcham please”. Another very nice job, not as good as the above one but good all the same. Again I set off. 500 yards down Old Brompton Road he shouts out “where are you going?”, “Mitcham” I replied. “I said Beauchamp Place (pronounced Beecham Place). Mitcham Please, Beecham Place, repeat both of them to yourselves a few times and see if you could make the same mistake, especially if you say it with an accent.
Maybe I was just craving a nice long run somewhere I don’t know. For the next fare I was back on the rank at Victoria Station and a drunk guy talking on his phone walked up to me and asked to be taken to Brockley, a £20 ride to a shit neighbourhood. All the way there he was saying how this country was full of foreigners and how they were ruining our way of life and how his dad had fought in the war (he looked about 25 so I don’t know what war his dad fought in) and it was evident he was just full of racial hatred. By the time I got him to his destination he was so fired up he said he was going to have a go at the first black person he saw and proceeded to exit the cab screaming “come on then” to an empty street. As I drove off I could see people start to look out of their windows and wondered if I might read about his demise in the morning papers. Silly boy!!
That proved to be my last job tonight as I have a full day tomorrow taking my dad to the eye hospital for a post-op check-up so I have to be up early.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Of course a night off has to be paid for and I’ve spent most of today sat in my cab trying to make up for it. I knew it was going to be a long day so I tried to pace myself with regular refreshment stops including Prêt a Manger in Finsbury Pavement, Burger King in Old Brompton Road and just an hour and a half ago in Tesco’s at Gloucester Road.
It was while I was sitting in the cab eating my salt beef sandwich from Prêt a Manger that I noticed this telephone box.
I took an interest in the advertising and slowly it dawned on me what the picture was of.
The £80 is fashioned out of vomit. The more I looked at it whilst eating my sandwich the queasier I became and I wouldn’t consider myself that type of person. I can generally stand the site of anything revolting but on this occasion it definitely got to me and I tried not to look anymore.
I had to do a spot of DIY on the cab earlier. One of the indicators stopped working. I naturally assumed it was a bulb so I unscrewed the front off-side indicator lens and attempted to remove the bulb. The whole of the bulb came away from the stem. Luckily I had some pliers and managed to fiddle with it until the stem came out. It looked badly corroded like it had been in there a long long time. I replaced the bulb, tried it and nothing. I decided to leave it till I visit the garage tomorrow but when I screwed the lens back on it started working. When I took it off again it stopped. I ran a new earth wire from the bulb to the cab body and managed to complete the shift with a working indicator. Just as I was pulling on to my drive it decided to pack up again. I’ll get them to have a look at it at my garage tomorrow or later today.
The only thing of note that has happened since my last post happened about three nights ago. I was driving through Peckham, not a very nice neighbourhood, on my way back in to town, my “For Hire” light off and all the doors locked when I noticed a lady cycling along in the opposite direction. She had a typical woman’s bike with a basket on the back and she had a helmet on and reflective strips taped to her ankles and elbows and flashing lights to be safe and to be seen. And she was seen. By a young lad from the council estate she was riding past. I say all this after the event because at the time I never knew what was happening. This young lad started chasing after her but you couldn’t hear a sound from his footwear. He caught up with her an lifted her handbag deftly out of the basket behind her and ran off into the estate. She must have noticed the weight difference or something because she looked round and immediately seemed to know what had happened. I thought she would probably shout for help or scream “Thief!!!” or something similar but she did none of those things and instead she spun the bike round and followed the robber into the council estate. Brave? Or just stupid? I’ll never know because I drove off before someone decided to target me and relieve me of my hard earned takings.
Finally, if you think that by ignoring parking tickets they’re gonna go away think again.
