Monday, October 16, 2006

Best night ever

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

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

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

Monday, October 09, 2006

Victoria or bust.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Short Shift

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Woman to woman

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

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

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

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

Rotherhithe Tunnel

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

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A good night

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

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

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

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

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

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