The reminder I got in the post this morning was for a ticket I got in December. I got it fair and square so no complaints there. It went from £50 to £100 and then to £150. At this point I thought I would ignore it totally and for eight months I thought I’d got away with it until this landed on my doormat. I should be glad they’ve only added a fiver costs. I have 21 days to pay it so by 27th August it will be paid in full but it will be painfull.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
I should be getting a TXII cab complete with air conditioning within the next few weeks. Or so I’ve been told at my garage. It’s got a 53 plate, which means it’s only three years old. It will come not a moment too soon for me as bit by bit this present cab is falling to pieces. My brother in law (supermechanic) popped round yesterday and asked for a drive of my cab out of nostalgia for the old cab he drove until buying a new one. As he pulled away I noticed the brake lights weren’t working. When he came back and checked out the problem he told me that the brake light switch was broken. Being a Saturday night with no chance of buying the spare part I had three options. (1) Not to drive the cab at all until Monday, not a viable option given my current financial state (boracic). (2) To drive the cab without brake lights and run the risk of being stopped by the Police and also run the risk of being rammed by the car behind, I think not. And option (3) to fashion some sort of device to enable me to make the brake lights go on manually. Improvising is Supermechanic’s thing and in no time at all he’d wired up the lights to go on at the press of an old transmitter switch that a previous driver had left in the cab.
Obviously I only needed to press it when someone was driving immediately behind me and all in all it worked extremely well. Cheers again Dean.
First thing I did this morning was to find a car spares shop and try and obtain a new switch. They had one similar at a cost of £7.50 and I went home with the intention of fitting it. It proved awkward as the area I had to work in was very cramped and it was also a job for a left-handed person. I called my son Michael out as he’s a leftie and he managed to fit the switch for me.
As the 9th of September approaches so does the urgency to have my finances in order for the 9 days that I will not be working. Luckily two of the kids will be away in San Diego with their mother at the same time so I will only have to make sure that Michael and our dog Dude are provided for.
I started the week writing down the nationalities of all my passengers but stopped after a few days after coming to the conclusion that no two days are the same and that being as this is London I was likely to pick up every nationality under the sun at some point, some days picking up more of one than all the others.
Two popular London Stage shows
Work-wise it was just a busy week. Some days I did two stints other days just the longer shift in the evening. I seem to spend a lot of time being chased off by traffic wardens as I try and park close to a bank to pay money in or just simply in the course of doing my job. London seems to be saturated with wardens at the moment and you may think you’re safe but you can be sure one will be lurking somewhere close by waiting to ticket you just as soon as you walk away from the cab. I recently picked a guy up who needed to collect some bags from his house and then travel on to Paddington Station to catch the Heathrow Express. Whilst waiting outside for him to return a warden decided to make himself busy and started signalling for me to move on. I opened the window and said I was waiting for my passenger who would only be two minutes but he didn’t want to know and started acting like he was writing out the ticket. I asked him why he was being silly and he said, “I’m not being silly I’m just doing my job” to which I added something like was there any provision in his job to use some common sense. He’d obviously heard it all before and answered “none at all” and I just sat there and thought what bullshit it all was and how there must be better ways of earning a living. My passenger emerged with his luggage, got in and we drove off without the ticket being attached to the cab windscreen. I’m sure the warden will process the ticket anyway and I will have an impossible job proving he never did.
Well it’s now 7.30pm on Sunday night, my favourite night for work and I’m off to earn a living.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
In my last post I commented on the amount of Americans I pick up per shift and decided to try and ascertain the nationality of my fares tonight.
I only did 14 jobs tonight. Only two of them were American, one could even have been a Canadian I've never really understood how to tell the difference.
Two were European, I couldn't break it down any better than that seeing as I rarely talk to my passengers unlike Wil at Paradise Driver. That's probably the reason my tips are only between 5 and 10%.
Only two of my fares were actually English. They weren't even Londoners but from up north somewhere.
The other eight sets of passengers were all of Arabic extraction. I use that term loosely as they may not all have been Arabs but they had that Arabic look and complexion. Most of these pick ups occur in and around the Edgware Road area which has a large Arabic community. They are regular cab users who never go far but use us frequently. When the work dries up in August you'll find a lot of cabbies trawling around this area for work.
I had a little chuckle to myself earlier when I picked up three female Arabs with all the kit and kaboodle on and took them to the Marriot Regents Park. The fare came to £9.60 and they gave me a tenner. When I offered them the 40 pence change instead of saying keep the change one of them said "I don't need it" and gave one of those dismissive waves of the hand as if to say "don't bother me with this trifle". Don't you just love the different ways people have about them?
The weather has really cooled down compared to the heatwave we had last week. It started raining earlier and is still raining now, we badly needed it I can tell you.
So only a short post tonight with no photos I'm afraid. Night Night People.